A Break from Myanmar’s Diary…More April Health Pearls…

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April 26, 2014

1.  Is smoking marijuana harmful to the brain function of young people?  In what way might it harm their brain?

 A collaborative study between Northwestern University’s medical school, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school showed how casual smoking of marijuana in the age group 18-25 can change the areas of the brain affecting emotion and motivation.  The changes involve the volume, shape and density of these areas, although long term consequences or reversibility are not certain.  

This study confirmed other studies in the past regarding marijuana use in young people, and raises concerns as their brains are still developing.  Dr. Hans Beiter, the study co-author and professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Northwestern University, believes marijuana use should be restricted to those under 30 who need pain control for terminal illnesses.

 As you might recall, marijuana or “medical pot” use is legalized now in 20 U.S. states.

The lesson to learn here is not to take the marijuana issue casually.  As Dr. Beiter explained, despite the common comparison made between marijuana and alcohol (used often by advocates of marijuana legalization), the effects of marijuana on the brain are not the same.  Clearly we all need to learn more about the effects of marijuana on the brains of our youth.2.  Does your Body Mass Index (BMI), defined as your weight in kilograms over your height in square meters or weight in pounds over height in inches squared, affect the outcomes of your newborn?

Research released in the Journal of American Medical Association on April 6 showed how even a modest increase in maternal BMI can lead to a bad outcome for the newborn including still birth, fetal death and infant death.  The data in this study showed how the rate of still births, fetal death and infant death increases steadily as the BMI increases, from 20 to 25 to 30.

Remember, in medicine, a normal BMI is defined as being 20-25, with 25-30 being overweight and above 30 being obese.

If you are planning to get pregnant, you should have a preconception consult with your obstetrician to discuss your weight management.  Sometimes, unless you are in a hurry, it might be wise to try to lose some weight first before getting pregnant.  During pregnancy, those who are obese also tend to have more problems with their health such as being at increased risk for high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.

3.  How does exercise affect your skin?  Is it true that exercise could be your fountain of youth?

 A study by Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster in Ontario showed how moderate exercise in those who are older than 40 can result in a thinner outer skin layer called the stratum corneums, and a thicker dermis or inner layer.  This group of studied subjects, as compared to the control group, has skin characteristics closer to those in a 20-30 year old group.

 This effect, in my opinion, should not be a surprise.  Several studies in the past have shown how moderate to intense exercise help people look at least 6 years younger.

So there you have it, what are you waiting for?  It’s time to hit the treadmill, if not to prevent you from having high blood pressure, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, then at least for the sake of beauty.

4. Does how much weight you gained during your pregnancy affect your baby’s obesity rate?

As you might guess, gaining weight beyond the Institute of Medicine’s Guidelines for Pregnancy weight gain increases the risk of your child being obese as a preschooler by as much as 46%, according to a study online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Institute of Medicine’s guidelines for pregnancy weight gain range from 25-40 lbs for normal or underweight women, 15-25 lbs for overweight women and 11 to 20 lbs for obese women.

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