Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lethargic childhood may lead to heart disease later

Lack of exercise or physical activity in childhood spells increased risk of heart attacks in adulthood, according to a new study.

A child's level of fitness and physical activity might cause diabetes, high Blood pressure and cholesterol levels, besides obesity, collective known as the "metabolic syndrome" - and that could lead to cardiac problems later in life.

Four hundred participants between the ages of seven and 10 and between the ages of 14 and 17 took part in the study to gauge the likelihood of metabolic syndrome.

After seven years almost half of them developed at least a single characteristic of metabolic syndrome, while five percent had developed its full-blown version.

Those with metabolic syndrome were six times more likely to have had low levels of physical activity as children.

The findings - published in the open access journal Dynamic Medicine - reveal that lack of fitness during childhood is a strong indication of the development of heart disease later in life.

"Children today live a very sedentary life and are prone to obesity," said Robert McMurray of University of North Carolina, who conducted the research.

Does a gene cause smoking addiction?

A genetic variation could prompt craving for smoking and increasing chances of lung cancer and arterial disease, according to an international study.

The study covered 3,700 people from seven countries either with lung cancer or arterial disease and a further 30,000 disease free control subjects.

Greg Jones of the University of Otago said receptors in the brain activated by nicotine appear to be more active in the people with this genetic variation.

Consequently, they have a greater tendency to become addicted to smoking.

Findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

"Inheriting this one factor means they face a double whammy. Not only are they more likely to be heavier smokers but their risk of lung cancer increases by 18 percent and their risk of arterial disease goes up by 10 percent," he added.

"The bottom line is that regardless of whether you have the genetic variation or not, you should not smoke," says Jones.

"Either way, smoking remains a huge risk factor for cardiovascular and lung disease."

Oral contraceptives are better at easing pain, bleeding

Oral contraceptives are not only better at easing pain and bleeding, but may also be more effective in preventing pregnancy than regulation 28-day birth control pills, according to a study.

The study has found that both the ovary and the lining of the uterus are suppressed better and quicker with the continuous pill rather than with the cyclic pill.

The study, by Penn State College of Medicine researchers, also did not find any harmful effect on the lining of the uterus with oral contraceptives.

Researchers monitored 62 healthy women, randomly assigned to receive either cyclical or continuous birth control pills, for six months with both researchers and participants blinded to the study group.

"We monitored vaginal bleeding, quality of life, and ovarian and endometrial suppression," said Richard Legro, co-author of the study.

Findings of the study have appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The researchers found a significant decrease in moderate to heavy bleeding days among women who received the continuous birth control regimen.

Women in the continuous group also had a significant decline in circulating and urinary estrogen levels, total ovarian volume and lead follicle size - all biomarkers that indicate the ovary is less active - and reported less pain and behavioural changes compared to women in the cyclic group.

Standard 28-day birth control pills mimic a woman's natural menstrual cycle, while preventing pregnancy. However, results from the study also indicate greater breakthrough bleeding, or spotting, among women in the continuous group.

Legro said the quality of life did not necessarily decrease as it was counterbalanced by improvements in other areas such as pain and mood swings.

Lose Weight, Feel Great With a Good Breakfast

A healthy breakfast that includes high-fiber cereal, fruit and milk can help you lose weight and fend off diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The article noted that research suggests that people who eat breakfast are leaner than those who skip breakfast. One study found that people who did without breakfast were at four times greater risk of obesity compared to those who started the day off right, says an article in the Harvard Men's Health Watch.

High-fiber cereals are essential to breakfast's health benefits. Cereals should have at least six grams of fiber per serving but should have less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Eat high-fiber cereal with nonfat milk and bananas, berries or apple slices, the article suggested.

Other healthy breakfast choices include whole-grain or pumpernickel breads and trans-fat free soft margarine or cholesterol-lowering spreads containing plant stanols. While you don't need to eliminate eggs altogether, it's best to limit them to the occasional brunch, the article said.

Other breakfast foods, such as bacon, hash browns and croissants have far too much fat or salt and should be avoided, the researchers said in the February story.

Of course, taste has a lot to do with how well an individual sticks to a particular breakfast, so the experts suggest trying out different foods to find out which offers you the most enjoyable -- and healthy -- morning meal.

Many stomach cancer cases caused by tobacco use

Cigarette smoking and use of other tobacco products significantly increases the risk of death from stomach cancer in men and women, a large study of US adults indicates.

Stomach cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide and is known to be linked to chronic infection with the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

In its Review of Tobacco conducted in June of this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there is "sufficient evidence in humans" to infer a causal relationship between stomach cancer and tobacco use, says Dr. Ann Chao of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia.

Chao's group examined stomach cancer mortality in relation to cigarette smoking in women and cigarette, cigar, pipe and smokeless tobacco use in men enrolled in the Cancer Prevention II Study. They identified 996 and 509 stomach cancer deaths among 467,788 men and 588,053 women, respectively.

The researchers found that compared to non-smokers, male cigarette smokers had slightly more than double the risk of dying from stomach cancer, while the risk for female smokers was 49% higher than for non-smokers. Among men, current cigar smoking increased the risk of death from stomach cancer 2.3 times compared to non-smokers.

Men with chronic indigestion or stomach ulcers who smoked cigarettes were more than 3 times more likely to die from stomach cancer, and nearly 9 times more likely to die from the disease if they smoked cigars, compared with non-smokers, the authors report.

If causal, the authors estimate that the proportion of stomach cancer deaths attributable to tobacco use would be 28% in US men and 14% in women.

"These results were very consistent in our study population that has overall lower rates of stomach cancer compared to other countries, and have major implications for countries with much higher stomach cancer rates and increasing smoking prevalence," says Chao.

