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June 3rd, 2010
06:30 PM ET

Survival of women, children explored in journal

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

"Women Deliver" is the theme of this week's edition of the British journal "The Lancet." The issue explores a variety of topics concerning the health of women and children around the world.

One study finds that when a child's mother dies, he or she has dramatically lower chances of surviving beyond age 10 in Bangladesh. The death of a father, on the other hand, has a negligible effect. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at population surveillance data from 1982 to 2005 in Matlab, Bangladesh.

The interruption of breastfeeding when a mother dies may explain this pattern, the researchers wrote. Most infants in rural Bangladesh are still breastfed at 12 months of age. The short time between mother and child death may reflect a lack of adequate alternatives for these infants, the authors wrote. When a father dies, on the other hand, extended family form a safety net that may compensate for the loss, the study said.

Another study looks at a program called Janani Suraksha Yojana in India that seeks to promote births in health facilities. Eligible women receive the equivalent of about $13 in urban areas and $15 in rural areas if they have given birth in a government or accredited private health care facility. In some states the cash incentive is higher and applies to women regardless of socioeconomic background.

Researchers found that these cash payments were associated with a decrease in stillbirths and neonatal deaths. But there is plenty of room for improvement, the authors say, as the poorest and least educated women are not the most likely to take advantage of the program. This study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Public Health Foundation of India in New Delhi.

The edition also includes a comment by editor Dr. Richard Horton about the 10 reasons why women and children remain "invisible" in his view. Attitudes can be unintentionally discriminatory because of a lack of awareness of the predicaments facing women and children, he wrote.


June 3rd, 2010
05:17 PM ET

Does increased activity mean higher GPA?

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Twenty minutes of daily vigorous physical activity among college students may lead them to have grade point averages about .4 higher, on a scale of 4.0, compared with students who do not exercise.

A study presented Thursday at the American College of Sport Medicine's annual meeting demonstrated the relationship and reinforced the notion that exercise reduces stress, improves performance and increases a sense of well-being.

Joshua Ode supervised the study at a university in the northern U.S., of students ages 18-22. Ode said, "If the students are improving in the classroom, it may create a better campus environment. You're creating more successful students, which is the goal of universities."

Researchers studied 266 undergraduates and defined moderate activity as those exercises which don't make you sweat or breathe hard, and vigorous activity for those which do, of any type. Their findings were consistent regardless of gender or major.

Ode said one of the next questions for further study should include the impact of activity on GPA throughout college.

And it doesn't have to be seven days a week, Ode said. But the research suggests the more often, the better.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


June 3rd, 2010
05:15 PM ET

Two sites work for Parkinson's brain stimulation

By Leslie Wade
CNN Medical Producer

Surgery to thread a wire and electrode deep into the brain sounds daunting, but for patients with neurological issues such as Parkinson's disease it can provide welcomed relief. It's called deep brain stimulation  and a new study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine finds that contrary to previous DBS research, two sites in the brain instead of just one can help Parkinson's patients move better.

According to the National Institutes of Health at least 500,000 Americans have Parkinson's disease. Symptoms include hand tremors, balance issues, and problems walking. As the disease progresses, many people with Parkinson's develop mood swings and are not as mentally alert as they once were. Medications, which can provide effective relief initially, often wane over time. For some, DBS offers a good treatment option.

This DBS study is one of the largest every conducted, with 299 patients enrolled and followed for two years. Patients underwent DBS in one of two brain areas involving motor control, either the subthalamic nucleus, or the globus pallidus interna, both located deep within the skull. During surgery doctors placed an electrode in the target site which was connected to a neurostimulator implanted near the collarbone. Researchers say electric impulses sent out from the electrode disrupted or stopped bad motor signals that cause the shaking and movement problems of Parkinson's patients.

Before this study, the conventional belief was that stimulation at the subthalamic nucleus site helped patients with their movement problems but tended to aggravate the other mood and cognitive problems of the disease. This study disputes that, finding that patients who received stimulation from either site saw improvements in motor function with only slight differences in mood and cognitive decline between the two groups.

"This opens the door for clinicians to choose what is the best target for individual patients, opens the door to more choices for patients," says Dr. Michael Okun, Medical Director for the National Parkinson's Foundation.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


June 3rd, 2010
05:03 PM ET

How not to freak out during an emergency

By Jennifer Bixler
CNN Medical Executive Producer

On Wednesday, Utah officials released the 911 call from inside actor Gary Coleman's house. On it, according to People, Shannon Price tells the operator that Coleman hit his head while making her something to eat on the evening of May 26 downstairs in their Santaquin, Utah, home.

"He just just got home, I went downstairs.  Blood everywhere," Price says.  "I don't know if he's OK.  I'm not down there right now because I have seizures. If I get stressed out I'm going to seize."

