Taco Bell removes green onions (AP)

E. coli probe also focuses on produce - Bridgewate...

Taco Bell removes green onions (AP)

Jamba Juice issues warning in Southwest (AP)

Taco Bell to Reopen Restaurants After - Washington...

Taco Bell to Reopen Restaurants After - Washington...

Jamba Juice issues warning in Southwest (AP)

New York first city to oust evil oils - The Age

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Scientists report advance in melanoma prognosis - NDTV.com

Scientists report advance in melanoma prognosis
NDTV.com - 48 minutes ago
US government scientists turned regular blood cells into tumour attackers that wiped out all signs of cancer in two men with advanced melanoma medical officials said on Thursday.
Gene therapy cures dying cancer men for first time Telegraph.co.uk
Gene Therapy Found Effective Against Terminal Cancer Los Angeles Times
Bloomberg - WJLA - KVOA.com - Wired News
all 275 news articles

Anti-smokers want tougher limits on nicotine - The Age

The Money Times
Anti-smokers want tougher limits on nicotine
The Age - 13 hours ago
SMOKERS struggling to stub out that final cigarette may have new insight into why it is so hard to quit. A report shows American tobacco companies increased nicotine levels by an average of 10 per cent over six years.
Call for greater tobacco control The Australian
Study Finds Increase in Nicotine Content in Cigarettes Voice of America
Winston-Salem Journal (subscription) - Ars Technica - iBerkshires.com - Gulf News
all 298 news articles

Healthy eating a hard sell for teens (AP)

AP - The 13-year-old girl took a whiff of the steamed carrot then took a taste.

Scientists alter cells to fight melanoma (AP)

Melanoma cells are seen in an undated microscopic photo from the National Cancer Instititue. Genetically altered immune cells wiped out tumors in two men with a deadly form of skin cancer and kept the patients disease-free for at least 18 months U.S. scientists said on Thursday. REUTERS/HandoutAP - Government scientists turned regular blood cells into tumor attackers that wiped out all signs of cancer in two men with advanced melanoma. The striking finding unveiled Thursday marks an important step in the quest for gene therapy for cancer.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Decorated needles calm patients

ALBUQUERQUE - Researchers at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center believe they have found a way to make patients less fearful of needles — decorate them with butterflies, flowers and smiley faces.
Fear of needles, or needle phobia, can impact the care a patient receives, the researchers said. Some children become hysterical at the sight of needles, while some adults will avoid the doctor's office altogether.

The researchers said the decorated needles can increase the quality of care when patients are less stressed.

Such decorations likely interfere with an established link between visual recognition of a perceived threat and the subsequent emotional response to that threat, the study suggested.

Needles, syringes and IV bags decorated with musical notes, flowers and smiley faces were highly favored by patients, the researchers said.

The researchers recruited 60 patients from outpatient clinics at the Health Sciences Center. Subjects randomly were exposed to eight designs of winged needles — such as one decorated as a butterfly — and six designs of syringes fitted with a needle.

When exposed to conventional syringes, 80 percent of the subjects experienced moderate to severe aversion, 63 percent suffered moderate to severe fear and 62 percent showed moderate to severe anxiety.

When exposed to the decorated syringes, the aversion in patients was reduced by 68 percent, fear by 53 percent and anxiety by 53 percent, the study found.

Wilmer Sibbitt, a professor in UNM's School of Medicine, said the decorated medical devices likely form a neurophysiological intervention, resulting in stimulation of brain areas usually not associated with fear, anxiety and aversion.

"It would be great to see these types of decorated needles, syringes, and IV bags mass produced," he said.

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Burning mouth" syndrome hard to treat

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It's a burning sensation that gradually spreads across the tongue through the course of the day, and it has a medical name: glossopyrosis, or more commonly, burning mouth syndrome. The condition can be frustrating to treat, but usually some relief can be found, according to the latest issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Most often, it seems, multiple factors play a role in producing the symptoms. Disease, medications or nutritional deficiencies can all be involved, but often no single cause can be pinpointed,

The condition is most common in people over 60, and occurs more frequently in women than in men. It can last for weeks or even years. Pain, tingling or numbness may be felt in the throat, lips, gums or palate as well as the tongue, and sensations can involve a metallic taste in the mouth.

