Unlocking the Secrets to Longevity

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) --  It's long been said that always looking on the bright side and not working too hard will lead to a long and happy life -- but a new study blows both of those long-held conceits out of the water.

Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, psychologists at the University of California at Riverside who specialize in aging, spent the past 20 years analyzing the findings of social scientist Lewis Terman.

Terman launched the famous personality and behavioral study of 1,500 children in 1921 that recorded each participant's progression through life. It created a treasure trove of data, which Friedman and Martin mined for clues as to what behaviors and practices could mean a longer life.

They recently published their findings in a new book, The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study.

"We really wanted to ask the big questions," Friedman said. "What happens across long periods of time, and how do all those things go step by step to keep some people healthy and make some people ill."

Their findings produced several surprising results.

"You always hear don't worry, don't worry you'll make yourself sick," Friedman said. "But we didn't find that at all."

"What we have found is that a moderate amount of worry is not a bad thing and particularly for men," said Martin. "And men facing crisis, like the death of a spouse, those were the men who seemed to step it up and sort of channel that worry into better self-care and sort of took care of the things that the wife would have taken care of beforehand."

Another surprise they found was that people who were consistently too cheerful or too optimistic didn't live as long as their worrywart counterparts.

"When we first started this study, we thought, well, maybe these really cheery kids will go on to live long lives," Friedman said. "It turns out they didn't."

"To come to every decision with an attitude that it is going to be fine and you think nothing bad will ever happen, that pushes you in a particular direction," Martin said. "You know, I won't wear my seatbelt, sure, I will have another drink. I will have another doughnut. It is a bad approach if you approach everything like that." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Shorter Proves Better in CPR Training

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- The days of the hours-long office CPR training session may be numbered if the findings of a new study hold true.

A 60-second training video may be all it takes to save a life, researchers found in a new study funded by the American Heart Association.  Study participants who viewed a one-minute CPR instructional video were more likely to attempt CPR and perform a higher quality of CPR than those who did not watch the video.

More surprising was that the group who watched the one-minute training video performed better and made better decisions than those who watched a five or eight-minute version, suggesting that less may be more when it comes to teaching CPR basics.

Dr. Gabe Wilson, associate medical director in the department of emergency medicine at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, said that when information is boiled down to a few clear points, people have much better recall and interest.

"When you know you are going to be provided with important information, and only need to pay attention for 60 seconds, the chances of engaging attention is much greater," said Wilson.

Wilson, who was not involved in the study, said that 60 seconds is enough time to cover the basic fundamentals of CPR.

"We're really excited about this," said Dr. Bentley J. Bobrow, lead author of the study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Qualities and Outcomes, and clinical associate professor in the department of emergency medicine at the Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.

"Survival is really low for sudden cardiac arrest, and it's not drugs or fancy expensive devices or hospital care that helps save the most lives.  It's CPR.  But so few people receive CPR.  It's really a tragedy and lost opportunity," Bobrow said.

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States.  About 300,000 people experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States each year, and their chance of survival declines seven percent to 10 percent with each minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Charlie Sheen: What's Next, Who Can Help?

Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- Actor Charlie Sheen took to his online program Tuesday night, Sheen's Korner, to fire back at his recent firing from Two and a Half Men and blast his former bosses. Sheen has dismissed widespread suspicion that addiction or mental illness might be fueling his antics, claiming earlier to be on the drug "called Charlie Sheen" and not bi-polar but "bi-winning."

But his increasingly erratic behavior, which cost him his job Monday on the hit CBS comedy, has many health professionals concerned about his well-being even as skeptics say it's all for show.

"When addicts are high on drugs, or a manic person is high due to the biochemical changes in his brain, they reject help because they truly believe that they are 'winners' who know better than everyone else what is best for them," said Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

But the job loss and the removal of his 2-year-old twins, Max and Bob, from his home last week might signal the end of Sheen's "winning" streak.

Eric Braun, a friend of Sheen's, told GQ magazine "there are just three options" left for the fired actor: "rehab, jail, or death."

