Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can't Stop Coughing? 8 Possible Reasons


What's causing your chronic cough?

You've been coughing for weeks. How do you know if it's a hard-to-shake cold or something more serious?

Only a doctor can tell for sure what's behind your hacking. A number of conditions could be to blame, such as asthma; postnasal drip; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious, progressive disease that includes both emphysema and bronchitis.

Read more about COPD and some common (and relatively uncommon) culprits in chronic cough.

Asthma and allergies

Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which the airways in the lungs are prone to inflammation and swelling. Along with chest tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing, coughing is a characteristic symptom of asthma, one which tends to intensify at night or in the early morning. When the symptoms of asthma flare up suddenly, it’s known as an asthma attack.

Even in people without asthma, inhaling pollen, dust, pet dander, and other airborne irritants can trigger allergic rhinitis, an allergic reaction that can cause coughing, along with symptoms such as stuffy nose and sneezing.


COPD occurs when the airways and air sacs in the lungs become inflamed or damaged, most often due to smoking, and is more common after age 45. In COPD, the lungs produce excess mucus, which the body reflexively tries to clear by coughing. COPD-related tissue damage can also make you feel short of breath.

Your doctor may check you for COPD (particularly if you smoke), after ruling out other common causes of cough. To determine if you have COPD, your doctor is likely to conduct some tests, including spirometry, which involves inhaling as deeply as you can and then exhaling into a tube. 


GERD is an ailment of the stomach and esophagus that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus due to a weak valve.

The main symptoms? Killer heartburn. But coughing is another common symptom of GERD, along with chest pain and wheezing. In fact, GERD is a fairly common, and unrecognized, cause of a chronic cough.

Respiratory tract infection

Coughing is one of the most common symptoms of colds and fluand other respiratory tract infections. A bad cough can outlast other symptoms (such as stuffy nose and a fever), perhaps because the air passages in your lungs remain sensitive and inflamed. When this occurs, it's called chronic upper airway cough syndrome (or postnasal drip).

A more serious respiratory tract infection is pneumonia, which can be caused by bacteria or viruses. A cough, often producing a greenish or rust-colored mucus, is one of the characteristic symptoms of the illness, along with fever, chills, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, and nausea.

Air pollution

Various pollutants and irritants in the air can cause a persistent cough. Even short-term exposure to fumes (such as diesel exhaust) can result in cough, phlegm, and lung irritation. Fumes can also exacerbate allergies or asthma.

Similarly, mold spores found in and around homes can cause wheezing and coughing when inhaled. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans reported a sudden spike in persistent cough complaints among returning residents. This so-called Katrina cough was believed to stem from the mold caused by the flooding, as well as by dry weather and the construction dust that was then ubiquitous in the city.

Acute bronchitis

If you’re recovering from a cold and suddenly develop a hacking, mucus-y cough, you may have acute bronchitis, a condition in which the passageways in your lungs become infected and inflamed. In addition to coughing and chest congestion, bronchitis can produce fever, chills, aches, sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms. These symptoms usually disappear within a few days, but the cough can persist for weeks.

If your cough doesn’t go away, or if you develop acute bronchitis frequently, it may be a sign of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a serious condition in which the lungs produce excess mucus due to ongoing irritation, and is considered a form of COPD. 

ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. About 1 in 5 people who take the drugs develop a dry cough. In some people, the cough can persist for weeks after they stop taking the medication; women, African Americans, and Asians may be at greater risk of developing an ACE inhibitor cough than other people.

You should never stop taking a prescribed medication without consulting with your doctor, and ACE inhibitors are important medications for lowering blood pressure (a more serious condition than a cough.) Consult your doctor if you think your cough is related to a medication.


Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a bacterial disease with symptoms that include a slight fever, a runny nose, and, most notably, a violent cough that can make breathing difficult. Attempting to inhale air into the lungs between coughs can produce a distinctive, high-pitched whooping sound. After the initial stage, many people do not have a fever, but the chronic cough that accompanies pertussis can last for many weeks.

Although the number of pertussis cases in the United States has risen alarmingly in recent years, especially among adolescents and adults, pertussis is still a relatively uncommon cause of chronic cough.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Study: Cell Phone Use Impacts Brain Activity, Health Effects Unclear

Talking on a cell phone for close to an hour has an impact on brain activity, according to the latest research on the subject -- but the long-term health effects remain unclear.

