Why Doctors Don't Talk to Teenagers – and other news

by DavalosMcCormack on December 2, 2008

It’s never easy having a difficult conversation with someone about sensitive issues. When that someone is a teenager with raging hormones and a still developing sense of who they are, what they are and what their place in the world is, it’s triply difficult.

So it’s no wonder a new study says most doctors shy away from talking to teens about things they really need to know.

The study, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that although there are national guidelines recommending physicians talk to teens about things like substance abuse and nutrition, most doctors don’t do it, or at least don’t do it as often as they should.

The researchers at U.C. San Francisco surveyed 2,192 adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 17, who underwent a physical exam in the past six months.

More than 80 percent of the adolescents said they did not talk with their doctor about basic safety issues like wearing a seatbelt or helmet, 70 percent did not talk about substance abuse. Violence was the least discussed topic with 85 percent saying the subject didn’t come up.

Now, most teenagers don’t like going to the doctor and probably don’t go very often, so the opportunities for physicians to reach them with a health message is limited. The fact that they are not taking advantage of that means teenagers are missing out on important advice at a time in their life when they most need it.

Of course, it’s also a time in their life when they are probably least likely to listen so maybe the reason why physicians don’t talk to teens about these things is that they know teens aren’t listening.

But once they become adults they’ll certainly pay attention to the good advice their doctor gives them about losing weight, eating a healthy diet and getting lots of exercise, right? Right?

Cell Phones Are More Dangerous Than Passengers
California recently passed a law making it illegal to talk on a hand-held phone while driving. Other states have similar laws on their books, many more are thinking of passing them.

One of the questions that people had at the time the law was passed was ‘why is it illegal to chat on a hand-held phone but not to someone sitting next to you, aren’t they both equally distracting’.

Well, now we have the answer. No they are not.

A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found that drivers make more mistakes when talking on a cell phone than when talking to a passenger.

The same was true even when drivers used a hands-free phone.

The researchers used a simulator to create the feeling of driving on a highway, even to the point of having an irregular flow of traffic around them that they had to navigate through.

82 adults were chosen and paired up. One was the driver, the other the passenger. The passengers were told to tell stories to the driver about “close calls” they had. The drivers reaction times and driving performance was closely monitored.

Then the passenger had a similar conversation with the driver, only this time they were outside the simulator and talking on a cell phone.

The results were not encouraging for Verizon and iPod fans. Drivers talking by cell phone drove significantly worse than drivers talking to passengers. Cell phone users were much more likely to drift in their lane, to be erratic in how they drove or how fast they drove, and to miss pulling off the “highway” at a designated point.

So the lesson here is simple. Don’t drive and chat on the phone. It’s bad for you. It’s bad for everyone around you. And most important of all, it could be bad for me. I’m out there on my little scooter and don’t want to have to swerve away from blissfully ignorant motorists any more than I already do. The life you save could be mine.

Exercise Is A No Brainer
Older adults who exercise regularly have more blood flow to the brain and a greater number of small blood vessels in the brain than older adults who don’t exercise regularly.

Why is that important? Because the more blood flow to the brain the more active it is, the less likely you are to suffer cognitive decline as you get older. Many of the problems with aging brains have been linked to reduced blood flow.

So, the researchers at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill used MRIs to examine the brains of a group of adults, half of whom had exercised at least three hours a week for years, and half who had exercised less than one hour a week.

The exercising group had more small blood vessels and much more consistent blood flow through them.

So, if you want to keep your brain healthy as you get older the lesson is simple. Anything that moves blood around your body will do the same for blood around your brain. Get moving, stay healthy.

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