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Health Headlines - January 20

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:25pm
Daily Drink Improves Thinking in Older Women

Women who enjoy a drink of beer or wine daily have sharper minds into old age than women who abstain, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

U.S. Cancer Survival Rates Rising

More Americans than ever before are surviving cancer and rates in general are falling, mostly because fewer people are smoking, the American Cancer Society reported on Wednesday.

U.S. Cites Poor Water Quality on More Airliners

The U.S. government has found for the second time in recent months that water from a sampling of commercial aircraft galleys and bathrooms was not safe for use, regulators said on Wednesday.

Fatal Medication Errors Peak at Start of the Month

Deaths related to medication errors appear to rise sharply during the first few days of each month, suggesting that hectic pharmacies may be at least partly to blame, according to researchers.

Medicare to Pay for More Heart Devices

Medicare will soon fund implantable heart devices for thousands more patients, after publication of a landmark study finding the devices can save more lives, top agency officials said in a medical journal on Wednesday.

New Gene Could Be a Master Switch for Cancer

Scientists have discovered a new cancer-causing gene that they believe could be a molecular master switch for the disease.

U.S. Warns of Safety Risks of Boehringer AIDS Drug

An important AIDS drug can cause sometimes deadly liver damage but remains a key option for many patients, U.S. health officials warned on Wednesday.

Bird Flu Kills Vietnam Teenager, Virus Fears Rise

An 18-year-old girl has died of bird flu in southern Vietnam and the first confirmed human infection in the country's north has raised concerns about possible human-to-human transmission of the virus.

Vitamin E May Ward Off Lou Gehrig's Disease

Vitamin E supplements may play a role in preventing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the slowly paralyzing condition commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, new research shows.

Low-Carb Diets Get New Year's Boost, Survey Says

The number of U.S. consumers on low-carbohydrate diets rose sharply in the first two weeks of 2005, but many Americans are likely to give up the diets as the year progresses, according to a new survey.

Cancer the Top Killer for Those Under 85

For the first time, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the top killer of Americans under 85, health officials said Wednesday. The good news is that deaths from both are falling, but improvement has been more dramatic for heart disease.

Study Shows Plavix Has Higher Ulcer Risk

Plavix, a heart drug recommended by medical groups as an easy-on-the-stomach substitute for aspirin, instead showed a much higher risk of recurrent ulcers in a small but provocative study.

Drinking Water Aboard Airliners Worsens

Asking for bottled water or a canned drink aboard an airliner might be the safest way to fly. Coliform bacteria are showing up in more airliners than last summer when the government first took steps toward requiring sanitation improvements.

Obese Dancers Break Stereotypes in Cuba

Cuban ballet dancers in white glide across the floor, executing an airy blend of pirouettes and back stretches. Within seconds, spectators are captivated, quickly forgetting what at first they couldn't overlook — most of the dancers weigh more than 200 pounds.

Six dancers between the ages of 23 and 41 make up the island's Voluminous Dance group, which has presented about 20 works and is preparing its current show, "Una muerte dulce," or "A Sweet Death," for the spring.

"It's incredible how they utilize their roundness," Mirta Castro, a tourist from Costa Rica, said as she watched the dancers rehearsing in Havana. "It breaks free of the belief that dance is only for slender people."

That is exactly the taboo Juan Miguel Mas, the group's director, wanted to shatter when he created Voluminous Dance in 1996. He called together dozens of overweight people in Havana to a formal dance audition where he looked for inner spark, eagerness and motivation.

"We obese people also need to express ourselves with our bodies," said Mas, who is also a dancer in the group. "We feel (our bodies), we command them and we enjoy them just like any other human being."

While obesity is not a major problem in Cuba, where fast-food restaurants are almost nonexistent, the country is beginning to face some of the same health challenges confronting most of the world.

In the late 1990s, the government began urging Cubans to get more exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables in addition to their typical diet of rice, beans and meat. Last year, the island's sports institute, which manages Cuba's elite athletes, launched a campaign to encourage exercise and sports among the general population.

Mas, who weighs more than 300 pounds, first appeared on stage with Cuba's Contemporary Dance troupe as a giant baby in the lead role of a 1989 production called "Absurdo," or "Absurd." He is the only member of Voluminous Dance, or Danza Voluminosa, who danced professionally before the group's creation.

Dancers in the group have come and gone over the years, Mas said. Money is scarce, and as an independent project, the group often scrambles to find rehearsal space and generate interest in their performances.

