Thursday, February 11, 2010

Health Headlines - February 11

FDA Announces Recall of Cardiac Science Defibrillators

More than 12,000 Cardiac Science automated external defibrillators are being recalled because they may fail to operate properly when being used during a cardiac emergency, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The recalled units are: Powerheart models 9300A, 9300E, 9300P, 9390A and 9390E; CardioVive model 92532; and CardioLife models 9200G and 9231, United Press International reported.

The recalled devices will be replaced at no charge, the FDA said. Replacement shipments are expected to begin Monday.

For more information, U.S. customers can contact Cardiac Science Corp. of Bothell, Wash. at 888-402-2484, UPI reported.


Boredom May Be Deadly

Bored people may be more likely to die early, according to English researchers.

They studied the responses collected between 1985 and 1988 from more than 7,500 London civil servants, ages 35 to 55, who were asked if they had felt bored at work during the previous month, the Associated Press reported.

When they looked at how many of the participants had died by April 2009, the University College London researchers found that those who said they had been very bored at work were 2.5 times more likely to have died of a heart problem than those who were bored. This increased risk was reduced when the researchers adjusted for other potential risk factors, such as fitness levels.

Boredom alone isn't likely to be dangerous, but it could be associated with risk factors such as smoking, drinking, using drugs or psychological problems, said the researchers, the AP reported.

The article will be published in the April issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.


Cribs Linked to Three Deaths Recalled

The deaths of three infants and numerous reports of safety problems have led to a recall of more than 500,000 drop-side cribs, U.S. safety officials said Tuesday.

Plastic hardware on the Generation 2 Worldwide and ChildESIGNS cribs can break and allow the drop side to detach. In addition, the mattress supports can break away from the crib frames. Both defects can create gaps where an infant can be trapped and suffocate or strangle, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Along with the three reported deaths, the agency has received 20 reports of incidents involving detached drop sides and eight reports of incidents involving detached mattress supports, the Associated Press reported.

The cribs were sold nationwide at furniture and other stores, including Buybuy Baby, Kmart and Walmart. The company that made the cribs, Generation 2 Worldwide, went out of business in 2005.

The CPSC said consumers should contact the stores where they bought the cribs for information about refunds, replacements and store credit. The agency said crib owners who encounter difficulty with stores should alert the CPSC, the APreported.


Target Pulls Valentines Day Bears From Shelves

A warning about illegal levels of lead have forced Target Corp. to pull Valentine's Day "Message Bears" from store shelves.

The move comes after the company received a letter Monday from California Attorney General Jerry Brown saying that tests showed the Chinese-made toys had lead levels that violated federal law, the Associated Press reported.

Brown was alerted about the toys by the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health, which found that vinyl letters on the bears' chests contained lead levels well above the federal limit for children's products.

"We are removing the product from shelves as well as hard-locking them at the registers," Target spokeswoman Beth Hanson told the AP. "Target's initial investigation indicates this product had compliant testing results when it was shipped."

She wouldn't reveal how many of the toy bears the company had sold or purchased.

Health Tips for February 11

Health Tip: Getting Help for Neck Pain

Neck pain can be caused by a simple injury or strain, or a more serious health problem.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says here are signals that your neck pain should be evaluated by a doctor:

  • When it's severely painful.
  • When it doesn't let up over time.
  • When it shoots down the arms and legs, in addition to the neck.
  • When it's accompanied by headache, weakness, a tingling sensation or numbness.

Health Tip: What's Causing My Shoulder Pain?

The joints, tendons and muscles that make up the shoulder allow for a lot of flexibility. But an injury or a number of medical conditions can cause pain and limit the shoulder's movement.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says common reasons for shoulder pain include:

  • Tendinitis, the inflammation of a tendon in the shoulder.
  • Bursitis, the inflammation of a sac of fluid in the shoulder that's designed to limit friction during shoulder movement.
  • An injury that leaves the shoulder joint out of position or unstable.
  • Arthritis in the shoulder.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Health Headlines - February 10

First Double Hand Transplant Patient Out of Hospital

A man who received the first double hand transplant in the United States was released from the hospital Monday after doctors treated a rash that indicated the patient might be rejecting the new hands.

Jeff Kepner, 58, received his new hands at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in May 2009 and went home in October. However, he developed a rash on both hands and was hospitalized last week, the Associated Press reported.

The rash went away after doctors treated Kepner's rash with immune-suppressing ointment.

Kepner lost his hands and feet a decade ago to bacterial infection. The new hands came from a 23-year-old male, the AP reported.


HHS Secretary Challenges Health Insurer's Rate Increases

The Obama administration wants a California health insurer to explain why it's raising rates for about 800,000 individual policyholders by as much as 39 percent.

In a letter to Anthem Blue Cross of California, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the company has a "responsibility to provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public," the Washington Postreported.

As part of that explanation, Anthem should tell policyholders what share of their premiums is going toward profits, Sebelius said. She noted that profits for Anthem's corporate parent, WellPoint, rose to $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"These extraordinary [rate] increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make health care unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy," Sebelius wrote.

California insurance commissioner Steve Poizner has said his department is investigating the rate increases, the Post reported.


White House Targets Childhood Obesity

The federal government's fight against childhood obesity was officially launched Tuesday as President Obama signed a memo telling several federal agencies to work together on the effort.

Obama also order the creation of a task force to fight childhood obesity, which he called "one of the most urgent health issues that we face in this country," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The program also includes a national public awareness campaign spearheaded by the First Lady. In an interview on ABC News' "Good Morning America," Michelle Obama said she wants to promote healthier lifestyle habits.

"The question is how do we help people balance that out so that they're not facing life-threatening preventable illnesses so they're enjoying their food, they're eating their vegetables, they're doing their running and walking and playing but still have time to get a good fun meal in once in a while," she said in the interview, theTimes reported.


New Guidelines Coming on Use of Newborn Blood Samples

U.S. government advisers say new national recommendations that will give parents more information and more say on the use of blood samples taken from newborns should be available by spring.

The heel-prick blood spots taken from all newborns are tested for a wide range of diseases. But often, the blood spots are kept and used for research without the parents' consent, the Associated Press reported.

This has created a backlash in some states. For example, a lawsuit by Texas parents upset about what they call secret DNA warehousing has the state ready to discard blood samples from more than 5 million infants.

"It's a critical thing that we take action," because distrust about the use of leftover blood spots threatens public confidence in the newborn screening program, federal government advisory board member Sharon Terry, of the nonprofit Genetic Alliance, told the AP.

"The sunshine on the information -- educating parents -- is the way lesser threat. Done well and done right, there will be enormous benefit overall to the system," she said.


Poor-Quality Malaria Pills Worry Experts

Poor-quality malaria pills sold in three African countries threaten to increase drug resistance and reduce the effectiveness of the medicines, according to a U.S. government-funded study.

Researchers found between 16 percent and 40 percent of artemisinin-based drugs sold in Madagascar, Senegal and Uganda failed quality testing mainly because they had impurities or didn't contain enough active ingredient, the Associated Pressreported.

"This is a disturbing trend that came to light," said Patrick Lukulay, director of a nongovernmental U.S. Pharmacopeia program that's funded by the U.S. government.

Artemisinin-based drugs are the only affordable treatment for malaria. Other drugs are no longer effective because the parasites that cause malaria have developed resistance to the drugs. There is nothing to replace artemisinin-based drugs if they cease being effective, the AP reported.

That could lead to more deaths from malaria, which now kills one million people worldwide each year.

Health Tips for February 10

Health Tip: Protect Your Child at Day Care

Children who attend day care are at increased risk of getting sick or acquiring an infection.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers these suggestions to help reduce your child's risk:

  • Make sure your child always washes his or her hands before each meal or snack, and always after using the bathroom.
  • Breast-feed your baby, if possible.
  • Make sure the day-care center you choose has staff that is trained to minimize the spread of germs.
  • Ensure that food preparation and diaper changes are done in places that aren't near each other.
  • Check that all staff and children are up to date with immunizations.

Health Tip: Spot Unsafe Playgrounds

Some parents may falsely assume that all playground equipment is safe.

The Nemours Foundation says certain types of equipment should have parents thinking twice about letting their children use them. These include:

  • Swings with animal figures.
  • Gliding swings meant for more than one child.
  • Ropes for swinging. They may unravel or pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Exercise rings (resembling those used by gymnasts) or trapeze bars.
  • Monkey bars.
  • Trampolines.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Health Headlines - February 9

FDA Wants Realistic Serving Sizes on Food Packaging

Calorie counts and other vital nutrition information should be posted on the front of food packages, and the serving sizes should reflect how much people actually eat, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA wants to make the changes because official serving sizes on many packaged foods are too small, which means the calorie counts that go with them are often misleading, The New York Times reported.

