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 Monday, January 8, 2001

Children find relief from migraine through biofeedback and relaxation training
"Relaxation training and biofeedback have proven to be promising treatments for children who suffer from migraine headaches, according to a study in the January 9th issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The 20 children in the study, with an average age of 11-1/2 years, had all been clinically diagnosed with migraine. As part of the study, they were taught deep breathing, muscle relaxation and guided imagery techniques, and were encouraged to practice them at home at least three times a week and at the onset of a headache." Biofeedback is generally an underrated treatment to begin with, and not well understood by many professionals, yet it is helpful for both adults and children.

(Posted at 10:20:28 PM EST.)

Psychopharmacologic Treatment Strategies for Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia
"Patients with serious psychiatric disorders are frequently treated by primary care physicians, who may have difficulty keeping up with recent advances in psychiatry. This paper presents an updated synopsis for three major psychiatric illnesses: major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Current definitions, updated diagnostic criteria, short- and long-term treatment strategies with algorithms, and special challenges for the clinician are discussed for each of these illnesses. On the basis of each illness's distinct characteristics, five treatment principles are emphasized: 1) Treatment strategies should be long-term and should emphasize adherence, 2) treatment choice should be empirical, 3) combinations of medications may be helpful, 4) a combination of psychosocial and pharmacologic treatments may be more useful than either alone, and 5) the family or "significant others" as well as a consumer organization need to be involved. Some of the new directions in clinical research to refine these strategies and meet these challenges are also described." A professional, journal article, but well worth the read.

(Posted at 04:30:49 PM EST.)

Friends Not Always Helpful in Relieving Stress
"Having a supportive friend with you during a stressful event may not always be good for your health. Researchers found that women who had a same-sex friend present when they gave a stressful speech showed larger increases in cholesterol levels than did women who spoke without a friend. Previous research has shown that blood cholesterol levels tend to rise during stress, and there is some evidence that even short-term rises in cholesterol are linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease over time." One of those "No duh" studies.

(Posted at 03:50:15 PM EST.)

Friends Help Friends Exercise More in College
"College students are more likely to exercise if they have social support for being active, but the best kind of social support differs between men and women. A new study of 937 randomly selected students at Ohio State University found that women were more likely to exercise if they had the social support of family, while the support of friends was more important for men."

(Posted at 03:49:08 PM EST.)

Research finds virginity pledges far more effective than expected
"Promises that more than 2.5 million U.S. teens made in the 1990s to refrain from sex until marriage have been surprisingly effective, according to a new study based on the largest survey ever conducted of adolescents in this country. On average, adolescents who took a public pledge to remain abstinent until marriage delayed having sex about one-third -- or 18 months -- longer than others who did not, analysis of their confidential survey answers showed. Such "virginity pledges" work only in specific situations and for specific age groups, however, researchers discovered."

(Posted at 03:47:33 PM EST.)

 Thursday, January 4, 2001

Combination Of Two Widely Used Pesticides Linked To Parkinson's Disease
"Scientists have shown that the combination of two widely used agricultural pesticides-but neither one alone-creates in mice the exact pattern of brain damage that doctors see in patients with Parkinson's disease. The research offers the most compelling evidence yet that everyday environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease." An intriguing link that scares the hell out of me, in the sense that most people are exposed to eating things treated this way. What makes some people come down with the disease then, while others do not?

(Posted at 11:36:05 AM EST.)

Couples That Stay Together, Ail Together
"In findings that give new meaning to the vow ``in sickness and in health,'' researchers report a strong association between an individual's health and that of his or her spouse.

According to the report in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health, journal of the American Public Health Association (news - web sites), middle-aged couples, particularly those earning the least amount of money, tend to experience joint health problems."
(Posted at 11:33:11 AM EST.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Children's Mental Illness is a Public Crisis
"David Satcher, MD, PhD, Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General, today released a National Action Agenda for Children's Mental Health, which outlines goals and strategies to improve the services for children and adolescents with mental health problems and their families. According to the report, the nation is facing a public crisis in mental health for children and adolescents.

In the United States, 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment. Yet, in any given year, it is estimated that fewer than 1 in 5 of these children receives needed treatment. The long-term consequences of untreated childhood disorders are costly, in both human and fiscal terms."
(Posted at 02:54:20 PM EST.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Yummy Data
The Holidays Online: Emails and e-greetings outpace e-commerce. From the Pew Internet Project. Also, I hope you didn't miss The Online Health Care Revolution: How the Web helps Americans take better care of themselves earlier last year. If you did, bad researcher!

(Posted at 04:37:21 PM EST.)

Some Americans, fed up with conflicting diet and nutrition messages, respond with less healthful eating habits
"First, butter is the enemy. Then solid margarine is on the forbidden list. Next, beta-carotene supplements are thought to prevent cancer - until they are found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Later, tomatoes are the darlings of the prostate-cancer prevention community - until broccoli, cabbage and other crucifers take center stage.

Some appear to be responding by tuning out the conflicting advice and eating less healthful diets, according to a study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. The results of this National Cancer Institute-funded study, led by Ruth E. Patterson, Ph.D., R.D., an associate member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, appear in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association." What did you expect when the media innundate the average consumer with mixed nutritional messages? Even I'm confused most of the time about what is "best," if such a thing even exists.
(Posted at 10:12:58 AM EST.)

Newer Antidepressants Increase Likelihood of Self-Harm
"For the most part, antidepressant medications called SSRIs, including Prozac, tend to be less toxic than older tricyclic antidepressants, making it harder to overdose on the drugs. But that does not necessarily mean that prescribing SSRIs instead of tricyclics can prevent depressed people from trying to kill or harm themselves, researchers report. In a new study, people taking SSRIs were more likely than those taking tricyclics such as amitriptyline or clomipramine to try to hurt themselves, either by an overdose or some other method.

The study included 2,776 people who were hospitalized after attempting to hurt themselves. The most common form of self-harm was taking an overdose of a drug, including not only antidepressants, but also any other prescription or over-the-counter medication. Other methods included hanging, suffocation, guns, jumping from high places and cutting." Wow. This is an eye-opening study and doctors should take note of this finding -- prescribing newer antidepressants to people with a history of self-harming behavior is probably contraindicated.
(Posted at 09:32:35 AM EST.)

Happy New Year!!
Hope yours was a safe and joyous occasion and that your new year is filled with prosperity, peace, and hope.

(Posted at 09:27:40 AM EST.)

New survey out about health seeking online
"A diligent user of the Internet can learn the results of the latest research for treating and curing a disease before his personal physician knows. In a nation of 275 million people, an estimated 100 million adults use the Internet to learn about medicines, new approaches to old diseases - including cancers, diabetes, clogged arteries and more - and to read about "cures" their doctors dismiss.

About 25 percent of users surveyed say they seek information about herbal products and other alternative medicines, according to a poll conducted for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. [...] The survey of Web users disclosed that 68 percent seek information not necessarily by organization but by name of disease. A common approach is to use a search engine like or and enter the name of the disease." I'm frankly surprised this number isn't much higher, since I don't know of too many people that type in the name of an organization when looking for information about a disorder. People know names of problems, not the names of organizations.
(Posted at 09:26:58 AM EST.)

Seniors warned against lowering thermostats too far
"Older people risk developing a life-threatening condition if they lower their thermostats too far in an effort to save on home heating costs, health officials warn. "Cold indoor temperatures can be dangerous for older people," says Dr. Richard Havlik of the National Institute on Aging. [...] Havlik suggests that people age 60 and older set their thermostat no lower than 68 degrees. If that is not possible, he suggests they dress warmly in layers or stay under an electric blanket." Lots of people do this, so I thought it was a good thing to bring to your attention if you're one of them, or are concerned about an older parent or other adult.

(Posted at 09:23:57 AM EST.)

Friday, December 29, 2000

From Actor to Advocate: Michael J. Fox on Primetime
ABC News' Primetime did a segment last night about Michael J. Fox, and his fight against Parkinson's disease. It was a good update about his life, his career decisions, and how he's doing now against the disease, and his starting a new foundation to fund the research into effective treatments and eventually, a cure for Parkinson's.

(Posted at 02:32:58 PM EST.)

Study Suggests Ritalin Abuse Occurs on Campus
"A new survey of students at a small college in Massachusetts suggests that recreational use of the prescription stimulant methylphenidate -- known also as Ritalin -- may be happening on campuses across the country. Researchers at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams gave a 10-question survey to the school's 1,400 students asking about their use of methylphenidate. More than 16% of the 283 who responded to the survey acknowledged having used the drug ``for fun'' at least once." Why not? It's being prescribed so much, kids can't help but wonder at what it might feel like to be on.

(Posted at 02:18:26 PM EST.)

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Screening Violence in the Workplace
"Details of the life of Michael McDermott, the man authorities say gunned down seven of his co-workers at Edgewater Technology in Massachusetts Tuesday, will emerge over the next several days. But workplace and violence specialists say they know how most of the blanks will probably be filled already."

(Posted at 12:57:42 PM EST.)

Young adults living in age of anxiety
"Crime, AIDS, divorce, unemployment, living alone, lack of trust, and other changes in the social environment have produced anxiety levels in children who lived in the 1980s to rival those of child psychiatric patients of the 1950s, reports Case Western Reserve University psychologist Jean Twenge. Her study, "The Age of Anxiety? Birth Cohort Change in Anxiety and Neuroticism, 1952-1993," appears in the journal's December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology." All I can say is that the definition of "trait anxiety" has changed since 1952 as well, so I can't help but wonder how useful these kinds of results are.

