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Health Tips

By
LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer

DRUG MAY HELP WOMEN WITH HEART PROBLEMS

A University of California, San Diego, study indicates that a drug used to treat bone-thinning osteoporosis may cut the odds of postmenopausal women suffering cardiovascular problems. The drug raloxifene HCI does not hurt the heart, as had been feared, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications by 40 percent in elderly women with osteoporosis and with an increased risk for heart disease, said Dr. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, professor and chair in the UCSD School of Medicine Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Her team found in the four-year study at 180 sites in 25 countries that the raloxifene therapy did not significantly affect heart disease risk in the 7,705 postmenopausal women in the study. "These preliminary data are particularly encouraging because final data from the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study and preliminary data from the Women's Health Initiative have suggested an early increase in the risk of cardiovascular events associated with estrogen and hormone replacement therapy," Barrett-Connor said. "Reassuringly, there was no evidence of early cardiovascular harm with raloxifene in this study. In fact, it appeared there may be a cardiovascular benefit in those women at the greatest risk for cardiovascular disease."

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DEPRESSION MAY LOWER IMMUNITY

Mild depression in the elderly may lower their ability to fight off disease, doctors report. The study is important because researchers estimate that up to 57 percent of adults experience chronic depression in their senior years. Lead researcher, Lynanne McGuire, of John Hopkins School of Medicine and team found that the older the depressed person, the poorer his or her defenses against viruses, bacteria and other health threats, they said in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The 18-month study of 78 adults, with an average age of 72.5 years, compared how well those who do and do not suffer from chronic depression generate white blood cells to fight off an infectious agent. "Depressive symptoms can exacerbate and accelerate the immunological declines that typically accompany aging," McGuire said. The researchers found lack of social support was a risk factor for depression.


HORMONE THERAPY BENEFITS SOME

Stanford University researchers have found that women with symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, are more likely to benefit from hormone therapy. The therapy has been shown to decrease the risk of bone-weakening osteoporosis and heart disease but also to up the chances of getting breast cancer in some women. "We studied quality of life because it is really important to people," said Dr. Mark Hlatky, professor of health policy and research and of cardiovascular medicine and author of the study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association. "In fact, people are willing to risk shortening their life in order to improve quality of life." After menopause the ovaries stop producing the female hormone estrogen. This loss can lead to such side effects as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, lowered libido and trouble sleeping. The study of 2,763 postmenopausal women aimed to resolve questions about heart disease and quality of life in women taking estrogen and progesterone.

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ADVICE: COPY CAVEMEN'S CUISINE

A study indicates modern man can learn a thing or two about a healthy diet from his cave-dwelling ancestors. Scientists analyzed the dietary role of fat, from ancient hunter-gatherer societies to today's culture. "To be as healthy as a cave man you have to eat certain kinds of fish, wild game such as venison or grass-fed meat such as beef," said Bruce Watkins, professor at Purdue University and director of the Center for Enhancing Foods to Protect Health, and anthropologist Loren Cordain, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University. They chemically analyzed meats people ate 10,000 years ago and those consumed today. They found that wild game, such as venison or elk meat, as well as grass-fed beef, contain a mixture of healthy fats that lower cholesterol and reduce other chronic disease risks. Recent studies have indicated that a healthy diet should contain a balance of essential fats. These include Omega-3 fat, abundant in certain fish, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Too much omega-3, however, can increase the risk of stroke. Omega-6 fat also is essential, but too much can contribute to inflammatory disease. The analysis found that wild elk, deer and antelope from the Rocky Mountains region have greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and a lower -- and therefore healthier -- ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in muscle meats, compared to grain-fed beef, the authors said.

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(EDITORS: For more information about HEART, call 619-543-6163; about DEPRESSION, call 202-336-5707; about HORMONE, call 650-723-3900; about CAVEMEN, call 765-494-5802.)

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