Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hearing Aids May Help Keep Seniors' Minds Sharp

WEDNESDAY, April 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A hearing aid may do more than help you hear better: New research suggests that the devices might also help prevent mental decline in elderly people with hearing loss.

"We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world," Dr. Anil Lalwani, a professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said in a center news release.

"In this study, we wanted to determine if they could also slow the effects of aging on cognitive function," he added.

The study included 100 adults, aged 80 to 99, with hearing loss. The 34 who regularly used a hearing aid had much better scores on tests of mental function than those who didn't use a hearing aid.

The researchers also found that mental function was directly linked to hearing ability in those who didn't use a hearing aid.

The study was published online April 25 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

"Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication," Lalwani said.

More than half of people older than 75 have hearing loss. But, fewer than 15 percent of those with hearing loss use a hearing aid, the researchers said.

Previous research has shown that hearing-impaired elderly people are at increased risk for fall- and accident-related death, social isolation and dementia, compared to those without hearing loss.

Previous studies have also found that hearing aid use can improve hearing loss-related social, functional and emotional problems, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more on hearing aids.

Contraception Safety Program for Acne Drug Failing in Canada

MONDAY, April 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A Canadian program to prevent pregnancy in women who are taking the acne drug isotretinoin is failing because many women do not follow the program's recommendations, a new study finds.

Isotretinoin increases the risk of birth defects and miscarriages, the researchers explained. First marketed as Accutane, isotretinoin is now sold under various brand names and aimed at patients with severe acne.

The Canadian program recommends informed written consent, two negative pregnancy tests before beginning treatment with isotretinoin, and the use of two reliable birth control methods while taking the drug.

The United States has similar safeguards in place. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a program requiring doctors to enroll patients who take isotretinoin in a national registry to guard against serious side effects that had been linked to the drug.

U.S. women must also have a pregnancy test within seven days before filling their prescription and must agree to use two methods of birth control and adhere to pregnancy testing on a monthly basis, according to the FDA.

In the Canadian study, researchers examined the medical records of more than 59,000 women, aged 12 to 48, in four provinces -- British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan -- who took isotretinoin between 1996 and 2011.

During those 15 years, there were 1,473 pregnancies resulting in 118 live births. Of those births, 11 babies (9 percent) had birth defects. The study found that 30 percent to 50 percent of the women taking the drug did not comply with the guidelines to prevent pregnancy.

The study was published April 25 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Poor adherence with the Canadian pregnancy prevention guidelines means that Canada, inadvertently, is using pregnancy termination rather than pregnancy prevention to manage fetal risk from isotretinoin," study author Dr. David Henry said in a journal news release. He is a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and executive co-lead of the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies.

"It appears that not all doctors and patients are sticking closely to the guidelines to prevent pregnancy during treatment with isotretinoin," he added.

These and other findings show that it's difficult to get women to follow pregnancy prevention measures while taking isotretinoin, according to study co-author Brandace Winquist, director of decision support for Cypress Health Region in Saskatchewan.

"Nevertheless, medical practitioners and patients must be constantly reminded of the risks of isotretinoin to the fetus and implement effective contraceptive measures," Winquist said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on isotretinoin.

Expert Offers Advice on Treating Corns, Calluses

SUNDAY, April 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Corns and calluses form due to friction or pressure on the skin, and there are a number of ways to treat these often unsightly areas, an expert says.

"Calluses can develop anywhere on the body where there is repeated friction, such as a guitar player's fingertips or a mechanic's palms," said Dr. Nada Elbuluk, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"Corns typically develop on the tops and sides of the toes, and on the balls of the feet, and common causes are arthritis or poorly fitting shoes," she explained in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.

Elbuluk also noted that corns and calluses on the feet may be mistaken for plantar warts. But plantar warts have tiny black dots in them, which are actually small blood vessels. And, plantar warts are usually more painful when pressure is applied to the sides of the warts, she explained.

