Friday, July 31, 2009

Mental Health Risks with Popular Stop-Smoking Drugs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that patients taking the popular stop-smoking drugs Chantix and Zyban should be watched closely for signs of serious mental illness. The warning was issued following mounting reports of bizarre behavior, including suicide, among users of the drugs. Pfizer is the maker of Chantix (varenicline), and GlaxoSmithKine is the manufacturer of Zyban (buproprion). Buproprion is also sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, as a treatment for depression.

Both of the drugs will now be required to carry “black box” labels warning that people who take the drugs should be closely monitored for signs of suicidal thoughts, depression, hostility, and other behavioral changes. In addition, both drug companies will be required to conduct clinical trials for the purpose of assessing the mental health risks associated with the uses of the drugs. Unlike the clinical trials leading to the FDA approval of the drugs, the new trials will enroll smokers with underlying psychiatric disorders. Pfizer has already begun enrollment of schizophrenia patients in a trial.

Increase In American Obesity Bulges Medical Spending

From being pleasingly plump to becoming overweight and continuing on the road to obesity, the ever-expanding waistlines of Americans are also doubling the size of medical spending on obesity-related conditions. In fact, the cost to the nation could soon reach $147 billion per year and account for 9.1 percent of total medical spending.

A recent study that was based on federal data collected in 1998 and 2006 found that the rate of obesity has increased 37 percent between the years of 1998 and 2006. The end result is that a total of 25 percent of Americans are now obese. This is compared to a total of only 18.3 percent nearly a decade ago that accounted for only 6.5 percent of all medical spending in 1998. The analysis was performed by researchers from RTI International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, and the results were published in the journal Health Affairs.

Circumcision Doesn’t Reduce Male-to-Female Transmission of HIV

In recent years, the male foreskin—a double-folded tube of skin and mucous membrane that covers the head of the penis—has taken center stage in the battle against HIV. The foreskin is rich in Langerhans cells, immune cells that are particularly easy for the virus to access. Following infection, these cells not only serve as reservoirs for replicating the virus, but also transport it to nearby lymph nodes where HIV spreads to other immune cells. Studies have shown that removal of the foreskin can reduce a man’s risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection by 50 to 65 percent, findings that prompted large-scale circumcision campaigns in countries with high infection rates, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where heterosexual sex is primarily responsible for the HIV epidemic. Studies had also suggested that circumcision could reduce the rate of male-to-female transmission of the virus, but that turns out not to be the case.

A Ugandan study, led by Dr. Maria J. Wawer of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, was stopped early after it became apparent that male circumcision offered no protection to female partners. The study involved 922 uncircumcised, HIV-infected men between 15 and 49 years of age who were randomly chosen to either be circumcised or remain uncircumcised. The HIV-free female partners of the male participants were also enrolled in the study, 90 in the circumcised group and 70 in the uncircumcised group, and their HIV status was evaluated after 6, 12 and 24 months. All participants were intensively schooled in HIV prevention and provided free condoms.

New Blood Test Could Predict Success of In-Vitro Fertilization

An estimated 30,000 women undergo in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments each year. The possibility of a continuing pregnancy being achieved by IVF has improved dramatically from a nearly 0 percent chance to 1 chance in 4 to 6 at IVF centers worldwide. However, success rates continue to vary in predicting the probability of an IVF pregnancy. IVF treatments yield unpredictable results due to their success being dependent upon such variables as the age and reproductive health of both the hopeful mother and father.

IVF is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the womb in a controlled environment. A fertilized egg is then transferred to the woman’s uterus in hopes of establishing a successful pregnancy. IVF is an infertility treatment that couples turn to when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. Now, new research may have identified genetic predictors for the potential outcome for IVF patients.

Flu Shot to Be Priority for Pregnant Women

We all know that the swine flu has been hitting the people in the United States pretty hard, but it has been hitting women who are pregnant unusually hard. This is why they are most likely to be among the first in line to be advised to get a new swine flu shot this fall. Pregnant women account for approximately 6 percent of the U.S. flu death since this pandemic began in April, even though they only make up 1 percent of the population in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the federal vaccine advisory panel is meeting find the answer to the question of who should be the first group to get the swine flu shots when there are not enough to give everyone. At the top of the list will be health care workers, who would be very crucial to the society during a bad pandemic. However, women who are pregnant may be near the top of the list because suffered and died from the swine flu this year at disproportionately high rates.

Damaged Sperm May Be Improved Through Frequency of Sex

Couples with fertility problems receive varying recommendations for conceiving depending on their doctor’s opinions. The medical community has long debated whether refraining from sex for several days would improve the chance of pregnancy for couples hoping to conceive. Some doctors are now recommending the best way to have a baby is to have more sex.

Research presented by Dr. David Greening of Sydney IVF, an Australian center for infertility and in vitro fertilization, indicates that increasing sexual activity may be the right approach. Dr. Greening studied 118 men with above-average sperm DNA damage. The participants were told to ejaculate every day for seven days, and the damage to their sperm count fell to 26 percent down from 34 percent. Other studies have indicated that better sperm quality results in higher pregnancy rates.

Frequent sex does decrease semen volume and it did so in the 118 participants but Dr. Greening said in a statement, “It seems safe to conclude that couples with relatively normal semen parameters should have sex daily for up to a week before the ovulation date. In the context of assisted reproduction, this simple treatment may assist in improving sperm quality and ultimately achieve pregnancy.” Sperm quality is also better in men who do not smoke, drink little, exercise and ingest more antioxidants.

