Health Highlights: Feb. 25, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

NOAA Launches Seafood Web Site for Consumers

A new U.S. government Web site called FishWatch provides consumers with information about sustainable, safe and healthy seafood.

"Consumers are rightfully confused given all the misleading and conflicting information available to them, but FishWatch will help them become better educated and prepared seafood consumers," Conrad C. Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a prepared statement.

The site (FishWatch.noaa.gov) provides information on about 50 of the most commonly harvested and farmed seafood species available in the United States. There's also information about seafood and human health, including facts about mercury and tips on selecting, buying, storing and preparing seafood to ensure quality and safety.

Information on FishWatch comes from a variety of NOAA sources, including stock assessments, fisheries surveys, environmental analyses and cooperative research. The site was launched at the International Seafood Show in Boston.

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Patient Involvement in Care May Not Improve Outcome: Study

Patients with chronic health problems who play a major role in their medical treatment may have poorer outcomes than patients who defer to their doctors, suggests a U.S. study that tracked 189 hypertension patients for 12 months.

The University of Iowa study found that patients who were more highly involved in their care had higher blood pressure and cholesterol than passive patients, CBC News reported. The involved patients had an average blood pressure of 141 over 70 and low-density lipoprotein ("bad" cholesterol) levels of 122, compared with an average blood pressure of 137 over 72 and an LDL level of 92 for passive patients.

This may be because the more involved patients may have been less satisfied with the medicines prescribed by their doctors and therefore less likely to adhere to the drug regimen, said the authors of the study, published this week in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The researchers said the findings suggest that understanding patient preferences for treatment can help doctors tailor therapies to patients and increase the chance of success, CBC News reported.

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Friends Influence Children's Social Aggression

Friends have a strong influence on children's non-physical social aggression -- such as teasing, rumor-spreading and exclusion -- against peers, says a Canadian study that looked at 406 pairs of 7-year-old twins.

The researchers concluded that 77 percent of cases of social aggression among children are driven by friends or even adults, the Canadian Press reported. The findings appear in the journal Child Development.

"Children who hang out with socially aggressive friends seem to pick up this behavior even when they don't have a genetic predisposition to be socially aggressive," said lead author Mara Brendgen, a psychology professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

She said socially aggressive habits are easily picked up by children, so parents need to watch for signs of such behavior and to monitor their children's network of friends, the CP reported.

Social attacks tend to peak in early adolescence and can continue into adulthood, Brendgen said.

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Lifestyle Diseases Bigger Threat Than Terrorism: Experts

Terrorism is less of a global threat than obesity, diabetes and smoking-relating diseases, and governments need to devote more money and attention to these kinds of preventable lifestyle diseases, according to experts attending an international conference in Sydney, Australia.

"Ever since September 11, we've been lurching from one crisis to the next, which has really frightened the public," Lawrence Gostin, a prominent American professor of health law, told Agence France-Presse.

"While we've been focusing so much attention on that, we've had this silent epidemic of obesity that's killing millions of people around the world, and we've devoting very little attention to it and a negligible amount of money," said Gostin, a professor at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities and an advisor to the U.S. government.

Accrding to World Health Organization figures, about 388 million people will die from chronic disease worldwide over the next decade. The figures were quoted by the Oxford Health Alliance, which organized the conference, AFP reported.

When the conference ends Wednesday, delegates are expected to issue a resolution calling on governments, big business, and others to take action to prevent millions of premature deaths from chronic disease.

Among the recommended goals: less sugar, fat and salt in foods; affordable fresh food; increased efforts to reduce smoking; and planning changes that promote walking and cycling and reduce motor vehicle emissions.

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LSD Research May Help Lead to New Schizophrenia Treatments

The drug LSD affects many of the same brain pathways as schizophrenia and causes similar symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, say researchers who conducted experiments on mice, Agence France-Presse reported.

The findings may help lead to improved treatments for schizophrenia. Currently, there is no known cure for the disorder, which affects about one in 200 people.

The researchers, led by Stuart Sealfon of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that the drug had to act simultaneously on specific serotonin and glutamate receptors in order to produce schizophrenia-like symptoms in the mice, AFP reported.

When mice under the influence of LSD were given another drug that targeted only the glutamate receptor, the hallucinogenic effect of LSD was neutralized. This is an important discovery, in light of a the development of a new schizophrenia treatment that -- unlike any previous therapy -- acts only on the glutamate receptors, Sealfon said.

The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature.

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FEMA Agrees to Test Trailers for Formaldehyde Levels

People living in trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after hurricanes savaged the Gulf Coast in 2005 can file a request to get their units tested for formaldehyde contamination, the Associated Press reports.

This decision comes after results of testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that fumes from 519 trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi averaged about five times higher than levels found in most modern homes. In some trailers, the levels were nearly 40 times higher, prompting concerns that the residents could come down with breathing problems, the AP reported.

FEMA provided about 120,000 travel trailers to victims of the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2006, some occupants began reporting headaches and nosebleeds. The complaints were linked to formaldehyde, a colorless gas with a pungent smell used in the production of plywood and resins, according to the AP

FEMA announced late last week that it would allow free testing for anyone living in government-issued trailers associated with the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as people living in trailers associated with tornadoes, floods and other disasters during the past two years.

About 200 trailers and mobile homes would be tested each week, FEMA officials told the AP.

Posted: February 2008


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