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Health Highlights: June 27, 2008

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

Working While Tired May Harm Heart

Doing mental or physical work while fatigued may lead to hypertension and heart disease, suggests a U.S. study.

It included 80 volunteers who were told they could win a prize by memorizing, in two minutes, a number of meaningless three-letter sequences. Their blood pressure and heart rate were monitored while they tried to memorize the information. Those with moderate fatigue showed stronger blood pressure increases than those with low fatigue, United Press International reported.

The study appears in the July issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers said their findings support a theory that a fatigued person's cardiovascular system has to work harder when trying to complete tasks, UPI reported.

"Individuals who experience chronically exaggerated cardiovascular responses are believed to be at greater health risk than individuals who do not. Thus, the implication is that chronic fatigue may pose a health risk under some performance conditions," said study leader Rex Wright.


DNA Repair Capacity Affects Lung Cancer Risk in Non-smokers

A lack of DNA repair capacity may be a cause of lung cancers that occur in non-smokers, say researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. About 15 percent of lung cancers occur in non-smokers.

The researchers found that non-smokers with less efficient DNA repair ability were almost twice as likely to develop lung cancer, compared to non-smokers with normal DNA repair capacity, United Press International reported.

Non-smokers with the lowest DNA repair capacity were more than three times more likely than average to develop lung cancer.

"Our findings demonstrate that suboptimal DNA repair capacity together with secondhand smoke exposure are strong lung cancer risk factors in lifetime never smokers," UPI quoted lead author Olga Gorlova as saying in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.


Unsafe Water Causes Many Diseases, Deaths: WHO

More than 9 percent of diseases and 6 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by unsafe water, says a World Health Organization report released Thursday. Dengue fever and diarrhea are among the diseases that can be transmitted via water.

Developing countries are disproportionately affected by water-related health problems. For example, unsafe water causes less than 1 percent of deaths in developed countries, compared with an average of 8 percent in developing countries, Agence France Presse reported.

Death rates in certain poor countries can be much higher, such as 24 percent in Angola.

"In the 35 most affected countries, over 15 percent of diseases could easily be prevented by improved water, sanitation, and hygiene," said report author Annette-Pruss-Ustun, AFP reported.


Low-Fat Milk May Benefit Kidney/Heart Health

Low-fat milk may offer protection against poor kidney function linked to heart disease, according to American and Norwegian researchers.

They measured the kidney function of more than 5,000 adults, ages 45 to 84, and found that those who consumed at least one serving of low-fat milk or milk products a day were 37 percent less likely than those who had little or no low-fat milk to have poor kidney function related to heart disease, United Press International reported.

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

The authors noted that previous research suggests that milk protein, vitamin D, and magnesium may contribute to milk's potential heart health benefits, UPI reported.


Maker of Anti-Flu Drug Seeks Corporate Stockpiling

The maker of the anti-flu drug Tamiflu has begun a program to encourage company stockpiling of the drug -- for an annual fee.

The plan announced Thursday by Roche Holding AG coincided with an effort by the U.S. government to begin encouraging corporate stockpiling of anti-flu drugs, since government reserves wouldn't include enough medication to treat every person in the United States in the event of a widespread flu outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

Experts have long warned that the virulent strain of bird flu that has been largely confined to Asian fowl over the past several years could mutate into a form that's more easily passed from animal-to-person and person-to-person, sparking a human flu pandemic.

Roche's plan includes provisions to substitute new supplies when older doses of Tamiflu expire, the wire service said.

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Posted: June 2008

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