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Insomnia often persists: study

Sleep AidMar 10 09

Contrary to popular beliefs, insomnia is often a chronic problem and does not necessarily remit by itself, the results of a long-term study published today indicate. This is especially true for people whose insomnia is severe from the beginning.

“Although people who experience insomnia for a few nights do not need to worry about it, when the sleep problem persists for some time (more than 1 month), they should not take it too lightly…and should seek treatment because it may not go away by itself,” Dr. Charles M. Morin, Director of the Sleep Research Center, Laval University, Quebec City, told Reuters Health.

Over 3 years, Morin and colleagues studied the natural history of insomnia in 388 people with varying degrees of insomnia at the start of the study.

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Studies link heart, diabetes risks with dementia

Diabetes • • Heart • • Psychiatry / PsychologyMar 10 09

Taking steps to stave off diabetes and heart disease may improve a person’s chances of staying mentally sharp later in life, several research teams said on Monday.

In one study, U.S. researchers found the same cluster of metabolic disorders that raise a woman’s risk for heart disease and diabetes also increase her chances of memory declines later in life.

A second study found that a history of diabetes and high cholesterol hasten the rate of mental declines in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Some older men may safely stop PSA testing

Urine ProblemsMar 09 09

Men who are 75-80 years old and have a low prostate specific antigen (PSA) level—that is, less than less than 3 nanograms per milliliter—are unlikely to develop life-threatening prostate cancer during their remaining life span, according to newly reported findings.

“Therefore, these men may represent an ideal target group for discontinuation of PSA testing,” Dr. Edward M. Schaeffer and colleagues conclude in the Journal of Urology.

Such a strategy, they continue, “could dramatically reduce the costs associated with screening,” as well as cutting the risks of the potential complications from “additional evaluations and/or treatment in a population unlikely to experience benefit.”

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Ecstasy could help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

Psychiatry / PsychologyMar 09 09

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (March 9th, 2009) – Ecstasy may help suffers of post-traumatic stress learn to deal with their memories more effectively by encouraging a feeling of safety, according to an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology published today by SAGE.

Studies have shown that a type of psychological treatment called exposure therapy – where the patient repeatedly recalls the traumatic experience or is repeatedly exposed to situations that are safe but still trigger their traumatic feelings – can be effective in relieving stress responses in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxious conditions. The therapy works by helping the patient to re-learn the appropriate response to the trigger situation, a process known as extinction learning.

But this approach can take some time, and 40% of patients continue to experience post-traumatic stress even after their treatment. To improve outcomes, scientists have been investigating the use of drug therapies to enhance the effect of exposure therapy, making the result of exposure to the fear trigger easier, faster, and more effective. MDMA (the pharmaceutical version of Ecstasy) is one such drug.

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Peer-to-peer heart monitoring

HeartMar 09 09

The possibility of remote monitoring for chronically ill patients will soon become a reality. Now, researchers in South Africa and Australia have devised a decentralized system to avoid medical data overload. They describe the peer-to-peer system in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology.

People with a range of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems can benefit from advances in monitoring technology. Such devices could send data on a person’s symptoms directly to a centralized computer server at their health center. This would allow healthcare workers to take appropriate action, whether in an emergency or simply to boost or reduce medication in response to changes in the patient’s symptoms.

However, as tele-monitoring is set to become widespread, there will inevitably be an issue of data overload with which a centralized computer will not be able to cope. Computer scientists Hanh Le, Nina Schiff, and Johan du Plessis at the University of Cape Town, working with Doan Hoang at the University of Technology, Sydney, suggest a decentralized approach.

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Stress tied to substance use among veterinarians

StressMar 06 09

High job stress may cause some veterinarians to turn to heavy drinking, smoking or medication to cope, a German study indicates.

In a survey of more than 2,000 veterinarians in Germany, the researchers found that 8 percent reported intense psychosocial stress, while another 45 percent said they had intermediate stress.

The team found that those under heavy stress were more likely than their counterparts to binge-drink or regularly use medications like painkillers and sedatives.

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Severe Cases of Psoriasis Can be Associated with Other Serious Medical Conditions

Skin CareMar 06 09

On the surface, the thick, red, scaly, itchy plaques of psoriasis – which have been shown to have a significant negative impact on a person’s overall quality of life – may not appear to pose a serious health risk for patients. However, a growing body of research suggests that psoriasis patients are at an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, particularly when their psoriasis is severe.

Speaking today at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), dermatologist Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, spoke about this complex skin condition and its relationship to other serious medical conditions.

Dr. Gelfand explained that for the last two decades, research has shown that excessive inflammation is a critical feature of psoriasis. This discovery has led to innovative approaches to treating psoriasis, with therapies targeting selected areas of the immune system that are over-active in psoriasis patients. Excess inflammation also is present in other common conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, heart attacks, stroke, obesity and diabetes – which may explain why some psoriasis patients may be at an increased risk for developing these other serious conditions.

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New Research Finds Six Factors Predictive of Melanoma Risk

Cancer • • Skin cancerMar 06 09

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is a health risk that accounts for more than 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Looking at this sobering statistic another way, it is estimated that one American dies from melanoma almost every hour (every 62 minutes). While those at higher risk of developing melanoma typically have included fair-skinned individuals who sunburn but don’t tan easily and have a history of sunburns, new research has identified other factors that could increase a person’s risk of melanoma.

Speaking today at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), dermatologist Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center (NYU) in New York, presented new research which identifies six factors that independently predicted melanoma risk in 600 people.

