Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Health Headlines - November 30

Many Parents Don't See Kids Have Weight Problems

Parents of overweight and obese kids often don't realize that their children are carrying excess pounds, new research shows.

Brain Abnormality Linked to Hyperactivity Disorder

Brain scans of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder show abnormalities in the fiber pathways along which brain signals pass, scientists said.

Improved Screening Prompts Jump in Chlamydia Cases

The number of sexually transmitted chlamydia infections reported in the United States rose more than 5 percent last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Low Testosterone Seen Common in Diabetic Men

About one third of men with type 2 diabetes show low levels of testosterone, and this is seems to be related to abnormal function of the pituitary gland -- the master regulator of hormone production -- according to a new study.

Tiny Fuel Particles Cause Heart Attacks, Group Says

Tiny air-born particles released by burning fossil fuels are reducing the average human life span across Europe and North America by eight months, a leading research body said.

New Drug Tested as Initial Lung Cancer Therapy

Scientists launched a trial on Monday to test whether a new drug works as an initial treatment against the most common form of lung cancer.

Bed Rest During Pregnancy Linked to Bone Loss

If a woman is confined to bed rest during pregnancy, there is a likelihood of significant bone loss, the results of a new study indicate.

Court Questions Possible Abuse of Pot Laws

The Supreme Court questioned whether state medical marijuana laws might be abused by people who aren't really sick as it debated whether the federal government can prosecute patients who smoke pot on doctors' orders.

Study: Stress Causes Immune Cells to Age

The immune cells of women under extreme mental stress age faster than those in women not facing such pressure, a new study reports.

Possible Botulism-Botox Link Probed

A couple who underwent Botox injections last week were hospitalized with botulism poisoning, and health officials were attempting to determine whether the injections were to blame.

Nose Spray May Slow Spread of Germs

Inhaling a salt-water aerosol, a treatment often used for asthma, may also reduce the spread of germs that can spread disease, according to a new report.

Belly Dancing Seen As a Path to Fitness

Belly dancing has emerged as a form of exercise for those who find its sultry undulations more their speed than hours of aerobics or weightlifting. As with Pilates and yoga, you do not have to be willowy to belly dance.

Gov't to Assess Antibiotic's Health Risk

The government will estimate the probability that an animal antibiotic used on farms could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections among humans.

Vioxx E-Mail Exchange Shows Questions

Government questions about "basic data integrity" derailed publication of a report raising safety concerns about arthritis drug Vioxx on the eve of a contentious congressional hearing, according to an e-mail exchange.

CT Scans Studied in Lung Cancer Screening

Using computerized scans to screen for lung cancer can help save lives and should be part of a regular checkup for people who have a high risk for the disease, a new study says.

EU: Strict Diet Can Help Fight Diseases

EU scientists called on the elderly to improve their diet as the European Union's population grows older in an attempt to contain such debilitating problems like Alzheimer's, osteoporosis and colon cancer.

Botox Eases Pain From Breast Surgery

Pain from breast surgery can be reduced by injections of Botox, a new study by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences researchers.

Study Finds Health Benefit in Low-Glycemic Diet

A diet rich in the type of carbohydrates that maintain a more stable blood sugar beats out a conventional low-fat diet in reducing the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study.

Liars Can't Hide From fMRI

Brain imaging with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could one day prove more accurate than the polygraph in identifying people who are lying.

Scans Cite Scurvy as Cause of Settlers' Deaths

Scurvy killed nearly half of the 79 French settlers who in 1604 established a colony on Saint Croix Island in the Saint Croix River, which runs between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

Experts: Vaccinate Adolescents Against Whooping Cough

All adolescents and some adults should be vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis) to prevent infection and potential transmission to infants, concludes a report by an international group of experts.

Stem Cells Offer Hope for Urinary Incontinence

Women's own bodies may hold the key to their recovery from incontinence, researchers say.

Experts Assess Lung Cancer Risk Among Smokers

The largest study of its kind has come up with hard, cold numbers that pinpoint the risk of lung cancer for smokers and former smokers.

Children With ADHD Show Brain Differences

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have abnormal brain anatomy in addition to imbalances in brain chemistry.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Health Headlines - November 29

HK May Restrict Bird Slaughter to Combat Flu

Hong Kong said on Monday it may ban shopkeepers slaughtering poultry after world health experts issued strong warnings that the deadly bird flu virus may trigger the next pandemic.

Swiss Voters Endorse Limits on Stem Cell Research

Swiss voters endorsed restrictive legislation on stem cell research Sunday that forbids the cloning of human embryos and put Switzerland on a par with some other continental European countries.

EU Food Safety Agency Attacked for Pro-GMO Bias

An environmental group accused Europe's top food safety agency on Monday of repeated bias in favor of genetically modified (GMO) foods and links with the biotech industry.

Magnetism, Electricity May Treat Strokes

Mickey Poduje, 50, had been out all day with her husband Noel on their 32-foot motorboat off the Massachusetts coast. When they returned to the dock, she climbed out to do her usual job of securing the lines. Then she collapsed. It was a stroke. A blood vessel had burst in her brain, paralyzing her right side and leaving her mute at first. At the rehabilitation hospital she just mostly said "when ... when ... when" over and over again.

Six months later, Mickey could say a few individual words, but doctors said her speech wouldn't get much better. "People were saying, what you see is what you get," Noel recalled.

They were wrong. Six years after that horrible day at the dock in 1996, Mickey Poduje (pronounced "poh-DOO-yay") entered a Boston laboratory and had a metal device the shape of a figure-8 pressed to her right temple. It sent magnetic pulses into her brain. And the result, published just this year, is that her speech did improve slightly.

It's one of a handful of recent experiments in stroke patients that sound like the fantastic promises of an old traveling medicine show. Improving speech by zapping the brain with magnetism? Making weakened limbs work better by putting coils on the head and releasing current so weak it could come from a battery?

Those ideas have spurred interest in a handful of laboratories in the United States and abroad. The few preliminary results produced so far are not cures. They are more intriguing than life-changing. But scientists hope that with further refinement, the techniques could provide new tools for treating strokes, which attack some 700,000 Americans a year.

Take the magnetic approach, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation or rTMS, which involves sending tightly focused magnetic pulses into the brain.

"A lot of us believe that this is really going to be a turning point in intervention in neuroscience," said Dr. Randall Benson of Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center.

While doctors have already shown that implanting electrodes in the brain to deliver stimulation can help control tremors, he said, rTMS offers a way to stimulate brain circuits without surgery.

Benson is just starting a study of using the magnetic stimulation to improve stroke-related language impairment, but in a different way from the approach tested with Mickey Poduje. British researchers, meanwhile, are beginning studies to see whether it can help stroke patients overcome problems with swallowing or using a weakened and clumsy hand.

Mickey Poduje's problem, called nonfluent aphasia, shows up to some extent in more than a third of stroke patients, though most recover to some degree. Their speech is hesitant, broken up and poorly articulated. They have trouble coming up with words they want to say, especially verbs. So they often have trouble communicating their needs.

"They almost talk like a telegram," said Margaret Naeser of the Boston University neurology department and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Boston, principal investigator of the federally funded rTMS research project that included Poduje.

She thought of trying magnetic stimulation because MRI brain scans showed that in aphasia patients with a stroke in the left side of the brain, an area on the right side became over-active when the patients tried to describe a picture. Could this be interfering with the brain's attempts to find a word? She approached Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, an rTMS expert at Harvard Medical School, because she knew magnetic stimulation can paradoxically be used to calm brain circuits. They launched a study together.

Poduje was one of four patients in the study, all of whom had suffered a stroke at least five years earlier. Researchers focused on their ability to look at drawings of common things like a hammer, cup or a tree, and say what they were seeing.

For the experimental treatment, the researchers pressed an electromagnetic coil to the right temples of their patients, near the over-active brain area, and applied magnetic pulses for 20 minutes, five days a week, for two weeks.

That brought surprisingly durable results. Poduje, for example, went from being able to name what she was seeing in only four out of 20 drawings before the experiment to seven by two months later, and 12 by eight months afterward.

As a group, the four patients showed significant continuing improvement two months and even eight months after the magnetic treatments ended. The patients told the researchers they noticed it was easier to name the pictures. They also showed improvement in their spontaneous speech after the treatments.

Poduje, now 59, said in a brief telephone interview recently at her home in Needham Heights, Mass., that the treatment helped her. Asked if it was easier to remember words, she replied, "little."

She improved enough after the experiment to become eligible for a speech therapy program that focused on improving speech output.

Noel Poduje accepts the laboratory documentation that his wife got better, but says Mickey's speech had been improving anyway, and that he didn't notice any dramatic effect in her everyday speech from the magnetic stimulation itself.

He never saw the experiment as anything more than research that might help somebody down the road, he said. Poduje said that while his wife's speech continues to improve, it remains markedly impaired. She says single words or strings a noun and a verb together, he said.

