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Smoking Ups Impotence Risk in Younger Men

Man_smoking If you smoke, before you reach for the Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, maybe you might consider quitting smoking. According to Reuters, there is a study published in the February, 2005 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology which found that men who smoke have problems with impotence more than men who don't.

"Adding to evidence that smoking is bad for a man's sex life, new study findings show that smoking may raise the risk of impotence, particularly in younger men.

Researchers found that among the more than 1,300 men they followed, those who smoked were at greater risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) than either former smokers or non-smokers.

Smokers in their 40s, the youngest group in the study, showed the highest smoking-related risk. Compared with other men their age, they were nearly three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Smoking was also linked, to a lesser extent, to impotence among men in their 50s and 60s, but not among those in their 70s."

Link: MedlinePlus: Smoking Ups Impotence Risk in Younger Men.

Intermission, the film

Intermission St. Patrick's Day is coming in three weeks and you might be in a mood for something Irish. Intermission is an Irish love story which takes place in modern day Dublin. It is a collage of different stories about 54 different characters and it somehow all comes together in a fast paced, humourous, entertaining way.

I had a little difficulty at times understanding the Irish brogue, but second half of the movie I understood better either because the characters spoke with less of an accent or my ear became tuned.

The main story is about John and Deirdre who break up and find their way back together again. There are subplots of other love stories as well as nasty cops and violent hoodlums and rock throwing kids wreaking mahem in the streets.

While not a great movie, it is entertaining. I recommend it.

Link: Intermission (2003).

Study Shows State Laws Can Curb College Binge Drinking

"Students who attend college in states with strong alcohol control laws are less likely to be binge drinkers, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that campus binge drinking rates were one-third lower in states that had four or more laws targeting high volumes of alcohol sales than states that did not.

"The good news is that if more states and communities take relatively straightforward actions -- such as enacting laws that discourage high-volume sales -- they could see fewer drinking problems on college campuses and in their broader populations as well," said Toben Nelson, the studies author.

"Environmental factors such as low prices, special promotions of alcohol, and high density of alcohol outlets near college campuses support heavier drinking by college students," Nelson said.

Binge drinking -- often defined as five or more drinks in a row on a single occasion -- has been linked to 1,400 college student deaths every year, as well as injuries, rapes, assaults, unsafe sex and poor student performance.

According to the study, college students spend more than $5.5 billion a year on alcohol -- more than they spend on textbooks, soft drinks, tea, milk, juice and coffee combined."

I learned this stuff from Michael Klitzner. Using the public health model is a way to conceptualize what it will take to save lives in a three pronged approach: change community norms, decrease access, and enhance regulatory enforcement. Holy smokes, here is more evidence that it works.

Link: MedlinePlus: Study Shows State Laws Can Curb College Binge Drinking.

Media Violence May Affect Kids in Short Term

Video_games In the February 19, 2005 issue of the British medical journal, The Lancet, there is a review article of 6 North American studies on the effect of violent TV and video games on young children.

Do they have an effect? Yes

Are other factors involved? Yes

Is the effect long lived? Don't know.

How does the effect work? Kids mimic what they see.

What can parents or others do? Don't let kids watch this stuff to begin with. If they do, discuss it with them to put it into context.

Is this rocket science? No

Is this just good parenting to begin with? Of course

"Watching violent TV and playing violent video games appears to temporarily affect kids' thoughts and feelings, increasing the likelihood that they'll behave aggressively, according to a review of scientific literature on the topic.

"Parents can help limit the impact of violence by helping children make sense of what they are seeing," study author Dr. Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis told Reuters Health.

However, she cautioned that children are more likely to be influenced by media if they are "vulnerable" in some way, such as if they see instances of domestic violence at home.

It's also important to not blame the media for every violent act, Hamilton-Giachritsis added.

"If we over-estimate (media's effect on kids), we run the risk of undervaluing the role of other factors - such as violence in the home, poverty, etc. - in the development of violent behavior," she said.

To investigate how media can influence young children, Hamilton-Giachritsis and her colleague Kevin Browne, both from the University of Birmingham in the UK, reviewed 6 studies from North America that examined how children react to media violence. Their analysis, reported in The Lancet, included research that looked at both passive media, such as TV, and interactive media like video and computer games."

Link: MedlinePlus: Media Violence May Affect Kids in Short Term.

Senate Passes Ban on Genetic Discrimination

Reuters reported last Friday, February, 18, 2005 that the Senate, God bless them, are doing their job to protect the American people from genetic discrimination but the congresspeople in the House of Representatives are being influenced by businesses to discriminate against people with genetic predispositions for certain disease and health problems.

"The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation to bar health insurers and employers from discriminating against people with a genetic predisposition to disease.

Sponsors said a growing understanding of the human genetic code created a need for protections to make sure scientific breakthroughs were used to promote health, not discrimination.

The bill prevents health insurers from excluding people from coverage or charging them higher rates due to a genetic risk or predisposition to a disease. Insurers could not require customers to take genetic tests.

Employers would be barred from making hiring or firing decisions based on genetic information.

The measure covers public and private health plans, employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and training programs. It also tightens protections on the privacy of medical information.

The Senate passed nearly identical legislation in 2003, but it died in the House of Representatives."

Please check on where your congressperson stands on this issue and let them know that you want genetic protection legislation passed.

Link: MedlinePlus: Senate Passes Ban on Genetic Discrimination.

Studies find SSRIs linked to more suicide attempts but not more suicides

The old saying that "the devil is in the details" applies to this topic of suicidal behavior in people taking antidepressants. As more data is collected and analyzed it appears that people not only taking SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, but also the older tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil, Amitriptyline, etc. have increased number of suicide attempts but not actual suicide deaths.

Of course, people are taking these drugs because they are depressed and often have suicidal ideas to begin with. While there is not a lot of evidence that these drugs work beyond the placebo effect any way, they do seem to help a significant number of people in the short run and so should not just be dismissed as a treatment option.

The article linked below to the Canadian Press discusses two papers dealing with this topic which appeared in the British Medical Journal. It ends with this quote:

"All involved in the studies suggested more research is needed to tease out why these drugs appear to provoke suicidal impulses or thoughts in some people.

And all suggested doctors prescribing the drugs need to be aware that people need to be closely monitored when they first begin to take them."

This is further validation for my contention that treatment for depression and anxiety disorders that requires medication should also include psychotherapy. Pills alone not only is not enough, it is not as effective in the long run, and can be dangerous. The idea that Primary Care Physicians can treat depression and anxiety disorders in 5 minutes by writing a prescription is malpractice in my opinion. If the patient's symptoms are severe enough to warrant medication they should also be offered a referral to a behavioral health provider for psychotherapy.

Link: MedlinePlus: Studies find SSRIs linked to more suicide attempts but not more suicides.