Price goes on to say to the operator, "I just can't be here with the blood," she says.  "I'm sorry, I can't do it.  I can't ... There's blood all over and I can't do anything."

The operator asks Price "to at least give him a towel" so Coleman can apply pressure to his wound. Price replies, "Yeah, I'm just panicked. I don't know what to do … I just don’t want him to die. I'm freaking out."

In a video interview released Thursday, Price said Coleman couldn't be saved and she didn't want him left in a vegetative state.

Price has been criticized for her lack of action, but it's not uncommon for people to panic during an emergency.  If you don't handle emergency medical situations well, here's a quick checklist to keep yourself calm, cool and collected.

GET YOUR BEARINGS "If you don't understand what is going on, you are going to freak out," says Dr. Dave Beiser, an emergency room doctor at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Ask yourself the following questions, is the person breathing?  Are they bleeding and if so where?  Can they talk?

CALL 911 Even if you aren't sure how serious the situation is, it's always best to err on the side of caution.  The moment something happens, you should call 911.  "They are trained to deal with someone who doesn't have medical training," says Beiser.

PREPARE FOR EMERGENCY WORKERS TO ARRIVE Beiser says in a situation like what happened to Gary Coleman, you should make sure the person is lying on his or her side.  Why?  "In case they vomit, it protects the airway," says Beiser.  Beiser also says if the operator suggests you do CPR, make it simple.  Experts suggest brushing up on your CPR before an emergency.  A simple way to do that is by checking out the "Hands-Only CPR" campaign The American Heart Association launched a few years ago.


June 3rd, 2010
05:02 PM ET

Abraham's children in the genome era

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Even before the days of Moses, Jewish people have had a special bond. Because they share a history, culture and faith many Jews tend to marry Jews. And because they marry within their group, some Jewish people have a predisposition to certain illnesses and genetic disorders that other groups do not.

Studies have shown conditions such as Crohn's disease, Gaucher's disease, Tay-Sachs, colon cancer and breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2) are now a direct result of mutated genes within these Jewish populations and that these conditions are unusually common among Ashkenazi Jews - Jews who have ancestors from Eastern and Central Europe. These same diseases can affect Sephardic Jews and non-Jews, but they affect Ashkenazi Jews more often – as much as 20 to 100 times more frequently. Certain disorders tend to be more common among  Ashkenazi Jews due to a "genetic drift," because for centuries, due to political and religious reasons, Ashkenazi Jews were genetically isolated from the population at large. But as the years passed, the Jewish population became widely dispersed and now many areas of the world have large Jewish populations. So it's tougher to keep track of them as group.

FULL POST


June 3rd, 2010
03:11 PM ET

NFL medical heads and Goodell convene on brain injuries

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

Even without symptoms, blows to the head can be deceptively severe,  neurologists are warning at a meeting on football and brain injury.

These “can lead to long-term consequences or later emergence of symptoms,” said Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after a daylong seminar with the NFL.  “Symptom severity is not a clear indicator of how badly the brain is injured.”

Experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical reps from all 32 NFL teams and commissioner Roger Goodell discussed head injuries on Wednesday.

The NFL has been accused of minimizing evidence about the dangers of football concussions. New medical committee members have vowed to change that culture.  Read about one ex-player's struggle

Lyketsos said a study has shown an average college football player endures about 950 blows to the head during a season.  Doctors say that duress on the brain can accumulate over time.  It might be worthwhile to monitor the force and the number of times a player is struck. Some helmet technology allows real-time monitoring of the impact of hits to the head.

The four major topics in the meeting were 1) asymptomatic effects of blows to the head and their consequences, 2)  head injuries and their relation to cognitive decline, dementia, depression, 3) chronic traumatic encephalopathy, repeated head injury, often seen in professional boxers that also occurs in NFL players and 4)  how long it takes for the brain to recover after a significant hit.

CNN.com: Dead athletes' brains show damage from concussions

This research isn’t relevant only to elite football players.

“What we learn about long-term consequence for football players has implication for millions of athletes who suffer concussion and head blows,” Lysetkos said.  “It also has implications for soldiers who are at increased exposure to blasts.”

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


June 3rd, 2010
01:34 PM ET

PE classes still aren't top priority, report says

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Even as first lady Michelle Obama continues  her "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, many American schools still don't have adequate physical education for their students.

That's according to a new report, by the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The report,  "The 2010 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA," found that although there have been some improvements in making PE a requirement in schools, more than half of all states (32) are taking advantage of loopholes that give students a chance to "skip" PE, with waivers and exemptions for other activities, such as band or cheerleading.

"Physical education is more than just kicking a soccer ball around. It's learning about healthy habits, nutrition, and PE helps kids understand the importance of staying active," says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "Every student should be taking PE."