The continued improvement shown by patients on the picture-naming tests even eight months after the treatments was a surprise, Pascual-Leone said.

It "suggests we are opening up the possibility for the brain to establish and implement a new strategy to gain access to language," he said. He suspects the brain-circuitry suppression brought on by the magnetic stimulation is helping the brain abandon fruitless strategies to regain its language abilities, and explore new ones.

Naeser, who is continuing the research, said she suspects rTMS would help most when paired with speech therapy, rather than used by itself as in the preliminary experiment.

"I guess we could say we're on the right track, but we haven't cured aphasia," Naeser said.

Martha Taylor Sarno, an aphasia expert and professor of rehabilitation medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, called Naeser's results fascinating. "Anything that suggests recovery is interesting because so little is out there that can provide any significant difference in performance in people with chronic aphasia," she said.

At a National Institutes of Health lab in Bethesda, Md., meanwhile, researchers have found that sending a weak electric current into the brain can make stroke patients slightly more nimble with a weakened limb.

That happened with six patients whose upper arms had been weakened by a stroke two or more years before. They practiced a series of simple tasks — things like turning over cards, picking up beans with a spoon and stacking checkers — until they were doing them as fast as possible.

Then researchers put one electrode on their foreheads and another on top of their heads, and either ran a weak current between the electrodes or merely pretended to for 20 minutes. The study participants repeated the series of tasks, both during the stimulation and afterwards.

When subjected to real current, or within about 25 minutes of getting real current, every patient completed the tasks slightly faster than at other times. They shaved an average of about four seconds off a performance that normally took about 44 seconds.

That's not much, concedes Dr. Leonardo Cohen, who did the work with colleague Dr. Friedhelm Hummel. But it resulted from just a single treatment, not combined with any kind of training regimen, in patients who had suffered their strokes long before, Cohen said.

He said he expects that if such treatments are given repeatedly, paired with training in people just after their strokes, "we will be able to go much further."

It's not clear why the weak current helped the stroke patients perform, he said. But it appears to prime the part of the brain that's going to be called on, like giving it "a little bit of a cup of coffee," he said.

In any case, Cohen's lab has started working with a rehabilitation hospital to see if the brain stimulation can help when paired with standard treatments just after a stroke.

"I want to see it working in the regular rehabilitation environment," Cohen said. "If it does there, then we may have something important in hand."

'Stroller Strides' Offer Workout for Moms

At first, Julia DeCredico pushed her triplets in a stroller to help calm them down when fussy. Now she takes 22-month-old Claudia, Joseph and Davis on morning strolls regardless of their moods. That's because it's mom's time to exercise.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Health Headlines - November 28

Singapore Intensifies Battle Against AIDS

Singapore, facing a rise in AIDS cases, is considering making it compulsory for pregnant women to be screened for HIV/AIDS, an official said.

N.Y. Creates Site on Obesity, Insurance

The state of New York is responding to complaints from citizens about the complexity of health insurance coverage for obesity treatment by releasing an online consumer guide.

Breathing Easier Through the Holidays

Even though it's the Christmas season, people with allergies and asthma can't take a holiday from keeping symptoms under control, say experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"With hectic schedules and constant traveling around the holidays, it's easy to forget to take proper care when dealing with allergies and asthma. Remembering to take medication and avoid potential triggers is necessary to keep symptoms under control," Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, vice chair of the AAAAI's Indoor Allergen Committee, said in a prepared statement.

The AAAAI offers the following advice on remaining reaction-free over the holidays:

Before you decorate a live Christmas tree, let it dry out in the garage or enclosed porch. Some tree retailers have a shaking machine that will physically remove some allergens from trees.

If you have an artificial tree, clean it before you decorate it in order to remove any dust or mold it may have collected while in storage.

Wash fabric decorations in hot, soapy water before you put them on display.

Use plastic, metal or glass decorations that can't trap dust mites.

Be sure to follow directions when you spray artificial snow on windows or other surfaces. The sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.

When you go to holiday parties, inform your hosts about your food allergies and ask about the ingredients used to make the meal and snacks.

Carry self-injectable epinephrine in case you eat a food to which you're allergic. Remember that homemade food can be contaminated with trace amounts of allergenic foods through contact with utensils, storage containers and baking sheets.

If you're going to a home that has pets, take medication before you arrive.

Watch out for holiday stress, which can trigger an asthma attack.

Ask friends and relatives not to burn wood in fireplaces. The wood smoke can trigger an asthma attack.

Beware Complications Linked to Diabetes

As a diabetes educator, Mary Austin sometimes counsels diabetic patients who are acutely aware of how the disease, over time, can ravage the human body, from the eyes down to the feet.

"If any family member or close friend had diabetes, somehow the horror stories come out," said Austin, president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, whose members teach patients to manage their diabetes on a daily basis.

Others, though, are terribly uninformed about the risks, as Austin, a former renal dietician, has witnessed. "I can count the times that I had patients say over and over, 'I had no idea that the diabetes could cause my kidneys to fail like this,'" she recalled.

Exacerbated by the nation's obesity epidemic, diabetes is now the sixth-leading cause of death in United States and is rapidly becoming a public health nightmare. The number of U.S. adults who've been diagnosed with diabetes, including pregnant women with gestational diabetes, has increased 61 percent since 1991 and is projected to more than double by 2050, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the 18.2 million Americans who currently suffer from diabetes, 5.2 million don't even know they have it, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports. Almost all of the undiagnosed cases are people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body fails to use insulin properly. And, increasingly, it's afflicting people at younger and younger ages -- even children and teens.

Type 2 diabetes usually can be controlled through diet and exercise, but sometimes people require medication or insulin. With type 1 diabetes, which is far less common, the pancreas no longer makes insulin, so patients must inject insulin or use an insulin pump.

When people don't manage their diabetes, glucose and fats remain in the blood, eventually damaging vital organs, according to the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The condition can lead to terrible complications:

Heart disease and stroke cause about 65 percent of deaths among people with diabetes.

About 42,813 people with diabetes develop kidney failure each year, and more than 100,000 are treated for this condition.

Some 82,000 people have diabetes-related leg, foot or toe amputations each year.

Between 12,000 and 24,000 people become blind because of diabetic eye disease.

About 18,000 women with pre-existing diabetes and another 135,000 women with gestational diabetes who give birth each year face serious complications such as stillbirth, congenital malformations and the need for a Caesarean section.

About 10,000 to 30,000 people with diabetes die of complications from flu or pneumonia each year.

"This is the kind of disease where vigilance is demanded," said Andrew J. Karter, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., who has studied the relationship between genetics and risk for diabetic complications.

Karter's study, published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no one racial group is more affected by diabetic complications than another. Whites had the greatest risk of heart attack as a diabetes-related complication, while other groups were more likely to suffer from end-stage renal disease.

Genetics likely play a role in the development of complications, but non-genetic factors such as health behaviors and quality health care are also clearly important, Karter said. "So regardless of their genetic makeup, patients with diabetes who carefully manage their health can reduce the risk of long-term complications," he said.

Diabetes patients could learn a lot about how to avoid serious complications by meeting with a diabetes educator for self-management training, Austin said. Medicare, in fact, covers up to 10 hours of initial training in a year, and two hours of follow-up training each subsequent year, according to the National Diabetes Education Program. Patients only need a referral from their physician or a qualified health practitioner who is treating the beneficiary for diabetes.

Yet few Americans who suffer from this chronic condition are getting the benefit of such services. "They're not getting referred for it," Austin said.

According to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican and co-sponsor of a bill that would allow certified diabetes educators to authorize self-management services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that only 30 percent of beneficiaries are using the benefit.

Keeping diabetes in control can require difficult lifestyle changes, and that's why having an advocate can help. "You don't have to have diabetes on your own," Austin said she tells patients.

Even people who don't have access to a diabetes educator can help themselves. For starters, the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association advise people to know the "ABCs" of diabetes:

"A" stands for hemoglobin A1c, a test that measures a person's average blood glucose during the past three months. The goal is an A1c below seven, which equates to an average blood glucose of 150.

"B" is for blood pressure. It's best to keep it below 130 over 80.

"C" is for cholesterol. Keep low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" kind of cholesterol that can clog your arteries, below 100.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Health Headlines - November 27

'Mini Stroke' Carries Significant Health Risk

Transient ischemic attacks (TIA), short episodes of decreased blood flow to the brain, carry a "not so benign" prognosis, according to a new report in the journal Stroke.

New Laser Therapy Can Easily Remove Acne Scars

A few sessions of a new type of laser treatment appears to smooth out acne scarring with a relatively short recovery time, according to the results of a new study.

