May 13 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 13

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Living Near Foreclosed Property is Linked to Higher Blood Pressure
Living near foreclosed property may increase the risk of higher blood pressure, according to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Researchers reviewed data from 1,740 participants (mostly white, 53 percent women) in 1987-2008 in the Framingham (Massachusetts) Offspring Cohort, which is part of the Framingham Heart Study. The researchers distinguished between real-estate-owned foreclosures, which are owned by lenders and typically sit vacant, and foreclosures purchased by third-party buyers, which are generally put into housing use. The researchers found each additional foreclosed property within 100 meters (328 feet) of participants’ homes was associated with an average increase of 1.71 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure. The association only applied to properties that were real-estate owned and there was no effect from foreclosed properties more than 100 meters from participants’ homes.

“The increases in blood pressure observed could be due in part to unhealthy stress from residents’ perception that their own properties are less valuable, their streets less attractive or safe and their neighborhoods less stable,” said Mariana Arcaya, Sc.D., M.C.P., study lead author and a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies in Cambridge, Mass. “Safety could also be a concern that affects their ability to exercise in these neighborhoods.”

Research on different populations in urban and rural settings is needed, says Arcaya. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study. Read more on prevention.

Underage College Men Downplay Danger of Driving after Using Marijuana
Underage male college students who report using marijuana in the month before they were surveyed had a high prevalence of driving under the influence of marijuana and of riding with a marijuana-using driver, at a rate more than double that of driving or riding after alcohol use, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and University of Washington pediatrics department. The researchers also found that among marijuana-using students, 44 percent of males and 9 percent of females drove after using the drug, and 51 percent of males and 35 percent of females rode as a passenger with a marijuana-using driver. The researchers say the study results reflect the widespread belief that driving after using marijuana is safe and that strategies to dispute that belief are needed to help change social norms and encourage using a designated driver not only after alcohol use, but after a driver has used any risky substance. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics. Read more on substance abuse.

Moderate Exercise Reduces Premature Death Risk in Older Men
Older men with hypertension can lower their risk of premature death with even moderate levels of exercise, according to a new study in Hypertension. The researchers say the needed level of fitness can be achieved by a brisk twenty to forty minute walk on most days. The researchers reviewed the fitness levels of 2,153 men, aged 70 years and older with high blood pressure by a standard treadmill exercise test, using a standard measure of fitness called metabolic equivalents (METs.) An MET is equal to the amount of oxygen the body uses per kilogram of body weight per minute. The peak MET level of a sedentary 50-year-old is about five to six METs; for a moderately fit individual it’s about seven to nine METS; and for a highly fit person it’s 10 to 12 METs. (Marathon runners, cyclists and other long distance athletes often have MET levels of 20 or higher.)

After an average follow-up of nine years, researchers found that the risk of death was 11 percent lower for every one-MET increase in exercise capacity:

  • Those in the low-fit category (4.1 to 6 peak METs) had an 18 percent lower risk of death.
  • Moderately-fit men (6.1 to 8 peak METs) had a 36 percent lower risk of death.
  • High-fit men with peak METs of more than 8 reduced the risk of death by 48 percent.

Read more on heart health.

Tags: Heart and Vascular Health, News roundups, Prevention, Public and Community Health, Substance Abuse