Fears of measles epidemic as cases soar to 13-year high in wake of MMR scare

There have been more than 1,000 measles cases so far this year – putting Britain at risk of a deadly epidemic, health officials say.

The Health Protection Agency blamed unfounded fears about the combined MMR jab for the increase and urged parents to vaccinate their children.

In the first ten months of 2008, there were 1,049 confirmed cases in England and Wales – the highest level since the early 1990s.

A recent outbreak of more than 60 cases in Cheshire has prompted the launch of a programme to vaccinate 10,000 pupils.

The agency blamed the rise on a low uptake of the MMR jab over the past decade.

A panic among parents was triggered by researchers who claimed there was a link between the combined measles, mumps and rubella jab and autism. Most experts believe the jab is safe and effective.

Around three million children and teenagers are believed to be at risk of a measles epidemic because they missed one of two doses of vaccine, or are entirely unprotected.

The disease can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, and permanent brain damage, and may even be fatal.

HPA immunisation expert Dr Mary Ramsay said: 'Over the last few years, we have seen an unprecedented increase in measles cases and we are still receiving reports of cases across the country.

'This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully vaccinated with MMR.

'There is now a real risk of a measles epidemic. These children are susceptible to not only measles but to mumps and rubella as well.'

The NHS information centre said uptake rates of the triple jab remained at 85 per cent in 2007-2008, the same as the previous year. A rate of 95 per cent is needed for immunity in the community.

In August, the Chief Medical Officer announced an MMR catch-up programme to reduce the risk of a measles epidemic.

Primary Care Trusts and GPs were urged to identify individuals not up to date with their MMR injections and offer catch-up immunisation

The move was based on models of measles transmission in England carried out by the Agency, which suggested there was a real risk of a large measles outbreak of between approximately 30,000 to 100,000 cases - with the majority in London.

Dr Ramsay said: 'We are glad to see that public confidence in the MMR vaccine is now high, with more than eight out of 10 children receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday.

'But we shouldn't forget that the children who weren't vaccinated many years ago are at real risk.

'Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, even in healthy children. It is highly infectious - it can be passed on without direct contact before the rash appears.

'This is why it's incredibly important to continue to remind parents about the benefits of having their child vaccinated with two doses of MMR for optimum protection. It is never too late to get vaccinated.'

A mass vaccination is to take place in Cheshire in early December.

The parents of 10,000 children have been asked to give consent for the MMR vaccine after tests confirmed 19 cases in the region, with a further 49 youngsters being treated for 'probable' measles.

Most reported cases were in Sandbach, Middlewich and Crewe, but there have also been reports from Congleton, Nantwich and Winsford, Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust said.

Guy Hayhurst, consultant in public health at the trust, said: 'We identified 10,534 children who had no record of full MMR immunisation and wrote to their parents to seek consent for them to be vaccinated in school.

'We hope that by doing this we will halt the current outbreak in its tracks, or at least severely curtail it.'

Teams of nurses are being prepared to vaccinate children in 177 primary schools and 33 secondary schools. The vaccine will also be offered to younger school staff members.

The mass vaccination programme will begin on December 3 and is expected to be completed by December 17.

Nap Without Guilt: It Boosts Sophisticated Memory

WASHINGTON -- Just in time for the holidays, some medical advice most people will like: Take a nap.

Interrupting sleep seriously disrupts memory-making, compelling new research suggests. But on the flip side, taking a nap may boost a sophisticated kind of memory that helps us see the big picture and get creative.

"Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember," is how Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, put it at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last week.

Good sleep is a casualty of our 24/7 world. Surveys suggest few adults attain the recommended seven to eight hours a night.

Way too little clearly is dangerous: Sleep deprivation causes not just car crashes but all sorts of other accidents. Over time, a chronic lack of sleep can erode the body in ways that leave us more vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

But perhaps more common than insomnia is fragmented sleep _ the easy awakening that comes with aging, or, worse, the sleep apnea that afflicts millions, who quit breathing for 30 seconds or so over and over throughout the night.

Indeed, scientists increasingly are focusing less on sleep duration and more on the quality of sleep, what's called sleep intensity, in studying how sleep helps the brain process memories so they stick. Particularly important is "slow-wave sleep," a period of very deep sleep that comes earlier than better-known REM sleep, or dreaming time.

Fishbein suspected a more active role for the slow-wave sleep that can emerge even in a power nap. Maybe our brains keep working during that time to solve problems and come up with new ideas. So he and graduate student Hiuyan Lau devised a simple test: documenting relational memory, where the brain puts together separately learned facts in new ways.

First, they taught 20 English-speaking college students lists of Chinese words spelled with two characters _ such as sister, mother, maid. Then half the students took a nap, being monitored to be sure they didn't move from slow-wave sleep into the REM stage.

Upon awakening, they took a multiple-choice test of Chinese words they'd never seen before. The nappers did much better at automatically learning that the first of the two-pair characters in the words they'd memorized earlier always meant the same thing _ female, for example. So they also were more likely than non-nappers to choose that a new word containing that character meant "princess" and not "ape."