Mental health experts agree. "Frankly, we really don't know what leads one person to a specific end," said Dr. Eric Caine, chair of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "No doubt, this man is a mess and his 'destiny' may not be a happy one." While Sheen's conduct in media interviews and in his online show, Sheen's Korner, has shocked viewers, psychiatrists say they've seen it all before. "There is nothing so unusual about what we are seeing -- for those of us in the mental health field -- just that we are seeing it so publicly," Caine said.

Sheen's long track record of offenses -- from drugs and violence to rumors of trouble on set -- might have hinted at mental health problems in the past. Yet he has consistently avoided major repercussions that could have "tempered his grandiosity," according to Alesandra Rain, co-founder of Point of Return, a nonprofit organization in Westlake Village, Calif., that helps people escape pill addiction.

"Now the consequences are beginning to hit him, but he is still working from the perspective that he is untouchable," Rain said. "His media blitz is being misinterpreted as public support and he is not in the frame of mind to realize the damage he is doing."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lipitor Among Top Drugs Coming Off Patent by Year's End

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- There could soon be some good news for consumers weary of soaring health care costs: The patents for several best-selling medications will expire this year, clearing the path for lower-cost generics to take their place.

According to IBIS World, an industry research firm, some of the blockbuster drugs whose patents expire this year are the cholesterol buster Lipitor, the antipsychotic Zyprexa, the antibiotic Levaquin, Concerta, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and Protonix, an antacid.  Together, these drugs brought in more than $10 billion in sales in 2010.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Lipitor, managed to hold off competition until later this year.  Ranbaxy, an India-based pharmaceutical company, agreed to delay the release of its generic version of Lipitor until Nov. 30.  According to its website, Ranbaxy will have the exclusive right to sell its drug in the U.S. for six months.

Experts say when generic versions of these drugs make it to market, pharmaceutical companies could face billions in potential losses, while consumers could save tens of billions of dollars a year.

"Studies suggest that the average cost of generics is 71 percent less than the cost of brand-name drugs," said James Zhang, associate professor and director of the Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy Research Program at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Pharmacy in Richmond, Virgnia.  "Studies also suggest that generic drug use accounts for 63 percent of drug use."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women Stressed More Than Men When Work Cuts Into Home Time

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Thanks to technology, we can link into work anywhere, anytime, but the constant office communication can take a toll on the work-life balance, especially for working mothers.

Women tend to feel more guilt and psychological distress than men do when work follows them home, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

These findings held true despite the fact that women were found to balance work and family life just as well as men.

"Although men did report higher levels of work contact while at home, what we saw was that the level of contact didn't make a difference for mens' feelings of guilt or distress.  It did for women," said Scott Schieman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the study.

While men and women may feel equally annoyed or inconvenienced by those late-night work e-mails flagged "urgent," this kind of out-of-office intrusion seems to disproportionately affect women, said Schieman.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HCG Diet: Starving on Pregnancy Hormones?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- With one-third of Americans obese and many more overweight, the nation is desperate for a weight-loss miracle. But the return of the hCG diet -- a fad popular in the 1970s that combines daily injections of "human chorionic gonadotropin" and extreme caloric restriction -- has some weight-loss experts worried.

"We're so desperate to have good solutions for weight control that a lot of people with good common sense literally suspend it when it they confront weight-loss claims," Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said. "This diet is appalling. It takes irresponsible diets to new heights."

HCG is a hormone first produced by the developing embryo and then the placenta during pregnancy to help nourish the womb. Because calories are re-routed from mother to fetus during pregnancy, hCG diet promoters say, injecting the hormone will help curb appetite and allow dieters to get through a day on the energy equivalent of a turkey sandwich.

"A 500-calorie-a-day diet is just plain dangerous," Katz said. "When you restrict calories to that level, there's a real risk for not providing your body with enough essential amino acids, so it scavenges itself. In some instances, it can cause the body to scavenge from critical places, like the heart."

The danger of very low-calorie diets has been well documented since their rise in popularity in the '70s. A 1981 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition described 17 people, all of whom were initially obese and had significant and rapid weight loss, who died suddenly of ventricular arrhythmia after a median five months of dieting.

The lowest recommended caloric intake per day is 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 for men, according to the National Institutes of Health. Restricting calories beyond those limits should only be done under doctor supervision because of the health risks.

