Sunday, July 31, 2005

Health Headlines - July 31

Study Confirms Power of Anti-HIV Drugs

The powerful cocktail of drugs known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) prevents HIV infection from progressing to AIDS in a majority of patients over the long term, researchers report.

Based on these findings, experts in Britain contend that HAART is appropriate for treating HIV infection where it has hit hardest -- in developing countries.

The report appears in the July 30 issue of The Lancet.

"Compared with no treatment, HAART, which has been available since 1996, reduces the progression for HIV to AIDS and death by 86 percent," said Jonathan A.C. Sterne, a reader in medical statistics at the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Bristol.

"In addition, the benefit of HAART increases with time since starting treatment," he noted. In other words, the longer one waits to start treatment, the more the immune system becomes compromised, reducing the benefit of HAART, Sterne explained.

HAART involves a combination of three and sometimes more drugs that work in combination to suppress the activity of HIV. First discovered in the mid-1990s, the therapy has greatly extended the lives of thousands of infected individuals in the developed world. The drugs are expensive, however, and have so far remained out of reach of most HIV-positive individuals living in poorer countries.

In their study, Sterne's team collected data on 3,245 HIV patients who participated in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study starting in 1996, when HAART first became available to Swiss patients. They compared the outcomes of patients receiving HAART to those of patients receiving no treatment, and with patients receiving only two HIV drugs.

The researchers report that HAART was effective in preventing long-term progression to AIDS. But they also found that people who became infected with HIV via injection drug use were less likely to benefit from HAART than other patients. "This might be because these people adhere to treatment less well," Sterne said.

HAART does have side effects, including an increased risk of heart disease, Sterne noted. "These results provide reassurance that there are very big benefits of the treatment that outweigh the adverse effects," he said.

The British researcher believes the study clearly shows the value of HAART over time. "These results show the huge potential benefit of making HAART available in developing countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa," Sterne said. "The benefits are so enormous that there are huge potential gains by trying to making HAART accessible in developing countries."

One expert said the findings come as little surprise. "This study is a statistical analysis to prove what we already know clinically," said Michael Allerton, the HIV operations policy leader at the Permanente Medical Group in Oakland, Calif.

"To my mind, the only time anyone had any doubt about HAART working was in South Africa, with the president of South Africa [Thabo Mbeki], who doesn't believe that HIV causes AIDS," Allerton said. "The concern is not if it works, but how you find an effective way to distribute it that it continues to maintain its efficacy."

Fructose Sweetener Spurs Obesity

Another study finds that high consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages contributes to obesity. But this study, conducted in mice, suggests that one form of natural sweetener -- fructose -- may be especially likely to encourage weight gain.

In the study, researchers at the University of Cincinnati allowed mice to freely consume either plain water or fructose-sweetened water and soft drinks.

The mice that drank the fructose-sweetened water and soft drinks gained weight, even though they took in fewer calories from solid food.

By the end of the study, the mice that consumed fructose-sweetened beverages had 90 percent more body fat than the mice that consumed water only.

The findings suggest that the total amount of calories consumed when someone includes fructose in their diets may not be the only cause of weight gain. Consuming fructose may actually affect metabolism in a way that leads to more fat storage, at least in mice, the researchers said.

"Our study shows how fat mass increases as a direct consequence of soft drink consumption," study author Dr. Matthias Tschop, associate professor in the University of Cincinnati's psychiatry department and a member of the Obesity Research Center at the university's Genome Research Institute, said in a prepared statement.

"We were surprised to see that mice actually ate less when exposed to fructose-sweetened beverages, and therefore didn't consume more overall calories. Nevertheless, they gained significantly more body fat within a few weeks," Tschop said.

The study appears in the July issue of the journal Obesity Research.

Acupuncture Can Ease Headaches

Acupuncture treatments cut the frequency of tension headaches in half in individuals prone to the ailment, a new study found.

But the researchers also point out that minimal acupuncture -- defined as "superficial needling at non-acupuncture points" and considered a sham treatment -- was just as effective, according to a German study appearing in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal.

"Based on the results of our trial, as well as of yet-unpublished observational data from a larger number of patients in routine care, it seems that many (German) patients benefit definitively, so I see no reason to discourage patients from trying it," said Dr. Klaus Linde, senior author of the study and an epidemiologist with the Institute of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the Technical University of Munich.

But he added, "As there was no relevant effect over an inadequate acupuncture intervention, I would be a bit cautious to actively recommend it widely."

According to the study authors, in a given year, 38 percent of Americans have episodic tension-type headaches and 2 percent have chronic, tension-type headaches. In 1997, a consensus statement issued by an expert panel at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, included headache as one of a number of conditions that might be helped by acupuncture.

While acupuncture is widely used for different types of headaches, experts remain conflicted over how effective it really is.

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is practiced to restore the flow of energy in the body. The technique most widely studied by scientists involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by hand or electrical stimulation.

For the randomized, controlled trial at 28 outpatient centers in Germany, 270 mostly female patients experiencing tension headaches were divided into three groups.

One group was treated with traditional acupuncture and another with minimal acupuncture, while the control group received no acupuncture at all. Those in the two acupuncture groups received 12 sessions each spread over eight weeks.

Headache rates among those in the traditional acupuncture group fell by almost half: The number of days with headache decreased by 7.2, compared with 6.6 in the minimal acupuncture group. Those in the control group experienced only 1.5 fewer days with headaches. Improvements in the traditional acupuncture group were similar to improvement seen with accepted treatments.

About a fifth of those in the traditional acupuncture group reported side effects, such as dizziness, other headaches and bruising.

Interestingly, the improvements continued for months after the intervention, rising slightly as time progressed.

After the main study segment had ended, individuals in the control group were given acupuncture for eight weeks and also experienced improvements, albeit less than the original study participants.

The fact that traditional and minimal acupuncture had such similar results may indicate that the location of needles don't have a huge impact on how effective the treatment is, the study authors wrote.

Even though apparent sham acupuncture and real acupuncture have similar effects, Dr. Charles Kim, a pain medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City who also practices acupuncture, thinks something must be happening.

"The research to date has somehow shown that acupuncture does stimulate the release of endorphins, but, more specifically, I do treatments with electrostimulation and a lot of the research has shown that certain frequencies of stimulation with acupuncture induces beta-endorphins at certain frequencies," he said.

It's also possible that both acupuncture and the sham treatment are associated with strong placebo effects. A similar phenomenon was seen in a trial on acupuncture and migraines, which Linde was also involved with and which was published in May.

"As the large response to minimal acupuncture was so impressive, it would be extremely interesting to see whether similar results are obtained in other countries, and if so, what the reasons are," Linde said. "There is some evidence that any repetitive needling might influence pain perception and memory, and also that the whole ritual and setting of acupuncture is powerful. Research in this direction could be extremely interesting."

Hospital Reminders Lower Urinary Catheter Risk

Urinary catheters are often necessary for hospitalized patients, but risk of infection rises with extended use. A new study finds that a simple reminder system can help doctors remember to remove these catheters after two days, reducing patient risk and discomfort.

"Doctors are responsible for ordering the removal of catheters, but research has shown that many of them forget which patients have catheters and how long they have them," lead researcher Dr. Sanjay Saint, a hospitalist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a prepared statement. "Our reminder system helps doctors do the right thing," Saint said.

In their 16-month study, his team of researchers found that having nurses flag patients' records with a written reminder to doctors resulted in many patients having catheters for a much shorter time.

The written reminder system is inexpensive and the cost is more than made up by the savings a hospital achieves by reducing catheter-related infections, the researchers add.

Their findings appear in the August issue of the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Public Safety.

It is estimated that, at any given time, about 25 percent of hospital patients have urinary catheters. Many patients have the catheters in for much longer than they need them, which increases their risk of suffering a urinary tract or blood infection, the researchers said.

Pig-Borne Disease Found in Mainland China

A slaughterhouse worker contracted a pig-borne disease in southern China, a hospital official said Saturday. He was the first mainland case outside the Sichuan province, where 32 farmers have died since June from the illness.

Some 163 confirmed and suspected cases blamed on the bacteria streptococcus suis have been found in Sichuan in China's southwest, where farmers who handled or butchered infected pigs have been sickened in dozens of villages and towns.

The latest case is a 43-year-old man in Chaozhou, a city in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong and is hundreds of miles southeast of Sichuan. He "recovered and was discharged," said an official from the Chaozhou Central Hospital, who would not give her name or any other details.

It wasn't clear whether Chinese health officials believed the case was linked to the Sichuan outbreak.

Phone calls to other government offices in Guangdong rang unanswered.

Guangdong officials provided information on the case to authorities in Hong Kong but didn't say whether they thought it was linked to Sichuan, said Eva Wong, a spokeswoman for the territory's Health Department.

An official of the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, Ching Cheuk-tuen, said initial evidence shows the Guangdong man fell ill after direct contact with pigs.

"The information given to us by Guangdong health officials shows they do not consider it to be special or unusual," Ching told reporters.

One case was reported in Hong Kong this week, but Wong said it wasn't believed to be connected to the Sichuan outbreak because the man hadn't traveled in the month before his illness.

It was Hong Kong's 10th such case since May 2004, according to the Health Department.

In Sichuan, 24 people are hospitalized in critical condition and 11 have been discharged, the Chinese Health Ministry said Saturday on its Web site. No person-to-person transmissions have been reported.

