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Tuesday, December 06, 2005
There is growing scientific evidencd that acupuncture, a pillar of Chinese medicine, can relieve many kinds of pain, but there's no clear agreement about how it works. That was underscored by a German study of migraines; it found that inserting needles at various acupuncture points in the body relieved pain just as effectively as inserting them in the points that are supposed to affect migraines. Both therpies cut the number of episodes more than 50percent over a 12-week period; a control that did not receive either treatment continued to suffer as before.

-- A I D S --
This was the year that the World Health Organization (WHO), under the banner of its onnovative "3 by "5 campaign, was supposed to put 3 million AIDS patients in the developing world on life saving antiretrovial drugs. With only a month left in 2005, the WHO is expected to fall short of its goal, but most experts still consider the plan a success. Fourteen of the countries hardened hit by the epidemic now provide therapies to at least half their patients who need them. Such treament programs are critical as the AIDS virus continue to spread and mutate. The WHO and U.N. last week reported that an estimated 40 million people are HIV-positive, including a record 1 million in the U.S. in New York City, doctors were alarmed to discover a particularly powerful strain in HIV in a sexually active gay man. Resistant to all but one of the classes of anti-AIDS drugs, that fast moving virus appears to lead to full flown AIDS in a matter of months.

One of the most tragic features of this neurological disease is the way patients slip away slowly losing memory and other brain functions over a span of years. Now there is evidence that the long goodbye of Alzheimers' may begin even earluer thatn doctors suspected. A Swedish analysis of nearly 50 studies of the condition found that patients who go on to develop Alzheimers' show telltale signs - lapses in memory, reasoning, problem-solving ability, verbal fluency and attention skills - years before the disease is diagnosed. Such symptoms could serve as warning signals, say experts, but doctors need better screening tools to distinguish those changes from the decline in brain function that occurs naturally with age. Meanwhile, University of Southern California researchers found that inflammation caused by lost or loose teeh, and the resulting infection, can quadruple the risk of developing Alzheimers'. Treating those inflammatory episodes could help save off the disease.

It turns out the studies that have proved, again and again, that low doses of aspirin taken daily can reduce the risk of a first heart attach -- by an average of 30pct -- were conducted primarily on men. When the effects of aspirin were tested on the 40,000 partiticpants in the giant Women's Health Study, the results were strikingly different; women wo took aspirin every other daay for 10 years had roughly the same number of heart attacks as those taking a placebo. The only group of women who had fewer heart incidents were those who were at least 65 years old at the start of the trial. The gender gap could have something to do with the fact that women seem to be protected from heart disease by estrogen until menopause and tend to have heart attacks later than men do. (Low dose aspirin did reduce the risk of stroke in women of all ages).

-- ASTHMA --
A good joke can be as dangerous as dust or pollen for asthma sufferers. In a new study conducted at New York University, more than 50pct of asthma patients reported having as asthma attack after laughing too hard. Flour also emerged as an asthma risk factor. British researchers studying supermarket bakeries found that roughly 15pct of the workers developed work realted asthma symptoms, including sneezing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

-- AUTISM --
The idea that childhood vaccination mit lead to autism has gained currency among some concerned parents, fueled by unsubstantiated reports on the internet. The Mayo Clinic decided to test the idea by focusing on a specific population in Minnesota and analyzing the rise in autism cases there since 1988. They found that the apparent increase could be trced to improved awareness of the disease and changes in the way the condition is diagnosed but not necessarily to immunizations. The results will probably not end the debate, but most scientists are convinced that the shots are safe.

The possibility of a flu pandemic deminated the news for much of the fall, although the death toll from the virus that has health officials most worried -- the socalled H5N1 strain -- remains vastly greater in birds that humans. So far, 132 people in Southeast Asia and China are known to have been infected, and more than half of them have died. Meanwhile, millions of chickens and ducks have been slaughtered in a last ditch attemot to keep the virus from spreading - an effort made more difficult by migrating flocks of wild birds that have carried the virus into Eastern Europe. The only reason more humans haven't died, say experts, is that this particular flu virus like it, will mutate into a form that spreads as easily as the 1918 flu that killed 20 million (and was caused, but turns out, by an avia flu virus). It was to prevent such an outbreak that Pres. George Bush propsed spending $71 billion on flu pnadmic preparedness, including investments in new technologies for developing vaccines and antiviral drugs, as well as shoring up health care facilities to meet the surge in demand that a flu pandemic world create.