“Since we haven’t identified the gene responsible for melanoma yet, we can’t screen people with this gene who we know would be at risk for melanoma,” said Dr. Rigel. “Similar to how those with the known BRCA2 gene are carefully screened for breast cancer, we hope to one day be able to screen people that carry the melanoma gene. Until then, we have to rely on indirect measures or risk factors that we know are common to people who develop melanoma to try to educate those individuals to get regular skin exams by their dermatologist.”

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Heartbreaker: a bad marriage raises cardiac risk

HeartMar 05 09

Women in strained marriages are more likely than other wives to have high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Researchers at the University of Utah studied more than 300 middle-aged and older couples who had been married more than 20 years. Each couple answered questionnaires about their relationship and mental state and took lab tests.

They found women in marriages with high levels of strife were more prone to depression and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms such a thick waist, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and abnormal blood sugar that significantly raise the risk of heart disease.

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Body Clocks Take a Hit This Weekend with Daylight-Saving Time

Public HealthMar 05 09

Tick Tock. It’s that time of year. Daylight-saving time begins at 2 a.m. this Sunday.

Officially, it’s when clocks indeed spring forward, converting CST (Central Standard Time) into CDT (Central Daylight Time).

With it comes the delightful delusion that each day offers an extra hour of sunlight, a chance to get home and get a few things done before the sun sets.

“It sounds good, but it is really hard on children,” said Richard Castriotta, M.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “The time change is even hard on parents. Moms and Dads will have to wake up children while it is still dark outside, plus, they will have to try and get their children to go to sleep when the sun is still up.”

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Incidental Findings in Trauma Patients Spark Concerns for Physicians

TraumaMar 04 09

Nearly one-fifth of trauma patients who undergo CT evaluation have incidental findings, according to a study performed by Columbus Radiology Corp. at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, OH.

Incidental findings during trauma evaluation are a growing concern for physicians in regards to the diagnosis and management of those findings. The study showed that 230 out of 1,256 patients (18.3%) who underwent CT of the cervical spine during an initial trauma evaluation had incidental findings. The incidental findings were stratified as trauma related and not trauma related. Results showed that incidental findings were associated with age, injury severity score and mechanism of injury.

“There are a lot of CT scans performed and as technology has advanced we are beginning to image more and more anatomy. With that we are identifying more incidental findings,” said Shella Farooki, MD, lead author of the study. “Our study found that patients who were older and had a higher injury severity score were more likely to have incidental findings. Additionally, injuries related to falls vs. motor accidents had a higher percentage of incidental findings,” she said.

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Scientists Find Gene That Modifies Severity of Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease

Genetics • • Respiratory ProblemsMar 04 09

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and colleagues, have identified a gene that modifies the severity of lung disease in people with cystic fibrosis, a lethal genetic condition. The findings open the door to possible new targets for treatment, researchers say.

The study appeared online last week in advance of print publication in Nature. It is the first published study to search the entire genome looking for genes that modify the severity of cystic fibrosis lung disease.

“This is a good example of researchers with different expertise coming together and using the knowledge gained from mapping the human genome to make discoveries that improve our understanding of cystic fibrosis,” said Carl Langefeld, Ph.D., a study co-author and Wake Forest University School of Medicine researcher. “It may also help in the identification of targets for drug development and the development of tools for the earlier diagnosis of individuals with cystic fibrosis who are susceptible to severe lung disease.”

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Studies confirm weight-loss surgery beats diabetes

Diabetes • • Weight LossMar 03 09

The most common form of diabetes disappears in most obese diabetics after weight-loss surgery, researchers said on Tuesday in a study that strongly affirmed the benefits of the operations.

The researchers combined data from 621 studies worldwide with 135,246 patients and found that 78 percent of obese diabetics returned to normal blood sugar levels and had no symptoms of diabetes following weight-loss operations, also known as bariatric surgery.

Another 8 percent saw their diabetes symptoms improve, although the disease was not eliminated.

“This is the most comprehensive study of the effect of bariatric surgery on type 2 diabetes. It includes every major paper that’s been written in this field,” Dr. Henry Buchwald of the University of Minnesota, who led the research published in the American Journal of Medicine, said in a telephone interview.

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Couch potato kids risk developing asthma

AsthmaMar 03 09

Young children who watch TV for more than 2 hours a day run the risk of developing asthma before their 12th birthday, according to a study of more than 3,000 kids whose health and habits were tracked from birth.

“In children who had no wheezing symptoms up to age 3.5 years, those who reported watching TV for more than 2 hours per day were almost twice as likely to have asthma by age 11.5 years as those watching TV for 1 to 2 hours per day,” Dr. Andrea Sherriff told Reuters Health.

The amount of time spent in front of the TV was used as a measure for sedentary behavior because personal computers and video game consoles were not in widespread use at the time the study was conducted in the mid-1990s, explained Sherriff, who is at the University of Glasgow, UK.

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Better Tests Needed to Pinpoint Memory Problems

Brain • • NeurologyMar 03 09

There’s a lot more to memory than the ability to remember a story, who the President is, or what you ate for lunch.

Do you recall who told you the story? How about whether you heard it before or after the President’s inauguration? Do you remember that you planned to meet a friend for lunch tomorrow?

According to new research by scientists at Washington State University (WSU), aspects of memory that record the source of information and the relative timing of events are at least as important to our everyday functioning as the ability to recall specific content.

“These other aspects of memory may actually have greater contributions to what people are reporting in their everyday lives as causing problems,” said Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe, a WSU psychologist and leader of the study.

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