Archive for November, 2009

Ginkgo Won’t Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke in Elderly

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Researchers report that the herbal supplement may help ward off peripheral artery disease.  According to the findings of a new study, the popular herbal remedy might help prevent the leg-circulation problem known as peripheral artery disease.  

Ginkgo contains nutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, and are believed to offer some protection against cardiovascular events, according to the researchers.   The supplement, increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, has been touted to improve memory, and to prevent dementia, heart disease and stroke. 

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh found that ginkgo had no benefit in preventing heart attack or stroke.  Consistent with observations of researchers in Europe, the medical experts noted that ginkgo appeared to have some benefit in preventing peripheral vascular disease.

Last year the same University of Pittsburgh team reported that ginkgo biloba had no effect on preventing dementia.  For their latest study, reearchers randomly assigned 3,069 patients to 120 milligrams of highly purified ginkgo biloba or placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.

Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes (“transient ischemic attacks”) and 207 had chest pain, the researchers found.  There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of these outcomes, the study reports.

However, among the 35 people who were treated for peripheral artery disease, 23 received placebo and 12 were taking ginkgo — a statistically significance difference, the researchers noted.  About 8 million Americans have peripheral artery disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Peripheral artery disease typically affects the arteries in the pelvis and legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the hip muscles and legs when walking or climbing stairs, although not everyone who has PAD is symptomatic. The pain usually subsides during rest.

Smokers Double Risk For Heart Disease

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year and 1.4 million will be diagnosed with cancer. 

Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System followed over 12,000 male and female smokers, former smokers and nonsmokers for a three year time period. 

During that time, current smokers were 4.16 times more likely to die of cancer, 2.26 times more likely to die of heart disease and 2.58 times more likely to die from any cause than were former or nonsmokers. Current smokers were also more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers found that there were no significant differences between former smokers and nonsmokers in the risk for dying from heart disease or any cause.  Former smokers they reported were more likely to die of cancer than those who’d never smoked.  

The findings were published online in Circulation, by the American Heart Association.  The researchers noted provide strong evidence that people with heart disease who continue to smoke take a very high risk of increasing their chances of death in the short term.  They note that the findings should provides impetus for a smoker to stop.  The benefits of risk reduction accrue relatively quickly when someone stops smoking, although the lingering cancer risk is still there, the researchers concluded.

Pregnancy-Produced Hormone May Prevent Breast Cancer

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Researchers at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Albany Medical College, N.Y., report that the protein, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), may serve as a viable, well-tolerated agent for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.  AFP is a protein normally produced by the liver and yolk sac of a fetus. 

Hormones produced during pregnancy, such as estrogen, all induce AFP, which directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer, noted one of the researchers.  Medical experts explain that the body can produce a natural defense system against breast cancer.  They note this can be developed into a drug that can be used to protect women from breast cancer. 

Recent studies have shown that hormones released during pregnancy, such as estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin, reduce a women’s risk for breast cancer.   Nearly 700,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer affects about 26 percent of female cancer victims.

Researchers’  results showed that treatment with estrogen plus progesterone, estrogen alone or human chorionic gonadotropin reduced the incidence of mammary cancers in rats.   The researchers noted that each of these treatments elevated the serum level of AFP and that AFP directly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells growing in culture.  While none of these treatments prevented mammary tumors in 100 percent of the rats, it appears to delay mammary tumor formation and prevent breast cancer development in approximately 30 to 50 percent of the rats.

Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Older Men, Not Women

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

New research examined over 3,000 men and women, average age 69, who were followed for about nine years.  During that time, there were 238 strokes among the participants. At the start of the study, 20 percent of the participants said they did regular moderate-to-high intensity exercise such as jogging, swimming or tennis.  Some 41 percent said they did no physical activity. 

Men who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise were 63 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who didn’t exercise. Over five years, the baseline risk of ischemic stroke which is the leading type of stroke for all study participants was 4.3 percent; 2.7 percent for those who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise and 4.6 percent for those who didn’t exercise. 

