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Vaping’s Impact on Young Brains; Flu Uptick; High Blood Pressure & Dementia Risk

Vaping by children and teens surged 75 percent  in 2018, compared to 2017, according to a policy statement [1] issued this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  The increase accounts for 20 percent of high-school students and 5 percent of middle-school students who said they used e-cigarettes last year, according to the AAP.

The fact that e-cigarettes are a gateway to traditional cigarette use, which often leads to nicotine addiction, is also a top concern for youth health, the AAP iterates.

The statement is among the latest issued to spur stricter regulation and warn the public about the dangers of vaping among young people. The toxic substances found in e-cigarettes can have harmful effects on the developing adolescent brain up until age 25, according to previous papers published by the AAP.

“Nicotine has neurotoxic effects on the developing brain,” AAP policy statements [2] say. “Nicotine is highly addictive and is the primary psychoactive component causing addiction in tobacco products.”

The common use of e-cigarettes among teens and pre-teens is surprising many parents. At a recent visit to her child’s pediatrician, one national CBS morning anchor said she was “surprised when the doctor asked her 10-year old” about vaping habits, showing how young children are when they may be experimenting with the liquid nicotine products.

One pod of vaping liquid has the same amount of nicotine as one pack of regular cigarettes, according to those who have studied the ingredients. In addition, toxic additives found in the liquid can change how a young person’s brain learns and functions, affecting a wide range of primary behaviors that could lead to mood disorders and addiction, physicians and researchers say.

“The fruity flavors of e-cigarettes have created a new group of young people addicted to nicotine,” said Michael Hernandez, M.D. [3], a pulmonologist affiliated with the Lung Health  [4]Program at South Miami Hospital. “And while we don’t know exactly what levels of toxins these devices are creating, many of the ingredients in e-cigarettes, when heated and inhaled, create dangerous levels like those found in class-one carcinogens that can cause respiratory illnesses, damage to the lungs and in some cases, cancer. There’s certainly a concern with long-term usage.”

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As Flu Spreads, ‘Sick Shamers’ Take Action

Flu and flu-like illness have infected more than 11 million people in the U.S. so far in the 2018-19 flu season, according to the most recent surveillance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prompting some employees to “shame” colleagues who come to work sick.

In attempts to stay healthy and prevent the spread of infection by the flu virus, so called “sick shamers” are seen wiping down workplace surfaces with antibacterial cleansers and telling sick co-workers to shield their sneezes and coughs.

“When to stay home from work when you’re sick varies from place to place, but in general, people aren’t as productive when they don’t feel well, so it’s really best to listen to doctors when they say ‘stay home and rest,'” says Chip Cutter, a Wall Street Journal journalist who covers work and management issues. “The actions of the sick shamers can encourage managers to set the tone of workplace sick policies.”

Cutter also cites in his reporting the role today’s ‘open’ work environments have in spreading illnesses like the flu.  The physical barriers, like cubicle walls, are no longer there to cut down on the spread of germs, he said.

“The flu is most contagious during the first three to four days of being sick,” says David Mishkin, M.D. [8], medical director of Baptist Health’s Care On Demand, [9]which allows people using a mobile device or PC to access a Board-certified doctor anytime for consultation and treatment recommendations. “But the virus can also spread beyond the initial contagious period, sometimes for up to a week.”

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Lowering Blood Pressure Can Reduce Risk Factor for Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, which afflicts about five million U.S. adults. But is it possible to prevent cognitive decline, which usually precedes a diagnosis of dementia? Possibly, according to a new study published this week which provides encouraging news.

Researchers found that it’s possible to reduce the risk of developing cognitive decline by aggressively treating high blood pressure, the study found. However, it’s not certain if lowering blood pressure can completely prevent dementia.

A research project, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, was started in 2010 and recruited almost 10,000 volunteers over the age of 50 with high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease. The goal of SPRINT was to determine if lowering a person’s systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) below 120 would be better for someone’s overall health — compared to trying to lower the number to 140 which was considered standard care at that time.

The project ended in 2015 and concluded that lowering to 120 was better at preventing such events as heart attacks and stroke, compared to standard care. However, a group of about 8,500 volunteers were also studied for their potential risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an early stage of memory dysfunction that can progress to dementia.

MCI is a condition in which people have more difficulty with cognition, thinking, remembering, and reasoning, than normal for people their age. Dementia is a more severe form of loss in cognitive functions that interferes with daily life

The findings of the current study, published in JAMA [12], come from this offshoot project, referred to as the SPRINT MIND study. The rate of new MCI cases was 19 percent lower in this group that had achieved 120 as a systolic blood pressure reading.

Both SPRINT studies were funded by the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health.

“The secondary results showing that intensive lowering of blood pressure may reduce risk for MCI, a known risk factor for dementia, gives us additional avenues to explore on the path to prevention.”said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of National Institutes of Health, in a statement.

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