Some milder versions of the hCG diet allow dieters to consumer 800 calories per day, and use hormone creams or drops instead of injections.

"Frankly, it's all variations of the same nonsense," Katz said, calling hCG injections an expensive placebo effect.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: More Trauma Patients Surviving Hospital Stay

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- The quality of care received by injured patients on the scene and in hospital trauma centers plays an important role in their ability to leave the hospital alive. A new study of trauma patients finds that many more are surviving their hospital stay, however, survival rates at three years for these patients are lower than expected. 

An ambulance is often the quickest way to transport an injured patient to the hospital for treatment. Once inside a trauma center, that treatment is critical to their overall survival.

Researchers in Washington state found patients who die from their injuries while in the hospital decreased from eight percent in 1995 to about five percent in 2008. "That's the good news. So many more patients survive the hospital stay and get discharged," says Dr. Sam Arbabi from Harborview Medical Center, in Seattle and co-author of the study. He then wanted to know where these patients go after leaving the hospital and what their long-term survival rates are. Researchers analyzed statewide trauma records that were linked to death certificate data over a period of 14 years. "Overall trauma patients have a higher likelihood to die even if they survive their injury in the hospital compared to non-trauma patients," according to Dr. Arbabi. 

The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association

After hospitalization for trauma, about half the patients go home, the rest are admitted to rehabilitation or skilled nursing facilities.  "Patients that get discharged to skilled nursing facilities as opposed to patients that get discharged to rehab centers or patients that get discharged home have higher risk of death in one year and three years," according to Arbabi.  Researchers do emphasize that patients released to skilled nursing facilities are often older and lower functioning than those who go elsewhere. "It doesn't suggest that skilled nursing facility is the cause, it's an association but it does suggest that there is an area that we can improve outcomes," Arbabi points out.

Researchers say the next step would be compiling outcome data from skilled nursing facilities like hospitals provide to look at ways of increasing survival rates at those facilities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The FDA Weighs In on Over-the Counter Genetic Tests

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Scientific advances now let us buy genetic testing kits over-the-counter, but the results may be confusing without professional advice.  Now the government is taking a closer look.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to know what the risks are when consumers use genetic tests they buy over-the-counter.  They include tests that look for inherited disease, predict the risk of future disease, and predict a patient's response to specific drugs.

The test results are typically sent directly to the customer without being evaluated by a clinician.

The government is asking a panel of outside experts:

-- What are the risks and benefits of direct public access to such tests?

-- What do you do about test results that are false, incomplete, misleading or too complicated for a lay person to understand?

-- The FDA requires scientific evidence to determine whether home-use tests are safe and effective.  Since results of home genetic tests may be used in many ways, should evidence requirements vary with the claims made for the various tests?

The study will not involve tests that make no medical claims, such as genealogical or forensic tests.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Researchers: Americans Are Sicker Than People in the UK

Comstock/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- A Princeton University study finds that despite spending more on healthcare in the United States compared to England, Americans experience higher rates of chronic disease across all age groups.

The study compared health indicators in the U.S. and England from childhood through old age for conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol levels. Americans had higher rates for most chronic diseases.

The authors conclude that Americans are at a health disadvantage compared to the English. One reason for this difference may be that the health care system in United Kingdom is targeted towards preventive health care compared to American health care.

But critics of the study found some problems. They say that the researchers did not compare the same years, and the samples sizes were different.

The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids Well Being Related to Their Work Environment

Steve Mason/Thinkstock(COLLEGE PARK, Md.) -- A new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior finds that children in classrooms with inadequate material resources such as stationery, heat and child-friendly furniture exhibit more mental health problems than students in classrooms without these issues.

The authors, from the University of Maryland, interviewed teachers and parents of 11,000 first graders and analyzed the effect of classroom environments on the child’s attentiveness, their likelihood of getting into fights, forming friendships and feelings of sadness. The results: children in classrooms with inadequate resources experienced worse mental health across all four measures.

The authors conclude that many aspects of the learning environment are related to a child’s mental health.

However, this study was entirely based on the teacher’s perspective of the child. Furthermore, the home environment may also affect whether a child gets into fights and forms friendships.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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