The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia appears in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Neurology.  Taking part in moderate-to-heavy intensity physical activity may be an important factor for preventing stroke, noted the study’s author. 

A large percentage of the participants were not taking part in any physical activities. This may be true of many elderly people who live in cities. Identifying ways to improve physical activity among these people may be a key goal for public health.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  This year some 600,000 Americans will suffer their first stroke.

Kidney Transplant Plus Sleep Disorder Adds Up to Trouble

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Researchers in Hungary conducted a study of kidney transplant recipients and found that 25 percent had moderate to severe sleep apnea, a rate similar to that seen in kidney disease patients on dialysis awaiting a transplant. 

The findings they note indicate that both types of patients who have the breathing-related sleep disorder should be considered at high risk for serious heart-related complications.  Transplant recipients with sleep apnea were more than twice as likely as those without the syndrome to be taking three or more anti-hypertensive drugs, but still had higher blood pressure than those without the sleep disorder. Obesity increased a transplant patient’s risk of developing sleep apnea.

Organ transplants are increasingly available according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some critical illness policies will provide a cash benefit when a transplant is received.

When the Hungarian medical researchers calculated risk scores, they found that kidney disease patients with sleep apnea were twice as likely to suffer heart disease or stroke than those without sleep apnea.  They recommend that physicians should screen transplant patients for obstructive sleep apnea and offer appropriate treatment,” the study authors concluded. 

The study will be published in January in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Moderate Drinking May Help Your Heart

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

The type of alcohol — beer, wine or spirits — made no difference, the researchers reported in the Nov. 19 online issue of Heart. The Spanish analysis used 10-year data on over 40,000 men and women who were participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study. 

But for men, there was a point at which the coronary benefits of alcohol declined, and risk began to rise again.  The rate of coronary heart disease for non-drinking women in the study was 56 per 100,000. For women listed as low drinkers, averaging less than 5 grams a day, it was 42. For women who were moderate drinkers (5 to 30 grams a day), it was 36; for high drinkers (30 to 90 grams a day) it was 12; and for heavy drinkers (more than 90 grams a day) it was 12. 

The rates for men were 398 per 100,000 for those who never drank, 318 for low drinkers, 255 for moderate drinkers, 278 for high drinkers and 334 for heavy drinkers, the researchers reported.

The report showing that the source of alcohol made no difference does help puncture one explanation for what has come to be called the “French paradox,” the low level of heart disease seen in that country despite consumption of what Americans would describe as an unhealthy, fat-rich diet. Some experts have attributed the paradox to the beneficial effects of red wine. 

A number of well-done studies have shown that people who drink have higher levels of HDL cholesterol.  HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind that prevents formation of artery-blocking plaque deposits. 

The American Heart Association recommendation is that “if you drink, do so in moderation.” That means one to two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a woman, with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Every 34 seconds an American will suffer a heart attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

SOURCES: Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor, epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., internist, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, associate professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Nov. 19, 2009, Heart, online.

Diuretics Still Best Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Medical researchers reported the findings of a study at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association this week.   They reported that the thiazide-type diuretic chlorthalidone outshone three other treatments — a calcium channel blocker, an ACE inhibitor and an alpha-receptor blocker — in most areas.  This was especially effective in lowering the incidence of stroke and heart failure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 will have a new coronary attack this year according to the industry trade group. 

The findings the medical experts note are largely unchanged.  They note that the main message is that treating hypertension [high blood pressure] is very necessary and that treating hypertension with chlorthalidone resulted in a significant reduction in heart failure and stroke. 

The original trial, begun in 1994, involved more than 42,000 patients with hypertension and at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The participants were randomly assigned to take one of the following anti-hypertensive drugs: chlorthalidone (the diuretic), amlodipine besylate (the calcium channel blocker), doxazosin mesylate (the alpha blocker) or lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor). 