A preliminary study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that using the cell for 50 minutes was associated with a spike in brain glucose metabolism, which is a marker for brain activity.

The increased glucose metabolism happened in the area of the brain closest to the phone antenna, said scientists from the National Institutes of Health.

What the results mean from a health standpoint isn't yet known.

The findings are the latest in a growing and conflicting body of research on the mobile phones' potential link to cancer. Concerns have long surrounded the possible carcinogenic effects of the radiation emitted from the phones. Those waves are known as radiofrequency-modulated electromagnetic fields, or RF-EMFs.

"It's not the smoking gun," Dr. Michael DeGeorgia, a neurologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio, told AOL Health of the study. "It's not the final link to brain tumors. But it certainly raises provocative questions."

The authors emphasized that their research only goes so far in what it shows.

"Results of this study provide evidence that acute cell phone exposure affects brain metabolic activity," they wrote. "However, these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects [or lack of such effects] from chronic cell phone use."

The brain uses glucose for energy; how quickly it breaks down or metabolizes that glucose is an indication of how hard it is working to get that energy, explained DeGeorgia, who heads the neurocritical care center at University Hospitals.

"That can put a strain on the cells," he told AOL Health.

When cells are injured, they can either die or experience a genetic change that makes them multiply, turning on the genes that cause the cells to proliferate and turning off those that inhibit the process. That process may cause tumors to form.

"Cancer is the abnormal proliferation and growth of cells," DeGeorgia said. "One fear is that these radiofrequency waves may be stressing out the cells, may be pushing the cells over the edge. The radiofrequency from the phone can perhaps cause the genes to turn on and off."

Led by Dr. Nora D. Volkow of the NIH, the research team conducted the randomized clinical study on 47 participants between January 1 and December 31 of 2009. Cell phones were held up to both the left and right ears, while high-tech PET scans were taken of the brain and its glucose metabolism was measured. The brain's activity was monitored once when the right-ear phone was on for 50 minutes and once with both phones off.

The scientists saw no difference in the glucose metabolism of the entire brain when the phones were on versus off. But they did detect a localized effect in the region closest to the antenna: Metabolism there was about 7 percent higher when the phones were activated than when they were deactivated.

"This indicates that the regions expected to have the greater absorption of RF-EMFs from the cell phone exposure were the ones that showed the larger increases in glucose metabolism," the researchers wrote. "These results provide evidence that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of RF-EMFs from acute cell phone exposures."

What isn't known is how the radiation waves affect glucose metabolism in the brain, or what the potential health consequences may be.

More epidemiological trials are needed to "shed light on whether excessive cell phone use is dangerous," Dr. Steven V. Pacia, the chief of neurology at Lenox Hill Hospital, said in an e-mail to AOL Health.

"If it is true that brain metabolism increases only in regions exposed to the cell phone's RF-EMF emissions, then it is clear that cell phones produce biological effects unrelated to normal function," he said.

The NIH scientists agree, saying more work is needed to determine whether the devices can cause long-term harm.

"Studies of the association between cell phone use and prevalence of brain tumors have been inconsistent [some, but not all ... showed increased risk], and the issue remains unresolved," they wrote.

DeGeorgia said the findings don't prove a definitive association between mobile phone use and cancer. But they are significant.

"It's an illustration that radiofrequency waves are having a measurable, functional difference in the brain," he told AOL Health. "It's not a link to cancer -- they're not showing that they change the genes and cells. But it certainly shows that when you have your cell phone to your ear, your brain cells are being affected by it."

Until more is known, caution should be exercised, he added.

"Use common sense," he suggested. "If there's a way to avoid having the cell phone directly to your ear, do it, and limit the use of cell phones until all the data is in."

Source: AOL Health By Catherine Donaldson-Evans

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Many stick with fast food after heart attack

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - You might think that people who've had a heart attack might cut back on fast food, which usually has unhealthy amounts of fat and salt. 

And in fact, some heart attack patients who are frequent fast food eaters do cut back, researchers found in a new study. But 6 months later, more than half of them can still be found at their favorite fast food places at least once a week.

The researchers who published these findings in the American Journal of Cardiology say the reduction in visits to fast food restaurants is not enough and patients need better dietary education.

"We can do better," Dr. John Spertus, a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and one of the authors of the study, told Reuters Health.

