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Health Highlights: Jan. 27, 2011

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

Drug Addiction, Dependency Common Among Wounded Soldiers: Report

Many of the 10,000 U.S. soldiers in special wounded-care companies or battalions are drug addicted or dependent, according to a report released Tuesday by the Army inspector general.

According to the document, most case managers and nurses interviewed by investigators said 25 percent to 35 percent of soldiers in the Warrior Transition Units "are over-medicated, abuse prescriptions and have access to illegal drugs," USA Today reported.

Prescription narcotic pain reliever addiction or dependency is a major issue.

The findings were called into question by Army Col Darryl Williams, commander of Warrior Transition Units. He said the estimates of drug addictions and dependency are not statistically valid since they're based on estimates from the nurses and case workers, USA Today reported.


College Students' Emotional Health Declining: Survey

The pressures of high school and the effects of the recession have pushed the emotional health of U.S. college freshmen to its lowest point since an annual survey began looking at the issue 25 years ago.

"The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010" survey of more than 200,000 incoming full-time college students found an increase in the percentage of students who said their emotional health was below average. The percentage of students who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent, compared with 64 percent in 1985. The New York Times reported.

The proportion of students who said they were frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do during their senior year of high school rose to 29 percent from 27 percent the previous year. There was a large gender gap in this area, with 18 percent of males and 39 percent of females feeling frequently overwhelmed in their final year of high school.

The study also indicated that the poor economy is causing stress for college freshmen. Due to family money problems, more students are having to get loans to finance their education. Students are having more trouble finding summer jobs, and are worried about their college debt and job prospects when they graduate, The Times reported.


Trans Fats May Boost Depression Risk: Study

People who eat foods with trans fats may be at increased risk for depression, according to a new study.

Spanish researchers tracked 12,059 people for six years and found that those who ate the most trans fats were 48 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not consume trans fats, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Participants with a high intake of healthier polyunsaturated fats - found in olive oil, for example -- were less likely to develop depression.

The researchers noted that many people with heart disease also have depression and it's possible that trans fats contribute to both conditions by causing inflammation in the body, the Times reported.

The study appears in the journal PLoS One.


Cognitive Disorders Affect Five Percent of U.S. Seniors: Report

Just over five percent of seniors in the United States report one or more cognitive disorder, such as senility or dementia, says a federal government report.

The analysis of data from the nearly 39 million Americans who were age 65 and older in 2007 also found that those age 85 and older were most likely to report one or more cognitive disorder (18.4 percent), compared to those ages 75 to 84 (6 percent) and those ages 65 to 74 (1.1 percent).

One or more cognitive disorders were more likely to be reported by seniors with less than a high school education (8.6 percent) than those who completed high school (4.9 percent) or those with more than a high school education (2.7 percent), said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The report also said that one or more cognitive disorders were reported by:

  • Nearly 8 percent of poor seniors and 4.1 percent of middle- and high-income seniors.
  • Nearly 11 percent of seniors with both Medicare and another type of supplemental public insurance, 5 percent of seniors with Medicare only, and 4.1 percent of seniors with Medicare and supplemental private insurance.

Average yearly health expenses were $15,549 for seniors who reported one or more cognitive disorders and $9,019 for seniors without a cognitive disorder.


Winter Storms Lead to Depleted Blood Supply: Red Cross

The American Red Cross is appealing for blood donors to help restore its blood supply, which has been depleted after severe weather in much of the eastern United States in recent weeks caused the cancellation of more than 14,000 blood and platelet donations.

The impact of the storms on the national inventory management system -- which moves blood products to where they're most needed -- has been huge. The Red Cross said it has been 10 years since its blood supply dropped this dramatically at this time of year.

More winter weather and a possible coastal storm are being forecast.

"Maintaining sufficient blood to meet patient needs is a delicate balance between supply and demand," Chief Medical Officer Richard Benjamin said in a Red Cross news release. "When severe weather disrupts that balance, the Red Cross puts out a call to potential blood donors across the country to give blood as soon as possible and help make up the deficit."

All eligible donors in areas unaffected by winter storms are asked to make an appointment to give blood or platelets within the coming days, while those in affected areas are asked to donate when it is safe to travel.


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Posted: January 2011