"The nap group has essentially teased out what's going on," Fishbein concludes.
These students took a 90-minute nap, quite a luxury for most adults. But even a 12-minute nap can boost some forms of memory, adds Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.
Conversely, Wisconsin researchers briefly interrupted nighttime slow-wave sleep by playing a beep _ just loudly enough to disturb sleep but not awaken _ and found those people couldn't remember a task they'd learned the day before as well as people whose slow-wave sleep wasn't disrupted.

That brings us back to fragmented sleep, whether from aging or apnea. It can suppress the birth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, where memory-making begins _ enough to hinder learning weeks after sleep returns to normal, warns Dr. Dennis McGinty of the University of California, Los Angeles.

To prove a lasting effect, McGinty mimicked human sleep apnea in rats. He hooked them to brain monitors and made them sleep on a treadmill. Whenever the monitors detected 30 seconds of sleep, the treadmill briefly switched on. After 12 days of this sleep disturbance, McGinty let the rats sleep peacefully for as long as they wanted for the next two weeks.

The catch-up sleep didn't help: Rested rats used room cues to quickly learn the escape hole in a maze. Those with fragmented sleep two weeks earlier couldn't, only randomly stumbling upon the escape.

None of the new work is enough, yet, to pinpoint the minimum sleep needed for optimal memory. What's needed may vary considerably from person to person.

"A short sleeper may have a very efficient deep sleep even if they sleep only four hours," notes Dr. Chiara Cirellia of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

But altogether, the findings do suggest some practical advice: Get apnea treated. Avoid what Harvard's Stickgold calls "sleep bulimia," super-late nights followed by sleep-in weekends. And don't feel guilty for napping.

Alzheimer’s Help From Lowly Blackcurrants

Bioactive compounds in blackcurrants could help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, according to Scottish food researchers. Work is in progress to find an economical way to develop the compounds for use as food ingredients.

A briefing paper released by the Scottish Crop Research Institute said the compounds are extracted from wastes produced when blackcurrants are processed. Blackcurrants, which are high in vitamin C and other beneficial phytochemicals, have demonstrated the potential to inhibit inflammation, which is suspected to be at the origin of Alzheimer’s disease.

Blackcurrants are native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia.

Wash Your Hands—Or Else!

By: Sylvia Booth Hubbard

Health officials constantly warn of the importance of good hygiene, including washing your hands frequently, to stop the spread of germs that cause flu and colds. Now you can add the risk of worms in your brain to the list of problems caused by dirty hands.

Rosemary Alvarez began experiencing numbness in her arm and blurred vision. A cat scan revealed nothing, but an MRI showed something very deep inside her brain. “Once we saw the MRI we realized this is something not good,” neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Nakaji told Phoenix’s Fox News. “It’s something down in her brain stem which is as deep in the brain as you can be.”

She was rushed into surgery where doctors expected to remove a brain tumor. What they found was a worm! Dr. Nakaji began laughing when he realized his patient didn’t have a life-threatening brain tumor. “I was so pleased to know that it wasn’t going to be something terrible,” he said.

The surgery was a success and doctors believe Ms Alvarez will have a complete recovery. How did she get the worm? Doctors said she could have gotten it from eating undercooked pork or from someone who handled food after not washing their hands after using the bathroom.

Experts note that one person with dirty hands could pass along a disease—or worms—to many people. Ms Alvarez has a few words of advice for others. “Wash your hands, wash your hands.”

Attending Religious Services Cuts Death Risk

A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent. The findings, published in Psychology and Health, were based on data drawn from participants who spanned numerous religious denominations. The research was conducted by Eliezer Schnall, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychology at Yeshiva College of Yeshiva University, and co-authored by Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein, as an ancillary study of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI is a national, long-term study aimed at addressing women’s health issues and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 post-menopausal women participating in the WHI. They examined the prospective association of religious affiliation, religious service attendance, and strength and comfort derived from religion with subsequent cardiovascular events and overall rates of mortality. Although the study showed as much as a 20 percent decrease in the overall risk of mortality for those attending religious services, it did not show any consistent change in rates of morbidity and death specifically related to cardiovascular disease, with no explanation readily evident.

The study adjusted for participation of individuals within communal organizations and group activities that promote a strong social life and enjoyable routines, behaviors known to lead to overall wellness. However, even after controlling for such behavior and other health-related factors, the improvements in morbidity and mortality rates exceeded expectations.

“Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Schnall, who was lead author of the study. “There is something here that we don’t quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results,” he added.

During WHI enrollment, study participants, aged 50 to79, were recruited on a voluntary basis from a variety of sources, from all over the nation. The women answered questions about baseline health conditions and religiosity and were followed by WHI researchers for an average of 7.7 years, with potential study outcomes of cardiovascular events and mortality adjudicated by trained physicians.

To evaluate the impact of religiosity on mortality and morbidity, the investigators looked at variables including self-report of religious affiliation, frequency of religious service attendance, and religious strength as well as comfort, in relation to coronary heart disease (CHD) and death. It is important to note that the study did not attempt to measure spirituality; rather, it examined self-report religiosity measures (irrespective of the participant’s religion). Participants answered three key questions at registration, regarding:

1) religious affiliation (yes or no);

2) how often services were attended (never, less than once per week, once per week, or more than once per week);

3) if religion provided strength and comfort (none, a little, a great deal).

