Sugary Drinks Could Increase Blood Pressure, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It may be necessary for people with high blood pressure to watch their sugar as well as their salt intake, according to a new study. 

The study, published in the journal Hypertension, found that individuals who consumed the most sugar-sweetened drinks such as soda and fruit juices had higher blood pressure.  The problem may be worsened when salt is added.

"Individuals who consume more soda and other sugar-sweetened soft drinks may have higher blood pressure levels than those who consume less, and the problem may be exacerbated by higher salt intake," Dr. Ian J. Brown of Imperial College London wrote in an email to ABC News and MedPage Today.

Researchers in the study focused on 2,696 patients from the U.S. and U.K., taking information from urine collections and blood pressure readings.  The patients also reported on their diets over a four-day period.

The collected data showed a consistent increase in blood pressure with every extra fruit beverage or soda consumed by a patients.

Study authors also reported that people who consumed more sugar-sweetened drinks on a daily basis also tended to have less healthy diets overall than those who had less sugary beverages.

"It appears that empty calories from these drinks displace calories from other foods that have beneficial nutrients such as minerals and vitamins," Dr. Brown said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Making Surrogate Treatment Decisions Can Take Its Toll

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- When crisis strikes and a person is no longer able to make their own medical decisions, spouses, adult children, siblings and others find themselves in the role of surrogate decision-makers, trying to make the best, yet often difficult, decisions for their loved ones.  Studies have shown that the critical role of the surrogate decision-maker can be incredibly stressful.

For the first time, a study has systematically examined on a large scale the psychological after-effects of decision making on surrogates.  Researchers at the National Institute of Health reviewed 40 published articles providing data on 2,832 surrogates who were surveyed several months to years after making treatment decisions, including end-of-life decisions.

At least one-third of the surrogates experienced negative effects including stress and anxiety, and these effects were often substantial and lasted for months or years. But surrogates that knew the patient’s wishes – if, for example, the patient had a living will – suffered less stress than surrogates acting without advance directive.

The findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sexy Stares Linked to Co-eds' Poor Test Scores

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- When a guy "harmlessly" checks out a woman, it may not be so harmless after all, according to a first-of-its kind study done by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Penn State University.

"There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that checking women out has adverse effects," said Sarah Gervais, an assistant professor of psychology at UNL and the study's lead author, "but there haven't really been any empirical studies to prove that."

In Gervais' study, published in the March issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, a group of Penn State undergraduates -- 67 women and 83 men -- got together for what they thought was research about teamwork. As it turned out, they were part of the first study to look at how the "objectifying gaze" (flowery language for "getting checked out") affected men's and women's cognition.

It was set up like an interview. A research assistant interviewed an undergraduate of the opposite sex. If the interviewee was a member of the control group, the research assistant maintained normal eye contact throughout the conversation.

For the test group, however, the interviewer "checked out" the interviewee several times (with a full "once over" and then several glances at his or her chest). To do this scientifically and not downright perversely, the oglers underwent about 30 hours of training to the get the look and timing just right. After the interview participants were given 10 minutes to complete a set of math problems.

The results? On average, the women who weren't ogled got six out of 12 questions correct, while those who were checked out averaged just under five. The one-question difference is statistically significant, which led researchers to conclude that being objectified hindered the ogled women's concentration. Although past studies have shown that men are increasingly self-conscious about their chests, getting checked out apparently had no effect on men because results from the control and test groups were more or less the same.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Fish Oil Fights Weight Loss Caused by Chemotherapy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(EDMONTON, Alberta) -- Researchers at the University of Alberta suggest that adding fish oil supplements to the diets of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy could help prevent loss of muscle mass.

In this study, researchers compared 16 lung cancer patients who took fish oil to 24 patients who didn't. Muscle mass and fat tissue were monitored by CT scan periodically during initial chemotherapy cycle lasting about 10 weeks. Patients taking fish oil maintained their weight, while those who did not take fish oil lost an average of about 5 lbs., most of which was muscle mass.

The main ingredient in fish oil -- omega-3 fatty acids -- is thought to decrease inflammation in the body.

Critics of the study note that patients and researchers knew who took fish oil, so the effects could have been influenced by patient expectations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Updated Guidelines for Sun Protection In Children

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ELK GROVE VILLIAGE, Ill.) -- Though many parts of the country continue to deal with bitter cold, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued an updated policy statement on skin cancer prevention and safe sun exposure practices in children.

The recommendations include wearing protective clothing, timing children's outdoor activity to minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. when possible, applying sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15, and wearing sunglasses. Infants younger than six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight all together, the Academy says.

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization note their support for legislation that would ban the use of artificial tanning devices by individuals under the age of 18. Some tanning units produce ultraviolet radiation so strong that they can at times reach strengths 10 to 15 times higher than peak midday sun.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Paralyzed Gymnast Walks After 'Frozen Spine' Treatment

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MIAMI) -- When a double-flip gone awry left gymnast Jorge Valdez, 20, paralyzed with a dislocated neck, doctors feared he would never walk again.  But just seven days after surgeons opted for a still-experimental treatment involving induced hypothermia, Valdez walked out of the hospital.