If corns and calluses are an issue for you, Elbuluk offered some tips for treating them.

You can soak your corn or callus in warm water for five to 10 minutes or until the skin softens, she suggested. Then, use a pumice stone to file the corn or callus. First dip the stone in warm water and then use circular or sideways motions to remove dead skin. Don't remove too much skin because doing so could cause bleeding and infection, she advised.

Another approach is to apply moisturizing lotion or cream with salicylic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea to the area each day. This will help gradually soften corns and calluses, Elbuluk explained.

To prevent further irritation of calluses, cut a piece of moleskin into two half-moon shapes and place them around the callus. For corns, surround them with donut-shaped adhesive pads. These products are available at most drugstores.

Shoes that aren't the right size or shape for your foot are a common cause of corns, Elbuluk noted. It's best to shop for shoes at the end of the day, when your feet may be slightly swollen. Ask the clerk to measure your foot, and don't buy shoes that are too loose or tight, she advised.

And keep your toenails trimmed, Elbuluk said. If they're too long, toenails can force your toes up against your shoes, causing a corn to form.

"Most corns and calluses gradually go away when the friction or pressure causing them stops," Elbuluk said in the news release.

But if you don't know what caused your corn or callus, or if the hardened skin is very painful, Elbuluk recommended seeing a certified dermatologist, podiatrist or orthopedist. She said people who think they have warts, and people with diabetes, should also see a doctor for their corns and calluses.

More information

The American Podiatric Medical Association has more about corns and calluses.

No Link Between Anti-Smoking Drugs, Mental Health Issues: Study

FRIDAY, April 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The anti-smoking drugs Chantix (varenicline) and Wellbutrin (bupropion) don't appear to raise the risk of serious mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, a new study suggests.

"Clinical guidelines recommend that the most effective way to give up smoking is smoking cessation medication and counseling. However, smokers do not use these services enough, in part due to concerns that the medications may not be safe," said lead author Dr. Robert Anthenelli, professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Diego.

The new study, published April 22 in The Lancet, should help ease those concerns for patients, the researchers said.

The study was requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to concerns about the safety of the drugs used to help people quit smoking. Funding was provided by drug makers Pfizer (which makes Chantix) and GlaxoSmithKline (maker of Wellbutrin).

The research included more than 8,000 people between the ages of 18 and 75. They smoked an average of more than 10 cigarettes a day and wanted to quit smoking. Half had a previous or current psychiatric condition, such as a mood, anxiety, psychotic or borderline personality disorder, while about half of those participants were taking medications for their conditions.

The participants were randomly assigned to one of four possible groups: to take either Chantix or Wellbutrin, to use nicotine patches or to take a placebo.

They were assessed for moderate-to-severe mental health problems such as agitation, aggression, panic, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts during up to three months of treatment and at follow-up (up to six months).

Among those with no psychiatric disorders, there was no significant increase in the incidence of mental health problems in the four groups. While more mental health problems occurred among participants with psychiatric disorders, the rates were similar for all four groups, the study found.

The researchers also examined quit rates and found that varenicline was the most effective. At follow-up, overall quit rates were: 22 percent, Chantix; 16 percent, Wellbutrin; 16 percent, nicotine patches; and 9 percent, placebo.

Quit rates were slightly lower for those with a psychiatric disorder, the study said.

Anthenelli said the findings from this study and previous ones make it unlikely that these drugs increase the risk of moderate-to-severe mental health side effects in smokers without psychiatric disorders.

The study results "show that neuropsychiatric adverse events occurring during smoking cessation are independent of the medication used," addiction expert Laurie Zawertailo wrote in an accompanying editorial.

"Clinicians should be comfortable prescribing the smoking cessation medication they feel would be most effective for their patient and should not worry about a specific medication increasing the risk of neuropsychiatric side effects," said Zawertailo, an assistant professor in the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto.

She added that patients who are trying to quit need to know that severe changes in their mood can occur.