Cases have been found in five new sites in Sichuan, including the provincial capital of Chengdu, the China Daily newspaper said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said no family members of the man in Guangdong have shown symptoms, which include nausea, fever, vomiting, and bleeding under the skin.

Reports of the latest outbreak triggered fears that another epidemic was sweeping China, which has battled severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and avian influenza in the past two years.

The World Health Organization said it is the largest recent outbreak of the pig-borne disease in the region.

Xinhua on Thursday cited China's Health Minister, Gao Qiang, as saying the epidemic appeared to be under control in Sichuan but warning that the region still needs to take precautions.

Health Tip: Old Enough for a Seat Belt?

How do you know when your child can move out of a booster seat and into a seat belt?

According to the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto, your child is ready when:

* He or she reaches the weight or height limit of your booster seat, or when the middle of your child's ears are above the back of the vehicle seat, head restraint or booster seat.
* Your child can sit with his back against the vehicle seat with legs bent over the front edge of the seat.
* The lap belt fits across your child's upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits between the child's neck and arm.

Health Tip: Protect Your Child's Teeth

Chipped, broken and knocked-out teeth are common childhood dental emergencies.

Prevent accidents to your kids' teeth with these tips from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

* Keep drawers and doors closed and stairs secured from babies and toddlers.
* When children first learn to stand alone, they often use furniture to pull themselves up and balance. Make sure you secure furniture that's at your child's level.
* Caution your child about drinking from water fountains. Kids can ram their teeth into the metal water jet.
* If your child plays contact sports, see that he wears a mouth guard.

Food Fact:
Attention, Popeye!

Here's a secret for getting the most iron from spinach. Have a glass of orange juice! Our bodies are far better able to access the iron in iron-rich plant foods -- fortified grains, legumes and dark greens -- if eaten with something acidic, such as citrus juice or tomato sauce. And even though Popeye was always carrying the spinach around, it's more likely that his sweetie Olive Oyl needed the iron more -- 75% of American women under the age of 50 are iron-deficient. If you're concerned about iron deficiency, see your doctor for a blood test, the only way to properly diagnose the condition. Adult men rarely need iron supplements.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Eat your veggies.

Listen to your mom; veggies will enhance your workout. Most veggies contain pantothenic acid, an essential nutrient that helps you stay fit and alert. This essential part of your diet contributes to the production of amino acids, helps metabolize fat and assists in the manufacture of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry messages in the brain.

FAQ of the day:
What's the difference between an herb and a spice?

Spices are generally derived from the dried seeds, roots or bark of a plant, often a tropical one. Herbs generally come from leaves, flowers and stems.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Health Headlines - July 30

Bird Flu Kills Two in Vietnam; Toll Now 60

Bird flu has killed two more people in Vietnam days before the country is to begin mass vaccinations of poultry, an official said Friday.

Primate Gene Link Opens Up Eye Research

A genetic link between rhesus monkeys and humans with macular degeneration -- an incurable eye disease that's the leading cause of blindness in the United States -- may provide information about the earliest stages of the disease, when severe vision loss could be halted.

Scientists Develop 'In-Body Bone Factory'

In the not-too-distant future, a ready source of fresh, rejection-free bone tissue for transplant may be as close as the outside of the patient's own shin or thigh bone, U.S. researchers report.

Stem Cells Restore Egg Production in Mouse Ovaries

Stem cells found in bone marrow and blood can help depleted adult mouse ovaries replenish their supplies of egg cells within a few weeks, according to a new study.

Knee Pain Can Point to Other Pain

The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone, but could the knee bone be connected to the backbone?

The answer seems to be "yes," at least where pain and depression are concerned, claims a group of British researchers.

Their study examined how often knee pain was associated with pain in other parts of the body and the effect of multiple sites of pain on the quality of life for patients aged 50 and older. People in this age group frequently experience joint pain, especially in the knees, according to the report in the August issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

It turned out that the majority of people with knee pain also had pain in other parts of the body, including the neck, hips, ankles and lower back. And people who suffered from pain at more than one site were more likely to suffer depression and anxiety. In other words, widespread physical pain had a notable impact on the emotional quality of patients' lives.

States Fail to Look for Eye Trouble in Kids

States are short-sighted when it comes to protecting their children's eyesight.

Only one -- Kentucky -- requires all children to receive an eye exam by an eye doctor before starting elementary school. And most other states fall far short of what's needed, according to a new report from the Vision Council of America called Making the Grade.

The report follows a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review that found that nearly two of three children receive no preventive vision care before entering elementary school.

Report Reveals New Clues to Deadly Anthrax

The activity of a pore on the surface of human cells may be a critical step to anthrax infection, according to Harvard Medical School researchers. They believe the finding could help lead to new methods of fighting the deadly bacterium.

Deadly Bacteria Times Its Attack

Scientists have gleaned new insights in how the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium -- a potentially lethal organism that's a frequent cause of infections after surgery -- gets past the human immune system's distress code.

Cracking the code, the bacteria recognizes the moment when a person is most vulnerable and times its attack to before the immune system can mount a strong defense, according to a study published in the July 29 issue of Science.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found the bacteria detect interferon-gamma, a chemical messenger used by the immune system to coordinate its attacks against invaders. The bacteria recognize interferon-gamma as a threat and then somehow assesse their own ranks. If they conclude their numbers are sufficiently large, the bacteria activate genes that turn them from harmless bowel dwellers into deadly invaders of the bloodstream.

Statins Help Some Stroke Patients

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs reduce the incidence of a potentially deadly complication in patients who have strokes caused by a burst blood vessel, British and American researchers report.

Fear Factor May Fuel Racial Divides

Overcoming fear of members of another race may not be as easy as some might hope, a new study suggests.

The research, which included the use of photos of people and mild electric shocks administered to study participants, revealed the same responses for both black and white Americans.

The only factor that helped diminish the fear was experience with interracial dating, the study found.

Drug Makers' Free Samples May Bias Doctors

Resident physicians with access to free drug samples in a medical clinic are more likely to prescribe heavily advertised drugs and less likely to recommend over-the-counter (OTC) and inexpensive drugs to their patients than doctors who don't have access to these handouts, according to a new study.

Food Fact:
Go nuts!

Eat the right number of nuts per week, and you may cut your risk of a fatal heart attack in half! That's what studies have shown for people who eat nuts five times or more per week. Many nuts, especially walnuts, are a good source of fatty acids that work in the body to lower heart disease risk. Eating nuts can help lower blood cholesterol, and reduce the risk of sudden severe heart attacks. But when eating nuts, it's important not to go overboard, because they're loaded with calories -- a 1/2 cup contains about 350 calories and 36 grams of fat. Instead of snacking on nuts by the handful, use them as an accent in a salad, in baked goods or pilafs.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Set reasonable goals.

Want to lose 30 pounds or have killer abs? Great, but remember: Every long journey starts with one step. By focusing on smaller, incremental targets unrelated to results -- say, following through on a promise to walk a little every day at lunch for a week -- you'll feel a sense of achievement early and more often. Big goals take time to reach, and focusing on them too soon may do more harm than good.

FAQ of the day:
Is vitamin E good for my eyes?

Extra vitamin E may help, but eating foods rich in yellow plant pigments is probably far more important. Lutein, the pigment in spinach, kale, corn, peas and other foods, concentrates in the macula of the eye, where it filters out harmful ultraviolet light. It sounds like you're getting more than enough vitamin E, so concentrate on eating carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots, to help preserve your vision.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Health Headlines - July 29

Health Tip: Buying Drugs Over the Counter

When aches and pains send you to the drug store looking for relief, make sure you choose the right product for you and your ailment.

After reading the product labels carefully, the University of Iowa suggests you ask yourself (or possibly your physician or pharmacist) these questions:

* What conditions or symptoms does the medication treat?
* How severe are my symptoms, and how long have I had them?
* How much medicine should I take, how often, and for how long?
* Can I drive while taking the medication?
* Can this medicine affect other health conditions I might have, such as asthma, high blood pressure or pregnancy?

Health Tip: Nuts Are Good for You

Have you stopped snacking on nuts because you've heard they're too fatty, caloric, and salty? Well, take heart.

According to the University of California, Berkley, studies have shown that nuts can help prevent coronary disease.

They're rich in unsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, folic acid, and other B vitamins. And walnuts are especially rich in heart-healthy oil.

So dig in, but choose the unsalted variety and, as with any food, enjoy them in moderation.

Study: Water Purifier Helped Save Kenyans

A newly published study shows that cases of diarrhea and deaths from the illness dropped significantly among Kenyan villagers when they treated their water with the Procter & Gamble Co. product Pur.

Study Finds N.Y. Smoking Ban Helping

Bar and restaurant workers in New York are suffering fewer sore throats and runny noses since the state's workplace smoking ban went into effect, health officials reported Wednesday.

Minn. Paramedics to Test Heart Device

For a clinical trial, paramedics in St. Paul and Minneapolis will be testing experimental suction devices on heart attack patients without their prior consent.

Study Says Echinacea Doesn't Help Colds

New research finds that taking the popular herbal remedy echinacea does nothing to treat or prevent colds. The federally funded study was what fans and foes of such substances say they have long needed -— rigorous, scientific testing. It found that patients who took an echinacea plant extract fared no better than those who took a dummy treatment.

