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Health briefs: Smoking may cause, rather than relieve, stress

Smoking may cause, not relieve, stress

For millions of smokers, the calming effect of a cigarette can be reason enough to start up again. But over the long term, lighting up actually causes stress levels to rise. In a recent study at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, researchers looked at 469 people who tried to quit after being hospitalized for heart disease. At the start, the subjects had similar levels of stress and generally thought that smoking helped them to cope. A year later, 41 percent were abstinent; the ex-smokers had roughly a 20 percent drop in perceived stress, compared with the continuing smokers, who showed little change. Scientists think the abstainers, after facing some initial withdrawal, had greater freedom from nicotine cravings and thus had eliminated a significant source of stress.

Sex life possible after heart attack

Surviving a heart attack can kill your sex life, but patients whose doctors counsel them are more likely to keep the flame burning. "People perceive (sex) might kill them," said Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, a gynecologist and sexuality researcher at the University of Chicago. "If you can walk up two flights of stairs or do moderate exercise, then it's okay to have sex." Lindau led the largest study ever on this topic, involving 1,184 male and 576 female heart attack survivors, whose average age was 60. Less than half the men and only about a third of the women said they got advice about resuming sex when leaving the hospital. Even fewer had that talk with their doctors over the next year. One year after, more than two-thirds of the men and 40 percent of the women reported some sexual activity. They were up to 40 percent more likely to be having sex if they had talked with a doctor.

ER popular with insured, uninsured

One out of every five Americans visited a hospital emergency room at least once in 2007, the latest year for which the National Center for Health Statistics has data. While 7.4 percent of people without insurance made two or more visits to an ER, so did 5.1 percent of people with private insurance. Medicaid recipients were the heaviest users; 15.3 percent made two or more visits. People younger than 65 who said the ER was their only health care facility were no more likely to have gone to one than others, and for those older than 65, there were more ER visits by people who had a regular doctor than by those without one.

Times wires

Health briefs: Smoking may cause, rather than relieve, stress 08/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 6:11pm]
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