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Medical News Notes – November 2, 2010

Posted Tuesday, Nov 2, 2010 by Allen B. Ury

The world’s most dangerous drug. The power of positive thinking. A natural cure for the common cold. These and other stories from the world of health and medicine in this week’s MEDICAL NEWS NOTES.

Alcohol Most Dangerous Drug

The dangers of alcoholAlcohol is the world’s most dangerous drug, according to a new study released by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The study took into account not only the addictive qualities and physical/mental damage caused by various substances, but also their economic, social and environmental impact. By this measure, heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth — all illegal in most countries — are the drugs most lethal to individuals. But to society as a whole, alcohol — which is legal in most countries — is more harmful than any other drug. Its toll on workplace productivity, families, health care, social services and law enforcement far outweigh those of any other substance. The researchers say they are not calling for a prohibition on alcohol, but a more scientific approach to deciding what substances should be legal and which should not.

‘Positive Thinking’ Has Dramatic Impact on Health

Positive AttitudeA variety of new studies have suggested a strong link between having a positive attitude and personal health/longevity.

  • In a study done at Carnegie Mellon University, volunteers exposed to cold and flu viruses showed fewer symptoms when they had an overall optimistic attitude toward life. And a larger proportion of people with a positive emotional attitude failed to get sick at all compared to those with a more negative world view.
  • A 30-year study of 447 people done at the Mayo Clinic found that optimists had around a 50 percent lower risk of early death than pessimists.
  • A Yale study found that older people who believe we are still useful as we age actually live an average 7.5 years longer than those who believe our utility declines with advancing years.
  • A Dutch study of 999 people over 65 showed that optimists have a 77 percent lower risk of heart disease than pessimists.

Many scientists who have examined these and similar studies believe they show how the body responds to stress. Good feelings relieve stress and minimize the physical damage it can do over time. So smile; you’ll live longer.

Exercise Combats the Common Cold, Depression

Benefits of ExerciseIn addition to having a positive attitude, frequent exercise can decrease the frequency and severity of the common cold, according to research just published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The study, done in North Carolina, showed that people who engage in aerobic exercise at least five days a week have a 43 percent to 46 percent lower frequency of catching a cold compared to people who exercise only once at week, or do not exercise all.

Exercise was also shown to have a positive impact on depression in a study just published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. A key discovery of this study was that the exercise in question needs to be done during one’s leisure time, not during work. People who are physically active at work are not likely to enjoy any positive psychological effects, while those who are active during their “free time” are. Also, the intensity of the exercise does not appear to be a factor.

Antibiotics Can Cause Long-Term Damage to Digestive Flora

AntibioticsThe human digestive system needs “beneficial” bacteria to function properly. It’s long been known that antibiotics can kill or damage many of these bacteria, but the effects were believed to be short-term. Now a study published in the latest issue of Microbiology reports that a gene responsible for antibiotic resistance can not only increase in the presence of antibiotics, but these genes can then be passed on to other bacteria — including those that cause disease — for many weeks after antibiotic treatment has stopped. This can lead to patients becoming increasingly vulnerable to disease, including deadly bacteria, over time. The authors stress that antibiotics need to be used increasingly sparingly. (And, despite what a patient might demand, antibiotics should never be used to treat severe colds or other viral infections.)

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