Saturday, August 4, 2012

American Council on Science and Health: My Picks

______

Cataract surgery not only improves vision, but may lead to fewer hip fractures
Cataracts, a clouding of the lens that may occur in one or both eyes, are one of the most common causes of visual impairment among the older population. In fact, by age 80, over half of Americans have a cataract or have undergone surgery to remove it. Now a new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, should give seniors greater incentive to undergo surgery, as the results show that in the first year following the procedure, cataract surgery is associated with a 30 percent decrease in hip fractures among those patients in their early 80s.

HPV DNA test predicts cervical cancer better than conventional Pap smear
In December, a study published in The Lancet Oncology found that adding an HPV DNA test to a conventional Pap smear during a routine gynecological exam significantly reduced the rate of cervical cancer over a 5-year period. Now, an analysis of new data from the American Society for Clinical Pathology shows that a single HPV DNA test can predict a woman’s risk of cervical cancer for the next 18 years. In contrast, Pap smears can predict disease risk only over a span of one to two years. For their study, now published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a team of researchers led by Dr. Philip E. Castle retrospectively analyzed Pap smear samples for HPV DNA from over 19,000 women aged 16 to 94. “The newer test is a much more sensitive method,” explains ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom. “It picks up cases of cervical cancer and pre-cancer that would have otherwise been missed.”

Chronic health conditions reportedly on the rise in the U.S.
According to the results of a recent CDC report, more Americans were living with a chronic health condition in 2010, compared to a decade earlier. Increases in hypertension, diabetes, and cancer have contributed significantly to this rise, says the report. And yet, these findings may not be as clear-cut as they appear. In 2000, about 15 percent of men and nearly 17 percent of women between the ages of 45 and 64 were diagnosed with at least two chronic health conditions. Those numbers jumped to 20 percent and over 21 percent in 2010, respectively. U.S. adults older than 65 were also part of this rising trend: 49 percent of men and over 42 percent of women in this group reported at least two chronic conditions in 2010. In 2000, those rates were 39 percent for men and nearly 36 percent in women….But as ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross points out, expansions in diagnostic criteria may very well be playing another key role here. “Not long ago, 140/90 mm Hg was considered a normal blood pressure reading,” he says. “Since the last international conference on hypertension in 2003, the number of people with high blood pressure has greatly expanded. For instance, nowadays a blood pressure of 130/80 already puts you in the prehypertensive category.”

Aging is normal, but lower testosterone is not
A new study, published online in Clinical Endocrinology News, shows that, contrary to popular belief, a declining level of testosterone does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with aging in men. More likely, say the study authors, low testosterone is an indication of a health problem…..Despite the relatively stable testosterone levels overall, lead author Dr. Gary A. Wittert pointed out that there were several men who did show a significant decrease, and that such rapid declines may be symptomatic of other health concerns, such as depression, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. In fact, men who gained weight or became obese during the course of the study experienced a significant decrease in testosterone levels. In comparison, those who lost weight actually saw an increase in their testosterone levels, while men who maintained a normal weight showed no change.

Empty claims department: Fitness products that don’t actually enhance performance
Whether you’re training for an ultra-marathon or going for a short jog, products that claim to enhance performance will do no such thing, according to a study published this week in BMJ. The study, led by a clinical scientist at Oxford University, investigated the claims made in advertisements for fitness products ranging from sports drinks and oral supplements to footwear and wrist bands and found a dearth of supporting evidence……“It's too bad that these manufacturers are making claims about their products that are not actually supported by scientific data,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “It’s one thing to drink a beverage because you like the taste or need the fuel. But it does seem foolish to believe that such products will actually enhance your performance.”



###

No comments: