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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Teen Girls’ Guide to Teen Boys: Changes During Puberty

The physical and emotional changes teen guys go through.

You may be noticing guys more often than when you were a kid.

Understanding boys can be tricky. So here’s the inside scoop on what teen guys go through.

Boys usually begin puberty between the ages of 10 and 15. That's two years later than most girls.

Starting at about age 12 or 13, and as early as 9, hormones called androgens bring on a number of physical changes, says Lori Legano, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at New York University and attending physician for the adolescent clinic at New York's Bellevue Hospital Center.

One of the first things guys start to notice is that their testicles and scrotum (the sac located underneath the penis) start to get larger. Their penis gets longer and wider and pubic hair begins to grow in, too.

Legano says male hormones are the reason for a number of other changes. Maybe you’ve noticed some of these developments in the boys you know:

Hair has started to grow on their faces.Hair under the arms starts to show up.Body odor becomes an issue. 

Guys and girls have different timelines when it comes to puberty.

It breaks down like this:

Girls grow very fast (this could start as young as age 8), get their periods, their growth plates fuse, and they stop growing. Puberty over.

Boys, on the other hand, take their sweet time. They may not have a major growth spurt until age 15 or 16, and they sometimes keep growing into their early 20s.

That’s why around the 8th grade you have taller girls and smaller boys.

 “Boys are slow to grow but then they catch up later,” Legano says.

Puberty is the fastest you’ll grow, other than when you’re a little baby, says Marc Lerner, MD, of the University of California, Irvine.

All that change can be awkward at times.

“Guys are also sometimes uncomfortable with how their body is changing in terms of height, their physical strength, or acne,” Lerner says. And, guys who develop slower and are smaller than other boys may feel really stressed about it.

On top of that, boys’ voices become deeper and may start to crack. Guys can blame their growing larynx, or voice box, for that.

If a boy seems pretty shy about talking to you or speaking up in class at this age, it could be that he feels awkward about his voice.

When Kids Are Sick: How to Prevent Germs from Spreading

Want to prevent viruses from spreading in your home? These quick tips from the pros may help.

Taking care of a sick toddler isn’t fun. But taking care of two sick children is worse. It means more misery and sleepless nights -- and for you, more missed days of work.

So short of ordering everyone into hazmat suits, what are you supposed to do the next time one of your kids comes home from daycare flushed and feverish? How can you protect the rest of the family and prevent germs from spreading?

“I know some parents who just give up,” says says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls:Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. “They assume that once the virus is in the house, everyone’s going to get it. But there are some precautions that can help.”

Containing a virus isn’t easy -- especially within a family. But here’s some advice from pediatricians and experts on infectious disease on how to prevent germs from getting the rest of the family sick.

Get your kids to wash their hands. Yes, this one should be obvious. But it really can’t be stressed enough: hand washing is a crucial way to prevent germs from spreading. About 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch.

 “Two of the most important things we’ve done in medicine are getting people vaccinated and getting them to wash their hands,” says Robert W. Frenck Jr., MD, professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Disease. 

When you have a sick toddler, germs can get absolutely everywhere. That means that your healthy child is bound to pick them up on his hands. But as long as he’s washing his hands regularly, the germs might not make it from his hands into his eyes or mouth. 

If kids are going to wash their hands, teach them to do it right. Experts recommend scrubbing hands for 20 seconds or so -- as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. The type of soap doesn’t matter -- to prevent germs, the regular stuff will work just as well as antibacterial soap.

When warm water and soap aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel -- just make sure to rub your hands together vigorously for about 20 seconds until the gel evaporates.

Wash your own hands.
To prevent germs from spreading, the same advice goes for you too. Don’t get so focused on wiping down your sick toddler’s toys that you forget to wash your own hands. It’s important for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to get sick -- taking care of a sick toddler while being sick yourself can be punishing.

But second, if you’re not washing your hands, you could actually be the one who infects your healthy child -- even if you don’t get sick. All it might take is for you to pick up your sick toddler’s tissues and then make your healthy kid’s lunch. Bingo: you’ve got two sick children.

