Optimism in Teens Could Guard Against Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) – New research suggests that being positive can help protect teens from depression and other behavioral issues.

Researchers at Murdoch Children's Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, Australia say that teens who are positive are 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression.

''There has been remarkably little research into the effects of optimism on health in adolescents," the lead researcher told WebMD. "In older adults optimists are less likely to later experience a range of mental and physical health problems, from depression to cardiovascular disease. These relationships are well demonstrated. We have tended to assume the same would hold for adolescents but there have till now not been similar studies examining whether this was true or not."

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed more than 5,000 teens for three years. In addition to depression, the research found that teens who are optimistic were also less likely to abuse heavy substances or show antisocial behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teacher Defies Odds, Hasn't Called in Sick in 40 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alphonse Dattolo, a language teacher at Glen Rock High School in New Jersey, says he has worked more than 7,000 days in a row without one single day off. For those trying to do the math, that's more than 40 school years without an absence from the daily school grind.

Dattolo, 62, says he has been sick here and there in the past 40 years, but nothing that warranted a missed day of school. His students keep him going, Dattolo said, and he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Some doctors say Dattolo was probably blessed with a great immune system, but it is unlikely that Dattolo has never had the flu or another contagious illness in the past four decades.

"He may not have perceived himself to be ill, but it's not possible that he hasn't had multiple infections with common gastrointestinal and respiratory problems in that long of time," said Dr. Susan Coffin, medical director of infection and prevention and control department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

But Dr. Paul Glezen, professor of molecular virology, microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said that some bodies are better at fighting illness than others.

"Some people are just genetically programmed to have a better innate immunity, and they have a natural ability to respond to viruses," said Glezen. "[Dattolo] is in contact with students regularly, so he may be fortunate in that he can overcome those infections more rapidly and with fewer consequences than others."

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, agreed that it is quite possible a person can avoid severe illness for most of their lifetime. Getting a flu shot, washing your hands, eating right, and getting plenty of rest can keep a person healthy and robust.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Much Screen Time Means Health Decline

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- People who spend hours glued to a TV or computer screen on a daily basis could be shortening their lifespan, according to a new investigation reported in Tuesday's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

According to the study conducted by a group of international researchers, anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend less than two hours daily in screen play -- and this is regardless of whether or not they also work out.

The researchers surveyed more than 4,500 Scottish adults to find out how much time they spent parked in front of a TV, computer or gaming screen when not at work.  (Scottish work and recreation habits jibe with the rest of the modern Western world, including the "American idle".)  Then they analyzed their medical records for four years to find out how many of them succumbed to health problems or died during that time period.

Dedication to couch potato-style recreation translated into a greater incidence of poor health even after allowing for factors such as physical activity, age, sex and smoking.

"Assuming that leisure-time screen time is a representative indicator of overall sitting, our results lend support to the idea that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality," notes the report's lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London.  "Doing some exercise every day may not compensate for the damage done during very long periods of screen time."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Technology Could Silence the Shriek of a Dental Drill

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If you cringe at the high-pitched squeal of a dentist's drill, you're not alone.  Studies have shown it's that very sound that makes people anxious about going to the dentist.  But for those who fear the sound of the dental drill, there's a new technology that will make getting fillings sound easier.

A British dentist has developed a device that filters out the noise of the drill.  Patients can still hear other sounds, such as the dentist talking.

"The way that technology works is it listens to the sound, then takes that sound and puts the exact opposite wave around it and if you put two sound waves together with one going in and another going in the opposite direction, there's no sound that comes out," said Dr. Mark Wolff, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the New York University College of Dentistry.

This particular device isn't on the open market yet, so dentists haven't had the chance to try it out on patients.  There aren't many products that are very effective at drowning out the drill noise, but dentists say they do what they can, and encourage patients to do the same.

Wolff said he's tried noise-canceling headphones and electric drills, but neither option has been effective.  Noise-cancelling headphones don't mask the high-frequency drill sound, and the electric drills also emit a high-pitch sound.

Dentists say it's unlikely that drills will change very much.  In order to be effective, the bits have to move very fast, which is what makes that shrieking sound.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Majority Willing to Put a Price On Medical Predictions, Survey Says  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) – Researchers at Tufts Medical Center have found in a study that nearly 76 percent of people would be willing to pay to take a hypothetical predictive test to find out if they will develop Alzheimer’s disease, breast or prostate cancer, or arthritis later in life. Depending on the disease and the accuracy of the test, respondents said they would be willing to pay anywhere from $300 to $600 for information on their health.

