The American Voice Institute of Public Policy presents

Personal Health

Joel P. Rutkowski, Ph. D., editor
February 22, 2005

Important Medical Disclaimer: The content displayed in Personal Health is designed to educate and inform. Under no circumstances is it meant to replace the expert care and advice of a qualified physician. Rapid advances in medicine may cause information contained here to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Personal Health assumes no responsibility for how information presented is used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSONAL HEALTH for the week of January 22-28

 

  

  1. Anti-Tobacco Programs Cut Teen Smoking Rates
  2. Erectile Dysfunction May Signal Heart Problems

  3. Smallpox Vaccine Risky for Some
  4. Health Tip: Airplane Exercise
  5. Campaign Touts Folic Acid for Moms-to-Be
  6. Age a Factor in Cervical Cancer Treatment
  7. Parents' Smoking Can Kill Children Years Later
  8. Health Tip: Resolute Resolutions
  9. Heart Attack Diagnosis Less Likely in Women
  10. Seniors Spell Out Health Concerns
  11. Steroid Puffs Do Not Up Nonvertebral Fracture Risk
  12. With Age Comes Pain Tolerance
  13. Race a Factor in Pancreatic Cancer Surgery
  14. HIV Risk High in Poor Neighborhoods
  15. Smoking Further Linked to Deadly Pancreatic Cancer
  16. Health Tip: Stress Can Make You Clumsy
  17. U.S. Group Warns of Mix-Ups with Foreign Drugs
  18. Health Tip: Protect Your Child's Skin From Winter
  19. Can't Sit Still? It May Keep You Thin, Study Finds
  20. Hispanic Americans Face Liver Disease Risk
  21. Soft Palate Implants Safely Reduce Snoring
  22. New Clues to Biological Clock
  23. Statins Reduce Deaths Among Dialysis Patients
  24. Nervous System Development Detailed
  25. Calcium Cuts Women's Colorectal Cancer Risk –Study
  26. A Molecular Explanation of Why Burgers Are Bad For You
  27. Study Finds Most Bone Growth Occurs at Night
  28. Biology May Keep Couch Potatoes Supine
  29. Whooping Cough Outbreaks Reported in U.S. Hospitals
  30. Early Surgery No Benefit for Brain Hemorrhage
  31. Survey Finds 80 Pct of U.S. Doctors Witness Mistakes
  32. Health Tip: It's Not So Hard to Eat Healthy
  33. Thinning Bones Linked to Alzheimer's Risk
  34. Health Tip: How Your Kids React to Bad News
  35. Psychiatric Problems Another Ephedra Side Effect
  36. Heart Threats May Lead to Nerve Damage in Diabetics
  37. Procedure Improves Outcomes in Lung Cancer Cases
  38. Study Shows Many Alcoholics Recover
  39. Health Tip: 'Alcohol-Free' Products May Not Be
  40. Young Sibling's Infections Protect Against MS –Study
  41. Health Tip: Seafood, Spoiled Rotten
  42. Obese Moms Often Make Obese Kids, Study Finds
  43. Special Scan Detects Blood Clots in Legs
  44. Study Links Obesity to Kidney Stones
  45. Genetic Technique Bolsters Immune Cells to Battle Cancer
  46. Risk Factors for Alzheimer's, Heart Disease Similar
  47. 'Alzheimer's Gene' Affects Even Healthy Seniors
  48. Low Birth Weights Fuel Infant Mortality Rise –CDC
  49. Link Between Personality and Cancer Ruled Out
  50. Obesity May Affect Prostate Screening, Study Finds
  51. Study: Avian Flu Was Transmitted Between Humans
  52. Memory Training Helps Kids with ADHD
  53. Fried Fish Raises Stroke Risk
  54. Viagra May Reverse Enlarged-Heart Damage
  55. Device Shows Promise for Spinal Cord Injury
  56. Lung Cancer Is a Woman's Disease

 

Friday, January 28, 2005

 

Anti-Tobacco Programs Cut Teen Smoking Rates

 

By Janice Billingsley
HealthDayNews

Reuters         

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Teen smoking rates could be cut by up to 14 percent if states followed federal recommendations for funding anti-smoking programs, a new study finds.

But, while states are flush with cash from a 1998 settlement with the tobacco companies, as well as from taxes on cigarettes, only 2.7 percent of those monies are spent to discourage smoking. That's far short of the 8 percent recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites), according to the report.

"States really have the opportunity to save millions of lives in the long run if they follow the Centers of Disease Control's recommendations for spending on smoking-control programs," said study author John Tauras an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The findings appear in the February issue of The American Journal of Public Health.

When the tobacco companies settled their lawsuits with the states and began payment of what will total $246 billion over 25 years, state legislatures vowed that some of the monies would be set aside for smoking-cessation programs, Tauras said. But as budgets have grown tight, less and less money has gone into anti-smoking initiatives.

"There has been a 27 percent decline from 2001," he said, when $861.9 million was spent by the states to combat smoking. This year's projected state spending totals $538 million, less than a third of the $1.6 billion the CDC recommends be spent each year to effectively reduce smoking rates.

"If states had spent just the minimum amount recommended by the CDC, youth smoking nationally would have been between 3 and 14 percent lower than was observed during the 10-year period that we examined," Tauras said.

The reduced spending is worrisome, given the strong evidence that well-funded anti-smoking programs work, Tauras said. California, for instance, launched a stop-smoking initiative in 1988 with money from a 25 cent-per-pack hike on cigarettes. The result: Cigarette sales have fallen by almost 50 percent, compared to 20 percent for the rest of the country. And teen smoking fell by 43 percent between 1995 and 1999, Tauras said.

"Further, we are just starting to see the consequences of not smoking in California," he said, with significant declines in rates of stroke and heart disease that seem to be associated with the state's tobacco-control program.

Michael Cummings is an epidemiologist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., who studies the reasons why teens smoke. He reviewed the data from the study before it was published.

"This study says that anti-smoking programs are a good investment and provides a gauge that shows they do work. Government needs to invest resources more than they are doing," he said.

For the study, Tauras and his colleagues matched state spending on tobacco control with data on smoking among eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The information was collected between 1991 and 2000 by the federally funded University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Study.

After adjusting the data for factors such as cigarette price, youth access, clean indoor air laws, and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that higher per capita tobacco control expenditures nationally were associated with fewer teen smokers. And those who continued to smoke smoked less, the study found.

Tauras said the findings pinpoint the clear link between money spent on tobacco-control programs and reduced smoking rates across the country. Previous research had been done on a state-by-state basis, and looked at smoking trends without isolating the amounts of money spent, he said.

The study also noted that marketing expenditures for the five major U.S. cigarette companies in 2001, the latest statistics available, were $11.2 billion. That was an increase of 66.6 percent from 1998 levels, and more than 13 times the total spent by states on tobacco-control programs.

More information

The National Library of Medicine offers more on anti-smoking campaigns.

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Erectile Dysfunction May Signal Heart Problems

 

By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Friday, January 28, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Erectile dysfunction is sometimes more than just an issue that negatively impacts a man's quality of life -- it can also be an early sign of heart or blood vessel problems, according to experts.

Consequently, men need to tell their doctors as soon as they develop erectile dysfunction (ED), so their doctors can order additional tests to make sure their heart and blood vessels are healthy, lead author Dr. Kevin Billups of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis told Reuters Health.

"I really feel that ED is a barometer of a man's overall cardiovascular health," Billups noted. "When you have difficulty keeping a firm erection, that's when you really need to go in."

ED is often caused by problems in the body's blood vessels, Billups explained. If blood vessel problems are causing high blood pressure or cholesterol -- so-called "silent" conditions -- men may not know it. But if those impaired blood vessels also impact erections, men will know, he added.

"A man knows if he has difficulty maintaining an erection," Billups said, and that erection problem could be his first clue something more serious is going on.

In the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Billups and his team write that, despite recent medical advances, cardiovascular disease remains a significant problem throughout the world. This is particularly true in African-Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups, who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the authors note.

Moreover, some research suggests that African-Americans are more likely to have ED than whites, they add.

Recently, Billups and a team of cardiologists and urologists met to discuss the connection between ED and cardiovascular disease, and how doctors can use this relationship to detect heart and blood vessel problems at an earlier stage. The meeting was sponsored Pfizer, maker of the ED drug Viagra.

In an interview, Billups said that he and his colleagues decided that every doctor should ask male patients 25 and older about ED. If men are having erectile problems, they should undergo additional testing, to rule out cardiovascular disease.

He said he and his colleagues chose 25 as a cutoff point because doctors see both ED and cardiovascular disease in young men, and national cholesterol guidelines recommend starting to check cholesterol after age 20.

"If people were to ask (about ED) at younger ages, they might find problems earlier on," he said.

Source: Journal of Sexual Medicine, January 2005.

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Smallpox Vaccine Risky for Some

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- People who have certain skin disorders or weakened immune systems, or are taking high-dose corticosteroids may face increased risk if they get the live-virus smallpox vaccine, says a report in the January issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The report was prepared by the Joint Task Force on Smallpox Vaccination for Allergists.

"The current smallpox vaccine has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) and had, in the past, been given safely to millions of individuals," report author Dr. Daniel Ein said in a prepared statement.

"In the event of a terrorism attack or exposure, the risk of having serious vaccination complications must be weighed against the risks of experiencing a potentially fatal smallpox infection," he said.

The report said that the smallpox vaccine poses the greatest risk to people with active exfoliative conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis or those with a history of such skin disorders. Also at increased risk are people who are immunosuppressed and those who have a serious allergy to any component of the vaccine.

"Patients with atopic dermatitis are at a greater risk of contracting vaccinia infections, and also of spreading the virus, than are persons with healthy skin. Mortality rates among those with atopic dermatitis are likely to be highest in children younger than 5 years," Ein said.

"Since one of the primary immunologic protective mechanisms to the virus is cell-mediated (T-cell) immunity, patients with compromised immune response may be more susceptible to smallpox vaccine complications," he added.

People should not receive the smallpox vaccine if their spouses, children or other people in the household have weakened immune systems, the report said. That's because people who have received the smallpox vaccine can transmit the virus to other people via intimate contact.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) has more about smallpox vaccine.

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Health Tip: Airplane Exercise

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- With airlines reigning in their budgets, more leg room for travelers is unlikely to be on a company's agenda soon, despite all the talk about economy class syndrome.

So to keep your blood flowing, especially during long airplane flights, the American Physical Therapy Association recommends you:

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Campaign Touts Folic Acid for Moms-to-Be

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- A new public education campaign to raise awareness about the important role that the B vitamin folic acid plays in preventing serious birth defects was announced this week by the March of Dimes and the Grain Foods Foundation.

The campaign will include pregnancy workshops at hospitals and community clinics in New York City and Washington, D.C., nurse-training programs, and support for March of Dimes Stork's Nest programming. The announcement comes during National Folic Acid Awareness Week, Jan. 23 to 29.

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) mandated folic acid fortification of enriched grains. Since then, there's been a 26 percent decline in serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Folic acid is present naturally in whole-grain products, but products made with enriched grains contain twice as much folic acid.

"The common sense messages in this program will enhance and extend our own efforts to educate women of childbearing age to take a multivitamin containing folic acid every day and choose foods high in folic acid -- like enriched breads and other grain products -- as part of a healthy diet," Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, March of Dimes president, said in a prepared statement.

"Even if you're not thinking of having a baby right now, consuming folic acid can help give your future baby a healthy start in life," Howse said.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about folic acid.

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Age a Factor in Cervical Cancer Treatment

By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Friday, January 28, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Elderly women with invasive cervical carcinoma are less likely to receive aggressive treatment than younger patients, and are more likely to die from the disease, a new study shows.

Given increasing evidence that older women tolerate radical hysterectomy and aggressive radiation treatment relatively well, the findings suggest that advanced age alone should not be a reason to rule out such treatment, the study's lead author, Dr. Jason D. Wright of Washington University in St. Louis, told Reuters Health.