Spertus and his colleagues studied nearly 2,500 heart attack patients across the U.S. who filled out surveys while they were still in the hospital. Overall, 884 patients, or roughly one of every three, reported eating fast food frequently in the month before their heart attack. "Frequently" meant once a week or more.

When the researchers checked back 6 months later, 503 were still eating fast food every week.

Those patients - the die-hard fast food eaters - were more likely to be white, male, employed, and without a college degree, compared to patients who didn't go for fast food as often.

They were also more likely to have unhealthy levels of fat in their blood. "These people are likely increasing their risks and likely not complying with the American Heart Association's recommendations for diet," Spertus said.

Older patients and those who underwent bypass surgery were more likely to be avoiding fast food 6 months later.

The American Heart Association encourages people to eat lean meats and vegetables and to avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and cholesterol - hallmarks of cheeseburgers and fried food, Spertus said.
Spertus said his study was not designed to show that eating fast food causes heart disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, however, saturated fat and cholesterol in food make cholesterol levels in blood go up, increasing the likelihood of heart problems.

The survey also did not ask what menu items people ordered. And Sue Hensley, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association, points out that fast food is more than burgers and fries.

"We're seeing trends toward more fruits and vegetables and healthy offerings in restaurants," Hensley told Reuters Health. Those include salads, whole grains and low fat milk.

Spertus and his colleagues note, though, that the people in their study who kept on eating fast food every week tended to have high levels of fat in their blood, "consistent with selection of less healthy options."
Fast food eating is not considered healthy, Spertus said. A study of 3,000 adults published in The Lancet medical journal in 2005 found the more often people ate fast food, the more likely they were to gain weight and develop warning signs of diabetes.

Nine out of 10 patients in the current study had received dietary counseling before they left the hospital, but this didn't seem to affect the odds that frequent fast food eaters would improve their diets. Their behavior shows they need more education after discharge, Spertus says.

"The problem is that patients are absorbing so much information at the time of their heart attack, that I just don't think they can capture and retain all the information they're getting," he said.

Fast food restaurants in the U.S. will soon post calorie, fat, sodium and other nutritional information on their menus, as required by the major health care law that passed last year. Already, cities like New York and Philadelphia mandate calorie counts on menus. It's still up for debate whether such numbers next to food offerings will affect what people order.

The survey is part of a national study called TRIUMPH, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Spertus also receives research funds from the American Heart Association.

Source:  MSNBC  by Reuters

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keeping Cholesterol in Check May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s

There are many benefits to keeping your cholesterol in check, but a new reason has surfaced: reducing the chance of Alzheimer’s in old age. In a new study out of Columbia University, researchers found that there is a correlation between the level of HDL cholesterol and the probability of Alzheimer’s, with up to a 60% reduction in risk if the HDL is high enough.

Cholesterol is a waxy-fat type substance that is produced naturally by your body. It helps protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones. But when there is too much cholesterol in the blood, the excess builds up on the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. Large deposits of cholesterol can completely block an artery.

There are two types: LDL and HDL. An easy way to remember which one is which is that the LDL is "Lousy" cholesterol. You don't want your "lousy" score to be too high. On the other hand, think of HDL as "Healthy," something that is good for you. LDL low is the main source of cholesterol build-up in your arteries, and this is what can lead to decreased blood flow to your heart, even to blockage. HDL is quite the opposite. It can help keep the blood flowing through your arteries at full speed ahead, a benefit for reducing the risk of heart attack.

The Columbia study followed 1,130 participants over the age of 65 from 1999-2001. After adjusting for age, sex, education, ethnic group, APOEe4 genotype, vascular risk factors, and lipid-lowering treatment, participants with a baseline HDL-C of more than 56 mg/dL (the highest quartile) had the lowest odds for Alzheimer’s, with a 60% reduction of risk. Researchers diagnosed "probable" Alzheimer's disease when a diagnosis of dementia could not be explained by any other disorder and "possible" Alzheimer's when it was the most likely cause of dementia. They found that the average age of onset for all Alzheimer's cases was 82.9.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known, but early detection of Alzheimer’s disease can affect the outcome and slow the eventual slide into full-blown dementia. Dietary habits are important in keeping cholesterol in check and diminishing the probability of Alzheimer’s.  Common wisdom recommends that you should keep your saturated fat intake to 10 percent of total calories per day, and replace saturated fats with healthier alternatives whenever possible. Steer clear of unsaturated and trans fats (often found in processed foods). Instead, look for polyunsatured fats (also known as Omega-6 fatty acids) and monounsaturated fats. They are found in vegetable oils, fish, bananas, avocados, nuts and sunflower seeds, among others.