Study: Gaps in Insurance Affects Kids

For every child who lacks health insurance, another has gaps in coverage and is just as likely to miss out on seeing a doctor or getting a prescription refilled, suggests a new comprehensive study of federal data.

Gluten-Free Market Goes Mainstream

For about 2 million Americans, the bread basket used to be filled with a tasteless, brick-like loaf that crumbled when sliced.

That was the bleak world of food Bernie Mansbach found 25 years ago when he was diagnosed with celiac disease, or an intolerance to a wheat protein called gluten.

"In those days, the doctor just stuck his head in the door and said, 'Don't eat gluten,'" said Mansbach, 74, of Scotia. "There were very few commercial gluten-free foods available then."

Now manufacturers are rolling out gluten-free equivalents of everything from pizza crusts to doughnuts, buns and cakes. Once banished to the dusty bottom shelves of obscure grocers, the gluten-free revolution is surfacing in the aisles of major supermarkets.

At Wal-Mart, "gluten-free" products are hitting the shelves this month. The retailing giant is requiring suppliers to identify whenever gluten is used in its private-label products, said Bob Anderson, general merchandise manager of the company's Great Value brand.

So far, 982 of the company's 1,254 products have been identified as gluten-free.

Study: Beta Blockers Don't Help All

New research raises concerns about the popular practice of giving most heart patients drugs that reduce the heart's workload before and after major surgery.

Bill for Reporting Medical Errors Cleared

A national system designed to increase reporting of medical errors won final congressional approval Wednesday and was sent to President Bush.

Weight-Loss Surgeon Accused of Negligence

A weight-loss surgeon was accused by state regulators of gross negligence and incompetence in the treatment of 11 gastric-bypass patients, including six who died.

Study: Male Circumcision Lowers AIDS Risk

Male circumcision significantly reduces the chances of female-to-male transmission of the AIDS virus, according to a new study French researchers announced Tuesday.

Food Fact:
Mesclun around.

Translate this peculiar French word as "easy nutrition" for folks on the run. Mesclun, a mix of baby greens, gives the health-conscious yet harried salad eater a welcome break. Mesclun, also called gourmet salad mix, usually contains oak leaf lettuce, radicchio, mache, arugula and a smattering of fresh herbs. Even if the mix varies somewhat, it's certain to include an antioxidant-rich blend. Choose mesclun with crisp, dry leaves and no signs of wilting. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. Wash and spin dry just before serving.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Find the right activity.

Answers to three questions will tell you if your exercise program is right for you. Try different activities, and ask yourself : Do I look forward to this? Do I enjoy doing it? Do I feel good afterward? If you answer yes to all three, it's an activity you'll probably keep doing. Remember, no exercise program will work for long if you have to force yourself to do it.

FAQ of the day:
Are vitamin D supplements a good idea?

A daily multivitamin will provide safe amounts of vitamin D and other nutrients. Consider a calcium supplement as well, if there's no other rich source of calcium in your diet. You need both calcium and vitamin D to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and possibly colon cancer.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Health Headlines - July 28

Calorie Postings Get Students' Attention

Pizza, hold the pepperoni. A burger, hold the cheese.

When high school students were faced with such tough lunch-line dilemmas, they were more likely to choose the "healthier" option, relatively speaking, when the fat and calories were posted, a small study found.

Even though the menu options tested weren't the best, researchers say this small experiment shows the benefit of listing nutritional information at schools.

"We didn't make any statements about the food whatsoever. We just put some information out there to see what they would do with it," said one of the study authors, Martha Conklin of Penn State University.

The researchers reviewed menu choices at six Pennsylvania high schools. Some of those posted nutritional information for a couple of popular items, while other schools didn't. Typically, those items were pizzas and burgers -- not salads and vegetables.

Even so, the results were encouraging, said Marilyn Tanner, a registered dietitian at Washington University in St. Louis, who wasn't involved in the study.

At one school, an average of 380 pepperoni pizzas were ordered each day during a six-week period when no nutritional boxes were displayed. In the ensuing six weeks, when nutritional information was posted, an average of 346 pepperoni pizzas were ordered.

During the same time, the number of cheese pizzas -- which have less fat and fewer calories -- increased from 37 to 60.

In another district, one school tested the nutritional boxes and another school did not. Students at the first school ordered an average of 61 cheeseburgers a day during the non-test period; that declined to 43 a day while nutrition information was posted. The number of hamburgers ordered went up from 19 to 31 per day. The second school saw no change in menu orders at all.

"It's a start. It's that little bit, but that's what we are looking for," Tanner said. "Make that healthier choice most of the time and you will be ahead of the game."

Researchers couldn't determine how much peer pressure or boredom with the menu may have swayed students' choices.

The study, reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, was conducted in fall 2003 at high schools in the Allentown, State College, Hershey and Hollidaysburg districts. It included students in urban, suburban and rural areas and in varying socio-economic groups, and the results were consistent across those categories, the researchers said.

Schools aren't required to post nutritional information in a cafeteria, though many schools may mail the information home to parents or post it on a Web site.

Greg Hummel, food service director for the Derry Township School District, which oversees the Hershey high school, said he plans to offer nutritional information for eight to 12 entrees starting this fall.

"It's what we all should do. A high-fat item isn't bad if you eat it only once or twice a week," he said.

Estimated Child Vaccination Coverage

Estimated vaccination coverage among children ages 19-35 months by state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State Percentage of children vaccinated
Ala. 82.3
Alaska 75.3
Ariz. 78.6
Ark. 82.4
Calif. 81.3
Colo. 77.1
Conn. 87.8
Del. 86.0
D.C. 82.5
Fla. 88.5
Ga. 84.7
Hawaii 81.2
Idaho 80.6
Ill. 82.7
Ind. 79.0
Iowa 86.1
Kan. 77.5
Ky. 79.1
La. 74.9
Maine 82.1
Md. 80.0
Mass. 89.1
Mich. 81.2
Minn. 85.2
Miss. 84.0
Mo. 81.6
Mont. 78.2
Neb. 82.3
Nev. 68.4
N.H. 86.3
N.J. 82.7
N.M. 83.5
N.Y. 82.2
N.C. 81.6
N.D. 82.0
Ohio 79.5
Okla. 72.1
Ore. 78.9
Pa. 85.7
R.I. 86.7
S.C. 79.8
S.D. 86.1
Tenn. 82.4
Texas 72.5
Utah 71.3
Vt. 85.0
Va. 81.0
Wash. 77.7
W.Va. 86.6
Wis. 82.9
Wyo. 83.3
Nation 80.9

Food Fact:
The world's No. 1 fruit?

Believe it or not, it's not the apple or banana. It's the mango! The intense orange flesh is not only meltingly sweet, soft, juicy and delicious, but reflects a high level of beta carotene, which our bodies convert to much-needed vitamin A. A whole mango provides about 130 calories along with all the vitamin C that most of us need daily. Don't go by color alone when choosing a ripe mango. The flesh should give a little to pressure, much like a ripe avocado. For smoothies, frozen treats and fruit salads, buy frozen mango pieces. The price is right and ripeness is guaranteed.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Patience pays.

If you don't get results right away, don't quit -- buff takes time. When you start an exercise program, don't expect changes overnight. It may be a couple of weeks before you see improvements. Although changes may seem subtle at first, stick with it. Even small amounts of exercise will start you on the road to a better body.

FAQ of the day:
Will eating blueberries improve my balance?

They seem to help rats keep their footing. When researchers at Tufts University in Boston fed rats antioxidant-rich extracts of blueberries, strawberries or spinach for eight months, the animals were protected from age-related declines in brain functions, including cognitive function. For some reason, those that received the blueberry extracts were also better able to keep their balance when walking over small rods.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Health Headlines - July 27

Circumcision Protects Men Against HIV Infection

Male circumcision greatly lowers the risk of female-to-male transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, says a French study.

The study of more than 3,000 young men in South Africa found that circumcision reduced the risk of men contracting HIV during intercourse with infected women by about 65 percent, the Associated Press reported.

The finding was presented Tuesday at the Third International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

"There had always been a suspicion that male circumcision prevented AIDS ... but this is the first randomized study using control trials," Dr. Bertrand Auvert, who coordinated the study for France's National AIDS Research Agency, told the AP.

The 21-month study, conducted between 2002 and 2005, did not look at the effect of male circumcision on male-to-female transmission of HIV. It also did not examine whether circumcision offers effective long-term protection against HIV infection.

Health Canada Warns About Impotence Drugs and Blindness

Men who experience vision problems while taking drugs for impotence and erectile dysfunction should seek immediate medical attention, advises a Health Canada warning that says the impotence drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra could cause blindness.

The warning, similar to one issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, said that men who use these drugs may be at risk for a rare side effect called nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), which occurs when there's a blockage of blood flow to the optic nerve, the Canadian Press reported.

Health Canada is currently investigating two reports of vision problems in men using Viagra.

"It is difficult to determine whether the use of Viagra, Cialis or Levitra is causing (eye problems), as individuals who have erectile problems often have high blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions that put them at increased risk," said a Health Canada statement released Tuesday.

The agency is monitoring the drugs and has asked for additional safety information from the drugs' manufacturers, the CP reported.

Earlier this month, the FDA ordered updated labeling on all three drugs to reflect a small number of reports of sudden vision loss among users.

