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Protect Your Heart, Protect Your Eyes (April 27, 2004)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. There's no cure, but researchers have discovered a link that may help prevent the disease. Drugs designed to protect your heart may also help your eyes.

There are a lot of things Louise Collier doesn't like about growing old. So far, losing her vision has been the hardest. "That's the worst thing that can happen to you," she says. "You don't realize it as you go day by day seeing, but you can't do anything when you can't see."

Collier has wet macular degeneration, a deterioration of the retina that blurs focus. At 82, she's not alone. It's the leading cause of vision loss in America.

The disease is often attributed to simply getting older, but new research suggests there could be another risk factor -- Cholesterol. Epidemiologist Gerald McGwin, Jr., Ph.D., wondered if cholesterol-lowering drugs -- called statins -- would reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

He and researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied the records of more than 5,500 men. "And what we found was that those who had macular degeneration were less frequently using statins," McGwin tells Ivanhoe.

Specifically, there was a 50-percent reduction in the risk of macular degeneration among the men taking statins. McGwin says now his research shifts to why. "This is very important for understanding how they work," he says. "This is very important for understanding the cause for the disease."

For Collier, it's too late, but the future of statin therapy could mean a crisp, clear future for generations to come.

Statins have also been shown to reduce the risks for Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma and hip fractures.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Bob Shepard
Media Relations
University of Alabama at Birmingham
(205) 934-8934
bshep@uab.edu

 

Epilepsy Different for Women (April 27, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Researchers presenting at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in San Francisco say women with epilepsy may encounter a wide-range of problems while taking certain medications.

Mark Yerby, M.D., from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., who presented the information, says many women find their seizures change in severity and frequency during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. He says hormonal changes may be responsible for some of the difficulties women experience.

In pregnant women, uncontrolled seizures can lead to miscarriages and infant death. They can also contribute to problems with cognitive development in children. In fact, children of women with epilepsy have a two-fold increased risk of developing cognitive difficulties.

Many women with epilepsy take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) to help control their seizures. However, Dr. Yerby says AEDs are associated with a higher risk for birth defects. He says, “It is best if we can get expectant mothers on a single medication that works to minimize side effects and risk.”

AEDs can also lesson the effects of birth control. Dr. Yerby says, “Sometimes we can overcome these problems by prescribing a higher-dose contraceptive. Women who have unplanned pregnancies should stay on their AEDs and notify their physician immediately.”

Dr. Yerby concludes, “Women with epilepsy need special care in managing their disorder. They cannot safely stop taking their medication without risking seizures and injury to themselves and their unborn [child].”

Researchers say about 1 million women in the United States have epilepsy.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in San Francisco, April 24 - May 1, 2004

 

Calcium for Kidney Stones? (April 27, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Ladies, more milk does the body more good. Adding more calcium to the diet may help reduce the risk of developing kidney stones in younger women, according to new research.

In a study of more than 95,000 women who never had kidney stones, researchers documented 1,223 new kidney stones over the eight years of the study. Women who consumed the most calcium had a 27-percent lower risk of developing kidney stones compared to women who consumed the least amount. The use of calcium supplements was not associated with risk of stone formation.

Researchers also found women who consumed the most phytate had a 37-percent lower risk of developing kidney stones compared to women who consumed the least amount. Found in plants and cereal grains, phytate might inhibit the formation of kidney stones by preventing tiny crystals of calcium oxalate from forming. Calcium oxalate is a component of kidney stones.

Based on the findings, researchers suggest some dietary risk factors may differ by age and sex. However, they conclude dietary phytate may be an important and safe new option for stone prevention, and dietary calcium restriction in patients who had a kidney stone is no longer justified.

According to the research, diet plays an important role in the development of kidney stones. In older men and women, higher levels of calcium, sodium, animal protein and sugar may be linked to a higher risk of developing kidney stones.

SOURCE: The Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004;164:885-891

 

Stroke Survivors Should be Exercising (April 27, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Stroke survivors, listen up! The American Heart Association is urging you to exercise and has guidelines to help show you how.

The group says at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to seven times a week, can help reduce the risk of another stroke.

The new AHA guidelines recommend strength training with weights or resistance that will allow at least one set of 10 repetitions. Strength training, to build up weak muscles, should be done at least two to three days a week and include eight to 10 different exercises involving major muscle groups.

Stroke survivors should also do flexibility training and stretching before or after aerobic or strength training sessions two to three days a week.

Also, don’t forget balance or coordination exercises two to three times a week. Stroke survivors often have balance problems, which put them at risk for falls.

The AHA says stroke survivors should undergo a complete medical history and physical exam before beginning an exercise program. Health care professionals can make special adjustments such as adding handrails or harnesses to exercise equipment.

Authors of the study warn inactivity can create “a vicious circle of further decreased activity and greater exercise intolerance, leading to secondary complications such as reduced cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, and impaired circulation to the lower extremities in stroke survivors.”

Stroke care has usually focused on acute stroke treatment or rehabilitation during the first few months following a stroke.

Each year, about 700,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke. About one-third of those strokes are recurrent. Strokes can reduce the ability to perform daily functions that consume lots of energy, such as dressing, bathing, walking and doing household chores.

SOURCE: To be published in an upcoming issue of Circulation

 

“Old Fashioned” Surgery Better for Heart Patients (April 27, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Modern technology may not always yield the best treatment. A new study shows high-risk heart patients with additional health conditions had better five-year survival rates following bypass surgery than those who had balloon angioplasty and stent procedures.

Study author Sorin Brener, M.D., from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, says bypass surgery surprisingly saved more lives, even in this era of modern technology. He adds, “The sicker the patient, the more bypass surgery helped.”

Researchers found the advantage of bypass surgery was even greater among those with diabetes and advanced heart failure.

Death rates after five years for those who had coronary artery bypass grafting were nearly half the rate of death among patients who received percutaneous coronary intervention. PCI involves angioplasty or stenting to widen a narrowed blood vessel in the heart.

One likely explanation for the bypass advantage, according to study authors, is that bypass grafts help prevent damage from subsequent artery blockages. Investigators examined survival records for more than 5,000 patients who underwent bypass surgery and 872 who had PCI at Cleveland Clinic.

Researchers say up to 99 percent of coronary interventions are initially successful, and they are relatively easy to use because general anesthesia, surgical opening of the chest or use of a machine to keep the blood artificially oxygenated are not needed. Repeat PCI can be performed more easily than a repeat bypass, and blood flow can be restored more quickly in emergency situations.

However, researchers caution health care providers to weigh PCI’s advantages against its disadvantages, which include the inability to relieve blood vessels that are totally blocked or have extensive disease.

SOURCE: To be published in an upcoming issue of Circulation
 

Heart Risk Related to Income (April 26, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Researchers in Scotland find people from lower socioeconomic groups are not up to par when it comes to their heart care.

According to the research, underprivileged people are 44-percent more likely to have heart failure, yet 23-percent less likely to continue treatment once diagnosed.

Researchers studied the cardiovascular history of nearly 2,200 patients with heart failure, in addition to their social and economic backgrounds.

The data indicated the probability of developing heart problems increased with an increase in social deprivation. These same people often neglected to seek follow-up care with their general practitioner.

Treatment care was the same across the board for patients from all economic backgrounds.

