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Latest News Around the Web

Expert Points Out Similarities Between Overeating, Drug Addiction.

The Time (4/6, Szalavitz) “Healthland” blog reports that Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has argued that there are similarities between overeating and drug addiction, and that examining those similarities could help to better understand all types of compulsive behavior. Although not all health professionals agree that food is an addictive substance in the way that a drug is, some experts, such as Volkow, contend that there are “common dysfunctions in the areas of the brain involved in pleasure and self-control that are seen in both food and drug addictions. These systems rely on the neurotransmitter dopamine; in both drug addictions and obesity, reductions in the number of dopamine D2 receptors are common.”

Related Links:

— “Can Food Really Be Addictive? Yes, Says National Drug Expert,”Maia Szalavitz , TIME Healthland, April 5 , 2012.

Depression, Anxiety Associated With Physical Disabilities In Seniors.

HealthDay (4/6, Preidt) reports, “Seniors with psychological distress such as depression or anxiety are more likely to have physical disabilities,” according to a study published April 5 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. After examining “data from nearly 100,000 Australian men and women, aged 65 and older,” researchers found that, “the risk of physical disability was more than four times higher among those with any level of psychological distress and nearly seven times higher among those with moderate levels.” Notably, those seniors who displayed greater levels of regular physical activity were not as likely to be physically disabled.

Related Links:

— “Depression, Anxiety Tied to Physical Disabilities in Seniors,”Robert Preidt, Healthday, April 5, 2012.

Studies: Intellectual Activities May Slow Mental Decline.

HealthDay (4/5, Dotinga) reports that two studies published online April 4 in the journal Neurology offer “insights into the mysterious phenomenon of rapid cognitive decline in the two or three years before death, and [confirm] that intellectually challenging activities can help keep your mind sharp.” The first study “suggests that while Alzheimer’s disease may nudge the mental decline early on, other causes seem to be at play when the decline speeds up in the years just before death.” HealthDay adds, “Can people do anything to prevent the mind from declining in old age? A second study suggests that’s a possibility — through activities such as reading, playing board games, and doing crossword puzzles.”

An accompanying editorial observed, “The research on declining mental abilities represents an important advance in the science of aging,” MedPage Today (4/5, Smith) reports. The editorial argued that “the controversial issue of de-differentiation’ may hold clues to the biology of aging and is thus ‘an important research topic whose study deepens our understanding of both disease-based and normal biological aging.’

Related Links:

— “Brain Falters Near End of Life, but Games, Puzzles Might Slow Decline,”Randy Dotinga , HealthDay, April 4, 2012.

Risk Of Suicide, CV Death May Increase Immediately After Cancer Diagnosis.

The Los Angeles Times (4/5, Khan) reports that research “involving more than six million Swedes reveals that the risk of suicide and cardiovascular death increases immediately after a cancer diagnosis.”

HealthDay (4/5, Esposito) reports, “Using nationwide census and death registry data that covered more than six million people over a 15-year period ending in 2006, Swedish researchers tabulated the suicides and cardiovascular fatalities among people with new cancer diagnoses and compared them to similar deaths in those without cancer.”

MedPage Today (4/5, Neale) reports, “In the first week after receiving the diagnosis, patients had a greater risk of committing suicide (RR 12.6, 95% CI 8.6 to 17.8) and of dying from a cardiovascular cause (RR 5.6, 95% CI 5.2 to 5.9) compared with cancer-free people.” The researchers found that “the elevated risk extended up to one year and beyond for suicide, and up to about six months for cardiovascular death.” The study was published April 5 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Related Links:

— “Cancer diagnosis raises risk of heart attack and suicide, study says,”Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2012.

Psychiatrist: Financial Pressures Causing Retreat From Mission Of Mental Healthcare.

In a video commentary for Medscape (4/5), psychiatrist Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, of Columbia University, asserts, “What we are seeing in the context of this great recession that we are experiencing, the deficits that are occurring at the state level, and the changes in healthcare delivery that financial pressures are occasioning is a retreat from the mission of mental healthcare.” He adds, “This creates a vicious cycle where the state cuts back, putting more pressure on the nonpublic healthcare” clinicians who are “also under financial pressure. They are also looking for ways to reduce their financial vulnerability, and so they cut services. All of this leaves psychiatry and patients who need psychiatric services in the lurch and out in the cold.”

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