January 7, 2009, 11:20 PM CT
Preterm births goes higher
New government statistics confirm that the decades-long rise in the United States preterm birth rate continues, putting more infants than ever at increased risk of death and disability.
Nearly 543,000 babies were born too soon in 2006, as per the National Center for Health Statistics, which today released "Births: Final data for 2006," National Vital Statistics Reports; Vol. 57, No. 7. The nation's preterm birth rate (birth before 37 completed weeks gestation) rose to 12.8 percent in 2006 -- that's a 36 percent increase since the early part of 1980s.
The report attributed much of the increase to the growing number of late preterm infants (those born at 34 to 36 weeks gestation), which increased 25 percent since 1990. The report also noted an increase in preterm births to Hispanic women, while rates were unchanged for non-Hispanic whites and blacks. However, black women continue to have the highest preterm birth rate, at 18.5 percent.
The preterm birth rate continued to rise despite the fact that multiple births, a known risk factor for preterm birth, have begun to stabilize. The rate of twin births was unchanged in 2005 and 2006, and triplets and higher order multiples declined 5 percent in 2006.
"The health consequences for babies who survive an early birth can be devastating and we know that preterm birth exacts a toll on the entire family emotionally and financially," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.........
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January 6, 2009, 9:04 PM CT
Seeing brain aging before symptoms appear
PET brain scans reveal plaque and tangle accumulation in patients with the APOE-4 gene, which increases risk of Alzheimer's.
UCLA researchers have used innovative brain-scan technology developed at UCLA, along with patient-specific information on Alzheimer's disease risk, to help diagnose brain aging, often before symptoms appear. Reported in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry
, their study may offer a more accurate method for tracking brain aging.
Scientists used positron emission tomography (PET), which allows "a window into the brain" of living people and specifically reveals plaques and tangles, the hallmarks of neurodegeneration. The PET scans were complemented by information on patients' age and congnitive status and a genetic profile.
"Combining key patient information with a brain scan may give us better predictive power in targeting those who appears to benefit from early interventions, as well as help test how well therapys are working," said study author Dr. Gary Small, who holds UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging and is a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
Researchers took PET brain scans of 76 non-demented volunteers after they had been intravenously injected with a new chemical marker called FDDNP, which binds to plaque and tangle deposits in the brain. Scientists were then able to pinpoint where these abnormal protein deposits were accumulating.........
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January 6, 2009, 9:02 PM CT
Link between physical inactivity and obesity
A recent international study fails to support the common belief that the number of calories burned in physical activity is a key factor in rising rates of obesity.
Scientists from Loyola University Health System and other centers compared African American women in metropolitan Chicago with women in rural Nigeria. On average, the Chicago women weighed 184 pounds and the Nigerian women weighed 127 pounds.
Scientists had expected to find that the slimmer Nigerian women would be more physically active. To their surprise, they found no significant difference between the two groups in the amount of calories burned during physical activity.
"Decreased physical activity may not be the primary driver of the obesity epidemic," said Loyola nutritionist Amy Luke, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study in the September 2008 issue of the journal Obesity. Luke is an associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Physical activity is defined as anything that gets your body moving. U.S. government guidelines say that each week, adults need at least 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging). Adults also should do muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight-lifting or sit-ups, at least twice a week.........
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January 6, 2009, 8:46 PM CT
Cut down on smoking using nicotine gum
Nicotine gum has been in use for over 20 years to help smokers quit abruptly yet close to two-thirds of smokers report that they would prefer to quit gradually. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare have now observed that smokers who are trying to quit gradually can also be helped by nicotine gum. The results of the first study to test the efficacy and safety of using nicotine gum to assist cessation by gradual reduction are reported in the February 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Almost 3300 smokers participated in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Participants were enrolled in 27 study sites across the US. Participants were allowed to choose between 2-mg and 4-mg doses of nicotine gum, with the higher doses generally being selected by heavier smokers. Within each dose group, participants were then randomized to receive either the active gum or a placebo, yielding 4 approximately equal groups.
The study assessed initial 24-hour abstinence and 28-day abstinence, and participants were followed up at 6 months to determine overall success rates for quitting. The odds of smokers achieving 24-hour abstinence were 40 to 90% higher using active gum in comparison to placebo, and 2 to 4.7 times higher for attaining 28-day abstinence. At the end of 6 months, while absolute quit rates were somewhat low, the odds of quitting were about 2 to 6 times greater for active gum users as for the placebo users, with a quit rate of 6% in the 4-mg group.........
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January 6, 2009, 8:43 PM CT
New infant formula safety advice
Wheat-based infant follow-on formulas are better reconstituted with fruit juice and should be stored in the fridge at 4C to prevent growth of meningitis bacteria, as per recent research.
The results of a study, published recently in the Society for Applied Microbiology journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology
, have shown that Cronobacter species do not grow in wheat-based infant formula stored at 4C.
Cronobacter is a recently defined genus of bacteria and was previously known as Enterobacter sakazakii
Cronobacter species have been frequently isolated from the environment and various food products including infant formula. These bacteria have been linked to infant meningitis, enteritis and septicaemia, so prevention of infant's consumption is vital in maintaining their safety.
These bugs will grow at 25C or 37C, but less so when the formula is made up using apple or grape juice than when made up using water or milk.
"This is valuable information for parents, infant formula producers and regulators and should be used when preparing and storing the reconstituted wheat based infant formula. It is also important that formula is prepared hygienically" said researcher Tareq Osaili.........