Chest Pain Not from Heart? Check Again, Docs Urged

People who go to the emergency room with chest pain and are told that it is not caused by a heart attack or angina might want to get a second opinion.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Can Affect Thyroid

Tiny "seeds" containing radioactive iodine are often implanted in the prostate gland to treat cancer. Now, findings from a case report indicate that these seeds can break open and release the iodine, which is then absorbed by the thyroid gland.

Work Demands May Influence Dementia Risk

Highly challenging jobs with opportunities for responsibility may be good for your resume and your health. New study findings suggest that people with these types of jobs may be less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

Avandia Linked with Severe Lipid Abnormalities

On rare occasions, treatment with rosiglitazone (Avandia) may cause a profound decrease in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the "good" cholesterol) and an increase in fasting triglycerides, researchers in the UK warn in the journal Diabetes Care.

Protective Role of Human Milk for Preemies Unclear

Currently available research findings do not provide conclusive evidence that feeding very low birth weight (VLBW) premature babies human milk offers significant protection against infection.

FDA Reviews When Bayer Revealed Drug Risks

In a move that could lead to a criminal investigation, the government is checking its records to determine if drug maker Bayer AG was forthcoming about safety concerns with its cholesterol-lowering Baycol drug.

WHO: Bird Flu Could Cause Next Pandemic

After almost a year of trying to bring Asia's bird flu under control, World Health Organization experts are now warning the disease is the most likely candidate to cause the world's next pandemic, with the possibility of as many as 7 million deaths.

Beware Diabetes-Related Complications

As a diabetes educator, Mary Austin sometimes counsels diabetic patients who are acutely aware of how the disease, over time, can ravage the human body, from the eyes down to the feet.

Health Tip: Better Breast Milk

If you're pregnant and planning to breast feed your baby, Boys Town Pediatrics in Omaha offers these suggestions: Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, dairy products and protein-rich foods. Drink plenty of fluids.

Asthmatics Take Care in Cold Winter Air

It's great to be active in the winter, but exercising in cold weather can cause problems for people with asthma.

Give Colds the Cold Shoulder This Season

Holiday season is cold season, too. But experts at the Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center are offering some tips on how to avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands after every handshake.

Raising Grandkids Stresses Grandmothers

Grandmothers responsible for caring for or raising grandchildren suffer more stress and depression than grandmothers without those responsibilities.

Shopping-Related Injuries a Real Pain

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest with its stress, pressure and even increased risk of injury, according to experts at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Health Tip: Lazy Eye

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says.

Stomach Cancer May Start in Bone Marrow

Stomach cancer may originate from bone marrow cells rather than stomach cells, as was previously believed.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Health Headlines - November 26

Flu Pandemic Inevitable, Plans Needed Urgently

Every country in the world must come up urgently with a plan to deal with an inevitable influenza pandemic likely to be triggered by the bird flu virus that hit Asia this year, a top global health expert said on Friday.

Swiss Voters Set to Endorse Stem Cell Research

Swiss voters are expected to endorse tight government legislation on stem cell research on Sunday which would forbid the cloning of human embryos and put Switzerland on a par with other continental European countries.

Worker Shortages Threaten Health Advances

A shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives around the globe is threatening health initiatives and could have dire political and economic consequences, public health experts said on Friday.

China Approves Testing for Potential AIDS Vaccine

China has approved human testing of a locally developed potential AIDS vaccine, the official Xinhua news agency said Friday, just days before World AIDS Day.

It's Never Too Early to Teach Kids the Activity Habit

Jane Clark calls this the age of "containerized" kids.

As infants, children are plopped from car-safety seats to high chairs to baby seats to watch TV, said Clark, a movement specialist at the University of Maryland.

"It's partly for safety, of course," said Clark, professor and chairwoman of the university's department of kinesiology. But children, even infants, move too little these days, setting the stage for a sedentary, unhealthy life, she and other experts warn.

"Parents think physical activity takes care of itself in kids," said Clark. "But it doesn't."

A study published earlier this year in the medical journal The Lancet, supports Clark's point. Researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland tracked the movements of 78 three-year-olds by having them wear a matchbox-sized monitor clipped to their waistband for a week. The researchers found the average toddler was active for only 20 minutes a day -- far less than the hour recommended by pediatricians.

Making matters worse, children today spend much less time playing outdoors than their parents did, according to a study conducted by Rhonda Clements, a professor of education at Hofstra University in New York and president of the American Association for the Child's Right to Play, a group that promotes physical activity.

In a poll of more than 800 mothers conducted in 2002 by Clements and her colleagues, 71 percent of the mothers said they recalled playing outdoors every day as children, but only 26 percent of them said their kids play outdoors daily.

While fear of crime was an issue, the mothers also cited lack of time as well as too much time spent by their children watching television or playing computer games, Clements said.

That lack of activity is having a troubling effect on American kids. Thirteen percent of children aged 6 to 11 are overweight, as are 14 percent of teens aged 12 to 19, according to federal health statistics. And overweight children are more likely to be overweight as adults.

But a little conscious effort to get your kids moving can instill a lifelong exercise habit, Clements and other experts agree. Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of many cancers, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and many other ailments.

So where to start?

Beginning when your child is just an infant, you can encourage physical movement, Clark advised. That could mean taking time to rock your baby in your arms and, when he is older, encouraging him to crawl through a living room obstacle course, to make activity fun.

When dealing with children beyond infancy, "forget the word exercise," Clark said. Instead, focus on the fun. Rather than asking, "Want to go exercise?" try something like, "Want to go outside and kick the ball around?"

Serving as role model -- and that means working out and staying active yourself -- is also a great motivator for children, Clark said. "If a mother and father both exercise, compared to those who don't, kids in that house are six times more likely to exercise," she said. "If one parent exercises, the child is three times more likely."

"Every kid starts out liking physical activity," Clark added. "By the time they are 15, the majority of kids don't like sports."

So it's crucial, she said, to keep activity fun and to plan it as a family. "Plan something on the weekend that is physically active, even if it's just walking around a museum or a fair," Clark said.

Clements tells parents to provide their children a goal or incentive to be active. "It could be as simple as, 'Let's create a backyard obstacle course,' " she said.

Give them a choice, too. "Do you want to play on the swings? What about tag with your brothers?" she suggests.

Encourage creativity, Clements said. "Encourage kids to create playthings out of objects." Remember airplanes from paper? Mud puddles?

Rae Pica, a children's movement specialist in Center Barnstead, N.H., is a big believer in the motivational power of music.

"Put on some music," Pica said. "Have a parade at home. Break out the pots and pans."

Or break out the bubbles, Pica suggested. Kids can run and jump to burst them.

When choosing a day-care program for your child, be sure to ask about the commitment to activity, Clark and Pica suggested.

"Not just recess, but movement" is what you are after, Pica said.

The National Association for Sport & Physical Education was so concerned about the sedentary lifestyles of today's children that it issued physical activity guidelines in 2002. They are aimed at helping to meet the developmental needs of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Clark, of the University of Maryland, chaired that task force. Among the recommendations: Encourage children to be physically active from the beginning of life.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Health Headlines - November 25

Effectiveness of Antidepressant Unclear in Elderly

Depressed people 75 or older are just as likely to improve after an 8-week course with an inactive, placebo drug as with an antidepressant, new research indicates.

Everybody Must Fight AIDS, Mandela Says

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, surrounded by rock stars, launched a book of photographs of a major anti-AIDS concert on Thursday with a call to ordinary people to take a lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Increases with Estrogen Use

The estrogen component of oral hormone replacement therapy around the time of menopause is associated with ovarian cancer risk, findings from a Danish study show.

Heat-Holding Knee Sleeve May Ease Arthritis Pain

A heat-retaining sleeve worn around the knee is useful in reducing joint pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, preliminary testing indicates.

Herpes Virus Common in Young Adolescent Girls

Girls as young as 12 years old are commonly infected with various forms of herpes viruses, including the one that causes genital herpes, a study of urban U.S. adolescents shows.

Heart Failure Improves with Resistance Training

Combining resistance exercises such as weight lifting with endurance training safely improves the health of people with chronic heart failure, researchers in Belgium report.

High Court to Weigh Medical Marijuana Laws

Traditional drugs have done little to help 39-year-old Angel Raich. Beset by a list of ailments that includes tumors in her brain, seizures, spasms and nausea, she has found comfort only in the marijuana that is prescribed by her doctor.

Health Tip: Starting an Exercise Program

Regular physical activity can help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and strengthen aging bones.

Health Tip: Discard Old Cosmetics

You've spent a lot of money on that drawer of cosmetics, and are loathe to throw any away.

But using old cosmetics can leave you open to infection and disease, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Cosmetics applied near the eyes, in particular, should be thrown away regularly. Repeated microbial exposure during use increases the risk of eye infections.