"Clinicians should monitor all of their patients, especially those with a current or past psychiatric illness, for these changes," Zawertailo said. "This monitoring could be added to the behavioral counseling that clinicians should be providing to patients who are trying to quit smoking."

Two experts in helping smokers quit said the findings are valuable for patients.

"In my experience there has been reluctance among many practitioners to prescribe varenicline and/or bupropion for their tobacco-dependent patients, due to concerns about potential neuropsychiatric adverse events," said Patricia Folan. She directs the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y.

She said many smokers also look for information on quit-smoking aids on the internet, and "frequently decide to avoid these medications because of the reported side effects -- resulting in their continued smoking.

"Demonstrating the safety and efficacy of these cessation treatment options for tobacco users will most likely lead to additional quit attempts and quit success," Folan believes.

Dr. Len Horovitz is a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He agreed that, based on the new findings, "medication-assisted smoking cessation is safe and freer from side effects than patients -- and doctors -- may fear."

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

9 Awesome Must-Try Nut Butters

Nut butter: It's one of those miracle foods that tastes fabulous and also can be really healthy. Of course, along with all the great brands and flavors out there, the shelves are also full of jars laden with sugar, hydrogenated oils and other undesirable ingredients. Here's a collection of some of our faves that are delicious and nutritious, too.

MaraNatha Organic No-Stir Peanut Butter ($7 for 16 oz., amazon)

These days, you can pretty much get any kind of nut and seed butter, and that’s great—but sometimes all you want is a nice PB&J, nothing fancy. For those moments, and when you want a good basic peanut butter to add to recipes, look no further than MaraNatha. This no-nonsense peanut butter is organic and contains just peanuts, (ethically sourced) palm oil, a touch of unrefined cane sugar and sea salt. It’s super-creamy, not too sweet and full of roasted peanut flavor.


Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter ($18 for 10 oz., amazon)

Almond butter tastes great, but if there’s one drawback to it, it’s often kind of gritty. Not so with Barney Butter, which is silky smooth and free of bitterness, thanks to the blanched almonds (that is, the skins are removed). You can feel good about this nut butter in other ways, too: The palm oil is ethically sourced and the ingredients are non-GMO certified, so the butters are good for the planet as well as for you.


Nuttzo Crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter ($16.35 for 16 oz., amazon)

Organic cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds, chia, flax, pumpkin seeds—the ingredient label on this crunchy spread reads like a who’s who of the healthy nut and seed world. Why choose among all those little nutrient-rich crunch bombs when you can have 'em all in one jar? If you like your spreads smooth, move along; this one is all crunch, all the time. Its rich flavor makes it fantastic for sandwiches, spread onto apple or banana slices or just licked right off a spoon (not that we would ever do that…).


Sun Butter ($15 for 16 oz., amazon)

For kids (or adults) with a peanut and/or tree nut allergy, welcome to your new favorite spread. Made in a nut-free facility from roasted sunflower seeds, it’s loaded with vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts immunity and fights inflammation. Use it anywhere you would a nut butter (even in cookies).


Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna ($14 for 15 oz., amazon)

Coconut is certainly having a moment, so it’s no wonder that coconut butter made our list. It isn’t as smooth and spreadable as other nut butters; the texture is grainier, and the oil separates and rises to the top. (It’s easily re-incorporated though; simply warm the whole jar in a small pan of hot water and stir.) But it is rich, slightly sweet, luscious and so satisfying. Use it in desserts, spread it on toast or fruit, or add it to oatmeal or smoothies. (And here are some more ideas for how to incorporate it.)


Soom Tahini ($14 for 2 11-oz. jars, amazon)

If you think of tahini as simply an ingredient in hummus, you’re in for a treat. Try this sesame seed butter just about anywhere you would use peanut or almond butter and watch it take on a whole new life. Spread it on sandwiches or apple slices, whisk it into dressings, even bake it into cookies or cakes. And it’s nut free, so good for people with allergies. We like this particular brand for its smooth texture and pure sesame flavor, free of the bitterness present in some tahinis. (FYI, Soom also makes a chocolate flavor.)