Medical conditions linked to burning mouth syndrome include Sjogren's syndrome, diabetes and underactive thyroid, while deficiencies in iron, zinc, folate and some B vitamins have also been linked to the condition. Stress and anxiety can also be a factor.

Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome can usually be improved, according to the article, but treatment may be complex. If dry mouth accompanies the syndrome, it can be treated with medications that stimulate saliva flow, saliva substitutes, drinking water or even chewing gum. Treatment for oral yeast infection, or thrush, may also be helpful even if such an infection isn't apparent.

Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and unflavored toothpaste, and staying away from alcohol-based mouthwash, also is helpful, the article states.

Since some medications, such as ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, can cause dry mouth or mouth pain, switching drugs may help, as can treating any underlying nutritional deficiencies.

If symptoms continue, the article states, cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful, while certain drugs such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants can help manage the pain.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Health Letter, August 2006.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Male Circumcision Potential Weapon Against HIV/AIDS Spread

18 Aug 2006

Male circumcision, a practice thousands of years old, is slowly becoming recognised as a potentially powerful weapon to combat the spread of HIV infection. Such people as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, are starting to consider circumcision seriously as a result of scientific evidence. Clinton said, in the 16th International AIDS Conference, Toronto, that circumcision must be considered if research shows it saves lives.

A major clinical trial in Africa has shown that the risk of transmission of HIV from a woman to a man can be reduced by 60% if the man is circumcised. Clinton said that if further scientific research comes up with similar findings, then ways must be found to offer it safely, rapidly and comprehensively. He added that because circumcision is such a controversial procedure, it is not going to be easy to get it done if scientists eventually give it the green light.

Compelling evidence, according to UNAIDS and WHO (World Health Organization) means three large-scale studies. If further studies point the same way as the recent one, circumcision could potentially save millions of lives - it is also relatively cheap to offer, when compared to current weapons to combat HIV/AIDS. The procedure can be carried out at $55 per man. This compares to $2,400 in future medical costs to treat a recently infected person in Africa.

According to Dr. Bertrand Auvert, leader of a South African study reported in July in Plos Medicine, circumcision could save 3 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over a twenty-year period.

Another study, a small one carried out in rural Kenya, found that circumcision reduced HIV infection risk by 69%. Two major studies will be concluded next year - one in Uganda (July 2007) and the other in Kenya (September 2007).

The news is seeping its way into Africa's population. Hospitals in South Africa say men are coming in asking for the procedure to be done on them.

What is male circumcision?

It is an elective surgery to remove the prepuce (foreskin). To date, it is commonly done on newborns for traditional/religious reasons. Circumcision may also be carried out for medical reasons, such as treating phimosis and paraohimosis (problems with the foreskin), or balantis (inflammation of the tip of the penis) - in such cases it is usually carried out on older boys or men.

About 65% of US male newborns were circumcised in 1999 (WebMD). In the UK less than 10% of male babies are circumcised (BBC).

In the UK the main reason to circumcise a newborn is religious. In the USA many believe there are health benefits, hence more of them are circumcised.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stroke risk peaks every 12 hours

Strokes are most likely to occur during two two-hour periods, one in the morning, and the other in the evening, research suggests.

Japanese scientists, who examined 12,957 cases, found the risk peaked between 6am and 8am and 6pm and 8pm. Risk was lowest during sleep.

They said the key was likely to be changes to the blood and circulation governed by internal body clock.

The study appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The researchers, from Iwate Medical University, looked a patients suffering three different types of stroke.

Most common was an ischaemic stroke, caused by restricted blood flow to the arteries in the brain.

Haemorrhagic strokes, which are less common, occur when a blood vessel bursts inside the brain. There are two types: bleeding directly into the brain tissue (intracerebral), and bleeding in the arteries on the brain's surface (subarachnoid).

In all three cases, the researchers found that the risk peaked during the morning and early evening.

Ischaemic strokes were particularly likely to occur in the morning, and slightly less likely to occur during the evening peak slot.

Haemorrhagic strokes showed less of a peak in the morning, but a higher peak in the evening.


The researchers suggest that fluctuation in blood pressure is likely to be a significant cause of the peaks and troughs in risk.

Previous studies have shown that blood pressure tends to be highest during the morning, and often peaks again during the evening.

However, they believe other properties of the blood may increase the risk of an ischaemic stroke, and decrease the risk of a haemorrhagic stroke in the morning.

