News Flash: Vaping and Lung Disease, a Blood Test to Predict When You’ll Die, and More Health News

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we examine the growing number of cases of lung disease that could be linked to vaping, how depressed women can most effectively harness the power of movement to improve their mental health, and why we’re one step closer to a blood test that can predict when we’ll die.

A surge in cases of lung disease after vaping

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that it’s investigating a surge of cases of pulmonary disease among otherwise healthy people who vape both nicotine and marijuana.

It counted 94 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette vaping between June 28 and August 15, 2019. And, according to a CNN survey, at least 15 states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, New York, Indiana and New Jersey, have identified more than 120 cases of lung disease or injury that could be linked to vaping.

And there could be many more out there, physicians reporting the illness say, because these illnesses present initially as a common infection before leading to more serious shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and chest pain. Some people wound up in the intensive care unit, according to cases reported in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It’s also difficult to track because vaping-related lung disease is not mandatory to report to state health departments. But officials are asking doctors to determine which products patients used. The news highlights how little is known about the short- and long-term risk from vaping.

Could a coach better help women battle depression?

There’s no shortage of research telling us that movement boosts mood. Some studies show regular movement reducing the symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressant meds. New research covered by The New York Times looks at how a single bout of exercise changes body and mind for depressed women. However, these mood-lifting effects depend to a surprising extent on whether women are going it alone at their own pace or working with a coach.

Science has yet to explain just how this works. Is it a release of proteins and other biochemical substances entering our bloodstream and traveling to our brain that kicks off neural processes regulating our emotions? If so, which substances matter most for mental health?

These questions prompted Jacob Meyer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, to begin studying endocannabinoids, or self-produced psychoactive substances, and the runner’s high. Endocannabinoids are created in many of our body’s tissues and bind to specialized receptors in our brains and nervous systems, helping to increase calm and improve moods, among other effects.

Previous studies show that movement often increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream, possibly giving runners that post-workout bliss. Problems with the endocannabinoid system have been linked to mental health concerns. So could increasing movement boost endocannabinoid levels, thereby combating depression? And what type of movement was best to achieve this effect?

Meyer turned to his earlier experiment involving women with major depression completing workouts on a stationary bike. Each workout lasted 20 minutes but varied substantially in intensity. Blood and questionnaires were taken before and after these workouts.

The mood-lifting effects depended to a surprising extent on whether women went it alone or worked with a coach. While all reported feeling more cheerful, no matter the intensity, those who followed directions about how to work out moderately rather than setting their own pace felt a more substantial impact in their mood, with blood tests showing an increase in endocannabinoids. Those who followed their own preferred pace—leisurely, moderate or intense—saw no spike in these mood-boosting substances.

What these suggest, he says, is that working with a coach or being supervised might pay bigger dividends for body and mind, and therefore working with a personal trainer might be a good idea for someone suffering from depression.

We’re one step closer to the test that will predict your life span

Scientists have been working to develop a test that could predict how long a person will live. And new research from Leiden University Medical Center reported by Time found that in a group of 44,000 healthy patients, a blood test was 80 percent accurate in predicting mortality risk within five to 10 years.

The patients provided blood samples and had their health events tracked for up to 16 years. Researchers studied a group of 226 metabolites or byproducts that cells pour into the bloodstream for circulation and removal. From this collection of markers, the team found 14 that they determined could, along with the person’s gender, provide a pretty good picture of health risk and therefore their chance of dying in the next five to 10 years.

This test, while not ready for clinical use, could set the stage for a future test that could be used to guide treatment decisions, even for conditions that aren’t so readily apparent.

Photo credit: wundervisuals, Getty Images