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Waist size signals diabetes risk
June 5th, 2012
05:16 PM ET

Waist size signals diabetes risk

Having a large waist is an important early warning sign for diabetes, one that in some cases may be just as significant as body mass index (BMI), if not more so, a new study has found.

Waist size, which provides a rough measure of a person's body type, may be especially useful for identifying high-risk people who are overweight but not obese, the study suggests. Obesity is a clear-cut risk factor for diabetes, but doctors generally have a harder time determining which overweight people are most vulnerable to the condition.

"Waist circumference is very helpful in people who are obese, but exceptionally helpful in people who are overweight," says Dr. Abraham Thomas, M.D., head of endocrinology and diabetes at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit. Thomas was not involved in the study.

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Filed under: Body Image • Diabetes • Health.com • Obesity • Weight loss

Immune-system test may predict early death
June 4th, 2012
03:11 PM ET

Immune-system test may predict early death

A blood test that measures a marker of immune-system activity may help doctors identify people who are at risk of dying at an early age, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic measured levels of the immune-system molecules known as free light chains in 15,859 Minnesotans age 50 and up, and found that people whose levels were in the top 10% were four times more likely than the other study participants to die over the next 13 years.

Doctors commonly test for free light chains to diagnose and manage blood disorders and blood-related cancers, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma. This study, which was published this week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, is the first to link high levels of free light chains with earlier death in a group of people without any known blood disorders.
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Study: Bed bug 'bombs' don't work
June 3rd, 2012
11:30 PM ET

Study: Bed bug 'bombs' don't work

Do-it-yourself "bombs" or "foggers" that target bugs by filling entire rooms with aerosol insecticide are billed as an easy, cost-effective alternative to pricey pro exterminators. Although these products are indeed cheap, retailing at hardware stores for around $10, if you use them on bed bugs you're likely to get what you pay for.

In a new study, the first of its kind to be published, entomologists at Ohio State University tested three commercially available foggers - sold under the Hot Shot, Spectracide, and Eliminator brands, respectively - and concluded that all three products were virtually useless at fighting bed bug infestations.

Bed bugs in houses and apartments tend to be resistant to the insecticides used in most foggers, the study found, and even non-resistant bugs are likely to survive a fogging because the mist of chemicals doesn't appear capable of penetrating the cracks in furniture and walls where bed bugs usually hide.

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Filed under: Allergies • Health.com

Scientists confirm existence of 'old person smell'
May 30th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Scientists confirm existence of 'old person smell'

You know that smell in retirement homes and your grandmother's house? Mothballs and stale air may not be entirely to blame.

In a new study, researchers have confirmed for the first time that older people have a recognizable body odor that can't be fully explained by grooming, diet, or other environmental quirks. In fact, the study found, this "old person smell" is distinctive enough that young adults can more often than not identify an old person by body odor alone.

This isn't totally surprising. Scientists have known for years that a broad range of animal species-including mice, deer, otters, rabbits, and monkeys-undergo body-odor changes in adulthood, which may help the animals select suitable mating partners.

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Can aspirin lower skin cancer risk?
May 29th, 2012
01:17 PM ET

Can aspirin lower skin cancer risk?

Regular aspirin use, which doctors have long recommended for heart attack and stroke prevention,also may help reduce the risk of some forms of skin cancer, a new study suggests.

An analysis of the medical records of nearly 200,000 Danish adults found that people who filled more than two prescriptions for aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - such as ibuprofen or naproxen - over a 10-year period had a 15% lower risk of squamous cell carcinoma and a 13% lower risk of melanoma when compared with people who had filled one prescription or less.

People who were prescribed high doses of NSAIDs for seven or more years had the lowest skin cancer risk, according to the study, which was published in the journal Cancer. FULL POST

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Filed under: Health.com • Skin Cancer

What the Yuck: Why does my pregnant belly itch?
May 27th, 2012
08:06 AM ET

What the Yuck: Why does my pregnant belly itch?

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’m pregnant, and my belly itches all over! How come?

A: As your skin stretches over your growing bump, it can become dry and irritated. Hormonal changes may cause itching, too.

So slather on moisturizer regularly and avoid hot showers, itchy fabrics like wool, and scratching (which makes the problem worse).

If you also start to develop small bumps, especially in your third trimester, you may have pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). Your doctor can suggest an ointment to help relieve this harmless condition.

In rare cases, though, itching can be a sign of liver or gallbladder disease; pregnancy makes you more prone to both. So if moisturizing doesn’t help, be sure to check in with your doctor.


More evidence links calcium supplements to heart attacks
May 23rd, 2012
06:30 PM ET

More evidence links calcium supplements to heart attacks

Calcium supplements, widely taken by older people to prevent bone fractures, may be doing more harm than good, a large new study suggests.

Researchers tracked nearly 25,000 European adults for 11 years, and found that people who reported regularly taking calcium supplements were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who didn't use any supplements.

Only the use of calcium supplements, and not overall calcium intake, was associated with an increased risk of heart attack. In fact, people who consumed higher amounts of calcium from foods, such as milk and other dairy, tended to have a lower risk of heart attacks than people who consumed less.
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Memory gene may fuel PTSD
Photos of victims of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide hang in the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.
May 14th, 2012
03:44 PM ET

Memory gene may fuel PTSD

A vivid memory can be an asset if you're studying for an exam or trying to recall the details of a conversation, but that aptitude may backfire when it comes to forming long-term responses to emotional trauma.

In a new study, Swiss researchers have found that a certain gene associated with a good memory - and in particular, the ability to remember emotionally charged images - is also linked to an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

"We are very confident that the gene is associated with the risk for PTSD, at least in the Rwandan population," says lead author Andreas Papassotiropoulos, M.D., a professor of molecular neuroscience at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.
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Filed under: Health.com • Mental Health • PTSD

9 in 10 moms see overweight toddlers as normal
May 7th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

9 in 10 moms see overweight toddlers as normal

A mother's love usually makes for healthy and happy children, but in some cases it may be contributing to childhood obesity, a new study suggests.

In the study, researchers presented 281 mothers with cartoon drawings of toddlers ranging in size from scrawny to plump, and asked them to select the drawing that most closely resembled their child.

Nearly 70% of the women misjudged their toddler's body size, but the rate was much higher among the mothers of overweight children. Ninety-four percent of those mothers identified their child's size as being in the normal range, the study found.

Previous studies in older children have produced similar results. The new research, published this week in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, is the first to show widespread misperceptions of body size among the parents of toddlers.
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What the Yuck: How can I prevent cold sores?
May 6th, 2012
08:04 AM ET

What the Yuck: How can I prevent cold sores?

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 get cold sores all the time. It's so embarrassing - I don't want to go on dates or even be seen at work when I have one. Is there any way to prevent them?

Those pesky cold sores that pop up on or around your lips or nose are generally caused by a strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), known as HSV-1. True to the name, a cold can bring on a sore - and so can a fever, which is why they're sometimes called fever blisters.

Bolstering your immune system by eating well, getting plenty of rest and avoiding stress (that's the hard one, right?) may help you steer clear. Sun is also a common trigger, so don't ever step outside without a high-SPF lip balm.

There's no reason to suffer through embarrassing outbreaks: Ask your doctor for a prescription for an anti-viral medicine. If you fill it in advance and take it at the first hint of a sore, it makes your outbreak milder and less noticeable.


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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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