Public Health News Roundup: December 20
Regular Marijuana Use by Teens Continues to be a Concern
The annual survey of teen drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds continued high use of marijuana by 8th, 10th and 12th graders, as well as a drop in how dangerous students think the drug is. The survey found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. The survey found that use escalates after eighth grade. “We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood." Volkow says that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to the drug. Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Greg Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
HIV Infections Among African-American Women Drop, But Rise in Young Gay, Bisexual Men
New HIV infections among African-American women dropped for the first time, by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, African-American women still account for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections among American women. Overall, the number of new infections among Americans was stable at about 50,000 per year over the last decade, but new infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 continue to rise, increasing 22 percent between 2008 and 2010. Read more on HIV.
Heart Association: Heart Health Varies from State to State
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that heart health varies among the fifty states. Researchers used 2009 data on seven heart health factors from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.
- The percentage of the population reporting optimal levels of all seven factors was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi, and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
- About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
- About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
- In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
- Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health, while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
- Women said they were faring better than men.
- Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health, while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported the worst results.
- Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.