Some industry experts recommend replacing mascara and other eye cosmetics three months after purchase, especially those with few or no preservatives. Also, don't use saliva to moisten dry mascara, because that will introduce bacteria.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Health Headlines - November 24

UK Pledges Extra Funding for Surge in Sexual Diseases

The British government pledged on Thursday to put 300 million pounds aside to combat a surge in sexual diseases as health experts revealed record numbers of people in the UK living with HIV and other sexual diseases.

Laser Technique Used to Treat Bad Breath

If brushing and mouthwash don't improve bad breath, an Israeli scientist may have the solution -- laser treatment.

Pseudoephedrine Tied to Heart Attack in Young Man

If a recently reported case is a reliable indicator, the over-the-counter medication pseudoephedrine can cause a heart attack -- even in healthy young adults.

Turkey Can Stick in Your Craw, Really

Besides the usual increases in cases of heartburn, emergency room workers see a Thanksgiving surge of people with food stuck in their esophagus, according to an expert.

A Racing 'Holiday Heart' Can Spook You Out

There are many holiday traditions that are not so good for the heart, but here's one that may cause a real scare: festive binge drinking can temporarily speed up your heart rate, causing a condition known as "holiday heart," according to an expert.

Protein Helps Fix Heart Attack Damage in Mice

Scientists in the United States said on Wednesday they had identified a protein produced by the heart during development which they believe could help the organ repair itself after a heart attack.

Cord Blood Effective for Adult Leukemia

Blood from a newborn's umbilical cord, often thrown away but rich in cells that may rebuild the body's blood production system, is safe to treat leukemia in adults, two studies released on Wednesday show.

Lawmaker Calls for FDA Whistleblower Inquiry

A U.S. lawmaker called on Wednesday for a probe of reports that Food and Drug Administration officials tried to discredit a veteran scientist who testified over Merck & Co. Inc.'s withdrawal of Vioxx.

Morning-After Pill Well Tolerated by Teen Girls

Levonorgestrel, a pill that is used for emergency contraception after unprotected sexual intercourse, is well tolerated by females aged 13 to 16 years and side effects are minor, according to researchers in the US and Switzerland.

Medicaid Patients Fare Worse After Cancer Surgery

Low-income patients covered by Medicaid have more complications and higher death rates after colon cancer surgery than patients with private insurance, a U.S. study suggests.

Florida OKs Three-Strikes Malpractice Law

Florida voters this month approved a three-strikes law unlike any other state's — a measure aimed not at killers and thieves but at doctors who foul up.

CDC: Flu Season Is Off to a Slow Start

The flu season in the United States is off to a slow start, with only Delaware and New York reporting significant outbreaks — a relief to government health authorities, given the U.S. vaccine shortage.

Flame Retardant Found in Lake Michigan

Concentrations of a flame retardant banned by many European countries have been found in Lake Michigan and are increasing, adding to concerns over previous findings that the chemicals were showing up in supermarket foods and women's breast milk.

Tests Negative on Suspected Mad Cow Case

A five-day mad cow disease scare that briefly rattled the cattle markets and raised concerns among some beef eaters has been put to rest after sophisticated chemical tests on a suspected animal showed no sign of the brain-wasting ailment.

Girl Survives Rabies With Drug Treatment

A unique combination of drugs has made a 15-year-old girl the first known human to survive rabies without vaccination, doctors said.

States Fill Federal Void on Drug Safety

As Congress and others lobby to create an independent board to review the safety of prescription drugs, a dozen states have been doing just that.

Help Older Adults Enjoy the Holidays

In all the excitement of the holidays, families can overlook the fact that the more frail and elderly among them are no longer able to take part in traditional holiday tasks, such as decorating or cooking.

Health Tip: When a Person's in Shock

For someone who's suffered a grievous physical illness or injury, the shock to the body can prove as lethal as the wound or illness itself.

Health Tip: Social Phobia

If you have a persistent fear of being watched and judged by others, you might have a social phobia, also called social anxiety.

Microwave Technology Steadies Irregular Heartbeat

A new kind of minimally invasive heart surgery based on microwave technology helps control atrial fibrillation, a dangerous heart condition, according to a researcher at Duke University Medical Center.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Health Headlines - November 23

Stress Quadruples Risk of Asthma Attacks in Children

Children with asthma face quadruple the risk of an attack following stressful events in their lives, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Thorax.

Five Million Smokers Died Worldwide in 2000

Smoking killed nearly 5 million people worldwide in 2000, with men more than three times as likely as women to go to an early grave, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Tobacco Control.

Obesity Linked to Unhealthy Heartbeat in Study

Obesity raises the risk of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat that can lead to stroke and early death if not controlled, researchers said on Tuesday.

Heart Surgery Performed in Awake Patients

Heart surgery is a frightening prospect for many people, but now imagine undergoing the operation completely awake! That's what seven patients treated at a hospital in Turkey went though -- in a planned, deliberate study.

Painful Periods May Be Linked to Stress: Study

The abdominal or low back pain that many women experience during their monthly menstrual periods may partly be due to stress, new study findings suggest.

Biogen, Elan Win U.S. Approval for New MS Drug

A once-a-month drug for treating multiple sclerosis that appears to cut relapses of the autoimmune disorder was approved on Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Breast-Conservation May Be OK for Inherited Cancers

Breast-conserving therapy (BCT), which involves limited surgery and radiation, is a suitable option for young women with BRCA-associated breast cancer, the most common hereditary type of the disease, new research suggests.

Report: Birth Rates for Older Women Rising

U.S. women in their 30s and early 40s had higher birth rates in 2003, while births among teenagers fell for the 12th straight year, federal health officials said on Tuesday.

Dental Plaques Linked with Pneumonia in Elderly

Bacteria in dental plaque can cause hospital-acquired pneumonia in elderly nursing home residents, according to a report in the medical journal Chest.

U.S. FDA Adds Restrictions to Acne Drug

Roche's acne drug Accutane and its generic versions will face tighter prescription controls to prevent harm to unborn children, U.S. health regulators said on Tuesday.

2003 Sees Highest Caesarean Birth Rate

More than 27 percent of the babies born in the United States last year were delivered by Caesarean section, a record high for the surgical method that is a controversial subject among both obstetricians and mothers.

Tests Negative on Suspected Mad Cow Case

A cow the Agriculture Department had suspected of carrying mad cow disease was declared free of the illness after follow-up tests, officials said Tuesday.

Girl Cured of Rabies With New Treatment

Doctors say they used a unique combination of drugs to cure a 15-year-old girl of rabies, making her the first known human ever to survive the usually fatal disease without vaccination.

N.J. Hospital Thwarts Smuggled Flu Vaccine

A New Jersey hospital helped thwart an attempted sale of smuggled flu vaccine, authorities said.

Study Suggests 'Glycemic Index' Diet

A diet favoring "good" over "bad" carbohydrates is better for the heart and less likely to slow down metabolism than a conventional low-fat diet, a small, preliminary study suggests.

Once-Joined Filipino Twins Recovering Well

Once-conjoined twin boys from the Philippines can do "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" hand movements, have graduated to crackers from pureed foods and "are well on their way to leading normal, active lives," one of their surgeons said Tuesday.

CDC Admits Errors in Obesity Risk Study

A widely reported government study that said obesity is about to overtake smoking as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States contained statistical errors and may have overstated the problem, health officials acknowledged Tuesday.

GERD: It's More Than Just Heartburn

Dinner is done and, predictably, that miserable fire beneath your breastbone has reignited. Time and again, you've reached for antacids and acid blockers, but nothing seems to extinguish your internal inferno.

Trouble at Home, School Hurts Kids' Coping Skills

Family problems, poor neighborhoods and other key environmental factors can undermine the coping skills of adolescents -- even among kids with good grades or high self-esteem.

Overstressed Teens Have Troubled Relationships

Poverty, depression and family conflict are associated with long-term, negative changes in teens' attitudes toward personal relationships, according to a study by the Society for Research in Child Development.

Health Tip: Clean Hands

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid illness, experts say.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Health Headlines - November 22

Childhood Obesity Leads to Enlarged Heart

Obese children grow up to have bigger left ventricles in their hearts, putting them at risk for heart disease, researchers said on Monday.

Obesity in Women Linked with Brain Tissue Loss

Women who are consistently overweight or obese during adulthood may be at increased risk for a decrease in the volume of certain areas of their brain -- according to a study from Sweden

Study Finds Bleeding Problem with Antidepressants

Some patients who are new users of antidepressants such as Paxil and Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may run a risk of abnormal bleeding, researchers said on Monday.

Chocolate May Hold Cure for Coughs

An ingredient in chocolate could be used to stop persistent coughs and lead to more effective medicines, researchers said on Monday.

Report: Bayer Delayed Warning on Cholesterol Drug

Bayer AG may have known its withdrawn cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol caused a high rate of a serious muscle condition more than a year before it added a warning to its label, according to a prominent medical journal.