Valdez was practicing a double flip while making an audition video for the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil when he misjudged his rotation and landed on his head, dislocating his C6 and C7 vertebrae.

"I was unable to move after that, I couldn't feel my legs.  I could only open and close my hands a little," Valdez, a Miami native, said.  "I was scared.  I've been injured before pretty bad, but nothing this bad."

He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where doctors determined he was a candidate for a cooling procedure that is thought to slow spinal cord damage by reducing swelling at the injury site.

Valdez was a good candidate for cooling because he had an isolated injury and he was a healthy guy with no other medical conditions, said Dr. Steven Vanni, a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami, who treated Valdez.  Though he had been able to move his arms after the injury, by the time he was brought to Vanni, he had no motor or sensory function below his neck, making it difficult to predict how much function he would ultimately recover.

"He told my dad he couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to walk again," Valdez says.

After surgeons removed the disc that was pressing on the spine and fixed the dislocations, a catheter cooled by chilled saline was inserted into Valdez's groin.  The chilled catheter cooled down his blood as it passed through it, his internal body temperature down to about 92 degrees Fahrenheit.  He was kept in a medically-induced coma and in that hypothermic state for 48 hours post-operation.

"I woke up and thought it was the day of the surgery [Thursday], when really it was Saturday," Valdez says.  By that Wednesday, he was walking on his own.

Now out of the hospital, Valdez's physical therapy focuses primarily on his hands, where he has some nerve damage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drug Maker Wants to Lift Age Restrictions on Morning After Pill

Photo Courtesy - Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of Plan B One-Step, has requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration switch this "morning after" pill to full nonprescription status for women of all ages.

Currently, women 17 and older can buy the high-dose birth control pill over-the-counter, without a prescription.  Those younger than 17 need a prescription to obtain the high-dose hormone pill.

"Our 2003 Plan B application and our current application for Plan B One-Step is seeking over-the-counter status for the product based on data that demonstrate the product meets the scientific criteria that the FDA has established for over the counter products," said Denise Bradley, senior director of corporate communications at Teva Pharmaceuticals.  "Label comprehension and safety data show that all women are able to safely and effectively take this product.  It is not typical for any women's health product to have age restrictions."

Plan B, or levonorgestrel, is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive that can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of uterus if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.  The drug is not effective if the woman is already pregnant, and it does not pose harm to a fetus.

According to Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the FDA, a prescription drug may be eligible for over-the-counter status if it is determined that dispensing the drug by prescription is not necessary for the protection of the public health, and the drug is safe and effective for use in self-medication as directed in proposed labeling.

"The application will go through the normal FDA review process," said Ventura in a statement.  "It will be evaluated against the same scientific and regulatory criteria as all other over-the-counter switch applications."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Are You Overtreating Your Child's Fevers?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.) -- For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released guidelines for parents and health care professionals on how to deal with fevers in children.

It says that if you give your child Advil or Tylenol for a one hundred degree Temperature, then you have "fever phobia."

That's because mild fevers are not harmful and don't need to be treated aggressively.

Fever is common symptom in children. But a fever helps the body fight infection and should be treated to improve a child's level of body temperature.

This advice does not apply to children with certain chronic conditions or to children under three months of age -- who should be taken to the doctor if they have a fever.

But for other youngsters, the bottom line is don't treat fever just because it's there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves 'More Effective' Hypertension Drug

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a drug that it says is more effective than others when it comes to treating high blood pressure.

The FDA approved Edarbi tablets for treatment of hypertension in adults. Officials say data from clinical studies shows that Edarbi has proven to be more effective in lowering 24-hour blood pressure as compared to FDA-approved hypertension drugs, Diovan and Benicar.

"High blood pressure is often called the 'silent killer' because it usually has no symptoms until it causes damage to the body," said Norman Stockbridge, M.D., Ph.D., of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "High blood pressure remains inadequately controlled in many people diagnosed with the condition, so having a variety of treatment options is important."

In a release, the FDA described Edarbi as being an angiotensin II receptor blocker that lowers blood pressure by blocking the action of angiotensin II, a vasopressor hormone.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Probes Links Between Hot Flashes, Heart Attacks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A new study suggests that women who experience that crimson blush of a hot flash early on in their menopause experience seemed to have a lower risk of heart attack.

"The timing of hot flashes may make a big difference in terms of what they signify in terms of heart health," said Dr. Ellen Seely, of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, the senior author of the study.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and the risk increases dramatically after menopause. The study found a woman's risk of heart attack rises depending on when hot flashes begin in menopause.

The study analyzed data from more than 60,000 women over an average of almost 10 years. Women were asked to recall their symptoms -- like hot flashes and night sweats -- in questionnaires about their health. The women were in their early 60s on average, about 14 years after the start of menopause.

Dr. Sharonne Hayes, from the Mayo Clinic's department of cardiovascular diseases, said the results of the study add to the growing understanding of the complicated relationship between symptoms of menopause and heart attacks later in life.

"What it does tell us is that the interplay between hot flashes and night sweats and future cardiovascular risk and menopause is much more complex than we thought it was before," she said, but cautioned more research is needed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

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