Giving people accurate servings sizes and calories counts may convince them to go easy on foods like chips, ice cream, breakfast cereals and cookies.

"If you put on a meaningful portion size, it would scare a lot of people. They would see, 'I'm going to get 300 calories from that, or 500 calories'," Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, told The Times.


Exercise Protects Against Painful Gallstones: Study

People who get plenty of exercise are far less likely than couch potatoes to suffer painful gallstones, says a British study.

The University of East Anglia researchers analyzed data from 25,000 men and women and found that those with the highest levels of physical activity had a 70 percent reduced risk of gallstone symptoms and complaints, BBC News reported.

The study authors also calculated that about 17 percent of gallstones that require medical treatment could be prevented if everyone increased the amount of exercise they do by one level.

Exercise may help lower painful gallstone risk by reducing overall cholesterol levels in the bile, boosting levels of "good" cholesterol and improving movement through the gut, said the researchers, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.


Medicines Tossed in Trash End Up in Water: Study

Unused or expired medications that are thrown in the trash can still end up in drinking water, according to a study by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

It found minute amounts of discarded drugs in water at three landfills in the state, the Associated Press reported. This landfill water, called leachate, eventually ends up in rivers. Many communities across the United States draw their drinking water from rivers.

Maine lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would force drug makers to create and pay for a program to collect unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs from consumers and dispose of them.

"People need a way to properly dispose of their drugs, and they're not getting it right now," Mark Hyland, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality's Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, told the AP.

Maine is among more than a half a dozen states considering a "take-back" bill for medications. The Maine bill has won committee support and awaits further action. If enacted, it would be the first of its kind in the United States.

The bill is opposed by the drug industry lobby group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the AP reported.


U.S. Government to Forbid Unhealthy Foods in Schools

Legislation banning candy and sugary beverages from schools will soon be introduced by the Obama administration.

Any vending machines that remain in schools would have to be "filled with nutritious offerings to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our nation's children," according to an excerpt of a speech to be delivered Monday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The New York Times reported.

While the bill would require that all foods offered in schools comply with strict new nutritional guidelines, bake sales, parties and other occasional offerings of sweets would be allowed.

The legislation has the support of the National PTA and a number of health and medical advocacy groups, but some local school officials are lukewarm about this type of federal control.

"Our feeling is that school boards are acutely aware of the importance of ensuring that children have access to healthy and nutritious food," Lucy Gettman, of the National School Boards Association, told The Times.


Obama Invites Republicans to Televised Health Care Meeting

A half-day bipartisan health care session at the White House scheduled for Feb. 25 will be televised, President Obama said Sunday in an interview during a Super Bowl pre-game show.

"I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward," Obama said in the CBS interview from the White House Library, The New York Timesreported.

The move is an attempt to break a political impasse over health care reform.

The President invited Republicans to bring their ideas on how to lower the cost of health insurance and expand coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican leaders said they welcomed the opportunity.

White House aides say the meeting is part of a strategy to increase efforts to engage Congressional Republicans in policy negotiations and put their proposals under more scrutiny, The Times reported.

Health Tips for February 9

Health Tip: What's Behind Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion, commonly called a stuffy nose, occurs when the tissues that line the inside of the nose become swollen.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine says common causes of nasal congestion include:

  • Having the common cold or flu.
  • Having a sinus infection.
  • Having allergies.
  • Using nasal sprays or drops for longer than three days.
  • Having nasal polyps.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Having a condition called vasomotor rhinitis.

Health Tip: Keep Your Lungs Healthy

Your lungs may take a lot of abuse from the air that you breathe and an unhealthy lifestyle.

The American Lung Association offers these suggestions to help improve lung health:

  • Avoid cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Limit exposure to pollutants in the air, including chemicals and smoke.
  • Minimize your risk of getting respiratory infections. Keep hands clean and get vaccinated to protect against illnesses such as flu and pneumonia.
  • Have regular medical checkups to help spot lung problems early.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Health Headlines - February 8

Drug May Help Men With Bent Penis Disorder

The injectable drug Xiaflex may benefit men with Peyronie's disease, a difficult-to-treat condition in which the penis is permanently bent. The disorder, which affects about 1 to 2 percent of men, causes pain and erectile dysfunction, and can make it difficult or impossible to have sexual intercourse.

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xiaflex for treatment of claw hand, a condition that causes bent fingers. Research suggests the drug may also be effective in treating Peyronie's disease. Some experts believe the FDA's approval of the drug for claw hand may lead to off-label use for Peyronie's disease,ABC News reported.

Clinical trials found that injections of Xiaflex resulted in an average 29.7 percent improvement in curvature of the penis, compared with a placebo injection, according to Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, which is marketing the drug.

However, the company says it will discourage any off-label use of Xiaflex for treatment of Peyronie's disease, ABC News reported.


New Rules for School Lunch Program Suppliers

New measures to guarantee the quality and safety of food purchased for the National School Lunch Program were announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The agency said it will tighten requirements on suppliers of ground beef, test the beef more often and more thoroughly, and improve communications within the USDA to "identify potential food safety issues" before children become ill from eating bad food, USA Today reported.

In addition, the USDA said it will be more thorough in reviewing the safety records of companies that supply food for school lunches and exclude those that have had repeated problems with their commercial food products.

The new rules are "a big deal," because they'll force companies to "play to a higher standard," food safety consultant David Theno told USA Today.


Genes Hamper Efforts to Boost Physical Endurance: Study

Even with regular exercise, the genetic makeup of about 20 percent of people means they won't see much improvement in their physical endurance, according to a new study.

An international team of scientists examined the DNA of 473 people and had them complete 20 weeks of endurance training. About 15 percent to 20 percent of the participants had much smaller endurance improvements than expected, USA Todayreported.

A combination of about 30 genes predict "to a significant extent" a person's aerobic response to endurance training, said the scientists. The study appears in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The researchers noted that their findings about endurance don't mean that some people shouldn't bother exercising.

Physical activity offers benefits in many other areas, including heart rate, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and insulin metabolism, said study co-author Tuomo Rankinen, a scientist in the human genomics laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, USA Today reported.


Dissolvable Nicotine Products Concern Health Regulators

U.S. health officials are concerned about flavored, dissolvable tobacco products that are consumed like breath mints and may be especially tempting to children and young adults.

In letters to two tobacco companies, the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products said it is "concerned that children and adolescents may find dissolvable tobacco products particularly appealing, given the brightly colored packaging, candy-like appearance and easily concealable size of many of the products," the Associated Press reported.

The CTP said the products' nicotine content and rapid delivery in the body could lead to tobacco dependence and addiction and prove a threat to children and young adults.

The letters to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Star Scientific Inc. ask the companies for their research and marketing information on how people under age 26 perceive and use dissolvable tobacco products, the AP reported.

The CTP also wants the companies' research findings about misuse of the products, including possible accidental nicotine poisoning.


Toy Importer Pays $200K to Settle Lead Charges

U.S. consumer authorities say a Massachusetts-based company has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle charges it violated federal law by importing toys with high levels of lead in their paint.

The tens of thousands of toys imported by Schylling Associates Inc. of Rowley, Mass., included spinning top toys and tin pail toys with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, Winnie the Pooh and circus scene graphics, the Associated Pressreported.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that Schylling knew or should have known by 2002 that most of the toys violated the U.S. lead paint ban, but only reported the toys to the CPSC in 2007. Later that year, it was announced that the company was recalling the toys.

In agreeing to the settlement, the company said it did knowingly violate the law, the AP reported.

Health Tips for February 8

Health Tip: Understanding Ear Tube Surgery

An ear tube is surgically implanted in a child's ear to help drain fluid that builds up behind the eardrum, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

When fluid builds up in the ear and stays there for a long period, it can cause hearing loss. Ear tubes may also be inserted when a child has frequent ear infections that can't be prevented with less invasive treatments.

Ear tube insertion is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon first makes a small incision in the eardrum. The fluid is suctioned out, then a small tube is inserted in the eardrum. Now, air can flow through the ear and fluid can drain from the middle ear, the agency says.

Ear tube surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, so the child can go home the same day. The following day, most children can resume normal activities. The surgical incision usually heals on its own, without stitches. The ear tube commonly falls out after about 14 months.

Health Tip: Children Who Are at Risk for Ear Infection

Ear infections are common in children, and may be chronic.

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers this list of risk factors for ear infections in children:

  • Being around smokers.
  • Having had a prior ear infection or a family history of ear infection.
  • Going to day care.
  • Being born prematurely or having a low birth weight.
  • Having frequent colds or other infections.
  • Going to bed with a bottle, or using a pacifier.
  • Being a boy.
  • Having allergy-related nasal congestion.
  • Having nasally speech.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Health Headlines - February 5

First Quake-Injured Haitians Arrive for Treatment in U.S.

