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Health Headlines - August 6

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
1st Large-Scale Breast Milk Donor Center Opens in California

A California firm says it has opened the nation's first large-scale breast milk donor facility to treat premature and sick infants.

The Prolacta Bioscience facility said it will accept donated milk from banks around the country, using pasteurization techniques to produce milk that's ideal for babies born too soon. Prolacta said it also is looking to supply donated milk for babies with heart defects, those at risk of infection, and children on chemotherapy.

Breast milk has certain minerals, enzymes and antibodies that, when compared to commercially produced milk, are credited with keeping babies healthier, the company said in a statement. The firm said it will ensure that its supplies also have appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and pH levels.

The processed milk will be distributed to hospitals and neonatal intensive-care units across the country, Prolacta said.

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America told BBC News that it questioned the "buying and selling of human milk," saying the practice could pressure low-income mothers into selling their milk.

The British network didn't publish any Prolacta response to the group's concerns.

Yoga May Contain Mid-Life Spread: Study

Yoga may help people suppress the typical middle-age spread, say researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

While the art of slow-stretching and meditation won't burn calories as quickly as jogging or a workout at the gym, people in their 50s who regularly practiced yoga lost about five pounds over 10 years, the study leaders noted. By contrast, study participants in the same age group who didn't practice yoga gained more than 13 pounds over the same span, the Associated Press reported.

Alan Kristal, a study co-author, told the wire service that yoga's benefits may have less to do with burning calories and more to do with participants keeping in tune with their bodies and practicing better eating habits.

"You become very sensitive to the feeling of being stuffed," he said.

Results of the study appear in the July/August issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

FDA Broadens Approval of Blood Pressure Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved expanded use of the blood pressure medication Diovan (valsartan) to include improving certain patients' chances of surviving a heart attack, manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals said Thursday.

The new indication applies only to high-risk heart attack survivors who have a condition called left ventricular dysfunction, the company said.

The FDA also broadened the drug's labeling to allow doctors to prescribe it to a wider range of heart-failure patients, Novartis said. Up to now, the drug had been officially limited to heart-failure patients who were intolerant to a class of medicines called ACE inhibitors.

The company warned that Diovan should be discontinued as soon as a woman learns she is pregnant because the drug could cause serious harm, even death, to a fetus.

Cleaning Method for Surgical Instruments May Halt Spread of CJD

A new method of cleaning surgical instruments developed by University of Edinburgh scientists may help stop the spread of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human form of mad cow.

Prions, the infectious particles that cause the disease, are known to be immune to most traditional sterilization techniques. These prions vary so much from known viral and bacterial infections that they can remain on surgical instruments even after the instruments have been sterilized.

This new method of cleaning surgical instruments uses gas that can reduce the presence of prions a thousand times lower than current cleaning methods and will greatly reduce the risk of CJD spread in surgical departments, the London Daily Mail reported.

"This new technique is significant because, unlike viral and bacterial pathogens, prions are proteins which are resistant to high temperatures and adhere very strongly to metal surfaces," said Professor Robert Baxter of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry.

Resistant Bacteria Being Brought Home by Wounded U.S. Soldiers

High rates of infection with a drug-resistant bacteria are being seen in wounded American soldiers brought back to military hospitals in the United States, say military doctors.

The bacteria, called Acinetobacter baumannii, are not found only in Iraq. They live in the soil and water in many parts of the world and can invade wounds, the bloodstream and other areas of the body. Infection with the bacteria can be treated with only certain kinds of antibiotics, The New York Times reported.

About 240 cases of infection have been treated at U.S. Army hospitals since 2003.

"It is not difficult to treat. If the antibiotic works, it works easily," Col. Bruno Petruccelli, a physician and director of epidemiology and disease surveillance fore the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, told The Times.

However, he noted that especially resistant strains of bacteria can cause prolonged infection.

No American soldiers from the Iraq war have died from infection with the bacteria. However, five seriously ill patients in hospitals treating wounded soldiers became infected with the bacteria and later died.

It's not known whether the patients died because of the bacterial infection or due to their underlying illnesses, Petruccelli told The Times.

