Thursday, June 25, 2009

Don't worry, be happy, health study says

Personality, chemical linked. They seem to have overlooked that extroverted people are probably more active and thus get more exercise. The positive effects could be just the result of more exercise

Say hello, get socializing and be happy. Medical researchers have established a direct link between a buoyant, outgoing personality and better health. A study released Wednesday by the University of Rochester Medical Center found that extroverts -- particularly those who are happily engaged in their everyday lives -- have dramatically lower blood levels of an inflammatory chemical linked to clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes. "The 'life force' is linked to [a] body's ability to withstand stress," the study said, suggesting that extroverts have a "survival advantage" over their less engaged peers.

"Our study took the important first step of finding a strong association between one part of extroversion and a specific, stress-related, inflammatory chemical," said Benjamin Chapman, lead author of the study and an assistant professor within the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research, part of the university's psychiatry department. He's talking simple, happy stuff, essentially. The potentially damaging levels of the inflammatory chemical interleukin-6 can retreat in a person who has " 'dispositional energy,' or a sense of innate vigor or active engagement with life," the study said.

It followed 103 adults older than 40, gauging their personalities with a standard psychological test and measuring levels of interleukin-6 in their blood. Those who were heartily involved in life had measurably lower amounts of the inflammatory chemical. The study revealed that this tendency was particularly pronounced in older women. "If this aspect of personality drives inflammation, dispositional energy and engagement with life may confer a survival advantage," Mr. Chapman said. The study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers speculated that the findings could have some impact on preventive medicine. "Beyond physical activity, some people seem to have this innate energy separate from exercise that makes them intrinsically involved in life," Mr. Chapman said. "It will be fascinating to investigate how we can increase this disposition toward engagement. Potentially, you might apply techniques developed to treat depression like 'pleasurable event scheduling' to patients with low dispositional energy, where you get people more involved in life by filling their time with things they enjoy as a therapy."


The cancer cream 'that gets rid of sun wrinkles'

Efudix has been around for years. It is basically a chemical burning agent. It is pretty unpleasant to use. Note the comment below about inflammation

A cream used to treat early signs of skin cancer can erase wrinkles and make skin look younger, claim researchers. There has long been anecdotal evidence of Efudix reversing ageing effects on patients.

So a University of Michigan team studied a group of 56 to 85-year-olds being treated for actinic keratoses - a form of precancer usually found on the face, neck and forearms. The 21 patients used Efudix twice daily for six months.

Study leader Dr Dana Sachs said: 'People's skin was much softer. The texture was improved. There were fewer wrinkles around the upper cheek and eyes. 'Not only were their precancers gone but the quality of their skin seemed to be improved.' The study, in the Archives of Dermatology, also reported skin was more toned, less yellow and with fewer brown spots. Almost all patients rated their skin as improved - even though it was left with inflammation some described as 'looking like raw hamburger meat'.

The researchers claimed the cream has potential as a cosmetic treatment because of its relative low cost compared with laser resurfacing, a widely available treatment for improving sun-damaged skin. The cream, which is prescription-only, costs the NHS around £18 for a 20g tube.

But leading consultant dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe, of the Cranley Clinic, London, who also works in California, said he had stopped prescribing it for patients. He said: 'I stopped using it around five years ago in Santa Monica and London because the side effects heavily outweigh the benefits. 'It causes uncontrolled irritancy that is a major problem during the four weeks of initial treatment and sometimes for weeks afterwards. 'Patients would stop using it before they were supposed to because of the irritancy and redness of the skin.

'It produces its effect by peeling away the surface of the skin, which would make it appear younger, but only works on lines that are produced by sun damage. 'If your wrinkles are due to any other cause then it won't work. 'I use much better treatments now including lasers and Solareze, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory cream that does not have the same side effect,' he added.


Bone density test for women on osteoporosis drug ‘pointless’

Because it is almost always beneficial. There certainly can be too much monitoring in some circumstances. Monitoring can be just bureaucratic ass-covering

Monitoring bone density in older women who are taking anti-osteoporosis drugs is a waste of time and money, scientists said yesterday. The bone disease osteoporosis is a serious problem for older women in particular because bone density falls as oestrogen levels dwindle during the menopause.

Some guidelines say that postmenopausal women’s bone density should be monitored, although experts have questioned whether the costly process can really show how a patient is responding to treatment by osteoporosis drugs.

Researchers in Australia and the US attempted to settle the debate by estimating how much the effects of alendronate, a widely-used osteoporosis drug, differed between individuals. Analysing data from a previous trial involving more than 6,000 women, they found that almost all — 97.5 per cent — of those treated with alendronate showed at least a “modest” increase in their bone mineral density and this effect did not vary much between individuals.

In a paper published by the British Medical Journal, the scientists said that this made monitoring individuals’ response to treatment unnecessary and, because of the potential to mislead, best avoided.

Commenting on the study, Juliet Compston, Professor of Bone Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said the clear implication was that patients could be given inappropriate advice if changes in bone mineral density were used to monitor treatment. Routine monitoring during the first few years of treatment “cannot be justified because it may mislead patients, lead to inappropriate management decisions, and waste scarce healthcare resources”, she argued.


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