Monthly Archives: June 2016

Death With Dignity

The D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved a “Death With Dignity” bill Tuesday that allows terminally ill patients the ability to obtain medication to end their own lives.

The council passed the measure 11-2 after approving the bill by the same margin in an initial vote two weeks ago. The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has pledged not to veto the legislation, which would make D.C. the first jurisdiction with a predominantly African-American population to approve a so-called right to die.

Read more: Why One Doctor is Fighting for the Right to Die

The bill is modeled after the nation’s first “Death With Dignity Act” in Oregon and would let terminally ill patients 18 years or older and with six months or less to live the ability to obtain life-ending, physician-prescribed medicine. Two witnesses have to verify that the patient’s decision is voluntary, and the medication must be self-administered.

Some African-Americans in D.C. opposed the bill claiming it could be used to target elderly black residents. Other groups like disability rights advocates and medical associations have historically opposed a so-called right-to-die, saying it unnecessarily devalues life and violates doctors’ Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

And California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, tallied more than 5,000 incidents of suicidal behavior last year. That’s huge increase since they began tracking these issues in the 2010-2011 school year, when just 255 incidents were reported. These incidents ranged from expressions of openness to suicide and self-harm, and acts of self-harm. Specific incidents of self-harm, like superficial cutting and burning the skin are usually not attempts at suicide, but the behavior does correlate with a higher risk of suicidal behavior. Studies of self harm are consistent in showing that people who injure themselves do so to cope with anxiety or depression.

Increase in Major Depression Among Teens

Describing teens as moody and angsty is an old cliche. That stage of life is loaded with drama and intense feelings. And it was ever thus—just go back read your high school diary for evidence. But while anxiety and sadness aren’t new phenomena among adolescents, there’s been a significant increase in the percentage of young people aged 12-20 who have reported having a major depressive episode (MDE).

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

Despite the rise in teen depression, the study, which analyzed data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, reported that there hasn’t a corresponding increase in mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults. Researchers said this is an indication that there is a growing number of young people who are under-treated or not treated at all for their symptoms. Meanwhile, among those who did get help, treatment tended to be more intense, often involving specialized care by in-patient and outpatient providers and including prescription medications. (This may be due in part to increased mental health coverage in the wake of new health care parity laws.)

This information won’t come as a surprise to school counselors and clinicians who’ve seen a rise in depression, anxiety and related incidents of self-harm first hand, as reported in TIME’s Nov. 7th cover story “The Kids Are Not All Right.” The number of kids who are struggling with these issues is staggering. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than three million adolescents aged 12-17 reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year, and more than two million reported severe depression that impeded their daily functioning.

Ellen Chance, co-president of the Palm Beach School Counselor Association, says that in her region “anxiety and depression are affecting kids’ behavior and their ability to learn which can lead to dropping out or home school.” Getting resources to these students is essential for them to function in school. She’s working with the National Alliance for Mental Illness to get more counselors trained to identify mental health disorders, but it’s not easy. Counselors are often responsible for more than 500 kids and have other duties as well, often including administering state tests.

In Montana, where major depressive episodes have also spiked, there’s a dearth of trained counselors that can get to all the schools in the sparsely populated state so officials are trying implement tele-counselling programs.

And California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, tallied more than 5,000 incidents of suicidal behavior last year. That’s huge increase since they began tracking these issues in the 2010-2011 school year, when just 255 incidents were reported. These incidents ranged from expressions of openness to suicide and self-harm, and acts of self-harm. Specific incidents of self-harm, like superficial cutting and burning the skin are usually not attempts at suicide, but the behavior does correlate with a higher risk of suicidal behavior. Studies of self harm are consistent in showing that people who injure themselves do so to cope with anxiety or depression.

Some of the increase in depression in Los Angeles schools may be due to more awareness and improved data collection, but with more than 30 percent of high school students there reporting prolonged feelings of hopelessness and sadness lasting more than two weeks, and 9.1% of middle schoolers and 8.4% of high schoolers in the district actually attempting suicide, the data highlights the need for more mental health resources for young people.

