Health Highlights: May 7, 2008

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

Too Much, Too Little Sleep Not Good for Health: Study

People who sleep fewer than six hours a night -- or more than nine -- are more likely to be obese, have higher smoking rates, drink more alcohol, and be physically inactive, according to a U.S. government report released Wednesday.

The findings were based on door-to-door surveys of 87,000 adults from 2004 through 2006, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The study did not account for contributing factors such as depression, which has been shown to influence heavy eating, smoking, sleeplessness and other problems, according to the Associated Press.

About 33 percent of those who slept less than six hours were obese. Of those who slept nine hours or more, the rate of obesity was 26 percent, with normal sleepers being the thinnest at 22 percent, the AP reported.

Smoking rates were highest -- at 31 percent -- for those who got less than six hours of sleep, compared with respondents who got nine or more hours, at 26 percent.

Alcohol consumption was greatest for those who slept the least, but use rates for those sleeping seven to eight hours and those getting nine hours were similar. And almost half who slept nine hours or more were physically inactive in their leisure time, worse than the lightest sleepers and proper sleepers, the news service said.

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Ischemic Stroke Hospitalization Rate Decreases

Between 1997 and 2005, the rate of hospitalizations for ischemic stroke in the United States decreased by one third, according to the latest News and Numbers from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.

In 2005, 36 of every 10,000 Americans age 45 and older were hospitalized for ischemic stroke, compared to 54 of every 10,000 in 1997. During that same period of time, hospitalizations for hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain) remained fairly stable, ranging from nine to 11 for every 10,000 Americans.

The report also said that in 2005:

  • Six percent of patients with ischemic stroke died while in hospital, compared with 25 percent of hemorrhagic stroke patients.
  • The percentage of hospitalized patients transferred to rehabilitation facilities or nursing homes varied by condition: 44 percent of patients with ischemic stroke; 37 percent of those with hemorrhagic stroke; 13 percent of those with mini-strokes (which involve shorter-lasting stroke symptoms but are often precursors to strokes); and five percent of patients with blocked or narrowed arteries, which can lead to strokes.
  • While stroke was most common in older people, one in 10 hemorrhagic stroke patients admitted to hospital was younger than 45.

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Guideline Outlines Effective Smoking Cessation Treatments

Medication and counseling treatments proven effective for helping people quit smoking are outlined in an updated clinical practice guideline released Wednesday by the U.S. Public Health Service.

The update, developed by a panel of leading tobacco treatment experts who reviewed more than 8,700 studies published between 1975 and 2007, lists seven FDA-approved medications that dramatically increase the success of quitting: bupropion SR, nicotine gum, nicotine inhaler, nicotine lozenge, nicotine nasal spray, nicotine patch, and varenicline.

In addition, counseling by itself or especially in conjunction with medication can greatly increase the likelihood of quitting smoking, according to the update. Telephone quitlines are an especially effective form of counseling.

"I urge all clinicians to offer these effective treatments to smokers, no matter what their past success, and health care systems to make treatment a standard of care," update panel chair Dr. Michael Fiore, director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

"With nearly half a million Americans dying from tobacco-related illness each year, what we do with today's recommendations can help to dramatically reduce the estimated five million smokers who will die over the next decade if we don't help treat them," Dr. Ronald M. Davis, president of the American Medical Association, said in a prepared statement.

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U.S. Obstructing Heparin Inquiry: China

The United States is hindering China's inquiry into the tainted heparin blood thinner linked to 81 deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions, according to some Chinese experts, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it suspects the problem was caused by a contaminant in supplies of raw heparin from China. But the FDA needs to consider other possible factors, according to Jin Shaohong, a member of the drug evaluation committee of China's Food and Drug Administration.

"We need to resolve this in a scientific (manner), not just by blaming a contaminant. I think it is too early to say that," Shaohong said, the AP reported.

Shaohong and a colleague claimed the FDA and Baxter International refused to provide information that could determine whether drug interactions, patients' medical histories or safety issues after the raw heparin materials were shipped from China may have been factors.

FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley told the AP Tuesday that she couldn't recall Chinese officials asking for patients' medical histories.

"We've not received a request from China about patient records," Riley said.

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Children's Infectious Disease Spreading in China

The number of Chinese children infected with hand, foot and mouth disease now numbers more than 15,000, and the death toll has increased to at least 28 across the country, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The capital Beijing and the provinces of Anhui, Guangdong, Zhejiang are among the hardest-hit areas. Smaller outbreaks have been reported in the city of Chongqing and in the provinces of Hebei, Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, and Henan, Xinhua said, the Associated Press reported.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. However, most children with mild disease recover quickly without problems. Several viruses can cause the disease, but one called enterovirus 71 (EV-71) can result in a more serious form that can lead to paralysis, brain swelling or death, the AP reported.

In Vietnam, about 2,000 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease were reported in the first four months of the year, which is a 40 percent increase over the same period last year, the AP reported. Ten deaths from the disease have been reported in Vietnam during the first four months of this year.

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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.

Posted: May 2008


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