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5 studies you may have missed
July 4th, 2014
11:14 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.

Motörhead is one of the most hardcore rock ’n’ roll acts on Earth
Journal: The Lancet

That Motörhead has the reputation as one of the most hardcore rock’n’roll acts on earth may not surprise you. But finding evidence to support this claim in one of the major medical journals might.

According to a case study published Thursday in The Lancet, a man “developed a chronic subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain) after headbanging at a Motörhead concert.”
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Study: 1/3 of knee replacements are questionable
June 30th, 2014
03:34 PM ET

Study: 1/3 of knee replacements are questionable

Whether to replace aging knees can be a tough decision. More than 650,000 Americans underwent total knee replacement surgery last year, but a new paper from researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University suggests that a third of those were not “appropriate,” based on standard medical criteria.

The study authors analyzed 175 cases, looking at imaging tests to find the degree of arthritis, as well as each patient’s age and reported pain level. Only 44% of the operations were rated “appropriate.” Thirty-four percent were “inappropriate,” while 22% were inconclusive.

But appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder, says Dr. Jeffery Katz, an orthopedic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. When the current criteria were developed in the late 1990s, knee replacement “was considered a treatment of last resort,” Katz writes in an editorial published alongside the study in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism. Today, many are being done in relatively healthy people in their 50s and 60s.
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June 13th, 2014
12:01 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.

Keep your phone out of your pocket – your sperm will thank you
Journal: Environmental International

Since guys don’t usually carry handbags, they tend to keep mobile phones in their pants pockets. A recent study from the University of Exeter suggests this may not be a great idea.

That cell phone could actually have a negative effect on your sperm quality.
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Filed under: Aging • Brain • Cell Phones • Conditions • Dental health • Diet and Fitness • Fertility • Heart • Living Well • Men's Health • Mental Health

Women waiting longer to have their first child
May 9th, 2014
09:45 AM ET

Women waiting longer to have their first child

More women over 35 are giving birth for the first time, according to a government study released Friday.  The report, issued by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at data compiled over the past four decades.

Among the findings:

  • In 2012, there were more than nine times as many first births to women over age 35 than in the 1970s
  • From 2000 to 2012, first birth rates rose 35% for women aged 40 to 44, and 24% for women aged 35 to 39
  • The first birth rate for women aged 40–44 has more than doubled since 1990
  • In the past 20 years, first birth rates rose for older women across all races. The largest increases were seen for non-Hispanic white and black women, and Asian or Pacific Islander women

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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


Middle-aged? Put down the meat
March 5th, 2014
09:12 AM ET

Middle-aged? Put down the meat

Eating a high-protein diet in middle age could increase your risk of diabetes and cancer, according to a study published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism. But don't stay away from meat for too long - the same study showed those over 65 need more protein to reduce their mortality risk.

Background

Insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, is a protein in your body related to growth and development. Past studies have linked IGF-1 to age-related diseases, including cancer. Mice and humans with higher levels of IGF-1 often have a higher risk of developing these diseases.

Scientists believe protein intake plays a role in IGF-1 activity. Eating less protein, studies have shown, can lead to lower levels of IGF-1 in your body. So theoretically, protein consumption could be directly linked to disease incidence and death. FULL POST


November 18th, 2013
09:18 AM ET

Long-term Pill use may double glaucoma risk

Women who used birth control pills for three years or more have twice the risk of developing glaucoma later in life, according to new research.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

It’s been well documented that low-estrogen levels following menopause contribute to glaucoma in women. Scientists don’t know exactly why this happens.  But years of using birth control pills, which can also lower estrogen levels, may add to the problem.

The study, conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, China, did not differentiate between women who took low-estrogen or regular birth control pills. Investigators theorize that when women are not on the pill, their natural estrogen levels go up and down, which seems to prevent the eye from developing glaucoma.  When women go on the pill, their estrogen levels are consistent, and in some cases consistently low, which could cause them to develop the condition.

This research project is the first to suggest an increased risk of glaucoma in women who have used oral contraceptives for three or more years. The researchers looked at data on more than 3,400 women aged 40 and older from across the United States, who answered questionnaires about their reproductive health and eye exams.    FULL POST


Oprah and Einstein photos offer clues about early dementia
August 12th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Oprah and Einstein photos offer clues about early dementia

You are looking at a woman's face; the contours and features seem so familiar.  You see the billowing brown hair, the broad smile, the almond-shaped eyes.  You may even be able to describe things about her:  Famous talk show host, actress in "The Color Purple," philanthropist.