The five-year follow-up, which ended in 2002, was intended to see if new differences emerged with long-term use of the medications, especially regarding coronary heart disease, total mortality, heart failure and aggregate cardiovascular disease. 

This is the largest hypertension trial to date, one researcher noted.  Earlier results had also found that diuretics were as good or better than other blood pressure-lowering drugs for treating hypertension in patients with metabolic syndrome (a collection of factors that put people at risk of heart disease), especially black patients.

Migraine Increases Likelihood Of Stroke

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by plaque accumulation or a blood clot.

In astudy presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed the findings of 21 studies that included a total of 622,381 men and women, aged 18 to 70, in Europe and North America.

Those with migraines were 2.3 times more likely than people without migraines to suffer ischemic stroke. The risk was 2.5 times higher for migraine sufferers who experienced aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred vision), and for women experiencing aura, 2.9 times higher.

The findings reinforce the link between migraine and stroke and also correct some discrepancies in previous analyses that yielded mixed results, according to Hopkins cardiologist and senior study investigator Dr. Saman Nazarian.

Nazarian said nearly 1,800 articles have been written about the relationship between migraine and stroke, but the Hopkins review is believed to be the largest of its kind and was more selective, including only studies that used similar designs and groups of people.

“Identifying people at highest risk is crucial to preventing disabling strokes. Based on this data, physicians should consider addressing stroke risk factors in patients with a history or signs of light flashes and blurry vision associated with severe headaches,” Nazarian said in a Hopkins news release.

There are a number of migraine prevention and treatment options, including smoking cessation, taking medications to lower blood pressure or taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, Nazarian added. For women with migraines, additional options include discontinuing use of birth control pills or stopping hormone replacement therapy.

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Rapid Cooling May Help When Heart Attack Hits

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Swedish researchers examined the use of a device called RhinoChill, which cools the brains of heart attack patients during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The median time between cardiac arrest onset and the start of cooling was 23 minutes. On arrival at hospital, the average body temperature of cooled patients was 93.56 degrees F, compared with 95.9 degrees for standard care patients. 

The study found that 46.7 percent of patients in the cooling group survived to hospital discharge, compared with 31 percent of patients who received standard care.   In addition, some 36.7 percent of those in the cooling group and 21.4 percent of those in the standard care group were in good neurological condition when discharged from the hospital. 

Patients who received a combination of early CPR — started within six minutes of collapse — and cooling had the best outcomes.   The researchers noted that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better. When resuscitation efforts were delayed, there was no significant difference in survival.  

The study was to be presented Nov. 15 at an American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some785,000 Americans will have a new cornary attack this year.

Drug Shrinks Lung Cancer Tumors

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Researchers report that the drug also stopped lung cancer tumors from growing and becoming resistant to treatment.

One in five people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer and only three per cent of these people are expected to survive for five years. With this form of lung cancer, tumors spread quickly so it is rarely possible to remove the tumors surgically. Because of this, small cell lung cancer is treated with chemotherapy, with or without additional radiotherapy. 

Initially, the treatment often appears to work, reducing the size of the tumors. However, the tumors usually grow back rapidly and then become resistant to further treatment. 

The researchers have identified a drug that, in some mice, was able to completely shrink tumors away. In the mouse models, it was also able to stop tumors from growing and it helped other forms of chemotherapy to work more effectively. If the drug proves successful in humans, the researchers hope that it could help patients with this kind of lung cancer to live longer. 

The Section of Molecular Oncology and Lung Cancer Research at Imperial College London which conducted the study suggests that it may be possible to develop the drug PD173074 into a new targeted therapy for small cell lung cancer.  

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancer killer in the world according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.   Around one in five of people diagnosed with lung cancer will have small cell lung cancer. Although it responds to chemotherapy initially, the tumors soon become resistant to treatment and sadly nearly all people with the disease do not survive.

