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Tuesday
Jan182011

Smokers ‘Mirror’ Other Smokers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HANOVER, N.H.) – A new study may explain why smokers feel the need to light up when they see others smoking.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical School, examined a group of nearly 35 study participants -- half of them smokers -- and measured the effects of images of smoking in movies by measuring the participants’ resultant brain activity. 

The results showed that smokers’ brain pathways that regulate the physical hand-to-mouth actions of smoking were activated while they were viewing the movie scenes.  None of this brain activity was observed in the brains of non-smokers.
 
The region of the brain activated in the smokers is known to contain “mirror neurons” that mirror somebody else’s movements as if they themselves were actually doing them.  This finding provides a clue into one possible reason why smokers feel the need to light up when they see someone else smoke.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Can You Stop Drinking by Getting Drunk Faster?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, Mass) – A study suggests that taking a kudzu extract can be used to decrease binge drinking and eventually lead to complete alcohol cessation.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, randomly assigned 12 participants to either take kudzu extract or a placebo for nine days.  All participants then drank a set amount of alcohol as the experimenters closely monitored their heart rate, blood alcohol levels and sense of inebriation. 

The researchers, from McLean Hospital at Harvard Medical School, found that those who took kudzu extract had increased heart rate, elevated blood alcohol levels and reported greater levels of dizziness than those who took the placebo.
 
Although the authors don’t know why kudzu caused the rapid rise in blood alcohol levels, they believe that they’ve discovered why people drink less when taking kudzu: they may simply feel the effects of the alcohol sooner.

The researchers argue that, although getting drunk faster may not be a good method to quit drinking, kudzu can decrease binge drinking and lead to complete cessation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Jan182011

Not All Bar Fights Involve ‘Tough Guys’

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) – A new study suggests that bar fights do not always involve men in a testosterone-driven rage, but rather sometimes involve men who are non-aggressive, unwilling participants.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, surveyed 675 Canadian male drinkers ages 19-25. Almost half of those surveyed said they had participated in a bar fight within the previous year.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada found that men who reported initiating the fight scored higher on measures of aggressive personality traits and hypermasculinity, or exaggerated stereotypical male behavior, than the 18 percent of men who only reported being victimized in a bar fight situation.

The authors concluded that there is a sizeable group of unwilling victims who do not have the hypermasculine and aggressive personalities and whose victimization should not be trivialized by the “boys will be boys” mindset.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Half of Americans Have Pre-Existing Health Conditions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As many as 129 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing health condition that puts them at risk of being denied affordable coverage without health care overhaul, according to a government report. The estimate represents nearly half of Americans younger than 65, and 86 percent of people 55 to 64.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released the report hours before the House of Representatives was set to begin debate Tuesday on a Republican-spearheaded health care repeal bill.

"The timing of the report may be political but that does nothing to diminish its accuracy," said Robert Field, professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law and professor of health management and policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia.

What constitutes a pre-existing condition -- one that exists before someone applies for a health insurance policy -- is generally defined by insurers. But ones considered to fall in "high-risk pools" were also counted in the report. So pre-existing conditions ranged from having cancer to having high cholesterol.

Under the Affordable Care Act -- part of the health care legislation passed by the last Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 -- insurers can no longer base eligibility, benefits or premiums on a person's health status, starting in 2014.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Men: Are You Allergic to Your Own Semen?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(UTRECHT, Netherlands) – Men who experience flu-like symptoms moments after climax could be allergic to their own semen, according to Dutch scientists.

The rare condition, known as post orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), presents itself with symptoms such as runny nose, extreme fatigue and burning eyes.

Although little has been known about the condition previously, two studies published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by researchers at Utrecht University could explain what it is and how it can be treated.

“These results are a very important breakthrough in the research of this syndrome,” said Professor Marcel Waldinger, the lead researcher. His team studied 45 men who had been diagnosed with the illness.

“They didn't feel ill when they masturbated without ejaculating, but as soon as the semen came from the testes...after that they became ill, sometimes within just a few minutes,” Waldinger said.

Men who agreed to hyposensitisation therapy, a common technique for treating allergies, showed significant improvement in their symptoms within one to three years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Gastric Bypass Kit for Sale on Amazon

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- It's advertised as a gastric bypass kit for sale on Amazon.com and tagged by users as a "do-it-yourself" surgery kit. Family practitioner Doctor Linda Petter is outraged: "Shock. Absolute shock. There's certain information - there's certain equipment  - supplies that definitely should not be sold on the Internet." 
 
Amazon.com is an Internet site known more for books, movies, and music, but the gastric bypass kit, listed under surgical supplies, even has reviewers who say, "This kit was easy to figure out." Petter worries it could get into the wrong hands and says "what if someone takes it the wrong way? You're potentially putting your health, your life in jeopardy and that is very very serious." 

The listed seller, "Medplus, Inc.", based out of New Jersey,  insists the kit is legitimate but meant to be used in a medical facility. Dr. Petter warns users to be cautious: "you're on an Internet source where anybody has access to not just licensed medical personnel, so therefore it has the potential to get into hands where it doesn't belong."

The kit retailed for $264. Yes, "retailed," because Amazon took down the listing. Medical experts emphasize any surgical procedure like this should be done only by a professional in a medical environment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Study: Anti-Depressants Relieve Hot Flashes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- For women passing through menopause, hot flashes can become the bane of their lives. Hormone replacement is one therapy, but it comes with significant risks. Now a new drug made for a different ailment could be of some help. 