For instance, platelets, the tiny solid particles found in blood are known to stick together more easily - and possibly form a clot - in the morning. The blood also tends to be thicker at this time.

When blood is less thick and sticky, excessive bleeding is more likely, raising the risk of a haemorrhagic stroke.

The study also found that one type of stroke - ischaemic strokes -were much more likely to occur during sleep than haemorrhagic strokes.

Around a fifth of ischaemic strokes occurred during sleep.

Most were concentrated in the period immediately before waking up, although the stroke would probably have begun earlier.

Joe Korner, of the Stroke Association said: "Previous studies have shown that stroke risk does vary over the 24 hour cycle and that occurrence during sleep is most common for ischaemic strokes.

"This new study confirms that finding. However, more information is required about the different subtypes of ischaemic stroke - there are several different types, each with very different causes."

TV 'can numb pain for children'

Watching television may act as a natural painkiller for children, Italian research indicates.

A University of Siena team studied the level of pain reported by 69 children aged between seven and 12 as they gave blood samples.

Some were distracted by their mothers during the procedure, some had no distraction and some watched cartoons.

Those who watched TV reported least pain, the study - published in Archives of Disease in Childhood - said.

There is evidence to show you can reduce people's perception of pain given the right sort of intervention
Dr Ray MacDonald

The 69 children studied were randomly divided into the three groups to have a blood sample taken.

None of the children was given any form of anaesthesia.

After the samples had been taken, the children and their mothers rated their pain scores.

Children who were given no distraction at all registered pain scores around three times higher than those who watched cartoons.

Even a mother's attempts at distraction, for example by soothing or caressing the child, proved to be no match for the soothing effect of television.

The results suggested that, not only did watching television reduce levels of pain, it also improved children's tolerance of the pain they did register, the team said.

Parental role

The researchers say it is not clear whether the key factor was the distracting power of television or the emotional involvement of mothers undermining their attempts to help their children.

Writing in the journal, they say: "The higher pain level reported by children during mothers' efforts at distraction shows the difficulty mothers have in interacting positively at a difficult moment in their children's life.

"This does not mean that the mothers' presence is negative: although it does not reduce pain, the children will recall that they were not left alone on a stressful occasion.

"Children who are experiencing pain in health care settings of course need the supportive presence of a parent to help them cope effectively.

"Indeed, children state that having their parent present provides the most comfort when in pain."

Researcher Dr Carlo Bellieni said watching television might simply divert attention but it was also possible that the pleasure it generated might stimulate the release of natural painkilling hormones called endorphins.

He said health workers should consider using television to minimise distress for children undergoing minor painful procedures.

He also warned the study underlined the potentially powerful effect of television - which might not be welcome in everyday life.

Dr Ray MacDonald, a psychologist at Glasgow Caledonian University, has carried out research showing that listening to music can counter the pain of undergoing a procedure called haemodialysis in adult kidney disease patients.

He said: "There is evidence to show you can reduce people's perception of pain given the right sort of intervention and I can certainly see parallels between listening to music and watching television."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Autism 'affects all of the brain'

Autism does not simply affect how people relate to others but has a wide range of effects, a study suggests.

US researchers compared 56 children with autism with 56 who did not have the condition.

Those with autism were found to have more problems with complex tasks, such as tying their shoelaces, suggesting many areas of the brain were affected.

A UK autism expert said the Child Neuropsychology study showed how pervasive the condition was.

The social difficulties have received a great deal of research attention but this new study reminds us that the causes of autism have more pervasive effects
Professor Simon Baron Cohen, Autism Research Centre

People with autism are traditionally identified as having problems interacting with others and with both verbal and non-verbal communication.

They can also display repetitive behaviours and have very focused interests.

But this study suggests autism can affect sensory perception, movement and memory because it prevents different parts of the brain working together to achieve complex tasks.

Shoelaces 'difficult'

The children with autism all had the ability to speak, read and write.

All those studied by the team from the Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism were aged eight to 15.

While children with autism performed as well as, and sometimes better than, the other children in basic tests, they all had trouble with complex tasks.

So in the visual and spatial skills tests, children with autism were very good at finding small objects in a busy picture, such as finding the character Waldo in the "Where's Waldo" picture books series.

But when they were asked to tell the difference between similar-looking people, they found it very difficult.

