Having Multiple Sex Partners
Get off the Couch
St. John's Wort
Snoring in Kids
New Pap Guidelines
Soy and Flaxseed
While studies financed by alcohol industry attempt to show healthy side of it, an estimated 1,400 college students are killed every year in alcohol-related accidents, according to a study released on April 9th that researchers call the most comprehensive look ever at the consequences of student drinking. The researchers say the figures show that college drinking needs to seen as a major health concern. The study by the federally supported Task Force on College Drinking estimated that drinking by college students contributes to 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape. Also, 400,000 students between 18 and 24 years old reported having had unprotected sex as a result of drinking. The new report was one of 24 studies commissioned by the task force of college presidents, scientists and students convened by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health. In addition, the percentage of pregnant American women who reported binge drinking hardly budged during the late 1990s, frustrating health officials who warn of the risk of birth defects.
Get off the Couch
Despite repeated warnings about the link between a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease and diabetes, the figures haven't budged from 1997 to 2001 and Americans refuse to get off the couch. A new government report says seven in 10 adults don't regularly exercise and nearly four in 10 aren't physically active at all. The study showed 38 percent reported no such physical activity at all. The National Center for Health Statistics released the report on April 7th to mark World Health Day as officials prodded Americans to do something or anything to become more active. While, the United Nations said on April 4th, that exercises as simple as walking up the stairs or even dancing could reduce the millions of deaths caused each year by diseases related to physical inactivity. WHO said that earlier studies had shown that 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity and that the problem is shared by rich and poor countries alike. Lack of exercise contributes overall to an estimated 30 million deaths each year, 80 percent of then in developing countries. Chronic illness caused by lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking is now the leading cause of death in every part of the world. Some 13.5 million people have coronary heart disease in the United States, and 1.5 million Americans people suffer from a heart attack each year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 61 percent of Americans are overweight and 26 percent are obese, or grossly overweight. But countries like Mexico and Egypt are catching up. In countries like China and India cities are growing rapidly and lifestyles are changing just as fast. Desk jobs and increasing car use mean people get less exercise. The burden of heart disease in both nations is now greater than in all the world's rich countries combined. Lack of physical exercise, high-fat diets and smoking are leading to a deadly "epidemic of inactivity" in the Asia-Pacific region as well. Six out of 10 deaths in the region are the result of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancers associated with a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet, said Shigeru Omi, the World Health Organization's regional director.
Duke University Medical Center recently released results of a study showing that long-term, intensive exercise can significantly improve the body's ability to control blood sugar levels. Long-term exercise leads to loss of fat in the gut (stomach) region, which is especially beneficial since this fat is thought to be directly linked to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. The exercise program was defined by Duke as equivalent to running 20 miles a week for the participants, so it was intense. It consisted of four exercise sessions a week, beginning with 15 minutes each day and increasing to 60-70 minutes daily by the end of a three-month period. For the remaining six months of the study, patients maintained the same level of exercise. The program consisted of a combination of stationary biking, treadmill walking and stair climbing. A long-term study, the Diabetes Prevention Program, which involved over 3,000 people who were at risk for Type 2 diabetes, found that walking 30 minutes, five days a week, accompanied by "moderate changes in eating," resulted in a 58 percent reduction in the rate of people developing Type 2.
A report in the April issue of Annals of Internal Medicine examined fifty-four studies involving 2,419 participants and concluded that exercise pushes down blood pressure, regardless of age, weight, or what blood pressure was when the person started to exercise.
A new study presented at Experimental Biology 2002 meeting in New Orleans on April 22 showed that walking at a moderate pace for 40 to 45 minutes a day five times a week for twelve weeks was enough to restore elasticity of the carotid artery of women by 48 percent, to levels similar to those in younger, premenopausal women. Increase in the stiffness of these arteries can contribute to high blood pressure and enlarging of the heart, both risk factors for heart disease. Impaired elasticity in the carotid artery also can be a factor in postural hypotension, when blood pressure drops precipitously as a person changes body position.
St. John's Wort
A long-awaited government-backed new study, the first large study to evaluate St. John's wort against both a placebo and an established antidepressant, found that St. John's wort, a popular herbal supplement touted as a remedy for depression, did no better than placebo pills. The extracts of a short, yellow-flowering weed, formally known as Hypericum perforatum, has been a consumer-health phenomenon with $180 million in sales in 2000. Hypericum extracts are ranked among the top five best-selling dietary supplements in the US. St. John's wort's medical uses date back to the ancient Greeks. Several smaller studies, mostly from Europe, have shown the herb can produce a benefit in cases of mild depression. There is also some evidence suggesting the herb has at least weak effects in the brain similar to those of widely prescribed prescription remedies. In another small study by the Rotterdam Cancer Institute in the Netherlands released on April 9th, doctors showed that St. John's wort interferes powerfully with a common cancer drug and decreases blood levels of the drug by about 40 percent. This effect lingered for more than three weeks after people stopped taking the supplement.
Snoring in Kids
Snoring may be a symptom of a more serious problem in children. New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that doctors look for symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea during kids' routine check-ups. This sleep disorder has been linked to learning and attention problems and slowed growth. Symptoms include noisy breathing and brief breathing lapses during sleep. The guidelines, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids be the first line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea in children.
New Pap Guidelines
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worlwide and the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the developing world, according to Reproductive Health Outlook. Currently, many of the estimated 2.5 million American women a year with abnormal but inconclusive cervical-cancer Pap test results are given at least two follow-up Pap tests within a year; or a colposcopy test, in which the cervix is examined and sometimes biopsied; or a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the chief cause of cervical cancer. The new guidelines that were created at a conference last year sponsored by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and convened by the National Cancer Institute say that HPV testing is preferred if Pap tests are done with liquid-based screening, which is becoming increasingly popular at labs around the United States. Participants included representatives from 29 professional groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. With this technique, cells scraped from the cervix are collected in liquid instead of being smeared between two slides.
(Pap Smear: George Papanicolaou, a physician and researcher born on May 13, 1883, in Greece, developed and gave his name to what is known as the Pap test. Papanicolaou received his medical degree from the University of Athens in 1904 and a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Munich six years later. After immigrating to the United States in 1913, he became an anatomy assistant at Cornell University. In 1923, Papanicolaou studied vaginal smears of women who had cervical cancer and found cancer cells present. He theorized that a microscopic smear of vaginal fluid could detect the presence of cancer cells. Twenty years later, in
1943, he published findings that his test could indicate cervical cancer before symptoms appear. Papanicolaou died of a heart attack in 1962.)
Soy and Flaxseed
A study entitled, "The Effects of Dietary Soybean and Flaxseed Meal on Metabolic Parameters in a Genetic Model of Obesity and Diabetes," suggests that diets rich in soy protein and flaxseed have beneficial effects on many aspects of obesity and diabetes. Soybean and flaxseed affected plasma lipids and a number of enzymes. They also had varying effects on tissue weights in lean and obese rats. Obese rats compared to lean rats had significantly lower plasma creatinine but higher total bilirubin, blood urea nitrogen, alanine aminotransferase and lactate dehydrogenase. Both soy and flaxseed meal decreased total bilirubin, protein and uric acid in the lean rats, but the effects in obese rats were mixed. ("Experimental Biology 2002" conference held April 20-24, 2002 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA.)
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, April 2002
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