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Marijuana use linked to heart problems
April 23rd, 2014
06:21 PM ET

Marijuana use linked to heart problems

Young people who use marijuana may be at risk for heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems, a new study suggests.

Researchers reviewed records from the French Addictovigilance Network, a national system of centers in France that gather information about drug abuse and dependence. From 2006 to 2010, they found 35 reports of patients who had experienced cardiovascular complications following cannabis use. The  study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

FULL POST


New migraine treatments show promise
April 22nd, 2014
06:07 PM ET

New migraine treatments show promise

There are few treatments available for the millions of people who suffer from migraines. New early-stage research offers new hope.

Studies presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting suggest that two new drugs may prevent migraines from happening.

"We've identified a new preventive treatment for migraines, something that reduces frequency, the number of attacks and severity of attacks, how bad the attacks are," said Dr. Peter Goadsby, co-author of both studies and professor of neurology at Kings College, London and the University of California, San Francisco. "The results herald a new mechanism for the preventive treatment of migraines."

FULL POST


Despite dangers, docs continue to prescribe kids codeine
Codeine is commonly prescribed for children with coughs and colds, although it's not recommended, a new study finds.
April 21st, 2014
04:24 PM ET

Despite dangers, docs continue to prescribe kids codeine

Every year, there are up to 870,000 prescriptions of codeine written for children in emergency rooms in the United States.

And that's a huge danger, because the narcotic can have particularly powerful effects on children. So powerful that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines against its use in 1997. Yet, despite those guidelines, a new study in the journal Pediatrics has found that little has changed in codeine prescribing habits.

Study author Dr. Sunitha Kaiser and her colleagues evaluated the National Hospital and Ambulatory Medical Care Survey database for emergency room visits of children between the ages of 3 and 17  from 2010 through 2010. They found found that in the nine years evaluated, the percentage of codeine prescriptions dropped very little - from 3.7%  to 2.9%. FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
A new study finds about 12 million U.S. adults are misdiagnosed during an outpatient visit every year.
April 18th, 2014
10:38 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Antidepressants may increase autism risk
Journal: Pediatrics

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy may increase your child's risk of autism, especially if the baby is a boy, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at data from 966 mothers and their children. Kids who were exposed to SSRIs, also known as antidepressants, in utero were more likely to have autism or another developmental delay.

The researchers also distinguished between the sexes; boys with an autism spectrum disorder were three times as likely to have been exposed to SSRIs than typically developing children. But the risk of autism remains low, study authors say, and letting depression go untreated could have other serious consequences.

Read more from U.S. News & World Report

You're over the hill at 24
Journal: PLOS ONE

Looks like 40 isn't the start of old age. Neuroscientists say age-related cognitive-motor decline begins at age 24 - and it's all downhill from there. That means that at 24 your reaction time starts to slow, and never picks back up. By 39 your speed has dropped about 15%, researchers found.

Of course, you might be able to compensate for this slower reaction time with skill and experience. If you can still remember what it was like when you were young, that is.

Read more from TIME

Scientists studying rare diseases should turn to social media
Journal: Pediatrics

You may have seen the viral video of 4-year-old Eliza O'Neill laughing and playing as her parents talk about her life with Sanfilippo syndrome.

Scientists studying rare diseases often struggle to find patients and funding because so few people are affected. But social media is helping lighten the load. Viral videos and other campaigns often bring people with the same disease together, making it easier for scientists to identify clinical trial patients. In this study, researchers found social media outlets referred 84% of all patients for two pediatric rare disease trials.

Learn how a genetic disorder was discovered thanks to one dad's blog.

You just think hard candy has fewer calories
Journal of Consumer Research

The texture of our food affects our perception about its calorie content, says Dipayan Biswas, a marketing professor at the University of South Florida.

In a series of studies, researchers asked people to sample foods that were hard, soft, rough or smooth and then asked them how many calories they thought they had eaten. On average, study participants thought foods that were harder or rougher contained fewer calories.

"Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice, and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices," the study authors concluded.

Read more from The Huffington Post

Always get a second opinion
Journal: BMJ Quality & Safety

Primary care doctors usually have a small window of time to diagnose each patient they see. So it's not a big surprise that mistakes can be made.

A new study finds more than 5%, or about 12 million U.S. adults, are misdiagnosed during an outpatient visit every year. The researchers estimate about half of those errors are harmful to the patient.

“The pressure to move patients in and out and the resulting brief clinical interactions between doctor and patients is a situation that fosters medical errors,” Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society told Modern Healthcare.

