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11/25/13 8:05pm

Quitting Smoking Cuts Heart Disease Risk Faster


Twenty percent of heart disease deaths come from smoking
Photo via Shutterstock

For smokers 65 years old or over, kicking the habit now can greatly reduce their risk of heart disease by the time they’re barely into their 70s.

A new study from researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham has found that quitting smoking may reduce the risk of heart-related problems to non-smoker levels a mere eight years after cessation. Previous research indicated that it could take as long as 15 years. Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, researchers went back to 1989 and examined 13 years of data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, before comparing 853 smokers over the age of 65 who had quit for 15 years or less to 2,557 people who had never smoked. Researchers found that some people who smoked 32 pack years or less – a pack year being the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years a person smoked – saw their risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and stroke drop in nearly half the time as previously thought. "For half of them, it was eight years after cessation," said Dr. Ali Amed, professor of cardiovascular disease at the University of Alabama and author of the study. "It's good news. Now there's a chance for even less of a waiting period to get a cleaner bill of cardiovascular health,” he said.

The results, while promising, were not at all surprising given previous research showing that a smoker’s health starts to improve within hours of quitting; heart rates, blood pressure, and carbon monoxide levels all drop inside 12 hours. Within two days, taste and smell improve, and after 72 hours breathing becomes easier. After a year, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a non-smoker. “It’s interesting to see that recovery comes sooner than we thought,” said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Pre-Exercise Heart Screening Program at St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. “It’s encouraging, but we’ve seen before that changes in the body happen very quickly when you stop smoking.”

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By Shawn Dwyer


11/25/13 7:14pm

Ace Hotel Founder Alex Calderwood Dead At Age 47


Teacher, mentor, guru, friend
Deidre Shoo/NYT

Alex Calderwood, the creator of the hipster hotel chain simply known as Ace, was found dead in a room of the London branch of his hotel enterprise on Nov. 14. He was 47 years old. The Ace hotel chain confirmed the news of his death on its website, referring to Calderwood as “our teacher, mentor, guru and most importantly our dear friend.” But the company, whose first hotel was launched in Seattle in 1999, would not disclose details about the possible cause of death. Hotel spokesman Ryan Bukstein told The Seattle Times that “it’s too early to talk about it. We’re all still in mourning.”

Although the cause of death remains unknown, Calderwood had a documented history of addiction and previously entered rehab for substance abuse. In a 2011 New York Times interview, he talked about being sober for five months after former business partner Jack Barron said Calderwood’s “drinking didn’t exactly help” and forced them to end their working relationship. "I am very proud of my sobriety,” Calderwood said at the time. “You get to a certain age, and you get to a certain point, where you realize this is just, like, dragging me down. It’s not fun anymore. I’m not enjoying it."

The company is still planning to move forward with carrying out Calderwood’s vision; the Ace hotel chain currently has five branches and is scheduled to open two more later this year or early next year in Los Angeles and Panama City, Panama.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Medical Marijuana

11/25/13 6:13pm

Medical Marijuana Sees Overwhelming Support in Florida


Coming to a Florida dispensary near you? Photo via Shutterstock

In a recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, a whopping 82 percent of Florida voters say they support the legalization of medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription. Only 16 percent oppose. But when asked about recreational use, support dropped to 48 percent in favor of possession for personal use.

The poll served as a measuring stick for a proposed ballot measure that medical marijuana supporters hope will be on the ballot in 2014. Broad support for the measure cuts across party lines, with 70 percent of Republican voters supporting the ballot initiative. Unsurprisingly, the measure’s broadest support was with voters 18 to 29 years old, with 90 percent saying yes to doctor-prescribed pot. “If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

But not all Floridians are in favor of the ballot initiative, including Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), who filed a challenge in Florida Supreme Court in early November. In her filing, Bondi opposed the measure on the grounds that the proposed initiative is deceptive and will lead to widespread doctor approval if patients can convince them of their need for a prescription. "The proposal hides the fact that the amendment would make Florida one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states, allowing use for limitless 'other conditions' specified by any physician,'' Bondi said in her brief to the court. "With no 'condition' off limits, physicians could authorize marijuana for anything, any time, to anyone, of any age.” But supporters of the amendment, including the People United for Medical Marijuana, claim that Bondi is out of touch with the needs of patients. “Attorney General Bondi wants to deny Floridians the opportunity to even vote on this issue," said campaign manager Ben Pollara.

