Suicide is a leading cause of death for teens worldwide, and the odds of suicide attempts may be higher when adolescents abuse prescription drugs, a Chinese study suggests.
To explore the connection between suicide risk and misuse of prescription opiates and sedatives, researchers surveyed about 3,300 Chinese teens once when they were about 14 years old and again a year later.
Teens who said they used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at the start of the study were almost three times as likely to report a suicide attempt a year later, and the risk was more than tripled for youth who abused opiates, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Baseline opioids misuse, sedatives misuse, and nonmedical use of… prescription drugs were positively associated with later suicidal ideation,” said lead study author Dr Lan Guo of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
Those thoughts were more likely to turn into suicide attempts with “baseline opioids misuse and nonmedical use of any prescription drugs,” Guo added.
Less than 3 per cent of the teens reported misuse of any prescription drugs, with 1.8 per cent saying they used opiates or stimulants for nonmedical reasons and about 1 percent reporting abuse of sedatives.
it’s possible that prescription drugs may alter teens’ moods or lower inhibitions.
Overall, 17 per cent of the participants reported suicidal thoughts, and 3 percent reported suicide attempts in the survey at the end of the study.
The link between drug abuse and suicide persisted even after researchers accounted for teens who reported experiencing depression at the start of the study.
While the study doesn’t examine why abuse of prescriptions and other drugs might be linked to a greater suicide risk, it’s possible that these drugs might alter teens’ moods or lower inhibitions in a way that allows suicidal impulses to flourish, the authors conclude.
Limitations of the study include its reliance on teens to accurately report and recall both drug use and suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, the authors note.
It’s not surprising, however, that the same teens who are prone to abusing drugs would also be susceptible to suicidal thoughts, said Dr Bernard Biermann, an adolescent psychiatry researcher at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“Substance abuse can be associated with causing depression and distress, but it’s also a means of self-medicating,” Biermann, who wasn’t involved in the study, said in a phone interview.
It’s essential that parents keep an eye on teens for changes in behavior that go beyond temporary moodiness to suggest a bigger problem, said Dr Benjamin Shain, a researcher at the University of Chicago and head of child and adolescent psychiatry at NorthShore University HealthSystem.
“Growing up has always been difficult and life now is even more complicated,” Shain, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Parents should take seriously severe or persistent distress and changes in behavior, such as isolation or falling grades, and bring their teen to their primary care physician or a mental health professional with any signs.”
Parents should also try to make it harder for teens to get their hands on things to harm themselves, said Dr Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wasn’t involved in the study.
“When possible, avoid having things readily available that teens may impulsively use to end their life,” Evans said by email. “Old narcotics or medications should be discarded (look for pharmacy take back options).” – Reuters/Lisa Rapaport
Scientists believe that the game Pokemon Go can get people to be more active and may help fight type 2 diabetes and obesity.
A specialist diabetes researcher sees Pokemon Go – the virtual character-hunting game with millions of players worldwide – as an excellent means of tackling rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Pokemon Go has now piqued the interest of the medical world. The smartphone-based character-hunting craze that’s sweeping the world has caught the attention of a researcher at the University of Leicester, in Britain, specialising in international diabetes research.
In fact, Dr Tom Yates sees the application as a potential means of tackling sedentary lifestyles and obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The augmented reality mobile game has so far been downloaded 75 million times worldwide, and sees users chase Pokemon characters through the streets. The famous little “Pocket Monsters” who sprung up in the 1990s appear on users’ smartphone screens superimposed on real-world locations.
One of the main recommendations in the prevention and treatment of diabetes is regular physical exercise, totalling at least two and a half hours per week.
The breaks were used to introduce five minutes of walking or other forms of movement. Pokemon Go is an interesting solution since players can cover several kilometres without even realising.
Pokemon Go may be able to make people more active and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
According to Dr Tom Yates, “If there is something out there which is getting people off the sofa and pounding the streets then this game could be an innovative solution for rising obesity levels. Walking is hugely underrated yet it is man’s best and the cheapest form of exercise. It’s an easy and accessible way to get active and help maintain a healthy body.”
Experts suggest this fun and non-violent game can be a good form of exercise and can be played by the whole family. However, users should take care not to let their Pokemon hunt lead to dangerous behaviour – avoiding playing while driving or crossing roads, for example, and steering clear of venturing into dark, isolated areas.
Risk factors for diabetes include genetic predisposition and family history, but above all obesity, lack of physical exercise and sedentary lifestyles.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of diabetes cases worldwide. – AFP Relaxnews
The newly discovered antibiotic cleared or improved skin infections in lab experiments, researchers say, apparently without any toxic side-effects.
Resistance is caused, among other things, by doctors over-prescribing antibiotics, and patients not taking the correct doses. Some germs, including those that cause tuberculosis, can be resistant to multiple drugs. Peschel and a team examined why 30 per cent of people have Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their nose, and 70 per cent do not.
S. aureus is one of the most frequent causes of severe bacterial infections, and claims many human lives. A strain of S. aureus has developed antibiotic resistance.
The researchers discovered that a different bacterium called Staphylococcus lugdunensis, which is more commonly found in some noses than others, produces an S. aureus-fighting antibiotic. They christened the compound Lugdunin.
In mice, the newly discovered antibiotic cleared or improved skin infections in lab experiments, the team reported, apparently without any toxic side-effects.
These were “very unexpected and exciting findings that can be very helpful, we think, for new concepts for the development of antibiotics,” Peschel told journalists ahead of the study being published by British journal Nature.
A lot more study is needed, he added.
“We are at the very beginning. The pre-clinical and later clinical development is a matter of many years and a matter of a lot of money that needs to be raised…. We will need partners from the pharmaceutical industry.”
There are more than 1,000 microbe species living in the human body, raising the possibility of many more antibiotic-producing bacteria just waiting to be discovered.
The researchers concluded that “human microbiota should be considered as a source for new antibiotics.” – AFP Relaxnews
The years a woman starts her period until menopause can indicate her lifespan, says study.
According to new research, women who begin menstruating after the age of 12 and enter menopause after the age of 50 are more likely to live to 90 years old.
A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US have linked female life expectancy to the length of their reproductive span.
After studying 16,000 women for 21 years, the scientists’ findings – published in the journal Menopause – show that women who started menstruating after the age of 12 and entered menopause after the age of 50 were more likely to live to 90, especially those with more than 40 reproductive years between their first and final menstrual periods.
Years of fertility between the ages when menstruation starts and menopause may indicate female life expectancy.
Dr Aladdin Shadyab and colleagues found that this group of women were at lower risk of cardiovascular disease and aged in better health, which could explain their longevity. They also tended to be non-smokers – since smoking can lead to earlier menopause – and were less likely to have a history of diabetes. Menopause generally occurs one to two years earlier in smokers than non-smokers.
A second study of 124,000 women, published in the same journal, found that late onset of menopause – after the age of 55 – increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 12%. According to the study, the risk was lowest for women entering menopause between 46 and 55 years old.
Lifestyle factors can affect the age at which women experience menopause. Improving diets, lifestyles and quality of life in Western countries have generally pushed back the age of onset.
Further studies are now required to understand how genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors can explain the link between reproductive span and life expectancy. – AFP Relaxnews
In general, diastolic blood pressure is considered to be low if it is 60 millimetres of mercury or less. Photo: TNS
A blood pressure reading has two numbers, given in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. That’s systolic pressure.
The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats. That’s the diastolic pressure.
In general, diastolic blood pressure is considered to be low if it is 60 mmHg or less.
Normal blood pressure varies from one person to another though. If your diastolic blood pressure is consistently below 60 mmHg, but you aren’t experiencing any problems from it, you may not need to do anything.
Noticeable symptoms of low blood pressure generally include dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting. If you’re having these or other symptoms that could be related to low blood pressure, more investigation may be required to uncover the possible cause and provide appropriate treatment.
In some cases, medications can cause low diastolic blood pressure. In particular, medications intended to lower blood pressure may go too far in the other direction, reducing blood pressure beyond a healthy level.
Other medications may also lead to low blood pressure, such as drugs for Parkinson’s disease, certain types of antidepressants, and the drug sildenafil, particularly in combination with heart medication (e.g. nitroglycerine).
Medications and medical conditions can cause low blood pressure. Photo: TNS
An underlying medical condition could trigger low blood pressure as well. For example, heart problems, such as extremely low heart rate, heart valve problems and heart failure, may cause low blood pressure, because they prevent the body from being able to circulate enough blood.