Loud Music No Threat to Ears

Most teenagers and young adults don't think hearing loss from listening to loud music is a big problem, even though three out of five have had ringing in their ears after concerts, according to a study released on Monday.

But when told loud music could result in lifelong hearing loss, two-thirds in the study said they might consider ear plugs or other protective measures in the future.

The findings came from a 28-question survey posted on cable television's MTV Web site for three days in March 2002 answered by 6,148 females and 3,310 males, with an average age of 19.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, part of Harvard Medical School, said only 8 percent of those questioned thought hearing loss was a big problem. By comparison, half thought sexually transmitted diseases were a big issue and nearly that many thought the same about alcohol and drug use, smoking and depression.

Sixty-one percent of those questioned had ringing in their ears or other signs of hearing impairment after attending concerts and 43 percent reported the same from socializing at clubs, but only 14 percent had ever used earplugs.

But 66 percent said they could be motivated to try ear protection if they were aware of the potential for permanent hearing loss, said the report published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"The good news is that many young people indicated that they would consider wearing hearing protection, for an entirely preventable and lifelong hearing loss condition, if they were counseled by a medical professional," said Roland Eavey, a physician who was one of the study's authors.

The report said several studies across the world have reported an increasing trend toward noise-induced hearing loss, particularly among younger people. While short periods of exposure to amplified sound may not cause permanent problems, it said, the damage from chronic exposure can be cumulative, so that a slight hearing loss in childhood can become a substantial one in adulthood.

The authors said they did not do an error margin calculation for this type of opinion sample.

No threat to pacemakers from iPods: Study

Here is relief for gizmo-lovers with a heart condition - no, "electronic noise" from iPods does not cause cardiac pacemakers to trip, a new study says.

Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston were intrigued by a widely reported study last May that concluded errant electronic noise from iPods could cause implantable cardiac pacemakers to malfunction.

This just did not sound right to the hospital's cardiac electro-physiologists who have seen hundreds of children, teens and young adults with heart conditions requiring pacemakers, ScienceDaily reported.

"Many of our pacemaker patients have iPods and other digital music players, and we've never seen any problem," said Charles Berul.

"But kids and parents bring up this concern all the time, prompting us to do our own study."

While last year's study was done in patients averaging 77 years, the average age in the new study was 22. All patients had active pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), which were tested against four digital music players - two kinds of iPods (Apple Nano and Apple Video), SanDisk Sansa and Microsoft Zune.

All patients were lying down during the tests, and each digital player was placed directly over the pacemaker or ICD.

The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Heart Rhythm, found there was no interference with intrinsic device functioning - patients' EKG (electrocardiographic) recordings showed no change in any of 255 separate tests, and no patients had symptoms.

"This provides reassuring evidence that should allay the fears of people using iPods and other digital music players," said Berul, the study's senior investigator.

However, in 41 percent of patients, the music players interfered with telemetry, or communications between the programmer and the pacemaker or ICD itself. The programmer is a computerised device used by physicians to check and recalibrate the pacemaker/ICD - patients do not carry it.

This interference, picked up in 29 of 204 tests, however, went away when the digital player was moved six inches or more from the device, and did not compromise device function.

Patients should not use digital music players while the doctor is trying to reprogram their device, the researchers concluded.

Berul and colleagues are reassured by their own findings, but acknowledge that their testing was only short-term.

"We can't conclude that it's completely safe to have an iPod right on top of the device for hours at a time," Berul said. "That's why we suggest the precaution of keeping it at least six inches away."

Grief can lead to mental illness

The idea that grief can lead to mental illness is controversial in medical and counselling circles. But a new study says that while strong feelings of grief are normal and healthy after the death of someone you love, some people grieve for so long that it becomes a significant mental illness.

The study, by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), says between 10 and 15 per cent of bereaved people experience an intense, prolonged sadness arising from longing or yearning for the deceased - so much so that their overall health is impaired.

They withdraw socially, become depressed and even suicidal and traditional grief counselling may not be of a great help, according to a UNSW press release.

Fortunately, other recent findings suggest that such people can recover with treatment using cognitive behaviour therapy, an approach already shown to be more effective than medication for a range of psychological problems, including anxiety and traumatic stress.

A team of Sydney researchers and counsellors is now conducting further studies to evaluate the treatment more fully.

"Many grief counsellors resist the idea that we can 'medicalise' grief reactions in this way," said Richard Bryant, lead author.

"The debate has been intensified by increasing evidence that grief counselling is often not effective. In contrast, the introduction of strictly defined disorder opens new opportunities to treat people suffering the effects of prolonged grief."

Green tea helps beat super bugs

Drinking green tea helps important antibiotics fight resistant super bugs, making the antibiotics up to three times more effective, according to a new study.

In Egypt, where green tea is popular and where a lot of patients have it while taking antibiotics, researchers wanted to find out if it interferes with the action of the antibiotics.

"We tested green tea in combination with antibiotics against 28 disease-causing micro-organisms belonging to two different classes," said Mervat Kassem of Alexandria University in Egypt.

"In every single case green tea enhanced the bacteria-killing activity of the antibiotics. For example the killing effect of chloramphenicol was 99.99 percent better when taken with green tea than when taken on its own in some circumstances."

Kassem presented these findings Monday at the Society for General Microbiology's 162nd meeting in Edinburgh.

Green tea also made 20 percent of drug-resistant bacteria susceptible to one of the cephalosporin antibiotics. These are important antibiotics that new drug resistant strains of bacteria have evolved to resist.

The results surprised the researchers, showing that in almost every case and for all types of antibiotics tested, drinking green tea at the same time as taking the medicines seemed to reduce the bacteria's drug resistance, even in super-bug strains, and increase the action of the antibiotics.

In some cases, even a low concentration of green tea was effective.
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