Gene Linked to Deadly Aorta Diseases

A gene linked to deadly diseases of the aorta, the body's main blood vessel, has been identified by University of Texas researchers.

Their genetic analysis of 80 families with a history of aortic aneurysm and dissection found that four of the families had a variant version of a gene called Transforming Growth Factor Beta Receptor Type II.

This gene contains the code for a protein receptor believed to play an important role in regulating the synthesis and breakdown of connective tissue in the body, BBC News reported. The finding offers scientists a molecular pathway they can study for the development of biological makers and therapies for aortic aneurysm and dissection, which can burst and cause massive internal bleeding.

The study was published in the journal Circulation.

"The fact that this particular mutation was detected in four of 80 families screened shows us that there are undoubtedly more culprit genes yet to be discovered," Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation told BBC News.

"However, the results are a very valuable step towards understanding better how aneurysms develop and identifying targets for new drugs to halt their progression," Pearson said.

Social Security Speeds Disability Benefits Decisions

People seeking Social Security disability benefits can expect faster decisions based on rules changes announced Tuesday, the government says.

Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart said people who are clearly disabled could be approved for benefits in as little as three weeks under rules expected to be implemented next spring, the Associated Press reported.

The changes, announced on the 15th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, will mean a speedier approval process for virtually every qualified person who applies, Barnhart told the wire service. To qualify, a person must be unable to work for a year or more, have paid Social Security taxes for a minimum amount of time, and meet other specific eligibility requirements. More than 11 million people now receive such aid, the AP said.

The Social Security Administration expects to publish the proposed regulations for public comment this week and issue final regulations by year's end, the wire service said.

Schwarzenegger Wants to Extend Soft Drink Ban in Schools

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to extend a statewide ban on soft drinks in the lower grades to high schools, the Associated Press reported.

Two years ago, the state became the first in the nation to ban soft drinks in middle and elementary schools. Some state school districts, including those in Los Angeles, already ban sodas in high schools.

The governor also wants to allow high schools to sell soda 30 minutes before and after the school day, the wire service said. And other types of food sold in vending machines would have to contain no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat, no more than 10 percent from saturated fat, and no more than 35 percent of the weight could be sugar.

A spokesman for the California-Nevada Soft Drink Association condemned the proposed ban, saying high school students were "almost adults" and could always buy soda nearby.

Candy Firm Touts Cocoa's Medicinal Properties

Candymaker Mars Inc. said it is holding "serious discussions" with major pharmaceutical firms about developing a number of cocoa-based prescription drugs that could help treat ailments including diabetes and some forms of dementia, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Cocoa is said to contain flavonols, antioxidant compounds that proponents believe may fight ailments from heart disease to cancer. The company said the compounds appear to have an "aspirin-like affect" that might help stave off blood clotting, helping to prevent strokes and other cardiovascular problems.

A Mars spokeswoman wouldn't mention the drug companies with whom it has been negotiating.

Critics say the company's efforts would amount to nothing more than a new way to sell chocolate. "Mars is only doing this because it wants people to eat more and more M&Ms," said Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of nutrition. She has no relation to the European chocolate maker of the same name, the Post notes.

Health Tip: Overcoming Morning Sickness

Are you pregnant and plagued by morning sickness?

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these suggestions for relieving that queasy feeling:

* Eat small meals through the day so that you're never too full or too hungry.
* Avoid rich, fatty foods.
* Avoid foods with smells that bother you.
* Eat more carbohydrates.
*Eat saltine crackers and other bland foods when you feel nauseous.
* Some women are bothered by the iron in pre-natal vitamins. If you think this may be causing your morning sickness, speak to your doctor about changing your vitamins.
* Try Jell-O, popsicles, chicken broth, ginger ale, herbal teas, and pretzels.

Health Tip: Reaping the Benefits of Tea

A cup of tea may be more than a pleasurable drink, especially if it's black, green, or red tea. According to John Hopkins' Health After 50 newsletter, highly-concentrated forms of these teas may lower LDL, commonly called "bad" cholesterol.

Maximize the flavor of your home brews by:

* Using one tea bag or one teaspoon of loose tea per cup.
* Using fresh, cold water.
* For black tea, heat the water to a rolling boil, but for green tea, only to the boiling point.
* Pre-warm your cup or pot.
* Steep green tea for about two minutes, black for five-to-10 minutes.

Health Tip: Born to Run

Jogging is one of the most effective, convenient and time-efficient forms of exercise. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and the vast outdoors.

If you'd like to start pounding the pavement, check with your doctor that running is the right activity for you. Then lace up your shoes and follow these tips from the American Council on Exercise:

* Keep your head level, and avoid bouncing. Lean forward slightly from the ankles, not the waist.
* Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
* Strike the ground first with your heel, then roll to the ball of your foot, pushing off from the toes.
* Take time to warm up and cool down before and after a run.
* Don't increase your total distance more than 10 percent per week.
* If anything hurts, take time off until it feels better.

Health Tip: Wrist Pain While Biking?

If you're an avid mountain biker, you probably have days when your wrists ache. When you grip the handlebars, the repeated shocks that occur as you bounce over rocky terrain can cause handlebar palsy, characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the arm, hand, wrist and little finger.

Prevention is key to avoiding the condition, says the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Here are some tips:

* Make sure your bike is the right fit for your size.
* Wear padded gloves and pad your handlebars.
* Sit in a more upright position. This puts less weight and pressure on your hands and wrists.
* Take rest periods between long bike trips.
* Change your hand position on the handlebars frequently.

Food Fact:
Sap to it!

Guess how many gallons of raw sap it takes to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup? When the sap starts running, Vermont sugarmakers start stoking the fire under the evaporators -- there are 40 gallons of raw sap per gallon that reaches your breakfast table. The all-natural sweetener is loaded with calories -- 50 per tablespoon -- and has no significant nutritive value. But it's so flavorful a little will go a long way. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as refined granulated sugar, and is produced when nearly all the sap has evaporated. Try it sprinkled on scones or biscuits or stirred into hot apple cider.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Less is more.

Surprise! A few short exercise sessions a day can be as valuable as one longer session. The key to making exercise a habit is to fit it comfortably into your schedule. If you can't find a 30-minute block of time, try three 10-minute stints over the course of the day.

FAQ of the day:
What is mesclun?

Mesclun is an assortment of baby lettuce leaves, usually prewashed. The mix may be expensive, but there's no waste. It's so convenient you may find yourself eating a mesclun salad with every meal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Health Headlines - July 26

Cholesterol-Lowering Meds Fight Pneumonia

Cholesterol-busting drugs called statins can also reduce the risk of death by pneumonia in hospitalized patients, according to a study in the journal Respiratory Research.

Researchers found that pneumonia patients who were taking a statin (which include drugs such as Lipitor, Pravachol, and Zocor) when they entered the hospital were 2.8 times less likely to die than patients who were not on these drugs.

Statins are known to affect the immune system, and that could explain their effect on pneumonia patients, speculate researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infection in the United States, killing up to 40,000 people every year.

Rare Children's Disease Unlocks Aging's Secrets

Five years ago, Dr. Leslie Gordon was a resident doctor specializing in pediatric ophthalmology. That's when her son Sam, now 8 years old, was first diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic condition called progeria, characterized by accelerated aging.

Besides experiencing joint, skin and other problems, children with progeria develop an accelerated form of cardiovascular disease, with most dying from heart-related complications before the age of 20.

Gordon said she and her husband, Scott Berns, also a doctor, "quickly discovered that there wasn't anything out there" on the disease -- no information on its cause, no reliable diagnostic test, and almost no research into a condition that affects just one in every 4 million people.

Fast-forward to 2005: Thanks largely to the efforts of the Progeria Research Foundation (PRF) -- a group Gordon helped found -- scientists have already identified the cause of progeria (mutations in a single gene), set up a tissue bank necessary for ongoing research, and organized regular scientific meetings to exchange ideas. PRF is also working with the National Institutes of Health to collect data on children with progeria worldwide, as a baseline dataset for their ultimate goal: clinical trials aimed at a cure.

But the implications of progeria research may go far beyond helping children like Sam Berns.

"Studying progeria results in a 'double whammy' for researchers," his mother said. "First, of course, you get to try and save the lives of children who are all going to die from this disorder. But you also get to learn something very important about key elements behind heart disease and aging."

Dr. Samer Najjar is head of the Human Cardiovascular Studies Unit at the National Institute on Aging. He agreed with Gordon that progeria kids can teach researchers a lot about the nation's number one killer.

"These children get heart disease at an incredibly accelerated pace, usually by the time they are 12, 13 or 14," he pointed out. "In the general community, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease starts appearing in the 60s and 70s. Obviously, there's some process that's accelerated."

In the case of progeria, that acceleration starts with a mutation in a gene producing a cellular protein called lamin-A.

"In kids with progeria, that protein goes awry and you create an abnormal protein that we call 'progerin,' " Gordon said. Unlike lamin-A, progerin fails to degrade properly and instead attaches itself to healthy lamin-A and structures in the cell's nucleus. This "spider-like" effect also affects the "downstream expression" of many other genes, Gordon said.

The result is accelerated aging at both the cellular and physiologic level, including the early onset of cardiovascular disease.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics, Gordon lead a team of researchers that discovered key differences between the atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") seen in progeria children and that displayed by aging adults.