Used to treat gynecologic cancer, radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, the upper part of the vagina and other nearby tissue.

Wright and his colleagues looked at 1582 patients treated between January 1, 1986 and July 31, 2003, 197 of whom or 12.5 percent were 70 or older. While 54 percent of patients younger than 70 had surgery, just 16 percent of older patients did.

The difference was sharpest among women with stage IB and IIA disease, the researchers found. Seventy-five percent of younger women with this type of tumor were treated with radical surgery compared with 24 percent of the older women.

Older women were also nine times more likely than younger women to skip treatment completely. While the older patients had roughly double the risk of death compared to their younger counterparts, there was no association between age and recurrent or persistent disease after taking into account the stage of the tumor, the characteristics of the tumor, and treatment.

"There are definitely biases against giving these elderly patients aggressive treatments," Wright noted, adding that older patients themselves tend to be less likely to want such treatment.

"The discrepancy in treatment for women with cervical carcinoma is likely multifactorial and reflects both physician and patient preferences," he and his colleagues write. "Given the fact that geriatric patients often tolerate treatment well, aggressive therapy for patients with cervical carcinoma should not be withheld based on age alone."

Source: Cancer, January 1, 2005.

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Parents' Smoking Can Kill Children Years Later

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Here's one more study that shows smoking is bad not only for the health of people who light up but also for those around them -- specifically, for children who breathe in their parents' secondhand smoke.

This research comes from Europe, and it finds that children exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis have more than triple the risk of lung cancer and an increased risk of other respiratory problems later in life than those who grew up in a smoke-free environment.

The report appears in the Jan. 28 online issue of the British Medical Journal.

While a number of previous studies have shown the same sort of risk, this one is different because "it is one of the few prospective studies in which information about exposure has been collected before information about the outcome," said study author Dr. Paolo Vineis, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Imperial College London.

It also included a large number of people, more than 123,000 in 10 European countries, who provided information on exposure to secondhand smoke and were followed for an average of seven years.

During that time, 97 people in the study had newly diagnosed lung cancer, 20 had cancers of the upper respiratory tract and 14 died of chronic obstructive lung disease or emphysema.

The increased lung cancer risk was the most striking -- 3.6 times greater for those whose parents smoked. That might seem a large number but, Vineis said, "most of these people are nonsmokers, and you have to put together a lot of people to detect a relatively small number of lung cancers."

Overall, the risk of all lung diseases was 30 percent higher for those exposed to secondhand smoke in childhood, the study found. Predictably, the risk was "consistently higher in former smokers than in those who never smoked," the report said.

The finding adds to the damage that secondhand smoke is known to inflict on children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for 15,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children each year, causing 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations. The EPA also blames secondhand smoke for as many as 1 million asthma attacks in children annually.

And secondhand smoke can be more immediately fatal to children. It is blamed for an estimated 1,900 to 2,700 cases of sudden infant death syndrome in the United States each year.

"Most countries are introducing laws about secondhand smoke exposure," Vineis said. Most recently, Italy has banned smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants. New York and other cities in the United States have similar bans.

Smoking at home cannot be banned. But "parents should avoid smoking at all times in the presence of their children," Vineis advised.

Dr. Norman Edelman, a consultant on scientific affairs for the American Lung Association, goes further. "If you must smoke, don't smoke in an indoor area that is shared by anyone else," he said.

One important finding of the new study is that the harmful effect of secondhand smoke is much greater in former smokers than nonsmokers, Edelman said.

"It gives credence to the idea that total exposure to smoke is a major determinant of damage," he said. "Basically, cigarette smoke is bad no matter how you take it in."

More information

The dangers of secondhand smoke are described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Health Tip: Resolute Resolutions

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- We're less than a month into the new year, and already some of your resolutions may be on thin ice.

Stay on track with these tips from the Texas Medical Association:

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Heart Attack Diagnosis Less Likely in Women

By Karla Gale

Reuters Health

Friday, January 28, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Even with new, more objective criteria, women are still less likely than men to have their heart condition accurately diagnosed as a heart attack, researchers report.

By under-reporting the labeling of heart attack in women "we may be perpetuating the myth that it is mainly men that have heart attacks," co-author Dr. Eric S. Kilpatrick told Reuters Health.

Guidelines now state that increases in two enzymes released by damaged heart tissue -- cardiac troponin T (cTnT) or cardiac troponin I (cTnI) -- above the 99th percentile of "normal" is sufficient to diagnose a heart attack, Kilpatrick and a colleague, Dr. S. A. Madrid Willingham note in a report in the journal Heart. The two physicians are based at Hull Royal Infirmary in the UK.

They evaluated 6172 samples of cTnT from 2505 men and 2323 women admitted to the hospital with chest pain in 2002.

A total of 1304 hospital admissions (713 men and 591 women) were associated with elevated cTnT levels. However, only 521 or 40 percent of cases were discharged with a diagnosis of heart attack -- 46 percent of them were men and just 33 percent were women.

It appears that doctors are still using older definitions of what constitutes a heart attack because they "are still indoctrinated into thinking that having a heart attack is largely a male preserve," Kilpatrick told Reuters Health.

One danger in this approach, he added, is that by not recognizing their risk of heart attack, women may not attend to their cardiovascular risk factors as they might otherwise.

Source: Heart, February 2005.

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Seniors Spell Out Health Concerns

By Janice Billingsley
HealthDayNews

Reuters         

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Vioxx. Medicare. Obesity.

These three health issues are the hot topics for people over 50 in 2005, says a new survey of health professionals.

Also named of interest to seniors are the importance of exercise to stay fit mentally and physically, and better information about diet -- particularly the role of carbohydrates in diet.

Forty-three percent of the more than 200 health professionals responding to the survey conducted by the International Council on Active Aging reported that the recall of Vioxx, a drug used by many seniors to control the pain caused by arthritis, was of major concern to the people they serve. The cox-2 inhibitor was pulled from the shelves last September by its maker after clinical trials showed heart problems among those taking it.

"People want to take more responsibility for their medical care. They are now starting to question should I or should I not take these drugs, and find out more alternatives to drugs," said Colin Milner, CEO of the council. "The underlying theme of this survey was that people want to make their health decisions based on information rather than just accepting what is told to them."

Denys Lau, a Northwestern University researcher who studies how medicines affect the elderly, said that questioning the safety of drugs is a positive step for seniors who tend to not question what their doctors prescribe. But, he added, there is a danger that fears about Vioxx might lead some seniors to assume that all their drugs might not be good, which isn't true.

"Then they might not take any drug at all, which leads to non-compliance," he said.

The council is a senior fitness trade association whose 4,000 members include professionals in public and private organizations, primarily in the United States, which serve the health and wellness needs of older adults. For this survey, the council sent out a questionnaire to a cross-section of its members, asking them to identify the top health issues for seniors for the coming year. The respondents, who included representatives from the National Council on the Aging, the American Society on Aging, Fifty Plus Lifelong Fitness, Jazzercise and various city, county and state health services organizations, represent at least 500,000 seniors, Milner said.

Thirty-four percent of those surveyed reported that the impact of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 will be important to seniors in 2005 as they sort through how the law will affect their health care. Seventeen percent cited the newly released Medicare drug cards as also important to seniors, adding there was a lot about the law and the cards that needs to be explained.

Obesity and awareness that regular physical exercise sharpens mental and cognitive skills were cited by 28 percent and 21 percent of the respondents, respectively, as important to seniors in 2005. Fourteen percent said that fad diets -- particularly "the low-carb diet craze" -- were of interest to the people they served. Eleven percent cited nutrition research on supplements and "nutraceuticals" as topics of interest to seniors.

"No matter how old you are, you're influenced by the media, and the dream in society is to have a perfect body. This doesn't stop when you hit 50, although older people may try these diets for health reasons," Milner said. "At the same time, people are becoming more apprehensive and confused about how to eat a balanced diet. They're looking for credible sources of information."

The respondents reported that the prevalence of obesity and the impact of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, were concerns they would address with seniors this year, Milner said.

"There are a lot of initiatives to address these issues, like the 'You Can!' campaign by the Administration on Aging, and we expect to see more of them," he said.

Helping this trend, he added, is the significant increase in accessibility to fitness facilities as more adult communities are being built that include fitness centers.

Overall, Milner said he was encouraged by the results of the survey.

"People are healthier and they're taking more responsibility for their health, questioning what has been previously recommended, and looking for healthier alternatives," he said. "The news is great."

More information

For more on the You Can! health campaign, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Steroid Puffs Do Not Up Nonvertebral Fracture Risk

Reuters Health

Friday, January 28, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In the short term, the risk of nonvertebral fracture is not increased in older adults with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who use inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), a study shows.

"Concern about nonvertebral fracture risk should not strongly influence the decision to use recommended doses of ICS for adults patients with asthma or COPD," study authors write in the journal Chest.

In the study, researchers examined the risk of nonvertebral fracture in 89,877 adults who filed insurance claims for asthma and/or COPD.

Overall, 1722 patients were treated for a nonvertebral fracture, with the insurance claim of the first fracture designed as the index date. A total of 17,220 controls were randomly selected and assigned a random index date.

Dr. Catherine B. Johannes, of Ingenix Epidemiology in Auburndale, Massachusetts, and colleagues documented ICS exposure 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year before the index date. Estimated cumulative doses at various time periods were ascertained.

Roughly 35 percent of the study population was exposed to ICS -- 15 percent were exposed to fluticasone propionate and 22 percent were exposed to other ICS -- and 27 percent had exposure to oral corticosteroids in the year before the index date.

After taking into account potentially confounding factors, "no increased fracture risk with ICS exposure as a class or with fluticasone propionate alone was detected," they researchers report.

They emphasize, however, that this study did not evaluate the risks associated with exposure to very-high doses of ICS or very long-term use of ICS, or the risk of vertebral fractures.

Source: Chest, January 2005.

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With Age Comes Pain Tolerance

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Older adults seem better able to cope with chronic pain than younger adults, say researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida.

Their study of 5,823 black and white adults found those under the age of 50 appear less able to cope with chronic pain and to be more prone to depression associated with chronic pain than adults over age 50.

The researchers also found that, in general, blacks scored higher than whites on measurements of pain intensity, pain-related disability and symptoms of depression.

The findings appear in a special January issue of Pain Medicine.

"Our study suggests that age is a significant factor across races and ethnicities, and that the impact of pain may differ even with racial and ethnic groups," study senior author Dr. Carmen R. Green, a University of Michigan pain specialist, said in a prepared statement.

This pain "generation gap" may be the result of a combination of generational characteristics and attitudes, life experiences, and age-related health expectations, Green said. But more research is needed to confirm that.

"Older people may feel that pain is just something that you deal with, perhaps because they were raised in a time when pain was not addressed in the way we deal with it today, or because they feel that pain is just a normal part of getting older," Green said.

"But younger people, who may be dealing with job and family stress in addition to their pain, may experience more negative effects. They may also have different expectations about pain treatment and about experiencing chronic pain at a relatively young age. This is particularly important because the prevalence of chronic pain is increasing," she said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about chronic pain.

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Race a Factor in Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

Reuters Health

Friday, January 28, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It's known that African Americans have an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer, but new study findings show they may also be less likely to receive surgery for the disease.

Researchers found that among more than 2,700 Californians diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1988 and 1998, black patients were at slightly higher risk of being diagnosed with advanced cancer. They were also less likely than white, Hispanic or Asian patients to receive surgery, even when the cancer was in an earlier stage.

Dr. Kenneth J. Chang and his colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, report the findings in the journal Cancer.

Overall, African Americans had the highest incidence of pancreatic cancer of any racial group, a finding in line with past research, they note. It's thought that this racial disparity may be related to higher rates of certain pancreatic cancer risk factors among African Americans -- including smoking, diabetes and obesity.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly of cancers because it typically progresses quickly and is usually caught only at a later stage, often after the cancer has spread to other organs.