And while children with autism tended to be very good at spelling and grammar, they found it much harder to understand complex figures of speech, such as idioms - where the meaning of the phrase is not the same as the actual words suggest.

For example, they would not understand "He kicked the bucket" as meaning someone had died and were likely to actually hop if told to "hop it".

Children with autism also had problems with their handwriting.

'Faulty' wiring

Nancy Minshew, a specialist in psychiatry and neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who led the research, said: "These findings show that you cannot compartmentalise autism. It's much more complex.

She said researchers investigating autism needed to look for causes that affect multiple brain areas, rather than simply looking at areas related to communication and repetitive behaviours or obsessive interests.

Dr Minshew added: "Our paper strongly suggests that autism is not primarily a disorder of social interaction but a global disorder affecting how the brain processes the information it receives - especially when the information becomes complicated."

The team has previously found, through looking at brain scans, that people with autism have abnormalities in the neurological wiring through which brain areas communicate.

She said these abnormalities were the most likely explanation for why the children with autism in the current study had problems with complex tasks but did well in tasks that only required one region of the brain.

Professor Simon Baron Cohen, head of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, said: "This new study is important in highlighting atypical functioning in both social and non-social domains, by people with autism spectrum conditions.

"Previously the social difficulties have received a great deal of research attention.

"But this new study reminds us that the causes of autism have more pervasive effects."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fizzy Drinks Don't Cause Cancers

Study Shows No Link Between 2 Cancers of Stomach and Esophagus and Carbonated Beverages
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News

Aug. 15, 2006 -- Drinking carbonated beverages may not raise the risk of certain types of cancers of the esophagus and stomach after all, a new study shows.

In 2004, researchers in India noted that esophageal cancercancer rates had risen along with consumption of carbonated soft drinks.

The new study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds no such connection.

"This study gives no support for the hypothesis that the use of carbonated soft drinks contributes to the increasing incidence of this cancer," conclude Jesper Lagergren, MD, and colleagues.

Lagergren and his colleagues looked at two cancer types:

* Esophageal adenocarcinoma: a common type of cancer of the esophagus, which connects the mouth to the stomach.
* Cardia adenocarcinoma: cancer of the cardia, the part of the stomach nearest to the esophagus.

They included cardia cancer because it and esophageal adenocarcinoma tend to strike similar groups of people.

Other research has also tilted away from a cancer-carbonation link.

In January 2006, experts at Yale University reported no ties between carbonated soft drinks and esophageal cancer after an observational study of about 1,000 esophageal cancer patients and 687 people without cancer.

The Study

Lagergren and his colleagues looked at three groups of people living in Sweden:

* 189 esophageal cancer patients
* 262 cardia cancer patients
* 820 people without cancer

Participants completed surveys about what they ate and drank currently and 20 years earlier.

The data showed no increased risk of esophageal or cardia cancer among those who reported drinking any amount of fizzy drinks, including soft drinks and carbonated, low-alcohol beer.

The results held after adjusting for factors such as smoking, reflux, BMI (body mass index, which relates height to weight), socioeconomic status, alcohol, and fruit and vegetable intake.

Since this was an observational study, it didn't directly test carbonated drinks for cancer risk, which would require giving some people carbonated drinks and others a placebo to see which group got more cancers. That's a test unlikely to be done.

SOURCES: Lagergren, J. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Aug. 16, 2006; vol 98: pp 1158-1161. WebMD Medical News: "Sodas May Raise Cancer Risk." WebMD Medical News: "Fizzy Soda, Esophageal Cancer: No Link." News release, Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Super blackcurrants with boosted vitamin C

Scientists are working with the company behind the fruit drink Ribena to boost the vitamin C content of blackcurrants in a move that would be a major benefit to UK consumers and farmers.

Researchers have tracked the production and storage of vitamin C in blackcurrant bushes and are now studying the factors that determine the levels of the nutrient in the fruit. Working out how to boost the vitamin C content of blackcurrants would help to promote consumption of the vital nutrient and also improve juice quality, providing a boon to UK agriculture which has massively increased the country’s blackcurrant crop in recent years.

The scientists, based at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and East Malling Research in Kent, have used tracers to identify where and when vitamin C is produced in blackcurrant bushes and how it moves throughout the plant. Using different strains of blackcurrant plant the team can compare and analyse how the vitamin accumulates in the blackcurrant fruit as well as the limiting factors.

