Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lack of Sleep Makes for Cranky Teens, Says Study - You Think?

I'm on the duh-study trail again. My latest find is "Adolescent sleep duration is associated with daytime mood." Well then. What a shocking finding from a National Institutes of Health supported study.

According to the news release (I don't have a copy of the study findings), the researchers studied 97 healthy teens from 14 to 17 years old to follow their sleeping habits. The teens were allowed only 6.5 hours in bed per night for five nights in a row (sleep restriction), then a two-night break (a "washout period") and this was followed by five nights straight of 10 hours in bed per night. The researchers looked at the teens' daily self reports on nervousness, sadness, anger, energy, fatigue, ability to concentrate, and sleepiness.

According to the news release:

Results show that adolescents showed increased variability in sadness, anger, and sleepiness when sleep was restricted compared to when sleep was extended. This effect was not moderated by age, sex, race, or the order in which participants underwent the sleep conditions.
The study also showed that nightly fluctuations in sleep in healthy adolescents predict worse mood the next day, and worse mood any given day largely predicts unusually bad sleep the next night.

So here we have it - less sleep equals less happy teens. Any parent could have told us that.

In all seriousness, the authors do say that the research is necessary because they are concerned about the mental health of teens - an important issue to be sure. But their conclusion, that these findings indicate that by promoting healthy sleep habits, we may be able to reduce the risk of mental health problems among some teens, is too simplistic. We know that lack of sleep causes problems, particularly if it's chronic. We also know that teens need a lot of sleep, as they did when they were infants - a teen's body is growing and changing at incredible rates.

My issue with these Duh Studies is that they're sent out into the media world without any real meaning. Yes, teens need sleep. Yes, they're crabby and don't function well without sleep. Now what?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Senior Moment - Memory Clutter?

We all have our forgetful moments, a word we can't bring to mind, a name we've forgotten, or an appointment that slipped past us. We can't remember everything. Those who can, like actor Marilu Henner, are few and far between. But, as we get older, we seem to take more notice when we forget things, often making jokes about aging and memory loss, or perhaps fearing that this is what is happening.

While memory loss and the fear of dementia are concerning, they don't affect everyone who gets older. Forgetfulness though, is different, and researchers from the Georgia Technical Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, believe that a good part of the aging forgetfulness is merely a matter of us just having too much information to store. In other words, our hard drive has run out of space and certain files have to be archived.

The researchers used EEG to study the brains of two groups of subjects, those over the age of 60 years and college-age students. Both groups were shown photos of every day images and told to focus on certain things and ignore others.

At first, both groups were able to remember what they were told to focus on, and both had trouble ignoring what they were told pay attention to. But when the older subjects were questioned further about what they were supposed to focus on and remember, over time they became less sure of their responses and the other objects in the photos interrupted their memories. "[W]hen we asked if they were sure, older people backed off their answers a bit. They weren't as sure," lead author Audrey Duarte said in a release. The brain activity, recorded by EEG, showed that the older group put more effort into sorting out the appropriate memories.

"While trying to remember, their brains would spend more time going back in time in an attempt to piece together what was previously seen," she said. "But not just what they were focused on -- some of what they were told to ignore got stuck in their minds," she added.

This was a study environment, but we are faced with situations like this every day - walking to work, going out to lunch or dinner with friends, even shopping. We may be in a grocery store, with music overhead, conversations around us, and displays with food tasting, all while we're trying to concentrate on remember what we need to buy. Younger people who are asked what occurred during that time may have an easier time recalling what they saw or heard, while an older person may have to sort through different memories, clutter, trying to pull out what is relevant.

Why are details like this important to study? Duarte said that such findings could explain why seniors fall for scams that use manipulation. "If someone tells you that you should remember it one way, you can be more easily persuaded if you lack confidence," she said. "This memory clutter that's causing low confidence could be a reason why older adults are often victims of financial scams, which typically occur when someone tries to trick them about prior conversations that didn't take place at all."

It's an interesting look at memory as we age.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Let's Talk Adult Vaccinations

There's a lot of talk about vaccinating children, but we don't hear a lot about vaccinations for adults. The conversation drops off the map, as if once a child has finished his or her scheduled vaccines, that's it, that's all. But that's not it, and that's not all.

The need for vaccines continues as we age, and then become even more important again when we enter the so-called senior years. And for those who want to travel to other parts of the world, some countries won't allow you to visit if you haven't had their required vaccines.

What types of routine vaccines should adults have? Health Canada and the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) have similar recommendations. To make things easier for me, I'll focus on Health Canada.

In general, Health Canada recommends that adults who have been vaccinated as children, should continue with the following schedule, unless recommended otherwise by their physicians:

  • Tetanus toxoid- reduced diphtheria toxoid (Td): 1 booster dose every 10 years.
  • Tetanus toxoid- reduced diphtheria toxoid- reduced acellular pertussis (Tdap): 1 dose 
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide 23-valent:  1 dose at age 65 or older
  • Herpes zoster (shingles): may receive 1 dose at 50 to 59 years of age, recommended 1 dose
  • Influenza:  1 dose annually recommended for all adults without contraindications

There are also other vaccines, such as those for hepatitis A and B, which are recommended for people who are at risk of contracting the diseases.