Endocrine disorders, such as adrenal insufficiency, can also trigger low blood pressure.
Other conditions, including dehydration, blood loss, severe infection and a severe allergic reaction, can lead to low blood pressure. But these disorders usually cause a sudden, dramatic drop in pressure, rather than a sustained low blood pressure reading over time.
When your diastolic blood pressure is consistently below normal, it may need to be evaluated. In young healthy people who do not take medications or have any symptoms, no treatment may be needed.
But it’s still a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. If you do take medications, ask your doctor to review your current medication list to see if they could be contributing to low blood pressure.
If your doctor suspects that an underlying disorder could be the source of the problem, then additional tests may be necessary.
It would also be worthwhile to talk with your doctor about managing any vascular risk factors you may have that can be changed, such as smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.
When a medical condition leads to low diastolic blood pressure, successfully treating that problem may eliminate the low blood pressure, too. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service
When asked what allergy triggers concerned respondents the most, the answers were pollen (63.1%), cigarette smoke (59.3%), environmental pollutants such as haze (56.3%), antibiotics (53.6%) and house dust mites (40%). Even though the level of pollen exposure in Malaysia is lower than other countries, it still topped the list. Photo: TNS
More than 50% of Malaysians think there is a cure for allergies, when in fact, there is no known cure.
Results of the first Allergy-Free Nation survey released recently revealed that a further 28% don’t know whether there is a cure for allergies.
Allergies are reaching epidemic levels both locally and globally, yet statistics show that we are woefully ignorant when it comes to allergy awareness.
“These statistics suggest that the public perceive that seeing a healthcare professional will provide a cure. This indicates allergy awareness on prevention is low in Malaysia and highlights the importance of implementing a Malaysian Allergy Roadmap,” says consultant paediatrician and clinical immunologist/allergist Dr Amir Hamzah Abdul Latiff.
The nationwide survey, a collaboration between The Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology (MSAI) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), is the first of its kind here.
The preliminary data involved 7,132 respondents, and was compiled over a period of four months (December 2015 to March 2016).
To gather more data, the survey is still ongoing at more than 250 obstetric and gynaecological, and paediatric clinics across Malaysia, 40 child enrichment centres in the Klang Valley, and online via the MSAI website.
The initiative seeks to change the allergy landscape in Malaysia and address how allergies are both identified and diagnosed.
Allergy awareness on prevention is low in Malaysia and highlights the importance of implementing a Malaysian Allergy Roadmap, says Dr Amir. Photo: ROHAIZAT MD DARUS/The Star
In Malaysia, it is estimated that four out of five children are at risk of developing allergies when both parents have a pre-existing allergy.
Dr Amir, who is also the president of MSAI, says, “Prevention is the best way to manage allergies via breastfeeding and using hydrolysed formula when breastfeeding is not possible. The benefits of breastfeeding are indisputable as it offers the best source of nutrition, and may even help reduce the risk of allergies for those who breastfed for at least four months.
“Mothers are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for six months of life and to continue up to two years of age or more. In instances where breastfeeding is not possible, it appears that a clinically-proven partially-hydrolysed protein can offer some advantages to reduce the risk of eczema.”
The top few identified allergies include food allergies (55.2%), eczema/atopic dermatitis (42.4%), rhinitis/hay fever (29.1%) and asthma (27.4%).
Interestingly, almost half the participants (45.4%) believe that food intolerance is one of the allergic diseases, when it is not.
When asked what allergy triggers concerned respondents the most, the answers were pollen (63.1%), cigarette smoke (59.3%), environmental pollutants such as haze (56.3%), antibiotics (53.6%) and house dust mites (40%).
Even though the level of pollen exposure in Malaysia is lower than other countries, it still topped the list.
Food allergies were given a relatively low ranking of concern at 29%.
“This signifies a big gap between ‘awareness’ of the allergy and their ‘concern’ with respect to the impact it will have on their lives or that of their family members.
“With food allergies set to reach epidemic levels, more needs to be done to raise awareness in this area,” says Dr Amir.
Common food allergens Malaysians know of include seafood (89.9%), followed by tree nuts (47%) and soy (44.3%). The awareness of cow’s milk as a food allergen is still low at 8.31%.