Source: HealthNews By Susan Brady

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Taste buds in lungs discovery could ease asthma

The discovery of "taste receptors" in the lungs rather than on the tongue could point the way to new medicines for asthma, it is suggested. Experiments in mice revealed that bombarding the receptors with bitter-tasting compounds helped open the airways, which could ease breathing. The University of Maryland study, published in Nature Medicine, may have implications for other lung diseases.

Asthma UK warned that any new drug would not arrive for some time. The "taste receptors" discovered in the smooth muscle of the lungs are not the same as those clustered in taste buds in the mouth. They do not send signals to the brain, and yet, when exposed to bitter substances, they still respond.

It was the nature of that response that surprised researchers, who assumed their presence was as a defence against noxious gases, triggering a tightening of the airways and coughing. In fact, the mouse experiments revealed that exactly the reverse was true.
Protective response
When airway tissue from mice was treated with bitter substances, then exposed to allergens, there appeared to be a protective response.

Dr Stephen Liggett, leading the research, said: "They all opened the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for the treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." In asthma, and other lung diseases, the smooth muscle lining the airway contracts, narrowing it, and drugs such as salbutamol help relax and open it, restoring normal breathing.

Dr Liggett said that an inhaler based on bitter substances such as quinine or even saccharine, which has a bitter after-taste, could "replace or enhance" current treatment. He warned that simply eating bitter foods would not help protect from or relieve an asthma attack.

Dr Yassine Amrani, an asthma researcher at the University of Leicester, said the research was very "encouraging", potentially offering a new target for treatment. He said future studies could focus on trying to reproduce the effect in human as well as mouse airway tissues, and making sure that the substances did not produce unwanted side effects such as inflammation.

He said: "The concept of having bitter taste receptors in the smooth muscle of the airways is a new one, and activating this receptor could offer a new way to relax them." Leanne Metcalf, director of research at Asthma UK said that a significant number of the 5.4m asthmatics in the UK did not control their symptoms using existing drugs, and that research into new, more effective treatments, was "vital".

She said: "The effectiveness of bitter substances at overcoming the airway narrowing that causes asthma symptoms has so far only been tested in mice, however this somewhat surprising approach does make sense in terms of what we already know about the cell signalling processes involved in asthma. 

"With further in-depth research, this approach could potentially pave the way for a new range of asthma treatments based on bitter substances which could either supplement or replace existing asthma treatments but if this were possible, it would be a long way into the future."

Source: BBC News health

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Alcohol and Sleep: Women Get the Short End of the (Stir) Stick

Although consuming alcohol is known to deepen your slumber during the early hours of sleep, it can also have a rebound effect that causes disruption of a good night’s rest during later night hours. Until now, the gender impact of this “rebound effect” has scarcely been studied. However, a group of researchers from the University of Michigan recently conducted a study finding that women who drank alcohol got fewer hours of sleep, and woke at more frequent intervals for longer periods of time, than did men who also imbibed a few drinks. The full details of the research can be found online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The analysis involved monitoring the sleep of 93 healthy adults in their twenties, including 59 women and 34 men, after their consumption of either alcohol to the point of intoxication, or a non-alcoholic beverage prior to going to bed. There were 29 participants among the group that had a family history of alcoholism. Drinks were served to the participants between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 p.m. Following this, their sleep was monitored between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Lead author J. Todd Arnedt, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Michigan, reported that, “Alcohol increased self-reported sleepiness and disrupted sleep quality more in women than men, [and that] morning ratings of sleep quality were worse following alcohol than a placebo.” Arnedt also pointed out that among all the participants who consumed alcohol, no difference in sleep quality was noted between those having a family history of alcoholism and those who did not.

On average, women who drank alcohol got about 20 minutes less sleep than those who did not, which is the equivalent of about 4 percent of a total sleep time of eight hours. Arnedt explained that the gender differences could be related to differences in alcohol metabolism, as a more rapid decline is seen in BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) among women following alcohol consumption than is observed among men who drink alcohol. He then added, “It is important to note that the peak BrACs were equivalent between men and women in our study so the findings are not due to higher BrACs among the female subjects. We also do not believe that the differences were due to differences in alcohol experience because the prior alcohol use was also equivalent between the men and women.”