Researchers write, "Once the mechanisms behind these socioeconomic gradients are better understood, programs can be devised for optimal outcomes of all patients, irrespective of social class."

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, published online April 22, 2004
 

Help for Breast Cancer Side Effects  (April 23, 2004)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Each year, more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Most undergo chemotherapy and are forced to endure the many side effects that come with it. Now, doctors say stimulating the brain may help relieve those side effects.

Carmel Nail has breast cancer. "I was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a mastectomy and started chemotherapy," she says. "I am somebody who helps people through these processes and problems, and then here I am having to deal with it, firsthand."

To help her deal with it, Nail, a nurse, joined a study at the University of Virginia School of Nursing in Charlottesville to treat the side effects of breast cancer therapy.

Debra Lyon, R.N., Ph.D., one of the nurses involved in the study at the University of Virginia School of Nursing, says there's a pretty high incidence of psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety. She says sleep disturbances and fatigue are also common.

Now, Lyon is studying cranial micro-current electrical stimulation for relief. "It works much as a homeostatic regulatory type of therapy," she says. "We're not changing the current or the energy field in the body, except to re-normalize it."

For one hour a day, women attach ear clips that send a micro-current to the brain. They activate pathways that relieve symptoms.

Nail has finished the study, but she's still receiving chemotherapy. "I do experience a little more anxiety, just day-to-day, related to the chemo. I felt probably a little more relaxed while I was utilizing the stimulator device," she says.
 

Lyon hopes the device will be an effective alternative for women. She says: "My hopes go back to the passion that made me become a nurse in the first place. I want to take care of people and help people to feel better."

The study is still ongoing at the University of Virginia. The device already has FDA approval to treat insomnia, depression and anxiety. It does require a prescription. A recent study has shown the device may also be helpful in reducing pain from fibromyalgia.


If you would like more information, please contact:
Debra Lyon, R.N., Ph.D.
UVA School of Nursing
Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Blake Center
University of Virginia Health System
Charlottesville, VA 22908
del2a@virginia.edu

 

Vision Threats High in Diabetes (April 23, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Diabetic retinopathy from type 1 diabetes affects one in 300 people ages 18 and older. Vision-threatening retinopathy from type 1 diabetes affects one in 600 people, according to new research.

Investigators expect the rates of diabetic retinopathy to increase substantially by 2020 with the aging of the U.S. population and anticipated increases in age-specific diabetes.

Researchers found that among 209 million Americans ages 18 and older about 889,000 are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before age 30. Among people with type 1 diabetes, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 47.9 percent for blacks and 82.3 percent for whites. However, the prevalence of vision-threatening retinopathy was just 30 percent for blacks and 32.3 percent for whites.

Researchers obtained the estimates using data from two large studies and population data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops at a young age, frequently in childhood, and always requires treatment with insulin for survival.

According to the article, diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye complication associated with diabetes. The retina is the light-collecting layer of cells at the back of the eye that converts light into signals. These signals are sent to the brain via the optic nerve where they are translated into images.

SOURCE: The Archives of Ophthalmology, 2004;122:546-551
 

Fewer Calories, More Benefits (April 21, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Cutting calories can drastically reduce the risk of clogged arteries, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to a new study.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied two groups of individuals. The first group consumed a restricted-calorie diet, which consisted of about 10 percent to 25 percent fewer calories than the average American diet. Participants in this group still tried to maintain proper nutrition by consuming nutrient-dense foods. They followed their restricted diet for three to 15 years. The second group included individuals who followed a typical Western diet.

Those in the restricted calorie group consumed between 1,100 calories and 1,950 calories per day, depending on their height, weight and gender. Their calories consisted of about 26 percent protein, 28 percent fat, and 46 percent carbohydrates. In contrast, those in the normal diet group consumed between 1,975 calories and 3,550 calories per day, with only 18 percent of their calories from protein, 32 percent from fat, and 50 percent from carbohydrates.

Researchers found individuals in the restricted-calorie group had much lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and much higher HDL (good cholesterol) levels than those who followed a typical American diet. Researchers say this finding was surprising because HDL levels typically drop when people follow low-fat diets to lose weight.

Participants in the calorie-restricted group had lower triglyceride levels than more than 95 percent of Americans in their 20s, even though the age of the participants ranged from 35 to 82. High triglyceride levels can lead to atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries, which can be a precursor to heart attack or stroke.

Blood pressure scores in the restricted group were also equivalent to those of much younger individuals. The average blood pressure score in the normal diet group was about 130/80. However, those in the calorie-restricted group had an average blood pressure reading of only 100/60. Insulin levels were also as much as 65 percent lower in the calorie-restricted group.

Luigi Fontanta, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study, concludes, “These effects are all pretty dramatic. It’s very clear from these findings that calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging.”

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online April 19, 2004
 

Lymphoma Vaccine (April 20, 2004)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

We have vaccines to prevent flu, measles, whooping cough and other illnesses. Now, scientists are testing vaccines to keep cancer from coming back.

Two years ago, Tom Steeves complained to his doctor of swelling in his neck. "I said, ‘I've never felt these before. This is not normal.'"

Steeves had a slow-growing but stubborn form of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- cancer of the lymph system that almost always comes back, even after chemotherapy.

"Eventually, most of these patients ultimately develop resistant disease and die of their lymphoma," says hematologist/oncologist Craig Nichols, M.D., of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

"That's the unfortunate thing about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma B-cells, is that the patient just has to wait and see what happens," Steeves says. He didn't want to wait, so he enrolled in a clinical trial to test a tailor-made vaccine.

"This really is the ultimate targeted-therapy," Dr. Nichols says.

The vaccine is made from a unique protein pattern from the patient's own tumor. It teaches the immune system to recognize cancer cells and kill them. Dr. Nichols says, "There are certainly patients who've been vaccinated who have yet to have their cancer return, and whether those patients are cured, or simply having very long remissions, we don't know yet." He says some patients in the very first lymphoma vaccine trials have been cancer-free for 10 years.

Steeves hopes to live twice that long---which would put him into his 90s.

There are a number of lymphoma vaccines in the development. It could be two to three years before any of them are available.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Rachel MacKnight
Media Representative
Oregon Health & Science University
macknigh@ohsu.edu

 

Menthol Boosts Osteoarthritis Pain Relief (April 20, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

A new study shows the addition of menthol to topical creams provides significant pain relief and improvements in physical performance for people with osteoarthritis.

Pain-reducing medications such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and COX-2 inhibitors have been common treatments for osteoarthritis in the growing elderly population. However, these medications often have painful side effects or do not react well with other medications.

One proven alternative treatment is the use of oral and/or a topical blend of cetylated fatty acids. Recently, menthol has been added to this cream. Menthol has been shown to possess analgesic properties, which reduce the sensation of pain.

Researchers assigned 10 patients with knee osteoarthritis, 10 with wrist osteoarthritis, and eight with elbow osteoarthritis to an experimental group based on the location of the diagnosed osteoarthritis. Each patient applied the cream to the affected area twice a day every day for one week.

Researchers say, across the board, the topical cream with menthol produced significant improvements in physical performance and reduced pain from osteoarthritis of the knee, hip and elbow.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative joint disease that affects more than 21 million people in the United States. The Arthritis Foundation reports that arthritis is the leading disability of Americans, resulting in more than 39 million medical visits annually and $65 billion in medical expenses and lost wages. The most common symptoms are pain, stiffness, reduced joint range of motion and limitations to normal activities such as getting up from a chair, walking, balance and strength, and walking up and down stairs.