Although the risk of being diagnosed at an advanced stage is high in general, black patients in the current study were at somewhat greater risk than other racial groups. Moreover, they were the least likely to have surgery, even when the cancer was caught at an earlier stage, according to Chang's team.

Among patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer, 80 percent of black patients did not receive surgery, compared with 77 percent of Asian patients, 68 percent of whites and about 62 percent of Hispanics.

There are a few potential explanations for the discrepancy, according to Chang and his colleagues. One factor could be tumor location; tumors in a part of the pancreas known as the "head" are considered more amenable to surgical removal. In this study, both black patients and Asian patients -- those with the second-lowest rate of surgery -- had fewer tumors in the head of the pancreas.

Another factor could be the aggressiveness of the cancer, according to the researchers. A previous study found that African Americans had far higher rates of a particular genetic mutation that may make some pancreatic tumors especially aggressive.

One factor that did not seem to play a role was health insurance. Rates of medical coverage, Chang's team found, were comparable among the different racial groups.

More studies are needed, the researchers conclude, to "delineate the barriers" black patients may face in receiving surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Source: Cancer, January 15, 2005.

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HIV Risk High in Poor Neighborhoods

 

HealthDayNews

Friday, January 28, 2005

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Stress experienced by males who live in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods may put them at increased risk for HIV (news - web sites) infection, says a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

They reviewed data from a survey of 701 injection drug users in Baltimore. The results indicated that feelings of hopelessness or psychological distress are greater in disadvantaged neighborhoods. This stress in males results in greater use of injection drugs and needle sharing, which increases the risk of contracting HIV.

The study did not find a clear correlation between stress and frequency of injection drug use among females. The findings appear in the January issue of Health Psychology.

"Past studies have shown a consistent relationship between socioeconomic status and health, but the ways in which neighborhood characteristics impact health behaviors are poorly understood," study author Carl A. Latkin, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management, said in a prepared statement.

"Our findings show how neighborhood characteristics and stressors, such as crime, abandoned buildings, loitering, unemployment, crowding and litter lead to greater depression. Individuals who have high levels of depression tend to take more illicit drugs and engage in more risk behaviors," Latkin said.

"As it is not feasible or desirable to treat large numbers of depressed individuals with therapy or medication, preventive interventions are needed to address impoverished neighborhood residents' physical and social disorder," he noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about drug abuse and AIDS.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Smoking Further Linked to Deadly Pancreatic Cancer

 

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Reuters         

Thursday, January 27, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smoking may speed the growth of pancreatic cancer by causing it to develop in younger people, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

The study, presented at a meeting of cancer specialists in Chicago, may help doctors better understand a particularly deadly cancer, which kills virtually all of its victims within a year.

Dr. Randall Brand and colleagues at Northwestern University in Illinois studied 18,346 pancreatic cancer patients treated between 1993 and 2003. The patients, taken from a database of 350 hospitals around the country, all gave smoking histories.

"Smoking appears to accelerate the onset of pancreatic cancer development," Brand told a news conference.

The median age for the patients was 73. But current smokers were diagnosed at 63 -- a full 10 years sooner. People who had smoked in the past and quit were diagnosed at age 70.

Brand said other studies have indicated that smoking can affect both the initial development and spread of cancer.

"Since the age of diagnosis of previous smokers was younger than nonsmokers, this suggests that smoking could impact upon the initiation phase," Brand said.

In 2005, an estimated 32,180 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 31,800 people will die from it, according to American Cancer Society (news - web sites) projections. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

"Since pancreatic cancer is almost uniformly fatal, a younger age of onset means more potential years of life lost. Thus, these findings offer yet another important reason for individuals not only to stop smoking, but never to start," Brand said.

Smoking also causes lung, esophageal and bladder cancer, among others.

A second study presented at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (news - web sites) found that adding a new drug to standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer gave some patients a few extra weeks of life.

The new drug, erlotinib, is sold under the brand name Tarceva by Genentech Inc. and OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. and is one of a new generation of targeted cancer drugs that affects a molecule used by tumor cells to grow.

For the study, half of a group of 569 pancreatic cancer patients got a standard therapy, Eli Lilly & Co.'s gemcitabine or Gemzar, while the other half got Gemzar plus Tarceva.

After a year, 24 percent of the patients who got Tarceva were alive, compared to 17 percent of patients given Gemzar alone.

"This is a difficult disease to treat," said Dr. Malcolm Moore of Canada's National Cancer Institute (news - web sites), who led the trial. "This is a bit of a light and gives us some clues about how we can improve the treatment of this condition."

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Health Tip: Stress Can Make You Clumsy

 

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- Are you a klutz who's constantly banging into tables, knocking over glasses or tripping over chair legs?

According to Toronto's Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Science Center, stress and a killer schedule may be to blame. If you're uptight, your muscles tense up and lead to clumsy movements.

Here's what you can do to loosen up:


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U.S. Group Warns of Mix-Ups with Foreign Drugs

 

Reuters         

Thursday, January 27, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The same brand names are sometimes used for different drugs in different countries, posing a risk for people who import cheaper medicines from abroad, a U.S. group warned on Thursday.

The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices said it identified at least seven medicines sold in European countries with different ingredients than the ones with the same brand names in the United States.

No mix-ups from imported drugs have been reported but it is a potential danger, said Matthew Grissinger, a medication safety analyst for the group, which alerts doctors and pharmacists to potential drug name confusion.

One patient traveling in Serbia ran out of Dilacor XR, a blood pressure treatment marketed by Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. in the United States. He was given digoxin, a heart failure treatment sold as Dilacor by a Serbian firm, and hospitalized with serious side effects, the group said.

In Argentina and Brazil, Dilacor represents two different blood pressure treatments known as barnidipine and verapamil.

"There are a number of instances where brand names for U.S. medications exist in some countries with totally different ingredients," said the Pennsylvania-based group.

"As a result, this problem adds complexity and danger to drug reimportation," the group said.

Americans have been importing medicines from Canada and other countries to save money. The practice is against the law, although many lawmakers are pushing to make it legal.

The Bush administration says there are too many risks and patients cannot be sure which medicines they are getting when they turn abroad, especially if they buy over the Internet.

Importation supporters advocate a government-monitored system they say would ensure medicines bought from other countries are safe and effective. Proposals in Congress would limit purchases to Canada and a few other countries.

Anyone buying drugs from other countries should check that the generic names match what was prescribed to them in the United States, the nonprofit group said.

Generic drug names generally are equivalent throughout the world because authorities have worked to harmonize them. There is no universal system to monitor brand names, the group said.

For example, Norpramin in the United States contains the active ingredient desipramine for treating depression. The same name is used in Spain for a medicine that contains omeprazole, an ulcer treatment.

Other names used for different products outside the United States include Flomax, Naqua, Sominex, Trexan and Vivelle, the group said.

"If the name is not the same, there is a real potential for confusion and mix-up," said Alan Goldhammer, an associate vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group. Drug makers have been lobbying fiercely against importation.

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Health Tip: Protect Your Child's Skin From Winter

 

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- If dry, itchy skin is making your child miserable, try these tips from the Mayo Clinic:

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Can't Sit Still? It May Keep You Thin, Study Finds

 

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Reuters         

Thursday, January 27, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who literally cannot sit still may have inborn behavior that keeps them slim even if they overeat a little, researchers in the United States said on Thursday.

Tests on slim and overweight people who all described themselves as 'couch potatoes' showed the main difference between the two groups was how long they spent sitting still.

"Our study shows that the calories that people burn in their everyday activities are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined," said Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who helped lead the study.

His team recruited 10 normal-weight and 10 obese men and women for their study, persuading them to wear special underwear with sensors that logged every move, however small.

They found the obese people spent, on average, more than two extra hours a day sitting still compared with the lean volunteers. That did not include sleeping time, which was the same between the two groups.

The difference in activity accounted for about 350 calories a day -- enough to add 10 pounds a year.

Then they tested the idea that maybe heavier people were forced to sit more.

"You might think the reason that people with obesity are seated 164 minutes more per day is because they are heavier and fall into their chairs, so to speak," Levine said in a telephone interview.

"If that were the case, then you'd think if obese people lost the weight, they would actually get up and walk around more. That wasn't the case."

They put their obese volunteers on a 1,000 calorie-a-day diet for two months and they lost, on average, 18 pounds. But their activity levels did not change.

"And how about if lean people gained weight?" Levine asked. "We took lean people and we overfed them and they gained a lot of excess weight and they remained get-up-and-goers."

'Get-Up-To-Go' Gene?

The tendency to fidget may be genetic or it may be learned at a very early age, Levine said.

"The idea is there is either a 'get-up-to-go' gene or there is a gene that sends you into your chair," Levine said. "I am actually of the belief that what happens in childhood is absolutely key."

Either way, the answer may be to encourage plenty of physical activity early on in life. With two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese and other countries quickly catching up, someone clearly needs to figure something out, Levine said.

"Perhaps we need to think about how schools are run and the fact that kids always want to run and we tell them not to," he said. "Kids don't get out and play at lunch any more."

Levine, who has hooked up a laptop computer to a treadmill, was speaking as he exercised.

"I have converted my sedentary job to a completely active one," Levine said, the sound of the treadmill audible in the background.

"And I don't get home tired. I get home energized."

Levine said his group got $2 million in U.S. National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) funding for the study, which began after his group discovered in 1999 what they call non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, underlies the difference between people who can get away with snacking and those who cannot.

They used sensors designed for controlling fighter planes and implanted them in specially designed underwear while keeping their volunteers on carefully controlled diets.

"If you are going to attach sensors to people that they are going to wear all day everyday, you have to put these things where they don't show," he said.

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Hispanic Americans Face Liver Disease Risk

 

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Hispanic Americans may be at higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) than other racial groups, says a study in the February issue of Hepatology.  

NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the United States and is associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity. NAFLD is benign. However, its more advanced form, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, can cause chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and cancer.

The research was jointly conducted by the University of California at San Francisco, the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites).

The study of 159 patients with definite or probable NAFLD found 45 percent were white (compared to 59 percent of the Kaiser Permanente membership) and 28.3 percent were Hispanic (compared to 10 percent of the membership).

Blacks accounted for 3 percent of the NAFLD group (compared to 9 percent of the membership), while the percentage of Asians with NAFLD was similar to the percentage of the membership.

The higher proportion of Hispanics in the NAFLD group may indicate that they are at higher risk for the condition, the study authors said.

The study also found that NAFLD was much more common in Asian males than in Asian females.

Previous studies have focused primarily on whites.

"Our findings highlight the need for increased awareness of NAFLD within minority racial-ethnic groups, the need for culturally sensitive educational programs aimed at the early recognition and prevention of NAFLD, as well as the need for ensuring adequate representation of different racial and ethnic groups in future clinical studies," the authors wrote.

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about NAFLD.

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Soft Palate Implants Safely Reduce Snoring

 

Reuters Health

Thursday, January 27, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Insertion of small plastic rods into the soft palate with a minimally invasive surgical procedure is a safe and effective treatment for snoring, a small study suggests.

The technique is aimed at stiffening the soft palate tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth, to stop it fluttering and causing snoring during sleep.

The recently developed Anti-Snoring Device, now called the Pillar Palatal Implant System, uses a device that looks somewhat like soldering gun to insert a thin 3/4-inch-long plastic rod into the soft palate under local anesthesia. Typically, people have three implants inserted.

Dr. Joachim T. Maurer, from the University Hospital Mannheim in Germany, and colleagues assessed the outcomes of 15 people who were treated with the device.

After 90 days, there was a significant improvement in snoring-related symptoms, the authors note in the medical journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Moreover, the average number of snoring sounds per hour fell following treatment.

No complications occurred during implant placement and the participants reported only minor discomfort after the procedure. Sleep studies showed no evidence of a drop in sleep or breathing after treatment. In addition, no change in speech, swallowing, or taste occurred.

Still, further follow-up is needed to gauge the long-term effectiveness of this novel treatment, Maurer's team says.

The study was supported in part by Restore Medical Inc., which markets the palatal implant system.

Source: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, January 2005.