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January 6, 2009, 7:54 PM CT
Sleep Apnea, Stroke And Death
Obstructive sleep apnea decreases blood flow to the brain, elevates blood pressure within the brain and eventually harms the brain's ability to modulate these changes and prevent damage to itself, as per a newly released study published by The American Physiological Society. The findings may help explain why people with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer strokes and to die in their sleep.
Sleep apnea is the most usually diagnosed condition amongst sleep-related breathing disorders and can lead to debilitating and sometimes fatal consequences for the 18 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the disorder. This study identifies a mechanism behind stroke in these patients.
The study, "Impaired cerebral autoregulation in obstructive sleep apnea" was carried out by Fred Urbano, Francoise Roux, Joseph Schindler and Vahid Mohsenin, all of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. It appears in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
During sleep apnea episodes, the upper airway becomes blocked, hindering or stopping breathing and causing blood oxygen levels to drop and blood pressure to rise. The person eventually awakens and begins breathing, restoring normal blood oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
Ordinarily, the brain regulates its blood flow to meet its own metabolic needs, even in the face of changes in blood pressure -- a process known as cerebral autoregulation. This study observed that the repeated surges and drops in blood pressure and blood flow during numerous apnea episodes each night reduces the brain's ability to regulate these functions.........
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January 6, 2009, 7:48 PM CT
Smoking during pregnancy
Montreal, January 6, 2009 Women who smoke during pregnancy risk delivering aggressive kids as per a new Canada-Netherlands study reported in the journal Development and Psychopathology
While prior studies have shown that smoking during gestation causes low birth weight, this research shows mothers who light up during pregnancy can predispose their offspring to an additional risk: violent behaviour.
What's more, the research team found the risk of giving birth to aggressive children increases among smoking mothers whose familial income is lower than $40,000 per year. Another risk factor for aggressive behaviour in offspring was smoking mothers with a history of antisocial behaviour: run-ins with the law, high school drop-outs and illegal drug use.
Psychiatry professor and researcher Jean Sguin, of the Universit de Montral and Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center, co-authored the study with postdoctoral fellow Stephan C. J. Huijbregts, now a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, as well as colleagues from Universit Laval and McGill University in Canada.
"Mothers-to-be whose lives have been marked by anti-social behaviour have a 67 percent chance to have a physically aggressive child if they smoke 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant, compared with 16 percent for those who are non-smokers or who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day," says Dr. Sguin. "Smoking also seems to be an aggravating factor, eventhough less pronounced, in mothers whose anti-social behaviour is negligible or zero".........
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January 6, 2009, 7:45 PM CT
Find some to locate a healthy meal place
As adolescents mature into young adults, increasing time constraints due to school or work can begin to impact eating habits in a negative way. As per a research findings reported in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association
, scientists found that while young adults enjoy and value time spent eating with others, 35% of males and 42% of females reported lacking time to sit down and eat a meal. They further noted that "eating on the run" was correlation to higher consumption of unhealthy items like fast foods and lower consumption of a number of healthful foods.
By surveying 1687 young adults between 18 and 25, who had previously participated in the Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) study while in high school, researchers from the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota assessed both eating behaviors and dietary balance. In particular, the participants were asked whether they enjoyed eating with friends or family in social settings, whether eating regular meals was important and whether they felt they had to eat on the run due to time pressures. Regarding dietary balance, they were asked about their past year intake of fruit, vegetables, dark-green and orange vegetables, whole grains and soft drinks, as well as their consumption of fast food in the past week.........
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January 6, 2009, 7:32 PM CT
When do older drivers stop driving?
With 30 million drivers in the US aged 65 and over, we count on older Americans to recognize when they can no longer drive safely and decide that it's time to stay off the road. A newly released study finds that a decrease in vision function is a key factor in bringing about this decision.
The Salisbury Eye Evaluation and Driving Study (SEEDS), conducted by scientists affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, looked at changes in vision, cognition and the general health status of more than 1,200 licensed drivers aged 67-87 in Salisbury, MD, a community with limited public transportation. SEEDS is unique, in that the scientists performed comprehensive tests of both vision and cognitive function.
The results, recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, reveal that after a year, 1.5 percent of the drivers had given up driving, and another 3.4 percent had restricted their driving. The most common predictors of stopping or decreasing driving were slow visual scanning, psychomotor speed and poor visuo-constructional skills, as well as reduced contrast sensitivity. (These skills are necessary to help drivers be aware of and respond to other cars, road conditions and road signs. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to detect detail in shades of gray; it is necessary for driving in poor weather and low lighting.)........
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January 6, 2009, 7:08 PM CT
How do they do it?
Stem cells are the body's primal cells, retaining the youthful ability to develop into more specialized types of cells over a number of cycles of cell division. How do they do it? Researchers at the Carnegie Institution have identified a gene, named scrawny, that may be a key factor in keeping a variety of stem cells in their undifferentiated state. Understanding how stem cells maintain their potency has implications both for our knowledge of basic biology and also for medical applications. The results would be reported in the January 9, 2009 print edition of Science
"Our tissues and indeed our very lives depend on the continuous functioning of stem cells," says Allan C. Spradling, director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology. "Yet we know little about the genes and molecular pathways that keep stem cells from turning into regular tissue cellsa process known as differentiation."
In the study, Spradling, with colleagues Michael Buszczak and Shelley Paterno, determined that the fruit fly gene scrawny (so named because of the appearance of mutant adult flies) modifies a specific chromosomal protein, histone H2B, used by cells to package DNA into chromosomes. By controlling the proteins that wrap the genes, scrawny can silence genes that would otherwise cause a generalized cell to differentiate into a specific type of cell, such as a skin or intestinal cell.........
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