The latest study results serve as confirmation of previous study findings that a high dose of alcohol leads to a deeper sleep early in the night, followed by disruptions in sleep later on. Arnedt acknowledge that the findings about gender differences “may have implications for future studies examining the relationship between sleep quality and risk for the development of alcohol use disorders, as well as studies evaluating how sleep quality relates to relapse among recovering alcoholic individuals.”

For a better night’s sleep, whether male or female, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help. Consuming alcohol only in moderation, along with getting regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet can promote restful sleep, as well as preserve your health.

Source: HealthNews By Drucilla Dyess  

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Study: Eating more fiber could mean longer life

CHICAGO – Eat more fiber and you just may live longer.

That's the message from the largest study of its kind to find a link between high-fiber diets and lower risks of death not only from heart disease, but from infectious and respiratory illnesses as well.

The government study also ties fiber with a lower risk of cancer deaths in men, but not women, possibly because men are more likely to die from cancers related to diet, like cancers of the esophagus. And it finds the overall benefit to be strongest for diets high in fiber from grains.

Most Americans aren't getting enough roughage in their diets. The average American eats only about 15 grams of fiber each day, much less than the current daily recommendation of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, or 14 grams per 1,000 calories. For example, a slice of whole wheat bread contains 2 to 4 grams of fiber.

In the new study, the people who met the guidelines were less likely to die during a nine-year follow-up period.

The men and women who ate the highest amount of fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause compared to those who ate the lowest amount, said lead author Dr. Yikyung Park of the National Cancer Institute.

The study, appearing in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, included more than 388,000 adults, ages 50 to 71, who participated in a diet and health study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and AARP.
They filled out a questionnaire in 1995 or 1996 about their eating habits. It asked them to estimate how often they ate 124 food items. After nine years, more than 31,000 of the participants had died. National records were used to find out who died and the cause of death.

The researchers took into account other risk factors including weight, education level, smoking and health status and still saw lower risks of death in people who ate more fiber.

"The results suggest that the benefits of dietary fiber go beyond heart health," said Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, who wasn't involved in the new research but co-authored an editorial in the journal.
The evidence for fiber's benefits has been strongest in diabetes and heart disease, where it's thought to improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, inflammation and blood sugar levels. Fiber's benefits also may come from its theorized ability to bind to toxins and move them out of the body quicker. High-fiber diets can promote weight loss by making people feel full, which has its own health-promoting effects.

However it works, fiber may offer a prevention benefit against killers like pneumonia and flu, the new study suggests. The cancer benefit may have shown up only in the men because they're more likely than women to die from cancers related to diet, Park said.

Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and beans. But fiber from grains was most strongly tied to the lowered risk in the study.

"That's what seemed to be driving all these relationships," said Lawrence de Koning of the Harvard School of Public Health, a co-author of the editorial.

Whole grains also contain vitamins and minerals, which may play a role in reducing risk, he said. For that reason, supplements may not be as effective.

"Nothing beats the original food," he said. He suggested substituting whole wheat bread for white bread as a simple way to increase fiber from grains.

What does a high-fiber diet look like? A woman who wants to meet the 25 gram guidelines for daily fiber intake could eat one-third cup of bran cereal (9 grams), a half cup of cooked beans (10 grams), a small apple with skin (4 grams) and a half cup of mixed vegetables (4 grams).

To reach 38 grams, a man could eat all that — plus about 23 almonds (4 grams), a baked potato (3 grams), an oat bran muffin (3 grams) and an orange (3 grams). 

Experts recommend adding fiber gradually to allow your digestive system time to get used to it. 

Source: Yahoo News By CARLA K. JOHNSON 

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Energy drinks can be dangerous for teens, report says

Energy drinks are under-studied, overused and can be dangerous for children and teens, warns a report by doctors who say kids shouldn't use the popular products. 

The potential harms, caused mostly by too much caffeine or similar ingredients, include heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death, the authors write in the medical journal Pediatrics. They reviewed data from the government and interest groups, scientific literature, case reports and articles in popular and trade media.