"In these kids," Gordon said, "heart disease isn't caused by high cholesterol, at least not high levels of LDL ['bad'] cholesterol." Instead, progeria seems to weaken cellular resistance to daily damage brought about by cell division and blood flow. That added vulnerability to metabolic stress makes children "more susceptible to damage-formed plaques along artery walls," she explained.

But doctors have long known that some adults are more susceptible to atherosclerosis than others, Gordon pointed out.

"Heart disease depends, in large part, on your genetic disposition -- it's not all about cholesterol," she said. "In the last couple of years, progeria research has been teaching us that damage-driven plaque formation is something that we all need to pay attention to in the general population."

Then there's the question of aging itself.

"It's amazing how much progeria resembles the normal aging process," said Dr. Vilhelm Bohr, chairman of molecular gerontology at the National Institute on Aging. "I think these proteins linked to progeria play a very profound role in the aging process, and I think we've already seen some pretty big findings in terms of what these proteins do. Lamin-A, for example, appears to have many roles."

Gordon stressed that progeria doesn't exactly mimic the human aging process -- progeria children aren't especially susceptible to cataracts or cancer, for example. But the disorder "is providing insight into mechanisms that we can study," Bohr said.

In the meantime, the group Gordon founded is busy helping parents of children with progeria better understand the challenges facing their child.

"The first question I get from brand-new parents isn't, 'Are we going to have a cure?' " she said. "It's, 'What is my child going to go through? How can I help their joints, their skin?' It's about the happiness of the child today."

To help parents -- many of whom contact the Progeria Research Foundation from developing countries -- the organization facilitates free Internet and phone hook-ups between families in the same country or region. "We put families together. That's crucial, because they are so lost -- this disease is so rare," Gordon said.

Collaborating with the National Institutes of Health, the foundation is also flying children and their parents from sites around the world to NIH facilities in Bethesda, Md., so that kids can receive a full clinical assessment.

"That's to get a baseline dataset -- you need that data to understand if any drug is working or not," Gordon explained. "That's a great leap of faith, of course -- we don't know for sure that we'll find a cure, but we do know we won't be able to find a cure without doing this study."

Still, the speed of discovery occurring since Gordon started PRF five years is encouraging.

"I'm told all the time, 'Wow, you're moving so fast,' and I do feel that speed," she said. "But I also know that we always need to feel like we can do better. Even if I wasn't the mother of a child with progeria, I still see the faces of other children with progeria every day. So nothing can go fast enough for me."

Candy good for you? Mars to probe cocoa benefits

Mars, the company that made its fortune satisfying chocolate cravings, unveiled plans on Monday to develop medications that use a component of cocoa to help treat diabetes, strokes and vascular disease.

The privately held U.S. company that produces M&Ms and Mars bars said it hoped to make medications based on flavanols -- plant chemicals with health benefits found in cocoa, as well as red wine and green tea.

Mars said it is in talks with large pharmaceutical companies for a licensing or joint venture agreement to reproduce the compounds in cocoa shown to improve blood flow.

"The mounting scientific evidence is extraordinary," said Dr Norm Hollenberg, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, which has collaborated with Mars on cocoa research.

"This is a scientific breakthrough that could well lead to a medical breakthrough."

Hollenberg was chairing a two-day seminar with 20 science and medical experts in Switzerland to discuss the newest research on cocoa's potential health benefits.

The specific cocoa flavanol molecules responsible for a blood-thinning aspirin-like effect have been identified for the first time, Mars said.

Two clinical trials have also found that cocoa flavanols can boost the flow of blood to key areas of the brain, raising the possibility of treatments for dementia and strokes.

A new clinical study has shown flavanols' ability to improve synthesis of nitric oxide by blood vessels could aid treatment of vascular complications associated with long-term diabetes.

Mars has already launched CocoaVia, a nutrition bar containing 80 calories and specially preserved flavanols, which usually get destroyed in usual cocoa processing.

The chocolate industry had to rid its products of a junk food image and highlight cocoa's healthier qualities to encourage demand for a produce mainly grown by poor African farmers, industry experts said at a conference in Malaysia last week.

Health Tip: If You've Got a Nosebleed

Nosebleeds are common injuries and can be easily treated, according to Canada's St. John Ambulance.

Here's how to stop a bloody nose:

* Sit down with your head leaning slightly forward.
* Pinch the soft part of your nose for about 10 minutes.
* Loosen the clothing around your neck and breathe through your mouth.
* Don't sniff or blow your nose for a couple of hours.

If a head injury caused your nosebleed, get medical help immediately.

Health Tip: Bathing Your Newborn

Giving your newborn a tub bath for the first time can be daunting. Ease your anxiety by preparing properly for the event.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital offers these guidelines:

* Select a bath site. Good places include the bathtub, kitchen sink, or bathroom sink.
* If you're using a portable baby bathtub, make sure it's on a sturdy table, and never carry the bathtub with your baby in it.
* Gather all your supplies before filling the tub and undressing your baby.
* Fill the tub with three inches of water. Don't add soap or bubble bath to the water. This can dry your infant's skin.
* As you slowly place your baby into the tub, use a calm, reassuring voice to soothe your child. Support your child's head with your hand.
* Use your other hand to gently wash and rinse your infant.

Food Fact:
The perfect food?

Here are five good reasons it just might be lentils. 1) Lentils, a fine source of plant protein, don't take hours to cook, unlike other dried beans. 2) Lentils are rich in soluble fiber, which helps control blood cholesterol. 3) Lentils provide some calcium, iron and other trace minerals. 4) Lentils are one of the best sources for folic acid, a B vitamin critical for preventing neural tube defects. 5) Lentils may protect against some types of cancers and lower heart disease risk.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Buddy up!

Struggling to stick to your exercise program? Try working out with a partner. Adding a social aspect to your workout helps keep you both motivated and makes sessions more fun. Training with a friend provides mutual support for keeping a regular schedule and pushes you harder to meet your goals.

FAQ of the day:
Why are my hips and thighs so big?

The hormones that maintain a woman's fat reserves for pregnancy and lactation also help determine where fat is stored. Despite what you see in magazines, a so-called "pear" shape is perfectly normal for a healthy woman. In fact, the female distribution of body fat in the hips and thighs has been associated with lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and breast cancer. Women who tend to have more of a male distribution of body fat, with fat stored around the waist, are at higher risk for these diseases.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Health Headlines - July 25

Clinton Launches HIV/AIDS Initiative

Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday kicked off a program that will almost double the number of children in Kenya receiving HIV treatment by the end of 2005, the Associated Press reported.

About 100,000 children in that country are currently infected with HIV, according to the AP, but only 1,200 actually received treatment for their disease. The Clinton Foundation's Pediatric HIV/AIDS Initiative will target an additional 1,000 children.

After flying to Rwanda late Saturday, Clinton donated a year's supply of anti-retroviral treatment for 2,500 children in that country. The foundation's goal is to have 10,000 HIV-infected children in at least 10 countries on anti-retroviral treatment by the end of the year. The money for the massive effort was raised by Clinton mostly from private donors, the AP said. Rwanda was the last stop on Clinton's tour of six African countries, the aim of which was to shine the spotlight on this continent's AIDS crisis.

Children account for one-sixth of HIV/AIDS deaths each year, but they represent only 5 percent of those treated worldwide, according to the United Nations.

FDA Approves New Treatment for Insomnia

A new treatment for insomnia was approved on Friday, and it bears the distinction of being the first prescription sleeping aid not to be classified as a controlled substance.

The drug, known as Rozerem (ramelteon), works differently than its competitors, the Associated Press reported. It is a chemical cousin of melatonin, a natural hormone that keeps the body's sleeping/waking cycle in balance. Rozerem appears to stimulate melatonin receptors in the brain, Dr. Robert Meyers, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told the AP.

Studies have also shown the drug does not cause dependence, which is why the FDA did not classify it as a controlled substance. However, the medication is metabolized by the liver, so those with liver conditions should not take this drug, Meyer added.

Rozerem should be available in late September, although its maker, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, would not reveal a price. Roughly a third of adults have trouble sleeping, and about 10 percent have trouble functioning during the day, the AP reported.

New Hope for Those With High Blood Pressure

More than two-thirds of the 65 million Americans with high blood pressure require two or more anti-hypertensive drugs to manage their condition. Many of these people also take medicines for high cholesterol and diabetes.

That makes for a heaping mound of pills to swallow every day.

"Anybody can take a few drugs for a few months, but these people have to be on drugs indefinitely," said Dr. John D. Bisognano, an associate professor of medicine and director of cardiac rehabilitation and clinical preventive cardiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

But there is encouraging news on the horizon for people with high blood pressure. Easier-to-take medications and novel drugs and devices promise to improve long-term hypertension management. Basic research continues to sort out the causes of hypertension. And vigorous prevention initiatives aimed at sparing children from this chronic health problem breed hope for future generations of Americans.

Hypertension, often called "the silent killer," usually occurs without symptoms but remains a leading risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. The only way to find out if you have it is to have a blood pressure reading.

High blood pressure is literally the force exerted as blood pumps into the arteries through the circulatory system and as the arteries resist the flow of blood, says the American Heart Association. Systolic pressure, the "upper" number in a blood pressure test, measures the force when your heart is beating; the "lower" diastolic number reflects the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

A normal blood pressure for adults is less than 120 mmHg over less than 80 mmHg, and a reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high, requiring medical intervention.