To date the research has discovered that starch that accumulates after the berries have been harvested plays a key role in determining vitamin C production the following year. The scientists are now adjusting carbohydrate levels across the entire plant to alter starch deposits to explore how this affects vitamin levels and fruit quality.

Dr Robert Hancock, the research leader at SCRI, said: “Understanding how and when vitamin C is produced and accumulates in the blackcurrant plants has clear benefits for the consumer. We can grow crops that produce juice that will have higher levels of vitamin C and a better taste. Vitamin C is vital to tissue growth and repair and gives a big boost to the immune system but because it dissolves in water the body cannot store it.

“We need to eat vitamin C rich food every day but people just do not get enough. Blackcurrants contain more vitamin C than oranges so boosting that even further can only be a good thing. Blackcurrant production has soared in the UK in the last few years as demand has rocketed across Europe. If we can help to improve the crop we can give UK farmers a better, sustainable product to sell that will ensure they have a competitive edge.”

The project has another two years to run and there are still some key questions to be explored. Dr Hancock explained: “We have explored whether vitamin production takes place in the leaves or the blackcurrant fruit and answered important questions about why levels drop off as fruit ripens, just when we are about to eat it. Now we want to develop the techniques and knowledge we need to accelerate the breeding of super blackcurrant bushes.”

The team have received £1.2M in funding through the Horticulture LINK programme. This has contributions from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), GlaxoSmithKline, the Horticulture Development Council and the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).

Protein 'may stop asthma attacks'

Scientists have found why colds make people with asthma more likely to have a severe and potentially fatal attack.

UK researchers found there were low levels of proteins which should act as lung cells' first line of defence.

Writing in Nature Medicine, they say boosting levels of these proteins could protect people with asthma from having an attack because of a cold.

Experts welcomed the research, saying it offered a promising avenue for further work.

Around 80% of asthma attacks in children and 60% of adults are caused by respiratory viruses
Lyn Smurthwaite, Asthma UK

The researchers, from Imperial College and the Medical Research Council Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, tested lung cells from people with and without asthma.

It was found that when the people with asthma were infected with a common cold virus, a rhinovirus, their lung cells produced half the usual levels of a type of interferon - a protein with antiviral properties generated by the immune system.

This lower the level of the antiviral protein, the more severe the asthma attack.

'Huge importance'

The team, led by Professor Sebastian Johnston, say uncovering this mechanism could lead to a new way of treating or preventing asthma attacks.

Inhalers could be used to get extra interferon directly to the lungs to help the immune system fight viral infection, they suggest.

It could be given either when the first symptoms of a cold appear, or even throughout winter as a preventative treatment.

Professor Johnston said: "The discovery of this mechanism could be of huge importance in how we treat asthma attacks.

"Delivery of the deficient interferons by inhalers could be an ideal way to treat and prevent severe attacks of asthma, potentially vastly improving the quality of life for many asthma patients."

The team are now carrying out trials to look at ways of treating patients with interferons, and trying to discover why they have too few.

Hospital admissions

Professor Tak Lee, director of the MRC - Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms and Asthma, said: "This important finding paves the way for developing new approaches to prevention and treatment."

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation jointly funded the research.

Lyn Smurthwaite, of Asthma UK, said the research was an important step forward.

"Studies have shown that around 80% of asthma attacks in children and 60% of adults are caused by respiratory viruses.

"Yet no specific treatment is available and, on average, 198 people a day are admitted to hospital."

Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, added: "The results will be of invaluable help in improving the treatment and care of people with asthma."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Emotional patients get wrong idea

Some patients are too emotional to remember what a doctors tells them, researchers suggest.

Psychologists from the University of Marburg, Germany, tested how people perceived medical consultations.

People who were worried about their health were frequently reluctant to believe their condition was unlikely to have a medical origin.

The Publish Library of Science Medicine report suggests doctors should check patients do take information on board.

When a GP is uncertain of the specific problem it is not entirely surprising that the patient experiences uncertainty and may latch on to something that is frightening or worrying
Dr Simon Fradd, Developing Patient Partnerships

When people have minor symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches, most are happy if a doctor assures them there is no reason to worry.

But some have a long history of worrying, and keep returning to the doctor seeking a diagnosis.

The patients in this study visited doctors on average 32 times per year, contributing significantly to medical expenses and workload on medical staff.

The German researchers suspected the patients might misinterpret medical explanations.

Breakdowns and barbecues

They asked them to listen to three taped conservations, which were also played to healthy people and other patients with depression.

One of the tapes involved a doctor explaining test results to a patient with abdominal pain, while the second involved a negative conversation about the lack of an invitation to a barbecue, while the third was a neutral exchange about a car breakdown.

Each of the exchanges had a range of responses; four which offered possible explanations - two which were definitively negative, such as "the reason for your complaint is definitely not gastric flu", and two which were ambiguous, such as "it is unlikely you have cancer".

People were then asked about their memories of the explanations offered for each scenario.

In the test result scenario, even when it was clearly explained that there was no medical cause for the patient's complaint, "emotional" patients were less likely to take on board what they had been told by the doctor.

But they did not respond as emotionally when they listened to the other conversions.

The researchers, led by Dr Winifred Rief, said people who had such responses could have had difficult experiences with doctors.

To make sure patients accurately remember a consultation, Dr Rief and her colleagues suggest doctors ask patients to summarise what they are told to double-check they understand the medical explanation correctly.

Writing in PLOS Medicine, they say: "This would make it possible to detect when patients have misremembered the likelihood of various medical explanations, and provide an opportunity to correct the situation.

"This would benefit patients and reduce the strain on health care systems."

Dr Simon Fradd, a GP and spokesman for the UK organisation Developing Patient Partnerships, said: "When a GP is uncertain of the specific problem it is not entirely surprising that the patient experiences uncertainty and may latch on to something that is frightening or worrying.

"GPs obviously need to be aware of that in these types of situations and try go offer reassurance."

Study: Exercise OK for mild hypertension

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer Sun Aug 13, 2:03 PM ET

BALTIMORE - The short-term spike in blood pressure that comes with moderate exercise doesn't harm the hearts of healthy older people with mild hypertension, new research shows.

"There has been some hesitation on the part of individuals when they have high blood pressure to do exercise," said Dr. Kerry Stewart, the study's lead author and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University Heart Institute.

"Among people who are otherwise healthy except for mild hypertension — which represents an awful lot of people — the message is, after a proper screening, participating in an exercise program appears to be beneficial."

Long-term high blood pressure is known to cause enlargement and stiffening of the heart, but the brief rise in blood pressure from regular exercise doesn't have the same effect, researchers found.

The hearts of the most active study participants did increase modestly in size, but it was comparable to that experienced by athletes and was accompanied by improved heart function and not stiffening, Stewart said.

Although the benefits of exercise have long been known, the researchers believe the study is the first to evaluate the effects of exercise on heart function — how much blood fills the heart with each beat and how much it pumps.

For six months, researchers tracked 104 men and women between the ages of 55 and 75 with untreated mild high blood pressure. Half exercised for an hour three times a week while the others maintained their normal routine.

The exercise included an aerobic workout, either on a stationary bicycle or a treadmill, and weightlifting.

Exercisers showed no negative effects in 11 measures of diastolic heart function, the filling of the heart's main chamber between beats. As a whole, the exercise group also showed no increase in eight measures of heart size, although the most active showed a modest increase.

The exercisers' oxygen intake rose and they lost an average of four pounds, with fat loss offset by gains in muscle mass. Abdominal fat, meanwhile, was reduced 20 percent among exercisers, the researchers reported. Non-exercisers had either no improvement, or significantly less improvement.

The research is part of a larger study of the effects of exercise on blood pressure, heart structure and cardiovascular function. Results of the Johns Hopkins findings were published in the July issue of the journal Heart.

Dr. Ares Pasipoularides, a professor emeritus at Duke University who was formerly with Duke's Center for Emerging Cardiovascular Technologies, said it was not clear whether the exercise or the weight loss was responsible for the improved heart function in the most active group.

"When people are lean, among other things, it improves the respiration. When we improve the respiration you improve cardiac function by many different mechanisms," said Pasipoularides, who did not work on the study.

Stewart noted that the volunteers' exercise was equivalent to brisk walking with weight training.

"We're not talking about running a marathon and we're not talking about doing the Tour de France, it was about an hour of what we would call moderate exercise," Stewart said.