Dakota Sailor, 18, a high school senior in Carl Junction, Mo., says risks linked with energy drinks aren't just hype.

Sailor had a seizure and was hospitalized for five days last year after drinking two large Nos energy drinks  a brand he'd never tried before. He said his doctor thinks caffeine or caffeine-like ingredients may have been to blame.

The report says some cans have four to five times more caffeine than soda, and Sailor said some kids he knows "drink four or five of them a day. That's just dumb."
Sailor has sworn off the drinks and thinks other kids should, too.

The report's authors want pediatricians to routinely ask patients and their parents about energy drink use and to advise against drinking them.

"We would discourage the routine use" by children and teens, said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrics chairman at the University of Miami's medical school. He wrote the report with colleagues from that center.
The report says energy drinks often contain ingredients that can enhance the jittery effects of caffeine or that can have other side effects including nausea and diarrhea. It says they should be regulated as stringently as tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines.
"For most children, adolescents, and young adults, safe levels of consumption have not been established," the report said.

Tracking side effects, overdoses 

Introduced more than 20 years ago, energy drinks are the fastest growing U.S. beverage market; 2011 sales are expected to top $9 billion, the report said. It cites research suggesting that about one-third of teens and young adults regularly consume energy drinks. Yet research is lacking on risk from long-term use and effects in kids — especially those with medical conditions that may increase the dangers, the report said.

The report comes amid a crackdown on energy drinks containing alcohol and caffeine, including recent Food and Drug Administration warning letters to manufacturers and bans in several states because of alcohol overdoses.

The report focuses on nonalcoholic drinks but emphasizes that drinking them along with alcohol is dangerous.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers adopted codes late last year to start tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide; 677 cases occurred from October through December; so far, 331 have been reported this year.

Most 2011 cases involved children and teens. Of the more than 300 energy drink poisonings this year, a quarter of them involved kids younger than 6, according to a data chart from the poison control group.

That's a tiny fraction of the more than 2 million poisonings from other substances reported to the group each year. But the chart's list of reported energy drink-related symptoms is lengthy, including seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain, high blood pressure and irritability, but no deaths.

Monday's paper doesn't quantify drink-related complications or deaths. It cites other reports on a few deaths in Europe of teens or young adults who mixed the drinks with alcohol, or who had conditions like epilepsy that may have increased the risks.

Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy at the American Beverage Association, an industry group, said the report "does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation" about energy drinks.
Many of the drinks contain much less caffeine than coffee from popular coffeehouses, and caffeine amounts are listed on many of the products, she said in a written statement.

Caffeine is safe, but those who are sensitive to it can check the labels, she said. A clinical report on energy drinks is expected soon from the American Academy of Pediatrics that may include guidelines for doctors.

Dr. Marcie Schneider, an adolescent medicine specialist in Greenwich, Connecticut, and member of the academy's nutrition committee, praised Monday's report for raising awareness about the risks. "These drinks have no benefit, no place in the diet of kids," Schneider said.

Source:  Associated Press By Lindsey Tanner

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Benefit From Eating Mustard Vinaigrette

A generous spoonful of Dijon mustard makes this vinaigrette creamy and tart. Use the dressing with sturdy salad greens like romaine or with softer lettuces like Bibb or oak leaf. The dressing is too strong to work with baby salad greens or mesclun. But it’s great with cooked vegetables like beets or broccoli and with grain salads.

1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar 

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

Salt and freshly ground pepper 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or use half olive oil and half canola or grapeseed oil 

1 small garlic clove 

1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. 

2. Peel the garlic clove and lightly crush, or cut down to the root end with a paring knife, keeping the garlic clove intact. Place in the dressing and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the dressing before serving. 

Yield: About 2/3 cup. 

Advance preparation: This dressing will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days. Remove the garlic clove before storing. 

Nutritional information per 2 tablespoons: 184 calories; 3 grams saturated fat; 2 grams unsaturated fat; 15 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 58 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 0 grams protein 

Source: The New york Times.Health By Martha rose Shulman

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gene test may cut need for prostate cancer surgery

A genetic pattern could predict how aggressive prostate cancer is, potentially saving many men with less threatening tumors from undergoing unnecessary and life changing surgery, scientists said on Wednesday. 
British researchers found that men with the highest levels of "cell cycle progression" (CCP) genes -- ones that encourage cells to grow -- were three times more likely than those with the lowest levels to have a fatal form of prostate cancer.