In 2003, the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, a panel convened by the federal government, added a new blood pressure category, called "prehypertension" -- to put people on warning about the potential risk they face. Prehypertension is defined as a pressure of 120-139/80-89 mmHg.

For people with diabetes or kidney disease, the goal is to reduce blood pressure to 130/80 mmHg.

"One of the problems you run into is people who are at the highest risk -- the people with diabetes and kidney disease -- often require lots of medications to get their blood pressure down, because every medication gives you about a 10- to 15-point drop or so," Bisognano said.

"If you're starting at 200 and need to go to 130, that's a lot of medications," he added.

No single medication has proved to be the magic bullet for lowering blood pressure, so doctors typically rely on a number of different pharmaceuticals, including diuretics, angiotensin receptor blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Pharmaceutical developers are responding to the need to make it easier for hypertensive patients to comply with medication regimens by developing new combination products. In the future, we will see more fixed-dose combos of antihypertensive medications as well as pills that can treat more than one risk factor at a time, predicts LeadDiscovery, a United Kingdom-based research outfit.

Pfizer Inc. was the first to offer such a two-in-one product. In 2004, the company received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin marketing Caduet, a pill that contains both Norvasc for lowering high blood pressure and Lipitor for treating high cholesterol.

There are a few new agents in the pipeline that hold promise. One novel class of medications, called oral Renin inhibitors, works by targeting an enzyme released by the kidneys that can affect blood pressure. The first of these agents to be introduced on the market is likely to be Aliskiren, a Novartis drug currently in phase III testing. Analysts expect the company to seek regulatory approval in 2006 and are forecasting blockbuster sales topping $1 billion by 2008 and reaching $3.6 billion by 2012, LeadDiscovery reports.

Meantime, even a gadget to keep blood pressure at bay is being tested. In March, doctors at the University of Rochester Medical were the first in the nation to implant the Rheos, a battery-operated generator that activates the body's natural blood pressure regulation systems. Much like a pacemaker regulates heart rhythm, this device stimulates nerves in the carotid arteries to tell the brain to reduce blood pressure. Bisognano is part of the team that is testing the device.

Still, preventing hypertension in the first place is a far better thing than having to rely on medicines or machines, clinicians agree. That is why the National Hypertension Association (NHA) has focused on basic research and education.

NHA researchers have shown, for example, that salt-sensitive rats get high blood pressure when exposed to excess salt. "But the salt resistant ones are not bothered by it at all; their kidneys get rid of it," noted Dr. William M. Manger, NHA chairman and clinical professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center. At least in salt-sensitive rats, it appears that excess salt to the brain causes hypertension, he said. How that will play out in humans is still unknown, but investigators are hopeful.

The NHA also sponsors VITAL (Values Initiative Teaching About Lifestyle), a rapidly expanding school-based initiative to change the lifestyle and behavior of young children. It focuses on nutrition and exercise, a much broader agenda than hypertension alone. But it fills a critical gap, according to Manger, author of the not-yet-released book, Our Greatest Threats Protect Your Children and Yourself, focusing on preventing unhealthy lifestyles.

"I think this VITAL program is the best thing we could do for our nation," he said.

Pay Attention to Bladder Cancer's Warning Signs

People need to pay attention to the early warning signs of bladder cancer and get prompt medical help, says a University of Michigan Health System bladder cancer expert.

"It's very important for patients to pay attention to the symptoms that they may experience. For example, if someone has blood in the urine, they may have a tendency to dismiss that or ignore that. I cannot emphasize enough that it is very important for patients with that symptom to be evaluated by a physician," Dr. Cheryl Lee, director of the bladder cancer program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and assistant professor of urology at the U-M Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

Along with blood in the urine, other symptoms of bladder cancer include: urgency to urinate; frequent urination in small amounts; back or abdominal pain; painful urination; loss of appetite or weight.

Tests to diagnose bladder cancer include: checking urine samples for cancer cells; X-rays of the kidney and urinary system, including the bladder; and cystoscopy, in which a small flexible tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the bladder.

Bladder cancer strikes men three times more often than women. Treatment for bladder cancer is most successful in the early stages, when the tumor is smaller and on the surface of the bladder.

"If a patient unfortunately has had a delay in diagnosis, or has not responded to some of the signs such as blood in the urine, the tumor has the opportunity to grow, to invade the wall of the bladder and even to extend beyond the bladder, or metastasize, to other organs. In that scenario, we're looking at much more aggressive and radical treatment plans," Lee said.

This year, about 63,000 Americans will develop bladder cancer, which kills about 13,000 people in the United States each year, the university said.

Maggot Treatment Saves Mich. Woman's Foot

Barbara Enser wasn't very comfortable at first with the idea of using maggots to clean the wound on her right foot. But if it meant saving it from amputation, she was willing to give it a try.

The 57-year-old Bay City woman was diagnosed with diabetes 40 years ago and subsequently lost her left leg to the disease. She also suffers from neuropathy, meaning she has no feeling in her foot or leg, and ulcers or wounds can develop from constantly putting pressure on the foot.

"I'm just hoping this works because I think this is the last straw for saving the foot," Enser told The Bay City Times before a recent treatment. "I don't like creepy, crawly things. I won't even kill a creepy, crawly thing."

Enser went through a number of other procedures to stem the infection that is spreading through her foot. She had the wound cleaned with a scalpel and has been on antibiotics.

But after those failed, she turned to Dr. Gerald L. Dowling, head of the podiatry section of the Orthopedics Department at Bay Regional Medical Center. He first treated Enser with maggots on July 6.

For the procedure, the maggots —- about 2 millimeters each in size —- are placed on the wound, then surrounded by an adhesive foam, clear tape, and a gauze bandage.

By July 8, the maggots had swelled to twice their normal size and eaten away part of the infection. When Dowling removed the bandages two days later, Enser's foot was looking better. Healthy, pink skin was replacing the dead tissue, and the swelling was down in her foot and ankle.

The maggots do more than just clean a wound. They also dissolve the infected tissue, kill bacteria and leave an enzyme behind that stimulates healing. They will only eat the infected tissue, leaving healthy tissue alone.

"In general, maggots have the capacity to distinguish viable and dead tissue on a cell-by-cell basis," said Dr. Steven M. Holland, chief of the laboratory of clinical infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As much good as the first treatment did, Dowling decided to go with one more treatment. And when the bandages from the second procedure were removed 72 hours later, Dowling deemed the procedure a success.

Once the bandages were taken off, the maggots were removed using tweezers and the area was rinsed with a saline solution. Dowling then cut away leftover dead skin.

Hundreds of Children Starving in Niger

Nasseiba Ali is the face of hunger in Niger. The 20-month-old girl weighs just 12 pounds, and her eyes are clouded at night, one of the symptoms of her chronic malnourishment, along with sparse, wiry hair, brittle and malformed nails, and a deceptively prominent belly.

Nasseiba may survive because her grandmother was able to get her to a feeding center. But aid groups despair that so many other children -— among the most vulnerable in times of crisis -— are dying because the world was slow to respond.

"I thought we would not make it safely," said Haoua Adamou, Nasseiba's grandmother, speaking in Hausa through an interpreter. Adamou had walked several hours from her village with the baby on her back to the emergency feeding center at Maradi, some 400 miles east of the capital, Niamey. She sat Saturday fanning flies from Nasseiba's face.

The aid agency Oxfam warned last week that about 3.6 million people, about a third of them children, face starvation in this West African nation devastated by locusts and drought. The U.N.'s humanitarian agency estimates some 800,000 children under five are suffering from hunger, including 150,000 faced with severe malnutrition.

The warnings have been coming for months. The United Nations first appealed for assistance in November and got almost no response. Another appeal for $16 million in March got about $1 million. The latest appeal on May 25 for $30 million has received about $10 million.

Donations jumped dramatically in the last week because, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Friday, of increased media attention and TV images of starving children. Egeland estimated thousands of children are dying in Niger.

Nasseiba dozed, at first fitfully, in the intensive care tent of the emergency center erected by Doctors Without Borders in Maradi, where 55 other chronically malnourished children were receiving care. Her mother, who is three months pregnant, and her father stayed behind to work their farm, hoping to coax something from the dry soil come the October harvest.

Nasseiba tried several times to pull out the tiny feeding tube securely taped to her forehead and running down into her nose. She found sleep after several meager mouthfuls of enriched formula and what looked like a long, cold stare, sign of her troubled vision that leaves her blind at night.

Just a few steps from the critically sick, another ward sheltered children who have almost recovered.

Two-year-old Tsclaha has survived the critical 48 hours since her admission, when she weighed just 13.2 pounds. It will take her days to reach her target weight of 16 pounds before being declared fully cured.

Tsclaha, barely able to stand on wobbly legs, happily munched a ready to eat, highly nutritious peanut butter mixture. Tsclaha wore a red bracelet, signaling doctors had decided to admit her. Nearby, 40 women carrying children waited anxiously for them to be weighed and for doctors to decide which ones would get red bracelets, which ones the orange or yellow bracelets that meant that, though considered malnourished, they were well enough to be sent home with supplies of flour and cooking oil.

Outside the MSF center, new tents are being set up to ease up the burden on the already stretched facility, where nurses work round the clock to diagnose the 300 hungry children who come daily from surrounding villages.

A 16-ton shipment of oil, sugar, and nutritional paste arrived in Maradi from France on Thursday and several more shipments were scheduled, the U.N. World Food Program said.