Low-Dose Supplements Ward Off Cancer in Men

Taking "nutritional doses" of antioxidants seems to reduce men's risk of cancer, according to the findings of a French study. This approach doesn't do much for women, however, probably because they eat more healthily than men to begin with.

Medicare Drug Plan to Help Poorest Elderly Most

Medicare's new prescription drug coverage should help most elderly, including some of the poorest beneficiaries, save money, but nearly a quarter will pay more for medicine, according to an analysis released on Monday.

Enjoy Thanksgiving Meals, They Can Be Good for You

Here's another reason to give thanks this holiday season: the succulent turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes included in many Thanksgiving day meals may not only look and taste good, but may also be good for you.

Old Habits Really Do Die Hard, Study Shows

New research may help explain why people find it so easy to fall back into old habits after they've decided to change their ways.

No More Christmas Candles? Church Air Poses Risk

A visit to church may be good for the soul but not so good for the lungs, a new study shows.

Study: Older Americans Not Eating Well

Two-thirds of older Americans take part in leisure-time physical activities, but poor nutrition remains a problem, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables, according to the latest snapshot of aging.

Malnutrition Rising Among Iraq's Children

Malnutrition among Iraq's youngest children has nearly doubled since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq despite U.N. efforts to deliver food to the war-ravaged country, a Norwegian research group said Monday.

Typhoid in Congo's Capital Kills 16

An outbreak of a severe form of typhoid has killed at least 16 people in Congo's capital, sickening at least 144 more, health officials said Monday.

New ID Tag Could Prevent Surgical Errors

A radio frequency tag that patients can affix like a bandage to ensure doctors perform the right surgery on the right person won government approval Friday.

Nobel Prize Winner Sir John Vane Dies

Sir John Vane, who shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1982 for his work in discovering how aspirin works, has died at the age of 77.

Malnutrition Leads to Antisocial Behavior

Children who are malnourished in their first few years of life are more likely to be aggressive and antisocial throughout childhood and into their late teens, says a University of Southern California study.

System That Regulates Blood Pressure May Also Affect Aging

The same system -- the renin-angiotensin system -- that helps the body regulate blood pressure may also play a role in aging, says research by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center scientists.

Chronic Back Pain Shrinks Brain

Chronic back pain can shrink the gray matter in your brain by as much as 11 percent in one year, the same amount of brain density that's lost in 10 to 20 years of normal aging, says a Northwestern University study.

Looking at Blood Pressure Drug Use in Kids

The first study to examine the safety of the blood pressure-lowering drug sodium nitroprusside in children will be led by researchers at Duke University Medical Center.

Risks Outlined for Women With Breast Cancer Gene

There is good research news for women with breast cancer who carry a cancer-causing gene and are treated with breast-conserving therapy: the risk that cancer will recur in that breast is no higher than for women who don't carry the gene.

Health Tip: Turkey Tiredness

Popular thinking says that you feel tired after Thanksgiving dinner because of the turkey -- or, more precisely, because of a substance in the turkey called L-tryptophan.

New Way to Spot Lung Trouble

One in three of 1,500 former or current smokers tested positive for lung abnormalities when they were screened for lung cancer using low-dose spiral computed tomography.

Study: Men Benefit More From Antioxidants

A long-running French study finds that a low-dose cocktail of antioxidants reduces the incidence of cancer in men but not in women.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Health Headlines - November 21

Merck Steps Up PR Campaign After Recall

Merck & Co.'s campaign to defend itself in the wake of the recall of the pain reliever Vioxx intensified as it placed a package of three full-page ads in seven prominent newspapers beginning last Friday.

Interpreters Lower Risks in Hospitals

Romualdo Rivera arrives at the emergency room with what seems to be a complaint of chest pain. But it's hard to be sure — he doesn't speak English.

At Clemson, Low-Carb Diets Raise Prices

The days of college students slurping down cheap ramen noodles in a cramped dorm room might be a thing of the past at Clemson University.

Tucson May Treat Sewage for Potable Water

Using treated sewage for drinking water could help sustain the supply here, said the director of the city's water company.

Texas Woman's Death Probed for Mad Cow Tie

The family of a Beaumont woman is waiting for test results to find out if she died from a form of an affliction connected to mad cow disease.

Scientist to Testify Vs. Philip Morris

A former Philip Morris USA scientist plans to testify that the tobacco giant failed to tell smokers that a change to Merit cigarettes four years ago caused chunks of burning ash to fall off, presenting a potential safety hazard.

Gorging Your Way Through the Holidays?

A feeling of goodwill isn't the only thing you're likely to carry around with you after the holidays; there's a good chance you'll also be lugging a few extra pounds.

Some Childhood Ills Refuse to Go Away

Like the sequel to a bad movie, some medical conditions can show up years after an initial infection or injury. Many of them are every bit as bad -- or worse -- the second time around.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Health Headlines - November 20

Congress Helps Providers Refuse Abortions

Congress made it a little easier for hospitals, insurers and other to refuse to provide or cover abortions.

Scientists Warn of Toxins in Fish

Each day at 4 p.m., the trawlers come back, alive with giant bass, mackerel and squirming eels, at the end of a food chain that links family dinner tables to poisons in the sea.

Groups Disappointed by Veteran Health Aid

Veterans' health care got a lot of attention in the just-concluded election campaign, but the Republican-led Congress is not devoting as much money to it as veterans groups and even some GOP lawmakers wanted.

Study Suggests Chernobyl Affected Sweden

More than 800 people in northern Sweden may have cancer as a result of the fallout that spewed over the region after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, according to a new study by Swedish scientists.

Pill Company Thrives Despite Complaints

Just three years since an Ohio salesman started selling penis enlargement pills out of a spare room in his house, his company is raking in more than $200 million a year.

Alternative Medicine Practitioner Charged

A practitioner of alternative medicine who allegedly discouraged a woman with breast cancer from getting chemotherapy has been charged in her death.

Don't Delay When a Stroke Strikes

Quick action is essential when someone is having a stroke.

Joe Montana Leads Fight Against High Blood Pressure

Joe Montana, one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history, was the picture of grace under pressure as he carried the San Francisco 49ers to countless come-from-behind victories.

That's why a diagnosis of high blood pressure two years ago left him stunned. Now, he's on a mission to alert others to the dangers of this life-threatening condition and to describe how it can be controlled.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Health Headlines - November 19

Enjoy Thanksgiving Meals, They Can Be Good for You

Here's another reason to give thanks this holiday season: the succulent turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes included in many Thanksgiving day meals may not only look and taste good, but may also be good for you.

Wrist Best Spot for Angioplasty in Elderly

The wrist is a better access spot than the groin for performing angioplasty in very elderly patients with heart disease, new research shows.

Acupuncture Aids Pain Relief for Knee Arthritis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee are eased more when acupuncture is added to treatment with the painkiller diclofenac, Spanish researchers report.

Bottle, Pacifier Can Misalign Baby Teeth

Children who were bottle-fed or used pacifiers as babies are at risk of dental problems in preschool, a new study suggests.

Depression May Raise Risk of Dementia

Depression and manic depression are associated with dementia, and the more often a patient is hospitalized for these mental illnesses the greater their risk, Danish researchers report.

Continuous Passive Motion Helps After Knee Repair

After undergoing knee reconstruction, therapy with a machine that puts the joint through continuous passive motion leads to improved flexion when added to conventional physical therapy, according to a review by Canadian researchers.

Many C-Sections in U.S. Done for No Medical Reason

In the US, many mothers who have "no indicated risk" for a difficult vaginal birth are having caesarean deliveries -- and the rate is rising year by year -- according to a report in the British Medical Journal.

Brain Area Found to Be Smaller in Cocaine Addicts

A part of the brain involved in both drug craving and judgment appears to be smaller in cocaine addicts than in healthy people, researchers have found.

U.S.-Led Push for Broad U.N. Cloning Ban Crumbles

A divided United Nations on Friday rejected a U.S.-led campaign to ban all cloning of human embryos, including for stem-cell research, as a General Assembly committee opted instead for a nonbinding declaration.

Rare Blood Infection Surfaces in Injured U.S. Soldiers

An unexpectedly high number of U.S. soldiers injured in the Middle East and Afghanistan are testing positive for a rare, hard-to-treat blood infection in military hospitals, Army doctors reported on Thursday.

Patients Seek Answers on Popular Drugs

An Oregon man stopped taking the painkiller Vioxx when it was pulled from the market, switching to Bextra. Then questions were raised about Bextra — and four other drugs — and he returned to his doctor with a new set of worries.

FDA Official 'Rejects' Safety Criticisms

A Food and Drug Administration official said Friday "we categorically reject" accusations the agency has failed to protect the public against dangerous drugs.

Transplant Group Discourages Donor Ads

The national organ transplant network is asking hospitals to discourage patients from advertising for donors and, if possible, to refuse to perform transplants that arise from these campaigns.