For study participant Joanna Kann, 62, that moderate exercise was more than she had ever done.

"They kind of taught us we could do more than we ever thought," said Kann, who still exercises and has kept her blood pressure down. "We all could barely drive home afterward. While we were exhausted it was really an incredible experience."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Physically active life good for the body and brain

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Exercise keeps the body, and mind, in tiptop shape, according to a review of published studies on the topic. Taken together, the data suggest that exercise and physical activity may slow age-related declines in cognitive function, the reviewers conclude.

Moreover, fitness training may improve some mental processes even more than moderate activity.

"Although we clearly still have much to learn about the relationship between physical activity and cognition, what we currently know suggests that physical activity can help keep us both healthy and mentally fit," Dr. Arthur F. Kramer told Reuters Health.

Kramer, from the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois in Urbana, presented his team's work this week at the annual gathering of the American Psychological Association. The research is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

In an effort to resolve the "varied opinions" on the impact of exercise on cognitive functioning, Kramer and colleagues conducted an "up-to-date" review of the scientific literature on the subject.

They found that many of the studies suggest "significant, and sometimes substantial" links between physical activity and later cognitive function and dementia. There is evidence that this relationship can span several decades.

In one study, for example, participating twice weekly in leisure time physical activity in middle age was associated with a reduced risk of dementia later in life.

However, "given the observational nature" of most of the studies on exercise and the brain, a "cause and effect" relationship cannot be established, Kramer and colleagues point out.
"Fortunately, there have been an increasing number of randomized intervention studies which have examined the relationship between fitness training and cognition and dementia," they note.

Some of these studies have shown significant improvements in mental performance and delayed dementia with fitness training, whereas others have not.

Pooled data from 18 intervention studies suggests a "moderate" positive influence of fitness training, particularly on "executive control" functions such as planning, scheduling, working memory and multi-tasking -- many of the processes that often show substantial decline with age.

Exercise is not only beneficial for healthy people but also for those already showing signs of dementia and related cognitive impairments, the team reports.

The medical research literature also contains evidence that "even relatively short exercise interventions can begin to restore some of the losses in brain volume associated with aging," they add

Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Mass. study shows some babies too fat

By MELISSA TRUJILLO, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 10, 8:43 PM ET

BOSTON - Chubby cheeks and dimpled thighs have long been a mother's proof of a healthy, well-fed baby. But those roly-poly infants now may be a sign of something much different: America's growing problem with weight.

Even babies under 6 months old are more likely to be overweight today compared with those 20 years ago, a study of Massachusetts children found.

Fewer than 1 in 10 babies was found to be too fat, but the rate was still up substantially from two decades ago. That's worrisome because research has shown that accelerated weight gain in a child's early months can predict weight problems and higher blood pressure later in life, said senior author Dr. Matthew Gillman, associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

"The results of this study point out very clearly that the origins of overweight are at the origins of human life, even at birth," he said. The study was published this week in the journal Obesity.

The researchers looked at medical records of more than 120,000 children who visited doctors from 1980-2001. All were enrolled in a health maintenance organization that used an electronic medical record system and most came from middle-class families.

Among children 6 months and younger — a group seldom included in weight studies — the percentage of overweight babies jumped from a little over 3 percent in 1980 to nearly 6 percent.

Whether a baby was overweight was determined mostly by change in weight over those first crucial months — especially weight gain out of proportion with length — rather than the infant's weight at a specific age, Gillman said.

For the group overall, the prevalence of overweight children increased from 6 percent to 10 percent.

Researchers didn't study why there is a higher rate of fat babies today, but Gillman pointed to previous studies that have connected higher birth weights to mothers who were overweight before or during pregnancy and to those who had diabetes during pregnancy.

"Good habits need to begin at the very beginning of life," said Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Obesity Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who was not involved with the study.

Laura Riley, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who was not connected with the research, said she hoped it would give doctors more ammunition in the push to get mothers to make healthier choices before, during and immediately after pregnancy.

"Pregnant women need to be much more aware of what the implications are of what they do," she said. "Yeah, it's cute to be a nice, healthy, chubby baby, but the question is whether there's a point when it's really over the top."

Sara Keng, a 29-year-old stay-at-home mother of three from Woonsocket, R.I., said she wasn't surprised by the study's results. She blames the increase on "super-sized" foods and harried parents who rely on fast foods to feed their families.