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New Clues to Biological Clock

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Japanese scientists have clarified the heart of the genetic network of the biological clock, the system that controls the body's circadian rhythms.

Previous research showed that 16 clock and clock-related genes function as parts of the biological clock. But those studies didn't shed light on how these 16 genes compose the biological clock.

This new study provides an entire picture of the network composed of these 16 genes and also outlines how these genes work at specific times in the morning, daytime and night.

The findings appear in the online edition of Nature Genetics.

The biological clock controls the rhythms for various functions, such as sleep, awakening, hormone secretion and changes in blood pressure and body temperature.

Understanding the biological clock may help in the development of therapies for various health problems caused by circadian rhythm disorders.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about circadian rhythms.

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Statins Reduce Deaths Among Dialysis Patients

Reuters Health

Thursday, January 27, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Treatment with a statin drug -- such as Lipitor (news - web sites) or Zocor -- significantly reduces the risk of cardiac and non-cardiac death in people on hemodialysis, investigators report.

They say these observational data suggest that "more frequent use of statins may lead to significant improvements in dialysis patient outcomes."

In the study, Dr. Nancy A. Mason from the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy in Ann Arbor and colleagues analyzed statin prescription patterns and associated outcomes in 7365 dialysis patients being followed in an international study

Participants who were prescribed statin therapy had a 31 percent lower likelihood of dying over a period of about 5 years compared with those not prescribed statin therapy, the researchers report in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

Statins were associated with a 23 percent lower risk of cardiac death and a "remarkable" 44 percent lower risk of non-cardiac death, the team points out.

They note that emerging evidence hints that statins, in addition to lowering cholesterol, also have anti-inflammatory effects and other properties. "It is possible that these effects could be of specific benefit in the clinical setting of dialysis and could contribute to the noncardiac mortality reduction," they suggest.

Of concern to the researchers, however, is the finding that only 12 percent of patients were prescribed statins. Even among patients with seemingly clear reasons for statin therapy, such as high cholesterol, only 16 percent to 22 percent were given a prescription for a statin, they report.

However, this could be due to the fact that data collection for the study occurred in early 2000 when there was a lack of solid information on the benefits of statins for people on dialysis.

"Although evidence is sparse, the proven benefits of statin therapy in the general population and the extremely high cardiovascular risk present in dialysis patients has prompted the current recommendations for statin use in dialysis patients," Mason's group writes.

Source: American Journal of Kidney Diseases, January 2005.

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Nervous System Development Detailed

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Research in mice and fruit flies offers the first evidence that a group of proteins called phosphatases play an important role in nervous system development, says a study in the Jan. 28 issue of Science.

Phosphatases are necessary for maintenance of neural stem cells and for silencing expression of neuronal genes in non-nervous system tissues.

This study found that small carboxyl-terminal domain phosphatases (SCPs) are expressed in nearly all body tissues. In their "on" position, these proteins silence expression of neuronal genes in areas of the body, such as the heart and liver, where they aren't needed. When in the "off" position in the nervous system, these proteins allow neuronal stem cells to develop into specialized neurons, the researchers said.

The team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute concluded that SCPs are part of the previously identified master gene complex REST/NRSF, which controls neuronal genes.

"These findings suggest a way to expand the pool of neuronal stem cells, which could lead to new therapeutic strategies for neurological disorders," study senior author Dr. Gordon Gill, a UCSD professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about the brain and nervous system.

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Calcium Cuts Women's Colorectal Cancer Risk –Study

Reuters

Thursday, January 27, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Diets rich in calcium reduce women's risk of colorectal cancer, and women who also take calcium supplements can cut their risk even more, researchers said on Thursday.

The protective effect of calcium likely works in men as well as women, though dairy products rich in calcium are also known to heighten the risk of prostate cancer, doctors from the University of Minnesota Cancer Center said.

Roughly 150,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually, and it ranks second to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death, the report published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention said.

Of the more than 45,000 cancer-free women surveyed at the start of the study, 482 developed colorectal cancer after being tracked for an average of 8.5 years.

Those who consumed at least 800 milligrams of calcium daily had a 26 percent lower risk of the disease compared to women who consumed less than 530 milligrams.

Women who consumed more than 412 milligrams of calcium from dietary sources and also took more than 800 milligrams in supplement form had a 46 percent lower risk.

The U.S. government recommends a daily calcium allowance of 1,200 milligrams.

"Risk reduction was present regardless of the source of the calcium," said study author Andrew Flood. "It was the calcium per se, and not merely dairy products or some other variable that accounted for the reduction in risk."

One theory holds that calcium neutralizes bile acids produced during the digestion of fat that can irritate the cells lining the colon, he said. Or, calcium might act on the cells' biochemical pathways that regulate how they grow and mature, and determine whether the cells become cancerous.

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A Molecular Explanation of Why Burgers Are Bad For You

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Researchers say they have discovered the molecular switch that turns the bad fats in food into the cholesterol that clogs your arteries.

It is a molecule designated PGC-1 beta, biochemically classified as a co-activator, and it plays a role in liver metabolism, according to a report in the Jan. 28 issue of Cell by scientists at Harvard's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

When the saturated fats and trans-fatty acids in meat, whole-milk dairy products and other foods on cardiologists' crime sheet arrive at the liver, PGC-1 beta begins a cascade of biochemical signals that direct liver cells to produce LDL cholesterol, the "bad" kind that clogs arteries, as well as triglycerides, another family of artery-blocking substances, the researchers report.

"This gives us a target for drug development," said study author Bruce Spiegelman, a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School (news - web sites). "It might be possible to develop agents for people who can't be treated with current drug regimens. It also is a way to understand better why some foods have deleterious effects and some don't."

Scientists and cardiologists have known for a long time which foods are bad for people. Study after study has shown that diets rich in saturated fats and trans fats -- most notoriously, the burger-and-fries meal so popular in this country -- increase blood levels of LDL cholesterol, while foods rich in unsaturated fats are associated with HDL cholesterol, the "good" kind that helps keep arteries clear.

"We knew these saturated and trans-fatty acids had bad effects," Spiegelman said. "We had no idea, in molecular terms, what they did to set up the bad pathways. What we have found is a missing link, a mechanism by which saturated fats and trans fats can do their dirty work."

As an exercise in pure science, the discovery is another example of the natural selection process that is at the center of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, Spiegelman said.

Until recently in human history, PGC-1 beta did no particular harm to humans because "most of our evolution did not occur in times of great nutritional abundance," he explained. "In addition, its bad effects are mostly felt in older people, after the child-bearing years, so there has been no selection pressure."

Now that people are living longer, the evil effects of PGC-1 beta have become a target of medical practice, Spiegelman said.

Research to develop compounds that block the activity of PGC-1 beta could provide new cholesterol-lowering treatments, he added.

"I am hopeful that this paper will stimulate interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies to do that," he said.

"This is a very important finding that sheds a great deal of light on the molecular pathways for production of fats," said Dr. Ronald Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Center in California.

Some findings do require follow-up research, Krauss added. For example, in humans, consumption of fat-rich foods is believed to suppress the activity of LDL cholesterol receptors on cells, thus raising LDL cholesterol blood levels. The new study, done in mice, found increased activity of LDL cholesterol receptors.

"There might be some details that are different between mice and humans," Krauss said.

More information

The cholesterol story, good and bad, is outlined by the American Heart Association.

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Study Finds Most Bone Growth Occurs at Night

Reuters

Thursday, January 27, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The perception that children seem to grow taller overnight is likely true, researchers said on Thursday.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison placed sensors on the leg bones of lambs to monitor bone growth in the animals. Ninety percent of bone growth occurred when the animals were sleeping or otherwise at rest, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics.

"We observed this noncontinuous pattern of growth, but what was really interesting was that the bones were growing only when the animals were lying down, and almost no growth occurs when the lambs are standing or moving around," study author Norman Wilsman said.

He reasoned that growth plates consisting of soft cartilage at the ends of bones become compressed when walking or standing, preventing growth. When lying down, the pressure on the growth plates is off and the bones elongate.

Co-author Kenneth Noonan said: "This is a study that points out that growth is not a continuum. There are growth spurts, which may occur within the daily life of lambs and possibly humans too."

Previous research has shown children grow in spurts that may last just a few days. Children sometimes complain of intense growing pains at night that emanate from the ends of their lower extremities where the growth plates are, Wilsman said. There is no treatment for growing pains.

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Biology May Keep Couch Potatoes Supine

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Got a mind to recline? So do millions of obese Americans, according to a study that suggests some people may be biologically designed to remain seated.

In unusual research involving uniquely designed underwear, researchers found that obese people stand or move about much less during waking hours than lean people do, and therefore burn an average 350 fewer calories per day.

Even more intriguing, the study found this tendency to stay seated remained unchanged in the obese people even after they dieted down to a healthy weight.

"It's very clear from our study that this phenomenon is not due to a volitional lack of willpower -- in fact, it's quite the opposite. There seems to be, in some people, a biological drive to be seated," said lead researcher Dr. Jim Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.

The findings are published in the Jan. 28 issue of Science.

Federal health officials recently labeled America's obesity epidemic a major killer, linked to more than 400,000 deaths per year. While increased food intake is credited with much of the blame, falling activity rates are helping widen waistlines, too.

Levine has been studying the physiological mechanisms that underlie activity -- and sloth -- for years. In this latest research, his team recruited 10 lean and 10 healthy, mildly obese adults-- those who had a BMI of 33 or above -- for a study of what scientists call "NEAT."

"NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis -- the calories we burn in all our normal daily activities," Levine explained. "That's stuff like cleaning the house, walking to work, twiddling your thumbs -- anything except actual exercise."

For 10 days, the 20 volunteers ate specially prepared meals and wore a type of high-tech underwear embedded with tiny sensors that recorded body movements on a second-by-second basis.

"We found that obese people have remarkably different NEAT, compared to their lean counterparts," Levine said. In fact, undergarment readings confirmed that the obese participants sat or reclined an average 2.5 hours more per day than their skinny peers.

This reduction in movement meant that individuals in the overweight group burned up 350 fewer calories per day than those in the lean group, Levine said. That's significant: According to the researchers, a loss of 350 calories per day could lower weight by 33 pounds over the course of a year.

Of course, one explanation for the disparity between the two groups is that being heavy simply discourages the obese from moving around. To test that theory, Levine went back and again recorded the movement patterns of 16 of the original 20 participants.

But there was a catch: "We took the lean people and we had them overfeed and gain weight, to see if they'd end up sitting in their chairs," Levine said. "You'd think that if obesity was driving this tendency to sit, that these newly obese individuals would end up just sitting there. But they didn't -- they remained standing, and ambulatory."

Similar results were seen after the originally obese participants slimmed down. Despite their newly svelte status, these participants continued to prefer lounging over being more active. "This drive seems very fixed," he said.

The researchers speculate that obese individuals may respond differently to stimuli that encourage leaner folk to get moving. "Right now we just don't know the underlying mechanism, but it does seem to be biologically driven," Levine said. "It's remarkably consistent."

Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Pubic Health, called the findings "intriguing."

"This basically supports the idea that any activity is better than nothing," said Hu, whose own work has focused on the link between sedentary lifestyles and killer illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

"Obviously, for couch potatoes, the worst scenario is just to sit there without moving," Hu added. "Slightly better would be to watch TV and be moving around; and better still would be to put a treadmill in front of the TV, and use it."

Levine believes environments have to change to encourage everyone, especially those predisposed to inactivity, to get moving.

"We have to remember that biology hasn't changed in the past 50 years, but obesity rates have skyrocketed," he said. "So there's obviously some huge environmental change towards inactivity that's allowed people with this genetic predisposition to sit more."

According to Levine, "The question we now have to ask is, 'What can we do to make our environments more activity-friendly?' "

More information

Thinking about getting more active? Head to the American Council on Exercise.

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Whooping Cough Outbreaks Reported in U.S. Hospitals

Reuters Health

Thursday, January 27, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Three hospital outbreaks of whooping cough occurred in 2003 among healthcare workers and patients, officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) report.

