Poorer Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients More Susceptible to Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and belonging to lower socioeconomic groups experience more depression than do more affluent patients, researchers say.

While other studies have looked at the effects of functional disabilities or socioeconomic status, researchers at the University of California San Francisco conducted the first study analyzing whether an association between disability and depression is different in relation to socioeconomic status.

"If an interaction is present, then there is a group of vulnerable patients who could benefit from earlier identification and treatment," researchers wrote in the study.

The study further states that a possible explanation for the link between depression and RA patients possessing economic deficiencies could be that these patients simply have fewer resources and less support.

Researchers of the study concluded that recognizing the relationship between the socioeconomic status and psychological effects in RA patients can reveal a certain population of people at higher risk for depression, and furthermore, guide future treatment methods and prevention in susceptible patients.

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Exercise Helpful in Memory Preservation, Say Researchers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(URBANA, Ill.) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign say that patients in their mid-60s should walk at least three times per week to increase the volume of hippocampus, which is significant to memory preservation.

Findings in the study show that it may be possible to conquer the age-related deterioration of hippocampal content, Dr. Arthur Kramer, a study author, told MedPage Today.  Hippocampus generally decreases with age by one to two percent per year.  But, according to the study, regular walking can lead to better fitness and better spatial memory.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Women's Heart Health: Know Your Risks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to heart health, many women are confused about their risk factors. What's the difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol? What are the normal ranges for my test results? What about blood sugar and diabetes? What changes can I make to my diet to improve my heart health?

If you want to learn more about heart health and your individual risk factors, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says there are important questions to ask your doctor, risk factors you should be aware of and things you can do to lower them.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Heart Health:

1. What is my risk for heart disease?
2. What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
3. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, HDL or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
4. What is my "body mass index" and waist measurement? Do they indicate that I need to lose weight for my health?
5. What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I'm at risk for diabetes?
6. What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
7. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
8. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
9. What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
10. How can I tell if I'm having a heart attack?

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Gates Launches Latest Polio Campaign at FDR Recuperation Site

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In the Manhattan double townhouse where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recuperated from polio in the summer of 1921, billionaire Bill Gates on Monday began the latest chapter in his campaign to rout the disease from its last global strongholds.

Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest philanthropy, reiterated his commitment to global elimination of polio at a high-profile event a day after the 129th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth. Gates used the occasion to release his third Annual Letter, a blueprint of his philanthropic goals, at Roosevelt House on New York's Upper East Side, once a wedding present from Sara Roosevelt to her son Franklin and daughter-in-law Eleanor, the current home of the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

Half of this year's letter focuses on eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases including polio, and other global health issues.

Worldwide, new cases of the potentially paralyzing and sometimes fatal childhood illness have been cut 99 percent since governments of the United States, Great Britain and India, along with the United Nations Children's Fund, Rotary International and Gates Foundation, launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. However, the disease remains endemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and there have been outbreaks in more than a dozen other countries. In 2010, outbreaks in countries that once had vanquished polio sickened hundreds, including 458 in Tajikistan; 93 in the Congo and 323 in Angola. There has been one reported case this year in Pakistan.

Last Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to double the United Kingdom's contribution to fighting polio in the next two years. That would enable 45 million more children to be fully vaccinated, advancing the goal of providing life-saving immunizations to every child who needs them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Super Bowl: Which City Can Better Survive a Loss?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Football fans across the country will watch the Packers battle the Steelers Sunday in the Super Bowl.  And for fans in Green Bay or Pittsburgh, the big game could be a heart-stopper, literally, in light of research suggesting that a Super Bowl defeat might boost the risk of cardiac death.

"Fans can develop an emotional attachment to their favorite team," said Dr. Robert Kloner, professor of medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and director of research at Good Samaritan Hospital's Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

"And when there's an emotional response, the sympathetic nervous system gets jazzed up and releases adrenaline, causing a surge in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and an increased demand for oxygen by the heart."

Kloner and colleagues had previously reported in April 2009 an increased incidence of heart-related deaths in Los Angeles two weeks after the city's 1980 Super Bowl loss.  The group has now taken a closer look at who was most vulnerable in a study published in Clinical Cardiology, released Monday.

"We've known for many years that there are chronic risk factors for cardiac death, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking," Kloner said.  "But we're becoming increasingly aware of certain acute risk factors, such as emotional stress.  I think that these stressors may add up."

The much-loved L.A. Rams were the underdogs in 1980 in an intense and emotional game being played close to home at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.  The Rams had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but lost 31-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite being sixth-seed in the National Football Conference playoffs this year, the Green Bay Packers are favored going into Sunday's game in Dallas.  But Steelers fans might be less suited to handle a Super Bowl loss, according to a national survey.

Of 185 U.S. cities, Pittsburgh ranked 66th in emotional health, 123rd in physical health and 106th in healthy behavior, according to Gallup-Healthway's 2009 Well-Being Index.  Green Bay scored better, ranking 33rd in emotional health, 25th in physical health and 84th in healthy behavior. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rice Cereal Controversy: Does It Make Kids Fat?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- For 50 years, many pediatricians have recommended that parents initially feed their solid food-ready babies white rice cereal -- a gluten-free, and an allergy-free option, that most babies find easy to digest.

But Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University, who started a campaign called "White Out," is out to turn that long-held belief on its head.