(Posted at 12:56:20 PM EST.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Fragile Males? Boys may be more sensitive than girls
"Before birth, the male fetus is at greater risk of death or damage, and by the time a boy is born he is on average 4-6 weeks less developed than his sister. Boys generally have more physical and psychological developmental problems and require more attention. They are more vulnerable to poor parental care, and tend to take greater risks. At school, girls are better than boys at most academic subjects, and later in life the process continues unabated. Circulatory disorders, diabetes, alcoholism and lung cancer are all commoner in men and male suicide rates continue to exceed those in females. Men are more able to ignore symptoms, which can delay medical treatment. Women even survive men by several years in almost all countries, and the gap is widening." The rest of the report is here and was published in the British Medical Journal.

(Posted at 01:07:59 PM EST.)

Do animals bite more during a full moon?
"Researchers in Bradford found that animals do have an increased propensity to bite humans during the full moon periods. During 1997 to 1999, they identified 1,621 patients attending the accident and emergency department at Bradford Royal Infirmary after being bitten by an animal. The chance of being bitten was twice as high on or around full moon days, indicating that an association exists between the lunar cycles and changes in animal behaviour. However, the authors suggest that further experiments are needed to verify these results." Ouch.

(Posted at 01:05:49 PM EST.)

Selegiline drug does not increase Parkinson's death rate
"Researchers have debated for years whether the drug selegiline increases the risk of death for Parkinson's patients even though others have suggested that the drug may slow the progression of the disease. A new study shows that there is no increased death rate for patients who use the drug in combination with levodopa, the most common drug for Parkinson's. The study is published in the December 26 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology."

(Posted at 01:02:57 PM EST.)

Friday, December 22, 2000

Merry Christmas!!
Hope you have a nice one!!

(Posted at 04:35:22 PM EST.)

A Nice Holiday Thought: People with Mental Illness More Likely to Smoke
Harvard medical researchers have concluded that Americans with mental illness are nearly twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as people with no mental illness. The study finds 41 percent of people with mental illness are smokers compared to 22.5 percent of people who have never been mentally ill. The article also states that the mentally ill smoke more heavily than others. Extrapolating their results to the U.S. population, the researchers estimate that people with diagnosable mental illness comprise nearly 45 percent of the total tobacco market in the U.S.

(Posted at 12:51:47 PM EST.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

New ADHD Drug Treatment Choices Abound
"If Winnie-the-Pooh does indeed need drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as recommended by a group of Canadian pediatricians last week, the bear couldn't have been diagnosed at a better time." Scary. Why? Well, mainly because we pump our kids full of these new medications with very little appreciation or understanding of the long-term effects of the new drugs on the kids' health. No studies have been done on these drugs in children after 5 or 10 years of constant use. Who knows what type of long-term effects they could have?! What's the answer? I don't know... be cautious, I guess, in use of any medication in your children. They're young. They're developing. Look for non-drug alternatives before subjecting them to such things.

(Posted at 10:47:52 AM EST.)

Happy Holidays!!
I just wanted to take this moment, before I forget!, and wish you all a warm, safe and happy holidays and a Merry Christmas!! 2000 has been a big year of transition and change for me, mostly good, always interesting. I know I haven't maintained the 'blog as much as I'd like, but I appreciate your continued tuning in to see what might (or might not be!) interesting reading. Thank you. I hope your next couple of days is relatively stress free and you remember, as I try and do, the reasons we're on this Earth.

(Posted at 10:43:06 AM EST.)

Monday, December 11, 2000

Newer drugs more helpful in first-time schizophrenia than older medications, study shows
"People diagnosed with first-episode schizophrenia may fare much better when treated with newer anti-psychotic drugs than with traditional medications that were first introduced over forty years ago.

The study of 200 young adults in China by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychiatrist working with Beijing and Harvard scientists is the first to directly compare treatment with clozapine, an 'atypical' anti-psychotic medication, with chlorpromazine in people who had an episode of schizophrenia for the first time. None had ever been treated for the disorder with these medications."
(Posted at 03:13:23 PM EST.)

The copycat mating game
"When you're single no one wants to know. Yet the minute you get a partner, the others come running. Ever wondered why, asks Jonathan Knight in this article in New Scientist.

[...] Before I got married a few weeks ago, friends told me that flashing a wedding ring was a sure way to attract female attention. Some said it was because women consider married men to be safe. Others said a wedding band is a quick way for women to identify a quality mate, one that's been pre-filtered by someone else."
(Posted at 03:11:16 PM EST.)

Simple psychological treatments can reduce depression in the community
"As part of a major European study of depression in urban and rural communities, research in this week's BMJ finds that two simple psychological interventions are effective in reducing the severity and duration of depression and improving mental and social functioning in adults.

Dowrick and colleagues identified 452 adults with depressive disorders in nine urban and rural communities across Europe. Participants were randomly assigned to either problem solving treatment, a course on prevention of depression or received no treatment (controls), and were assessed at six and 12 months."
(Posted at 03:08:03 PM EST.)

Friday, December 8, 2000

Paxil Maker Faces Federal Inquiry
"Britain's SmithKline Beecham PLC, the maker of the popular anti-depressant Paxil, is facing a federal investigation into whether it violated antitrust laws by preventing or impeding the marketing of generic equivalents." Gee, go figure, a pharmaceutical company looking for ways to maximize its monopoly on a drug. We've already heard the cries from Prozac maker Eli Lily looking to also put the brakes on the generic version in the past few months.

(Posted at 03:13:12 PM EST.)

Suicide Rates Overstated in People with Depression??
As reported here, "A Mayo Clinic study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry debunks the commonly held notion that about 15 percent of people diagnosed with depression will commit suicide. After analyzing 100 suicide studies conducted over the past 30 years, Mayo Clinic researchers concluded that a more accurate suicide rate for patients with depression is 2 to 9 percent." However, the director of the American Self-Help Clearinghouse believes that the study is minimizing the vast numbers of people who do commit suicide, successfully, every day. His commentary is inside (click on the headline to read it).

(Posted at 11:35:39 AM EST.)

Santa Monica's Trip
I enjoyed my time out on the West Coast, even if it was just for a few brief days. Learned a lot about technology in the behavioral healthcare world, and what's coming up in the future. A lot of changes the industry will have to prepare for, that's for certain.

Santa Monica itself is a beautiful enclave and I can understand people's attraction to it. I visited the beach, saw the famour pier, and ate dinner at a lovely restaurant overlooking the ocean. Touching the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the same day still makes me marvel at such taken-for-granted technologies as modern air travel. Wow. We should really be thankful for small wonders like that.
(Posted at 11:29:42 AM EST.)

Rediscovering Emotion
"Show people scenes from the life of Mother Teresa, laboring in the filth of Calcutta, and they will get a feeling often described by prophets and poets, but not recognized by science. [...] Haidt has embarked on a quest to prove that elevation deserves recognition as a distinct emotion, like anger, with its own constellation of physical symptoms." Read the rest of this article in the Boston Globe.

(Posted at 11:27:04 AM EST.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

The Open Minds Thingy
Here it is... Information Technology Institute. Did you know that for things like this, not only do we not get paid to present, but they don't even pick up the expenses! Ouch.

(Posted at 05:13:35 PM EST.)

Santa Monica
Well, I'm off to Santa Monica tomorrow morning for an Open Minds conference presentation about electronic records. I'm looking forward to getting away from work for a little while, but not looking forward to being away from my girlfriend. Life's full of trade-offs, ya know? Ah well. At least I'll enjoy the warm weather!

(Posted at 05:02:54 PM EST.)

Thursday, November 23, 2000

Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope you have a fairly stress-free holiday this year, and are thankful for the things you do have. Life. Limbs. Family. Whatever it may be...

(Posted at 08:51:23 AM EST.)

Saturday, November 18, 2000

Are We a Nation of Depressed People?
"A surprising number of Americans report high levels of stress, anxiety and sadness, according to new survey results. [...] The survey involved almost 2,000 adults in six major US cities. Overall, 12% of those interviewed met the criteria for clinical depression, and 10% suffered from what Seidman calls frequent low mood. Signs of this can include difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and an ongoing case of ``the blues.''" Keeping in mind that surveys are our least reliable form of scientific research, what does this mean? Well, seems like modern life is as hectic, stressful, and as depressing as ever.

(Posted at 09:38:57 AM EST.)

Need Help Quitting Smoking?
A colleague of mine has recently introduced a Web site based upon techniques proven with decades worth of research and case studies. It's called Quit Smoking Helper and if you need some help quitting smoking, I strongly urge you to check out the site.

(Posted at 09:36:06 AM EST.)

FDA Extends Lilly's Prozac Patent
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended Eli Lilly & Co.'s patent on the antidepressant Prozac for an additional six months. The extension, announced Wednesday, comes because the company agreed to test the antidepressant on children. Under the FDA Modernization Act of 1997, pharmaceutical companies that comply with FDA requests for pediatric studies on selected medications can receive an extra six months of market exclusivity for those products." Well, isn't that nice. Who needs lower drug prices when a drug monopoly works just as well? As though Eli Lilly needed the money...

(Posted at 09:33:19 AM EST.)

Life has been keeping me busy, both good and bad. Working at an Internet startup has its ups and downs, but mostly, it takes the courage to try something new without knowing the likely outcome. It could always go either way. Few people are willing to take such risks these days. It comes at a price, though.

(Posted at 09:31:54 AM EST.)


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