Dr. K. Bryant, at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and colleagues describe the outbreaks that occurred in hospitals in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oregon in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In the Kentucky outbreak, the first recognized case was a 2-month-old infant who had been hospitalized since birth. Four nurses in the intermediate care nursery were potential sources of the infection, and one doctor in contact with the infant also contracted the disease. Seventy-two exposed patients and 72 healthcare workers were subsequently given preventative antibiotic treatment.

In the Pennsylvania outbreak, a 3-week-old infant admitted to one hospital and then transferred to another was the initial case. Eight healthcare workers exposed to the infant and nine of their professional contacts developed a cough illness that was likely pertussis, or whooping cough. A total of 307 close contacts underwent preventative treatment.

In the Oregon outbreak, a doctor caught pertussis from a 12-month-old despite having worn a mask while providing care. The hospital infection-control program identified 129 close contacts of this physician who were offered prophylactic therapy. Three other healthcare workers were also diagnosed, and screening identified 90 of their contacts who also contracted a cough illness of at least 1 week's duration.

In the report, healthcare workers are advised to keep coughing patients at least 3 feet from other people, and they should implement precautions that include surgical masks and hand washing. Isolation is recommended for confirmed and suspected cases of pertussis.

In the same issue, Dr. M. Romano at West Virginia University school of Medicine in Morgantown and associates report the case of a 29-day-old infant who died from whooping cough after exposure to adult family members with probable pertussis.

According to the authors, the public should be more aware of the need to prevent infants from being exposed to anyone with a cough illness.

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, January 28, 2005.

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Early Surgery No Benefit for Brain Hemorrhage

HealthDayNews

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Early surgery isn't better than conservative medical treatment for people with a brain hemorrhage, according to a British study in this week's issue of The Lancet.

The study noted there are two treatment options -- surgery or medical treatment -- for spontaneous brain hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the brain caused by the rupture of a blood vessel. It affects about 20 in 100,000 people each year. The death rate is about 40 percent, and most survivors are left disabled.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne assessed whether early surgery was more effective than medical treatment at reducing deaths and disability caused by brain hemorrhage. The study included more than 1,000 patients, average age 62, with brain hemorrhage; 503 received early surgery and 530 received initial conservative treatment.

The study found that 26 percent of the early surgery patients had a favorable outcome at six months, compared with 24 percent of those who received conservative treatment. The death rate for the surgery group was 36 percent, compared to 37 percent for the conservative treatment group.

"There is insufficient evidence to justify a general policy of early operative interventions in patients with spontaneous brain hemorrhage, compared with initial conservative treatment. Patients with superficial blood clots might benefit from surgery, but this beneficial effect needs to be established," researcher David Mendelow said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about brain hemorrhage.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

Survey Finds 80 Pct of U.S. Doctors Witness Mistakes

 

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Reuters         

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eighty percent of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10 percent ever spoke up, according to a study released on Wednesday.

These mistakes are undoubtedly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people who die from medical errors in the United States each year, the researchers and experts on nursing said.

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers need to be less shy about speaking up about mistakes, incompetent colleagues and other problems that can hurt patients, the report said.

Healthcare workers who do speak up are not only able to nip the problem in the bud, but are also happier in their own work, said Joseph Grenny, president of consulting group VitalSmarts, which conducted the survey.

Grenny's team surveyed 1,700 nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other experts for the study.

"Fifty percent of nurses said they have colleagues who appear incompetent," Grenny told a meeting of clinical care nurses.

"Eighty-four percent of physicians and 62 percent of nurses and other clinical care providers have seen co-workers taking shortcuts that could be dangerous to patients," he added.

The survey found that 88 percent of doctors and 48 percent of nurses and other workers felt they worked with colleagues who showed poor clinical judgment.

A 1999 study by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (news - web sites) found that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors in hospitals. Last July, Lakewood, Colorado-based HealthGrades Inc. said the true number was closer to 195,000 people a year.

The errors include giving patients the wrong drug or the wrong dose, surgical errors and spreading germs through unhygienic practices.

"People frequently see these problems but too often they fail to talk about them," Grenny said.

Why not? Because people fear confrontation, lack time or feel it is not their job, Grenny said. Even doctors were afraid to question nurses they saw making errors, he said.

His survey found the 10 percent of workers who did speak up felt good about it.

"When they effectively confront a situation, it makes a difference," he said. "These people are also more satisfied with their workplace."

Connie Barden, who helped author standards for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, said nurses cannot be afraid to point out mistakes. "Nurses must be as proficient at handling personal communication as they are in clinical skills," she told the meeting.

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Health Tip: It's Not So Hard to Eat Healthy

 

HealthDayNews

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- With the myriad of diets out there and experts debating the merits of the standard food pyramid, deciding how to eat healthy can be confusing.

The Mayo Clinic offers these basic principles:

And, on a fitness note, be sure to include an exercise regimen in your daily routine, the clinic's experts say.

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Thinning Bones Linked to Alzheimer's Risk

 

Reuters Health

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with low bone mineral density (BMD) are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites), researchers report. Low BMD is also associated with all-cause dementia in women, but not men.

 "Some, but not all studies have suggested that estrogen replacement therapy has a beneficial effect on cognition in postmenopausal women," Dr. Zaldy Sy Tan, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and colleagues write in the Archives of Neurology. "BMD is a potential surrogate marker for cumulative estrogen exposure."

In a community-based study, the researchers examined whether low BMD in almost 1000 mentally intact elderly patients increased their risk of Alzheimer's. The subjects had bone density measured at several places in their body between 1988 and 1989.

During 8 years of follow-up, 95 participants developed dementia. Of these, 75 were classified as having Alzheimer's disease.

Overall, 35 of the 243 patients in the lowest category of hipbone density developed dementia, classified as Alzheimer's in 27.

After adjusting for age, smoking, estrogen use, sex, stroke, education and other factors, women with the lowest BMD had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia, the researchers found.

These findings, Tan's group concludes, suggest that women with low BMD "may benefit from estrogen replacement therapy" -- despite the well-known increased risk of other complications.

Source: Archives of Neurology, January 2005.

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Health Tip: How Your Kids React to Bad News

HealthDayNews
Wednesday, January 26, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- Last month's devastating tsunamis in Asia are saturating the television airwaves with images that can disturb children.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says parents should monitor what their children are watching, and avoid allowing them to see the same unsettling pictures repeatedly.

It's a good idea to watch the news with your children and to help them understand what they are seeing. Talk to your child's doctor, teacher or a mental health professional if you notice one or more of these behavioral changes in your child:

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Psychiatric Problems Another Ephedra Side Effect

By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People have reported numerous incidents of serious psychiatric problems -- including hallucinations, mania and severe depression -- that may have resulted from taking ephedra, new study findings report.

Nearly one-half of those incidents involved hospitalization. Some of these of patients also harmed themselves or others, and were brought up on criminal charges for their behavior.

Two-thirds of the people reporting psychiatric problems from ephedra, also known as ma huang, had pre-existing psychiatric conditions, or were using other medications or illegal drugs, according to the researchers, led by study author Margaret Maglione of the RAND Corporation, headquartered in Santa Monica, California.

The report likely underestimates the number of people who developed psychiatric problems from ephedra, Maglione and her team note, given that only an estimated 1 percent of reactions to supplements are typically reported.

Maglione cautioned that it's still unclear whether ephedra caused these symptoms, but people should still be careful. "If your friend starts acting a bit strangely, it might be the ephedra supplements he's taking," she told Reuters Health.

Ephedra is a weight-loss supplement that has been linked to serious safety problems, such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) (FDA (news - web sites)) banned ephedra, the first time the agency has banned a supplement.

However, U.S. regulators allowed an exemption on the ephedra ban for practitioners of Chinese medicine who have been using the herb for thousands of years to treat ailments ranging from asthma to fevers.

Previous research involving people taking ephedra for weight loss or athletic performance found that users were almost four times more likely to exhibit psychiatric symptoms, including euphoria, agitation, dizziness and anxiety.

However, Maglione and her colleagues write in the American Journal of Psychiatry that this earlier research included too few patients to really detect rare, serious side effects.

In this study, Maglione and her team reviewed all 1,820 incidents of side effects from dietary supplements containing ephedra reported to the FDA as of September 30, 2001.

The researchers found 57 cases of serious psychiatric events, most commonly psychosis, severe depression, mania or agitation, hallucinations, sleep disturbance and suicidal thoughts.

In 10 of the reported cases, patients harmed themselves or other people. Twenty-six cases ended in hospitalization, which was involuntary for at least 6 patients.

Most patients had pre-existing psychiatric problems such as depression, eating disorder or bipolar disorder, or were taking other medications or illegal drugs.

Maglione explained that other drugs contain powerful ingredients that can interact with herbs or supplements, another reminder of the importance of consulting a doctor before starting any alternative therapies.

She added that it's not clear how ephedra might cause psychiatric problems, although some research suggests that the supplement's active ingredient, ephedrine, affects chemical messengers that influence brain processes.

Source: American Journal of Psychiatry, January 2005.

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Heart Threats May Lead to Nerve Damage in Diabetics

By Ed Edelson
HealthDayNews

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDayNews) -- The same factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke -- obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- also are associated with diabetic neuropathy, the progressive nerve damage seen in people with diabetes, a European study finds.

The prevention of nerve damage among diabetics has traditionally focused on controlling blood sugar levels. But, "the incidence of neuropathy is associated with potentially modifiable cardiovascular risk factors, including a raised triglyceride [blood fat] level, body mass index, smoking and hypertension," the researchers stated.

Their findings appear in the Jan. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites).

The report comes from the European Diabetes Prospective Complications Study Group, which followed 1,172 people with type 1 diabetes. That's the form of the disease, usually diagnosed early in life, in which the body is incapable of producing the hormone insulin needed to metabolize blood sugar.

In the more than seven years of the study, 276 of the patients developed one form or another of neuropathy, a progressive loss of nerve function that can cause a variety of problems affecting the arms and legs, bowel and bladder activity, and other body functions.

As many other studies have shown, the incidence of neuropathy increased with time and with high blood levels of sugar. But the presence of cardiovascular risk factors was directly related to the development of neuropathy, the researchers reported.

The closest association was with high blood pressure, which increased the risk of neuropathy by more than 50 percent, the study said. It noted that aggressive treatment of high blood pressure is standard clinical practice to prevent kidney damage and eye damage in diabetes, and recommended a controlled trial to show that the same treatment can help prevent neuropathy.

The report provides "more scientific support for why we are doing what we are doing," said Dr. Robert A. Rizza, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, and a spokesman for the American Diabetes Association.

"The paper adds further strength to the knowledge that keeping blood glucose levels low reduces the chance of having neuropathy," Rizza said. "It also shows that keeping these other risk factors under control also improves nerve function."

Thanks to smaller past studies, doctors who manage patients with diabetes "have known all along that it is important to manage vascular [blood vessel] problems as well as blood glucose," he said. "This is a much larger and more definitive study showing that attention to cardiovascular risk factors protects nerves and arteries, as well as eyes."

Dr. Jayant Dey, an endocrinologist at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, said, "When we are aggressively treating risk factors such as triglycerides, weight and smoking, we are targeting a reduction in heart attack and stroke. We did not think that it would have any impact on neuropathy, which was believed to be related only to blood sugar control."

The new study takes a step toward changing that attitude, Dey said. But more steps are needed, he said, because the study "did not prove that controlling these risk factors reduced the incidence of neuropathy. What is needed is a treatment study. This was not a treatment study, but that seems to be where we are heading for."

Dey said the findings also apply to type 2 diabetes, which is far more common than type 1 diabetes and usually occurs later in life as the body gradually loses its ability to respond to insulin. Control of risk factors for cardiovascular disease already is a basic part of management of type 2 diabetes, since it is a major risk factor for such conditions as heart attack and stroke.