Rawmio Chocolate Hazelnut Spread ($14 for 6 oz., amazon)

Yes, this is pricier than another, more well-known brand of chocolate-hazelnut spread (which will remain nameless here), but worth it when you consider that it’s organic, has far cleaner ingredients (only three, and no emulsifiers or artificial flavors) and 8g sugar per 2 Tbsp. serving compared with 21g in the other brand. Needless to say, it’s also super-delicious and loaded with rich chocolate flavor.


Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter ($16 for 16 oz., amazon)

Nut butter that tastes like vanilla frosting? Yes, please! This jar has all the goodness (few and all recognizable ingredients, vegan, light on the sugar), but it’s the indulgent flavor that will knock you out. The secret? Along with vanilla, it’s made with organic cocoa butter, the fat that makes chocolate so luscious (but don’t worry, it’s also heart healthy and anti-inflammatory).


Peanut Butter & Co. The Heat Is On ($8.50 for 1 lb., amazon)

With chili powder, cayenne and crushed red pepper, this spicy peanut butter is no joke. It’s awesome on bread, of course, but it really shines in sauces and dressings. Plus, it's made with super-clean, non-GMO-certified ingredients and has 8g protein but only 1g sugar.

Psoriasis May Raise Risk for Aneurysms in Abdomen: Study

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Psoriasis patients may face a higher risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, though the overall odds of experiencing this potentially deadly blood vessel rupture are small, new research shows.

The Danish scientists also found that the more severe the psoriasis -- a chronic autoimmune condition characterized by scaly, red patches of skin -- the more likely a person will develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. They believe the two conditions share overlapping inflammatory processes in the body.

"The association between [abdominal aortic aneurysm] and psoriasis has not been examined before, but we are not surprised by seeing a heightened risk in our study," said lead researcher Dr. Usman Khalid, a fellow in the department of cardiology at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark.

"Our results add to the evidence that there is an increased risk of various cardiovascular diseases in patients with psoriasis," Khalid added.

The study is published April 14 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

About 7.5 million people in the United States are affected by psoriasis, an incurable condition that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy skin cells, causing them to shed more quickly, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur when the main blood vessel supplying blood from the heart to the abdomen becomes enlarged. Often, there are no symptoms until there is a rupture, which can often prove fatal. Their prevalence increases with age and affects about 2 percent of people 65 and older, typically men, according to the study.

Khalid and his team analyzed more than 59,000 patients with mild psoriasis and 11,000 patients with severe psoriasis using 14 years of data from nationwide registries in Denmark. The patients were tracked until they were diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, died, moved or the study ended.

The researchers found that patients with mild psoriasis were 20 percent more likely to develop an abdominal aneurysm than people without psoriasis.
And those with severe psoriasis were 67 percent more likely to develop an aneurysm.

However, the study did not prove that psoriasis causes these aneurysms, merely that an association exists between the two conditions.

"More research is needed to explain the causal mechanisms," Khalid said. "Nonetheless, our findings not only stress the need to treat the symptoms of the skin disorder, but also a regular evaluation of the risk factors that are associated with cardiovascular disease outcomes.

"Also, patients with psoriasis must be encouraged to change [an] unhealthy lifestyle and adhere to a daily program that will minimize the risk of cardiovascular problems," Khalid added.

Dr. James Elder, a dermatologist at the University of Michigan Health System, contended that screening psoriasis patients for these aneurysms -- which involves expensive imaging tests such as ultrasound or CT -- isn't cost-effective.

"You'd only find one [extra] case for spending a lot of money," said Elder.

Elder agreed with Dr. Katherine Cox, a dermatologist at Houston Methodist West Hospital in Texas, that the study offers useful information, especially since it showed psoriasis seems to be an independent risk factor for abdominal aortic aneurysms, beyond patients' other heart risk factors.

