Environmental Stressors Determine Parent-Child Relationships

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OXFORD, England) – Scientists have discovered that parents react to unpredictable environmental changes by investing more time and care into the upbringing of their children, reports Science Daily.

Researchers at Oxford University found that changes in mortality rates and fertility cause an evolutional change in how a parent cares for their offspring.

"We already know that some animals, such as different populations of European kestrel, alter the levels of care they give their offspring in response to unpredictable environments," said author Dr. Mike Bonsall of Oxford University's Department of Zoology. "What this new research shows is that many more species are likely to 'hedge their bets', changing how much they care for their offspring depending on how challenging the environment is."

For example, in a challenging environment, parents might feed their offspring more often than when the environment is stable.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Getting Your Tongue Pierced? Research Says Go Plastic

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(INNSBRUCK, Austria) – New research suggests that plastic studs used in tongue piercings are less likely to cause infection compared to metal studs, according to HealthDay News.

Researchers at Innsbruck Medical University in Austria found that stainless steel studs are more likely to build up bacteria and cause infections or other complications.

“Consumers should avoid stainless steel and titanium studs in favor of [plastic], not only because of bacteria and a potentially higher risk of local infection of the piercing channel, but also because of the risk of tooth chipping and gum recession," said study author Dr. Ines Kapferer.

Researchers tested their theory on 80 people ages 16 to 36 with recent tongue piercings by giving them stainless steel, titanium or plastic studs. Those who wore the stainless steel studs had the highest accumulation of bacteria in lab tests. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Brain Stimulation Could Help Lower High Blood Pressure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BRISTOL, UK) – New research has discovered what may be a new treatment for those who have difficulty controlling their high blood pressure with medication, according to a study published in Neurology.

The finding is based on a case study of a 55-year-old man with high blood pressure who received a deep brain stimulator to help treat pain that developed from a stroke.

It was discovered that the device lowered the man’s blood pressure to a point where he no longer needed his blood pressure medication.

"This is an exciting finding as high blood pressure affects millions of people and can lead to heart attack and stroke, but for about one in 10 people, high blood pressure can't be controlled with medication or they cannot tolerate the medication," said Nikunj K. Patel of Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, UK.

Patel and his team found that the man’s blood pressure levels decreased gradually after the device was implanted and have remained under control without the use of medication.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Loud Traffic Linked to Stroke Risk

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) – A new study suggests that prolonged exposure to loud traffic can increase a person’s risk of stroke, especially in people over the age of 65.

According to the study, published in the European Heart Journal, a person under the age of 65 is 14 percent more likely to suffer a stroke for every 10 decibels or more of traffic noise. The risk increases significantly for those over 65, to 27 percent.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology of Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen say the increased risk is also tied to stress.

"Exposure to traffic noise is believed to provoke a stress response and disturb sleep, which might increase the risk for stroke, through mechanisms including increased level of stress hormones, increased heart rate and blood pressure and impaired immune system,” said senior researcher Mette Sorensen. "Although our study was the first study on traffic noise and stroke, I was not surprised of the results as earlier studies have found traffic noise to be associated with other cardiovascular diseases.”

The study also accounted for other factors such as pollution, smoking and diet habits and other noise contributors such as planes and railways.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Investigates Link Between Breast Implants and Cancer

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/U.S. Food and Drug Administration(WASHINGTON) -- A warning came Wednesday from the Food and Drug Administration about breast implants and a possible link to a rare cancer.

The warning involves both saline and silicone breast implants. The government says there may be a link between the implants and a rare form of lymphoma.  They say it appears women with implants may have a small, but significant risk of developing this cancer in scar tissue alongside the implants. 

The FDA is not urging women with implants to take them out, or change their medical care, but is telling doctors and patients to be on the lookout and report any possible cases of this cancer. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afraid of Snakes? Scientists Explain Why

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Fear of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlers is so universal that most of us probably believe we must have been born with it. It's universal, so it must be innate.

Not necessarily, according to research at several major universities.

That work suggests that we learn which things can be harmful at a very young age -- even just a few months -- because we have an evolutionary bias that predisposes us to fear things that have posed a threat throughout human history.

"What we're suggesting is that we have these biases to detect things like snakes and spiders really quickly, and to associate them with things that are yucky or bad, like a fearful voice," developmental psychologist Vanessa LoBue of Rutgers University said in releasing the research.

LoBue's co-authors of the study, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, are David H. Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University and Judy S. DeLoache of the University of Virginia.

The research is based on experiments with infants and very young children to see if they automatically know something can be harmful, like a snake, or if they have to learn it by observing fearful faces of adults, or associating a snake with something unpleasant, like a loud shriek.

They found repeatedly that babies don't recognize something as potentially harmful until they are conditioned to do so by something in their environment, and even then they may not show actual fear for a while.

"We propose that humans have a perceptual bias for the rapid detection of evolutionarily relevant threats and a bias for rapid association of these threats with fear," the researchers conclude in their paper.

But we weren't born with it, and in some cases female babies reacted differently from male babies, possibly explaining why some little boys seem fearless of snakes and spiders and things that go bump in the night, but most little girls scream at the mere sight of a snake.

In his part of the research, Carnegie Mellon's Rakison studied 11-month-old infants to see if an image of a snake, for example, alongside a human face showing either happiness or fear, would cause them to recognize that a snake is either harmless or dangerous.

It worked for the girls, but not the boys.

He found that "11-month old girls -- but not boys of the same age -- associated recurrent threats with fearful faces," according to the study. Interestingly, when the babies were shown flowers or other non-threatening images along with faces showing either fear or happiness, it made no difference.

That suggests the presence of a bias to recognize that snakes may be threatening, but not flowers. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Red Cross Makes Urgent Plea for Blood Donors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- This winter has brought especially brutal weather across the country, and according to the American Red Cross, the nationwide blood supply is at its lowest January levels in the last 10 years.  The agency is trying to get the word out that blood is urgently needed.

"When severe weather disrupts [the balance between supply and demand], the Red Cross puts out a call to potential blood donors across the country to give blood as soon as possible and help make up the deficit," Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, said in a press release.

The Red Cross says someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds in the U.S. because of injuries, surgery and treatments for diseases like cancer and sickle cell anemia.  The organization says it needs all blood types, especially type O, and encourages everyone at least 17 years old in overall good health to see if they are eligible to donate.

Blood and blood components, like platelets, are extremely perishable and need to be replenished constantly.

"Platelets have a shelf life of only five days, and regular blood has a shelf life of six weeks," said Dr. Michael Sacher, director of the Hoxworth Blood Center at the University of Cincinnati.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Parental History Predicts Risk of Heart Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) -- It has long been known that a family history of heart disease is a risk factor for heart attack, but scientists have identified a number of genes and factors of environment and behavior that increase the risk of heart disease.

The international research compared over fifteen thousand patients who survived a heart attack to people who never had one. The result is called the "interheart" study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 

The question: if one or both of your parents had heart attacks, does that affect your risk of having one, even after accounting for other genetic and behavioral risks such as smoking and drinking alcohol? The answer: having a parental history of heart attack increases your risk by an average of 74 per cent. If one parent had a heart attack over 50 years of age, your risk goes up 67 per cent, under 50 your risk increases by 136 per cent. If both your parents had heart attacks over age fifty, that puts you at a 190 per cent greater risk and if they both had heart attacks under fifty, your risk soars by a whopping 226 per cent.    

The study's conclusion is a parental history of heart attacks is a significant, independent predictor of heart attack.    

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Past Smoking Trends, Obesity to Blame for Shorter Lifespans in US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans have shorter lifespans compared to people in other high-income nations, and smoking and obesity are to blame, according to a new report.

Despite spending more money on health care than any other country, the report by the National Research Council found that life expectancy in the U.S. has been rising but slowly in comparison to countries like Japan and Australia. 

One main culprit for this lag has been America's past with smoking.  The report says mortality rates are still being affected today by smoking habits 30 to 50 years ago, when smoking was more widespread in the U.S. than in Europe or Japan.

Reductions in smoking in the U.S. over the last 20 years, however, will likely counter these findings in the upcoming decades, when the benefits begin to register.  The report predicts that men's life expectancies will improve fairly quickly as a result.  Mortality rates for women in the U.S., on the other hand, are predicted to decline slowly because women's smoking behavior peaked later than men's.

Obesity is also to blame for the lag in life expectancies, possibly accounting for a fifth to a third of the shortfall in the U.S., according to the report.  If obesity rates continue to rise, it could offset any improvements to come from reductions in smoking.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allegra to Be Sold Over the Counter

Photo Courtesy- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Those who suffer from allergies can now buy the number-one prescribed allergy treatment without a prescription.

The FDA approved the Allegra family of allergy medication for over-the-counter use Tuesday.

Allegra and Allegra-D will be available in March 2011 in their original prescription strengths for over-the-counter purchase. The price of the medication will be left to the discretion of retailers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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