More information

The American Diabetes Association offers an overview of diabetic neuropathy.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

 

Procedure Improves Outcomes in Lung Cancer Cases

 

HealthDayNews

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDayNews) -- A combination of intraoperative brachytherapy with sublobar surgical resection improves outcomes for high-risk lung cancer patients, says a new study by researchers at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Intraoperative brachytherapy involves inserting tiny pellets that contain radioactive medication into an area of the lung from which a tumor has been surgically removed. Sublobar resection is a procedure in which only a small part of the lung is removed.

This study of 167 patients with stage 1b non-small cell lung cancer found that combining these two treatments reduced local cancer recurrence and improved patients' clinical outcomes.

The study was presented Jan. 24 at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons annual meeting in Tampa, Fla.

"In most cases, early non-small cell lung cancer can be treated successfully with surgery if the cancer has not spread beyond the chest. Unfortunately, some patients with this disease are poor candidates for the ideal surgical intervention, lobectomy, due to poor pulmonary health or other medical issues," principal investigator Dr. Robert Keenan, director of the division of thoracic surgery, said in a prepared statement.

Lobectomy is the most common form of lung cancer surgery. It involves removal of an entire lobe of one lung.

"Though sublobar resection alone is associated with an increased incidence of post-operative disease recurrence, it is still advocated for high-risk patients in the absence of a good alternative. Our study suggests that adding brachytherapy to the regimen can make a dramatic difference in outcomes," Keenan said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has more about lung cancer.

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Study Shows Many Alcoholics Recover

 

By Charnicia E. Huggins

Reuters Health

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many people with alcohol dependence are able to recover completely, sometimes without formal treatment. Some may even be able to drink occasionally without relapsing, new study findings show.

"Evidence that low-risk drinking represents a recovery option for some individuals may prompt attempts to cut down on drinking among persons not ready to consider abstinence," study author Dr. Deborah A. Dawson, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told Reuters Health.

"Cutting down can be good if it prevents or reduces harm."

Yet, the new findings do not imply that people with alcohol dependence need not seek treatment. "Even if some of these individuals might ultimately recover without treatment, treatment may speed their recovery," Dawson said.

Using data from the 2001- 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, Dawson and her team analyzed survey responses from 4,422 adults with clinically identified alcohol dependence that began more than a year prior to the survey.

Only 26 percent of these adults had ever received treatment for their alcohol dependence. Still, nearly 36 percent of the study group were in full remission, meaning they either had not consumed any alcohol during the past year or had consumed alcohol but had no symptoms of abuse or dependence, the researchers report in the research journal Addiction.

An additional 12 percent could be classified as being in full remission, but they had drinking patterns that put them at risk of relapse. This included men who drank five or more drinks a day at least once in the past year, or women who drank an average of more than seven drinks per week.

Twenty-five percent of the study sample remained alcohol dependent and 27 percent were classified as being in partial remission. The latter were not technically dependent on alcohol, but had one or more symptoms of abuse or dependence, the researchers note.

Married adults were more likely to achieve either abstinence or non-abstinent recovery -- that is, drinking with no symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence -- than were single adults.

The likelihood of abstinent recovery also increased with age, and was more common among women than among men.

In considering the long-term difference between those who choose to cut down on alcohol drinking and those who choose abstinence as a means of recovery, Dawson said, "We do not yet know from research which formerly alcohol-dependent persons are most likely to recover and which to fail."

Anyone who may be alcohol dependent "is best advised to consult a health care professional," she added.

Commenting on Dawson's findings, Dr. Mark Willenbring, head of the NIAAA's Division of Treatment and Recovery Research said, "This study merely points out something that we already suspected: that a significant portion of people with milder forms of the illness may be able to fully recover and even drink in a non-problem way."

"The safest thing for anyone to do is to examine their use, and to use (alcohol) within the recommended guidelines -- or to abstain if they are unable to remain in the limits," he told Reuters Health

Source: Addiction, November 2004.

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Health Tip: 'Alcohol-Free' Products May Not Be

HealthDayNews

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

(HealthDayNews) -- Some people try to avoid ethyl alcohol in cosmetic products because they think it will dry out their skin and hair.

But don't let the term "alcohol-free" fool you, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) warns.

Alcohols are a large and diverse family of chemicals, with different names and effects on the skin, the FDA (news - web sites) says.

When it comes to labeling on cosmetics, the term "alcohol" refers to ethyl alcohol. But products labeled "alcohol-free" may contain other alcohols, such as cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl or lanolin, the agency says.

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Young Sibling's Infections Protect Against MS –Study

Reuters         

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Exposure to a younger sibling's infections during the first six years of life helps the elder child's immune system develop and cuts the risk of multiple sclerosis later on, Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

To test the "hygiene hypothesis" -- that infections early in life may reduce the risk of developing allergies and autoimmune diseases in adulthood -- the researchers looked at the life histories of 136 Tasmanian adults with multiple sclerosis and compared them with 272 without the disease.

Those who as children had up to five years of contact with a younger sibling had an 88 percent reduced risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Those with one to three years of exposure had a 43 percent reduced risk.

Longer exposure to a younger brother or sister also translated into a lower risk of developing mononucleosis and lessened the chances of an exaggerated immune response to the Epstein-Barr virus. If infection with the virus does not occur until adolescence or early adulthood, it causes mononucleosis up to half the time.

Children up to age 2 are magnets for common viral infections, including Epstein-Barr, so infections passed to their siblings help the older children's immune systems develop, the researchers said.

Autoimmune diseases are caused by an overactive immune system attacking the body's own tissues -- in the case of multiple sclerosis, the sheathes that protect nerves.

Further research was needed to confirm the findings published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites), wrote study author Anne-Louise Ponsonby of the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, Tasmania.

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Health Tip: Seafood, Spoiled Rotten

HealthDayNews

Tuesday, January 25, 2005  

(HealthDayNews) -- That fish you just ate might have looked and smelled fine, but marine toxins could make you sick.

Diseases caused by naturally occurring bacterial toxins include scombrotoxic fish poisoning, also known as scombroid or histamine fish poisoning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) says. Finfish such as tuna, mackerel and bonito are especially prone, the agency adds.

As bacteria break down fish proteins, byproducts like histamine build up in fish. Eating fish that has high histamine levels can cause a rash, diarrhea, sweating, headache and vomiting from two minutes to two hours after a meal. Other symptoms could include swelling of the mouth, abdominal pain or a metallic taste.

While most have mild symptoms that resolve within a few hours, some sensitive people may need antihistamines or epinephrine to prevent serious reactions.

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Obese Moms Often Make Obese Kids, Study Finds

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Reuters         

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The children of overweight mothers are 15 times more likely to be obese by age 6 than children of lean mothers, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

The children start piling on the pounds at age 3, the team at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania found.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (news - web sites), suggests that doctors need to start watching out for the children of overweight parents very early -- by age 4 at the latest, the researchers said.

"We found dramatic increases in body fat between ages three and six," said Dr. Robert Berkowitz, who led the study.

"We should be doing prevention and treatment programs at a much earlier age," Berkowitz added in a telephone interview. "Everyone knows how difficult it is to take weight off once you are overweight."

Berkowitz said his team is now examining the eating and exercise habits of the families they studied but said other studies clearly show genes play an important role. The dramatic spike in weight between ages 3 and 6 support this, he said.

"This suggests that some genes controlling body weight may become active during this period," Berkowitz said.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Berkowitz and colleagues said they studied 70 children at the hospital over a six-year period.

About half had overweight mothers and half had lean mothers.

While babies, the two groups of children looked much the same in terms of weight and body fat.

But one-third of the children of overweight women gained weight quickly after turning 3.

Of the 37 children of healthy weight women, only one became overweight, the researchers said. And, as seen in adults, children from poorer families were more likely to be overweight.

Berkowitz said certain children must carry a combination of genes that make them much more vulnerable to what he calls the "toxic" Western environment, where it is difficult to exercise and food abounds.

He does not believe poor diet alone is to blame.

"It doesn't appear to be the factor entirely because we know there are plenty of lean people who eat hamburgers," he said. "The lean group stays pretty lean but this high risk group really takes off."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) says 15 percent of U.S. children are overweight. More than 60 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

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Special Scan Detects Blood Clots in Legs

 

HealthDayNews

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDayNews) -- A technique called computed tomography venography (CTV) can help doctors identify blood clots in the legs that could break free and travel to the lungs and block an artery, a potentially deadly condition called pulmonary embolism, new research says.

Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and pulmonary emobli are both signs of thromboembolic disease.

A type of lung scan called CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA) is often used to find blood clots in the lungs. But CTPA can miss many clots in smaller arteries.

A study in the February issue of Radiology found that using both CTV and CTPA increased the detection rate of thromboembolic disease by 20 percent.

The study included 1,590 patients undergoing both procedures. CTPA detected pulmonary embolism in 15 percent of the patients and CTV detected deep vein thrombosis in 9 percent of the patients. Of those 148 patients, 100 had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism by CTPA.

"Studies have shown that inadequately treated deep vein thrombosis is associated with recurring pulmonary emoboli," study author Dr. Matthew D. Cham, a radiology resident at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, said in a prepared statement.

Pulmonary embolism affects more than 600,000 people in the United States each year, and more than 60,000 of them die, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about pulmonary embolism.

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Study Links Obesity to Kidney Stones

 

Reuters         

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Being obese or gaining weight more than normal increases the risk of kidney stones, especially in women who ordinarily run half the chance that men do of developing the painful deposits, researchers said on Tuesday.

"Fat tissue may decrease the body's ability to respond to insulin, which could cause changes to the urine that favor the growth of kidney stones," said Eric Taylor, a physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

He said more research needs to be done to confirm that hypothesis but the study he led "found such a dramatic link between weight gain and kidney stones" that the next step is to find out if losing weight will lower the risk of having the condition repeat itself.

His report found that men who had gained 35 pounds (16 kg) since early adulthood were about 40 percent more likely to suffer kidney stones while women who gained the same over a similar period were about 70 percent more likely to have them, compared to people with normal weights.

Women with the largest waist circumferences studied had a 71 percent greater risk of kidney stones compared to those with the smallest waists. Men with the biggest waist sizes had a 48 percent greater risk.

The study, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites), offered no explanation for the differences between men and women. Ordinarily, it said, about 10 percent of U.S. men and 5 percent of women develop kidney stones over their lifetimes -- and U.S. treatment costs run about $2 billion annually.

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Genetic Technique Bolsters Immune Cells to Battle Cancer

HealthDayNews

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDayNews) -- Using specialized genetic techniques, German scientists redirected immune cells to aggressively attack and kill cancer cells, says a study in the January issue of Immunity.

This research provides new understanding about how to prompt the immune system to specifically and efficiently target cancer cells, and may provide the basis for development of new immunotherapy to treat cancer, the researchers said.

Cancer cells produce and display large amounts of proteins called tumor- and leukemia-associated antigens (TAA and LAA), which are recognized by immune cells. But many normal cells and tissues also display small amounts of TAA. The body has a certain level of tolerance that prevents immune cells from launching a vigorous attack on cancer cells.

This, in part, has made it difficult to use immune system/TAA interactions to develop immunotherapies to treat cancer, the researchers said.

The German scientists used genetic methods to circumvent this self-tolerance and redirect key human immune cells to attack cancer cells.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has more about the immune system.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

 

Risk Factors for Alzheimer's, Heart Disease Similar

 

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Reuters         

Monday, January 24, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who have high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or who smoke in midlife have a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites) later on, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

And the more factors a person has, the higher the risk. People with all four risk factors have more than double the risk of Alzheimer's, the team at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California found.

"The message is that the risk factors that are bad for the heart are bad for the brain," said Dr. Marilyn Albert, chair of scientific and medical research at the nonprofit Alzheimer's Association.

"That largely is because what happens to blood vessels in the heart is same as what happens to blood vessels in the brain," added Albert, whose group was not involved in the study.

For the report, published in the journal Neurology, Rachel Whitmer and colleagues studied nearly 9,000 people living in northern California.

