News from the World of Medicine
How to Live Longer
To test the assumption that a healthy lifestyle really adds years to your life, researchers devised a simple study. They looked at the life span of more than 123,000 Americans and then checked to see who had stuck with these five daily habits: eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and drinking in moderation. Sure enough, the folks who followed all five lived longer, but even the researchers were astonished by how much longer. Women at age 50 who followed all five healthy habits lived 43 more years on average, compared with 29 years for women who didn’t follow any of them. Men who maintained all the habits lived an additional 38 years beyond 50, compared with 26 years for those who didn’t.
A Good Mood Helps Your Flu Shot Work Better
In any given year, the flu shot is estimated to be effective in only 17 to 53 percent of older adults, compared with 70 to 90 percent of younger people. Simply being in a good mood, however, appears to help older adults get the vaccine’s benefits. In a study of people ages 65 to 85, those who were in a good mood on the day of vaccination had higher levels of influenza antibody in their blood up to 16 weeks later.
Plant-based Milks Are Not All Equal
Cow’s milk is nutritious for those who can digest it properly, but as many as 65 percent of the world’s adults cannot. What about plant-based milks, which are much more widely tolerated? Scientists from Mcgill University in Montreal compared unsweetened soy, almond, coconut, and rice milks and concluded that soy milk offers the most nutritional value. Why? It contains a balanced blend of the three macronutrients— carbs, proteins, and fats—plus isoflavones, compounds that may help prevent hormone-related cancers by binding with estrogen receptors.
A Nasal Antidepressant Works Quickly
Esketamine, currently used as a general anesthetic, could prove to be a powerful weapon in the fight to prevent suicide. In a small study, volunteers with severe depression who used an esketamine nasal spray
reported greater improvements in their symptoms (including feelings of sadness, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts) just four hours after their treatment, compared with volunteers who used a placebo. This is significantly faster than the four to six weeks it takes for most antidepressants to take effect. No benefits were observed after 25 days, however, suggesting that the spray works for only a short time.
Ibuprofen Negates Strength Training’s Benefits
A small study of young, healthy volunteers who followed the same weight training program revealed that those who took a low dose of aspirin (75 mg a day) had twice the muscle development and a bigger increase in strength than those taking high doses of ibuprofen (1,200 mg a day). If you want to build muscle mass, consider alternatives to ibuprofen.
Charting Cancer Pain
During a five-day trial with nearly 2,000 patients in 19 different cancer centers, medical staff regularly noted the level of patients’ pain on a simple paper chart with a pen: red (severe), yellow (moderate), or green (mild). Those whose care included use of the chart reported less pain during this time, even though they did not receive higher medicine doses. The chart apparently prompts doctors to review which pain medications are working and which are not before patients’ pain becomes unbearable.
Inhalers Raise Risk Of Infection
A new study suggests that adults over 65 who use corticosteroid inhalers for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) raise their risk for infection with nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). NTM can cause a serious lung infection in some people that is notoriously difficult to treat because it is resistant to a number of common antibiotics. People who use an inhaler (especially one with fluticasone, the active ingredient in Flonase) should discuss the risks with their doctor.