The Shape of the Nation Report provides a current picture of physical education (PE) in the American education system. Even though the number of states requiring PE is up by 17 percent since 2006, the report found only five states required physical education in every grade from kindergarten through 12. It also noted that only one state, Alabama, actually requires the recommended 150 minutes per week of PE in elementary schools and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.

The AHA says it strongly supports state and federal legislation to make physical education an integral part of the curriculum. The association notes that not only does physical education keep kids fit, but studies show that healthy kids learn more when they are physically active. With childhood obesity rates soaring along with hypertension and high cholesterol rates in children also on the rise, the AHA and NASPE say now is not the time to roll back efforts to make physical education a priority in our nation's schools.

"Kids spend a lot of time at school. We feel they should spend as much time learning to be healthy and staying fit, as they do with other curriculum," notes Brown. "Physical education," she says, "is the start to developing good habits in life."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


June 3rd, 2010
12:27 PM ET

WHO: H1N1 not gone yet

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

You may have forgotten about the virus formerly known as swine flu, but it hasn't gone away, according to the World Health Organization.

The agency is continuing its pandemic alert for 2009 H1N1 influenza, WHO chief Margaret Chan announced Thursday in a statement. There are still world regions, particularly in tropical regions such as the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, that have relatively low level of resurgence of cases.

But "the period of most intense pandemic activity appears likely to have passed for many parts of the world," the statement said.

In July, a WHO committee will meet again to reassess the situation.

Read the full statement from the World Health Organization.

Here's a retrospective on the H1N1 flu on its one-year anniversary


June 3rd, 2010
12:18 PM ET

My boss smokes e-cigarettes in the office. Is this safe?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Thien Pham, Laramie, WY

“I have a supervisor who is starting to smoke electronic cigarettes in his office. I am wondering what the secondhand smoking health effect is from electronic smoke (such as e-smoke products). Is it legal for people to smoke e-cigarettes inside? Thank you.”

Answer:

This is a great question, Thien, because the mere concept of an electronic cigarette is confusing for folks. These electronic alternatives to conventional cigarettes are touted as a safe alternative to smoking. The suggestion is that secondhand vapor from an e-cigarette might be safe too.

Well, not so fast. The safety record for e-smoke products and the vapor they emit thus far is, well, hazy. There have been no studies about safety for these products in the U.S.

First, it is important to know the difference between an e-cigarette and a conventional one. E-cigarettes, since they are not lit by fire, skip the combustion process. So there is no smoldering, smoky burn at the tip like you would see when lighting a conventional cigarette. Instead, e-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine encased in a plastic filter. When you take a "puff" or inhale on this cigarette surrogate, a small battery warms the nicotine in that filter, creating a thin stream of vapor when exhaled.

Right now, there is no federal ban on indoor e-cigarette smoking, although there are states such as New Jersey that are trying. New Jersey's argument is based, in part, on a recent Food and Drug Administration analysis of ingredients contained in these products. Turns out that despite that lack of combustion, some of the most popular e-cigarette brands contain carcinogens - they could still cause cancer. The FDA has also detected a toxic chemical found in antifreeze in some leading brands.

That means that although manufacturers of these e-cigarettes say they are pretty sure their product is safe, the jury is still out about the health effects (and consequently secondhand effects) with e-cigarettes.

Another argument for safety by e-cigarette manufacturers is that they contain nicotine, but none of the other harmful additives in cigarettes. Nicotine on its own is highly addictive and we do not know yet the the health effects of inhaling pure nicotine, nor do we know what could happen if those toxic substances the FDA found could harm folks in close proximity to the "e-smoker."

In a nutshell, until we know more, you may want to - protectively - steer clear from your supervisor's office.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Filed under: Cancer • Expert Q&A • Smoking

June 3rd, 2010
12:09 PM ET

CDC: 1 in 5 high schoolers abuse legal drugs

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

One in five U.S. high school students say they have ever taken a prescription drug such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a physician's prescription, a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

Twelfth-graders had the highest likelihood of prescription drug abuse, at 26 percent, and ninth-graders had the lowest, at 15 percent. There was also variation by race; white students most commonly reported abusing prescription drugs, at 23 percent, followed by Hispanic students at 17 percent and black students at 12 percent.

The survey, officially called the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, had never looked at prescription drug abuse among high school students before. It also examined other risk and nutrition-related behaviors.

The survey found that, among high school students, 72 percent had ever used alcohol. Marijuana use was reported among 37 percent of students. Data showed that 6.4 percent of students had ever used cocaine, 4.1 percent had ever used methamphetamine, and 6.7 percent had ever used ecstasy.

In terms of trends, fewer students reported drinking at least one soda per day than in 2007, and more said they ate fruit or drank 100 percent fruit juice two or more times a day. Fewer high school students said they engaged in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors such as not eating for 24 hours or more, taking diet pills or laxatives, and vomiting.

Learn more about the survey here.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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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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