Study: Breast Cancer Cured But Pain Survives

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

According to a report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association the pain exists even two or three years following treatment.  Almost 60% of the over 3,000 women surveyed experience other symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or tenderness, according to a study of women treated for breast cancer in 2005 and 2006. 

The researchers noted that women under 40 and those who have more extensive surgery, such as a mastectomy, and radiation are the most likely to report pain.  Women, they report, also have more pain if surgeons removed many of the lymph nodes in their armpits, a common place for breast cancer to spread.

Most breast cancer patients can ease their symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers.  Every year nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one in four women are diagnosed with breast cancer and as a result of early detection and improved treatment, most survice.

 

While the medical experts explain that it is not always possible to prevent chronic pain, there are ways women can reduce their risk.

 

Women should choose doctors who perform “sentinel-node” biopsies, one of the experts writing in the Journal noted. In the procedure, surgeons remove and test one or a few key lymph node for malignant cells instead of automatically removing all of the nodes. If the sentinel node is cancer-free, surgeons leave the others in place. The procedure also reduces the risk of lymphedema, a painful swelling in the arm.

Moderate Exercise May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Researchers examined men who underwent biopsies for possible prostate cancer.  Those who exercised moderately, the equivalent of three to six hours of walking per week, were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. 

The study found that compared with their sedentary counterparts, these men were two-thirds less likely to have a biopsy positive for prostate cancer. In addition, men who performed one to three hours of walking each week had an 86 percent lower chance of having an aggressive form of the cancer. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, some 745,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each week.  Prostate cancer is the leading cancer impacting men.  The study findings which appear in the current issue of the Journal of Urology do not prove that exercise helps prevent prostate cancer the researchers point out. But it could offer men another incentive to get active. 

A number of studies have looked at the relationship between exercise and prostate cancer, and while most have pointed to a protective effect, about one-third have found no association.   And among men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 51 percent of sedentary patients had more-aggressive cancer, versus 22 percent of those who had been mildly active — getting the equivalent of one to three hours of moderate walking per week.

Eating Red Meat Linked To Prostate Cancer

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute report the findings of a major study.  Researchers followed more than 175,000 men for nine years.  Those who ate the most red and processed meats had heightened risks of developing any stage of prostate cancer, or advanced cancer in particular.  Prostate cancer is the most commong cancer in men according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, followed by lung and colon.

The findings which were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology add to a conflicting body of research on meat intake and prostate cancer risk.   Prior studies have come to different conclusions.  However, medical experts generally consider the evidence linking red and processed meats to the disease to be limited and inconclusive.

These latest findings do not settle the question. The researchers explain that they do suggest that processed red meats and high-heat cooking methods — namely, grilling and barbecuing — may be particularly connected to prostate cancer risk.

The researchers used that information to estimate the levels of certain potentially cancer-promoting chemicals in the men’s diets.  Over the next nine years, 10,313 study participants developed prostate cancer and 419 died from the disease. 

Overall, the researchers found, the 20 percent of men with the highest intakes of red meat, which in this study included beef and pork, were 12 percent more likely than those who consumed the least to develop prostate cancer.

Obesity Causes 100,000 U.S. Cancer Cases

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Researchers estimate that obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States or an estimated $147 billion a year.  Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. The American Cancer Society reports that nearl 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 562,000 will die of the disease. 

Medical researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that having too much body fat causes nearly half the cases of endometrial cancer, which is a type of cancer of the uterus.  Too much body fat they note was also responsible for one third of esophageal cancer cases.

The researchers expect the number of cancer cases will likely rise as Americans get fatter.  Nearly a third of Americans are overweight, defined as having a BMI of 25 to 30. 

More than 26 percent of Americans are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes obese at 180 pounds (82 kg). 

