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Health Highlights: Aug. 12, 2008

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

Vitamin D Levels May Affect Chronic Pain in Women

Low levels of vitamin D may contribute to chronic pain in women, suggests a study that looked at 7,000 women and men in England, Scotland and Wales.

Higher rates of chronic pain were reported by smokers, non-drinkers, and overweight and underweight people. Among women, vitamin D levels also seemed to be a major factor, BBC News reported.

Women with vitamin D levels between 75 and 99 mmol/liter -- a range believed necessary for good bone health -- had the lowest rates of chronic pain (8 percent), while women with vitamin D levels less than 25 mmol/liter had the highest rates of chronic pain (14.4 percent).

No link between vitamin D and chronic pain was seen in men, which suggests female hormones may be a factor, said the researchers from the Institute of Child Health in London. They said further research is needed to determine if vitamin D supplements can protect women against chronic pain, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.


Botox Treatments Increase, Despite Slowing Economy

The economy may be in decline, but U.S. sales of Botox increased 13 percent to $316 million in the last quarter, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

A survey of members found that 40 percent of respondents said their current number of Botox procedures had increased compared to six months ago, and 28 percent of respondents said their current use of fillers increased up to 30 percent compared to six months ago, United Press International reported.

It's not surprising that demand for cosmetic procedures is increasing during tougher economic times, said one doctor.

"Despite what's going on in the economy, people are looking for ways to keep a youthful appearance not just for personal reasons but for their careers," Dr. Kimberly Finder, director of The Face Place in San Antonio, said in a news release, UPI reported. "Who wants to go to work or to an interview and look tired?


Oily Fish May Protect Against Eye Disease: Study

Regular consumption of oily fish may help protect against vision loss caused by wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), European researchers say.

They found that people who consumed the most (300 milligrams a day or more) of fish-based omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were 70 percent less likely to have wet AMD, United Press International reported.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"This is the first study in Europeans to show a beneficial association on wet age-related macular degeneration from the consumption of oily fish and is consistent with results from studies in the United States and Australia," study leader Astrid Fletcher, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a news release.

She noted that two, 3-ounce servings per week of oily fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel provide about 500 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day, UPI reported.


School Stress Leading Reason for Teen Drug Use: Survey

Coping with school-related stress and pressures is the main reason U.S. teens give for using drugs, according to a Partnership for a Drug-Free America survey that appears to confirm that drugs are increasingly used by teens as a way to solve problems rather than for fun.

The survey of 6,511 teens found that 73 percent reported school stress as the chief reason for drug use, United Press International reported. However, only seven percent of parents believe teens use drugs to cope with stress.

Overall use of marijuana, Ecstasy, inhalants, methamphetamine, alcohol and cigarettes has declined, according to the survey.

It also found that about 20 percent of teens have abused painkillers and other prescription medicines, and that 41 percent think prescription drug abuse is safer than illegal drug use, UPI reported.


Few U.S. Mothers Breast-feed For 6 Months

About 75 percent of new American mothers try breast-feeding, but many quit before their babies are 6 months old, says a Brigham Young University study that found only 36 percent of babies are breast-fed through six months.

The analysis of national data on more than 60,000 children found that mothers with higher levels of education and income were most likely to breast-feed for more than six months, The New York Times reported. Breast-feeding was also more likely to be done by married women, those in western states, Hispanic women and those born in other countries.

The likelihood of long-term breast-feeding decreased among women who were returning to work, smokers, and those living in the Northeast, said the study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Human Lactation.

It also found lower levels of long-term breast-feeding among low-income women who took part in the subsidized Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food, milk and formula to mothers and young children, the Times reported.

"Breast-feeding promotion programs encourage women to start but don't provide the support to continue," said study co-author Renata Forste.

Breast-feeding is recommended through the first year of life, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Posted: August 2008