HRT for menopausal women is hugely controversial, as it can increase a woman's chances of breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke.  Now a study in the journal of the American Medical Association examines an alternative treatment. 

Other studies have shown that some anti-depressants can alleviate hot flashes. This study focused on one of them, as 205 women with hot flashes were given either escitalopram or a placebo for eight weeks. Women taking the drug reported an average reduction of 4.6 hot flashes per day. Those on placebo had an average reduction of 3.2 hot flashes per day. That's a little over one less hot flash a day. Overall, the study found the drug reduced hot flashes by 47 percent compared to a 33 percent reduction in the placebo group.  And women taking escitalopram reported their hot flashes were less severe. 

The authors say escitalopram is a non-hormonal alternative to help women control the symptoms of menopause. 

Some of this study's authors have consulted for, and received funding from forest laboratories, which sells escitalopram under the brand name lexapro.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

New Test Finds 580 Fatal Diseases Before Conception

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SANTA FE , N.M.) -- A new DNA test has been developed to detect parents who are carriers of 580 of the most severe inherited childhood diseases, including Batton, muscular dystrophy, and immune deficiencies like the "Bubble Boy" syndrome and Pompe disease, described in the 2010 film Extraordinary Measures.

The test, which was announced in the journal Science in Translational Medicine, uses genetic sequencing to identify recessive mutations before a couple decides to become parents.

The average person carries at least two-to-three gene mutations that can cause diseases.  When both have the same mutation, the chance of having an affected child is one-in-four; the risk of having a child who is a carrier is two-in-four; and the odds of having a normal child is one-in-four.

The carrier screening test is cheap -- less than $400 for hundreds of conditions -- and could be marketed in the near future, according to Dr. Stephen Kingsmore, now a physician-researcher at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where clinical work will be done.

"The long-term impact could be phenomenal," said Kingsmore, who headed up the research at the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The test will likely be a blood test and later a simple swab of the cheek.  Egg and sperm banks may be the first industry to adopt the testing to screen potential donors. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan182011

Study: Surgeons More Prone than Most to Thoughts of Suicide

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Six percent of U.S. surgeons have had suicidal thoughts during the past year -- a percentage 1.5 to three times higher than the general population -- according to a new report in the Archives of Surgery.

Pressures of the job often weigh heavily on doctors' minds, as well as guilt over mistakes they might have made.

To make matters worse, only about one in four have sought assistance from a mental health professional to help them deal with their issues.  Generally speaking, most of the surgeons who didn't go for therapy were concerned that they would put their medical licenses in jeopardy by opening up about their problems.

The majority of surgeons who think about killing themselves are male and over age 45.  Divorced doctors are also at a greater risk than their married counterparts.

Overall, it's estimated that between 300 and 400 physicians commit suicide annually, which is also more than the general population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan172011

Could Someone with Alzheimer's Disease Run the Country ?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Six years after finishing his second term as the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's -- a devastating neurological disease that impairs memory, judgment and reasoning. But the former president's son, Ron Reagan, says he saw the early signs of Alzheimer's while his father was still in office.

"It wasn't anything that obvious. It wasn't like, 'Oh my God, he doesn't remember he's president,' Ron Reagan said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. "It was just, I had an inkling that there might be something going on."

Alzheimer's disease, which is estimated to affect up to 5.1 million people in the U.S. according to the National Institute on Aging, is an irreversible and progressive brain disease that affects a person's ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. But subtler changes in memory and mood can signal the disease's early stages.

"Most commonly people complain of short term memory issues," said Dr. Gary Small, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Center on Aging. Forgetting plans and having trouble remembering names or words -- the so-called 'tip of the tongue' phenomenon -- are common early symptoms. And although they might not interfere with someone's job in the beginning, they will as they worsen.

"If it really is early Alzheimer's and it progresses over the years, the person's memory and cognitive ability become more impaired," said Dr. David Loewenstein, chief of psychiatry at the University of Miami. This can affect a person's attention to detail and their ability to keep track of situations and react accordingly -- all of which affect a person's ability to do their job. For Ronald Reagan, the job was running the country.

Ron Reagan's half-brother, Michael Reagan, has publicly rejected the notion that their father had symptoms of Alzheimer's during his tenure as president.

"Look what he accomplished in the last four years of his presidency: Reykjavik, START agreements, all the things he accomplished. The speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987 on June 12th," Michael Reagan said in an interview on CBS' The Early Show. "Someone with dementia does not accomplish all of those things."

But depending on the level of support people have in organizing their daily lives, early symptoms of Alzheimer's may go unnoticed, Loewenstein said.

"A lot of people in very high positions -- not just presidents -- are surrounded by people who organize their lives and cover for them," Loewenstein said. "I've seen cases where people are, frankly, demented and actually very impaired in doing their job, but they're covered for so successfully by their staff."

"A lot of people do notice changes and get upset," Loewenstein said. "But there are others who don't notice them at all. The changes are really seen by those around them. We don't know what other colleagues saw and we may never know. But even when certain people are aware, they tend to downplay it."

Age is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. And at 69, Ronald Reagan was the oldest man to be elected president. During his campaign, he pledged to resign if he became "senile" -- a term that refers to age-related dementia -- while in office.

But without a clinical evaluation by a neuropsychologist, Alzheimer's disease in its early stages is difficult to detect, Loewenstein said.

"We're coming up with better biomarkers. And in the future, we may have better medical tests," he said.

But if you do notice cognitive changes in yourself or someone else, talking to a doctor early can make a significant difference.

"Even though there's no cure, there are treatments. The earlier you get started, the better the outcome," said Dr. Small.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio