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Personal Health: News and Notes

Perils of a TV in a kid's room

Thinking of buying your kid a TV of his or her own for Christmas? Here's advice from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Don't. It turns out there is a way to make television even more unhealthy for children: Put a set in their bedroom.

Research has shown that for kids, more "screen time" is linked to higher rates of obesity. The new study goes further. It finds not only that kids with a bedroom TV tend to watch more, but also that, compared to a family-room set, the screen time a kid logs in the bedroom is linked, hour-for-hour, to more belly fat, higher blood fats, and a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.

For most households, that advice comes too late. Nationwide, 70 percent of kids between 8 and 18 already have one in their bedroom.

Lead author Amanda E. Staiano of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana says a bedroom television might disrupt sleep patterns and family meals. Sleep deprivation, likely when screen time trumps shut-eye, is a known risk factor for obesity and, worse, for diabetes-related conditions. Family mealtimes seem to promote healthier eating and lower obesity rates, not to mention less alcohol, drug, and tobacco use by kids.

For the research, Staiano and her team studied 369 children and adolescents between 5 and 18. Besides asking how much TV they watched daily and if they had a set in their room, the researchers measured the kids' waist circumference, blood pressure, and fasting blood fats; ran a full cholesterol panel; and gauged each child's fat mass in various ways.

Among kids who watched more than two hours a day, those with a TV in their bedroom were up to 21/2 times likelier than those who did not to be in the top one-quarter of kids in terms of fat mass. That finding held steady even after adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, physical activity levels, and diet. Compared to kids who watched TV in a living area of the home, those with a TV in their room were almost three times likelier to have "elevated cardiometabolic risk," meaning they had three or more unhealthy readings in the panels of medical tests they got. - Los Angeles Times

Texting-walking is bad, too

Almost one in three pedestrians use their cellphones or text while crossing busy streets, which could increase their chances of being hit by a car, a new study says.

Distracted walking, like distracted driving, is increasing and pedestrians need to be educated about the dangers, added researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.

For the study, they watched more than 1,000 people cross 20 busy intersections in Seattle during summer of this year.

They looked for activities that could be distracting, such as talking on the phone, texting, and listening to music.

Only one in four observed all safety rules, including looking both ways before crossing.

Just under 30 percent were doing something else when crossing the street. Eleven percent were listening to music, 7 percent were texting, 6 percent were talking on the phone.

People distracted by some of these activities took almost a second and a half longer to cross.

But texting was potentially the most risky behavior. People doing it took almost two seconds longer to cross the street than those who weren't. - HealthDay

Fainting's link to heart disease

A large new Danish study found that people who faint were 74 percent more likely to eventually be admitted to the hospital for heart attack or stroke and five times more likely to need a pacemaker or other device later on.

The study suggests that even low-risk people who faint need to be evaluated.

The researchers used the Danish health system's national databases to find every Danish patient with a first-time hospital or ER admission due to fainting from 2001 to 2009.

The authors then included only the 40 percent of patients who appeared to have no preexisting condition, based on medical records and drugs used.

The researchers tracked those 37,000 people for 41/2 years, comparing their results to those of 185,000 similar people who hadn't fainted.

Martin Ruwald, lead author, noted that fainting can have many reasons. Still, the data suggest that a 26-year-old healthy female who faints has more than twice the risk of death within a year.

Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said fainting "could be a sign of cardiovascular disease. See your doctor if you faint."

- HealthDay