-- BIDIL --
It was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration that comes with a race specific label : FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS ONLY. When researchers first tested BiDil as a treatment for congestive heart failures, its makers found it had little benefit over a placebo. But in a subset of subjects, who were of African American descent, the drug, taken alogn with other medications, reduced deaths from the conditions 43pct and lowered the number of hospital admissions almost 40%. Researchers say it won't be the last ethnically driven drug on pharmacy.

The number of cases is rising sharply. Nearly 21 million Americans have diabetes (Mostly Type 2) and 41 million are prediabetic. Morever, the situation is deteriorating; the Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine predicted that the number of deaths due to diabetes each year i the U.S. could triple, to 622,000, by 2025. One way to reduce the risk, according to a 12 year study of milk drinking men, is to switch to low or nonfat dairy products. Another is to stay below a body mass index of 30; exceeding that numbers can almost double a man's cahnces of developing diabetes, according to the American Journal of Clinical Butrition. Meanwhile, the FDA approved the smallest diabetes testing system available, Sidekick, to join the list of recently developed tools for diabetes, including blood sugar monitors with less painful laser lancets and nasal sprays and inhalers for delivering insulin.

The number of Down syndrome babies born inthe U.S. has fallen dramatically since second trimester screening became routine about q5 years ago -- a developm,ent viewed with some alarm by both anti-abortion and Down syndrome support groups. Not a new, more accurate screening test could accelerate that trend. Conducted as early as the 11th week of pregnancy, the test gives women more time either to prepare to raise a Down baby or to consider abortion. The test -- which factors in the mother's age, a fetal ultrasound measurement and the levels of pregnancy related hormones -- is about 87pct accurate. An integrated test that combines results from first and second trimester screens is 96pct accurate.

Doctors routinely make a small incision, called an episiotomy to relieve some of the strain on mother and child during a vaginal delivery. The cut is supposed to speed the baby's ext, but cases of fetal distress that would require it are rate, in fact, the opeartion often does more harm than good. Analyzing 26 studies on the procedures conducted since 1950, researchers found that women who have episiotomies are at greater risk of injury, take longer to heal and don't have a better sex life.

-- FISH OIL --
The good news about omega-3s- the fatty acids in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel -- continued to accumulate. One report suggested that 2g of fish oil supplements taken every day could help protect against heart attacks in the elderly and improve overall heart health in the rest of us in as little as three weeks. But there was bad news too.Another study found that heart patients with implanatble defibrillators risk increased heart rythm abnormalities if they trake too much

-- H E A R T --
There's more to a broken heart than a songwriter's cliche. Stress cardiomyopathy, sometimes known as the "broken heart syndrome", is associated with loss of a loved one and often mistaken for a classic heart attck.But researchers at John Hopkins studying a group of mostly female patients discovered that the syndrome is caused by a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones that temporarily stuns the heart muscle. There is no permanent damage to the heart, however, patients usually show dramatic improvement in a few days and complete recovery within two weeks.

Remember the last time you laughed so hard you couldn't stop? Good. Do it again. Laugher increases blood flow by causing the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) to expand, according to a small study of healthy moviegoers who were shown both funny and distressing clips from films and then tested for the physical effects of each. With laughter, blood flow increased 22pct; under stress, it decreased 35pct.

Research into the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis continued to bolster the case for the medidicinal use of marijuana, making the "patient pot laws" that have passed in 11 states seem less like a social movement than a legitimate medical trend. One trial - the first controlled study of tis kind- showed that a medicine containing cannabis extracts called Sativex not only lessened the pain of rheumatoid arthritis but acutally suppressed the disease. An earlier study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that synthetic cannabinoids, the chemicals in marijuana, can reduce inflammation in the brain and may protect it from the congnitive decline associated with Alzheimers' disease.

(Source: TIMEMAG/The Year in Medicine from A to Z)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:54 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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