The study, published in the online journal Health Economics, found that in most cases people would be willing to pay for the “value of knowing” even if the tests were not entirely accurate. The survey examined just fewer than 1,500 people.

"This study brings us a step closer to understanding people's preferences and motivations for wanting a diagnostic test, even if it has no bearing on subsequent medical treatment. While we have to proceed cautiously in this area, given that tests have costs and risks as well as benefits, our study suggests that many people value information — both for its own sake and because they will adjust lifestyle and behavior choices accordingly,” said lead author Peter J. Neumann, ScD, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies at Tufts Medical Center.

Neumann’s assertions were validated by the results of the study. Just over half of the individuals surveyed said that if given positive test results, they would spend more time with their loved ones. Arranging finances was a priority for 48 percent of people and traveling was of prime importance for 31 percent of respondents.

The study informed participants that their costs for these tests would not be covered by medical insurance. As the income level of the respondents rose, so did the amount of money they were willing to pay for the evaluations.

"By taking into account all implications of these tests — including the risks, costs, potential cost offsets, and the value they have outside of medical outcomes — we can build better policies and make better decisions about coverage and reimbursement, so that we may more accurately reflect patient preferences and appropriate uses of societal resources," said Neumann.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Efforts to Fight Soaring Obesity Rates: Working or Worthless?

(NEW YORK) -- As childhood obesity rates soar, classroom lessons in nutrition and physical activity like the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign are becoming more prevalent. A new study finds while many of these programs are on the right track, there are some crucial pieces missing.

The study involved 26 school-based nutrition interventions in the United States. There, investigators performed a content analysis of kindergarten through 12th-grade school-based nutrition interventions which fit into the study's 10 components proposed for developing future effective school-based nutrition interventions.

Findings from this study reveal that classroom nutrition education (85 percent) followed by parental involvement at home (62 percent) were the two intervention components used most often. Less frequent components included establishment of food service guidelines (15 percent), community involvement (15 percent), inclusion of ethnic/cultural groups (15 percent), inclusion of incentives for schools (12 percent), and involvement of parents at school (eight percent).

This study documents that although many components of nutrition education have been successfully included in our children's school-based interventions, there are still some missing links.

"Schools continue to be an important location for childhood obesity prevention interventions. However, it is imperative that school-based interventions be developed and implemented to achieve maximum results,” said lead author Dr. Mary Roseman, who conducted this work while at the University of Kentucky and the University of Mississippi.

Copyright 2011 ABC Radio News


Shorter Gap Between Pregnancies Linked to Increased Autism Risk

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The rising prevalence of autism in the United States suggests that environmental risk factors growing in prominence are at play.  New research adds to a growing body of evidence that the risk is conferred during pregnancy -- well before affected children show symptoms, such as impairments in communication and social interaction.

According to the study published in Pediatrics, children conceived within one year of a sibling were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those conceived after three years or more.  The association held true even when the study authors controlled for variables such as parental age, preterm birth and low birth weight -- all factors known to increase autism risk.

"We've identified a really robust association," said Peter Bearman, director of the Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences at Columbia University and senior author of the study.  "When you see something so robust and so stable, it provides an important clue as to what we should be looking at next."

The risk of autism among children conceived one-to-two years after an older sibling was almost double, the researchers reported.

The study focused on over 660,000 second-born sibling children born in California between 1992 and 2002.  During that period, the proportion of births occurring within 24 months of a previous birth increased from 11 percent to 18 percent, according to the researchers.

The mechanism by which closely spaced pregnancies may boost autism risk remains unclear, but the authors offered two possible explanations: autistic behaviors might be more noticeable when there's an older sibling close in age for comparison; or a biological factor, such as maternal depletion of nutrients like folate, -- important for brain development -- could put the developing fetus at risk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gabrielle Giffords in Medically-Induced Coma to Help Brain Recover

Photo Courtesy - Tom Willett/Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Doctors say that while the bullet that struck Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did not hit any critical parts of the brain, whether she will survive and how fully she will recover are still unknown.

"This was a devastating wound that traveled the length of the brain on the left side," Dr. Peter Rhee, trauma director at University Medical Center in Tucson, said during a press conference.  Giffords' family confirmed to ABC affiliate KTRK that the bullet entered the back of her head and exited through her forehead.

Giffords is currently in a medically induced coma that doctors say will help her brain rest.  She had surgery to stop the bleeding and help control swelling on the left side of the brain.  Doctors also had to decompress her eyes.  Eyelids often swell when there is trauma to the brain.