Five severely injured Haitian patients were transported by air and ambulance to Atlanta-area hospitals beginning late Tuesday -- the first quake victims to be treated in the United States since the federal government's decision Monday to reimburse hospitals for their care, the New York Times reported.

"These people have nowhere else to go," Kenneth Wheeler, an emergency manager from the Department of Veterans Affairs who helped organize the evacuations, told the Times. According to federal and local health officials, the five patients include an 18-month-old with brain trauma and two adults, one with a fractured pelvis and the other with spinal injury.

According to the Times, dozens more Haitian quake victims are expected to be treated in hospitals in Atlanta and Tampa, Fla. Centers in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Lyon, N.J., have also been alerted that they may be asked to take in patients.

All of the patients have injuries that cannot be cared for in Haitian hospitals, many of which have been severely damaged or destroyed.


Few Uninsured U.S. Workers Get Needed Substance Abuse Treatment

About 3 million full-time workers in the United States without health insurance needed substance abuse treatment in the past year, but only 12.6 percent of them received treatment at a specialty facility, says a new federal government survey.

It also found that more than 80 percent of uninsured full-time workers who needed treatment in the past year didn't acknowledge that they required treatment, while 6.6 percent of workers in this group did recognize the need for treatment but didn't receive it.

The need for substance abuse treatment among uninsured full-time workers was particularly high among those aged 18-25 (24.4 percent) and among males (19.2 percent), according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

"This tremendous unmet need for substance use disorder treatment among this workforce has a devastating public health and economic effect on our nation," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release.

"We cannot afford to ignore this problem -- substance abuse disorder treatment has proven to be a cost-effective investment for promoting safe and productive workplaces as well as renewed hope for those affected by this disease," she said.


Large Rise In Prescription Drug Use For Digestive Ailments

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of Americans buying prescription drugs to treat digestive disorders rose more than 50 percent, from 18.1 million to 29 million, according to a report released Thursday.

During that time, total annual spending on these drugs went from $7 billion to nearly $19 billion a year (in 2007 dollars), according to the latest News and Numbers from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings:

  • When broken down by age groups, the use of at least one prescription drug to treat digestive disorders increased from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent among children 17 and younger, from 18.6 percent to 26.6 percent among seniors, and from 6.4 percent to 8.9 percent among those ages 18-64.
  • The total number of purchases of prescription drugs for digestive conditions more than doubled, from 77.8 million in 1997 to 158.4 million in 2007.
  • During that time, the average cost per digestive prescription drug purchase increased 33 percent, from $90 to $120 (in 2007 dollars).

The figures don't include over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs given to patients in inpatient, doctor's office or clinic settings, the report said.


Program Offers Free Health Text Messages To New Moms

A free program that texts pregnancy and baby health tips to the cell phones of expectant and new mothers is expected to be announced Thursday by U.S. health officials.

Under the text4baby campaign, mothers-to-be who text "BABY" to 511411 will receive weekly text messages that are timed to the mother's due date or their baby's birth date, the Associated Press reported. The text messages will continue until the baby is one year old.

The messages used in the program have been checked by government and nonprofit health experts and offer advice about a number of topics, including birth defect prevention, nutrition and immunization.

This is the first free health education campaign in the U.S. to use mobile phones. Organizers say texting is an effective way to conduct this type of program because 90 percent of people in the U.S. have cell phones, the AP reported.


Ground Pepper Could Be Culprit in Salmonella Outbreak

A strain of salmonella that's sickened hundreds of people in the United States in the last seven months has been found in closed containers of imported ground black pepper used by a meat company in Rhode Island.

Last month, Daniele Inc. recalled more than 1 million pounds of salami after at least 203 people in 42 states and the District of Columbia became ill. Many of those who got sick said they'd eaten the salami, the Associated Press reported.

However, about half of those who got sick didn't eat any salami, said state health department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth.

"That maybe tells you that we're not done looking for a source of the outbreak yet," she told the AP.

Two suppliers provided the pepper to Daniele and federal investigators are tracing the origin of the pepper in order to determine if it's been distributed elsewhere in the U.S.


40 Percent of Cancers Preventable: Report

Lifestyle changes and vaccines could prevent about 40 percent of all cancers, according to a new report by the International Union Against Cancer.

The document said rates of many leading types of cancers -- such as lung, breast and colon -- could be reduced if people quit smoking, limited alcohol intake, avoided too much sun, and maintained a healthy weight through diet and exercise, the Associated Press reported.