Many Adults Remain Unaware of the Importance of Keeping Vaccines Up to Date

Because children are required to have a number of vaccines before they can even attend school, parents have at least an annual reminder to keep their shots up to date. However, many young adults in America remain unaware of the need to keep their shots current. According to the 2008 National Health Interview Survey of almost 22,000 adults, few young adults are aware that they can get vaccinated to prevent many deadly diseases including meningitis, whooping cough, tetanus and pneumonia as well as to guard against painful conditions such as shingles.

The survey revealed that vaccination rates are still far below national target levels. As an example, although 84 percent of Americans over the age of 50 know that tetanus causes lockjaw, and that a booster shot for tetanus prevention is required every 10 years, only about half (49 percent) of adults between the ages of 18 to 26 are aware of this fact. In addition, only 15 percent of people aged 19 to 64 have received the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. (A Tdap booster is recommended in place of one tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccine).

Weight Watchers Diet Program

Weight Watchers is another of the old-time standby diet programs, with over forty years in the business and an estimated 1 million followers across the globe at any given time. One of the reasons this weight loss plan has continued success is the focus on overall health: mental, emotional and physical. Weight Watchers provides the tools and support to change the way you eat and live.

The four tenets of the Weight Watchers program are Eat Smart, Move More, Helpful Habits and Get Support. In the Eat Smart category, Weight Watchers provides common sense advice, a Weight Watchers point list program that allows you to choose what you want to eat, and prepared meals available for purchase at supermarkets, online, and in Weight Watcher Diet Centers. There is also an extensive listing of recipes and meal suggestions available in books, at centers, and online.

Natural Bug Bite Remedies

Summer is here, the season of outdoor activities, and since mosquitoes tend to multiply in hot climates, summer is also the season of bug bites. Whether it is a mosquito bite or a bee sting, spraying your skin sticky with offensive-smelling bug repellants is only going to make you uncomfortable and possibly keep humans away from you as well. When I was a kid, my grandfather made my brother and I slather cotton balls in regular yellow Listerine and rub it on every part of skin that was showing before we were allowed outside. Thankfully, there are other natural remedies that keep the bugs—or if you have already been bitten—the sting and itch away.

Probably the safest way to keep bugs away from your home is to prevent your yard from inviting bugs. You can plant little repellent gardens all over your yard, front porch, or back patio to ward off unwanted bugs. Using nature-friendly plants like lemongrass (also known as Citronella, popular in mosquito-repelling candles), lemon thyme, catnip, and citrus-smelling geraniums which contain up to 60 percent of the power of popular spray DEET along with other commercial products, you can reduce your family’s bite ratio and reduce the amount of toxins they are subject to.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cell phone radiation may cause brain tumour

Cell phone use in Pakistan has grown amid potential health risks, including cancer, through radiofrequency (RF) energy emissions from cell phones.

Up till now most studies have focused on whether RF energy can cause malignant brain tumour. The experts are of the opinion that cell phone users are exposed to RF energy, a non-ionising form of radiation, emitted by the cell phones and there is concern about the health implications due to widespread cell phone use, Health News reported.

"The experiments investigating the effects of RF exposure characteristics of cell phones on animals have suggested low levels of RF could accelerate the development of cancer.

However, many of the studies showing increased tumour development were using animals that had been genetically engineered or treated with cancer-inducing chemicals so as to be pre-disposed to develop cancer in the presence of RF exposure," said Dr Masood Ahmad, an expert.

He said the studies investigated any possible association between the use of wireless phones and primary brain cancer, glioma, meningioma, or acoustic neuroma, tumour of the brain or salivary gland, leukemia, or other cancers.

"However, none of the studies can answer questions about long-term exposures, since the average period of phone use in these studies was around three years," he added.

Vegetable protein linked to lower BP

A new study has shown that consuming an amino acid commonly found in vegetable protein is associated with lower blood pressure.

The study, conducted by Jeremiah Stamler, M.D., lead author of the study, and colleagues, showed that a 4.72% higher dietary intake of the amino acid glutamic acid as a per cent of total dietary protein correlated with lower group average systolic blood pressure, lower by 1.5 to 3.0 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Group average diastolic blood pressure was lower by 1.0 to 1.6 mm Hg.

In the study, researchers examined dietary amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

Stamler, professor emeritus of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill, said that glutamic acid is the most common amino acid and accounts for almost a quarter (23%) of the protein in vegetable protein and almost one fifth (18%) of animal protein.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from 4,680 middle-age people participating in an international population study on the effects of dietary nutrients on high blood pressure. Participants were from the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan.

The results showed that a nearly 5% higher intake of glutamic acid as a per cent of total protein in the diet was linked to lower average blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure was lower by an average of 1.5 to 3.0 points and diastolic blood pressure was lower by 1.0 to 1.6 points.

Stamler said that the study might help explain on a molecular level why the Dieatary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet lowers blood pressure. The DASH eating pattern, developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat and non-fat dairy products as well as whole grains, lean poultry, nuts and beans.

The study has been published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Docs open up blocked arteries of brain

:A team of cardiologists at a private hospital here successfully performed an angioplasty on the four blocked arteries to the brain of a 27-year-old woman.

"The four-hour procedure was a complicated one and was conducted in two stages" said Dr Mukund who led the six-member cardiologists' team which performed the surgery in Omega Hospital on June 27.

Amitha was suffering from frequent bouts of loss of consciousness and severe pain in her hands for the last several months due to inflammation of the arteries and this angioplasty was the only solution, he told reporters today.

The procedure was done through the groin artery and using specially devised catheters. All the four blood vessels were opened using the 'protection device' to ensure safety, Mukund said.

”Since the surgery cost Rs 3.80 lakh and the patient is poor, we have requested the chief minister and legislators from this region to help with the expenses", he said.

The patient is fit and would be discharged tomorrow, Mukund said.