"We have known for a long time that psoriasis is not just a skin-deep issue. We've known there's a cardiovascular risk issue with psoriasis. So, it's not surprising to see now that it's connected with [abdominal aneurysms] as well, especially since they share similar inflammatory pathways," said Cox.

"Being able to give [risk] numbers to patients makes it more real for patients," Cox added. Abdominal aneurysms "are a silent killer. I'm not a cardiologist, but because a lot of people are asymptomatic for it, because they're not looking for it, they may miss it," she said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers more on abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Spinal Fusion Not Always Necessary for Back Pain, Studies Say

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Spinal fusion surgery is too often used to treat lower back pain when a simpler procedure would suffice for many patients, according to a pair of new clinical trials.

People suffering from spinal stenosis -- pinched nerves caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal -- received similar pain relief with fewer complications when doctors performed a simpler spine surgery called decompression, as opposed to a full-fledged spinal fusion, a study from Sweden found.

"Fusion was associated with longer operating time, longer hospital stay and was more expensive than decompression alone," said lead researcher Dr. Peter Forsth, an orthopedic surgeon with the Stockholm Spine Center.

However, certain patients would do better with a spinal fusion, the other clinical trial concludes.

That trial found that spinal fusion provided better results for low-back pain patients who have pinched nerves because a spinal bone slipped forward and out of place, a condition called lumbar spondylolisthesis.

"Adding a lumbar fusion resulted in superior health-related quality of life two, three and four years after surgery" for patients with back pain due to a slipped vertebra, said lead researcher Dr. Zoher Ghogawala. He is a neurosurgeon with Lahey Hospital and Medical Center's Spine Research Center in Burlington, Mass.

The upshot of the two clinical trials is that spinal fusion should not be used to treat every person with pinched nerves in their lower back, Ghogawala said.

Based on the Swedish results, "there's really no benefit associated with adding a spinal fusion for patients who have stenosis without malalignment," Ghogawala said. "What our study did was, we focused entirely on patients who had a malalignment of their spine, and we found they had better outcomes with spinal fusion."

Lower back pain often occurs due to the aging and degeneration of the discs, ligaments and joints that hold the spine together, Ghogawala and Forsth said.

"A combination of those processes narrows the area of the spinal canal, where the nerves live, and those nerves that get crowded and compressed can cause pain," Ghogawala said.

Decompression surgery relieves the pressure on those nerves by removing the lamina, or the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal. This surgery is also known as laminectomy.

Surgeons often supplement decompression surgery with spinal fusion to reduce the risk that the spine will continue to degenerate and require another operation, the Swedish researchers said in background notes.

Spinal fusion permanently joins two or more bones in the spine, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The fusion is done with bone grafts, using rods, screws or plates to keep the spinal bones from shifting until the grafts are healed.

The two new studies were published April 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Swedish trial involved 247 patients aged 50 to 80 years with back pain due to narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis). About half also had a slipped vertebra (spondylolisthesis). All were randomly assigned to receive either decompression surgery alone or decompression with fusion.

Researchers found no significant differences in quality of life or ability to walk between the groups, at either two or five years following surgery. The proportion who required follow-up surgery was also about the same -- 22 percent for fusion patients and 21 percent for decompression patients.

But fusion patients required 7.4 days of hospitalization on average versus 4.1 days for decompression patients. Fusion patients also needed longer time in the operating room, lost more blood, and had higher surgical costs, the study found.

In the U.S. trial, researchers assigned 66 patients, average age 67, to either fusion or decompression. But their trial focused solely on patients whose squeezed spinal nerves were caused by slipped vertebrae (spondylolisthesis).

The researchers found that the fusion group had a significantly better quality of life as much as four years following surgery, compared with the decompression group.

Ghogawala added that people who received spinal fusion were less likely to need a follow-up surgery: about 14 percent compared with 34 percent of those in the decompression-only group.

These studies demonstrate that spinal fusion is not automatically preferable to simple decompression surgery, said Dr. Alan Hilibrand, co-director of spine surgery for the Rothman Institute and a professor of orthopedic surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

"It's not a settled issue," Hilibrand said. "A lot of people would say it's a settled issue -- if there's a slip of the vertebrae, you do a fusion. These studies say, maybe not."

Doctors in the United States likely will continue to lean towards fusion because there are better chances for durable results, Hilibrand said.

However, these studies show that use of fusion should be more nuanced, Hilibrand suggested.

"These studies are great, because they're going to push people to look at this question," he said. "We haven't figured out which patients don't need fusion and which do."

More information

For more on spinal stenosis, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Even Light Hookah Use May Cause Airway Problems

By Don Rauf
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Some people believe smoking from a hookah is safe because smoke passes through water before being inhaled. But, a new study found that hookah smoking may actually be more dangerous than cigarettes.

The study found that young adults who are considered light hookah users have noticeable changes in the cells lining their airways.

"With hookah, smoking a bowl is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes," said study leader Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the department of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

"When you talk to the hookah smokers, however, there's a general belief that it is safer than cigarette smoking. We looked at the airways, lower respiratory tract, and in the blood vessels and found biologic abnormalities in all of those who smoked hookah," he said.

"Our conclusion is pretty obvious that there may be risk to smoking hookah, and this deserves real attention," Crystal said.

Findings from the study were published online recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

A hookah is a large water pipe that uses charcoal to heat tobacco, which may be sweetened or flavored, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The charcoal may add to the health risks, the CDC says.

The American Lung Association says that more people are smoking hookahs nationwide, especially urban youth, college students and young professionals. The devices are often used in cafes or bars dedicated to hookah smoking.

The study authors recruited 21 people who had been using a hookah for fewer than five years. These participants reported smoking about three bowls a week. The researchers compared the smokers to a control group of 19 nonsmokers. The average age of the study participants was 24.

Investigators took cell samples from the airways of the study volunteers. This procedure involves inserting a small tube into the lung and using a fine brush to gather the cells. Doctors then looked for changes in the cells.

In addition to noting changes in the lung lining's cells, Crystal and his colleagues found that carbon monoxide levels in the blood were elevated in hookah users. The study authors said that one session with a hookah pipe seemed to expose the user to seven to 11 times more carbon monoxide compared to one cigarette.

Also compared to one cigarette, one hookah session gave the smoker two to four times the amount of nicotine, 100 times more tar, and 17 times the amount of formaldehyde, the study authors said.

Hookah users reported coughing more and bringing up more mucus compared to nonsmokers. Hookah smokers also scored lower on tests that measured lung function, the investigators found.

Crystal stressed that although this was a small study, the results were "convincing," and underscored the need for larger studies. At this time, there are no regulations pertaining to the use of hookahs. If bigger investigations confirm that hookah smoking poses a significant risk, Crystal believes regulatory measures should be considered.

"If more research is convincing, as I think it will be, I think having some type of health warning in a hookah bar as on cigarettes is very rational," he said. Other regulations might pertain to age restrictions and policies regarding hookah smoking in public, according to Crystal.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs with the American Lung Association, said, "The American Lung Association has not taken an official policy stance on regulation of hookahs, but I personally think we ought to regulate them as tobacco products similar to cigarettes."

Edelman added that while this is "an excellent study showing both functional and cellular abnormalities from one hookah session," further research is needed to determine the effects of hookah use on health.

More information

Find out more about the health effects of hookah smoking from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sleepy Teens Are Risk-Taking Teens

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep-deprived high school students are more likely to sustain injuries -- often due to risky behaviors -- than those who are well rested, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

In a study of more than 50,000 students, researchers found that those teens who got seven hours of sleep or less on school nights were more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seatbelt, riding with a drinking driver, and drinking and driving.

"The failure of most high school students to get sufficient sleep may put them at increased risk for unintentional injuries," said lead researcher Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study also found that teens who slept 10 or more hours a night were also prone to injuries and risky behaviors, compared with students who slept nine hours.

"We have known all along that sleep deprivation and too much sleep are problems and cause accidents," said Dr. Alon Avidan, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Los Angeles.

This is the first study that shows that sleep deprivation in teens leads to risky behavior that puts them at risk for accidents, he said.

"It's not the sleep deprivation, per se, but it's the risks associated with the sleep deprivation that are putting adolescents at risk for injury," Avidan said.

People who sleep too much may also be sleep deprived, he added, because they're often trying to make up for lost sleep. And, too much sleep can be associated with a greater risk for depression and other medical conditions, such as chronic pain, Avidan explained.

For the new study, the CDC researchers looked at the association between self-reported sleep duration on an average school night and several injury-related risk behaviors. Those behaviors included infrequent use of a bicycle helmet, infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a driver who had been drinking, drinking and driving, and texting while driving.

"We found that students who reported sleeping seven hours or less were more likely to report each of these injury-related risk behaviors, compared with students who slept nine hours," Wheaton said.

"Infrequent seatbelt use and riding with a driver who had been drinking both increase the risk of injury, even when the sleepy student is not the driver," she added.

Avidan said lack of sleep among teens can be caused by a variety of factors, including late-night computer use, TV watching and video game playing.

And, light exposure from computers, TVs, tablets and smartphones can delay falling asleep by as much as one hour, he said.

Too much caffeine, trying to catch up on sleep on weekends and napping during the day also play havoc with getting a good night's sleep, Avidan said.

Another factor is the "early rise time with schools expecting kids to be at school at 7 a.m.," Avidan said.

Dr. Marcel Deray, a pediatric neurologist and head of the sleep disorder center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, said some states, like Minnesota, have changed high school starting times to let kids get more sleep. "If they could delay school starting time by an hour, that would be ideal," he said.

Avidan said that the best way to ensure getting enough sleep is to "maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule. For teens that's a minimum of eight hours a night."

Other steps include eliminating exposure to artificial light and eliminating caffeine after noon, he suggested.

Artificial light delays the effect of melatonin, Avidan said. "Melatonin is the hormone of darkness, so the more artificial light you have, the more melatonin secretion is delayed, and that adds fuel to the fire," he explained.

More information

For more on teens and sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

Too Much Sitting May Shorten Your Life, Study Suggests

WEDNESDAY, April 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Get off your duff: A new study finds that sitting less may extend your life.

Brazilian researchers who analyzed data from 54 countries linked sitting for more than three hours a day to 3.8 percent of deaths from all causes.

Limiting sitting time to less than three hours a day would increase a person's life expectancy by an average of 0.2 years -- or more than two months, the researchers said.

The study adds to growing evidence that too much sitting is a health threat, and that even regular exercise may not be enough to counter the harmful effects of prolonged sitting, the researchers said.

Their report appeared online in advance of the August print issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study authors estimated the effects of less time spent sitting, regardless of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Even a modest, 10 percent reduction in sitting time -- for instance, 30 fewer minutes a day -- could have an immediate impact, the researchers said.

"Bolder changes [for instance, 50 percent decrease or two fewer hours] would represent at least three times fewer deaths versus the 10 percent or 30-minute reduction scenarios," lead investigator Leandro Rezende said in a journal news release. Rezende is with the department of preventive medicine at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine, in Brazil.

Despite a growing body of research showing the dangers of too much sitting, it's difficult to get people to make changes, the researchers added.

"Although sitting is an intrinsic part of human nature, excessive sitting is very common in modern societies," Rezende said.

Labor-saving devices, long commutes and homes in areas that lack support for active lifestyles contribute to the problem, he added.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.