Health notes: Smoking more deadly than HIV

  • Updated: January 5, 2013 - 3:53 PM

SMOKING MORE DEADLY THAN HIV

HIV patients who obtain good treatment but who smoke lose more years of life to tobacco than to the virus, a Danish study has found.

The study, which looked at nearly 3,000 Danish HIV patients from 1995 -- the year anti-retroviral triple therapy became standard -- to 2010, was published online last month by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

A 35-year-old HIV patient who did not smoke was likely to live to age 78, while one who smoked was likely to die before age 63, the report found.

The study also compared Danish HIV patients with a pool of 10,642 average Danes of the same age and sex. HIV appeared to make smoking much more lethal.

Denmark has universal health care. HIV drugs are free, and care is coordinated by AIDS centers around the country. "Treatment failures and loss to follow-up are rare," the study said. It urged doctors to strongly advise their HIV patients to quit smoking.

MOTOR SKILLS MAY PREDICT SUCCESS

Poor motor function in childhood may be an important factor in predicting poor academic achievement in adolescence.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers wrote that poor motor function may be an underlying factor in obesity and physical inactivity, both of which contribute to underachievement in school.

Scientists studied 8,061 Finnish children in a database that included weight, height, physical activity, parent-reported motor function at age 8 and academic achievement at 16.

Poor motor function, physical inactivity and obesity, the researchers found, contribute independently and in complex interrelationships to academic underachievement. Poor motor function, in other words, may set a child on the developmental track to poor grades.

INFLAMMATION LINKED TO STRESS

Using data from two large studies, Danish researchers have found that higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, are associated with a greater risk of psychological stress and clinical depression.

Elevated levels of CRP, a byproduct of inflammation, are thought to be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular illness.

The researchers, writing online in the Archives of General Psychiatry, tested levels of CRP in 73,131 adults, documenting antidepressant use and hospitalizations for depression. They also used a questionnaire to measure stress in each patient.

After controlling for smoking, income, education and other factors, they found that the higher the level of CRP, the more likely a person was to use antidepressants, to have been hospitalized for depression and to feel he or she had "not accomplished much" or "should just give up."

It is not clear what explains the association, but the authors suggest that elevated CRP levels probably indicate elevated levels of cytokines that can increase feelings of stress. It is also possible that depression itself may lead to increased inflammation.

"Irrespective of other factors, we found that basically healthy people with CRP levels above 3 milligrams per liter had a two- to three-fold increased risk of depression," said the lead author, Dr. Borge Nordestgaard, a professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen. "Dampening inflammation may be one way of treating depression."

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