Improve Your Mental Health

Although French fries and ice cream often make it on the list of grub to dig into when we’re down, true comfort food comes from a healthier crowd. What you eat actually plays an important role in how you feel mentally; Spanish researchers who followed 15,000 young adults over the course of nine years found that those who ate more nuts, fruit, vegetables and fish had a 30 percent lower incidence of depression than those who gorged on sweets or processed foods. That’s not all. The UK-based Mental Health Foundation reports that fewer than half of patients who suffer from mental health problems eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Nearly two-thirds of those free from daily mental health problems eat fresh produce regularly.

Ensuring your diet is full of adequate amounts of healthy nutrients can enhance your mental clarity, provide a more balanced mood, and protect your mind from early mental decline. Discover all the ways that eating better can help improve your mental health.

1. You’ll save money

Think about all that cash you blow on soda, grabbing takeout at restaurants, picking out a snack every couple of hours and ordering dessert after every meal. But it’s not just food you’ll save money on when you start to eat better. Those who clock in at a healthy weight spend an astounding 42 percent less cash on medical bills and health expenses than their overweight peers, according to a Health Affairs report. And get this: you’ll not only be less stressed financially, but a study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences says that financial strain is a strong risk factor for and predictor of worsening mental health.

Eat This, Not That!: The 20 Ultimate Tips for Finally Understanding Nutritional Labels

2. Fueling up properly means you won’t get hangry as much

Whether you’re constantly muttering under your breath about coworkers’ minute errors or snapping at drivers during rush hour, you go about life with a short fuse. Rather than looking to poor anger management or mood disorders, look to your rumbling stomach. You could actually be hangry! One of the reasons why you’re always hungry, and thus, always hangry, is perhaps because of an inefficient diet that subsists on empty carbs. This food burns up in your body quickly, which causes your body to crave substance more quickly.

When you deprive yourself of food while your body screams at you to eat, your body goes into a state of distress. The result is low dopamine levels, which means less control over your emotions and more irritability, anxiety, mental confusion and slowness in thought. If you choose to fuel up with slow-burning sources of energy like complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, you’ll start to see your anger subside in no time.

3. Combatting nutritional deficiencies can improve your mood

Studies show that a number of nutrients are associated with brain health, and deficiencies of these nutrients have countlessly been linked to depression. It should be no surprise that many of these micronutrients are abundant in “healthy” foods and M.I.A. in junk foods. Some of which include omega-3s (salmon, flax and chia seeds, walnuts), folate (asparagus, chickpeas, lentils), vitamin B12 (tuna, shrimp, milk), choline (egg yolks, broccoli, brussels sprouts), magnesium (spinach, yogurt, black beans), vitamin D (fatty fish, eggs). Always check with your doctor before going off any anti-depressants, but you may want to get blood work done to see if the reason your mood has tanked is because you’re experiencing some nutritional deficiencies.

4. Eating antioxidants can help you feel more optimistic about the future

Whether you’re a recent college grad or just attended your last child’s college graduation, the future can certainly seem daunting at times—and that can cause some serious anxiety. That’s even more so the case if you’re not eating enough carrots. Why? A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that individuals with higher levels of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) tended to be more optimistic about the future, an indicator of positive health. Unless you’re always ordering sweet potato fries when you eat out, you’re likely missing out on these beneficial antioxidants. On the other hand, a healthy diet easily incorporates many of its top sources: carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and kale.

The Reason of Moms Are Spanking Their Kids

unduhan-51In many developed nations, the corporal punishment of children—that is, spanking, whipping, caning and so on—is illegal. America, where it’s even legal to spank a child at school in some states, has been something of a holdout, but a new study suggests that fewer mothers approve of using spanking as a disciplinary technique.

Georgetown University researchers analyzed data from the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey and found that the percentage of mothers in middle-income families who reported spanking their kids dropped from 46% to 21% over a 23-year period.

The study, published Nov. 14 in the journal Pediatrics, also found that, across all socioeconomic groups, the number of moms with kids under 5 who reported using spanking was shrinking while the number of moms who approved of various forms of nonphysical punishment was growing. For example, the percentage of moms who endorsed time-outs—removing kids from the environments in which the bad behavior took place—increased to 81% in 2011 from 41% in 1988.

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For many experts this lessening of physical punishment has been a long time coming. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned parents to avoid physically disciplining their children as far back 1998. That message has slowly been trickling through. And while it has long been the case that low income parents use spanking and other physical punishment more often than wealthier parents, that gap is narrowing, says the study, as the message about more effective disciplinary techniques seeps out.

The authors of the study believe the drop in spankings is part of a longer trend that started in the 1980s. “It may be in response to social science research that suggests spanking is linked to negative outcomes for children like delinquency, antisocial behavior, psychological problems and substance abuse,” says Rebecca Ryan, Associate Psychology Professor at the D.C.-based university and lead author of the study. “There is also little evidence that spanking or other forms of physical discipline are effective in the long term at reducing unwanted child behaviors or encouraging children to internalize, to really believe in, parents’ rules.”

To replace physical punishment parents have started using gentler techniques, including timeouts and what are known as “token economies,” such as sticker charts, for good behavior. The AAP, pediatricians and the rise of the parenting genre in books have also probably played a role in phasing out spanking.

READ MORE: The Discipline Wars Among American Parents

Of course there are still plenty of parents who think that when they spare the rod, they spoil the child. The Georgetown study suggests that low income mothers are more likely to spank than other income levels, and indeed a quarter of them reported hitting their kid in the previous week. But as recently as 2013, a Harris Poll of more than 2000 parents found that the majority of parents of any wealth, gender or ethnicity—except Pacific Islander or Asian— agreed with the statement that it is sometimes necessary to give a kid “a good hard spanking.”

There is also a slight gender difference. Men are more likely to believe it’s OK to spank kids than women are, but the current study doesn’t look at fathers’ attitudes. But researchers think women are changing their parenting habits more swiftly. “Data from the GSS suggests that the decline in support for corporal punishment of children since the 1980s has been more pronounced among women than men,” says Ryan. “So, it stands to reason that the trends we found might be similar—but weaker—for fathers. It’s hard to know.”

It’s also plausible that mothers have realized that many experts frown on spanking and so these moms decline to share their true views on the subject, or are ashamed of using it and thus are not candid. Ryan says that she would tell those who still think that spanking is an important parental tool what the AAP said in 1998: “There are many nonphysical discipline strategies, like time outs, positive reinforcement of good behavior, and selective inattention, that have been shown to be more effective at curbing unwanted behavior and encouraging the internalization of parents’ values than spanking.”

Unhealthy Diet For Women

unduhan-49Losing 10 pounds now and then and gaining it back may be bad for your heart, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

Particularly if you’re a normal-weight woman: “We found that those with normal weight were the highest at risk for both sudden cardiac death and coronary heart disease death,” says Dr. Somwail Rasla, study lead author and internal medicine resident at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island at Brown University.

In the study, Rasla and his colleagues looked at data from 158,000 women over age 50, who had self-reported their weight history and were categorized as normal weight, overweight or obese. During an 11-year followup, they were tracked for sudden cardiac death and coronary heart disease death.

Women who were normal weight at the study’s start but who reported a history of weight cycling—dropping more than 10 pounds and regaining it while not sick or pregnant, more than four times—had a 3.5 times greater risk for sudden cardiac death than those with stable weights. They also had a 66% increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease. However, weight cycling didn’t increase these risks for overweight or obese people.

That weight fluctuations are linked to such dire consequences makes some sense, and there are several different theories as to why. One is that every time weight is gained and lost, risk variables like heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose fluctuate; repeat this cycle enough, and they’ll be less likely to return to baseline levels, Rasla says. Gaining and losing weight repeatedly may also cause insulin resistance, which increases the risk for coronary heart disease death, he says.

Why do these health problems appear to disproportionately affect women of healthy weight? Other research has shown that normal-weight women are more likely to die from with heart failure than obese women, Rasla says. “Obese people have higher blood pressure, high diabetes but over a long period of time, and it’s been found that their bodies develop a compensatory adaptive mechanism to different diseases,” he says. Thinner women, though they don’t get sick as often, may therefore be more vulnerable.

The preliminary research needs to be replicated in men and different age groups before researchers can make conclusions and recommendations. It’s also important to keep in mind that self-reports are sometimes inaccurate and that the study was merely observational, so the link could be due to a number of factors.