You feel a familiar pang of frustration because the name seems to be in your grasp, but you cannot come up with it.

The person, of course, is Oprah Winfrey.  The inability to conjure the name of such a famous face, for some people, is one of several symptoms of a brain disease called primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

The disease "affects a person's ability to communicate," said Tamar Gefen, a doctoral candidate at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, adding that the disease attacks language centers in the brain.

"Slowly, over time a person loses the ability to name, comprehend, write and communicate," Gefen said.

The loss is not fleeting, but persistent, progressive, and socially crippling.  Patients do not just have difficulty naming Oprah, but can have problems recognizing their own family members or friends.  All of that makes having an accurate test for the disease important.

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Anemia linked to increased risk of dementia
July 31st, 2013
04:08 PM ET

Anemia linked to increased risk of dementia

There is no single test to determine if someone has dementia. The harsh reality is that at this point, it can only be conclusively diagnosed during an autopsy.

So for now doctors rely on physical exams, lab work and cognitive indicators to diagnose dementia with a high degree of certainty while a patient is still alive.

Anemia may be one sign someone has an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“I’ve been studying Alzheimer’s for a long time,” says study author Dr. Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California – San Francisco. “In particular, I’m interested in things you can modify: cardiovascular disease, sleep, physical activity. We’ve done a number of studies looking at how different chronic diseases of the body effect aging. We started looking into the issue of anemia... after seeing rudimentary studies that linked it to dementia.”
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Blacks die earlier from homicide, heart disease
Life expectancy is the highest it has ever been for Americans, but whites still live longer than blacks.
July 18th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Blacks die earlier from homicide, heart disease

Americans are living longer than ever before. But if you are an African-American in the United States, a new report shows your life, on average, will not be as long as your white neighbors’.

The report comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.  Lead author Ken Kochanek says his agency has always run these kinds of numbers internally. The results, though, get a little lost in the larger report on overall mortality rates that goes out annually to the public. This year the agency wanted to highlight some of the important racial disparities in the data.

This particular report shows a deeply troubling trend, Kochanek said: Too many black men are the victims of homicides, and that is one of the main reasons black men, on average, don’t live as long as white men do.

The report

The study looked at life expectancy at birth between 1970 and 2010.  The National Center for Health Statistics collects this data directly from death certificates. By law, a death certificate is filed with every person who dies.  The certificates note cause of death and race.

This particular analysis compared life expectancy rates by race and gender. It also looked at the causes of death and how these causes influenced the difference in life expectancy between the black and white populations. It then sliced the numbers even further by comparing the causes of death and their influence on life expectancy between black and white males born in 2010, and black and white females born in 2010. The researchers did not look at socioeconomic status.

The results

Research shows that life expectancy at birth increased from 70.8 years in 1970 to 78.7 years in 2010 for the population overall – that’s an 11% increase.  Life expectancy in the United States has been gradually improving since 1900.  The 78.7 average was a new high.  In 2010 however, the life expectancy for the African-American population still fell short of the white population’s by 3.8 years. Studies have shown that white Americans have always lived longer on average than black Americans - at least for as long as the U.S. government has collected this data. 

Black men did fare the worst of all the groups they compared – with their life expectancy at 4.7 years lower than white men, who live on average to the age of 76.5.

The statisticians found that black men don’t live as long as white men primarily because of higher incidence rates of death from heart disease, homicide and cancer. It is the homicide issue that stands out most for Kochanek.

“The causes of death that account for these differences between the populations haven’t changed all that much,” Kochanek said. “Heart disease, diabetes, stroke – these differences always seem to be there. But what’s interesting in this particular report is just what a difference homicide plays ...  The difference between homicides for black and white men in particular is gigantic.”

“From a public health standpoint I’m sure the experts would say it’s especially worrying,” he said. “You would hope the (racial disparities) would be accounted for by natural causes. You can try and do prevention work to keep heart disease down or diabetes for instance. But when you see homicide as having such a big impact it’s like, ‘Wow, this is a much more complicated issue to fix.'”

White women still have the longest life expectancy at birth - 81 .3 years - followed by black women at 78 years.

This report is the first in a series that will take a closer look at causes of death. The CDC will continue to study other life expectancy issues with ethnic and racial populations in the United States.


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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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