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Monthly Archives: September 2016

One in 6 Cell Phones in Britain Contaminated

One in six cell phones in Britain may be contaminated with fecal matter that can spread E. coli, likely because so many people don’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet, a new study contends.

The findings also suggest that many people lie about their hygiene habits, according to the researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London.

The study authors went to 12 cities and collected 390 samples from the cell phones and hands of volunteers, who were also asked about their hand-washing habits.

Ninety-five percent of the participants told the researchers that they washed their hands with soap and water where possible. However, lab tests revealed that 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them. The researchers also found that 16 percent of hands and 16 percent of cell phones harbored E. coli bacteria, which is found in feces and can cause serious illness.

The study was released to coincide with Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15.

“This study provides more evidence that some people still don’t wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet. I hope the thought of having E. coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom — washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives,” Dr. Val Curtis, a hygiene expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and U.K. campaign leader for Global Handwashing Day, said in a school news release.

“Our analysis revealed some interesting results from around the U.K. While some cities did much better than others, the fact that E. coli was present on phones and hands in every location shows this is a nationwide problem. People may claim they wash their hands regularly but the science shows otherwise,” Dr. Ron Cutler, of Queen Mary, University of London, said in the news release.

Hand-washing with soap can prevent a number of illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses.

Double Crash Risk Causes Pot Smoking

Drivers who get behind the wheel after using marijuana run more than twice the risk of crashing compared to others, a new study finds.

The risk rises even higher if the driver has also been drinking alcohol.

The authors of a study published online Oct. 4 in Epidemiologic Reviews believe the findings are especially relevant in light of recent moves to legalize medical marijuana in many states.

“As more and more states consider medical use of marijuana, there could be health implications,” said study senior author Dr. Guohua Li.

Even as alcohol use has decreased over the past four decades, illicit use of non-alcoholic drugs, such as prescription medications and marijuana, has increased, said Li, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

A large U.S. survey in 2009 estimated that more than 10 million people aged 12 and over had driven while under the influence of illicit drugs in the previous year. And testing has revealed that 28 percent of drivers who die from a crash and more than 11 percent of drivers in general test positive for drugs other than alcohol. Marijuana is the most commonly detected drug in drivers after alcohol.

In their study, Li and his co-authors assessed information from nine prior studies in six countries looking at marijuana use and motor vehicle accidents.

The studies looked at different time frames, with some assessing marijuana use as little as one hour before driving and others looking at one year or more. According to one study cited, driving skills are acutely affected for three to four hours after use.

All but one study found a higher risk of crashes in drivers who use marijuana, and that study was a small one, conducted in Thailand, where marijuana use is relatively low.

Overall, the risk of a crash was almost 2.7 times higher among marijuana users than non-users, the authors found. And the response was dose-specific, the authors said. That is, the more marijuana smoked — in terms of frequency and potency — the greater the likelihood of a crash.

Marijuana may interfere with reaction times and coordination, among other things, experts say. The authors of the new study said it is critical to determine the excess crash risk related to marijuana in different doses, strengths, and administration methods, such as smoking versus vaporization.

None of the studies in this grouping looked directly at medical marijuana, which is now legal in 16 states plus the District of Columbia in the United States.

However, one expert cautioned against inferring too much from this study, which was not designed to capture cause and effect.

“We can’t really say yet that marijuana increases the risk by two or three times,” said Chuck Farmer, director of statistics at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va. “Most of their studies pointed to a very strong bad effect of marijuana on driving, but there are other studies out there that actually go the other way.”

But other experts expressed some alarm at the findings. “At [its] annual meeting in late September, the Governors Highway Safety Association strengthened its drugged driving policy,” said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesperson for the association.

“We see this as a national priority and are seeking a range of actions to address the problem comprehensively,” Adkins said.

Breaking Down the Brain Health Statistics

States that ranked high in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index share some traits, such as good diets and higher levels of physical activity, and residents of the top states tend to be intellectually curious. “It’s so important to have an intellectual passion and hobbies,” says Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen. The Beautiful Minds campaign also highlights inspiring seniors who are putting their minds to good use by volunteering, teaching classes, writing novels, and even bodybuilding.

Roizen notes that many of the states in the South rank at the bottom of the list, which he attributes to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, reflected in the high incidence of diabetes.

But Southerners don’t have it all wrong: A positive brain health factor the Southern states share is a high level of religious and spiritual activity, which is a big boost for emotional health. “The benefit of believing in a higher being is that it will help you manage stress better,” says Roizen. “Stress ages you more than any other factor.” Several scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of religious activity: The Whitehall study of British civil servants, a major study on the health effects of stress, found that the participants who said they were more spiritual experienced less aging from stress and aged better. “Spirituality and religious practices may also help slow the regression of cognitive abilities caused by Alzheimer’s disease,” adds Roizen.

Check out the Brain Health Index interactive map for the full ranking of all the states.

Dr. Roizen’s Four Steps to Better Brain Health

Although healthy living habits are always important for your mind and body, they take on special importance in the mid-fifties and beyond. From the age of 55, our faculties begin to decline, and we are less able to multitask. “Our goal with the Beautiful Minds campaign is to motivate people to change how their minds age,” Dr. Roizen told Everyday Health. “Keeping the brain healthy is easier than many people realize.”

Roizen outlines the following steps you can take to improve your brain health:

  • Get more physical activity. Exercise doesn’t just help your body – “Staying fit can actually help reconstruct your brain,” says Roizen. Although any exercise you enjoy doing is fine, Roizen recommends interval training, meaning doing an exercise at a moderate pace and then ramping up to a faster pace during the last minute, provided that your doctor says you are fit enough. For example, if you spend 20 minutes on a treadmill, spend the last minute running at a higher speed.
  • Be socially engaged. People who are involved with their family, friends, and community tend to stay sharper than those who aren’t. In addition to socializing with your immediate circle, brain health experts suggest getting involved with your community through religious or spiritual activities as a way to lower your stress levels. “In research, men and women who had the most social interaction within their community had less than half the rate of memory loss as those with the least social engagement,” says Roizen.
  • Get your blood pressure checked. The brain is dependent on blood supply, and as we get older, these blood vessels age, too. “When we’re older, our brains actually decrease in IQ every five years,” says Roizen. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range will help your blood vessels stay as healthy as possible. A study published in the journal Neurology found that treating traditional risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol may also help to prevent the progression of cognitive problems into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Get more DHA in your diet. The Memory Improvement With DHA Study (MIDAS) presented at the 2009 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease found that DHA supplements may help slow the rate of progression of age-related mental decline in healthy seniors. “The best natural sources of DHA are salmon and trout. DHA is also in fortified foods like soy milk, eggs, and nutrition bars, or in supplements,” Roizen says. Of course, eating a healthy, well-rounded diet is important too.

The Best States for Your Brain

Congratulations to the Old Line State: Maryland has emerged as the state with the best brain health in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index. Developed by National Center for Creative Aging, the index ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 21 brain health indicators including diet, physical health, mental health, and social well-being. This is the second time the index has been calculated; the first one appeared in 2009.

In the 2011 report, Maryland edged out the District of Columbia, which slipped to No. 2 from its first-place 2009 ranking. Maryland took top honors because it experienced a decrease in Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths, and because residents consume a high amount of fish, a natural source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is tied to brain and eye health. Residents of Washington, DC, came in second due to its high proportion of active readers – more than any of the 50 states.

The Brain Health Index was created by health experts including Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and creator of the RealAgeconcept, and Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The index was created as part of a national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential, aimed at encouraging adults in the second half of life to develop and maintain brain health. It’s sponsored by Life’sDHA, a supplement created by the nutritional products company Market Biosciences Corporation.

Wondering How Your State Stacks Up?

Here are the top 10 states in the 2011 index and the factors that give them a brain health advantage:

1. Maryland: Marylanders consume plenty of omega-3-rich foods, such as fish, and have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths.

2. District of Columbia: Residents of Washington, DC, are the top active readers and have a high consumption of healthy foods.

3. Washington State: The Evergreen State is among the top five states in consumption of DHA-rich fish.

4. Colorado: Residents of colorful Colorado consume a healthy diet and have a low incidence of diabetes.

5. Vermont: People in the Green Mountain State keep their minds engaged by reading and are active community participants.

6. New Hampshire: The state has a high level of mental engagement through game playing, and residents tend to consume healthy diets of fruits, vegetables, and fish.

7. Oregon: Oregonians are bookworms, fish lovers, and involved in their community.

8. Utah: Residents are active in their communities and have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Maine: This coastal state has a high level of fish consumption, and reading is a popular pastime.

10. New Jersey: Despite what you’ve seen on the Jersey Shore, the Garden State ranks relatively high in education, and has a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The states that fall at the bottom of the index are:

42. North Dakota: North Dakotans are active game players, but the state has a high prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.

43. Kentucky: Kentucky does boast a high level of religious activity, but is tied with West Virginia for unhealthy smoking habits.

44. Indiana: Indiana ranks high in education, but has many smokers and low fish consumption.

45. Tennessee: The Volunteer State does have a high level of religious activity, but has a high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths.

46. West Virginia: Another state with high religious activity, West Virginia has a large number of smokers and the second-worst diabetes rate in the nation.

47. Alabama: The state’s high involvement in religious activities boosts social well-being, but its residents’ brain health suffers due to a high incidence of diabetes and Alzheimer’s-related deaths.

48. Oklahoma: Oklahomans engage their brains through religious activities and playing games, but don’t consume many fruits, vegetables, or omega-3 fatty acids.

49. Arkansas: Arkansans are active game players and participate in religious activity, but they’re not big on reading and eating DHA-rich foods.

50. Louisiana: Up from the last spot in the 2009 rankings, Louisiana residents have a high incidence of diabetes and Alzheimer’s-related deaths.

51. Mississippi: The Magnolia State comes in last place because of its high incidence of diabetes, low educational rankings, and low consumption of brain-healthy foods.