The study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal, also found that in patients who had already had surgery to remove their prostate, those with the highest CCP levels were 70 percent more likely to have a recurrence of the disease.

"Our findings have great potential," said Jack Cuzick, a cancer specialist based at Queen Mary, University of London.

"CCP genes are expressed at higher levels in actively growing cells, so we could be indirectly measuring the growth rate and inherent aggressiveness of the tumor through a test."

Myriad Genetics in the United States, has developed a test called Prolaris which measures CCP levels and Cuzick said that if further trials confirm his results, doctors could be using it in prostate cancer patients within a year.

Prostate cancer killed an estimated 258,000 men around the world in 2008 and is the second most common cause of cancer death in men in the United States. In Britain, about 35,000 men are diagnosed with it and some 10,000 die from the disease each year.

Being able to distinguish between aggressive tumors and slow-growing ones could spare many men unnecessary treatment and side effects like impotence and incontinence.

The study looked at 703 men with prostate cancer -- 366 men in America who had undergone surgery to remove the prostate, and 337 men in Britain with cancer that was confined to the prostate and were judged to not need immediate treatment.

The untreated group were given what is called a "watch and wait" option, which allows doctors to try to avoid treating men whose prostate cancer will not cause them significant problems. Tissue samples from the prostate were either taken during surgery or from the biopsy used to diagnose the disease.

Researchers then tested each sample for levels of 31 different genes involved in CCP and were able to show that specific combination of these gene levels can identify men at high or low risk of the disease spreading beyond the prostate and those most likely to die.

Cuzick said previous studies had already shown that CCP levels can predict survival for breast, brain and lung cancers.

Helen Rippon, head of research management, at the British Prostate Cancer Charity, said in a statement the technology must be "comprehensively trialed in large numbers of men before it can be introduced into routine clinical practice."

Source: By Kate Kelland 

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Study: HPV Vaccine Effective in Men

Boys and young men who receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine appear to be at reduced risk of contracting the virus and developing the genital warts associated with the common sexually transmitted disease, according to a large international study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an effort to prevent cervical cancer, which can be caused by HPV, public health officials have been encouraging young women to get vaccinated since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in 2006. The vaccine has been approved for boys and men since 2009, but health officials and doctors haven’t pushed it with the same urgency.

“Because the story started with cervical cancer, the studies started with females,” says the lead author of the study, Anna Giuliano, PhD, of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa. “The study of HPV in men is a late bloomer.”

Gardasil is given in a series of three injections. In the study, which included more than 4,000 sexually active males between the ages of 16 and 26, roughly 0.5% of the boys and men who received all three shots developed genital warts during the subsequent 2 to 3 years. By contrast, about 2.8% of the study participants who received a placebo vaccine developed warts.

The vaccine also reduced the risk of contracting an HPV case that persists for at least six months, though not as dramatically.

HPV can cause certain cancers of the anus and penis in men, although those diseases are far less common than cervical cancer in women. The study was designed and funded by Merck, the maker of Gardasil (also known as Silgard). The National Institutes of Health also provided funding.

An estimated 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Symptoms are rare, however, so most people have the virus—and pass it on—without realizing it. “Men are such a vital component of the whole prevention cycle when looking at HPV or any sexually transmitted infection,” says Demetrius Porche, a professor of nursing research and evaluation at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health in New Orleans. 

Vaccinating men provides a “double benefit” in that fewer men with HPV will also mean that fewer women are exposed, adds Porche, who was not involved in the current study but has researched HPV in men. Earlier this week, for the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics included the HPV vaccine on its list of recommended vaccines for boys. Porche and Giuliano also urge boys and men to get vaccinated.

Most health insurance plans cover HPV vaccination for both males and females. If a child between the ages of 9 and 18 is underinsured, the federal program Vaccines for Children may be able to provide assistance.

Source: By Lynne Peeples 

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Allergies Linked to Lower Brain Cancer Rate in Study

If you suffer from allergies, take heart: Researchers say you may be less likely to develop a tough-to-treat brain cancer, possibly because your immune system is on high alert. It's not clear how this knowledge might improve prevention or treatment of brain cancer, but the study's lead author said the findings pave the way for further research. 

"We need to do more studies to really get at that underlying mechanism. Then we might be able to do things that would influence people who might have a higher risk or may have a family history," said Bridget J. McCarthy, a research associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The lesions studied are known as gliomas, the most common type of adult brain tumor. They account for more than half of the 18,000-plus malignant brain tumors diagnosed in the United States every year, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute

Gliomas -- which led to the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy -- often cause death within months, despite surgery or treatment with chemotherapy or radiation. Researchers have published conflicting studies about whether people with allergies and autoimmune disorders (which cause the immune system to attack the body) have a lower risk of developing the tumors, McCarthy said. "We wanted to look at the spectrum and see if we found the association with any type of allergy," McCarthy explained.

In the study, published Feb. 7 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, McCarthy and colleagues examined surveys filled out by 419 patients with gliomas and 612 cancer-free patients from North Carolina and Illinois. All of the patients were asked if they had doctor-diagnosed allergies -- seasonal, medication, food, pet or any other -- and whether they took antihistamines.

The researchers found that patients with both high- and low-grade tumors were more likely to report no allergies than the other patients. And the more allergies someone had, the lower their odds of having gliomas. Antihistamine use didn't affect the results, the authors said.

However, the study didn't specify exactly how much more likely it is that an allergy-free person will develop a glioma compared to someone who has allergies. What might allergies -- or the lack of them -- have to do with brain tumors? McCarthy said overactive immune systems may cause allergies and also allow people to fight off cancer. Figuring out what to do about this is the tough question. 

"Obviously, it's not like allergies are a modifiable risk factor," she said. "You can't tell people to go out and develop allergies. That's not going to happen. And you can't tell people with allergies that, 'You're doing a good thing, and don't try to get rid of them.'"

The study doesn't prove a cause and effect -- that allergies directly lower the risk of brain tumor. It only shows a possible connection, one that doesn't sway Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. 

Flamm said the study is small and draws conclusions "far beyond the observational data." "As the authors point out, there are several conflicting reports in the literature, and this paper does not resolve the issue in any way," Flamm said. 

One reason for the conflicting reports, the authors said, was that "allergy" was defined differently in various studies -- sometimes broadly and sometimes narrowly, as in seasonal allergies alone. Further studies are essential, they said.

Source: Healthday By Randy Dotinga 

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Study Finds No Rise in Post-Abortion Mental Health Issues

As if deciding how to handle an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t stressful enough, several studies in recent years have suggested that young women who have an abortion may be at increased risk of mental health problems afterward. 

Those concerns are unfounded, according to a new study conducted in Denmark and published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, the study found, while the rate of psychiatric problems was unchanged in women who had an abortion, it appears to spike post-birth in women who carry their babies to term.

“Women who are in a difficult situation—pregnant and unsure whether or not to continue with the pregnancy—should know that they do not have an increased risk of having a first-time episode of a severe mental disorder after an abortion,” says the lead author of the study, Trine Munk-Olsen, PhD, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University, in Denmark.

Munk-Olsen and her colleagues identified 350,000 women in a national health registry who had no history of psychiatric problems, had become pregnant for the first time, and had either an abortion or a successful childbirth. (Women who had miscarriages were excluded.) The researchers then compared the number of women in each group who received mental health care in the months immediately before and after childbirth or abortion. 

Roughly 1% of the women who had abortions were treated for a psychiatric problem—such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety—in the nine months leading up to the procedure, a rate that did not change measurably in the year following the abortions, the study found.

By contrast, the rate of psychiatric problems in the women who gave birth, while lower overall, rose from 0.3% in the nine months pre-birth to 0.7% in the year after birth. (This may be partly explained by the familiar phenomenon known as postpartum depression, the authors suggest.)

The study was funded by grants from the Danish Medical Research Council and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which has supported family planning and access to abortions.

Robert Blum, MD, an adolescent health expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, says the findings confirm other research that has questioned the link between abortion and psychiatric problems. “There really is no empirical basis for the concept of post-abortion trauma, depression, traumatic stress disorder, or the like,” says Dr. Blum, who was not involved in the new study but co-authored a systematic review of the subject that was published in 2008. 

Most of the studies that have reported a rise in psychiatric risk post-abortion were too small to be reliable and failed to account for women’s prior mental health, Dr. Blum says. The new study is a significant improvement, he adds, because it looked only at first-time mental health problems and compared rates before and after abortion.

Source: Health By Lynne Peeples

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