Step up your disinfecting. Even if you’re not germ-obsessed usually, now might be a time to focus more on disinfecting surfaces in your home. It can help prevent germs from spreading.

“I think when one child is sick, some extra sanitizing around the house can definitely help prevent other family members from getting it,” Altmann tells WebMD.

What should you do? You could wipe off surfaces that your sick toddler has touched -- like doorknobs, tables, and handrails -- with a disinfectant. Many plastic toys can be thrown in the dishwasher, and many stuffed animals in the washing machine. If your sick toddler is suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, take extra care to disinfect the toilet, floor, and sink in the bathroom.

That said, don’t make yourself crazy in your attempts to prevent germs from spreading. You don’t want to spend your days following your sick toddler around the house, spraying everything in her wake with disinfectant. Besides, it won’t work. There’s no way that you’ll be able to eradicate all of the germs anyway.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive? Study Offers Clues

 We know alcohol makes many people feel good, and that it affects the brain, but new research goes a step further by tightening the focus on areas of the brain most likely affected by alcohol.

The new brain imaging research may lead to a better understanding of alcohol addiction and possibly better treatments for people who abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Investigators say they have identified specific differences in how the so-called reward center of the brain responds to alcohol in heavy and light drinkers.

In both groups, drinking alcohol caused the release of naturally occurring feel-good opioids known as endorphins in two key brain regions associated with reward processing.

But heavy drinkers released more endorphins in response to alcohol, and they reported feeling more intoxicated than the lighter drinkers after drinking the same amount of alcohol.

The findings suggest that people whose brains release more natural opioids in response to alcohol may get more pleasure out of drinking and may be more likely to drink too much and become alcoholics, researcher Jennifer M. Mitchell, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, says.

“Greater endorphin release was associated with more hazardous drinking,” Mitchell says. “We believe this is an important step in understanding where and how alcohol acts in the brain.”

Mitchell says the findings could lead to better versions of the existing alcohol abuse drug naltrexone, which blocks the opioid response and blunts alcohol cravings in some, but not all people.

Mitchell says a better understanding of the specific endorphin receptors involved in the alcohol “high” could lead to treatments that better target these reward centers. Currently, naltrexone takes more of a buckshot approach, affecting multiple receptors. This research could lead to more focused medications.

The University of California study included 13 people who identified themselves as heavy drinkers and 12 people who did not.

Using PET imaging, the researchers were able to measure opioid release in the brain before and immediately after the study participants drank the same amount of alcohol.

Drinking alcohol was found to be associated with opioid release in the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex -- two areas of the brain associated with reward processing.

The study appears in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Although the nucleus accumbens has been previously associated with opioid regulation and reward processing, the involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex was unexpected, Mitchell and colleagues write.

Raymond F. Anton, MD, who directs the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs at the Medical University of South Carolina, says it is likely that there are other, as-yet-unidentified regions of the brain associated with addiction.

“It is also likely that alcohol dependence is not one disease, but many, with many systems involved,” he says. “People drink for different reasons, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.”

Anton is conducting genetic research in hopes of discovering why naltrexone blunts alcohol cravings in some people but not others.

“We may be able to say in a few years if genetic predisposition can predict who will and will not respond to this drug,” Anton says.

Why Coffee May Reduce Diabetes Risk

Chinese Researchers Zero in on Coffee Substances That May Explain the Benefit

Coffee drinking has been linked with a reduced risk of diabetes, and now Chinese researchers think they may know why.

Three compounds found in coffee seem to block the toxic accumulation of a protein linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

''We found three major coffee compounds can reverse this toxic process and may explain why coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes," says researcher Kun Huang, PhD, a professor of biological pharmacy at the Huazhong University of Science & Technology.

Previous studies have found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 50% lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

The new study is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type. In those who have it, the body does not have enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. The hormone insulin, made by the pancreas, is crucial to move glucose to the cells for energy.