Keng said she got a wake-up call when her oldest son, now 4, became overweight when he was a toddler, forcing her and her husband to change family eating habits. She thinks the new study shouldn't drive parents to obsess over their newborn's weight.

But she believes the new data could be more evidence for parents and especially pregnant women that their actions can cause future problems. Holding her 8-month-old son, Brycen, while her other children played in Boston Common, Keng said she sees it firsthand at the playground sometimes.

"Some kids are really big, and that's really scary," she said.


On the Net:

Obesity: http://www.obesityresearch.org

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Help a Blister Heal

(HealthDay News) -- Blisters occur when the skin is exposed to friction, which results in a tender lump on the skin filled with fluid. They form most often on the hands and feet from new or ill-fitting shoes, or from working with a new tool or instrument.

The best way to prevent blisters is to wear thick socks and comfortable, properly fitting shoes. Give your feet a break by switching shoes frequently and relieving pressure points certain pairs may cause. To protect your hands, it's a good idea to wear gloves when working with tools that could cause blisters.

The Nemours Foundation says blisters will usually heal on their own without treatment. However, you should keep the area clean and dry. Protect the blister with a bandage and by not wearing shoes that will rub or irritate the area.

-- Diana Kohnle

Copyright © 2006 ScoutNews LLC. All rights reserved.
This is a story from HealthDay, a service of ScoutNews, LLC.

Statin Drugs Cut Risk of Recurrent Stroke

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter 44 minutes ago

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A new study supports the use of cholesterol-lowering statin medications after stroke -- even for patients without a prior history of heart disease.

Patients without such histories who took a statin drug -- which include
Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor -- reduced their risk of a second stroke by 16 percent over the next five years, researchers found.

While previous studies have indicated a benefit of post-stroke statin therapy, doctors now "have very clear clinical trial results to help guide therapy," said co-researcher Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Center for Cerebrovascular Disease and the Stroke Center at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "These results will have a major effect on how people are treated after a stroke," he added.

His team reported its findings in the Aug. 10 issue of the
New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by drug maker Pfizer, which makes Lipitor.

Another expert said the study should help guide treatment.

"The authors of this paper argue that statin therapy should be part of treatment after a stroke," said Dr. David Kent, assistant professor of medicine at Tufts-New England School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial. "Overall, I would agree with that assessment."

The study included 4,731 people treated at 405 centers across the world for stroke or transient ischemic attacks, ministrokes caused by temporary blockage of a brain artery. Two-thirds had ischemic strokes, caused by complete blockage of a brain artery, another 30 percent suffered transient ischemic attacks, and 2 percent had hemorrhagic strokes, caused by a leaking blood vessel.

Although almost all the people in the study were already taking aspirin or another drug to reduce blood clotting, adding Lipitor to their usual stroke therapy reduced the incidence of a second stroke by 16 percent over an average 4.9 years of follow-up, compared to the group that did not get the statin, the researchers reported.

There was no difference in the overall death rate between the two groups, however, with 216 deaths in the Lipitor group vs. 211 deaths among those not taking the drug.

The people in the study were chosen carefully, Goldstein noted. Previous trials had shown a benefit after stroke for people with a history of coronary disease caused by narrowing of the heart arteries. Such patients were excluded from the study.

"What this study shows is that in this particular group of patients, statin therapy is associated with a very significant reduction in the risk of a second stroke," Goldstein said.

There was a slight increase in second stroke risk among the small group with rarer hemorrhagic stroke. However, "there were very few patients who had hemorrhagic strokes at the outset, so it was very difficult to make any meaningful conclusions," Goldstein said. "We currently are doing other analyses trying to understand the hemorrhagic issue."

But, he said, the implications of the study are clear for people who suffer ischemic strokes -- the great majority of stroke patients. "It provides evidence for the first time that patients with that kind of stroke should be started on a statin in the hospital or soon afterward," Goldstein said.

And while only one statin was used in this trial, Kent said that, "my belief is that it is a class effect," meaning the results should apply to other statin medications.

He cautioned that the results might not apply to people who have an ischemic stroke caused by a clot traveling to the brain from the heart, which occurs in about 20 percent of cases. But "for someone who has an ischemic stroke, the default position is to start a statin, unless you see a clear cause not to," Kent said.