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This Week in Health
May 09, 2014

 

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

Research published this week suggests that climate change may lead to several health problems. These may include fewer nutrients in crops and worse symptoms for people sensitive to air pollution. A new analysis found that the Women's Health Initiative study returned $140 in health benefits for every $1 spent on it. Study results, published in 2002, showed that hormone replacement therapy did older women more harm than good. It led to big changes in medical practice. The U.S. government funded the study. Other research published this week found more benefits of exercise for older adults and people with disabilities.

Stay well.

 

This Issue:

Climate Change May Harm Nutrition, Lungs
Report: Hormone Study Returned Big Savings
Another Reason to Boost Exercise with Age
CDC Pushes Value of Exercise Despite Disabilities

In the News:

Climate Change May Harm Nutrition, Lungs
Climate change may undermine human health by robbing food of nutrients and increasing air pollution, scientists said this week. One study was published in the journal Nature. The study looked at how foods such as grains, soybeans and peas respond to increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. At the CO2 levels expected by 2050, many of these staple crops will lose a significant amount of nutrients, researchers found. Levels of zinc, iron and others will be affected. For example, wheat raised at these higher CO2 levels had 9% less zinc, 5% less iron and 6% less protein. Reduction of these essential nutrients could lead to a major global health problem, researchers said. Loss of iron can lead to anemia. Zinc is important for a healthy immune system. Protein is used to build and maintain tissues in all parts of the body. The other study came from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It found that ozone air pollution levels in the United States could rise 70% by 2050. Ozone is known to increase symptoms of lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. HealthDay News wrote about both studies.

 

Report: Hormone Study Returned Big Savings
A landmark study that found hormone therapy may harm rather than help women after menopause cost the U.S. government $260 million. But the study results transformed medical practice. And that saved the health care system $37 billion, a new analysis concludes. That's $140 for every dollar spent. The National Institutes of Health funded the study, called the Women's Health Initiative. Older women, average age 63, were randomly assigned to receive either hormone treatment or placebo (fake) pills. The study was halted early, in 2002. Women taking estrogen plus progesterone had higher rates of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer than those who got the placebo. There was no effect on heart attack or breast cancer rates in a second group of women who were given estrogen only. But they also had higher risks of stroke and blood clots. Hormone use for menopause symptoms dropped by half right away. It continued to fall in later years. Cases of breast cancer, heart disease and blood clots also declined. But stopping hormone therapy may have contributed to a rise in bone fractures, the new study says. The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the study this week. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

Another Reason to Boost Exercise with Age
Older adults who keep up or increase their exercise may have improvements in a measurement of the heart's electrical health. That's the conclusion of a study of 985 adults. Their average age was 71 when the study began. Everyone in the study wore a monitor to record the heart's rate and rhythm for 24 hours. People wore the monitor again for a day 5 years later. They also answered detailed questions about physical activity at the start of the study and 3 years later. Researchers focused on a measurement called heart-rate variability. This is the name for differences in the time between one heartbeat and the next. The heart rate tends to become less variable as people get older. But this study found better heart-rate variability among older adults who got more exercise. This was especially true for those who increased their exercise over time. The journal Circulation published the study this week. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

CDC Pushes Value of Exercise Despite Disabilities
Americans who have disabilities are less likely to exercise than others. And that could undermine their health, health officials say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised these concerns at a news conference this week. HealthDay News wrote about it. About 47% of adults with disabilities who are able to do aerobic exercise don't do so, health officials said. That includes 57% of those with limited movement and 40% of those with memory and thinking problems. It also includes one-third or more of those with serious vision or hearing problems. Working-age adults with disabilities are also 50% more likely to have cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke than others the same age. Among disabled adults who saw a doctor in the last year, only 44% were advised to exercise, officials said. But research shows that adults with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to be active if doctors recommend it.

 

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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