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Health Highlights: May 6, 2008

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

Middle-Aged Mothers Most Stressed: Survey

Mothers ages 35 to 54 trying to balance child and parental care are more stressed than any other group, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. While nearly two in five women and men in this age group report high levels of stress, more women than men said they're suffering extreme stress and manage their stress poorly.

The 2007 Stress in America survey found that almost 40 percent of female and male respondents ages 35 to 54 report extreme levels of stress, compared to 29 percent of those ages 18 to 34 and 25 percent of those older than 55, United Press International reported.

"It's not surprising that so many people in that age group are experiencing stress," Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice at the APA, said in a prepared statement.

"The worry of your parents' health and your children's well-being as well as the financial concern of putting kids through college and saving for your own retirement is a lot to handle," Nordal said, UPI reported.

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Cardinal Health Mouthwash Recalled

Cardinal Health-brand alcohol-free mouthwash is being recalled due to possible contamination with Burkholderia cepacia bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Although it poses little risk to healthy people, people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases may be more susceptible to B. cepacia infections, the FDA said.

The recall includes four-ounce bottles with the lot code 26228 stamped on the Cardinal Health label on the side of the bottle, United Press International reported.

The mouthwash was distributed to hospitals, medical centers and long-term care facilities across the United States and can also be found in certain Personal Hygiene Hospital Admission kits. The mouthwash was made by Hydrox Labs of Elgin, Ill., and distributed by Cardinal Health Inc. of Dublin, Ohio.

The FDA said consumers who've received the mouthwash from a health care provider should check the lot number, UPI reported. If it's a recalled bottle, contact the company for instructions at 800-292-9332.

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Flu Pandemic Threat Still Strong

The threat of a flu pandemic remains strong, and nations must hasten preparations to deal with a global outbreak, experts warned Tuesday at a meeting to update the World Health Organization's pandemic influenza preparedness plan.

"We can't delude ourselves. The threat of a pandemic influenza has not diminished," Keiji Fukuda, coordinator of the WHO's Global Influenza Program, said at the meeting, the Associated Press reported.

More than 150 countries have some form of national preparedness plan, but some of those are just a piece of paper than acknowledges the risk of a global pandemic, said Fukuda, who added that all levels of society need to be involved in the preparations and that all people need to know where to go for information.

"If somebody is sick in the family, for example, and it's difficult to get to hospital, they need to know what sort of advice might be available," Fukuda told the AP.

While most human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been caused by direct contact with infected birds, experts fear the virus may mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between people.

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Treatable Ailments Kill Nearly 10 Million Children Each Year

An estimated 9.7 million children worldwide under the age of 5 die each year from easily preventable or treatable health problems such as pneumonia and diarrhea, says a report released by the U.S.-based charity Save the Children.

Most of the deaths occur in developing nations, and poor children are twice as likely to die as rich children, the Associated Press reported.

Save the Children ranked 146 countries based on well-being for mothers and children. Sweden, Norway and Iceland were at the top of the list, while Nigeria was last. Eight of the 10 bottom-ranked countries were in sub-Saharan Africa, where four out of five mothers are likely to experience the death of a child.

The group said 30 percent of mothers and children in developing countries don't receive basic health interventions, such as prenatal care, skilled assistance during birth, immunizations and treatment for pneumonia and diarrhea, the AP reported.

More than six million of the 9.7 million children's deaths each year could be prevented using existing, low-cost tools and knowledge, Save the Children said.

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Restaurant Tobacco Bans May Prevent Teen Smoking

Total cigarette bans in restaurants may help prevent teen smoking, suggests a Massachusetts study that included 2,791 teens, ages 12 to 17, who were followed for four years.

Teens who lived in towns with strict restaurant smoking bans were 40 percent less likely to become regular smokers than teens in towns with no bans or weak bans (smoking allowed in designated areas), the study found.

Overall, about nine percent of the teens became smokers. The rate in towns without bans or with weak bans was 10 percent, compared to eight percent in towns with strict smoking bans, the Associated Press reported.

Along with reducing teens' exposure to smokers, smoking bans send teens the message that smoking is socially unacceptable, said study lead author Dr. Michael Siegel, of Boston University's School of Public Health.

"When kids grow up in an environment where they don't see smoking, they are going to think it's not socially acceptable. If they perceive a lot of other people are smoking, they think it's the norm," Siegel told the AP.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Depression Risk in Elderly

Elderly people with low levels of vitamin D may be at increased risk for depression and other mental health disorders, Dutch researchers say.

Of the 1,282 people, ages 65 to 92, in the study, 26 had major depression and 169 had minor depression. Vitamin D levels were 14 percent lower in those with major or minor depression, Agence France-Presse reported.

The researchers also found that low vitamin D levels were associated with increased levels of a hormone secreted by the parathyroid gland. Overactive parathyroid glands are often linked with depression.

The findings, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, may help lead to new ways to treat depression, AFP reported. Both low vitamin D levels and high parathyroid hormone levels can be corrected by dietary and calcium supplements or increased exposure to sunlight, which prompts the body to make vitamin D.

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Insulin Pumps Linked to Deaths, Injuries Among Young People

Between 1996 and 2005, there were 13 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries reported among young people using insulin pumps to treat type 1 diabetes, says a U.S. Food and Drug Administration study. The pumps offer an alternative to multiple daily injections of insulin by syringe.

The researchers didn't advise against the use of the pumps, but called for more safety studies of the popular devices and urged parents to be vigilant in monitoring their children's use of the pumps, the Associated Press reported.

In some cases, the insulin pumps malfunctioned, and in other cases users were careless or took risks, according to the study of young people, aged 12 to 21. The findings are published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Parental oversight and involvement are important. Certainly teenagers don't always consider the consequences," said lead author Dr. Judith Cope, the AP reported.

For example, some teens didn't know how to use the pumps correctly, while others didn't take care of the pumps or dropped them, the study found.

Posted: May 2008


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