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ICU death rates higher on weekends: study

Public HealthJul 06 10

It’s not something you can control, but when you or a loved one is admitted to an intensive care unit may be linked to your survival: Patients treated in an intensive care unit on a weekend may be more likely to die during the hospital admission than those admitted on a weekday, a new study suggests.

The findings, from an analysis of 10 international studies, add to evidence that patients admitted to a hospital during “off-hours” tend to fare worse.

Studies have found, for instance, that heart attack and stroke patients admitted during hospital off-hours—overnight or on the weekend—have a higher risk of dying than those admitted on weekdays. There is also evidence of a relatively higher risk of childbirth complications when women deliver at night, though the absolute risk is still quite low.

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Health and austerity: When budget cuts cost lives

Public HealthJul 05 10

European leaders slicing away at national budgets are keen to persuade voters that healthcare is sacrosanct, but they will struggle to escape the truth that cutting spending elsewhere also eventually costs lives.

If a government’s first priority is to protect the lives of its people, then ringfencing health spending while cutting other budgets and trying to drive down the cost of medicines—policies being pursued in Europe—seem sensible options.

Yet experts say the planned cuts in welfare and other state programmes will hit everything from pensions to housing to playgrounds, all of which also affect the health of nations.

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Virginia, government square off over healthcare

Public HealthJul 05 10

The state of Virginia and the government were pitched in a legal battle in a federal courtroom on Thursday that could lead to the undoing of the massive healthcare reform law passed three months ago.

Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Richmond heard the federal government’s arguments to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Virginia that contends the healthcare law’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance is unconstitutional.

Before President Barack Obama signed the radical overhaul of the multibillion dollar health insurance industry into law, Virginia’s legislature passed its own law that took effect on Thursday that says no one could be mandated to buy health insurance.

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Higher testosterone may raise risk of heart disease in elderly men

HeartJul 02 10

A large U.S. multicenter study shows that older men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease in the future. The results were presented at The Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting in San Diego.

“The study finding contradicts smaller studies that have shown that testosterone levels are not associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease,” said presenting author Kristen Sueoka, MD, a resident physician at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Many in the general public are using testosterone supplements for various medical problems, including low sex drive and mood disorders, which are not life-threatening. These men may unknowingly be placing themselves at higher risk for cardiovascular disease,” she said.

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Consulting ‘Dr. Google’

Public HealthJul 02 10

The quality of online information about the most common sports medicine diagnoses varies widely, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS). Therefore, patients who use the Internet to help make medical decisions need to know that the web may not be giving the whole picture.

“The reason that we decided to undertake this study is that patients are presenting to their physicians office with increasing frequency armed with printouts of information obtained from the Internet,” said Madhav A. Karunakar, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., and one of the study’s authors. “Physicians and patients should be aware that the quality of information available online varies greatly. Additionally, physicians should be prepared to discuss this information with their patients in order to ensure that it is not misinterpreted.”

Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population has access to the Internet, and more than half of those people go online for health-related information at least once a month. However, quality controls over the health information found on the web have not grown at the same rate that Internet use has.

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Sleep problems linked to weight gain in middle-age

Obesity • • Sleep Aid • • Weight LossJul 02 10

Women, try not to think of this if you lie awake at night: having trouble sleeping means you’re likely to gain weight.

As if simply getting older weren’t hard enough, new research shows that middle-aged and older women who have trouble falling or staying asleep may pack on more pounds than their well-rested contemporaries.

A number of studies have found that sleep-deprived children and adults are more likely to be overweight than those who usually get a full night’s rest. But many of those studies assessed people at one point in time, so it was hard to know which came first, the sleep problems or the excess pounds.

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Frozen blood a source of stem cells, study finds

Public HealthJul 02 10

Frozen blood from stored samples can be used to make cells resembling stem cells, researchers said on Thursday - opening a potential new and easier source for the valued cells.

They used cells from blood to make induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells - lab-made cells that closely resemble human embryonic stem cells but are made from ordinary tissue.

These iPS cells have in the past been made from plugs of skin, but blood is much easier to take from people and to store, the researchers reported in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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