The report authors also noted that about 21 percent of all cancers are the result of infections, such as those caused by human papillomavirus (cervical cancer) and hepatitis (stomach and liver cancer). Vaccines to prevent these infections and cancers are widely available in developed nations but almost unobtainable in poor countries.

"Policymakers around the world have the opportunity and obligation to use these vaccines to save people's lives and educate their communities towards lifestyle choices and control measures that reduce their risk of cancer," Cary Adams, chief executive officer of the International Union Against Cancer, said in a news release, the AP reported.

The document was released to mark World Cancer Day on Thursday.

Cancer causes one out of every eight deaths worldwide -- more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization. If major prevention action is not taken, the number of cancer deaths worldwide will rise from about 7.6 million this year to 17 million by 2030, the AP said.

Health Tips for February 5

Health Tip: Beta Blockers May Have Side Effects

Beta blockers often are prescribed to treat various heart conditions, including congestive heart failure and an irregular heartbeat. They also may be used to help treat high blood pressure.

As with any drug, beta blockers may cause side effects in some people. The American Academy of Family Physicians says although most people have no side effects from beta blockers, it offers this list of possible adverse reactions:

  • Fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Decreased libido or impaired sexual function in men.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

If you have serious side effects from one of these medicines -- including difficulty breathing, chest pain, slowed heart rate of fewer than 50 beats per minute, unexplained weight gain or swelling of the hands, legs or feet -- contact your doctor immediately.

Health Tip: Dealing With Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) raises the risk of a stroke or heart attack. But PAD can be managed by making certain lifestyle changes, notably getting enough physical activity.

The American Heart Association offers these suggestions:

  • Get regular exercise, at least three times a week. Activities should exercise the legs.
  • Stick to a healthy diet that's low in unhealthy fats and cholesterol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor. They may include medications to thin the blood, control high blood pressure, and lower "bad" cholesterol.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Health Headlines - February 4

40 Percent of Cancers Preventable: Report

Lifestyle changes and vaccines could prevent about 40 percent of all cancers, according to a new report by the International Union Against Cancer.

The document said rates of many leading types of cancers -- such as lung, breast and colon -- could be reduced if people quit smoking, limited alcohol intake, avoided too much sun, and maintained a healthy weight through diet and exercise, the Associated Press reported.

The report authors also noted that about 21 percent of all cancers are the result of infections, such as those caused by human papillomavirus (cervical cancer) and hepatitis (stomach and liver cancer). Vaccines to prevent these infections and cancers are widely available in developed nations but almost unobtainable in poor countries.

"Policymakers around the world have the opportunity and obligation to use these vaccines to save people's lives and educate their communities towards lifestyle choices and control measures that reduce their risk of cancer," Cary Adams, chief executive officer of the International Union Against Cancer, said in a news release, the AP reported.

The document was released to mark World Cancer Day on Thursday.

Cancer causes one out of every eight deaths worldwide -- more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization. If major prevention action is not taken, the number of cancer deaths worldwide will rise from about 7.6 million this year to 17 million by 2030, the AP said.


Michelle Obama Discusses Anti-Obesity Campaign

As part of her campaign against childhood obesity in the United States, first lady Michelle Obama met Tuesday with U.S. lawmakers to discuss strategy.

Obesity affects about 10 percent of U.S. children and about 18 percent of teens, according to recent data, Agence France Presse reported.

"We're in the process of launching a nationwide effort to deal with the obesity epidemic in this country," Obama said at the start of the meeting.

That campaign will include increasing "the number of healthy schools in this country," the first lady said. "We're going to work hard to increase the level of regular physical activity that kids are getting in this country."

Obama also wants to improve access to affordable, healthy foods and help consumers make better choices when buying food, the news service said.


Child Abuse Decreases in U.S.: Study

Incidents of serious child abuse in the United States decreased by 26 percent between 1993 and 2006, and other forms of physical abuse dropped by 15 percent, a federal government study says.

Experts say the findings are proof that public awareness campaigns and stricter law enforcement are having an effect, the Associated Press reported.

Researchers analyzed information from thousands of child-welfare workers, doctors, teachers, police officers and other professionals from across the country.

The study was commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, the AP reported.


Lawsuit Targets Patents on Cancer Genes

Important medical research is being hampered by a U.S. company's patents on two genes associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, say lawyers for plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc.