Other researchers have linked the ''misfolding'' of a protein called hIAPP (human islet amyloid polypeptide) with an increased risk of diabetes. HIAPP is similar to the amyloid protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease, Huang says.  When these HIAPP deposits accumulate, they can lead to the death of cells in the pancreas, Huang tells WebMD.

The Chinese researchers looked at three major active compounds in coffee and their effect on stopping the toxic accumulation of the protein:

Caffeine Caffeic acid or CAChlorogenic acid or CGA

"We exposed hIAPP to coffee extracts, and found caffeine, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid all inhibited the formation of toxic hIAPP amyloid and protected the pancreatic cells," Huang tells WebMD.

All three had an effect. However, caffeic acid was best. Caffeine was the least good of the three.

Those results suggest decaf coffee works, too, to reduce risk, Huang says. "In decaffeinated coffee, the percentage contents of caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid are even higher [than in regular coffee], whereas the level of caffeine is greatly reduced."

"We expect that decaffeinated coffee has at least equal or even higher beneficial effect compared to the regular caffeinated types," Huang says.

In patients who already have diabetes, he says, several studies suggest decaf is better for them than regular coffee.

The National Basic Research Program of China, the Natural Science Foundation of China, and other non-industry sources funded the research.

1911 medical conditions: wife's long tongue and children's quarrelsome stubbornness

In many of the entries individuals' negative attributes are listed, rather than their illnesses.

One record, written by John Underwood from Hastings, East Sussex, describes his children as ''quarrelsome'', ''stubborn'', ''greedy'', ''vain'' and ''noisy'' while he records himself as ''bad-tempered'' and his wife as suffering from a ''long tongue''.

Another unusual entry is from Thomas Wallace Young, who was described as ''bald and toothless''.

The cause of the suffragettes is also illustrated within the records, with some women listing their infirmities as not having the vote or not being enfranchised. For example, four women living in the same household recorded their infirmities as ''voteless, therefore classed with idiots and children''.

Others chose to make a note of their good health instead of the health problems the form enquired about, giving answers such as ''well'', ''healthy'', ''sane'', ''alright'', and even ''perfect''.

Evelyn Baker and her family from Leeds were recorded in the census by their father, Addiman Parkin Barker, as simply being ''alive'' and 72 entries said of their illnesses: ''none, thank God''.

The census also shows a correlation between infirmity and occupation. The biggest source of employment for blind men and women was basket-weaving. Other trades for blind men were as musicians or musical instrument makers.

Women who were deaf and dumb were often employed within the textile or garment trades, or in domestic service, while men were most likely to be labourers.

Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: ''The infirmities column is the last piece of the jigsaw completing the 1911 census. This column alone provides a fascinating insight into life a hundred years ago.

''It not only reflects health conditions, but also a time before society became aware of political-correctness and certain terminology was deemed acceptable.

''In the more unusual entries we also get a wonderful sense of post-Edwardian humour, society and family dynamics at this time.''

Audrey Collins, family history records specialist at The National Archives, said: ''The information in the infirmities column being released today helps add an extra dimension to the picture of our ancestors' lives in 1911.

''We have to remember that the census returns were completed by relatives living in the same house who for the most part had no specialist medical knowledge.

''Their descriptions provide us with a clue as to how each individual was viewed by other family members, although many would have been reluctant to admit that their relatives suffered from any defect.''

'Am I drinking too much?'

By all current assessment, that makes me a raging social alcoholic and groups me with the girl in the purple miniskirt and white court shoes, splayed face down on the pavement outside a pub in central Manchester on a Friday night. But I credit myself with a more sophisticated approach to my drinking, something akin to Madame Bollinger’s to champagne: “I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad,” she said “Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”

Quite so, except I tend to drink water when thirsty and I am extremely fussy about the quality of wine that I drink. If it is disgusting, I will not take more than a couple of sips. I am a middle-class, middle-aged social drinker with taste – and that, I believe, is the saving grace when it comes to my alcohol intake. Unfortunately, the NHS does not agree.

For the purposes of research, I visited the NHS Choices website, which provides a link to an online gadget that calculates whether you drink too much. “How often do you have 6 or more units [three glasses of wine] of alcohol on one occasion,” it asks. I tick “Weekly”.

“How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you have started?” I tick “Weekly,” wanting to add, “because it was so delicious.”

“How often have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going?” “I’m not that bad,” I mutter in protest, ticking “Never”.

Then a window pops up on screen saying it is ''concerned’’ about my overall drinking habits. It does not advise Alcoholics Anonymous, but says to stop friends topping me up, and to join in activities that do not involve drinking.

I bristle. This makes me sound as if I drink all day every day, when the truth is that I am amazed I can fit in the units I do consume, so busy am I not drinking. If I have to write or do other work the next day, I may only drink a glass, but quite often nothing at all. I cannot, like some legendary alcohol-fuelled authors, produce decent prose on a bottle or two of wine.

Included in non-drinking time are household and family chores, shopping trips, dog-walking and an occasional run in the park – and sleeping, of course. Ideally, I prefer not to drink between Sunday night and Friday afternoon. I do drink more at weekends. This puts me back in the purple miniskirt as a “binge drinker”, hints my NHS cyber-confidant. “But you do not understand,” I plead with the screen. “I drink nicely, not disgustingly.”

I am not being flippant, nor am I unaware of the tragic consequences of drinking heavily – and addiction. Some 25 years ago, a close relative died of a stroke, the result of liver disease, when he was only 53. He had been told to stop drinking, and could not. Afterwards I became curious about the psychological side of alcoholism, attending AA family group meetings and consulting experts. Learning at what point a drinker becomes an alcoholic, I found the differential being when your drinking is an obvious cause of harm to yourself and others.

I have a stronger head than many. I do not slur my words or stagger when drunk. I may talk louder and laugh easier, but I don’t start singing ballads or get angry. I have noticed, however, that now I am older my head is less clear the next day, which is why I do not drink when full concentration is needed. After drinking too much, I may wake with a painful headache and feel spaced out and shivery until late afternoon. Wine also makes me fat.

So I am, in every sense, a controlled drinker, adapting my intake of alcohol and its consequences to the demands of my life. But I do still worry about my liking for it. A recent week long trip to a “dry” state in the Middle East filled me with enough foreboding to ask for several refills on the plane. Meze without wine, I thought gloomily. I did not feel panicky about it but very petulant.

Oh dear. On paper this does not look good. Avid wine drinkers may do better not to try and explain their passion and habits, when medical advice is so black and white. The health authorities do not discriminate over social-economic status, genetics or the choice of “poison” – organic, biodynamic wine or Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Yet, my conclusion is that there is only one person who knows if you are overdoing it: yourself. And while I still have a choice in the matter of whether or not to pour myself a drink, I do not think I drink too much. Do I?

Alcohol – good or bad?

While most of us know that heavy drinking is harmful, there is confusion as to whether a regular, moderate tipple is good or bad for our health. Here’s what the best research has established:

Light or moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart disease by a quarter compared with not drinking at all, according to a large study that included all types of alcohol. But heavy drinking increases heart disease risk.

Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women, bowel cancer in men and cancer of the mouth, throat, voicebox and gullet (oesophagus) in both sexes, says the World Cancer Research Fund. It also probably increases the risk of liver cancer, and bowel cancer in women.

Where cancer is concerned, there seems to be no safe level: one UK study found that, for middle-aged women, even low to moderate consumption significantly raised the risk of breast cancer.

Light to moderate drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of dying earlier (with wine having the strongest effect). Heavy drinkers increase their risk of an early death.

Heavy drinking is also associated with liver disease, digestive disorders, depression, sexual difficulties, muscle disease and obesity.

Pregnancy: heavy drinking is harmful to the unborn baby but less is known about light or moderate consumption. Pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol altogether if possible.

The conclusion? Moderate drinking has modest benefits for the heart but may also raise cancer risk. It’s wise to stick to recommended limits: no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day for men and 2-3 units daily for women.

A unit is about equal to half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider and a small measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass (125ml) of wine contains about 1.5 units.

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