The American Institute for Cancer Research reported the percented of cancer cases that would be prevented if everyone in the United States maintained a healthy weight.  Here are some of its estimates of cancer types that could be prevented annually if Americans stayed slender:

Endometrium – 49 percent of cases or 20,700 people

Esophageal – 35 percent of cases or 5,800 people

Pancreatic – 28 percent or 11,900 people

Kidney – 24 percent or 13,900 people

Gallbladder – 21 percent or 2,000 people

Breast – 17 percent or 33,000 people

Colon – 9 percent or 13,200 people

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Race, Income, Marital Status Has No Impact On Prostate Cancer Outcome

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A study conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that socioeconomic status factors had no impact on predicting the outcome of treatment. All patients did equally well, based on the known prognostic factors. 

The study, presented this week at the American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting in Chicago is unique in that nearly 50 percent of patients in the analysis are African American. 

Prostate cancer affects one in six men in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and the majority of all prostate cancer are diagnosed in men older than 65.  Most individuals diagnosed with the illness will survive.  Only one in 35 will die of prostate cancer.   Radiation therapy involves administering high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. 

According to the study’s lead researcher, prior studies on socioeconomic status and cancer outcomes done by other groups have had conflicting results.  One study, for example, suggested that African Americans with breast or colon cancer do much worse than white patients because they receive care at hospitals with less expertise.

Another study the medical experts noted show that men with prostate cancer who are married have better outcomes than those who are unmarried or without a partner. And yet other studies suggested that hospitals with large minority patient populations have higher mortality for cancer.

A shortcoming of many of the studies is the fact that they include a relatively small percentage of African American patients.  By comparison, almost half of the Ford study group was African American, which allowed researchers to undertake a more accurate assessment of how socioeconomic status affects prostate cancer outcomes.

Low Cholesterol May Be Sign Of Cancer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Previously, some medical experts had thought that low cholesterol may have been a cause.  According to researchers reporting this week, findings suggest that men who have low cholesterol actually have a lower risk of developing high-risk prostate cancer.

There were some 1.4 million cancer cases in the United States last year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The cost of caring for medical conditions caused over 60 percent of the 1.5 million Americans to declare bankruptcy.

A study of more than 5,000 U.S. men conducted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found a link between low cholesterol and a lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer among men over age 55.

The researchers report that if men had total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter, they had a nearly 60 percent lower risk of developing high grade prostate cancer, the riskiest kind. 

It is not clear whether taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might help men with prostate cancer. That would need to be studied, the medical experts noted.  The study was reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Cholesterol-lowering Medicines May Be Effective Against Cancer

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Statins lower cholesterol by blocking certain enzymes involved in metabolism.   Medical experts note that  they have also been shown to help proteins attach to cell membranes.  Because many of the proteins that are lipid-modified cause cancer, there are now hopes that it will be possible to use statins in the treatment of cancer. 

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Germany, conducted studies that show statins can have a dramatic inhibitory effect on growth and development.  The researchers note that their results support the idea that statins can be used in more ways than just to lower cholesterol.  Not least that they can prevent the growth of cancer cells caused by lipid-modified proteins, but also that they can be effective in the treatment of diabetes and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. 

The findings were published in the article Statins Inhibit Protein Lipidation and Induce the Unfolded Protein Response in the Non-Sterol Producing Nematode C. elegans, published in the journal PNAS.  The study is the result of a research partnership between the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology.

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Low Vitamin D Linked To Heart, Stroke Deaths

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

A new study reports that adults with lower, versus higher, vitamin D levels in their blood may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.  Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in several thousand men and 3,402 women.

Participants were just over 49 years old on average at the beginning of the research and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease.  During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants’ with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, the researchers noted.  There was a “particularly striking association” between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, they explain.  Those having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer “twice the risk,” compared with those having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.  In this study, vitamin D levels were “substantially lower” than levels thought to be sufficient, and “somewhat lower” than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit industry organization, some 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year.  From 1995 to 2005, the death rate from coronary heart disease declined 34 percent.  The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.