The patents for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes prevent the study of the genes by other researchers, Christopher Hansen, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the Associated Press reported.

The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation lawsuit against Myriad, the University of Utah Research Foundation, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could have a major effect on the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research.

Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation have a right to the patents because they pertain to the process developed to isolate chemical composition, argued attorney Brian Poissant, the AP reported.

He said invalidating the patents would destroy the foundation of the biotechnology industry.

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet did not issue a ruling on Tuesday.


High Levels of Cadmium Found in Adult Jewelry

Worries about the heavy metal cadmium in jewelry have grown after tests on adult necklaces and bracelets revealed high levels of the toxic material.

The high levels of cadmium -- as much as 75 percent by weight -- were found in jewelry purchased by a California environmental group at three retailers -- Saks Fifth Avenue, Aeropostale and Catherines, the Associated Press reported.

Based on the findings, the Center for Environmental Health said it would seek a ban on cadmium in all jewelry. One of the pieces tested by the group was made in China, another in India, and the origin of the other piece was unknown, the news service said.

Last month, an AP investigation reported that some Chinese-made children's jewelry contained levels of cadmium of up to 91 percent of their total content.

Health Tips for February 4

Health Tip: Understanding Perimenopause

Perimenopause describes the period of time just before menopause starts, says the National Women's Health Information Center.

Menopause occurs when you haven't had a menstrual period in 12 consecutive months. During perimenopause, hormone production by the ovaries decreases and a woman loses the ability to conceive.

Perimenopause usually occurs between ages 45 and 55, though the center says it may happen as early as the 30s. Symptoms of perimenopause include changes in menstruation, hot flashes and night sweats, insomnia, irritability, changes in mood and changes in hair growth.

Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and practicing stress-management techniques can help some women cope with symptoms of perimenopause, according to the center.

Health Tip: Coping With Menopausal Symptoms

Many women don't require special treatment for menopausal symptoms, the National Women's Health Information Center says.

The agency says some women may be helped by the following suggestions:

  • Keep cool by avoiding spicy foods and hot beverages, caffeine, stress and being in warm temperatures.
  • Use a vaginal lubricant to treat dryness.
  • Get plenty of exercise (but not too close to bedtime).
  • Eat a healthy diet, avoiding junk food.
  • Get plenty of rest. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool, and avoid a daytime nap.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Health Headlines - February 3

Scientists Identify Farsightedness Gene

A gene linked with farsightedness has been identified by Australian scientists, who said the finding may lead to drug treatments that would replace glasses.

The researchers analyzed the DNA of 551 adults and identified variations of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) gene associated with farsightedness. People with this vision problem can see objects clearly at a distance but have difficulty with close-up tasks such as reading, Agence France Presse reported.

Farsightedness, also known as longsightedness, is likely caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. HGF is the first gene to be linked to the condition, which is treated with glasses, contact lenses and laser surgery.

"We hope this important gene discovery will help us develop new drug treatments and I expect it will have a profound impact on improving global eye health," said lead researcher Professor Paul Baird, of the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne, AFP reported.


Anesthesia Brain Patterns Resemble Deep Sleep: Study

People under anesthesia have brain patterns similar to those that occur in the deepest sleep, says a U.S. study.

Researchers monitored the brains of patients receiving the anesthetic midazolam -- used in "conscious sedation" -- and detected patterns that occur when the brain is in deep, non-rapid eye movement sleep, United Press International reported.

"Based on a theory about how consciousness is generated, we expect to see a response that is both integrated and differentiated when the brain is conscious,'' study co-author Giulio Tononi, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a news release.

"When there is a loss of consciousness, either due to sleep or anesthesia, the response is radically different. We see a stereotyped burst of activity that remains localized and fades quickly," Tononi said, UPI reported.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Fashion Industry Pressures Teen Girls to Be Skinny: Survey

The fashion industry is at least partly to blame for American girls' fixation on being thin, according to 89 percent of respondents who took part in a survey released by the Girl Scouts of the USA.

The poll of more than 1,000 girls ages 13 to 17 also found that 88 percent said the media puts a lot of pressure on them to be skinny, United Press Internationalreported.

Among the other findings:

  • Other strong influences on how teen girls feel about their bodies included peers (82 percent), friends (81 percent) and parents (65 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of respondents said they have starved themselves or refused to eat in an effort to shed pounds, 42 percent said they know someone their age who has induced vomiting after eating, and 37 percent said they know someone their age who's been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
  • 81 percent of the teen girls said they would like to see natural photos of models instead of digitally altered and enhanced images.