The men and women from various ethnic groups were followed for 27 years. Those with diabetes at age 40 to 45 were 46 percent more likely to develop dementia later on.

People with high cholesterol were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia while those with high blood pressure were 24 percent more likely.

Smokers were 26 percent more likely to develop dementia.

Smokers with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol were more than twice as likely to develop dementia, Whitmer and colleagues reported.

People who were treated for their conditions lowered their overall risk of Alzheimer's, however.

"The real strength of our study is the large, multiethnic cohort of men and women, followed up for 27 years, all with equal access to medical care," Whitmer said.

Alzheimer's affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans but this number is expected to jump to 16 million by 2050 as the population ages.

A team at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia reports in the Public Library of Science this month that taking statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, also reduces the risk of Alzheimer's. Heart experts believe the drugs not only reduce cholesterol levels but somehow also keep the linings of blood vessels healthy.

Doctors say the prescriptions for avoiding heart disease and for lowering the risk of Alzheimer's are similar -- eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts, and exercise daily.

The Alzheimer's Association advocates mental and physical exercise to help lower the risk of the deadly and incurable brain disease.

"We can't prevent it but we can do an awful lot in our daily life to reduce risk," Albert said.

Physical, mental and social activity all seem to be important, she said. Studies in the December issue of Neurology showed people who exercised and who had social connections had less risk of mental decline.

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'Alzheimer's Gene' Affects Even Healthy Seniors

 

HealthDayNews

Monday, January 24, 2005

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDayNews) -- Even if they're healthy, older people with the higher-risk genotype for Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites) can suffer major problems with prospective memory -- the ability to remember what they need to do in the future, such as take medications or make a doctor's appointment, a new study says.

People who carry the high-risk e-4 allele on both of their ApoE genes are eight times more likely to develop Alzheimer's as non-carriers. People with the high-risk allele on only one ApoE gene are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-carriers, according to the research.

University of New Mexico researchers studied a group of 32 healthy, dementia-free adults between 60 and 87 years old. Half of them carried the e-4 allele and half did not.

The study participants were asked to do a prospective memory task that required them to remember to write a specific word when they saw a target word. Far more often than the non-carriers, the e-4 carriers forgot to remember to write down the specified word when they were supposed to, meaning they forgot to do what they meant to do, when they meant to do it.

The findings counter the prevailing view that the e-4 allele has only subtle, undetectable effects on a carrier's cognition, the researchers said.

In light of the study results, doctors might consider helping even healthy e-4 carriers to improve their prospective memory, the study authors said. The study also suggests that testing prospective memory may prove useful as an early diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease (AD).

"Our sample of carriers were healthy as far as we could tell, but our assessments were not as sensitive as some of those used at the major Alzheimer's research centers. It might well be that some of our carriers were in early AD stages that were not yet detected," study co-author Mark McDaniel said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the January issue of Neuropsychology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease genetics.

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Low Birth Weights Fuel Infant Mortality Rise –CDC

 

By Paul Simao

Reuters         

Monday, January 24, 2005

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A jump in the number of babies born at abnormally low birth weights was the main reason why the U.S. infant mortality rate rose in 2002 for the first time in 44 years, according to a federal study released on Monday.

Almost 500 more babies weighing less than 1 lb, 10.5 oz, or 750 grams, were born in 2002, compared to 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) said in a report.

The majority born at this weight die within a year, the Atlanta-based agency said.

The increase was primarily among babies delivered by women aged 20 to 34, the peak childbearing ages, which appears to contradict speculation that the recent rise in U.S. infant mortality was linked to the tendency of many American women to delay motherhood until later in life.

Women who give birth in their 30s and 40s are more likely to have babies born with birth defects or other complications.

CDC researchers said on Monday that multiple births, which accounted for about 3 percent of all births in 2002 but about 25 percent of the overall increase in infant mortality, may have contributed to the rise in low birth-weight infants.

Delivering twins, triplets and other multiple babies carries a higher risk of premature labor and low birth weight, both of which can be fatal to infants.

But the agency said other factors such as the health of expectant mothers also could have played a role. It noted that rates of maternal anemia, diabetes and chronic high blood pressure increased slightly between 2001 and 2002.

The report was published less than a year after government statisticians revealed that infant mortality rose to 7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002, up from 6.8 deaths per 1,000 in the previous year.

It was the first time since 1958 that the rate had not declined or remained unchanged.

There were 27,970 infant deaths in 2002, compared to 27,568 in 2001, out of about 4 million births a year. The CDC said on Monday that provisional data for 2003 suggested that the increase in infant mortality may not be continuing.

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Link Between Personality and Cancer Ruled Out

 

HealthDayNews

Monday, January 24, 2005

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDayNews) -- There's no link between cancer and two specific personality traits, extroversion and neuroticism, says a study in the March 1 issue of Cancer.

Some researchers have hypothesized that a high degree of extroversion and a low degree of neuroticism are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Some studies have suggested these personality traits influence known cancer risk behaviors, such as smoking. However, other studies have found no such association.

This new study was led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, Denmark. Researchers analyzed data on the cancer history, health behavior and personalities of 29,595 twins. There were a total of 1,898 cancer cases reported in this group.

The analysis found no association between either extroversion or neuroticism and any kind of cancer. Even after the two personality traits were combined, the study found no increased risk of cancer.

"We found no indication of an association between certain personality traits and risks for cancer, nor did we find support for an indirect association where certain personality traits influence health behavior and thus indirectly affect risk for cancer," the study authors wrote.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians (news - web sites) has more about cancer risk.

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Obesity May Affect Prostate Screening, Study Finds

 

Reuters         

Monday, January 24, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obese men may get falsely reassuring results on prostate cancer screening tests, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

They said obesity was associated with lower prostate specific antigen or PSA levels in men, which in turn could give men a lower reading on the PSA test that is widely used to screen for prostate cancer.

They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer, may help explain why obese men seem to be more likely to die of prostate cancer.

Jacques Baillargeon and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio studied 2,779 men to see if having a lot of body fat somehow affected the sensitivity of PSA tests.

None of the men had prostate cancer, but the bigger they were, the lower their PSA readings.

This suggests that body fat is interfering with the PSA test or with actual PSA levels. It could help explain "the recent reports of inferior outcomes of prostate cancer treatment in obese men," they wrote.

Prostate cancer (news - web sites) is by far the most common cancer among U.S. men, and will affect 232,090 men this year and kill 30,350, according to American Cancer Society (news - web sites) predictions.

The death rate has fallen since widespread use of the PSA test, which finds in the blood a protein produced only by prostate cells, and over-produced by prostate cancer cells. But it is unclear whether screening or better treatments are responsible for better survival.

Higher PSA readings are a pointer to possible prostate cancer, although not definitive proof of cancer.

One-third of all Americans are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more or, roughly, being 20 percent above a healthy weight.

Fatter men have a one-third higher risk of prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society says, and obese men tend to be diagnosed when their cancer is more advanced and they are more at risk of dying from it.

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Study: Avian Flu Was Transmitted Between Humans

 

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Monday, January 24, 2005

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDayNews) -- In what may be the first documented case that the dangerous avian flu can be transmitted between humans, a new study concludes an 11-year-old girl in Thailand likely transmitted avian flu to her mother and aunt last summer.

These would be the first documented cases of person-to-person transmission of the H5N1 avian flu, which has wreaked havoc across Asia in the past year, according to an article in the Jan. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites). The article was released early to coincide with the University of Michigan Bioterrorism Preparedness Initiative conference.

With this new evidence, an editorial and perspective article in the same issue of the journal call for preventive measures that would avoid a worldwide pandemic of the disease.

The avian flu in Asia has been particularly bad, with more than 120 million poultry dying or destroyed between January and March 2004, stated an editorial in the journal. According to the World Health Organization (news - web sites) (WHO), 52 people in Thailand and Vietnam have been infected and 39 have died over the past year.

In Vietnam, two more people died from bird flu last Saturday, the Associated Press reported, bringing the total to nine dead in just three weeks. WHO officials are investigating whether there was human-to-human transmission in the case of two Vietnamese brothers who tested positive for the virus, the AP reported. WHO was also quoted as saying that isolated instances of transmissions among humans does not necessarily raise the specter of a pandemic.

Experts have long worried that this particular avian virus will mutate enough to spread easily among humans, triggering just such a pandemic.

"The concern is that the H5N1 avian strain can change, eventually emerging as a virus that can easily spread from human to human," said Dr. Mark Beilke, an associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. "Right now, human-to-human transmission has been limited to this report."

There may have been cases of human-to-human transmission last year in Vietnam but they couldn't be documented, added Dr. Arnold S. Monto, author of an accompanying perspective article and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. There have also been cases of human-to-human transmission which didn't result in actual disease. "We know it can happen," Monto said.

This particular strain of the virus, H5N1, emerged in 1997 and has gone through changes, making it more virulent.

Here's how the report described the incident:

The girl lived with her aunt in a province of Thailand and slept and played in an area under the elevated house where the family's chickens often wandered. The flock of free-ranging chickens had been sick, with the last ones dying on the last two days of August 2004. The girl's aunt buried the last five chickens on August 29 or 30, using plastic bags to protect her hands.

The girl fell ill on Sept. 2 and was admitted to a local hospital on Sept. 7. She was transferred to the provincial hospital the next day, but died three hours after admission.

The girl's mother traveled four hours from Bangkok on Sept. 7, stopping at the girl's house only for 10 minutes before heading for the hospital. Both mother and aunt provided unprotected nursing care for the girl.

The mother developed symptoms three days after her daughter died, and it appeared unlikely that her 10-minute stop at the house would be enough to allow bird-to-human transmission. She later died. The aunt fell ill on Sept. 16, 17 days after her last exposure to the chickens. The accepted incubation period is two to 10 days.

The message from this latest report is that people need to be ready, Monto said. "We would suppose that the virus would not be as efficient in transmitting early on. This is a hypothesis, but there's a lot of evidence that this might be the case," he said. "This would give us an opportunity to try to snuff it out at its source." To that end, Monto said, there needs to be a global stockpile of antivirals (some countries are already doing this), as well as a plan for distribution to areas where an outbreak occurs.

A vaccine is also needed. "When it comes to avian flu, everybody is like a child," Monto said, referring to the fact that humans have no immunity to the virus. "Maybe we should be using a vaccine for H5N1 in people even though it wouldn't be exactly like the virus that might come along. At least this would prime us so that we'd have a better response."

Although such a pandemic might never occur, Monto said, "the message is that we need to be ready."

More information

The World Health Organization has more on avian flu.

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Memory Training Helps Kids with ADHD

 

By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Monday, January 24, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A computer program that improves one type of memory appears to help kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new study findings suggest.

After around 40 kids with ADHD completed more than 20 days of training using the computer program, their parents reported they had significantly fewer problems with attention and hyperactivity, both immediately and three3 months after the program ended.

The form of memory the program addresses is called "working memory," study author Dr. Torkel Klingberg of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden told Reuters Health. This type of memory is what we use to keep information in our minds for short periods of time, and to complete day-to-day activities, the researcher noted.

"When you walk into a room and suddenly find that you have forgotten why you went in there, it's because your working memory failed," Klingberg said.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that working memory is impaired in kids with ADHD, Klingberg added. "These deficits can explain why they forget the 'internal plan' of what they are supposed to do next, or forget what they should focus their attention on."

To investigate whether training aimed at improving working memory helps kids with ADHD, the researchers asked 53 children with ADHD between the ages of 7 and 12 to complete working memory exercises using a computer program.

During the exercises, kids practiced memorizing the locations of objects or a series of letters. Half of children were assigned a treatment program that adjusted in difficulty according to the ability of the child, while the other half completed a comparison program, which stayed at a low level of difficulty.

Kids spent approximately 40 minutes every day for 25 days using the program, either at school or home. Forty-two finished the program and checked in for a follow-up three months later.

After training, the researchers found that kids who used the treatment program showed significantly more improvements in working memory.