Those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20 percent mortality risk reduction mark compared with those not attending services at all. These findings corroborate prior studies that have shown up to a 25 percent reduction in such risk.

The study investigators concluded that although religious behavior (as defined by the study’s criteria) is associated with a reduction in death rates among the study population, the physical relationships leading to that effect are not yet understood and require further investigation. “The next step is to figure out how the effect of religiosity is translated into biological mechanisms that affect rates of survival,” said Dr. Smoller. “However, we do not infer causation even from a prospective study, as that can only be done through a clinical trial.

She added, “There may be confounding factors that we can’t determine, such as a selection bias, which would lead people who are at reduced risk for an impending event to also be the ones who attend services.”

The investigators are considering doing an analysis of psychological profiles of women in the study to determine if such profiles can help to explain the apparent protective effects of attending religious services.

Saturated Fats Tied to Small Intestine Cancers

Diets high in saturated fat appear to increase the risk of cancer of the small intestine, a study shows.

The small intestine makes up 75 percent of the digestive tract, yet rarely do cancers develop there, more often showing up in the large intestine, or colon.

"Identifying modifiable risk factors for cancer of the small intestine is important not only because the incidence of this cancer is on the rise, but it may enable us to further understand other gastrointestinal malignancies," study chief Dr. Amanda J. Cross, from the National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, said in a statement.

Findings from several studies have linked consumption of red and processed meats with colon cancer, but the association with small intestine cancer has received relatively little attention and has not been examined in a "forward-looking" prospective study.

Using data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, the research team examined dietary associations with small intestine cancer in half a million men and women. Food frequency questionnaires were used to gauge meat and fat intake and the subjects were followed for up to 8 years for cancer.

During follow-up, 60 people developed adenocarcinomas and 80 developed gastric carcinoid tumors -- a rare type of stomach cancer.

No statistically significant association between red or processed meat intake and small intestine malignancies was seen, the investigators report.

Saturated fat intake, on the other hand, was positively associated with the development of carcinoid tumors. Relative to people with the lowest intake of saturated fat, those with the highest intake had a 3.18-fold increased risk of carcinoid tumors.

SOURCE: Cancer Research, November 15, 2008.

Vampire lesbian killers allowed jail sex

SADISTIC murderers Jessica Stasinowsky and Valerie Parashumti are being allowed to continue their lesbian love affair behind bars, despite the sentencing judge demanding that they be kept apart.

Prison insiders say the cold-hearted killers - sentenced to life in jail over the brutal murder of Stacey Mitchell, 16 - are free to kiss, hug and have had a sex romp in jail.

Parashumti, once part of a blood-drinking, vampire sub-culture, was reprimanded for sharpening chicken bones into makeshift weapons, while the pair requested raw meat to eat, sources claim.

Authorities refused to comment on the claims, but confirmed the couple are allowed physical contact.

WA Corrections Minister Christian Porter launched an urgent investigation, after media inquiries about the pair's conduct. Mr Porter said he would consider moving one of them to another jail.

Insiders said Stasinowsky, 21, and Parashumti, 20, are housed in separate units at Bandyup, but have constant access to each other during recreation times. This gives the women at least seven hours a day together on weekends and 90 minutes on weekdays.

"They spend a tremendous amount of time together,'' a former inmate told The Sunday Times this week.

"They're feeding off each other,'' said the woman, who did not want her name published. "Their relationship will not end while they are in Bandyup together.

"The officers know what they are up to. But at the end of the day, when you have so many prisoners and you only have so many officers, it's hard to control what prisoner is doing what...They just get away with it.''

Prison authorities have allowed the toxic relationship to continue despite Judge Peter Blaxell recommended that the pair be segregated.

Bikers Risk Urinary Problems!

  • Kate Benson
  • November 23, 2008

SUFFER in your jocks, bikers. Yes, that means you, you wussy Hell's Angel. And you, Bandido boy. The secret's out. You aren't just overweight, smelly, middle-aged drug dealers with more tattoos than teeth. You are soft in the pants department - and quite probably bedwetters, as well.

And guess what? These afflictions are caused by riding motorcycles.

That's right, a new study has found that men who ride them risk impotence and urinary problems because the engine vibration damages nerves in their penises.

A survey of more than 230 motorcyclists who ride for about three hours every weekend found that almost 70 per cent had problems getting an erection or emptying their bladders.

The news is alarming for Victorian men who have turned to motorcycles and scooters in the past few years to beat rising fuel prices and growing traffic congestion.

Doctors in Japan, who published two studies on the dangers in the Inter-national Journal of Impotence Research, said most motorcycle seats put undue pressure on the area between the anus and the scrotum, cutting blood flow to the penis.

Vibrations from the engine also caused a decrease in two growth hormones in the bladder and prostate related to bladder relaxation.

Impotence affects most males during their lives and can be caused by emotional issues, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking or alcohol.

But all men should avoid sitting too long on hard bicycle or motorcycle seats, particularly ones with thin, pointed ends, to prevent compression of pelvic floor muscles, Impotence Australia chief executive Brett McCann said yesterday.

