The Healthland Podcast: Pepper Spray, Sleep Apnea, and How Long to Wait Between Pregnancies

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Welcome to our Thanksgiving edition. This week we discuss whether pepper spray is a useful tool or a form of torture. Also, we talk about the dramatic rise in diagnoses of sleep apnea. And we try to puzzle out the optimal period for a mother to space out her offspring. Listen immediately by clicking the play button below, or listen on iTunes, where you can subscribe to the podcast for free with a single click.

Sora launched the show this week by discussing Meredith Melnick’s Healthland piece on just how brutal pepper spray can be. John also mentioned the New York Times‘ Nov. 22 article saying one of the spray’s developers is criticizing its use against Occupy protestors.

John then discussed the depressing news that he has just received a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Later, he referred to the expert work of Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a neuroscientist at Duke who has examined the biology of sleep disorders.

And Belinda talked about Bonnie Rochman’s recent piece on new data showing that children who are born at least two years apart from their younger siblings may have higher IQs.

In our Field Notes, we each gave thanks for a different bit of health news this year. Belinda was appreciative of thankfulness itself. She referred to John Tierney’s Nov. 21 article showing that those who demonstrate gratitude regularly also tend to have longer lives and better mental health. Sora was grateful for 2011 studies showing that even a moderate amount of exercise — not grueling hour-a-day workouts — showed strong health benefits. (John showed in this story — which he mentions at least once per workout — how exercising too much might lead to weight gain.)

Finally, John broke the thankfulness rule by offering a common mistake in health journalism for which he is deeply ungrateful. One example: he mentioned the angry reaction to a paper in the journal Pediatrics showing that psychiatrists prescribe antipsychotic drugs to kids in foster care more often than they prescribe the drugs for children with disabilities or those who live in poverty but have stayed with parents. John argued that foster kids may have more psychotic symptoms — possibly due to abuse or trauma suffered after they are broken from their parents — which would require more antipsychotic medication. No outrage required.

Debate these topics below or on our Facebook page. And many thanks to all our listeners. See you next week.