Changes Aim at Better Mad Cow Testing

As the government awaits definitive results in a possible second case of mad cow disease, federal officials are charting new ground in dealing with a jittery public. Little noticed in the anxiety are some Agriculture Department policy changes the past fo...

New ID Tag Could Prevent Surgical Errors

A radio frequency tag that patients can affix like a bandage to ensure doctors perform the right surgery on the right person won government approval Friday.

Military Amputees to Get New Rehab Center

A state-of-the-art rehabilitation center opening next year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center seeks to return more amputee soldiers to a place once thought impossible: the battlefield.

U.N. Abandons Idea of Anti-Cloning Treaty

U.N. diplomats abandoned contentious efforts to draft a treaty that would outlaw human cloning and will likely settle for a weaker declaration that won't seek a comprehensive ban, officials said.

Indian Firm Pulls 6 HIV Drugs From List

India's Hetero Drugs is withdrawing six of its generic versions of antiretroviral drugs from the World Health Organization's list of approved HIV medicines, saying it is not certain they are biologically the same as the patented drugs.

Military Family Life Comes Under Study

The military, so the saying goes, enlists a soldier but re-enlists a family. Getting families to re-up in time of war, however, is a daunting task the defense department hopes will be made easier with research by Purdue University.

Study: C-Sections Gain Popularity in U.S.

New research bolsters a growing body of evidence that an increasing proportion of women in the industrialized world are choosing to give birth by Caesarean section when there is no clear medical need.

Health Tip: Buying Exercise Equipment

If you're considering buying fitness equipment for home use, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission says you should exercise good judgment when evaluating advertising claims.

Generic NSAID Causes Fewer Complications

The generic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) etodolac caused 60 percent fewer gastrointestinal ulcer complications than the over-the-counter painkiller naproxen.

Still Not Enough Nurses to Go Around

Even though there's a steady increase in the number of new registered nurses in the United States, it's still not enough to prevent a long-term shortage that could cripple the nation's health-care system.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Health Headlines - November 18

FDA Reviewer Says 5 Drugs Need Closer Scrutiny

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewer who has accused the agency of being lax in monitoring drug safety on Thursday said five medicines on the market need closer scrutiny. Dr. David Graham, speaking at a Senate hearing, singled out Abbott Laboratories Inc.'s weight-loss drug Meridia, AstraZeneca's cholesterol fighter Crestor, Pfizer Inc.'s arthritis treatment Bextra, Roche's acne drug Accutane and GlaxoSmithKline's asthma drug Serevent.

Rare Blood Infection Surfaces in Injured U.S. Soldiers

An unexpectedly high number of U.S. soldiers injured in the Middle East and Afghanistan are testing positive for a rare, hard-to-treat blood infection in military hospitals, Army doctors reported on Thursday.

Study Suggests How COX Drugs Cause Heart Disease

Painkillers suspected of causing fatal heart disease may act by starting the process of hardening the arteries, researchers proposed on Thursday.

FDA Failed Public on Vioxx

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed to protect the public from Merck & Co. Inc.'s now-withdrawn painkiller Vioxx and is incapable of guarding America from dangerous drugs, a veteran FDA researcher told Congress on Thursday.

Rise in First-Time Caesarean Births in U.S.

First-time caesarean section births for women with no identified medical risks or complications have risen sharply in the United States, according to research published on Friday.

Supplements Don't Affect Mental Powers of Elderly

Supplementation with antioxidants, zinc or copper has neither a beneficial nor harmful effect on cognition in elderly people, a new study indicates.

FDA Clears Genentech's Tarceva for Lung Cancer

Biotechnology companies Genentech Inc. and OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Thursday said U.S. regulators have approved their drug Tarceva for treating the most common form of lung cancer.

Stomach Surgery Linked to Throat Cancer Risk

People who have had all or part of their stomach removed appear to have an increased risk of later developing cancer of the larynx, doctors in Italy report.

UN Short-Circuits U.S.-Led Drive to Ban Cloning

U.S. efforts to secure a global treaty banning the cloning of human embryos, including for stem cell research, were dealt a major setback on Thursday when U.N. diplomats agreed to work for a political declaration on the issue instead.

Doctors Call for Antibiotic Drug for HIV Children

A low-cost antibiotic should be given to all children with HIV in developing countries to prevent infections such as pneumonia and reduce deaths, scientists said on Friday.

Possible New Case of Mad Cow Disease Found

The government is checking a possible new case of mad cow disease, officials said Thursday, rattling the nation's cattle industry, food processors and beef-oriented restaurant chains.

FDA Issues Regulations for Tissue Banks

Tissue banks that process donated skin, ligaments and bones for transplant must meet new federal safety standards, aimed at preventing infection and disease, under regulations issued Thursday.

GOP Lawmaker Questions FDA Flu Response

An influential Republican lawmaker joined Democratic critics Thursday in asking whether the Food and Drug Administration reacted slowly to problems with U.S. flu vaccine.

Many Adults Hitting the Barre for Fitness

Bored with the gym and tennis lessons, Marianna Orro was looking for a new exercise. She heard about a tap dance class and signed up with a friend at a studio outside Cleveland.

Arafat's Diagnosis May Soon Be Revealed

Nearly a week after his death, speculation still swirls around what killed Yasser Arafat. Cirrhosis of the liver, AIDS, a blood disorder and poisoning are frequently mentioned in unconfirmed reports.

Mayors Urge Diabetics to Control Disease

An Ohio mayor has a personal message to diabetics across the country: If he can work 15-hour days and still fit in regular exercise and healthy meals to control his disease, they can too.

Great American Smokeout Kicks Off Today

The American Cancer Society is calling on millions of Americans to go cold turkey for the day. It's the 28th annual Great American Smokeout, a day which many hope will be the first of many cigarette-free days.

Problems Linger for Recovering Alcoholics

Even with prolonged sobriety, alcoholics can have problems with visual perception and frontal executive brain function, which can make it hard for them to do things such as read maps or put together puzzles.

Health Tip: Sick Building Syndrome

If you always seem to feel lousy at work, don't automatically blame it on your job -- it might be the building in which you work.

Health Tip: Cold Weather Blues?

If your mood seems to drop with the amount of daylight, you may have a condition called seasonal affective disorder, according to the National Mental Health Association.

Family Dinners Lower Risk For Eating Disorders

Gathering around the family dinner table each evening may help lower risks for eating disorders in girls, suggests a University of Minnesota study.

Study Shows Simple Steps to Painless Dieting

By reducing calorie density by 30 percent and reducing serving sizes by about a quarter, Penn State researchers eliminated 800 calories a day from the diets of young women -- and the women didn't even notice.

Protein Key to Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair

Research into using stem cells to repair damaged nerves just got a big boost, with scientists pinpointing a protein key to controlling binocular vision -- visual depth perception -- in mammals.

Too Few Elderly in Cancer Clinical Trials

Even though they account for 60 percent of cancer patients in the United States, patients aged 65 and older make up just 36 percent of participants in cancer clinical trials.

A New Target For a Fat-Fighting Drug

A newly discovered enzyme that plays a major role in fat metabolism could be a target for a different kind of weight-loss drug, Austrian researchers report.

Older Americans Can Expect Longer, Healthier Lives

The average 65-year-old American woman can now expect nearly two more decades of life, while men of the same age will live an average of 16 years longer.

Running Revolution Started as Evolution

Millions of years before headphone-wearing joggers clotted the streets of America, the development of the ability to run played a crucial role in the evolution of early humans, according to new research.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Health Headlines - November 17

Nursery Rhymes Have More Violence Than Kids TV

Children's nursery rhymes contain 10 times more violence than British television shows broadcast before the country's 9 p.m. "watershed" after which more adult content can be shown, research published on Thursday said.

Rise in Antidepressants Prescribed for Children

Doctors are prescribing more antidepressants for children and adolescents although there is little evidence about their safety or efficacy in youngsters, researchers said on Thursday.

Pfizer's Contraceptive Can Weaken Bones

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday ordered a strong, new warning for Pfizer Inc.'s (PFE.N) injectable contraceptive called Depo-Provera, saying it could permanently weaken bones.

Ultrasound May Help Dissolve Deadly Blood Clots

Just like a spoon is used to stir sugar into a cup of tea, high-frequency sound waves may help doctors get rid of deadly blood clots in the brain, according to a study released on Wednesday.

Anorexic Girls Bond on Web to Dismay of Doctors

An underground subculture of teenage girls who bond over their eating disorders and glorify bone-thin celebrities has surfaced on the Internet, in a growing trend that experts say frustrates treatment.

Food Allergy Not Tied to Stomach Reflux in Adults

A food allergy is no worse than other allergies at increasing the risk of stomach reflux in adults, according to findings presented here this week at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Global Health Alert Network Now in Six Languages

A global early warning system for threats to public health is now able to search for risky developments and send out alerts in six languages rather than English alone, its sponsors announced on Wednesday.

