Research from Boston University suggests that a few cups of tea each day might be helpful in preventing heart attacks. A number of previous studies have indicated that tea drinkers are not as likely to have a heart attack, but this study points to a possible reason.The researchers found that blood vessels were quicker to relax during stressful periods in people who drink tea, allowing for better circulation and therefore decreasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.1
1. Associated Press, November 13, 2000, reporting on work by Dr. Joseph A. Vita.
Exercise Can Be Risky, but Not As Much As Avoiding It
A 12-year study of physicians and exercise concludes that vigorous exercise can dramatically increase the chance of a person having a heart attack. However, this applies mostly to people who do not work out often. The study finds that sedentary people are seven times as likely to die suddenly after working up a sweat than those who work out five times per week.2 The researchers conclude that the long-term benefits clearly outweigh the risks of instituting a well-designed exercise program.
2. New England Journal of Medicine, November 9, 2000.
Parkinson's from Pesticides
A study of rats by Emory University in Atlanta3 indicates a possible link between the pesticide Rotenone and Parkinson's disease. About half of the animals in the study began to exhibit symptoms of the disease during the five-week exposure. The researchers say that large numbers of dopamine-producing cells were destroyed in the rats, and that fibrous protein deposits (resembling the Lewy bodies found in Parkinson patients) were present. A study at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry4 found Parkinson-like changes when using a mixture of paraquat and maneb in mice. How pesticides create these changes is not understood.
3. Nature Neuroscience, December 2000.
4. Journal of Neuroscience, December 15, 2000.
Teenagers who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day are five times more likely to suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder and/or agoraphobia, concludes a study by researchers from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. They were also 12 times more likely to have a panic disorder during early adulthood. The researchers say that their data indicate that smoking itself leads to the anxious states, not that the individuals sought relief from anxiety by smoking. The study examined 976 randomly sampled families in upstate New York.5
5. Journal of the American Medical Association, November 8, 2000.
A study from the University of California-Berkeley concludes that people who play contract bridge have a better immune system. Blood samples show elevated levels of CD-4 positive T cells after a bridge game in this small study of elderly women. The researchers think that brain activity that involves memory and planning, particularly in the dorsolateral cortex, somehow influences and stimulates the immune system.6
6. Research presented to the Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans, November 8, 2000, by professor Marian Cleves Diamond.
A review of low-dose aspirin studies published in the British Medical Journal7 concludes that the risk of gastrointestinal hemorrhage still remains. It had been hoped that cutting the dosage would eliminate, or at least minimize this side effect, but this paper found that stomach bleeding still occurred nearly twice as often compared to patients taking placebos. This research reviewed 24 other works involving 66,000 patients.
7. BMJ, November 11, 2000.
Eight brands of Chinese herbs are being recalled by two California companies after the FDA detected contamination by aristolochic acid, a compound that can inflict serious kidney damage.8 The FDA had stopped imports of herbs in the aristolochia family after incidents of kidney failure were reported in Britain and Belgium. The recalled products are:
Lotus brand (1-877-665-6884):
- mu tong, lot number SL04461, expiration date 09/2004.
- fang ji, lot number SW12261, expiration date 12/2004.
QualiHerb brand (1-800-533-5907):
- ba zheng san, or dianthus formula, item No. 20209.
- fang ji huang qi tang, or stephania and astragalus combination, item No. 20711.
- chuan mu tong, or clematis armandi, item No. 10424 A.
- wei ling xian, or clematis, item No. 12401.
- han fang ji, or stephania tetrandra, item No. 10731.
- ma dou ling, or aristolochia, item No. 11052.
8. Associated Press, January 4, 2001.
Exercise Damaged Hearts
Research from the University of Texas School of Public Health concludes that after a heart attack, active people are less likely to suffer from a second episode. According to data from 406 heart attack patients, those that were moderately active after their cardiac rehabilitation (activities ranging from gardening to jogging) had 60 percent fewer repeat episodes. Patients that increased their activity level over pre-heart attack levels did even better, decreasing their risk by 78 percent. The study followed patients over a five-year period.9
9. Circulation, November 2000.
Did you think doctors prescribed a lot of antibiotics to their patients? Farmers give their animals eight times as many as the average person gets in the United States, according to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The practice, which spurs livestock growth, is seen as contributing greatly to the problem of antibiotic resistance that has many health officials very worried.10
10. Reuters, January 8, 2001.
Medicare Data Disclosure
The Department of Health and Human Services is considering changes in peer review regulations that would allow patients to get information on the quality of their treatment. Currently, peer review procedures are in place to determine if patients are getting treatment that meets certain standards of care, and while patients can request information about their cases, their physicians can block access to anything that might suggest a judgement error or other medical mistake had been made. Proposals have been made to give patients access to such information, though opponents suggest it will hurt the peer review system. HHS is seeking public input on the matter.11
11. Associated Press, January 2, 2001.
A survey of almost 600 doctors and other health care participants in Wales reveals that nearly half have serious concerns about giving the routine second dose of MMR vaccine to children. The official medical party line is that there is no hard evidence of serious side effects such as autism or bowel disease from the vaccine; however, this report shows that many people are highly suspicious. The survey was done at the North West Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre in Wales.12
12. BMJ, January 13, 2001.
A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine13 reaches some very interesting conclusions. According to this study of hospital-acquired staphylococcus infections of the bloodstream, 80 percent of the patients were infected with strains that were normally resident in their upper respiratory systems, not necessarily transmitted from other sick patients. One might wonder what it is about a hospital environment that would make a patient susceptible to infection by organisms that normally reside harmlessly in a person's body, though the thrust of this paper seemed to be the need to find a way to sterilize patients during their stay.
13. NEJM, January 4, 2001.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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