"Brain swelling is the biggest threat at this point," said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of the the division of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona.  To help control swelling, part of Giffords skull was removed and will be reimplanted, possibly in a few months.

Giffords was awakened periodically and she has made nonverbal responses to simple commands, but Rhee said she has not spoken because she is on a ventilator.

Lemole said Giffords was able to squeeze a doctor's hand and hold up fingers when asked, and these responses are good signs.

The next few days and weeks will be critical to determine how much brain function Giffords has lost, if any.  Doctors will keep an especially close eye on the level of brain swelling and also on her ability to recover speech and movement on the right side of her body, which are controlled by the left side of the brain. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Surviving Gunshot to Brain Is Possible, Say Doctors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Despite being shot in the head with a bullet that went through her brain, it's entirely possible for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to survive her injury, neurosurgeons believe -- though without knowing the trajectory of the bullet, they say, it's difficult to predict how fully she will recover.

Twenty-two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot Giffords and several other people at a political event outside an Arizona grocery store Saturday morning. Six people have died, including a federal judge and a child.

Giffords survived and is now receiving treatment at Tucson's University Medical Center. The medical center's trauma director, Dr. Peter Rhee, says he is "optimistic" about Giffords' chances of survival.

There are a number of different scenarios that make it possible to survive a gunshot to the brain.

"If it's a glancing blow that injures the skull and a small amount of brain and doesn't go directly through the whole brain is one case," said Dr. Paul Vesta, director of neurocritical care at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. "People can also survive with parts of the brain missing."

Giffords is at risk for seizures, a stroke and more bleeding.

"[There will also be] two weeks of dealing of ICU [intensive care unit] issues, infections and pulmonary embolism [clot to the lungs]," said Dr. John Boockvar, associate professor of neurological surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

After that, doctors say it will take a couple of months to determine if there has been any loss of brain function and how extensive it is. The fact that Gifford is only 40 years old works in her favor, since younger people tend to recover more easily.

"It is entirely possible to make a complete recovery," said Vesta.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Fluoride Recommendations Buck Decades-Old Dental Health Practices

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- After decades of touting the importance of fluoride, federal officials now say that many Americans may be getting too much of a good thing.

For years, parents have heeded their dentists' warnings and had their children take fluoride supplements or use fluoride toothpaste, in addition to whatever amount of the mineral they received from their tap water.

But Friday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that too much fluoride can cause fluorisis, a hypermineralization of tooth enamel that can result in the staining or pitting of teeth.

"In the vast majority of those affected, it's barely noticeable, even by dentists and oral health professionals," said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at HHS, "and that's why we believe making this adjustment now will promote health, improve oral health and reduce rates of fluorosis going forward."

HHS has proposed that the current recommendation be set at 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, lowered from the previously recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

Fluoride, when taken in moderate amounts, can help prevent cavities. The mineral has been added to toothpaste and to water to improve dental health. But some parts of the country, where the water is already rich in fluoride, have reported cases of fluorosis.

Dr. Griffin Cole, a dentist in Austin, Texas, said he has seen several cases of mild to severe fluorosis in his practice.

While he applauded the feds' proposal, he'd like to see the recommendations go even lower.

"I still don't think it's enough, honestly," he said. "I don't think there should be fluoride in the water at all.

"I think it's a nice move in the right direction," he said.

Cole said he began his dentistry career in the early 1990s, working for a dentist who was openminded about fluoride use and believed that his patients were getting too much.

Cole said he had never once prescribed fluoride supplements to his patients.

He cited studies from the past decade that have linked excess fluoride to not only fluorosis but to higher instances of bone cancer in the test subjects. He also said osteoporosis was an additional concern, since ingested fluoride is known to sit in a person's bones.

"Ingesting fluoride in any form does nothing for your teeth," he said. In cases of "rampant" tooth decay, applying a topical fluoride can improve dental health, but only minimally.

Fluoride, Cole said, molds to the tooth's enamel. So while it will aid in preventing decay, it can also make teeth brittle.

"When you see a case of somebody coming in with bad fluorosis, to restore those teeth you either have to crown them completely or at least do a veneer," he said. "So it's a very costly thing to fix."

Depending on the dentist and the region of the country, restoration could cost between $900 and $1,600 a tooth.

Koh said that in recognition of the multiple sources of fluoride available, HHS and the EPA also recommend that municipalities lower the levels of fluoride in their drinking water.

"The main issue of the very mild dental fluorosis in children is what we're addressing right now," he said, "and what we anticipate is that with this adjustment, we're going to lower that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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