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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

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

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

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

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

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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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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