Vitamin pills don't prevent infections in elderly

Daily supplements of multivitamins and minerals do not prevent respiratory, stomach, skin and other types of infections in the elderly, researchers said Friday.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

Children with delayed skills or skills advanced for their age level may be eligible for special services that can provide individualized instruction and programs in public schools, free of charge to your family. If you understand how to access these services, you'll be a better advocate for what your child needs.

WHO Recommends China Conducts More Tests

The World Health Organization urged China on Friday to conduct more tests on a pig-borne disease that has killed 38 people in the country's southwest, the worst outbreak in the region in recent years.

Amphetamines Improve Parkinson's Symptoms in Mice

Experiments in mice reveal that amphetamines, including the drug known as Ecstasy, can reverse some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Rapid Scan Helps Diagnose Dangerous Childhood Cancer

A customized gene chip that scans DNA regions in tumor samples to detect genetic changes in the children's cancer neuroblastoma has been developed by Philadelphia researchers.

Broccoli May Fight Bladder Cancer

There is already ample evidence that vegetables are good for you. Now, researchers report that certain compounds in broccoli may help prevent or slow the progress of bladder cancer.

Stem Cell Transplant Bests Chemo for Common Childhood Leukemia

The worst cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common leukemia in children, respond better to a stem cell transplant than to chemotherapy, a new study finds.

Health Tip: Don't Overdo Exercise

If you want to improve your cardiovascular health but are nervous about overdoing it, the American College of Sports Medicine offers these guidelines:

* Exercise three to five days a week.
* Warm up for five to 10 minutes.
* Maintain your exercise intensity for 30 to 45 minutes.
* Gradually decrease the intensity of your workout, then stretch to cool down during the last five to 10 minutes.

If weight loss is your main goal, exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week.

Health Tip: Avoid Botulism

Botulism food poisoning, while rare, can be fatal.

Reduce your risk of botulism with this guide from the University of California, Davis:

* Use only proper methods for canning low-acid foods, such as green beans, mushrooms, olives, beef or fish.
* Don't buy canned low-acid foods with leaky seals or deep dents.
* Discard all food that partially explodes from a can when it's being opened.
* Never taste a suspicious food product.

Health Tip: If Your Child Breaks a Bone

After a fall, some kids cry out that they've broken a bone in their arm or leg. But how do you tell whether a bone actually is broken?

According to The Nemours Foundation, a break may have occurred if your child heard a snapping sound when he fell, if there is swelling, bruising, and tenderness, or if it's painful to bear weight on the injured area.

If you suspect a bone's been broken, here's what to do:

* Remove clothing from the injured part.
* Apply a cold compress.
* Place a splint on the injured area by keeping the limb in the same position in which you found it. Position soft padding around the injured part; place something firm next to it; keep the splint in place using first aid tape.
* Get medical help and don't let your child eat -- in case surgery is needed.

Health Tip: Signs of a Troubled Pregnancy

Some discomfort during pregnancy is normal. Many women experience mild nausea, dizziness, fatigue or heartburn, according to Baystate Health System.

But other symptoms may be signs of more serious trouble. These include:

* Severe nausea and vomiting.
* Bleeding from the vagina.
* Severe abdominal pain.
* A temperature of more than 99.5 Fahrenheit.
* Leaking of amniotic fluid from the vagina.
* Strong, regular contractions before the due date.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

Food Fact:
Sweeter pineapple

Know what kind to buy, and you can triple the vitamin C. Golden Pineapple, a new variety tagged with a Golden label, is making a splash -- it's sweeter, juicier and contains 3 times as much vitamin C as other varieties of the tropical fruit. When choosing a pineapple, look for fresh, green leaves and be certain they are not wilted or brown. The pineapple should smell sweet and be firm with no soft spots. Diced or sliced fresh pineapple is the perfect way to end a meal. Toss it with some chopped candied ginger if you like.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Chill out.

One essential step in your workout helps avoid light-headedness and muscle spasms. It's the cool-down period, which is even more important than a preworkout warmup. After vigorous activity, a cooldown gives your heart rate a chance to normalize, and protects you from negative effects.

FAQ of the day:
Are dried fruits safe if I'm sensitive to sulfites?

Sulfites that are added to many dried fruits can cause allergy-like reactions in some individuals -- in some cases these can be life-threatening. That's why the FDA now requires that any foods with sulfites say so on the label. If you are sulfite-sensitive, look for "unsulphured" dried fruits, sold in some supermarkets and natural food stores.
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