But the need is great and growing in this desert nation of 11.3 million regularly ranked among the world's least developed. When the first appeal was made, only $1 dollar per day and per person would have helped solve the food crisis, the U.N. has said. Now that the situation has worsened and people are weaker, $80 will be needed per person.

"It's the worst I've seen so far," said Hassan Balla, a primary school teacher in Tarna, a village just outside Maradi.

"What is happening is really ugly," he said. "I've seen people eat leaves ... live like animals."

Balla, however, is optimistic.

"The world is generous," he said. `Our friends heard our cries. Do you think they will let us suffer when they are living comfortably?"

Food Fact:
Magic beans.

Beans can help reduce cancer risks -- but you may want to give them a good rinse before cooking. Canned beans have a lot of excess sodium; a little running water will wash it, and that "canned" taste, away. Otherwise, beans, lentils, peas and other legumes are as healthy as tasty food gets. Legumes are full of protease inhibitors, which may protect against several cancers by helping your body repair genetic material, curb out-of-control cell division and inhibit tumors by impairing their enzymes. They're also high in fiber, low in fat, rich in B vitamins (including folate), and contain potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and trace elements.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Lift weights, lose weight.

Marilyn Monroe knew it, and you should, too: For good health and a great shape, dumbbells are a girl's best friend. Dieters who lift weights and eat well lose more body fat, and feel stronger and more flexible. Lifting weights as you diet makes it easier to shed pounds; increased muscle mass will boost your metabolic rate over time, allowing you to burn calories even at rest. It also gives your muscles a tight, firm appearance.

FAQ of the day:
Why do women need more body fat than men?

It's all about hormones. A woman's body is designed for childbearing and breast-feeding, so her hormones ensure she has a minimum level of body fat. This is why amenorrhea occurs in women who undereat and/or overexercise -- the percentage of body fat drops too low to provide the energy needed to sustain healthy pregnancy and lactation. On the plus side, estrogen helps limit the risk of heart disease by maintaining the average woman's blood-cholesterol profile in a healthier state than a man's.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Health Headlines - July 24

Guidant Says Defibrillator Recommendation May Be Harmful

Guidant Corp. said Friday that one of its recommendations designed to correct a problem with its implantable heart defibrillators may actually increase risk to patients.

The Indianapolis-based company had recalled 11 models of its defibrillators last month, affecting about 88,000 devices, because of malfunctions in the pacemaker-like devices. The malfunctions occurred when a magnetic switch inside the device got stuck and prevented the device from providing treatment. Defibrillators shock the heart back into a normal rhythm when they detect abnormal heartbeats.

Guidant said Friday that it has now changed its advice to doctors treating about 21,000 patients with implanted Ventak Prism AVT, Vitality AVT, and Contak Renewal AVT defibrillators, according to the Associated Press.

In June, the company had told doctors to make a programming change to the devices, which malfunctioned in two reported cases. However, the company found that a third event occurred after the original warnings went out despite the programming recommendation. The patient was not injured beyond having to have the device replaced.

In a "corrective action" letter to doctors Friday, the company warned, "Guidant has determined that one of our original recommendations -- programming Atrial Tachy Episode Data Storage to 0 percent -- can cause latching in a subset of AVT devices that have previously stored atrial episode data." Instead, the letter said, doctors "as soon as possible" should call back any patients who were reprogrammed to 0 percent or less than 20 percent and program the data storage to 20 percent.

Drug Industry Proposes Ad Revisions

The pharmaceutical industry has proposed new guidelines that call for educating doctors about new drugs before ads for them are released.

But the draft code stops short of setting a time span between a drug's release and the beginning of ads, as had been called for by industry critics who say doctors need time to understand drugs before patients start asking for them, The New York Times reported. The guidelines say only that drug makers should have "conversations with physicians" before advertising new products.

The guidelines, whose final wording is still being worked out, try to address growing pressure from a variety of fronts, including Capitol Hill and the American Medical Association, and even from within the industry itself.

A large consumer group reacted on Thursday with skepticism to the industry guidelines. "It appears the pharmaceutical industry has produced a placebo rather than supporting real reform of drug advertising," said Rob Schneider of Consumers Union, who called the guidelines primarily a good-will gesture aimed at calming Congress.

Details of the code will be disclosed at a news conference next month, the newspaper reported.

The guidelines, adopted unanimously by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's board Thursday, also call for TV ads appropriate for the audience and age, ads that promote disease awareness, and ads that notify patients about low-cost drugs for the uninsured.

6 Floridians Died From Generator Exhaust After 2004 Hurricanes

At least six people in Florida were killed by portable generator exhaust in the wake of last year's four major hurricanes that left millions without power, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday.

Misplacement of the gasoline-powered generators led to the carbon monoxide (CO) deaths of at least six people and caused non-fatal cases of CO poisoning in at least 167 others, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC said the tolls may have been higher because it measured statistics from a sample of 10 hospitals. Between Aug. 13 and Sept. 25 last year, the state was battered by a record four major hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.

The agency reminded the public that these generators should never be used indoors, in garages, or outdoors near windows. A typical 5.5 kW generator produces as much carbon monoxide -- an odorless, colorless gas that can kill within minutes -- as six idling cars, the CDC said. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness.

In a related report, the CDC said 48.7 percent of Florida residents had no evacuation plan before any of the hurricanes; this included people in the direct paths of the storms. The agency called on the state and local governments to do a better job of devising hurricane-preparedness programs.

3 Deaths Linked to Recalled Medical Pumps

Baxter Healthcare is recalling all models of its Colleague Volumetric Infusion Pumps that could shut down while delivering vital fluids or medications to patients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

Baxter has reports of three deaths and six serious injuries associated with the pumps. The FDA issued a statement saying it has categorized the recall as Class I, its most serious recall in which there is a reasonable likelihood that the product could cause death.

Affected models include: 2M8151, 2M8151R, 2M8161, 2M8161R, 2M8153, 2M8153R, 2M8163, and 2M8163R. In addition to the shut-down problem, the FDA said users might inadvertently press the on/off key instead of the start key when attempting to start an infusion.

Some 255,000 of these pumps are now in use, including 206,000 distributed in the United States. They have been sold to physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical facilities.

Consumers who have questions about the recall should contact Baxter Healthcare at 800-422-9837. Those with technical questions should call the company at 800-THE-PUMP (800-843-7867).

Medicare to Offer Doctors a Free Electronic Records System

Medicare will soon offer U.S. doctors free software that will allow them to computerize their patient records, The New York Times reported Thursday.

An office with five doctors could save more than $100,000 by choosing the software provided by Medicare rather than buying a similar product from a private provider, the newspaper said. Medicare has said it considers lack of electronic records a major impediment to improving health care.

The software is a version of a program called Vista, which has been used for 20 years by hospitals and doctors associated with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Times said.

However, the program has a history of being difficult to install, the newspaper said, which is why Medicare will also provide doctors with a list of companies that have been trained to install and maintain it.

Fast Food Trivia

The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of French fries every week.

Almost 1,000 quarter-pound burgers can come from the ground beef in one 1,000 pound steer (from just the normal beef ground into ground beef).

World Record: The most expensive burger commercially available is the DB Burger Royale, created by French chef Daniel Boulud and available on the menu of DB Bistro Moderne, New York, for $50.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Health Headlines - July 23

Health Tip: If Your Teen Smokes

If your child is lighting up, these suggestions from St. Louis Children's Hospital may help your teen quit:

* Make it difficult for your teen to light up by banning smoking in your home and car.
* If you smoke, stop. Children often take their cues from their parents.
* Don't be a supplier. Refuse to buy your son or daughter cigarettes.
* Spend more time talking about tobacco and its dangers.

Smoking is a serious addiction, so be patient. Don't give up trying to help your child quit.

Health Tip: Exercising to Excess

There's little doubt about the health benefits of exercise, but in an effort to control their weight, some teens work out compulsively.

Over-exercising, especially when coupled with an eating disorder, can lead to stress on the heart, according to Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio.

Your child's exercise routine may have turned into an unhealthy obsession if he or she:

* Forces herself to work out, even if she doesn't feel well.
* Chooses exercise over spending time with friends.
* Becomes upset over a missed workout.
* Bases the amount she exercises on how much she eats.
* Has trouble sitting still because she doesn't think she's burning enough calories.
* Is never satisfied with her physical achievements.
* Uses diet aids, steroids or chemicals to help enhance her physique.

If this sounds like your child, discuss the problem with her doctor.

Health Tip: Bringing Your Lunch to Work

If last night's leftovers are tomorrow's hot lunch, make sure the food is safe.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency offers these tips for taking hot food to work:

* Heat dishes like soups, chili and stews above 140 degrees.
* Use an insulated container to store hot foods, and keep it closed until lunchtime.
* Preheat the insulated container by filling it with boiling water. Let it stand a few minutes, pour out the water and add the hot food right away.

Health Tip: Keeping Baby Food Safe

Protect your infants against foodborne illnesses by taking special precautions with the foods they eat.

The U.S. National Network for Child Care offers these tips:

* Keep formula-filled bottles cold until feeding time, and throw out any formula that's left in the bottle after feeding.
* Cover home-prepared baby food immediately and put it in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the food is frozen, put the cubes in a plastic freezer bag to prevent freezer burn, and don't refreeze thawed food.
* If the food comes from a baby food jar, put the amount to be eaten in a bowl and refrigerate the rest. The refrigerated portion should be eaten within two days.

