Medical notes this week…
The largest study of its kind is strengthening the link between football and the brain disorder CTE. The study in the Annals of Neurology finds that every year of playing football increases the risk of CTE by 30 percent. Among those with a CTE diagnosis, the risk of severe symptoms doubles with every 5.3 years of football. And those with the longest careers, who play more than 14.5 years, have a risk of CTE that’s 10 times higher. However, it’s far from a sure thing. Some players with more than 15 years on the field have no evidence of CTE at all.
Speaking of football injuries…cortisone injections are common among athletes to mask pain. They’re also used for everyday people who have symptoms of osteoarthritis. But a new study in the journal Radiology shows that complications due to cortisone shots are much more common than previously thought. People who receive hip injections have complications 10 percent of the time, including stress fractures, a progression of their arthritis, and even a collapse of the joint. Those getting cortisone in the knees suffer complications about four percent of the time.
And finally…another study is proving that dog owners live longer. A study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes finds that people who own a dog are 24 percent less likely to die of any cause compared to non-dog owners. And 31 percent less likely to die of a heart attack or a stroke. The benefits are even greater for people who live alone and have already had a heart attack or stroke.
Medical Notes 19-45: Week of November 10, 2019
Cystic fibrosis affects about 30,000 people in the United States, prompting a severe buildup of mucus in the lungs and other organs. The major gene defect causing 90 percent of cases of CF was discovered 20 years ago, and now there’s finally a three-drug combination that effectively targets it. The drug, Trikafta, is being hailed as a breakthrough, and could increase the current 44-year life expectancy of people with CF.
When doctors prescribe antibiotics, you’re supposed to take the entire prescription, even if you feel better before then. But the National Poll on Healthy Aging shows that 13 percent of people over age 50 have pills left over from their last prescription. Most of the time, they say they’re saving them for later use or for a family member. Half of those people admit they’ve taken leftover antibiotics without checking with a doctor first.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can have effects in a lot of seemingly unrelated areas. a study in the journal Epidemiology shows that having PTSD nearly doubles a person’s risk of infections. The risk increase varies by disease—it’s 1.7 times higher for the flu and more than two and a half times higher for viral hepatitis. Researchers say PTSD also seems to affect the infection risk differently for men and women. Men are more likely to get skin infections…while women are more likely to get urinary tract infections.
And finally… researchers have long observed that heavy alcohol use is associated with reduced brain size, with the conclusion that alcohol can shrink the brain. But now a study in the journal Biological Psychiatry suggests that smaller brain size comes first—People with less grey matter in the brain are genetically predisposed toward alcohol consumption…which may, in turn, shrink the brain still further.”
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