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Can hormone therapy help protect the brain?
October 24th, 2012
06:01 PM ET

Can hormone therapy help protect the brain?

A decade ago, researchers shocked women around the world when they abruptly halted a landmark clinical trial on hormone therapy, a drug regimen widely used to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause.

Just five years in, the study results suggested that hormone therapy increased the risk of several serious health conditions, including breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. A follow-up study soon added Alzheimer's disease to the list, after finding that women taking hormones had higher rates of dementia than women taking placebo.

Since then, however, doctors have begun to reexamine hormone therapy and the conclusions of the trial, known as the Women's Health Initiative. In the latest such study, published today in the journal Neurology, researchers report that taking hormones may actually lower, not raise, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

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Filed under: Alzheimer's • Health.com

Red wine, minus the alcohol, may lower blood pressure
September 6th, 2012
04:36 PM ET

Red wine, minus the alcohol, may lower blood pressure

Doctors have been telling us for years that a glass of red wine at night may be good for our hearts. But they still can't tell us why, exactly.

Does the answer lie in the antioxidants known as polyphenols, which may or may not boost blood-vessel function, improve cholesterol levels, and fight inflammation? Or does alcohol play the more important role?

A small new study may provide a clue. To compare the effect of polyphenols and alcohol on blood pressure, researchers instructed 67 older men at risk for heart disease to consume the same beverage every day for one month at a time: red wine (about two glasses), non-alcoholic red wine, or gin (about two shots).

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Filed under: Health.com • Heart • Living Well

What the Yuck: A stabbing pain... down there
July 15th, 2012
08:01 AM ET

What the Yuck: A stabbing pain... down there

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I sometimes feel a stabbing pain down there. What could be causing it?

Remember when Charlotte's vagina was "depressed" on "Sex and the City?" She had this problem - specifically, chronic vulvar pain, also known as vulvodynia.

It's characterized by soreness, burning, or itching in the vulva, and symptoms can appear or disappear without any apparent trigger (though you may feel them during sex or even long bouts of sitting).

Not much is known about the causes, but there are several treatment options: antidepressants (which can affect your perception of pain), biofeedback (to help relax the pelvic muscles), topical creams, or, in some cases, surgery (to remove tissue involved with the condition).


Three simple weight-loss strategies that work
July 13th, 2012
07:30 AM ET

Three simple weight-loss strategies that work

Cutting back on calories is the cornerstone of any successful weight-loss plan, but as dieters can attest, that's easier said than done.

So it's encouraging to learn that three simple strategies can provide a boost: Eat regular meals, write down everything you eat, and avoid restaurants and takeout at lunchtime.

These three habits were each linked to greater weight loss in a new study of 123 overweight and obese middle-aged women, all of whom managed to shed at least a few pounds over a one-year period.
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Studies highlight effectiveness of HIV prevention drug
July 11th, 2012
05:45 PM ET

Studies highlight effectiveness of HIV prevention drug

A drug widely used to treat HIV is also highly effective at preventing infection in HIV-free individuals - as long as those individuals take the drug every day as prescribed, newly released trial data shows.

The drug, an antiretroviral pill known as Truvada, interferes with the replication of the most common HIV virus and can reduce the risk of new infection by 62% or more if taken consistently, according to the results of three studies published today on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In May, based on these and other studies, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommended that the agency approve Truvada for men who have sex with men, people whose romantic partner is HIV-positive, and other high-risk groups. If approved, Truvada would be the first drug indicated for the prevention of sexually transmitted HIV.

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Filed under: Health.com • HIV/AIDS

Study: Vitamin D lowers bone-fracture risk only at high doses
July 4th, 2012
05:01 PM ET

Study: Vitamin D lowers bone-fracture risk only at high doses

If you're wondering whether to take a vitamin D supplement to keep your bones healthy, it's understandable if you - and even your doctor - are at a loss.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but the research on supplements has been inconsistent. Some studies have concluded that vitamin D supplements can lower the risk of bone fractures, while others suggest the pills provide little to no benefit.

The latest study on the topic, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, may help clear up some of the confusion.
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What the Yuck: Can I mix coffee with my meds?
June 24th, 2012
08:12 AM ET

What the Yuck: Can I mix coffee with my meds?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: Is it true that coffee doesn't mix well with some medications?

A: That's true, unless you're drinking decaf. It's best not to combine large amounts of caffeine with any drug that has stimulant effects, such as pseudoephedrine (which is found in some cold and allergy meds), because the caffeine can heighten the drug's side effects, which may include weakness, nausea, and an irregular heartbeat.

Meanwhile, certain antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), can interfere with the breakdown of caffeine in your body, extending the amount of time it stays in your system and prolonging its effects, such as insomnia or a bad case of the jitters. The herbal supplement echinacea can also do this.
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Weight-loss surgery may raise risk of alcohol abuse
A new study shows weight-loss surgery patients are at risk for alcoholism about two years after the procedure.
June 19th, 2012
09:22 AM ET

Weight-loss surgery may raise risk of alcohol abuse

Certain patients who undergo weight-loss surgery may have a heightened risk of developing a drinking problem, but the risk is only apparent two years after the procedure and only with one type of surgery.

A new study, published today on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the drinking habits of almost 2,000 obese adults before and after bariatric surgery.

Before the surgery, 7.6% of the study participants met the criteria for an alcohol-use disorder. One year after the procedure that number had actually declined slightly, to 7.3%, but by the end of the second year it had risen to 9.6% - a 57% increase from the pre-surgery rate.
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Filed under: Addiction • Alcohol • Diet and Fitness • Health.com • Obesity • Weight loss

Battle over housework breeds stress
Dividing chores equally may help you and your partner avoid emotional and physical stress.
June 14th, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Battle over housework breeds stress

For many couples, the division of household chores is a hot-button issue that stirs up questions about the essential fairness, or unfairness, of their relationship.

Chores can stir up emotions, too. Unpaid domestic work can be physically demanding, monotonous and isolating, and when one partner - usually the woman - is responsible for the lion's share of the work, research has shown, that partner's mental health can suffer.

This fact was largely borne out in a new study of more than 700 Swedish men and women, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE. Predictably, the researchers found that 42-year-old women bear a greater burden of housework than their male counterparts, and also that they're more likely to experience restlessness,nervousness, anxiety and other symptoms of psychological distress.
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Sleepy brains drawn to junk food
June 10th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Sleepy brains drawn to junk food

As any college student or shift worker will tell you, staying up all night or even just skimping on sleep can lead a person to seek out satisfying, calorie-packed foods.

An emerging body of research suggests that sleep-related hunger and food cravings, which may contribute to weight gain, are fueled in part by certain gut hormones involved in appetite. But our brain, and not just our belly, may play a role as well.

According to two small studies presented today at a meeting of sleep researchers in Boston, sleep deprivation appears to increase activity in areas of the brain that seek out pleasure - including that provided by junk food. To make matters worse, sleepiness also may dampen activity in other brain regions that usually serve as a brake on this type of craving.
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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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