Read more from Modern Healthcare


Salmonella cases down, but watch out for other foodborne bacteria
Foodborne illnesses often found in raw or undercooked shellfish have increased by 75% since 2006-2008, the CDC says.
April 17th, 2014
03:33 PM ET

Salmonella cases down, but watch out for other foodborne bacteria

You might want to think twice before heading out to your favorite oyster bar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual report card on foodborne illnesses, vibrio infections – most frequently found in raw or undercooked shellfish - have increased by 75% since the CDC's previous analysis period, 2006-2008.

That's about 6,600 cases for every 100,000 people - and for every case that is reported, the CDC estimates there 142 more that aren't diagnosed.

The microbe that causes vibrio is found naturally in coastal saltwater. It only represents 1% of foodborne illness in the United States, according to the CDC, but that's still 35,000 cases of food poisoning each year. Vibrio infections are at their highest rate since the CDC started tracking nine foodborne illness-related microorganisms in 1996, according to the new report. FULL POST


Apathy in older folks could signal shrinking brain
April 16th, 2014
04:13 PM ET

Apathy in older folks could signal shrinking brain

Being apathetic is usually defined as showing a lack of enthusiasm or energy. Most people who experience it say they just aren’t motivated to do anything.

Although anyone in any age group can become apathetic, it has been well documented that apathy tends to affect those in their golden years. Now scientists believe that an elderly person’s lack of emotion and indifference to the world could be a sign his or her brain is shrinking.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, and funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Aging, found that older folks, who are apathetic - but not depressed – may be suffering from smaller brain volumes than those without apathy. FULL POST


New trial may be step forward for spinal cord injuries
Stem cells as seen on a computer screen.
April 16th, 2014
03:55 PM ET

New trial may be step forward for spinal cord injuries

In what may be another step forward in treating spinal cord injuries, a safety trial will begin this year on the practice of injecting stem cells directly into the injury site, Neuralstem Inc. announced Wednesday. 

The Maryland company said the University of California, San Diego's Institutional Review Board had approved its clinical trial protocol, which also has approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The first eight patients who will be enrolled will be paraplegics who had a thoracic spinal cord injury one to two years ago and have no motor or sensory function below the point of their spinal cord injury.

Thoracic spinal cord injuries are rare, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, because of the protection afforded by a person's rib cage. In addition to the loss of function in legs, patients also experience a loss of physical sensation, bowel and bladder problems and sexual dysfunction. However, in most cases, function of the arms and hands are not affected.

It's the latest trial designed to inject stem cells into patients' spines. The trial is supposed to show that the drug - stem cells, in this case - is safe, although researchers hope to provide some benefit as well. FULL POST


Brain scans may predict if patients will wake up
April 16th, 2014
03:47 PM ET

Brain scans may predict if patients will wake up

It can be one of the most difficult diagnoses for a doctor to make: whether a brain-damaged patient is in a permanent vegetative state and will never wake up, or if he is in a minimally conscious state and may one day recover.

In fact, for patients with significant swelling in the brain, a doctor's outcome prediction is currently "a little better than flipping a coin," researchers Jamie Sleigh and Catherine Warnaby write in The Lancet this week.

However, a new study published with their editorial suggests that some types of brain imaging could make an accurate diagnosis much more likely. FULL POST


Casual marijuana use may damage your brain
April 16th, 2014
09:02 AM ET

Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

If you thought smoking a joint occasionally was OK, a new study released Tuesday suggests you might want to reconsider.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to link casual marijuana use to major changes in the brain. And according to the researchers, the degree of abnormalities is based on the number of joints you smoke in a week.

Using different types of neuroimaging, researchers examined the brains of 40 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who were enrolled in Boston-area colleges. Twenty of them smoked marijuana at least once a week. The other 20 did not use pot at all. FULL POST


Obesity during pregnancy raises stillbirth risk
April 15th, 2014
04:58 PM ET

Obesity during pregnancy raises stillbirth risk

Pregnant women who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of delivering a stillborn baby, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers looked at 38 studies to better understand the potential risks to an unborn child in relation to its mother's body mass index. They found even a modest increase in an obese pregnant woman's weight is linked to an increased risk of fetal death, stillbirth and infant death.

The highest risk was in women with a BMI over 40 (30 is considered obese). These women were two to three times more likely to experience complications. Even women with a BMI over 25 (which is considered overweight) were found to experience increased complications. FULL POST


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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