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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

IVF-related birth defects may originate with moms, not treatment
May 5th, 2012
06:01 AM ET

IVF-related birth defects may originate with moms, not treatment

Babies conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) have a higher risk of birth defects than those conceived naturally, but the increased risk may stem from the parents rather than the treatment itself, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, among the largest of its kind to date, researchers analyzed more than 300,000 births in Australia and found the risk of birth defects to be 26% higher with IVF than with natural, or unassisted, conception - a finding consistent with previous research.

IVF involves combining - but not injecting– a woman's egg with sperm, usually in a laboratory dish, then transferring the resulting embryo into the woman's uterus.

But virtually all of the increased risk associated with IVF could be attributed to the health and demographic profile of the mother, including her age, body mass index, socioeconomic status, and any health conditions (such as diabetes) she may have experienced before or during pregnancy.
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Research questions impact of pacifiers on disrupting breast-feeding
April 30th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Research questions impact of pacifiers on disrupting breast-feeding

Pacifiers can soothe agitated infants, but some experts - including those at the World Health Organization (WHO) - discourage pacifier use in the first six months of life because of concerns that it may interfere with breast-feeding, widely seen as the best way to feed a newborn.

New research, however, casts doubt on the notion that pacifier use disrupts breast-feeding. In an analysis of feeding patterns among 2,249 infants in a single maternity ward over a 15-month period, researchers found the proportion of infants who were exclusively breast-fed dropped from 79% to 68% after pacifier use was restricted in the ward.

Meanwhile, the proportion of infants who needed formula in addition to breast-feeding jumped from 18% to 28% after the change in policy, according to the preliminary results of the study, which were presented today at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Boston.
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Speed, Ecstasy tied to teen depression
April 19th, 2012
07:35 AM ET

Speed, Ecstasy tied to teen depression

The short-lived high teenagers get from using amphetamines or the club drug MDMA - better known as Ecstasy - could lead to longer-lasting depression later on, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Canada interviewed 3,880 teenagers from low-income neighborhoods in Québec. Compared to their peers who used neither drug, teens who reported taking MDMA or amphetamines at least once in the tenth grade had 70% and 60% higher odds, respectively, of experiencing depression symptoms in the eleventh grade.

Using both drugs nearly doubled the odds of depression.
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Why stress makes colds more likely
April 2nd, 2012
03:07 PM ET

Why stress makes colds more likely

Most of us know from experience that stress weakens our immune system. Colds always seem to strike when we're overworked or emotionally exhausted, as do eczema flare-ups, headaches and a myriad of other health problems.

Doctors long ago confirmed that the connection between stress and health is real, but they haven't been able to fully explain it. Now, in a new study, researchers say they've identified a specific biological process linking life stressors - such as money trouble or divorce - to an illness.

In this case it's the common cold.
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Filed under: Cold and flu • Health.com • Stress

Ibuprofen may ward off altitude sickness
March 20th, 2012
12:07 PM ET

Ibuprofen may ward off altitude sickness

Ibuprofen has been used for decades to treat pain. Now, research suggests the drug's anti-inflammatory properties also may help prevent the piercing headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness.

A small new study, published this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that people who took four 600-milligram doses of ibuprofen over a 24-hour period in which they ascended to 12,570 feet above sea level were less likely to experience altitude sickness than people taking a placebo.

Sixty-nine percent of the participants who took placebo during the ascent developed the headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue that characterize altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness. By contrast, just 43% of people who took ibuprofen developed the condition.
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Filed under: Health.com • Medications

A soda per day may raise heart-attack risk
March 12th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

A soda per day may raise heart-attack risk

It's no secret that the empty calories in soda and other sugary drinks can contribute to weight gain and obesity. But a new study suggests these beverages also may harm your heart, even if they don't cause you to gain weight.

The study, which followed nearly 43,000 men for an average of 22 years, found that those who habitually drank one 12-ounce sweetened beverage per day were 20% more likely to have a heart attack, fatal or otherwise, than men who drank none.

The association could not be explained by obesity or weight gain alone. The researchers took into account the men's body mass index, along with their dietary habits, exercise levels, family history of heart disease, and other extentuating factors.

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Filed under: Cholesterol • Health.com • Heart • Nutrition

Overeating may be linked to memory loss
February 13th, 2012
11:50 AM ET

Overeating may be linked to memory loss

Older people who consume a diet very high in calories may be increasing their risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the memory loss and mental-function problems that sometimes precede Alzheimer's disease.

In a new study of more than 1,200 people in their 70s and 80s, Mayo Clinic researchers found that men and women who consumed at least 2,143 calories per day had more than double the odds of having MCI, compared with those who consumed 1,526 calories per day or less.

Preliminary findings from the study are slated to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April. Unlike research published in medical journals, the study has not yet been thoroughly vetted by other experts in the field.
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How ovulating women affect men's speech
February 8th, 2012
05:01 PM ET

How ovulating women affect men's speech

The elaborate courtship displays found in the animal kingdom - a peacock spreading his feathers, the hissing of the Madagascar cockroach - aren't always appropriate in an office or classroom.

Male humans seem to have devised other, less obvious ways of showing off.

A new study suggests that when young men interact with a woman who is in the fertile period of her menstrual cycle, they pick up on subtle changes in her skin tone, voice, and scent - usually subconsciously - and respond by changing their speech patterns.

Specifically, they become less likely to mimic the woman's sentence structure. According to the researchers, this unintentional shift in language may serve to telegraph the man's creativity and nonconformity - qualities that are believed to attract potential mates.
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Filed under: Fertility • Health.com

Head injuries and excess weight a hazardous combo for NFL players
Linebackers and linemen tend to make helmet-to-helmet contact on nearly every play.
January 17th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Head injuries and excess weight a hazardous combo for NFL players

Professional football players already vulnerable to memory loss and cognitive problems stemming from repetitive head injuries may be at even greater risk if they also carry excess weight, as many of them do.

In a small new study of retired NFL players, researchers found that overweight players had less blood flow to key areas of the brain and lower scores on mental-function tests than former players of normal weight.

"There was a very significant relationship: As their weight went up, their reasoning scores and memory and attention scores went down," says the senior study author, Daniel G. Amen, M.D., founder and medical director of Amen Clinics, a neuropsychiatry clinic and research center based in Newport Beach, California.
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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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