"I have been studying nutrition very carefully for more than a decade now and one of the things that I have become convinced of is that white rice cereal can predispose to childhood obesity," said Greene.  "In fact I think it is the tap root of the child obesity epidemic."

Besides its touted digestion benefits, Greene said white rice cereal is also high in calories and made of processed white flour.

"The problem is that it is basically like feeding kids a spoonful of sugar," said Greene.

Instead, Greene advises that whole grain solid foods, such as pureed fruits and vegetables combined with whole grain cereal instead of white rice is a healthier option for babies.

"The difference between white rice and brown rice is huge," said Greene.  "White rice is basically 94 percent starch.  Brown rice though is 25 percent other stuff: protein, essential fats, and minerals, all kinds of good stuff."

Greene launched his "White Out" campaign in 2010 with the goal to entirely rid stores and babies bowls of white rice cereal by Thanksgiving.  While the campaign has attracted thousands of parents to join the cause, some experts and even the baby food industry itself aren't buying the claim that starting a baby on white rice cereal could lead to childhood obesity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Text Messaging Actually Good for Young People?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- For many teachers and parents, those text abbreviations may spell the end of literacy as we know it, but a growing body of research indicates that text messages can actually help students' ability to spell.

In a study to be published next month in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Clare Wood, a senior lecturer in the psychology department at Coventry University, and her colleagues recruited 114 students ages nine and 10 who had never owned a cell phone. They gave half of the students cell phones to use on the weekends and holidays and, during 10 weeks, the researchers tested students in both groups on reading, spelling and phonological skills.

The researchers found no difference between how students in the two groups performed.

"There was absolutely no sign that it was problematic," said Wood.

She said it's likely that this study was too short for the benefits of texting to be apparent, but added that another longer-term study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology showed that texting significantly boosted the growth of literacy skills.

The study included 119 students aged eight to 12 who use cell phones, and looked at the relationship between their texting habits and performance on reading, spelling and phonological skills tests. The researchers tested students at the beginning of the academic year, analyzed a sample of their text messages and then tested students again at the end of the academic year.

Wood said the results of that study found that the use of text abbreviations was driving spelling development. They even reversed the analysis to see if it was the good spellers who tended to use text abbreviations, but found that relationship was unidirectional, she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Dietary Guidelines Being Released; Call for Less Salt Intake

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services will release the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on Monday.

By law, the USDA and HHS reviews and updates the guidelines every five years.  This latest version includes several updated recommendations, most notably in sodium intake.

The government is asking nearly half of the U.S. population to cut the amount of sodium they ingest daily to 1,500 mg or less.  Those affected include African Americans, adults over the age of 51 and people suffering from hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  For everyone else, the daily sodium intake remains at 2,300 mg.

Other recommendations include:

-- Encouraging less intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, although no changes were made to the actual amounts recommended.

-- Reducing the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.  New recommendations will be stronger than those set in the 2005 Guidelines.

-- Consuming protein from a variety of sources, especially from seafood.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Critics: USDA Deregulation of Mutant Alfalfa Threatens Organic Foods

Alfalfa field. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's organic farmers are sounding the alarm after an Obama administration decision they say could destroy their supply chains and drastically limit the choices and availability of some popular consumer foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided last week to allow the widespread, unregulated use of genetically modified alfalfa, commonly known as hay, which is the primary feed for dairy cows and beef cattle across the country.

Opponents argue that the mutant crops, engineered to survive by being sprayed with insecticide, could escape from their fields and eventually cross-pollinate with and contaminate neighboring organic crops.  That could mean less organic feed for the organic cows that produce a range of organic products.

"Consumers don't eat [genetically modified] alfalfa, of course," said Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, which examines the U.S. farming and food industry.  "But it's the main feed for dairy cows.  And organic milk, one of the most successful and popular organic foods, could be compromised if the organic cows eat non-organic feed."

Some environmental experts are also concerned that broader planting of herbicide-resistant crops, which are then doused with powerful chemicals, could expedite the spread of "superweeds," which are herbicide-resistant pests that force farmers to potentially use more toxic substances to root them out.

"This is a bad solution to a nonexistent problem," said Pollan, who noted more than 90 percent of alfalfa crops are grown without an herbicide.

Many organic farming advocates speculate that the new Roundup-ready alfalfa is an attempt by the crop's commercial producers -- Monsanto and Forage Genetics International -- to dominate the market and increase profits.

But Monsanto, the nation's leading producer of genetically modified seeds and popular herbicide Roundup, said Roundup-ready alfalfa has been welcomed by many farmers because it yields "healthier, faster-growing stands [plantings] and hay with fewer weeds in every bale."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Does Facebook Make You Jealous, Unhappy?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Is Facebook making you sad? Do you look at your friends’ status updates and pictures and think their lives are more exciting than yours?

New research out of Stanford University says we often compare ourselves to others and think that they are leading more fulfilling and happy lives. And while that may not be a new phenomenon, social media may be making it worse.

A PhD student at Stanford conducted a study to find out how happy we think our friends are, and whether we’re right. He and his fellow researchers asked college freshmen to estimate how many positive and negative experiences they think their friends are having.

Turns out the students overestimated their friends’ quality of life.

In a separate study, researchers found the more that people overestimate how happy their friends were, the more upset they are with their own lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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