SOURCE: The Journal of Rheumatology, 2004;31:767-774
 

Alcohol Raises Risk of Gout (April 20, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Beer and liquor may be bad for your health. A new study shows the drinks significantly increase the risk of gout. Wine connoisseurs fear not. The consumption of wine did not appear to be a factor.

Overall, the risk for gout was 2.5-times higher in men who drank more than 50 grams of alcohol daily, the equivalent of four or five drinks. Even those who consumed 10 to 15 grams a day, about one drink, had a 30-percent increase in risk.

When investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed the type of beverages, the intake of two or more 12-ounce beers daily increased the risk 2.5-fold, while two drinks that each contained a shot of liquor increased the risk 1.6 times. No increase was observed with the consumption of two 4-ounce glasses of wine. In fact, lead researcher Hyon Choi, M.D., Dr.PH., says the lack of risk with wine suggests a potential direction for future research into possible protective components of wine.

Gout affects more than 5 million adults in the United States. For hundreds of years, the painful joint malady has been linked to overindulgence in rich food and drink. Last month, the same research team reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that consumption of certain meats and seafood, but not vegetables and overall protein, increase the risk of gout. They also found dairy foods may reduce the risk.

Gout is caused by deposits of uric acid often in joints of the feet or ankles that lead to inflammatory arthritis. Symptoms include swelling, redness, stiffness and severe pain.

SOURCE: The Lancet, 2004;363:1277-128

 

Diabetics Should be Taking Statins (April 20, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

New guidelines released by the American College of Physicians suggest controlling cholesterol is as important as controlling blood sugar for diabetes. Authors of the new guidelines say all people with diabetes and any other risks for cardiovascular disease should be taking statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Aimed at physicians and patients, the new guidelines suggest all adults with type 2 diabetes, known coronary artery disease, or a risk factor for CAD should take statins regardless of their cholesterol levels. CAD risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity and obesity. Premenopausal women with diabetes and another risk factor should be taking statins or the non-statin drug gemfibrozil, also known as Lopid.

The authors say statins are extremely safe, except for patients who have liver problems or are taking drugs that interact with statins.

In April 2003, the American College of Physicians called for tight control of blood pressure for diabetics. According to the American Diabetes Association, 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes will develop or die from complications of heart and vessel disease. About 65 percent of deaths among people with diabetes are due to heart disease and stroke.

The number of people with diabetes is growing rapidly in the United States. The American Diabetes Association estimates 18.2 million Americans have the condition, and an additional 1.3 million people, ages 20 and older, are diagnosed with diabetes each year.


SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004;140:644-649

 

Ironclad Memory (April 20, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Women with poor memory skills are often iron deficient. Now, researchers from Pennsylvania State University at University Park say iron supplements may reverse memory loss in these women.

Researchers presented their findings at the Experimental Biology 2004 meeting in Washington, D.C. They studied nearly 150 women between ages 18 and 35. The women were either anemic, iron deficient, or iron sufficient.

During initial cognitive testing, women who were iron deficient (but not anemic) completed tasks in the same amount of time as those with normal levels of iron, but they performed significantly worse. Anemic women also performed significantly worse and took even longer than the iron deficient women did. In fact, researchers say the more anemic a woman was, the longer it took her to complete the tasks.

However, after the iron-deficient and anemic women took 60 milligrams of iron for four months, their scores significantly improved. The women who took iron supplements also completed the tasks in less time than they did prior to taking the supplements. Researchers say women who took the supplements significantly improved their attention, learning skills, and both short-term and long-term memory.

About 10 percent of women in their mid-20s and about 25 percent of pregnant women are iron-deficient. Researchers say these results are important because they show even modest levels of iron deficiency have a negative impact on cognitive functioning in young women. They say this is the first study to show how iron supplements can reverse memory loss in younger women.

SOURCE: Experimental Biology Meeting in Washington, D.C., April 17-21, 2004

 

Heart Risk up for Pregnant Blacks (April 20, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Black women with preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, may be at higher risk of atherosclerosis than their white counterparts.

Both folic acid and vitamin B12 are needed to break down homocysteine, an amino acid linked to atherosclerosis (the condition of fat buildup in the arteries).

This new study shows preeclamptic black women have more homocysteine than white women. Black women also have less folic acid in their blood than white women but, surprisingly, higher levels of vitamin B12.

Investigators are not sure if the differences are due to diet, lifestyle or genetics. However, since high homocysteine levels have been linked to diets low in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, researchers suggest it may be necessary to increase folic acid intake among blacks.

Expecting moms can get folic acid from green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens and kale. Because low folic acid is also associated with birth defects in the nervous system, the United States requires cereal and bread to be fortified with folic acid. Vitamins B6 and B12 can be found in prenatal vitamins.

The study included 85 white women and 78 black women. Of those participants, 34 white women and 26 black women had preeclampsia.

According to the article, preeclampsia affects 3 percent to 5 percent of pregnancies in the United States. Researchers say black women with preeclampsia are more likely to have a severe form that shows up as early as six months into pregnancy.

SOURCE: To be published in an upcoming issue of Hypertension

 

Get Moving at Work (April 19, 2004)

By Julie Monheim, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Initiating a workplace physical activity campaign can be easy, fun and a success, according to Mary Kruse, MS, presenter at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla.

Kruse says in 2003, obesity-related medical costs were more than $75 billion. Those high costs have caused many companies to explore programs that promote the health and well being of employees. Kruse says, “If we can get people moving, we can reduce costs for companies.”

Workplace exercise programs are relatively inexpensive and can reach a large amount of people, according to Kruse. Workplace exercise programs average about $5 to $10 dollars per person. She says compared to other methods, such as seminars, exercises classes, and walking clubs, programs can successfully recruit more participants.

A workplace exercise program typically lasts eight weeks and is team based. The goal of the program is for participants to achieve 150 minutes of activity a week or 60,000 steps a week.

Kruse says it’s important that top managers support the program. She says, “When you get the CEO involved, those are the types of programs that explode.”

Creative themes, good communication, and team formats can add to the success of a program. Kruse says, “We have almost a 100-percent completion rate when they cumulate exercise numbers together, as a team, but only a 50-percent completion rate when they aren’t on teams.”

Kruse says workplace exercise programs offer benefits for everyone involved. Her studies show more than 75 percent of employees who completed a program were extremely satisfied with the program, and more than 90 percent agreed it was a good use of company resources.

Kruse says, “That’s good information for us to share with the companies. The programs can help with cost issues, and are also valuable for human resource managers who can offer the exercise options as an incentive for future employees.”

SOURCE: Julie Monheim at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., April 14–17, 2004

 

Treating Bone Loss After a Heart Transplant (April 19, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

New research may help heart transplant patients maintain stronger bones.

People who undergo a heart transplant usually lose significant bone mass in the first year after the transplant, mainly due to the powerful drugs that keep their bodies from rejecting the new organ. The bone loss greatly increases their risk for fractures. Studies suggest the prevalence of fractures among this group ranges from 22 percent to 44 percent. Preventing bone loss is a primary goal of treatment, but which drugs work best in this situation is unclear.

In this study, investigators from Columbia University and elsewhere assigned 149 transplant patients to receive treatment with either the bisphosphonate drug alendronate or calcitriol, a form of vitamin D. All began the therapy about a month after their transplant. At a one-year follow up, patients on alendronate had a reduction in bone mineral density at the lumbar spine of 0.7 percent. The calcitriol group had a reduction of 1.6 percent. BMD decreased by 1.7 percent at the femoral neck for the alendronate patients and 2.1 percent for the calcitriol patients. The rate of fractures was about the same for the two groups.

A comparison of the treatment groups with a similar group of patients receiving no treatment for bone loss indicates both treatments help prevent bone loss in this population. However, significantly more of the calcitriol patients than the alendronate patients -- 27 percent vs. 7 percent -- also developed a condition known as hypercalciuria, which is excessive loss of calcium in the urine.

Given the latter finding, the researchers conclude alendronate is the better treatment for bone loss among people who have undergone a heart transplant.

SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, 2004;350:767-776

 

When the Cookie Monster Strikes (April 19, 2004)

By Julie Monheim, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

The scene is all too familiar for many. It’s late at night, and hunger strikes. Unfortunately, so does the cookie monster! What should you do? Nancy Clark, MS, a registered dietician in Boston, offered some tips on how to deal with sugar cravings at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla.

Clark says sugar cravings occur because people do not eat enough throughout the day. She says cookies are not the problem but are the symptom. “People tend to get too hungry, and when this happens they tend to crave carbs and sweets,” she says.

Studies show when people starve themselves or diet, they become depressed, irritable and angry. When these same people resume normal eating habits, they tend to eat more and are unable to feel satisfied.

Clark says extreme dieting does not work because dieters end up overeating and eventually gain more weight. When blood sugar drops, the body craves sugar. Thus, Clark says denying one’s body of food can spark sugar cravings, which can lead to overeating.

Clark’s solution for taming sugar cravings is, ironically, to eat. She says people should not deny themselves food when they are hungry. “You don’t make yourself wait if you have to urinate. It should be the same way with food. Hunger is a physiological response. We shouldn’t tell ourselves, ‘OK, I have to wait until noon to eat lunch,’ if we’re hungry at 11:00,” she says.

Knowing your calorie budget can be helpful, according to Clark. However, she says it’s important to see calorie counting “as a tool and not an obsession.” She recommends spreading out calorie intake throughout the day by eating a 500-calorie breakfast, a 500-calorie lunch, a 300-calorie “second lunch” later in the day, and a 500-calorie dinner.

Clark says eating adequately will help prevent sugar cravings, but if you still have them, it’s better not to deny yourself. “One cookie a day is okay, but 10 is not ... Remember the cookie monster only visits hungry people,” she says.

SOURCE: Julie Monheim at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., April 14-17, 2004

 

Calcium for Weight Loss? (April 16, 2004)

By Julie Monheim, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

If your mother always told you to drink your milk so you can grow bigger, she may have been wrong. New research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., shows calcium from milk, supplements, or other dairy products may actually make you smaller -- by promoting weight loss.

Stella L. Volpe, Ph.D., R.D., from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, presented data from recent studies that show participants who consume more calcium lose more weight. She says if the body consumes enough calcium, a breakdown of fat occurs. However, if the body consumes an insufficient amount of calcium, the opposite can occur, and the body actually produces more fat cells.

Volpe says, “It is very exciting to be able to promote something people can and should ingest that can actually lead to weight coming off. Too often, our weight loss advice centers on eliminating foods from the diet, or in the case of some, promoting dangerous supplements.”

Volpe says athletes who participate in sports like wrestling where weight management is an issue can greatly benefit from calcium. She says these athletes can use calcium to help maintain weight while also reaping the benefits of bone strength and prevention of osteoporosis. She also says low-fat dairy products such as skim milk and yogurt offer hydration and vitamin D as extra benefits.

While Volpe does not recommend a specific daily dose of calcium for weight loss purposes, she says the current daily recommended allowance of four low-fat dairy servings should be the minimum amount a person consumes. She says more research needs to be conducted to determine specific dose recommendations of calcium for weight loss.

SOURCE: Julie Monheim at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit, Orlando, Fla., April 14-17, 2004

 

Should you Stretch? (April 16, 2004)

By Julie Monheim, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Athletes often debate the value of stretching before exercising. Now, research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., offers new insights about stretching.

Michael R. Bracko, Ed.D., sports physiologist, from Calgary, Canada, says researchers have passed the “crossroads” of understanding the advantages and disadvantages of stretching. He says, “We unequivocally know we absolutely have the answers about stretching now.”

Bracko says stretching does not reduce the risk of injury. In fact, he says current research shows static stretching makes muscles weaker for 10 to 15 minutes and may actually increase the risk of injury. He says some likely causes of injuries include fatigue, overuse, weakness and stress, but not inflexibility.

Bracko also argues stretching does not improve athletic performance in most cases. One study, he says, shows athletes who stretched prior to running actually performed worse than those who did not stretch. In Bracko’s own study, both male and female hockey players showed no improvement in performance after stretching.

However, Bracko says there are some benefits of stretching for people who endure chronic posture problems, such as sitting for long periods of time at work, where muscle groups become tight. He says studies show a pre-work warm-up or workstation stretch can benefit both employees and their employers.

Studies show when employees incorporate stretching into their daily life, their body perceptions improve, and they are less likely to be out of work due to work-related injuries. Bracko says: “Stretching may not decrease risk of injury but may decrease the cost of that injury and the time off work in an occupational setting. That’s huge for employers.” He says other benefits of stretching are that it improves posture and temporarily reduces pain caused by muscle soreness.

Bracko concludes, “The bottom line is stretching does not reduce risk of injury, may make muscles weaker, probably doesn’t improve performance, but may improve body image and save employers money.”

SOURCE: Julie Monheim at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Summit in Orlando, Fla., April 14–17, 2004

 

Diabetic eye Complication on the Rise (April 15, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

New research shows approximately 4.1 million Americans, age 40 or older, suffer from diabetic retinopathy, and that number is expected to climb. The study in the Archives of Ophthalmology also shows one in 12 diabetics in the 40 and over age group has reached the vision-threatening stage of this disease.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It affects the blood vessels in the retina and the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye. Retinopathy occurs in most people with long-standing diabetes but its incidence can be reduced with aggressive control of blood glucose and blood pressure.

Lead researcher John Kempen, M.D., Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Md., warns, “Even though diabetic retinopathy is a disease occurring only among persons with [diabetes], the prevalence of [diabetes] in the general population is high enough that diabetic retinopathy is highly prevalent in the general U.S. adult population.”

Investigators pooled data from eight eye surveys and estimated prevalence rates for diabetes reported in the 1999 National Health Interview Study and the 2000 U.S. Census. An estimated 10.2 million adults ages 40 and over have diabetes in the United States.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, 2004;122:552-563

 

Titanium Rib (April 14, 2004)

PHILADELPHIA (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Children born with spinal or chest wall deformities face many serious health risks, including premature death. Now, an experimental surgery gives these kids a new lease on life.

Kathy and Chris Hayes are thankful for every move Abby makes. When Abby was born, the right side of her spine and her chest wall were not growing.

"If we didn't do anything, she could develop lung problems, because the lung wouldn't be allowed to grow normally if that side of her body wasn't growing the way it should," Kathy tells Ivanhoe.

After meeting with countless specialists, the Hayes were referred to spine surgeon Randal Betz, M.D., of Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. He told them Abby was an ideal candidate for an experimental device called the titanium rib.

"The titanium rib is an expandable prosthesis that's made out of titanium," Dr. Betz says. "It fixates to either a rib or parts of the spine, and it's to correct chest wall deformities or a spinal deformity. "

The titanium rib expands the rib cage and straightens the spines of children like Abby.

"Prior to this device being available, the only treatment would have been to fuse her spine, and she would have ended up with a chest cavity the size of a 1-year-old or a newborn," Dr. Betz says.

After the initial implant, surgery is performed every four months to six months to lengthen the rib device as the child grows. When the child is done growing, this step is no longer needed. It heals, and then the child will not need anything else done for the rest of his or her life.

Abby's father, Chris, says, "Abby's future is bright. The surgery was a success, and she's going to be a normal-growing child."

Shriners hospital for children is one of the seven sites in the United States participating in a study to evaluate the titanium rib. All treatment at Shriners is provided at no cost to families.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Terry Diamond
Director of Public Relations
Shriners Hospital for Children
3351 North Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19140
(800) 281-4050
tdiamond@shrinenet.org

 

Seeing Stroke Prevention (April 13, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

The eyes may open the window for new stroke prevention. A new study finds the drug candesartan cilexetil, also known as Atacand, improves blood flow in the eye, which can be slowed from the result of high blood pressure.

“Studying the reaction of blood vessels in the eyes may offer insight into stroke prevention by revealing how blood vessels in the brain react to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke,” says Christian Delles, M.D., of the British Heart Foundation Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Center.

The endothelium is the lining of the vessel walls and plays a key role in vessels’ ability to relax and constrict. For the study, researchers recruited 38 young adults, half of whom had early stage hypertension. The patients randomly received the drug or placebo for seven days. The blood flow in their retinal vessels was measured before and after treatment. Each patient was then switched to the opposite treatment and the tests were repeated.

Study authors report when patients were on the drug, there was normal blood vessel function. However, when patients were on the placebo the blood flow did not change. Researchers feel because of the similarity between the retinal and brain blood vessels, the study results suggest that the drug could improve function of brain vessels as well.

SOURCE: To be published in an upcoming issue of the journal, Stroke

 

Shock Away Tendonitis (April 12, 2004)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Every year millions of Americans seek treatment for tendonitis. It occurs when a tendon near a joint becomes inflamed. Treatment is often difficult and recovery can be long. Now, a new approach relieves the pain of this common condition.

Many weekend warriors know the pain of tendonitis in elbows, shoulders, feet and knees brought on by vigorous activity. Then, something as simple as this opens a new door to pain. Just ask John Cherry.

"One weekend, I became a yard warrior," Cherry tells Ivanhoe. Swinging a leaf blower aggravated an elbow tendon already sore from his golf swing. His doctor said it was chronic tendonitis, also known as tendonopathy.

"It was really pretty severe," he says. "It would hurt to do almost anything involving the arm." It hurt for Cherry to write or hold the phone receiver to his ear. Typing was an even more painful activity.

Now, an increasing number of patients with tendonitis are finding relief with extracorporeal shock wave therapy. During the therapy, ultrasound energy targets the affected area.

"Numerous clinical studies have shown it to be effective in managing a wide variety of tendonopathy and chronic tendonitis syndromes," says orthopaedic surgeon Spero Karas, M.D., of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Doctors believe the shock waves inhibit pain in the nerve endings and increase blood flow, promoting healing. Dr. Karas says: "It's safe. It's non-invasive. It's comfortable for the patient, and it's well-tolerated."

And it's helping patients like Cherry carry on as weekday warriors free from the pain of their weekend battles. "I was very happy to have the opportunity to use it and get some relief," he says.

Doctors say it usually takes two to three 20-minute shock wave treatments to relieve the pain of chronic tendonitis.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Tom Hughes, Managing Editor
UNC Health Care
101 Manning Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 966-6047
tahughes@unch.unc.edu

 

Famine and Breast Cancer (April 12, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Short-term famine may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, report Dutch researchers in the April 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers found women who experienced a short, but severe decrease in food intake during the 1944-1945 Dutch famine were more likely to develop breast cancer than women not affected by the famine.

In the past, animal studies have shown cutting calories by a third to a half over a lifetime prevents various cancers. However, the implications of short-term food restriction are widely unknown.

Researchers found as severity of famine increases, the risk for breast cancer increases. Women who experienced severe famine had a 48-percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not experience famine. The risk of breast cancer was also highest among those women who were between ages 2 and 9 during the famine and for women who never gave birth.

Approximately 15,000 women between ages 2 and 33 during the Dutch famine participated in the Dutch breast cancer screening program between 1983 and 1986. The women responded to a questionnaire on weight loss, hunger and cold during the famine.

Study authors hypothesized that the children's developing hormone systems may have adapted to famine and could not readapt to food abundance later on in life, ultimately increasing cancer risk.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2004: 96:539-545

 

Exercise for Breast Cancer (April 12, 2004)

STANFORD, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Every year, more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. They'll choose different treatments, but for all of them survival is the goal. There are some important reasons why survivors may want to take up exercise, and why women who have not yet had to face breast cancer should add exercise as a preventive step.

The faces of breast cancer survivors are different women and different treatments, but they are all survivors. Now, new research shows exercise can improve quality of life, spirit and health among survivors.

Renowned exercise expert Walter Bortz, M.D., an internist at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., studies the effects of exercise on cancer.

"Everything withers when you don't use it, and the same thing occurs with cancer, only probably at an accelerated rate. So, what are you going to do about that," comments Dr. Bortz. New research shows survivors who exercised three times a week increased cardiovascular fitness 17 percent.

He says survivors aren't the only ones who benefit. One study shows women who routinely exercise, whether it's walking, rowing, lifting weights, have a 20-percent lower risk of ever getting breast cancer.

Dr. Bortz says it's a valuable prescription. "If you give me 100 people who put their tails down and go scurrying off vs. the 100 others who've got their tails up, saying, 'I'm going to do this exercise today,' I'll bet on the second gang with absolute confidence that they're going to do better."

Suanne Knopf is a breast cancer survivor who's ready for the challenge. She says, "I'm definitely not going to sit home, and I'm not going to collect dust."

Results from the study that showed a 20-percent reduction in breast cancer risk held true even when exercise was started after menopause. Researchers also point out the exercise doesn't need to be strenuous but should be done consistently, such as taking a brisk, 30-minute walk five days a week.

If you would like more information, please contact:
American Breast Cancer Foundation
http://www.abcf.org/

 

Decreasing Post-Mammogram Stress (April 9, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Between 5 percent and 11 percent of all screening mammograms are abnormal, meaning a woman must come back for a follow-up mammogram. This often leaves women feeling stressed and anxious. Now, a new study recommends radiologists examine the initial mammogram immediately so any follow-up tests can be performed in the same office visit.

Many abnormal mammograms turn out to be false-positives, meaning they do not result in a breast cancer diagnosis within one year. Even when follow-ups and evaluations rule out breast cancer, women frequently experience high levels of stress and anxiety.

Mary B. Barton, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, examined ways to reduce these feelings. Women in the study received one of two interventions, both interventions or no intervention. One intervention consisted of educational materials -- including a video and a pamphlet -- that explained their breast cancer risk, the reasons for abnormal mammograms, and coping strategies for dealing with the results. For the second intervention, a radiologist examined the mammogram so that any follow-up tests needed, except for biopsies, could be performed during the same visit.

Three weeks after their false-positive mammograms, women who had to wait several days to receive their results reported more stress and anxiety than the women who had received immediate results. Also, more than half of the women who had the immediate follow-ups reported their mammograms had been normal. The authors say this suggests that the immediate completion of follow-up may have minimized the effect of a false-positive reading to the extent that they never perceived their mammogram as being abnormal.

Since the educational intervention did little to alleviate stress, the authors conclude that rapid evaluation of mammogram results may be a more effective approach to decreasing anxieties than trying to change emotional reactions to abnormal mammograms.

SOURCE: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2004;96:529-537

 

More is Better With Statin Therapy (April 9, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

A double dose of statins could be the answer for some heart patients. New research shows treating heart attack patients with an intensive therapy of statins gives them greater protection against death and future heart health problems.

After a patient is hospitalized for a heart problem, standard therapy is 40 milligrams of a statin for 10 days. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted research to see if doubling the dosage would be more beneficial.

The study included 4,162 patients. Half received 40 milligrams of the statin drug pravastatin (generic Pravachol), and the other half received 80 milligrams of the statin atorvastatin (Lipitor). Researchers followed patients for an average of two years. They looked at heart attack rates, rehospitalization, stroke and death rates.

Researchers report a 16-percent reduction in problems for the patients on the more intensive therapy. They say an intensive dose of the drug provides greater protection against death and major cardiovascular events than the standard dosage.

The patients on this intensive therapy benefit early and continue to have benefits, add researchers.

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, 2004;350:495-504

 

Depressed Moms-to-be Brighten up (April 7, 2004)

PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Post-partum depression and even depression during pregnancy are common, but treating the condition can be especially challenging. Antidepressants are rarely recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women. So what’s a woman to do for help?

Motherhood was always in the plans for Laura Stinson. "I always knew I wanted to have four. Then, I had two and said, 'That was enough,'" Laura says.

"Then we were blessed with two extras."

Laura can say that today, but when she was pregnant with Sarah, depression set in. She says: "I started feeling overwhelmed. Simple things like paying the bills, I couldn’t do it." Knowing antidepressants pose risks to unborn babies, Laura looked for something different.

She found it with two simple clicks of a light switch.

Psychiatrist Katherine L. Wisner, M.D., is involved in a formal study on the power of light therapy. She says, "I’ve become absolutely excited about the possibility of showing that it’s an effective treatment for depression in pregnancy and that we might spare many women medication treatments during pregnancy."

While doctors don’t understand why the light therapy works, Dr. Wisner, of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says all that matters is that it does. "The number of patients who respond, and the rate at which they respond, is similar to drug studies," she tells Ivanhoe.

Forty-five minutes every morning was all it took for Laura’s mood to turn around, and it took less than three weeks.

Even now when she uses it Laura notices a difference. "I find that I do have a little extra spring in my step," she says. And that’s important to keep up with the activity of her active crew.

These are special lights, and just any light will not have the same effect. The therapy should be used within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning. Dr. Wisner warns that although the side effects are few and rare, the treatment can h

be harmful to people with severe depression, so it’s not recommended without the guidance of a doctor.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Women’s Behavioral Healthcare
http://www.womensbehavioralhealth.org

Light for Depression in Pregnancy Study
http://www.pregnancylight.org/

 

Diabetics Sing the Blues (April 7, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

In addition to the health complications caused by diabetes, a new study in Diabetes Care suggests people with the condition often experience depression too.

About 12 percent of the people studied met standard criteria for major depression. Another 8.5 percent met criteria for minor depression.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices and other factors appear to increase the risk a diabetic will suffer from the mental disorder. According to the study, depression occurred more frequently in people who smoked and were significantly overweight.

Major depression was more frequent in younger people, females, and unmarried people in the study. Minor depression occurred more often among those with less education and non-Caucasians.

Both forms of depression were seen more frequently among patients with more complications from their diabetes.

The study is based on a survey conducted among diabetic patients being treated in nine primary care clinics in Washington.

The investigators conclude, “Improving outcomes for patients with diabetes may need to address depressive illness to improve diabetes self-care (losing weight and quitting smoking) and prevent adverse medical outcomes.”

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, 2004;27:914-920

 

Fast Track to Heart Disease (April 6, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Overweight and obese children are on the fast track to heart disease, report Chinese investigators in the current issue of Circulation.

But the good news is, with dietary changes and more exercise, the risk can be significantly reduced.

The investigators used two noninvasive tests to measure atherosclerosis -- the deadly build-up of plaque that leads to heart attacks and stroke -- in the arm and neck arteries of kids. Even though the children had not yet entered puberty, study author Kam S. Woo, M.D., from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, says their test results were similar to those normally found in “a 45-year-old adult who had been smoking for more than 10 years.” The average age of the kids was about 10 years.

The prognosis for these children: a three- to five-times increased risk of a heart attack or stroke by age 65 compared with kids of normal weight.

From there, the researchers assigned the children -- 54 boys and 28 girls -- to one of two groups: a diet-only group or a diet-plus-exercise group. After just six weeks, kids in both groups showed significant improvements in heart disease risk factors. Kids who continued to diet and exercise maintained these improvements after one year.

Dr. Woo concludes, “Adopting a healthy lifestyle in childhood is the most cost-effective and practical way to prevent heart disease in adults.”

SOURCE: To be published in an upcoming issue of Circulation

 

When “Good” Isn’t Good Enough for Diabetes Control (April 6, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

It’s time to redefine “good” when it comes to controlling diabetes during pregnancy, shows a new study in this week’s British Medical Journal.

Dutch investigators surveyed about 320 women with type 1 diabetes and noted significant problems, despite the fact most of the women had what doctors considered a “good handle” on their diabetes. Compared to women in the general population, these women were three- to 12-times more likely to suffer complications of pregnancy such as high maternal blood pressure, higher birth weight babies, babies with dangerously low blood sugar, and babies with more birth defects.

The authors note this occurred even though 84 percent of the pregnancies were planned and women had good medical care from the outset, including good blood sugar control and adequate intake of folic acid.

“Despite a high frequency of planned pregnancies, resulting in overall good glycemic control ... maternal and perinatal complications were still greatly increased,” note the authors. “Near optimal maternal glycemic control ... is apparently not good enough.”

Researchers particularly advise neonatologists caring for infants born to women with type 1 diabetes to be alert for signs of low blood sugar in the babies, noting the condition occurred in about two-thirds of their study population.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, published online April 5, 2004

 

Low-Vision Drivers (April 5, 2004)

BOSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Whether it’s age-related macular degeneration or a condition they’re born with, millions of Americans have vision that cannot be corrected. Many live their lives thinking driving is out of the question, but a researcher in Boston says they can get behind the wheel and drive safely and legally.

For most people, driving is something that’s taken for granted. For Laura Holt, a low vision sufferer, it’s a dream come true. "It’s hard to learn a new thing at 33, when most people do it at 16, and so, it’s great," Holt says.

Laura is one of millions of people in the U.S. with low vision, which is sight that cannot be corrected to 20/40. Twenty/forty is what’s needed to get a driver’s license. "Losing your driver’s license is really a terrible thing for many people," says Eli Peli, O.D., a vision rehabilitation researcher at Harvard Medical School. He says it doesn’t have to be that way, and that’s why he wrote "Driving With Confidence."

Peli says, "Many people don’t know what are the situations that would let them extend their driving condition." For example, 34 states allow people with low vision to drive using telescopic glasses. Many also allow people who are blind in one eye to drive if the other has good vision. Many states allow for restricted licenses based on time of day, distance from home and even maximum speed. But poor peripheral vision will keep you from getting a license in most states.

"But even if it’s legal, it still may not be safe for an individual person, and that needs to be determined as a second thing," Peli says. For Holt, telescopic glasses were all she needed. She says, "With these glasses, I can drive. I have a valid daytime driving license in the state of Massachusetts, which is fabulous." Holt knows her limits and doesn’t go too far, but just knowing she can do it legally makes all the difference.

Studies show visual impairment is not the greatest risk factor for driving accidents. Instead, the most dangerous drivers are young men who may have good vision but poor judgment. People with neurological and heart diseases are also at higher risk of accidents than those with visual impairment. Peli’s book, "Driving With Confidence," is available in book stores and on the Internet.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Richard Godfrey
Patient Liaison
Schepens Eye Research Institute
20 Staniford St.
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 912-2569

 

Antioxidants and Diabetes may not mix (April 5, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

A simple blood test may be able to tell whether a postmenopausal woman with diabetes would benefit from antioxidant vitamins to ward off heart disease, report researchers in this month’s Diabetes Care.

Israeli investigators tested women with partially blocked arteries to see which form of a blood protein called haptoglobin they carried. Those with two copies of a gene making the type 1 form of the protein were found to benefit from taking 400 international units of vitamin E and 500 milligrams of vitamin C twice per day. Women with diabetes were particularly helped by the supplements.

On the other hand, women with the type 2 version of the protein saw no benefit from the treatment, and those with type 2 haptoglobin and diabetes actually had their conditions worsen.

Why would vitamins work for women with one type of the protein but not the other? The researchers can’t say for sure. These antioxidant vitamins normally help neutralize blockage-causing oxidation, but animal studies suggest that they are not useful in people with the type 2 version because of their higher iron levels. People with the type 2 version could be turning these vitamins into substances that promote oxidation by breaking down good cholesterol.

The combination of type 2 haptoglobin and antioxidant vitamins is particularly damaging in women with diabetes because high blood sugar also plays a role in artery blockages.

Study author Andrew P. Levy, M.D., Ph.D., comments, “This study says that you can find subgroups of people who actually might benefit and subgroups which will actually be harmed by antioxidant vitamins, so it is important to know which haptoglobin type you are.”

Dr. Levy and fellow investigators believe all women with diabetes should be tested for the blood protein.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, 2004;27:925-930

 

Supplemental Warnings (April 5, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Weight loss supplements have gained popularity in the past few years. However, new warnings from the Food and Drug Administration may leave some wondering if these supplements really do what they claim.

The FDA sent warning letters to 16 dietary supplement distributors. Regulators say these distributors made false and misleading claims about their supplements over the Internet.

Some of the products under scrutiny include, Ultra Carbo Blocker 3000, TrimSpa Carb Blocker, and Zone Fat Blocker. Many of these supplements claim to block starch, carbohydrates and fat calories, while allowing consumers to lose weight without making any lifestyle changes.

Lester M. Crawford, Ph.D., acting FDA commissioner, says, “These products give unfounded hope to people who are attempting to lose weight. False and misleading claims have significant health consequences to individuals that may be overweight, because these products do not produce the desired results.”

Some of the product labels make claims such as, “Eat all you want, block the starch and lose weight!” and “Neutralize up to 66 percent of the starch consumed in a meal.” Regulators say there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

The FDA requests that the distributors of the supplements explain their course of action to correct the problem within 15 days of receiving the warning letter.

Tommy G. Thompson, Health and Human Services Secretary, says, “Obesity in America is at epidemic proportions, and we will not tolerate companies making false claims promising easy fixes. There is no substitute for eating well and remaining physically active.”

SOURCE: Food and Drug Administration, April 1, 2004

 

Day Care for Moms-to-be? (April 2, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Pregnant women suffering from complications such as high blood pressure or premature rupture of the fetal membranes are often hospitalized, but a new study suggests they might fare just as well in special day care units.

The study out of Australia compared outcomes for around 400 women with pregnancy complications. One hundred thirty-two women were admitted to the hospital. The remainder spent their days in the day-care unit and went home at night where family or friends provided care. Results showed no difference in outcomes between the two groups of women. Hospital costs were no more expensive than day-care costs.

In an accompanying commentary, however, Phillip Stubblefield, M.D., from Boston University School of Medicine, takes exception with the study, arguing that pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure and ruptured membranes, can quickly develop into life-threatening situations for mother and child alike. While these situations are rare, when they do occur, immediate intervention is necessary.

For example, Dr. Stubblefield notes women with mild high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) can develop severe high blood pressure (eclampsia) within a matter of hours. Likewise, signs and symptoms of a deadly blood infection due to premature rupture of the fetal membranes often fail to develop until the infection is overwhelming.

He believes more study is needed before day care becomes a standard option. “A larger sample might have included patients with a rapidly developing illness, for whom hospital care would have made a difference,” he says.

SOURCE: The Lancet, 2004;363:1104-1109, 1089

 

Kinder, Gentler Treatment for Breast Cancer (April 2, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

A new technique for treating small breast cancers, two centimeters or less in diameter, may one day provide a kinder, gentler way of removing cancerous tumors.

Researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston report initial success in using radiofrequency ablation in women with grape-sized breast cancers. The procedure involves guiding a needle electrode into the tumor using ultrasound imaging. When the needle reaches the site of the cancer, heat is applied for 15 minutes to essentially burn away the tumor.

In a test of the procedure on 20 women with 21 small cancers, RF ablation was 100 percent effective in removing all of the tumor. Still, researchers say the technique isn’t ready for prime time yet. Researchers note the procedure does not allow for the removal of surrounding tissue, which is what surgeons usually do to ensure any cancer cells that may have escaped from the tumor are cut away, as well.

The success of the test has investigators encouraged. Lead study author Bruno D. Fomaga, M.D., says, “This study has added another potential weapon to the breast cancer treatment arsenal.”

SOURCE: Radiology, 2004;231:215-224
 

Exercise Curbs Cancer Risk (April 1, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Here's another reason for you to start exercising: Researchers at the 98th annual American Association for Cancer Research have confirmed a link between exercising and the prevention and survival rates of certain cancers.

In a study conducted by researchers with the Shanghai Cancer Registry, results were gathered from nearly 850 women with endometrial cancer, aged 30 to 69. Participants were asked about the level of exercise activity during their adolescent and adult years.

Results show women who exercised in both these stages of life were up to 40 percent less likely to develop endometrial cancer than those who were not active. Exercise was defined as moderate activity, such as household chores or 30 minutes of walking, and higher levels of activity, such as 60 minutes or more of a cardiovascular regimen.

Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., co-author of the study, says, "We were particularly pleased to see the beneficial effect on endometrial cancer risk of more accessible and lower intensity forms of activity like walking for transportation and doing household chores, as well as intentional exercise."

Results from another study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University support the theory that exercise benefits at-risk cancer patients.

After studying the exercise regimen of nearly 3,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers confirmed that the risk of death from breast cancer decreased with every level of physical activity as opposed to being sedentary.

Michelle D. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D, lead author of the study, says, "It is especially heartening for women recovering from breast cancer to know that the benefit is as readily accessible as walking for 30 minutes on most days of the week."

The final piece of evidence came from researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who studied the C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A levels in nearly 115 postmenopausal women at the start and end of exercise programs. High levels of these elements are indicators of cancer risk and survival.

After one year, the body mass index and levels of C-reactive protein and serum amyloid decreased among patients.

Cornelia M. Ulrich, Ph.D., lead author of the study, says, "This effect of exercise on inflammatory markers may help to explain in part the associations observed between increased physical activity and reduced risk for cancer and other chronic disease."

SOURCE: Presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, March 30, 2004

 

Stimulating Side Effects of Chemotherapy (Ivanhoe Exclusive) (April 1, 2004)

By Stacie Overton, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Delivering tiny electrical currents to the brain could help women with breast cancer head off side effects from chemotherapy.

Cranial microcurrent electrical stimulation may sound like a primitive torture system, but it’s the newest tool in cancer care. Ivanhoe has just learned that this technique -- already FDA-approved for other health conditions -- could make chemotherapy easier for women with breast cancer. Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Nursing in Charlottesville are currently enrolling women in a study to determine how this therapy can complement standard care.

Debra Lyon, R.N., Ph.D., says: “Cranial electrical simulation works much as a homeostatic regulatory type of therapy. We’re not changing the climate or the energy field in the body, except to re-normalize it.” The small device is non-invasive and uses electrodes attached to the ears. It is worn for one hour a day and most patients say they can’t even feel it. The device is already approved for insomnia, depression and anxiety. Patients in the study will wear the stimulation device for one week before and one week after each chemotherapy infusion cycle.

The device emits tiny electrical currents -- similar to those found naturally in the body -- to reduce symptoms such as pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression. Lyon says, “There’s a pretty high incidence of psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety [among women with breast cancer].”

Lyon says one theory as to why this works is that it affects a serotonin pathway in the brain. She tells Ivanhoe she’s excited to be studying a complementary therapy that differs from the typical drugs used to treat some of these symptoms. She says, “If we can compliment traditional treatments in a way that doesn’t add any burden to a patient, then certainly we think that the modalities that we’re testing -- including the cranial stimulation -- have the potential for reducing the pharmacological management of these common distressing symptoms.”

SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Debra Lyon, R.N., Ph.D., UVA School of Nursing Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies

 

Clearing up Psoriasis (April 1, 2004)

NEW YORK (Ivanhoe Newswire)

Seven million Americans are affected by psoriasis. It is an autoimmune disease where the skin multiplies many times faster than the average person's skin. A new medication recently approved by the FDA may nearly clear psoriasis for those who have some of the most severe forms.

There isn't much Robert Flannigan says he doesn't like to read. "Now that I'm retired, I retired the other May, I'm going through maybe two books a week," he tells Ivanhoe. With retirement, Flannigan no longer has to worry about going to work, which was once a difficult task. "I couldn't hardly walk with these fissures because the skin gets calloused, and it splits," he says.

Flannigan has been in several clinical trials to treat his psoriasis. The one therapy that worked for him was Raptiva (efalizumab). He says, "I probably had about a 75-percent improvement in my skin surface."

Dermatologist Mark Lebwohl, M.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says more than half of the 600 patients in a recent trial had a 75-percent improvement in skin scaling, redness, and thickness of lesions. Only 5 percent on placebo had the same result.

Dr. Lebwohl says it was a major improvement. "A patient who achieves 50-percent improvement often is very satisfied." And for those who have progressive psoriasis and don't mind self-injections, Dr. Lebwohl says Raptiva is a good option and more are on the way.

"We're delighted that we have quite a number of new drugs coming along that appear to work well for psoriasis but are safer than many of the older drugs that we had," he says.

Flannigan is now 80-percent clear. "I didn't notice sometimes my hands were even getting better and my arms. People at work said, ‘Boy, you look really great! Your face is clearing up. Your hands are clearing up,’" he says.

Dr. Lebwohl says side effects like muscle aches, fevers and chills may occur with the first injection. So far, studies show if Raptiva treatments stop abruptly, patients can have a rebound or a worsening of their psoriasis. It comes back very quickly and can come back badly.

If you would like more information, please contact:
National Psoriasis Foundation
(800) 723-9166
http://www.psoriasis.org

 

Vitamin E -- An Easy way to Reduce Cancer Risk (April 1, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

For those who want to lower their risk of cancer, the answer may be as simple as getting enough vitamin E.

Two studies presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., show patients who consume vitamin E may have a lower risk of developing prostate and bladder cancer.

The first study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and elsewhere included 100 men with prostate cancer and 200 men without prostate cancer.

Researchers found men who consumed the form of vitamin E known as alpha-tocopherol had about a 50-percent lower risk of prostate cancer. Those who consumed the form of vitamin E known as gamma-tocopherol had nearly a 40-percent lower risk of developing the cancer. Researchers say men who had the highest vitamin E levels had the lowest risk.

Gamma-tocopherol is the type of vitamin E that people in the United States consume in greater amounts. Many vegetables, nuts, fruits and oils contain both types of the vitamin.

The second study, conducted by researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Woman’s University, included 468 newly diagnosed bladder cancer patients and 534 cancer-free patients.

Researchers found patients who consumed higher intakes of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E had a significantly lower risk of bladder cancer. There was no association between gamma-tocopherol vitamin E and a lower risk of bladder cancer.

High intake of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E from dietary sources was associated with a 42-percent reduced risk of bladder cancer, whereas a high intake of vitamin E from diet and supplements combined reduced the risk by 44 percent.

Foods richest in alpha-tocopherol vitamin E include almonds, red and green peppers, spinach, mustard greens, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils.

SOURCE: Annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Fla., March 27-31

 

Vaccination-Diabetes Link Debunked (April 1, 2004)

(Ivanhoe Newswire)

Here’s one worry parents can mark off their list: scientists have found no link between childhood vaccinations and type 1 diabetes.

Research conducted over the past few years has suggested vaccinations that kids get in early childhood to protect them against polio, diphtheria and other diseases might be putting children at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Specifically, studies have shown countries where childhood vaccinations are common have more type 1 diabetes. Laboratory findings have also suggested some vaccines may cause while others may protect against diabetes. Other reports indicate infections occurring after vaccination may play a role.

Investigators publishing in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine followed the entire population of children born in Denmark between 1990 and 2000 to assess the real risk to kids. Results showed no increased risk of type 1 diabetes among children who received the normal childhood vaccinations.

The authors write, “The advantage of our study is that we were able to evaluate the association between childhood vaccinations and type 1 diabetes in a nationwide cohort ... there appears to be no support for any causal relation between childhood vaccination and type 1 diabetes.”

SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, 2004;350:1398-1404