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This Week In Health

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This Week In Health

Our weekly roundup of the latest developments in the world of health.

More insight into the heart benefits of moderate drinking, flu fatalities and obesity's effect on life expectancy were in the news this week. We also look at why some people might be destined for high blood pressure from birth.
Stay well.

This Issue:


A Drink A Day
The Flu's A Killer
Obesity Shortens Life
Blood Pressure Risk At Birth

In The News:


A Drink A Day
Just a little bit of alcohol every day may keep heart attacks away. Earlier studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can lower a person's risk of heart disease, The Associated Press reports. But a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that the heart-healthy benefits of alcohol may depend on how often you drink it. Researchers from Harvard Medical School analyzed data on 38,077 male health professionals participating in a long-term health study. The researchers found that men who consumed as little as half a drink every day had a lower risk of heart attacks than men who did not drink at all or men who drank less often. It didn't matter whether the men had beer, red wine, white wine or liquor. The men who regularly had a drink cut their heart attack risk by one-third, while men who drank alcohol once or twice per week had a 16 percent reduction in their heart attack risk. The researchers hypothesize that regular moderate drinking helps the heart by thinning the blood, the same reason that aspirin does, the AP says. However, the researchers say that their findings apply only to moderate drinking; heavy drinking is associated with a number of other serious health problems.

The Flu's A Killer


Influenza is killing more Americans per year than AIDS. That's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say in a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The flu-related death toll has quadrupled since the late 1970s, the CDC says. The agency mostly attributes this rise to the aging of the American population. Older adults are at a higher risk for flu-related complications, and the flu vaccine is often ineffective for people 65 and older, The Associated Press reports. The CDC also notes that the vaccination rate is low among younger people who could benefit from the inoculation. Another factor could be the emergence of a more lethal strain of the flu virus, the AP says.

Obesity Shortens Life


Too many extra pounds can take years off your life. Two recent studies have linked obesity at different ages to lower life expectancy. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed surveys of more than 14,000 Americans and found that obesity at age 20 cut years from people's life expectancy, depending on their race, sex, and the severity of obesity. In the most dramatic results, the researchers found that black men with a body mass index (BMI) of 45 or more at age 20 cut 20 years from their life expectancy, The Associated Press reports. A smaller Dutch study of 3,457 people found that being overweight at age 40 cut as many years from a person's life as smoking did. In that study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who were overweight at 40 lost about three years of life, and those who were obese lost even more years. Obese smokers had the greatest reductions in life expectancy. The AP quotes experts who say the findings show that people need to maintain a healthy weight starting early in life.

Blood Pressure Risk At Birth


High blood pressure may be a birthright for some people. A German study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people born with fewer filters than normal in their kidneys -- a condition caused when a mother does not consume enough protein during pregnancy -- may be more susceptible to high blood pressure later in life. The study was small; it looked at only 20 young men who had died in accidents. Half the men had high blood pressure and half did not. The researchers found that the men with healthy blood pressure had two to three times more filtering blood vessels in their kidneys than the men with high blood pressure. The kidneys of the men with hypertension tended to be much bigger, a sign that the organs were overworked, the researchers found. One implication of the study is that women need to be sure to eat a healthy diet during pregnancy to prevent this condition in their children, the researchers say. The findings also suggest that the best way to treat high blood pressure may be with a combination of diuretics and drugs to lower pressure in the kidney's filters.

Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.

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