Florida’s high court will conduct a hearing on the measure on Dec. 5. Meanwhile, supporters of the amendment have until Feb. 1, 2014 to amass the 700,000 signatures required for the proposal to make it onto the ballot in November.

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By Shawn Dwyer

Social Media

11/25/13 5:07pm

Instagram to Users: Stop Selling Drugs Through Our Site


Social media still as a long way to go
Photo via Shutterstock

The popular social media platform Instagram declared that enough is enough and has begun to crack down on individuals using the site to sell illicit drugs.

An investigation by the BBC’s new social media arm #BBCtrending unearthed thousands of photos of dealers displaying a wide assortment of drugs including marijuana, MDMA, and even concentrated cough syrup, which mimics the effects of heroin.

Using the right hashtags, potential customers used to be able to find a variety of drugs by searching the site and contacting the dealer directly. Unwittingly, Instagram became a middleman in the transactions, but in response to the BBC’s investigation they began blocking a number of search terms.

A statement released by Instagram was quick to point out that "people can't buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos." Aside from eliminating keywords, Instagram called upon other users for help. "We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

Rehabing Celebs

11/25/13 2:51pm

Relapsing Comes With a Price For Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers


I'll only bite if your blood is 80 proof
Photo via NBC

Jonathan Rhys Meyers had some extra incentive to stay sober while filming the current season of Dracula. The Irish actor has openly struggled with substance abuse issues for years and NBC executives expressed concerns about his ability to not drink. The network reportedly paid Meyers a per diem and declined to give him his full salary, roughly $100,000 per episode, until the entire season was shot so production delays could be avoided.

The actor was considered to be a liability after several alcohol-related incidents delayed the filming schedule of his previous show, The Tudors. Sources claim Meyers allegedly had an alcohol-fueled “meltdown” on set that required hospitalization; after being discharged, he completed filming with the help of a sober companion and returned to rehab after the remaining episodes were completed. He has acknowledged his struggles with alcohol, admitting that “when I do drink I’m like Bambi. I’m all over the place like a 16-year-old kid.”

Meyers has reportedly been in rehab four times for alcohol abuse, most recently in 2011, when he spent 10 days in a London clinic. He also entered inpatient treatment in 2010 after launching an obscene tirade at United Airlines staff because they felt he was too drunk to fly. His long-time girlfriend, Reena Hammer, gave him an ultimatum afterwards to get help or she would leave.

The actor has also faced trouble with the law due to his drinking. Meyers was arrested at Dublin Airport in November 2007 for being drunk and in breach of the peace, but those charges were later dropped. He was also detained by police in June 2009 at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris after allegedly attacking a bartender while drunk.

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By McCarton Ackerman


11/25/13 1:05pm

Chinese Labor Camps to be Turned into Drug Rehab Centers


An estimated 40 percent in laojiao system are drug offenders
Photo via Shutterstock

Bowing to growing pressure from criticism over its human rights record, China has announced plans to transform the country’s notorious re-education labor camps – known as the laojiao system – into drug recovery centers.

The move came after the Communist Party’s Third Plenum meeting in Beijing, where top leaders and policymakers vowed reform across a wide range of issues. Most surprising was the proposed change to their controversial labor camp system, which has been in place since the 1950s and has been used as harsh punishment for minor offenses. While some inside the laojiao system are political prisoners, an estimated 40 percent have been drug offenders. In one camp in China’s southwest Yunnan Province, which borders the infamous Golden Triangle--a major source of the world’s heroin trade--officials wanted their efforts to take root close to the source. “The key to the functional changing of the former ‘laojiao’ sites is to advocate a greater role for the local society, based on the existing infrastructure,” said Kong Shuhua, director of the region’s Justice Bureau, to the Shanghai Daily.

Drug addiction in China has skyrocketed in recent decades, rising from just 70,000 registered addicts in 1990 to 1.8 million in 2011, though the real number might be as high as 12 million. The country’s slow move toward democracy and increased wealth have been seen as major factors in the addiction explosion.

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By Shawn Dwyer


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