Study: an Apple a Day Really Does Keep Doctor Away

An apple a day really does keep the doctor away, thanks to strong antioxidants that fight cell damage, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Too Much Belly Fat May Up Later Disability Risk

Too much abdominal fat in middle age may increase the risk of disability in later years, according to new study findings presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Las Vegas.

U.S. Democrats Criticize FDA on Flu Shot Shortage

Congressional Democrats attacked U.S. drug regulators on Wednesday for failing to recognize that flu vaccine was contaminated with bacteria at Chiron Corp.'s British plant after problems first arose in 2003.

Study: Ultrasound May Help Stroke Victims

The same type of sound waves that pulsate from sonar fish-finders and ultrasound fetal monitors can dramatically boost the power of anti-clotting medicine and help it dissolve brain blockages in stroke patients, a study suggests.

Inquiry: Gulf War Syndrome Does Exist

A report on Gulf War syndrome released Wednesday urges the British government to acknowledge the illness is real and calls for compensation for veterans who became sick following the 1991 conflict.

FDA Saw Problems at Vaccine Plant in 2003

The Food and Drug Administration uncovered contamination and unsanitary conditions at a British flu vaccine manufacturing plant in 2003 but failed to re-inspect it until similar problems caused the loss of half the U.S. vaccine supply in October.

Birth-Control Shot Gets Black Box Warning

Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive, will come with a special warning that links prolonged use of the drug with bone density loss, the government said Wednesday.

FDA Defends Its Handling of Vioxx Issues

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday defended its oversight of the Vioxx ahead of a congressional review into whether the agency and the maker of the arthritis drug recently taken off the market put patients' safety first.

GOP Looking to Repeal Food Labeling Law

Telling consumers where their meat, fruit and vegetables came from seemed such a good idea to U.S. ranchers and farmers in competition with imports that Congress two years ago ordered the food industry to do it.

Diabetes More Worrisome on US-Mexico Line

People who live along the U.S.-Mexico border suffer diabetes at a rate somewhat higher than the national averages in either country, according to a study released Wednesday.

WHO Says More Flu Vaccine Research Needed

The world is unprepared for an inevitable flu pandemic that could kill tens of millions of people, but profit-driven pharmaceutical companies are putting too little research into the development of vaccines, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

LSU to Study Oral Health of Babies

When mothers kiss their babies or taste food to make sure it's cool enough for toothless gums and tender mouths, they may pass on germs that will decay teeth when they sprout, researchers say.

WHO Official Urges Better Health Records

Numerous countries can't say how many of their citizens die every year or what kills them, a situation that undermines efforts to combat disease in the poorest corners of the globe.

Health Tip: Home Water Filters

Most American homes don't need a water filter to make their drinking water safe, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cell's 'Pain Switch' a Target for New Drugs

Drugs that target a cellular 'pain switch' might someday ease the suffering of patients with chronic, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, according to a study in mice.

Brain's Judgment Center Smaller in Coke Addicts

Cocaine addicts have a smaller amygdala -- a brain structure that helps people judge the consequences of their actions -- than non-addicted people, claims research in the current issue of Neuron.

Birth Control Pills May Cut Risk of Knee Injuries

Taking birth control pills may stabilize knee joints and reduce the risk of injuries, suggests a McGill University study.

Researchers Closing In On 'Death Clock' Gene

British researchers say they've narrowed the search for the 'death clock' gene thought to be key to cancer, aging and age-related diseases.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Health Headlines - November 16

Infections Big Risk for Premature Babies

The smallest premature babies, already at high risk of brain damage, are likely to develop even more mental disorders if they get any infection in the first weeks of life, researchers said on Tuesday.

Study Links Smog Increases to Urban U.S. Deaths

Increases in air pollution caused by cars, power plants and industry can be directly linked to higher death rates in U.S. cities, a study said on Tuesday.

Teens with Same-Sex Parents as Normal as Peers

Teenagers raised by two women appear to be as well adjusted as those who are raised by male-female couples, a new report indicates.

Short-Term Ozone Pollution Raises Mortality Risk

When ozone goes up in cities, even for short periods at levels below current regulatory standards, so does the death rate, according to an article in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

New Drug May Be Better Than Aspirin for Diabetics

A drug called picotamide appears to be a more effective blood-thinner than aspirin for people with diabetes, according to an Italian study.

Estrogen Helps with Endometriosis Pain

The benefits of the standard drugs used to treat pain caused by endometriosis are improved when the woman is also treated with estrogen and progestin hormone therapy, Italian researchers report.

White Kids More Likely to Be Allergic to Peanuts

Perhaps because of differences in feeding habits, white children appear to be at increased risk for peanut allergy compared with their non-white peers, new research suggests.

Outpatient Tonsillectomy Safe for Most Children

Kids who need their tonsils removed can be in and out of the hospital on the same day, in many cases, Spanish doctors report.

Laser Therapy Improves Rosacea Skin Sensitivity

Laser treatment that destroys small blood vessels relieves the facial skin sensitivity that often accompanies rosacea, doctors in Sweden report.

Study Links Sleep Deprivation, Obesity

Weight-loss experts have a novel prescription for people who want to shed pounds: Get some sleep. A very large study has found a surprisingly strong link between the amount of shut-eye people get and their risk of becoming obese.

Britain Plans Sweeping Smoking Ban

Four hundred years after King James I denounced tobacco as "loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs," the British government is taking heed. It announced plans Tuesday to ban smoking in most public places.

Activists Seek Funds for World Health

Health activists on Tuesday demanded more money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ahead of the group's board meeting where U.S. representatives are expected to push for a suspension of new projects.

FDA Criticized on Abortion Pill Safety

The government on Tuesday said a controversial abortion pill is safe enough to remain on the market, despite a third death and a grieving father's plea.

Health Researcher Martin Kaplan Dies

Martin M. Kaplan, a health researcher and former secretary-general of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash conferences on disarmament, has died. He was 89.

FDA Orders Viagra to Pull 'Wild Thing' Ad

The government ordered Pfizer Inc. to yank cheeky television ads that promised better sex for men taking Viagra because they failed to disclose known risks associated with the drug, according to a letter released on Monday.

Study: Low-Fat Diets Better Long-Term

Regardless of how they shed pounds in the first place, big losers stayed that way by limiting fat rather than carbohydrates, according to new research that could add fuel to the backlash against low-carb diets.

Health Tip: Cold or Allergy?

Millions of Americans with year-round allergies may confuse their symptoms with frequent colds, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says.

Extending Immune Cell Life Fights HIV

Boosting a cellular protein called telomerase may help ward off HIV, say UCLA scientists.

Drugs May Not Protect Against Cat Allergies

People allergic to cats may not be getting adequate relief from their prescription drugs even though more of the medications contain ingredients aimed at attacking these irritants, a new study finds.

New Clue to Prostate Cancer May Improve Treatment

New information about the activity of a hormone-sensitive cell receptor could improve the treatment of prostate cancer, according to a study in the November issue of Cancer Cell.

CT Scan Spots Operable Pancreatic Cancers

High-quality computed tomography (CT) scans are as effective as more invasive endoscopic ultrasound in assessing whether pancreatic cancer can be treated surgically.

Aromatase Inhibitors Recommended for Breast Cancer

A group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors should be used after surgery to treat postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, new guidelines recommend.

Health Tip: Boxers or Briefs?

So much for the "old wive's" tale that couples who want to get pregnant should eschew briefs for boxers.

The reasoning went that tight briefs would elevate testicular temperature, thus hampering sperm production.

But fertility experts say it simply isn't so.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook say they've found that briefs produced no significant differences in a man's scrotal temperature or in his sperm count, concentration or movement.

The findings applied even when men switched from one type of underwear to the other, the scientists say.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Health Headlines - November 15

Long Computer Use May Be Linked to Eye Disease

Hours in front of a computer screen may increase the risk of glaucoma in people who are myopic or short-sighted, Japanese scientists said on Tuesday.

UK Wants Partial Smoking Ban, Limit on Junk Food Ads

Britain will announce plans on Tuesday for a ban on smoking in many public places and a crackdown on television advertising of "junk food" aimed at children.

Birth Rate for Young Teens Lowest Since 1946

The birth rate among adolescent and young teen girls in the United States fell sharply in the 1990s, hitting a 58-year-low in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday.

Having a Confidant May Ward Off Kids' Depression

Among abused and neglected children who are genetically prone to develop depression, the risk of doing so may be reduced if they have someone to talk to, share good news with and get advice from, new study findings show.

Allergy Sufferers Keen to Try Alternative Therapy

In a survey of allergy and asthma patients seen at a private allergy practice in the US, 62 percent expressed an interest in also being treated with complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture or vitamin therapy.

Brain Inflammation Found in Autism

Children with autism have inflammation in their brains, although it is not yet clear whether the inflammation actually causes the condition, researchers said on Monday.

New U.S. Trial Starts of Tailored Cancer Treatment

Researchers who found a genetic pattern that predicts who will be helped by a revolutionary new lung cancer drug said on Monday they were looking for patients to help them confirm their findings.

Nebulizers Improve Asthma Outcomes in Kids

Following an asthma flare-up, children who are given inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) with a nebulizer are less likely to be re-hospitalized or need to go the ER than are their peers using steroids delivered by a non-nebulizer device, a new study shows.

High-Dose Steroids Up Heart Disease Risk Greatly

Treatment with high doses of medicinal steroids (aka, glucocorticoids) more than doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, new research suggests.

FDA Encourages Radio Tags on Drug Bottles

Viagra, Oxycontin and some AIDS drugs will be among the first to carry radio chip tracking devices under a new Food and Drug Administration initiative to prevent theft and counterfeiting announced on Monday.

Study: Low-Fat Diets Better Long-Term

Regardless of how they shed pounds in the first place, big losers stayed that way by limiting fat rather than carbohydrates, according to new research that could add fuel to the backlash against low-carb diets.

More Safety Warnings for Abortion Pill

An abortion pill implicated in the death of an 18-year-old California woman last fall will add new warnings linking RU-486 to the risk of serious bacterial infection.

New Drug May Help Heart As Well As Obesity

Not content with having a drug that might merely fight obesity and smoking, the company developing this eagerly anticipated pill will soon launch studies to see if it can treat and prevent clogged arteries and heart disease.

Scotland Readies Tough Smoking Ban

Retired nurse Carolyn Rowe carries vivid memories of cancer patients she treated and says their suffering drives her strong support for Scotland's plan to ban smoking in all enclosed public places.

Chiron Asks Regulators to Inspect Facility

Chiron Corp. has asked British regulators to inspect its facility producing an experimental bird flu vaccine to make sure it doesn't run into the same contamination problems that forced the closing of another plant and a flu shot crisis in the United States.

Genes May Give Some a Taste for Alcohol

Genetically influenced variations in the way that people taste alcohol could interact with other factors to determine a person's risk of developing a drinking problem.

Gastric Bypass Surgery Eases GERD in the Obese
Gastric bypass surgery controls symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in morbidly obese people who've had previous anti-reflux surgery, says a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study.

Triplets Strain Parental Bond

The stress of parenting has a negative impact on the development of the mother-infant relationship in triplets, says a study by the Society for Research in Child Development.

New Gene Link to 'Bubble Boy' Disease Found

A newly identified gene mutation that causes severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as "bubble boy" disease, is described in a French study.

Drinking During Pregnancy Can Lower Baby's IQ

Women who drink while pregnant not only run the risk of having a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, but of having a baby with alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, a new study finds.

Faster Allergy Immunotherapy Proves Effective

A new, more intensive way of delivering allergy shots can dramatically and safely shorten the time it takes for young patients to find relief from their condition, a new study contends.

Teens With Same-Sex Parents Well-Adjusted

Adolescents who have two moms as parents are no different from teens growing up with a mother and a father, a new study finds.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Health Headlines - November 14

Anti-Obesity Pill Might Fight Drug Abuse

A pill that helps you lose weight and quit smoking? That was amazing enough to capture headlines last week. But scientists say the experimental drug might be even more versatile, providing a new tool to help people stop abusing drugs and alcohol, too.

Secondhand Smoke Key Issue in Trial

Secondhand smoke can cause cancer. It's what the surgeon general says. So too the Environmental Protection Agency. And the World Health Organization. To the tobacco industry, however, the link is not clear.

Seat Tests Find Poor Whiplash Prevention

More than half of car seats do a poor job of preventing whiplash injury because of the way they are built, according to tests by the insurance industry.

India Aims to Prevent Farmers' Starvation

India's government launched an ambitious food-for-work program Sunday aimed at moving millions of poor farmers back from the brink of starvation by helping them feed themselves.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Health Headlines - November 13

Merck Decided Against 2000 Vioxx Study

Top executives at pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. decided in May 2000 against developing a study to test directly whether its Vioxx painkiller drug might pose a heart risk, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

West Braces for Elderly Population Boom

The Census Bureau says the population of those 65 and older will increase more rapidly in the West than in any other area of the country. While retirees settle in, states are figuring out how to keep up with an aging population.

Lung Recipient, Donor's Dad Run Marathon

Two years ago, Len Geiger was near death, suffering from a severe case of genetic emphysema. On Saturday, Geiger participated in his first marathon, accompanied by the father of the 14-year-old girl whose lungs were used in a double-lung transplant.

Activists: Chernobyl Radiation Lingers

The signs say "KEEP OUT" and warn of radiation contamination, but the mushroom-pickers trudge right past them carrying their pails. Eighteen years after the reactor at Chernobyl in neighboring Ukraine exploded.

Diabetics Should Plan Travel Carefully

If you have diabetes, you should do some careful planning before you take any trips this holiday season, says Cecilia Sauter, program coordinator of the University of Michigan Diabetes Education Program.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Health Headlines - November 12

Smoking and Salt Bad for Stomach Reflux

People who smoke or use high amounts of table salt on their food appear to be at increased risk for gastroesophageal reflux, a disease in which stomach juices flow back into the esophagus, European researchers report.

Blood Transfusions at Birth Often Unneeded

A significant proportion of blood transfusions given to mothers around the time of birth may be unnecessary, Canadian researchers report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Paxil Appears to Be Effective for OCD in Kids

Paxil is a safe and effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in children and adolescents.

'Kangaroo Care' Good for Premature Infants

Continuous skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her premature infant appears to help them to thrive just as well as traditional care in incubators, according to a new report.

Plaques Cut Survival in Young Heart Attack Patients

Blood vessel plaques and the heart's pumping ability influence survival in people under 40 who've suffered a heart attack, new research shows.

Cholesterol Drugs May Not Reduce Risk of Dementia

New study findings suggest that the cholesterol-lowering drugs know as "statins" do not appear to lower the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, except possibly in cases of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Sara Lee Unit Voluntarily Recalls Corn Dogs

Bryan Foods, a unit of Sara Lee Corp., is voluntarily recalling about 81,500 pounds of corn dogs because the packaging did not declare the products contained dried egg yolks, which can cause an allergic reaction.

Glaxo Vaccine Stops Virus Linked to Cancer

It's one of the most common cancers in women and kills about a quarter of a million patients each year but scientists said on Friday that a new vaccine could prevent most cases of cervical cancer.

WHO Urges More Flu Vaccine Efforts Before Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged governments to provide funds to drug makers developing vaccines against a feared influenza pandemic, which could kill millions of people.

Canada Not Trying to Kill Web Drugstores, PM Says

Prime Minister Paul Martin denied on Friday that Canada was trying to drive Internet pharmacies out of business, despite Ottawa's recent complaints over drug sales to the United States.

WHO: Flu Vaccine Available Within Year

With the right coordination, international commitment and about $13 million, scientists could deliver within a year a candidate vaccine to combat global flu outbreaks, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Drug Safety Adviser Booted From Meeting

A federal drug safety adviser said Friday the government rescinded his invitation to participate in a February meeting on the risk of Vioxx and other arthritis drugs because he had already publicly expressed doubts about the medications.

VA Changes Approach to Gulf War Illness

The Veterans Affairs Department said Friday that it no longer will pay for studies that seek to show stress is the primary cause of mysterious ailments afflicting thousands of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

CDC Expects Mild Season for West Nile

After two record-breaking years of West Nile virus illnesses and deaths, the nation is experiencing a relatively mild season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Master Gene Guards Lungs Against Cigarette Smoke

A gene in mice that defends the lungs against environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke has been identified by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Health Tip: Weight Training

Weight training is a good way to improve your strength, increase muscle tone, help you lose fat and gain muscle mass, and improve bone density.

Artificial Kidney Helps Those With Renal Failure

A bioartificial kidney may help save the lives of people with acute renal failure, according to results of the first test of the device in humans.

Surgery for GERD in Kids Doesn't Work

A surgical procedure called fundoplication is not an effective treatment for children with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), says a study by researchers at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

Exercise Cuts Death Risk Later in Life

People in their 50s and 60s who get regular exercise are about 35 percent less likely to die within eight years than inactive people in the same age group, says a University of Michigan Health System study.

Epileptic Seizures Not as Dangerous as Thought

There's only a low risk of major injury from epileptic seizures, so most people with epilepsy don't need to restrict their daily activities to avoid injury, says a Mayo Clinic study.

Respiratory Problems Plague Kids With Asthma

Respiratory infections, not air pollution, cause a significant worsening of health problems in winter for children with asthma, according to researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center.