About 76 per cent of riders aged 40 to 49, and 93 per cent of those aged 50 to 59, reported severe erectile dysfunction, compared with 37 per cent and 42 per cent respectively among those who did not ride motorcycles.

John Sbrocchi has been riding a scooter to work for 2 years. His sex life had not suffered.

Scooters normally have wider, softer seats than motorcycles, but vibrations can still affect the genitals.

"I do have urinary flow issues, but I'm not putting it down to the scooter," Mr Sbrocchi said.

"I'm a man of 62 and when you get to that age you get prostate problems.

"I think scooters are one of life's greatest innovations - so it would take more than that to put me off."

Most seats are too hard

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Edible Healing

Courtesy of Prevention A doctor with a malignant tumor sets out to find his cure. And comes back with dinner.My DiagnosisDiagnosed with brain cancer 16 years ago, David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD was told by his oncologist that changing his diet would not impact his results. He was determined to prove his doctor wrong. Through months of research and traveling the globe, he discovered a multitude of cancer-fighting foods that helped him live a longer, healthier life. Now, you can benefit, too. Add one or more of these foods to every meal to optimize your full potential to prevent and fight cancer.

Read the story

B Vitamins Protect Seniors From Cancer

While headlines this week blared that a study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that B vitamins did not protect against cancer, the media virtually ignored the fact that the study found substantial protection in those over 65.

The study followed over 5,400 women who had high blood pressure or high cholesterol and were at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The women, whose average age was 63, were followed for seven and a half years.

Researchers examined the effects of taking a daily supplement containing folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. During the study, 379 cases of invasive cancer were diagnosed. Although the vitamin group had a total of five fewer cancers than the placebo group (187 vs. 192), the researchers concluded there was no significant difference. But in women over the age of 65, they found a reduction of 25 percent in the risk of developing any type of cancer and a 38 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer.

Lead author Shumin Zhang wrote: “The results may have public health significance because the incidence rates of cancer are high in elderly persons. The finding is biologically plausible because elderly individuals have increased requirements for these B vitamins.”

Other studies have found that people who have diets high in folic acid lower their risk of developing cancer.

Cancer Risk Aside, Cell Phones are Dangerous

There has been much speculation over the last few years about whether cell phones increase the risk of developing a brain tumor. Research has not conclusively answered this question, which has left consumers confused. The majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals do not have sufficient evidence to show that cell phones increase the risk of brain tumors. The problem is that cell phone technology is in its infancy, so none of these studies could analyze long-term risks. This unknown is a particular issue for children, who will face a lifetime of cell phone usage. While the cell phone/brain tumor connection remains inconclusive, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) cautions that cell phones present plenty of other risks to people’s neurological health, as illustrated by these few real-life scenarios:

~A 29-year-old male was talking on his cell phone while on an escalator, fell backwards, and lacerated his head.

~A 25-year-old male was talking on his cell phone and walked into a street sign, lacerating his head.

~A 43-year-old female fell down 13-14 steps while talking on her cell phone, after drinking alcohol. She suffered a neck sprain and contusions to her head, back, shoulder, and leg.

~A 50-year-old female suffered nerve damage which was related to extensive cell phone usage. She felt pain in her fingers and the length of her arm while holding her cell phone, and was diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy.

~A 39-year-old man suffered a head injury after crashing into a tree on his bicycle while texting

~A 16-year-old boy suffered a concussion because he was texting and walked into a telephone pole.

Several studies show cell phones are a leading cause of automobile crashes. It is estimated that drivers distracted by cell phones are four times more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident. The following are some sobering statistics:

~According to a Harvard University study, an estimated 2,600 people die and 12,000 suffer serious to moderate injuries each year in cell phone-related accidents.

~A Canadian study analysis of 26,798 cell phone calls made during the 14-month study period showed that the risk of an automobile accident was four times higher when using a cell phone.

~National statistics indicate that an estimated 50,000 traumatic brain injury-related deaths occur annually in the United States, 25,000-35,000 of which are attributed to motor vehicle accidents.

Cell Phone Injury Prevention Tips

~Talk hands free by using an earpiece or on speaker mode whenever possible.

~Follow all cell phone laws applicable to your city and state – these vary greatly.

~Use your cell phone only when safely parked, or have a passenger use it.

~Do not dial the phone or take notes while driving, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, etc.

~Never text message while driving, walking, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, etc.

~Never text message or use a cell phone while performing any physical activities that require attention.

~If your phone rings while driving, let the call go into voice mail and respond later when you are safely parked.

For more information on injury prevention, visit the AANS Web site at: http://www.neurosurgerytoday.org/what/patient_safety/.

Tomatoes Could Help Endometriosis

By: Sylvia Booth Hubbard

Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes that gives them their red color, could ease the pain of endometriosis. In addition, it could help treat fibroids and scars caused by surgery.

Endometriosis, which affects up to 10 percent of women, is characterized by the growth of tissue outside the uterus that is similar to endometrium, the tissue that lines the womb. The tissue reacts as if it were inside the womb, growing during each monthly cycle and causing bleeding. In addition to pain, the condition also causes infertility.

A laboratory study conducted by researcher Dr. Tarek Dbouk of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, found that lycopene suppresses the proteins that encourage the growth of endometrial-like tissue outside the womb by between 80 and 90 percent.

“What we found in our laboratory study is that lycopene can help with the adhesions that these conditions cause,” said Dr. Dbouk. “One of the major complications of endometriosis is that it causes inflammation which induces adhesions. The inflammation basically causes scarring.”

Although Dr. Dbouk said lycopene could help ease the symptoms and complications of endometriosis, he said it’s not known how much a woman would need to eat. “It’s certainly possible that you could get the amount you need from your diet,” he said. “Or if the patients did not like tomatoes, you could give them the lycopene as a supplement.”

GM Crops Affect Fertility in Mice

Genetically-modified maize can affect reproduction in mice, an Austrian study has found, although its authors have dismissed warnings by environmental groups that it could also harm humans.

The long-term study, which was commissioned by the Austrian health ministry, found that female mice that had been given a diet consisting of 33 percent genetically-modified (GM) maize had fewer babies and fewer litters than those fed on non-GM food after a few generations.

But the authors of the study were keen to point out that these were only initial findings and that further tests were needed to confirm the effect of GM foods on other animals and on humans.

"This is an isolated case and the results cannot in any way be applied to humans," the Austrian health and food safety agency AGES, which presented the study by Vienna's University of Veterinary Medicine (VUW) Tuesday, said in a statement.

"Confirmation of these preliminary results is urgently needed through further studies," the study's author, Juergen Zentek, added.

Environmental groups like Global 2000 and Greenpeace were quick to seize on the study to call for a ban on all GM crops.

"Considering the severity of the potential threat to human health and reproduction, Greenpeace is demanding a recall of all GE (genetically-engineered) food and crops from the market, worldwide," the group said in a statement.

Distributing GM foods was "like playing Russian roulette with consumers and public health," added Greenpeace's GM expert Jan van Aken.

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has requested a copy of the study and will then pass it on to the European food safety authority for expertise, her spokeswoman said.

Herbal Tea May Lower Blood Pressure

Sylvia Booth Hubbard

Drinking herbal tea containing hibiscus may lower blood pressure in those who are prehypertensive or have mild hypertension. Researchers at Tufts University in Boston found that drinking the tea over a six weeks period significantly lowered blood pressure.

In the small, randomized trial of 65 men and women, those who drank the hibiscus tea had an average reduction of 7.2 mm Hg in systolic pressure compared with a 1.3 mm Hg drop with placebo. Hibiscus tea also reduced diastolic and mean arterial pressure.

The study’s participants were ages 30 to 70 and were prehypertensive or mildly hypertensive (systolic ranging from 120 to 150 and diastolic 95 or lower) and were not taking blood pressure medications. They were given three cups of herbal tea daily or a tea containing artificial hibiscus.

The results were most dramatic among participants whose systolic pressure was greater than 129. Their systolic pressure dropped 13.2 mm, twice as much as the average, and over ten times the reduction for those drinking the placebo tea.

Although the overall decline was relatively small researchers noted that only a 3 mm decline in systolic pressure reduced deaths from stroke by eight percent and deaths from coronary artery disease by five percent.

Intimacy Fights Stress

Couples who hug, kiss and otherwise find ways to get close everyday may have fewer stress hormones coursing through their bodies, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, point to one potential reason that close relationships -- and marriage, in particular -- have been linked to better health.

Researchers found that among 51 German couples they followed for one week, those who reported more physical contact during a given day -- whether it was sexual intercourse or just holding hands -- generally had lower levels of the "stress" hormone cortisol.

This was especially true of couples who reported more problems at work, suggesting that some physical affection between mates may be a buffer against work stress.

Many studies have suggested that chronic stress may have widespread effects in the body, from dampening the immune system response to contributing to heart disease. Meanwhile, other research has found that married people -- at least those in happy unions -- tend to be in better health and live longer lives.

It's possible that the reduced stress response seen with physical affection helps to explain that link, according to Dr. Beate Ditzen of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the study's lead researcher.

Ditzen and her colleagues recruited 51 working couples who were living together, most of whom were married. Over 1 week, participants kept detailed records of their daily activities, including instances of physical affection with their partner, and collected saliva samples so that the researchers could measure the daily fluctuations in cortisol levels.

The couples also recorded their mood at various points of each day -- either positive ("good, relaxed, alert") or negative ("bad, tired, fidgety").

In general, the researchers found, the more physical affection couples reported in a given day, the lower their cortisol levels.

Importantly, Ditzen noted, the results suggest that intimacy worked its magic by boosting study participants' mood.

Ditzen told Reuters Health that she would not recommend that couples "express more intimacy, per se," but instead they should find activities that create positive feelings for both partners.

For couples who do want to fire up their physical intimacy, though, there is a range of ways to do it, according to Ditzen. She pointed out that "intimacy" meant different things to different couples in the study; to some it was sex, to some it was an affectionate touch.

"This means that there is no specific behavior that couples should show in everyday life," Ditzen said. "Rather, all kinds of behavior which couples themselves would consider intimate...might be beneficial."

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine, October 2008.

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Low Potassium Linked to High Blood Pressure

As a risk factor for high blood pressure, low levels of potassium in the diet may be as important as high levels of sodium—especially among African Americans, according to research being presented at the American Society of Nephrology's 41st Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"There has been a lot of publicity about lowering salt or sodium in the diet in order to lower blood pressure, but not enough on increasing dietary potassium," comments lead author Susan Hedayati, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and the Dallas VA Medical Center. The new study suggests that low potassium may be a particularly important contributor to high blood pressure among African Americans, and also identifies a gene that may influence potassium's effects on blood pressure.

The researchers analyzed data on approximately 3,300 subjects from the Dallas Heart Study, about half of whom were African American. The results showed that the amount of potassium in urine samples was strongly related to blood pressure. "The lower the potassium in the urine, hence the lower the potassium in the diet, the higher the blood pressure," says Dr. Hedayati. "This effect was even stronger than the effect of sodium on blood pressure."

The relationship between low potassium and high blood pressure remained significant even when age, race, and other cardiovascular risk factors—including high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking—were taken into account.

Previous studies, including the landmark “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” study (DASH), have linked potassium deficiency to high blood pressure. The new results support this conclusion, and provide important new data on the relationship between potassium and blood pressure in a sample that was 50% African American. "Our study included a high percentage of African-Americans, who are known to consume the lowest amounts of potassium in the diet," according to Dr. Hedayati.

Research performed in the laboratory of Dr. Chou-Long Huang, a co-author of this study, has found evidence that a specific gene, called WNK1, may be responsible for potassium's effects on blood pressure. "We are currently doing more research to test how low potassium in the diet affects blood pressure through the activity of this gene," adds Dr. Hedayati.

The conclusions are limited by the fact that people in the Dallas Heart Study weren't following any specific diet. The researchers are currently performing a study in which participants are on fixed potassium diets while measuring the activity of the WNK1 gene to see if WNK1 is responsible for this phenomenon.

Meanwhile, they urge efforts to increase the amount of potassium in the diet, as well as lowering sodium. "High-potassium foods include fruits such as bananas and citrus fruits and vegetables," says Dr, Hedayati. "Consuming a larger amount of these foods in the diet may lower blood pressure."

Green Tea Compound May Prevent Diabetes

A compound found in green tea could slow or even prevent the development of type 1 diabetes, new research in mice suggests.

Green tea contains several antioxidants that have been shown to curb inflammation, prevent cell death, and possibly even ward off cancer.

In the current study, Dr. Stephen D. Hsu of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues tested the effects of green tea's predominate antioxidant known as EGCG in laboratory mice with type 1 diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome, which damages moisture-producing glands causing dry mouth and eyes.

They fed the mice plain water or water spiked with 0.2 percent EGCG.

EGCG, the investigators found, reduced the severity and delayed the onset of salivary gland damage associated with Sjogren's syndrome -- a condition with no known cure.

EGCG also dramatically slowed the development of type 1 diabetes in the rodents. At 16 weeks, they found, 25 percent of the mice given the green tea compound had developed diabetes, compared to 67 percent of the mice given water. At 22 weeks, 45 percent of the EGCG group had diabetes, while 78 percent of the control group did.

"Our study focused on Sjogren's syndrome, so learning that EGCG also can prevent and delay insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes was a big surprise," Hsu said in a statement.

Both type 1 diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome are autoimmune diseases, which cause the body to attack itself.

Hsu and his team also found that the salivary gland cells that were under autoimmune attack were actually multiplying, but EGCG slowed this proliferation. Such rapid cell division has also been shown to occur in psoriasis.

The current study supports earlier research showing EGCG's impact on helping prevent autoimmune disease, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Life Sciences, October 24, 2008.

Metabolic Syndrome Affects One-Fourth US Workers

The combination of health risks known as metabolic syndrome affects slightly less than a quarter of the U.S. workforce and is linked to increased absenteeism and poorer health status, reports a study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Analyzing health risk appraisal data on 5,512 employees of a large financial services corporation, the researchers found that 22.6 percent of the workers had metabolic syndrome. The lead author was Dr. Wayne N. Burton of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as having at least three of five disease risk factors: large waist circumference (more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women), high triglyceride levels, reduced levels of high-density cholesterol (HDL, or "good" cholesterol), high blood pressure, and high glucose levels. People with metabolic syndrome are at high risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

In the workplace sample, men and women had similar rates of metabolic syndrome, although men had a higher average number of risk factors. As the number of risk factors increased, so did the rate of lifestyle health risks such as obesity, low physical activity, high stress, and smoking. Workers with metabolic syndrome were also more likely to rate their own health as fair to poor, compared to workers with fewer risk factors.

Workers with more risk factors missed more work days because of illness. The percentage of workers with three or more sick days in the previous year increased from 25 percent for those with no risk factors to 39 percent for those with all five risk factors.

Metabolic syndrome was not linked to increased "presenteeism"—days the employee was at work but performing at less than full capacity because of health reasons. There was a trend toward higher rates of short-term disability, but this was not significant.

Affecting approximately 69 million U.S. adults, metabolic syndrome has major health and economic consequences. The new study is one of the first to examine the effects of metabolic syndrome in the working population.

The results draw attention to the high rate and impact of metabolic syndrome among U.S. workers. Dr. Burton and colleagues call for further studies to assess the impact of metabolic syndrome in the workforce, as well as to evaluate programs to identify and treat these high-risk workers.

The researchers were surprised to find that metabolic syndrome did not affect on-the-job productivity or short-term disability. They speculate that the major consequences of metabolic syndrome have not yet been realized in their relatively young study sample (average age 41 years). Dr. Burton and colleagues write, "This is encouraging in that employers may still have time to provide employees with the education and tools they need to improve their health risks before experiencing the consequences of diabetes or heart disease."

Female sexual dysfunction a distressing problem

Boston, October 31: A study assessing the prevalence of female sexual problems shows that about 40 percent of the women have sex dysfunction and 12 percent are significantly distressed by it.

A survey of more than 32,000 women aged 18 and more, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology (The Green Journal), showed that one in ten experienced diminished feelings of sexual desire.

Sexual problems persisted in high numbers in women over 65 but this group displayed the lowest levels of distress. The rate of depressiondefine was highest in the mid-age bracket of 45-65 years. The lowest distress symptoms were found among the young ladies.

Sexually related personal distress, medically termed Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), is closely associated with female sex problem. Unfortunately, the condition is largely under-diagnosed and under-recognized.

The study failed to clarify why older women who had the maximum sex related problems were the least affected by them. Conditions like diabetes, blood pressure and cardiacdefine arrests that plummet a man’s sexual appetite, displayed no evidence of suppressing the female carnal needs.

Women prone to depression were more vulnerable to sex dysfunction. Feelings of guilt, frustration, stress, anger, embarrassment and unhappiness were some reasons cited for lack of desire. Also poor self assessed health, anxiety, thyroid and urinary incontinence could be responsible for the predicament.

Study leader, Dr Jan Shifren, of Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Service of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said that inspite of sex dysfunctional problem being quite rampant in women, “for sexual concern to be considered a medical problem it must be associated with distress, so it is important to assess this in both research studies and patient care.”

Dr Shifren felt that physicians should evaluate the patient’s level of distress in relation to the problem. “As distressing sexual problems were identified in approximately one in eight women, health care providers need to ask the patients about sexual concern, and whether they are causing unhappiness, frustration or other distressing feeling that may be impacting their quality of life,” Shifren said.

Sheryl Kingsberg, chief of behavioral medicine at McDonald Women’s Hospital, Cleveland, believed it to be a ‘wake up call’ for physicians. She elaborated that, “48 percent of patients have sex concerns and 12 percent have enough of a concern that it is a significant dysfunction in life. This needs to be addressed.”

The research was funded by Beohringer Ingelheim International, makers of flibanserin, a drug being tested for female dysfunction.

Earlier studies have also reported estimates of the problem at hand, but the most widely circulated figures are those of U.S. National Health and Social Life Survey. According to this report 43 percent of the respondents experienced some level of sexual dysfunction. Nearly 39 percent complained of low levels of desire, 26 percent problems of arousal and 21 percent had difficulty attaining orgasm.

This issue has been handled for years by clinical psychologists, mental health experts and sex therapists. It is only recently that flibanserin is considered a medical option to tackle the problem.

With more than a few researches in progress, Dr kingsberg sees a ray of hope to dispel this sexual dilemma. “Right now there is very limited option but I think it is coming up.”

Eating Fish Could Prevent Diabetic Kidney Disease

For adults with diabetes, eating fish twice a week may help prevent kidney disease -- one of the most serious complications of diabetes, according to British researchers.

Dr. Amanda Adler from Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge and associates studied the diets of more than 22,000 middle-aged and older men and women, 517 of whom had diabetes, primarily type 2 disease.

They found that people with diabetes who reported eating fish more than once per week were considerably less likely to have protein in the urine - an early sign of kidney disease.

The condition, known medically as macroalbuminuria, "can herald worse kidney damage and increase the risk even for heart attacks," Adler told Reuters Health.

A little more than 8 percent of those with diabetes had macroalbuminuria versus less than 1 percent of those without diabetes. And 18 percent of diabetics who did not eat fish regularly (less than once per week) had macroalbuminuria compared with just 4 percent of diabetics who ate fish more than once per week.

"This suggests, then, that eating fish may prevent this early sign of kidney problems, which patients with diabetes are more likely to develop," Adler said.

The study appears in the November issue of American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.

Lead investigator Chee-Tin Christine Lee told Reuters Health: "It is possible that fish oil improves blood lipid profiles and decreases the risk of kidney disease. It could be other components of fish, such as protein or micronutrients, are protective against diabetic kidney disease. However, it is also possible that people who eat fish frequently have other lifestyle factors, which we could not account for."

The study could not answer whether one kind of fish was better than another. "Future studies may be able to test this question," Adler said.

SOURCE: American Journal of Kidney Diseases, November 2008.

Get This, US has Lowest Life Span in Western World - And we smoke LESS!

These are the surprising facts. Don't shoot me, I am just reporting what our government (The CIA) and the United Nations (WHO) statistics show! I am sorry that the facts don't support the what the government and leading scientist tell us (you know like Global Warming is REAL when the facts don't support the claim?) about the physical cost of smoking. Heck, I don't even smoke! I could not find a more recent report, but that would be meaningless, in that it is during these years that smoking was blamed for many of the deaths in the USA. Here is the report:


The 'Asian-Greek Paradox' and the 400,000 “Premature” Deaths

The 'Asian-Greek Paradox' and the 400,000 “Premature” Deaths
By Robert R Barney
Norfolk, Va --
Robert A. Levy, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and Rosalind B. Marimont, a retired mathematician and scientist, formerly with the National Institutes of Health have published a paper examining the claim of 400,000 deaths attributed to cigarette smoking each year by the United States government. Their finding will shock probably everyone of you, even if you are convinced that cigarettes kill millions. The findings are amazing. For example are you aware that 45% of these deaths attributed to smoking are for people OVER 75? This means that according to our own government statistics, nearly 50% of the people who “die from smoking” do so after the average non-smoker dies! Are you aware that these same stats show that 60% of this 400,000 figure are over 70 years old? Now another shocker… Almost 20% of this death toll from smoking (80,000 deaths a year) occur to those over 85!
Do these statistics bother you? They bother me and I am a nonsmoker. They bother me because again, our government vilifies those that they want to tax and regulate. The horrible truth about why the United States went after big tobacco has more to do with President Johnson’s “Great Society” and the civil rights legislation than it did for our health. The same government that put cigarettes into soldiers C-rations to keep soldiers alert and awake in WWII, know was attacking the product by 1964. Why? As you will discover, it had more to do with Democrat politics than it did health.....Read More

Wines Contain Heavy Metal Hazard

Your glass of wine may not be as healthy as you think. Although touted for its heart-health benefits, a new study found that many wines contain potentially hazardous levels of at least seven heavy metal ions that could be a health hazard. An analysis of wines from sixteen countries found that only those produced in Argentina, Brazil and Italy did not have levels of metal high enough to be considered a possible health threat.


Diabetes Rates Double

The nation's obesity epidemic is exacting a heavy toll: The rate of new diabetes cases nearly doubled in the United States in the past 10 years, the government said Thursday. The highest rates were in the South, according to the first state-by-state review of new diagnoses. The worst was in West Virginia, where about 13 in 1,000 adults were diagnosed with the disease in 2005-07. The lowest was in Minnesota, where the rate was 5 in 1,000.


Consumers' taste for organic is tapering off

Whole Foods Market, a showcase for the natural and organic industries, is struggling through the toughest stretch in its history. And the organic industry is starting to show signs that a decadelong sales boom may be ending.

The New York Times

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As shoppers cut back on expenses, chains like Whole Foods suffer.

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As shoppers cut back on expenses, chains like Whole Foods suffer.

Once upon a time, sales of organic and natural products were growing in double digits most years. Enthusiastic grocers and venture capitalists prowled the halls of trade shows looking for the next big thing. Grass-fed beef? Organic baby food? Gluten-free energy bars?

But now, shaky consumer spending is dampening the mood. It turns out that when times are tough, consumers may be less interested in what type of feed a cow ate before it was chopped up for dinner or whether carrots were grown without chemical fertilizers, particularly if those products cost twice as much as the conventional stuff.

Whole Foods Market, a showcase for the natural and organic industries, is struggling through the toughest stretch in its history. And the organic industry is starting to show signs that a decadelong sales boom may be ending.

The sales volume of organic products, which had been growing at 20 percent a year in recent years, slowed to a much lower growth rate in the past few months, according to Nielsen, a market-research firm. For the four weeks that ended Oct. 4, the volume of organic products sold rose just 4 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

"Organics continue to grow and outpace many categories," Nielsen concluded in an October report. "However, recent weeks are showing slower growths, possibly a start of an organics growth plateau."

If the slowdown continues, it could have broad implications beyond the organic industry, whose success spawned a growing number of products with values-based marketing claims, from fair-trade coffee to hormone-free beef to humanely raised chickens. Nearly all command a premium price.

Still a priority for some

While a group of core customers considers organic or locally produced products a top priority, the growth of recent years was driven by a far larger group of less-committed customers. The weak economy is prompting many of them to choose which marketing claim, if any, is important to them.

Among organic products, those marketed to children will probably continue to thrive because they appeal to parents' concerns about health, said Laurie Demeritt, president and chief operating officer of the Hartman Group, a market-research firm for the health and wellness industry. But products that do not have as much perceived benefit, such as processed foods for adults, may struggle.

The economy has "crystallized the trade-offs that consumers are willing to make," she said. "Fair trade is nice, but fair trade may fall off the shopping list where organic milk may not."

Thomas Blischok, president of consulting and innovation for Information Resources, a market-research firm, said shoppers are not moving entirely away from organic products at the grocery. But they are becoming more selective, buying four or five products instead of seven or eight, he said.

Blischok surveyed 1,000 consumers in the first half of the year and found that nearly two-thirds said they were cutting back on nonessential groceries and nearly half said they were buying fewer organic products because they were too expensive. ...more