6 Floridians Died From Generator Exhaust After 2004 Hurricanes

At least six people in Florida were killed by portable generator exhaust in the wake of last year's four major hurricanes that left millions without power, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday.

Misplacement of the gasoline-powered generators led to the carbon monoxide (CO) deaths of at least six people and caused non-fatal cases of CO poisoning in at least 167 others, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC said the tolls may have been higher because it measured statistics from a sample of 10 hospitals. Between Aug. 13 and Sept. 25 last year, the state was battered by a record four major hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.

The agency reminded the public that these generators should never be used indoors, in garages, or outdoors near windows. A typical 5.5 kW generator produces as much carbon monoxide -- an odorless, colorless gas that can kill within minutes -- as six idling cars, the CDC said. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness.

In a related report, the CDC said 48.7 percent of Florida residents had no evacuation plan before any of the hurricanes; this included people in the direct paths of the storms. The agency called on the state and local governments to do a better job of devising hurricane-preparedness programs.

3 Deaths Linked to Recalled Medical Pumps

Baxter Healthcare is recalling all models of its Colleague Volumetric Infusion Pumps that could shut down while delivering vital fluids or medications to patients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

Baxter has reports of three deaths and six serious injuries associated with the pumps. The FDA issued a statement saying it has categorized the recall as Class I, its most serious recall in which there is a reasonable likelihood that the product could cause death.

Affected models include: 2M8151, 2M8151R, 2M8161, 2M8161R, 2M8153, 2M8153R, 2M8163, and 2M8163R. In addition to the shut-down problem, the FDA said users might inadvertently press the on/off key instead of the start key when attempting to start an infusion.

Some 255,000 of these pumps are now in use, including 206,000 distributed in the United States. They have been sold to physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical facilities.

Consumers who have questions about the recall should contact Baxter Healthcare at 800-422-9837. Those with technical questions should call the company at 800-THE-PUMP (800-843-7867).

Cholesterol Drugs Could Harm Some Diabetics: Study

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins could harm, and possibly kill, some severely ill diabetics, new research finds.

A study of Lipitor conducted by the drug's maker found that diabetics who required kidney dialysis and took the medication were twice as likely to die of a stroke, the Associated Press reported.

The study, funded by Pfizer Inc., involved 1,255 Europeans with Type 2 diabetes. There were 27 fatal strokes among the 619 people on Lipitor, compared to 13 among the 636 users who took a placebo, the AP said. The findings were reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Stanton, chief of kidney diseases at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said this single study probably didn't offer enough proof to limit the use of statins like Lipitor in this group of patients, the AP quoted him as saying. He was not involved in the research.

Lipitor is the world's most prescribed drug, the wire service said.

Medicare to Offer Doctors a Free Electronic Records System

Medicare will soon offer U.S. doctors free software that will allow them to computerize their patient records, The New York Times reported Thursday.

An office with five doctors could save more than $100,000 by choosing the software provided by Medicare rather than buying a similar product from a private provider, the newspaper said. Medicare has said it considers lack of electronic records a major impediment to improving health care.

The software is a version of a program called Vista, which has been used for 20 years by hospitals and doctors associated with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Times said.

However, the program has a history of being difficult to install, the newspaper said, which is why Medicare will also provide doctors with a list of companies that have been trained to install and maintain it.

Merck Says It Didn't Perform Early Heart Studies on Vioxx

Merck & Co. didn't conduct any studies on whether Vioxx caused heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems before the painkiller was approved in 1999, the company's top epidemiologist testified Wednesday.

Testifying in an Angleton, Texas, courtroom at the nation's first Vioxx-related lawsuit to go to trial, Nancy Santanello said Merck had no indication before the painkiller went on the market that it could cause heart attacks, the Associated Press reported.

The plaintiff in the case, Carol Ernst, contends that her 59-year-old husband, Robert, developed an abnormal heart rhythm after taking Vioxx for eight months. He died in 2001. Merck, which has vowed to fight all Vioxx-related suits, contends there's no proof that Ernst's heart problem was caused by the once-popular painkiller.

A 2000 study showed Vioxx could increase some users' risks of heart attack by five times, compared with people who used older painkillers, the AP said. Vioxx was pulled from the U.S. market in September.

Colleagues Seek Liver for Dying PR Exec

Two years ago, Shari Kurzrok was spearheading the public-relations push for the nation's largest-ever blood drive, for the American Red Cross.

Today she's fighting for her life.

The 31-year-old executive for Ogilvy Public Relations in New York City needs a liver transplant. Doctors say she'll die within days if she doesn't get one.

Kurzrok was admitted to New York University Hospital last weekend, and within 24 hours was told she needed a new liver to save her life. Her still-unexplained sudden illness has taken her family, friends, and doctors by surprise, colleagues say.

Kurzrok led the 345-city "Save-a-Life Tour," which collected 3.2 million pints of blood in 2003 and registered more than 38,000 new potential donors, a statement from Ogilvy said.

Blood is a factor in her plight too, since she needs a liver from someone who is Type A or Type O. For more information or to help, call 877-223-3386, or email:

Food Fact:
Ginger, no ail.

Want a neat trick for making health-giving ginger easier to grate? Freeze it first. You'll be glad you did: Spicy, lively, fresh ginger has a way of waking up all the other flavors around it. Look for large, firm, buff-colored knobs when buying fresh ginger. Traditionally used in Asian cooking, it's making its way into all sorts of savory dishes and delivering loads of healthful antioxidant compounds. Ginger may also decrease your heart attack risk. A few studies have found that both fresh and dried ginger inhibits blood levels of thromboxane B-2, a compound that promotes dangerous blood clots. It also has a longstanding folk reputation as a remedy for nausea. Clinical studies have found it useful in treating motion sickness, as well as post-surgical nausea.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Dyna-band on the run.

Next time you head out on a business trip, pack a Dyna-band and a jump rope -- small items with big rewards. When time or the weather doesn't permit a gym visit or running, you can work up a sweat in your room with resistance training and cardio exercise using these two compact helpers. Nothing boosts your energy, creativity and effectiveness on the road like a workout.

FAQ of the day:
Can I be fit and fat?

While obesity is strongly associated with increased health risks, recent population studies suggest much of that risk may stem from poor fitness. Increased physical activity makes a difference when combined with a calorie-controlled diet. As your fitness improves, you'll boost your health and feel better, even with only modest weight loss.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Health Headlines - July 22

Benign breast disease, family history studied

Women diagnosed with the most common form of benign breast disease but who do not have a strong family history of breast cancer have no heightened risk of developing a tumor, according to a new study.

Wife influences husband's marijuana use - study

A newlywed wife can help determine whether her husband smokes marijuana, U.S. researchers said.

Estrogen gene helps explain some infertility-study

Fertility drugs may not help certain women if they lack a certain estrogen-related gene, scientists studying mice suggested.

U.S. lawmakers renew call for abortion-pill ban

Several conservative lawmakers urged Congress to order a halt to sales of the abortion pill RU-486 and require further safety review after the drug's maker announced that five women taking it had died from bacterial infections.

Cosmetic surgery firm riles Spanish nurses
Spain's nurses have told a cosmetic surgery firm to apologize after it paraded 50 mini-skirted models, sporting uniforms and stethoscopes, onto the stock market for its share launch.

Chiron flu vaccine supply short outside U.S.

Troubled flu vaccine maker Chiron Corp. on Wednesday said it is unable to supply a German-made flu vaccine in key European markets for the 2005-2006 season, days after reporting it would slash production due to potential contamination at a German plant.

Chronically tired? Help may be at hand

Help may finally be at hand for sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) thanks to a group of British researchers who have found abnormalities in the white blood cells of the afflicted.

Molecular link between obesity and diabetes found

Scientists have discovered a molecular link between obesity and type 2 diabetes that could be a potential target for new drugs to treat the disease.

Food Fact:

To get the most from garlic, you may have to rough it up a little. When you cook garlic, cut it, smash it and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. This allows plenty of time for the formation of garlic's mother compound, allicin, the sulfur compound that gives garlic its unique potential benefits, including an ability to inhibit blood clots. Raw and cooked garlic may reduce elevated blood cholesterol and blood pressure. In population studies, people who eat more alliums (garlic family members) have lower rates of stomach and other cancers; indeed, just one clove of garlic a day can lower the risk. Raw garlic and onion kill bacteria and fungi, making them natural antibiotics. When buying garlic, choose firm heavy heads and store in an open container in a cool, dry place.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Be a road scholar.

It's easy to find out where you can work out on a business trip, if you know where to look online. Before you leave, go to a travel or city guide Web site for your destination and research the parks, community centers, tracks and fitness centers where you can get a little exercise. Nothing boosts your energy, creativity and effectiveness on the road like a workout. Bonus: Explore the local jogging paths, and you'll get a taste of city life you'll never find in a hotel or pitch meeting.

FAQ of the day:
How can I get heart-healthy omega-3s without fish?

First, make sure you include plant sources of omega-3s every day. It's also important to limit the amount of highly polyunsaturated oils in your diet, because they compete with omega-3s. Olive oil is a safe choice. Plant-based sources of omega-3s such as English walnuts, soy foods, flax seeds and leafy green vegetables.