Dr Amir points out, “Cow’s milk is actually the most common food allergen in young children and the allergy awareness survey shows we still have a lot more work to do to increase the public understanding of food allergy. In these children, eating the food allergen can trigger eczema.”
The survey suggests that consulting an allergist (55.7%) was the preferred choice of parents, although a high 47.9% said they sought treatment from a holistic medicine practitioner, while 45.8% consulted a general practitioner (GP).
“We know allergists play a leading role, but so do the obstetricians and gynaecologists (ObGyns), GPs and paediatricians. ObGyns play a role in caring for the mother and foetus, and that’s the first step for early intervention. The paediatricians care for the infant, while GPs play a role in caring for the entire family unit,” says Dr Amir.
Dr Woo says that food allergies are now very prevalent. Photo: ROHAIZAT MD DARUS/The Star
According to Assoc Prof Dr Intan Hakimah Ismail, head of UPM’s Department of Paediatrics and lead investigator of the survey, people tend to think allergies are physical in nature, but in reality, it is a lot more psychological.
“Many food allergies start when you’re a baby and go off, but may come back later in life as allergic rhinitis or asthma. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years with no problems,” she says.
Consultant allergist and immunologist Dr Kent Woo adds, “Food allergies are now very prevalent. Before, it was mostly asthma and the occasional peanut allergy. But now, there is a landmark study that shows that if you introduce peanuts and other potentially allergy-causing foods to a child at an early age, they don’t develop allergies.”
The study for the UK Food Standards Agency published in The New England Journal Of Medicine earlier this year found that children who were introduced to peanut and egg-white proteins from the age of three months had a lower chance of developing food allergies than those who were only introduced to them at six months old – but only if the recommended quantity of allergenic food was consumed.
Scientists found that weekly consumption of the equivalent of approximately one-and-a-half teaspoons of peanut butter and one small boiled egg would lead to the prevention of an allergy to those food substances.
The research compared those infants who were breastfed and consumed allergenic foods from three months, with those solely breastfed and given foods at six months.
In the MSAI survey, 71% of respondents did not know what an anaphylatic reaction is.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic response that is marked by swelling, hives, lowered blood pressure and dilated blood vessels. In severe cases, a person will go into shock.
“If an anaphylactic shock isn’t treated immediately, it can be fatal. With allergies on the rise, anaphylaxis education should become part of an allergy awareness programme,” says Dr Amir.
Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice in England and Wales says.
It comes as a government commissioned report sets the recommended levels at 10 micrograms of the vitamin a day.
But officials are concerned this may not be achievable through diet alone, particularly when sunlight, which helps in vitamin D production, is scarce.
Low vitamin D levels can lead to brittle bones and rickets in children.
Limited amounts of the vitamin are found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals.
But, for most people, the bulk of their vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on their skin.
And official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.
Now, an extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health.
And public health officials say, in winter months, people should consider getting this from 10 microgram supplements, if their diet is unlikely to provide it.
Why is vitamin D important?
Its main function is to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are vital for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
In extreme cases, low levels can lead to rickets in children - where the bones become soft and weak and misshapen as they continue to grow.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia - causing severe bone pain and muscle aches.
Meanwhile, children aged up to four should take supplements each day all year round, as should babies under one year - unless they already consume this in infant formula.
Prof Peter Selby, at the University of Manchester, welcomed the advice.
He added: "In particular, it dispels any doubt of the place of vitamin D in the maintenance of bone health and should ensure that all people will now be encouraged to receive vitamin D to reduce their risk of bone disease and fracture."
Previous advice that recommended top-up daily supplements for a few at-risk groups, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, and over-65s, still stands.
For example, people whose skin has little exposure to the Sun, or who always cover their skin to go outside, should take the supplements throughout the year.
Black and Asian people should also consider the supplements all year round.
NHS England says vitamin D supplements are available free of charge for low-income families, through the Healthy Start scheme.
Separately, health officials in Scotland say they have updated their guidance in line with the new recommendations, but only for people aged over six months.
They are currently considering whether to extend the advice to babies from birth.
SACN reviewed a growing body of evidence linking vitamin D to bone and muscle health.
It also looked at studies suggesting Vitamin D levels might have an impact on cancers, cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis but found there was insufficient evidence to draw any firm conclusions.