Klingberg added that kids using the adjustable program were also better able to tackle problem-solving tasks. "The children were able to use their better working memory in order to control their attention and keep mental strategies in mind."

Moreover, parents also reported that kids given the treatment showed improvements in attention and were less hyperactive or impulsive, the researchers note in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Klingberg noted that children may be able to strengthen their working memory using other means than the computer program. "Working memory is required for many activities, and children could get some training from activities such as mental calculation or playing chess," he said.

However, Klingberg noted that kids likely need to test their working memory to its limits for long stretches for several weeks at a time to get the same benefits as the computer program.

Source: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, February 2005.

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Fried Fish Raises Stroke Risk

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Monday, January 24, 2005

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're planning to add more fish to your diet to protect your health, make it broiled or baked -- not fried.

Harvard researchers found in a study of more than 4,700 older people that eating fried fish or fish sandwiches was associated with a higher risk of stroke.

Conversely, the study also found a direct relationship between consumption of broiled or baked fish and a reduced incidence of stroke, according to a report in the Jan. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine (news - web sites).

The link between increased risk and fish sandwiches probably was due to the fact that those sandwiches tended to be fried-fish burgers from fast-food outlets, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an instructor of medicine at the Channing Laboratory, operated by Harvard Medical School (news - web sites) and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

However, the study couldn't determine an exact relationship between fish consumption and stroke risk; other lifestyle factors might influence that risk, Mozaffarian said. For instance, people who tend to eat fast food may not pursue a healthy lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition and exercise.

What is clear from this and other studies is that eating oily fish such as tuna is good for the arteries and the cardiovascular system in general, he said. Data from the same study found a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, a potentially fatal disturbance of heart rhythm, Mozaffarian said.

"The message for a public audience is that intake of tuna fish or other oily fish is good for cardiovascular health," he said. "The second message is that intake of fried fish or fish burgers is unlikely to reduce risk."

Other oily fish that help the heart and arteries include salmon, mackerel, herring and anchovies, Mozaffarian said.

In the study, consumption of broiled or baked fish one to three times a month was associated with a 14 percent reduction in stroke risk. Eating broiled or baked fish one to four times a week was associated with a 28 percent reduction in stroke risk, while the risk was 32 percent lower for people who ate fish in those forms five or more times a week.

But consumption of fried fish or fish sandwiches was associated with a 37 percent higher risk of all kinds of stroke, and a 44 percent higher risk of ischemic stroke, the kind that occurs when a clot blocks an artery.

Another dietary study in the same issue of the journal found the type of fats consumed by middle-aged men might be more important than overall fat intake in reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Heart experts have long recommended polyunsaturated fats and linoleic acids to reduce risk. The study of 1,551 middle-aged men by physicians at the University of Kuopio in Finland found those whose blood levels of those fats were in the upper third were up to three times less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than men with the lowest blood levels. But total fat intake was not associated with the risk of death, the study found.

"Dietary fat quality thus seems more important than fat quantity in the reduction of cardiovascular mortality in middle-aged men," the researchers wrote.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about fish and cardiovascular health.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Viagra May Reverse Enlarged-Heart Damage

 

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Sunday, January 23, 2005

SUNDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDayNews) -- Viagra, the drug most often associated with restoring male sexual powers, may play an entirely different role in treating enlarged hearts.

In male mice, sildenafil citrate (the generic name for Viagra) successfully treated enlargement and thickening of the heart, not only stopping further growth of the heart muscle, but also actually reversing the growth and damage that had already taken place.

Trials in humans are slated to get underway later this year.

"If, indeed, what works in mice works in humans, this will become a standard part of care," said Dr. Richard Stein, a national spokesman for the American Heart Association (news - web sites). "This is very important."

"By treating mice with Viagra in doses that would be similar to what a person would get, we found that we could block hypertrophy [enlarging and thickening of the heart muscles] and could prevent progression to heart failure," said study co-author Dr. Hunter Champion, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Heart failure is a huge problem in the United States. It is the No. 1 reason for hospitalization through Medicare."

The findings, which will be published in the February issue of Nature Medicine, represent a "clinical home run," as Stein put it.

They also represent a scientific breakthrough because they revealed mechanisms involved in heart thickening and the progression to heart failure.

Approximately 65 million Americans have high blood pressure or hypertension, which can lead to cardiac hypertrophy, a thickening of the heart muscle brought on because the heart has to pump harder to get its job done. At least one fourth of people with high blood pressure have cardiac hypertrophy, which also increases the risk of heart failure or sudden death by a factor of two to three, Champion said.

In one experiment, Champion and his colleagues divided 10 to 40 male mice into two groups, one that was fed Viagra and one that received a regular diet. They then constricted the main artery in the mice, causing the heart to pump harder and resulting in a condition essentially the same as hypertrophy.

The mice who got Viagra only developed half the hypertrophy that the other animals did. The Viagra mice also showed 67 percent less muscle fibrosis (stiffening), and also had smaller hearts and improved heart function.

In another experiment, the researchers gave Viagra to part of a group of male mice that had already developed hypertrophy. After two weeks, fibrosis and muscle growth almost completely disappeared in the mice given Viagra while hearts continued to grow in the control mice.

Viagra works, both in the heart and the penis, by inhibiting an enzyme called PDE5A.

In the penis, however, PDE5A relaxes the smooth muscle, allowing the blood to flow and nature to resume its course.

By contrast, in the heart muscle, rather than producing a direct relaxation response, PDE5A helps break down cyclic GMP, a molecule that acts to curb stresses and overgrowth in the heart.

"The result is so impressive because it works on more than just one pathway," Champion said. "A boxer with just one jab in his repertoire is going to lose the fight, but if you have a good right jab, left jab and uppercut, you're going to be a much better fighter."

Experts had not previously known that PDE5A was involved in heart function. They had also suspected that excessive heart muscle growth was an adaptive response to malfunction in the heart. This study, however, indicates that not all hypertrophy is the same and that Viagra might block the "bad" hypertrophy, Champion explained.

In a way, Viagra is coming full circle. The drug was originally developed to dilate coronary blood vessels in people with angina. It didn't work for angina, but while being tested, was revealed to have the erectile dysfunction effect, for which it is now famous.

Champion believed that the effect on the heart may actually be seen in the entire class of drugs, not just Viagra. "It could very well be that Levitra or Cialis would do the same thing," he said, referring to Viagra's two competitors in the erectile dysfunction marketplace.

In general, the researchers are ahead of the game because Viagra is already approved. "The beautiful thing about this drug is we know that there are 20 million prescriptions written for Viagra. We know it to be a very safe drug," Champion said.

It may be a while, though, before Viagra as heart therapy becomes a possibility: Heart failure drug trials take time to prove measurable results.

But Champion added, "I will say, if it is half as impressive as we see in the mice, it might not take that long."

Researchers will also be looking to see if Viagra has any effect on other systems in the body.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on cardiac hypertrophy and other forms of cardiomyopathy.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

 

Device Shows Promise for Spinal Cord Injury  

 

HealthDayNews

Saturday, January 22, 2005

SATURDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDayNews) -- A experimental device designed to regenerate nerve fibers in people with spinal cord injuries shows promise, says an Indiana University School of Medicine study in the January issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

The oscillating field stimulator (OFS) creates an electrical field in the area of damaged nerves. It was developed at Purdue University.

In this study, the cigarette lighter-sized device was implanted in 10 people with complete motor and sensory spinal cord injury. It was removed after 15 weeks, and the patients were tracked for the following year.

After six months, all 10 people showed some improvement in sensation. After a year, all nine people who remained in the study showed varying degrees of improvement.

Two people recovered some lower extremity function and one man had restored sexual function.

"This isn't a home run, but it warrants additional investigation. The big question was whether the procedure, which is very invasive and requires two surgeries, is efficacious -- and the initial results indicate that it is," study author Dr. Scott Shapiro, a professor of neurosurgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

A second clinical trial of the device involving 10 people with severe spinal cord injuries is scheduled to begin early this year.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has more about spinal cord injury.

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Lung Cancer Is a Woman's Disease

 

By Janice Billingsley
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDayNews

Saturday, January 22, 2005

SATURDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDayNews) -- Think lung cancer, and most people picture a disease that primarily strikes older men who smoke.

What many don't realize is that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women, responsible for 27 percent of all cancer deaths, ahead of breast and colorectal cancer, according to the latest federal statistics. And women may be more susceptible to the disease than men, research suggests, a fact many women -- and their doctors -- may not realize.

"Lung cancer causes more deaths among women than breast, uterine and ovarian cancers combined, but I don't think this is on women's radar screens at all," said Dr. Jyoti Patel, an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and a specialist in women's lung cancer.

"Women who smoked when they were young, stopped 30 years ago and did all the right things since are underestimating their risk for lung cancer," added Patel, who co-authored an April 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites) on the risks of lung cancer in women.

That lack of awareness is often compounded by ill-informed doctors, she said.

"When I was in medical school, we were taught that lung cancer is a disease for men 60 years and older who smoke, and most interns today still think that is typical," Patel said. The result: Many doctors don't talk to their female patients about the risks of lung cancer.

But the facts are quite different. More than one in four cancer deaths among women in 2003 were due to lung cancer. An estimated 70,000 women died from lung cancer in the United States, compared to approximately 39,000 women who died from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (news - web sites).

There are myriad reasons for both the prevalence of lung cancer among women and the high death rate from the disease, health professionals said.

The main culprit, predictably, is smoking.

"If you ask me for the top 10 causes for lung cancer, I'd say nine of them are smoking," said Patel.

Nearly one out of five women smoke, and many more are former smokers, she noted.

"The risk of developing lung cancer remains for 20 years after quitting, and then the risk drops by half," said Viviana Simon, director of scientific affairs for the Society for Women's Health Research, in Washington, D.C.

But for women, there are other factors linked to the disease that are gender-based, she said.

Non-smoking women are more likely to get lung cancer than non-smoking men, Simon said. More women than men develop small-cell lung cancer, which is more aggressive than other lung cancers and harder to cure. There is some evidence that men's and women's hormonal differences could affect the course of the disease. And women, no matter what stage of lung cancer they have, live longer than men at the same stage of disease, she said.

Yet there's little research into why these gender differences exist and what they could mean for treatment of the disease.

"There has to be more awareness in the scientific community, the clinical community and the public about the dangers of lung cancer and the differences in prevalence and risk for women and men," Simon said.

Research into lung cancer is negligible compared to other cancers, Patel said, with only $1,300 spent on research per patient death from lung cancer. This compares to $30,000 per patient with HIV (news - web sites), $18,000 per breast cancer patient, and $10,000 per prostate cancer patient, she said.

This is partly because there are fewer survivors of lung cancer to lobby for a cure for the disease. But there's also a cultural bias against lung cancer patients who smoke -- that they brought the disease on themselves, Patel said, adding women tend to be particularly susceptible to this line of thought.

"Women who have smoked marginalize themselves," Patel said. This sense of guilt often leads them to be lax about their health care, and to think they're getting what they deserve.

"I say to my patients that they made one bad choice, but I don't think anyone would say that one bad choice means they deserve cancer," she said.

Both Patel and Simon said more research is needed if lung cancer deaths are to be reduced. Presently, there are few reliable screening techniques for early detection. And while there are some promising new drugs to treat the disease -- Iressa and Tarceva are two that are effective, especially for women -- more science needs to be applied to the task of a cure, Patel said.

In the meantime, Patel recommends that women become more proactive about their risk for lung cancer, even if they don't smoke or have never smoked.

"If women feel a lump in their breast, they go to the doctor quickly," she said, and the same sound approach should apply to lung cancer risk.

Patel recommends paying attention to a cough. Coughs can signal lots of problems, from post nasal drip to a cold. But a cough that "changes character" in any way, in frequency or severity, means you should see a doctor. Similarly if you have shortness of breath, are awakened at night by coughing or have blood in your sputum, you should see a doctor and tell him about your concerns, she said.

More information

For more on women and lung cancer, visit the National Women's Health Information Center.

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