Despite their criticism of the fashion industry, about 75 percent of the girls said fashion is "really important" to them, UPI reported.


New Drugs May Help Treat Intellectual Disabilities

Scientists are trying to develop treatments for a genetic condition that causes learning disabilities and cognitive impairment and is the most common cause of autism yet identified by researchers.

Fragile X syndrome, which affects almost 100,000 Americans, is the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, the Associated Press reported. In people with Fragile X syndrome, the synapses, or connections between brain cells, are too immature to work properly.

Researchers are focusing on drugs designed to block an overactive receptor that plays an important role in these poorly functioning synapses. Strengthening the synapses could improve learning and behavior in people with Fragile X syndrome.

"We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities," Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, told the AP.

Health Tips for February 3

Health Tip: Foods That May Spur Migraines

Migraine headaches frequently are characterized by symptoms such as nausea, dull or severe head pain and sensitivity to light.

In some sufferers, certain foods may help trigger migraines. The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers this list:

  • Processed, marinated, fermented or pickled foods.
  • Baked goods.
  • Chocolate or dairy foods.
  • Foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate).
  • Foods that contain tyramine, including red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken liver, figs or certain beans.
  • Citrus fruits, bananas or avocados.
  • Processed meats containing nitrates, such as hot dogs, salami or bacon.
  • Onions.
  • Nuts or peanut butter.

Health Tip: Things That Trigger Migraines

While migraines and their causes vary from person to person, researchers have identified some common triggers.

The National Women's Health Information Center offers this list:

  • Too much sleep, or not enough shut-eye.
  • Missing meals.
  • Overstimulated senses, including noises that are too loud, scents that are too strong, or lights that are too bright.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Stress.
  • Changes in the weather.
  • Drinking red wine or changes in caffeine intake.
  • Aspartame, an artificial sweetener.
  • Food additives such as tyramine, monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Health Headlines - February 2

Anti-HIV Drugs Carry Risk of Liver Problems: FDA

The anti-HIV drugs Videx and Videx EC can trigger a rare but serious liver complication that can cause severe bleeding or death, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said there have been 42 reports of patients suffering this type of complication, and four patients taking the drugs have died from liver failure or hemorrhaging, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The drugs' labels have been revised to warn patients about the potential threat of the drug, which slows the growth of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For certain patients with HIV, the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks, according to the FDA.

"The decision to use this drug, however, must be made on an individual basis between the treating physician and the patient," the FDA said in an advisory to health care professionals, Dow Jones reported.

Videx, marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., is also sold under the generic name didanosine.


Enzyme's Structure Could Lead to New HIV Treatments

Scientists have revealed the structure of an enzyme used by HIV to copy its genetic information into a person's DNA.

This discovery about integrase could lead to better treatments for people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, CBC News reported.

The study by the American and British scientists appears in the journal Nature.

"Despite initially painstakingly slow progress and many failed attempts, we did not give up and our effort was finally rewarded," lead author Peter Cherepanov, of Imperial College London, said in a news release, CBC News reported.


Healthy Older Adults Require Less Sleep: Study

Healthy older adults require less sleep and are less likely to feel tired during the day than younger adults, according to a new study.

British researchers looked at 110 healthy adults with no sleep disorders or complaints and found that adults ages 66 to 83 slept about 20 minutes less per night than middle-aged adults ages 40 to 55, who slept 23 minutes less than young adults ages 20 to 30, Agence France Presse reported.

The older adults also woke up more often during the night and spent more time awake after initial sleep onset, the study found.

Even though older adults spent less time asleep and slept less deeply, they were less likely to need a nap during the day than younger adults, said the University of Surrey researchers, AFP reported.

The study appears in the journal Sleep.


Vitamin D Protects Against Crohn's Disease

Vitamin D may protect against Crohn's disease, according to Canadian researchers.

They found that vitamin D acts on two genes -- defensin 2 and NOD2 -- that have been linked to Crohn's disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the intestines, United Press International reported.

"Our data suggests, for the first time, that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn's disease," study leader Dr. John White, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a news release.

He suggested that siblings of patients with Crohn's disease who haven't yet developed the condition should make sure they consume adequate amounts of vitamin D, UPI reported.

"It's something that's easy to do, because they can simply go to a pharmacy and buy vitamin D supplements," White said.

The study appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.