Health Tips ... from UPI

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer  |  Aug. 12, 2003 at 9:05 PM
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Animal studies point to a possible link between trace amounts of copper and the amyloid plaques that form a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers Dr. Bernard Schreurs at Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute in West Virginia and Dr. D. Larry Sparks of the Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona made the observations in rabbits, which provide a model for the disease that causes degenerative dementia in humans. They note in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences rabbits are useful for such studies because, when fed a diet high in cholesterol, they develop many of the symptoms of the human disease. The team noticed cholesterol-fed rabbits that drank distilled water developed fewer plaques than those that drank tap water. They found significant amounts of copper in the tap water of many labs. To determine whether copper affects plaque formation, the scientists added trace amounts of the metallic element to the distilled drinking water of some cholesterol-fed rabbits. Indeed, these animals developed significantly more plaques and plaque precursors than cholesterol-fed rabbits that drank unaltered distilled water, they found.


New York health officials caution people spending time outdoors to protect themselves against ticks, which can carry Lyme and other diseases. Those venturing into wooded or grassy areas are advised to wear shirts with long sleeves, tuck pant legs into socks and use insect repellent containing DEET to keep the troublesome pests at bay. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden says although tick-borne illnesses are treatable, they can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms can be as vague as headache and fever. To protect against ticks, conduct a thorough tick check after returning from a forested area and remove any ticks you find; avoid walking in heavily wooded areas, staying on cleared paths; wear light-colored clothing that makes tick detection easier; expose as little skin as possible; use repellents containing DEET to discourage tick attachment, scientists advise.


What you don't know about your bones can hurt you. Bone-thinning osteoporosis is responsible for fractures in one in two women past age 50, yet in many cases, it can be prevented, scientists say. "Many people are surprisingly misinformed or uninformed about how to build healthy bones," said Dr. David Hamerman, director of the new Center for Bone Health at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Here are some bone facts you should know. Your calcium needs vary with age: 500 milligrams for ages 1-3; 800 mg for 4-8; 1,300 mg for 9-18; 1,000-1,200 mg for pregnant and lactating women; 1,000 mg for adult women; 1,200 mg for post-menopausal women taking hormones and 1,500 mg for those not on hormone treatment. Your body cannot absorb more than 500 milligrams at a time, so wait 4 to 6 hours between doses or dairy servings. Cottage cheese is a poor source of calcium. Good sources include non-fat yogurt and such hard cheeses as Parmigiano and Swiss. Low-fat dairy products are higher in calcium than whole-milk products. Foods and beverages that interfere with calcium absorption include heavily salted foods such as bacon, salami, smoked salmon, prepared soups and salty snacks, colas, drinks with caffeine and an excess of alcohol. About 15 minutes of daily sunlight without sunscreen will produce all the Vitamin D you need. Osteoporosis begins in the teen years. Beginning at age 9, children (particularly girls) should include 1,300 mg. of calcium in their diet. Cardiovascular exercise such as biking or swimming is better for the heart than for the bones. Engage in weight-bearing exercises such as running, jumping and lifting. When older women lose height, suffer back pain or develop a protruding abdomen or "dowager's hump" on their back, chances are "that's a sign of a vertebral fracture of the spine," Hamerman says. Early menopause, amenorrhea (loss of your period, sometimes as a result of too much exercise), estrogen inhibiting birth-control drugs such as Depo-Provera, late puberty, irregular periods or other menstrual disorders put women at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Medications that can reduce bone mass include glucocorticoids used to control arthritis and asthma, some antiseizure drugs, certain sleeping pills, some hormones used to treat endometriosis and certain cancer drugs.


A new test can measure with greater-than-previously-possible accuracy an unborn baby's heart rate in only 20 minutes, researchers say. The technique, developed by the British science and technology group QinetiQ, will allow doctors to monitor the health of fetal hearts in minute detail, particularly during high-risk pregnancies, such as where the mother has diabetes or pre-eclampsia, scientists said. These conditions can affect the baby, sometimes resulting in a still birth or sudden death later, they said. Dr Myles Taylor from Imperial College London and the Hammersmith Hospital says current techniques for monitoring fetal heart rate are not totally reliable because they don't distinguish between heart rate and background "noise" such as the mother's heart. "This new technique will allow us to accurately record and analyze the fetal ECG (electrocardiogram) not just in single pregnancies but also in multiple pregnancies, which we believe is a world first," he said. The researchers use electrodes placed on the mother's abdomen to record the data, which are then relayed to a computer that processes the signals, picking out the fetal heart signal from background interference, said team leader Dr. Mark Smith of QinetiQ.

(Editors: For more information on COPPER, contact Ginna Royce at 304-599-5900 or For TIPS, call 212-788-5290. For BONE, contact Sandra Mullin at 212-788-5290 or For TEST, Tony Stephenson at +44 (0)20 7594 6712 or

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