The group is not officially recognized by Cuba's cultural ministry, so none of the dancers receive full salaries from the socialist state; instead, they earn some money for each contract. Mas said he thinks the reason there's been no formal endorsement for the group is that most of the dancers have not received dance training from the state.

"We desperately need support," said Mas, who added the group is the only one of its kind in Cuba and, he believes, in the region. "Ours is a project that could reach thousands of people all over the country."

In a studio in Havana's Teatro Nacional, the dancers move with grace and sensitivity, surprising onlookers with their elasticity. Their leaps are limited, but arm motions are expansive and elegant.

The room becomes electric when the dancers suddenly drop to the floor and begin to roll over each other, as if part of a wave. The task appears effortless despite intense, passion-filled expressions on their faces.

"Our work is not just art, it also has a social aspect," Mas said. "We approach obese people to help them find a physical and emotional equilibrium and rescue their self-esteem."

Barbara Paula Valdes, 27, said she feels transformed after two years with Voluminous Dance.

"I changed how I walk, how I talk, the way I relate to people," said Valdes, who weighs 275 pounds. "I had an artist hidden inside me and didn't realize it."

Wyo. Starts Campaign Vs. Chewing Tobacco

After years of swallowing her chewing tobacco so she could hide her addiction from her fellow nurses, Kevin Dager decided that she no longer wanted to be one of the 5 percent of Wyoming women who chew.

Okla. Locks Up Meds Used in Meth Labs

After years of locking up methamphetamine makers only to see illegal drug labs multiply on urban stovetops and country roads, Oklahoma got tough.

Spain's Catholic Church Backs Condoms

In a substantial shift from traditional policy, the spokesman for the Catholic Church in Spain has said it supports the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Fertility Clinics Have Differing Policies

A new survey of U.S. fertility clinics found that few have policies for deciding who to help get pregnant — an issue drawing fresh attention because of claims that a 66-year-old woman in Romania gave birth over the weekend.

Health Tip: Brush Your Baby's Teeth

You should clean your baby's teeth with a soft brush and water as soon as they come in, the U.S. National Institutes of Health advises.

Health Tip: Keep Your Nails Healthy

Healthy nails are essential, not only for good looks, but for protecting the health of your fingertips.

Faulty DNA Repair Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

Shortcomings in the capability of cells to repair damaged DNA are linked with increased breast cancer risk, says a study in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

New Guidelines Simplify Care for Acute Coronary Syndrome

New, simplified "alphabet" guidelines for doctors managing patients with acute coronary syndrome are outlined in a study in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Spleen Surprise Source of Stem Cells

The spleen may be a source of potential adult stem cells that contain a protein called Hox11, which is associated with embryonic development and limb regeneration in some animals.

Senior Gamblers Play Dangerous Odds

Some older Americans may be at-risk gamblers who are prone to betting lots of money or more money than they can afford, says a study in the January issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Radiation Therapy Boosts High-Risk Breast Cancer Survival

Adding radiation therapy to chemotherapy improves survival in patients with high-risk breast cancer who have had a modified radical or full mastectomy, a 20-year follow-up on a key study finds.

Implanted Defibrillator Research Convinces Medicare to Expand Its Use

New research has convinced Medicare officials that doubling or tripling the use of implantable defibrillators to treat heart failure is economically justifiable.

Moderate Drinking May Ward Off Dementia

A drink a day may keep dementia away.

Plavix Not Best for Heart Patients With History of Ulcers

New research suggests the blood thinner Plavix may be more dangerous to heart patients with a history of bleeding ulcers than the alternative, an aspirin-based treatment.

Fabled for its tobacco, Cuba tells smokers to step outside

Cuba may be world famous for its tobacco but the communist government -- led by ex-smoker Fidel Castro -- has decided to ban smoking in public places starting next month.

Two million Nigerians orphaned by AIDS

Two million Nigerian children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and 900 people are dying needlessly from the virus every day, the international medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said.

Japanese doctors conduct first live transplant of pancreatic tissue

Japanese physicians said they carried out the world's first live transplant of tissue from the pancreas in an attempt to help a severely diabetic woman in her 20s.

Three Taiwan brothers with rare ALD disease head to US for surgery

Three Taiwanese brothers suffering from ALD, a rare degenerative disease of the nervous system, were to leave for the United States for bone marrow transplants after their family raised millions of dollars to cover their medical expenses.
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