Tetanus: Many people I speak with don't realize that they should get a tetanus booster every 10 years. I've heard many times, "Oh, I get a tetanus shot in the ER or at urgent care if I get a bad cut." But tetanus doesn't need a bad cut to take hold, so the booster route is a really safer route. I won't kid you, the tetanus shot does tend to be a bit more "uncomfortable" than many vaccines. But it is only once a decade. Perhaps you can bribe yourself with a nice treat after?

Pneumonia: The pneumococcal vaccine is primarily to help prevent pneumonia, although it does prevent other infections too. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases,

It is estimated that about one million US adults get pneumococcal pneumonia each year. About 5-7% of them will die, and the death rate is even higher in those age 65 years and older. Fewer people will get pneumococcal meningitis or bloodstream infection, but the mortality rate for these infections is even higher.

So, while pneumococcal vaccine doesn't prevent all pneumonias, it does reduce the risk of this one, which can cause serious illness. It's particularly important for people who smoke, or who have respiratory diseases, such as COPD.

Shingles: I've had shingles; I was 44. One of my kids had shingles at only 21. I've known several people who had them before the age of 50. You don't want shingles. If you've ever had the chicken pox as a child, you are at risk of getting shingles. Remember, you don't want them. It's a horribly painful, uncomfortable virus that can knock you flat. There is also a complication called post-herpetic neuralgia, which can leave you with constant pain along the nerve line for years.

There is a treatment for shingles, but you have to recognize that you have the virus early enough for the treatment to work, and it really just knocks off a couple of days of suffering. It doesn't just get rid of the shingles. If you're on the fence about getting the vaccine, remember, you do not want to get shingles.

Influenza: The influenza vaccine seems to be the most controversial of the adult vaccination recommendations. Many people I know and love don't believe it in and refuse to get it. It's true that the vaccine isn't always effective. But I've seen what the flu can do, so the annual flu vaccine is a personal choice I make. Because I get so ill so fast with anything respiratory, I try to reduce my risk as much as possible.

Hepatitis A and B: I received this vaccine many years ago - it was required that nurses be vaccinated. I'm due for it again though, as it's supposedly worn off by now. The risk of getting hepatitis A is mostly for people who travel, but there is a combination vaccine that will protect you from both A and B at the same time. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

So, just because we're all grown up now doesn't mean we don't have to think about vaccinations.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bigger Wine Glass = More Wine Consumed. Duh Study Time?

Long-time readers of my blog know that I live for finding Duh Studies. Those are studies that make me wonder how on earth the researchers received approval and funding for certain types of research. I found another one this morning.

Did you know that if you use a bigger wine glass, chances are you will drink more wine? I know. I was shocked too. Just as shocked as I was to learn years ago in nursing school that if we served meals on larger plates, people would want or add more food to these plates.

This new study from the University of Cambridge measured how much wine people bought/drank when they used larger glasses than when they used standard glasses. According to the press release:

Over the course of a 16-week period, the owners of the establishment changed the size of the wine glasses at fortnightly intervals, alternating between the standard (300ml) size, and larger (370ml) and smaller (250 ml) glasses.
The researchers found that the volume of wine purchased daily was 9.4% higher when sold in larger glasses compared to standard-sized glasses. This effect was mainly driven by sales in the bar area, which saw an increase in sales of 14.4%, compared to an 8.2% increase in sales in the restaurant. The findings were inconclusive as to whether sales were different with smaller compared to standard-sized glasses.

Ok, in all fairness, I did not read the study and I do only have this press release to go on, but seriously - is it really big news?

I have to say, I disagree with the researcher's quote here:

"We found that increasing the size of wine glasses, even without increasing the amount of wine, leads people to drink more," says Dr Rachel Pechey from the BHRU at Cambridge. "It's not obvious why this should be the case, but one reason may be that larger glasses change our perceptions of the amount of wine, leading us to drink faster and order more. But it's interesting that we didn't see the opposite effect when we switched to smaller wine glasses."

We do know. We know it's human nature. We see a lot in a small glass and a bit in a large glass, and we unconsciously believe that the amount in the smaller glass is more than in the larger glass.

Here are some earlier Duh Studies I wrote about:

It's Duh Study Time Again
Duh studies, not just for the public
Duh Studies, This Is News?

My interest in Duh Studies goes back to when I first worked as an online editor, and I came across a study that screamed, Bottle Feeding Dangerous For Babies (or something like that). It turns out, that the researcher had two case studies, both eerily similar. The first one involved a woman who boiled some water in a pan to heat up a bottle of formula. She took the freshly boiled pot of water over to her bed. Yes, to her bed. She placed the pan of water, freshly hot boiled water, ON HER BED. She put in the bottle of formula. She then GOT ON THE BED WITH THE BABY. As they were getting comfortable - you guessed it - the pot spilled freshly boiled water on the mum and baby, and baby was severely burned. Conclusion: Bottle feeding is dangerous.

I'm going to go have a cup of coffee in my enormous mug. Seems like I drink so little coffee that way. ;-)