In Brief

April 24, 2008

Gerontology

Oldest Americans also happiest, research finds

It turns out the golden years really are golden. Eye-opening new research finds the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests. The two go hand in hand: Being social can help keep away the blues.

"The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages."

A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches and pains and the deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults, Yang said.

Yang's findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people ages 18 to 88 took part.

Associated Press

Asthma

Danish cast doubt on dust-mite fight

Dust mites, which under a microscope resemble eight-legged sci-fi monsters, can bring on asthma attacks in some people, and asthma sufferers are often advised to buy special mattress and pillow covers -- even high-cost dust-mite-sucking vacuum cleaners -- to keep the tiny critters at bay.

They may be wasting their money. "We can conclude with confidence that there is no need to buy expensive vacuum cleaners or mattress covers or to use chemical methods against dust mites, because these treatments do not work," says Dr. Peter Gotzsche, director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, and lead author of a review, published last week by the Cochrane Collaboration, of 54 studies of 3,000 asthma patients. Even if the cleaning and covering measures reduce exposure to dust mites by half to as much as 90 percent, the review found, the level of allergens is still high enough in most homes to cause an asthma attack.

Instead, "figure out what kicks off asthma symptoms," says Noreen Clark, director of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan. If it's a cat or dog, limit exposure to the pet. And effective use of medicine, Clark says, is the first line of defense against asthma.

Los Angeles Times

Children

More steps, less TV easier said than done

Getting kids to exercise more and cut down on television watching can drastically reduce their risk of being overweight. No surprise there. We even know just how much activity they should have and how little TV they should watch.

And still the job is apparently Herculean for kids to do and parents to enforce.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that boys take at least 11,000 steps per day, girls 13,000 steps per day, and total screen time should be limited to two hours per day. Seems reasonable, no? Apparently not.

A group of 709 children (ages 7 to 12) from public elementary schools in Iowa and Minnesota were given pedometers to wear for a week. They were also surveyed about their weekday and weekend television habits, which included playing video games.

Among those who met both recommendations (12 percent of the boys and 16 percent of the girls), 10 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls were overweight. Among boys and girls who met neither guideline, 35 percent to 40 percent were overweight.

Total mean screen time for all boys was 4 1/2 hours a day, and 3 1/2 hours for girls.

Los Angeles Times

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