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Personal Health: News and Notes

You might add years to your life by spending time on the links

Never mind the stress and agony over the missed putt, the sliced drive, the slow foursome ahead of you, not to mention the mosquito bites and sunburn. Golf can prolong your life.

So says a new study from the Swedish medical university, Karolinska Institutet. Based on data from 300,000 Swedish golfers (about half the country's golfing population), the researchers found that the death rate among golfers is 40 percent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. It corresponded to a five-year increase in life expectancy - which naturally provides more time for golf lessons.

Lead researcher Anders Alhbom was not surprised, considering that playing a round of golf means walking several miles (golf carts are rarely used in Sweden) and spending four or five hours out in the fresh air with friends.

The study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

And as if anyone needed an excuse to spend yet another day out on the links, they also found that golfers with low handicaps live longest.

- Sandy Bauers

Inhalers switch to greener propellant, phasing out the old

If you still use an albuterol inhaler propelled by chlorofluorocarbons, take a deep breath and get ready to switch to an ozone-friendly version.

Chlorofluorocarbons deplete the Earth's ozone layer, so those inhalers will be completely off the market by the end of this year, replaced by hydrofluoroalkane-powered ones.

Inhaled albuterol is one of the top 10 prescriptions in the United States. The drug is used by patients with asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive lung disorders, and other respiratory illnesses.

The Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics urges physicians and patients to learn about differences between the older and newer inhalers. Hydrofluoroalkane devices require proper inhalation technique, more frequent cleaning, and different priming to load the correct dose of medication.

The organization has created a Web page with transition information:


- Marie McCullough

Kids getting more calories from sweet drinks, study says

Children are swilling sweet beverages as never before, likely contributing to unhealthy weight gain, according to a new Columbia University study.

From 1999 to 2004, kids consumed a total of 270 calories per day from sugar-sweetened drinks and 100 percent fruit juice - up from 242 calories a day in the years 1988 to 1994. The pattern held true for children 2 to 19; the largest increase - 20 percent - was found in those 6 to 11, the authors reported in the current issue of Pediatrics.

The data, taken from national surveys, revealed no change in sweet-drink consumption by white adolescents, but significant increases occurred among Mexican Americans and African Americans. Most of the children's calories came from sugary drinks rather than 100 percent juice, but both have been blamed in the rise in obesity.

Meanwhile, in a separate Baylor College of Medicine analysis, researchers say the worries about fruit juice may be overblown. They reviewed 21 studies, 15 of which found no link between juice consumption and weight. However, nearly half of the 15 no-link studies were partly funded by the food-and-beverage industry, including two by the review authors themselves. Five of the 15 disclosed no funding source.

- Tom Avril

Study finds fewer absences when classrooms use sanitizer

If stomach bugs are keeping your kids home from school - and keeping you home to watch over them - there's something their grammar school can do: disinfect classroom surfaces and keep lots of hand sanitizer on hand, literally.

A study in the current issue of the medical journal Pediatrics compared two groups with a total of 285 students in third to fifth grades.

Children in classrooms where alcohol-based sanitizer was readily available and disinfecting wipers were used on surfaces were significantly less likely to miss school for gastrointestinal illnesses than those who followed the usual hand-washing and cleaning practices. Twenty-four percent of students in the control group missed a day or more of school, compared with 16 percent of those using the wipes and sanitizer.

A cautionary note: The Clorox Co., of Oakland, Calif., sponsored the study and provided the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

- Josh Goldstein