IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  November 1, 2006

Lack of Sleep

According to a new study, lack of sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure.

The National Health and Nutrition Survey published in Hypertension identifies sleeplessness as a significant risk factor for high blood pressure.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center say this is the first study that shows a relationship between short sleep duration and high blood pressure.

Included in the survey were people ages 32 to 59 who got five hours of sleep or less a night. They were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension than those who got the recommended norm of seven to eight hours. The difference remained even after controlling for known hypertension risk factors.

On the other hand, people who got nine hours of sleep were no less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who got seven or eight hours.

Many conditions contribute to high blood pressure, such as obesity, but lack of sleep appears to be an independent cause. Normally during sleep the heart rate and blood pressure are lower. In people deprived of sleep over a long period of time, however, the work done by the heart increases. This can lead to irreversible changes in the heart and blood vessels.

The study shows that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders that are often not treated. The disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, according to Tufts University.

Sleep disorders and deprivation are estimated to cost $150 billion in business productivity, $48 billion in vehicle accidents involving tired drivers, and $16 billion in medical care for sleep disorders.

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Generic Zoloft, Zocor

On June 30, Pfizer, Inc.'s patent protection on Zoloft ran out. Zoloft is the best-selling antidepressant in the U.S. Pfizer now plans to make a generic version of the drug in order to compete with generic drug makers.

Pfizer's move follows Merck & Co.'s plan to undercut generic drug makers by creating its own generic drug name to replace Zocor, it's blockbuster cholesterol fighter.

Facing patent losses on drugs with billions in sales, as well as a scarcity of new drugs, is causing more brand-name companies to move into the generic business in order to retain some income from the products.

Biological Clock Ticks for Men

Women know they face a ticking biological clock. Older women have an increased risk of miscarriage and of producing children with genetic defects such as Down syndrome.

New research shows that men face the same situation. As they age, the quality of their sperm deteriorates. It becomes more likely they will have trouble becoming fathers and increases the possibility of having a child with a genetic defect such as dwarfism.

The situation was confirmed by studies by the University of California-Berkeley School of Pubic Health.

Drug-resistant Staph Infection

A new, drug-resistant (MRSA) staph infection is spreading in the U.S. It has been found in California, Texas, Illinois, Alaska, and Pennsylvania. Many doctors have never heard of it. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services says it spreads by contact. If it gets into any community that's fairly close-knit, it will spread.

Their advice: Thoroughly clean wounds with soap and water, not hydrogen peroxide. Cover with a clean, dry bandage. Wash your hands regularly. Don't share towels or other linens. Wash laundry at 120 degrees or higher.

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Boost Good Cholesterol for Big Benefits

HDL, the good cholesterol, helps to protect you from heart attack and stroke. New research shows it also helps to prevent Alzheimer's disease. If your HDL is below 40 for a man or 50 for a woman, here's what to do:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Lose weight. HDL rises for every 7 pounds you drop, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Centers.
  • Avoid trans fatty acids found in many baked goods and margarines.
  • Consuming 2 to 6 ounces of wine per day can raise HDL levels.

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    Preschoolers with Flu Not Treated fast enough

    About a third of children with the flu aren't prescribed medicines such as Tamiflu, which would shorten their illness and keep it from spreading to their parents, siblings, and others. Tamiflu works best if given early.

    A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that doctors at offices and in emergency rooms fail to diagnose the flu in most preschoolers with cough, runny nose, and fever. Of those hospitalized, three-quarters of cases were not properly diagnosed as the flu.

    If doctors used a rapid flu test, more cases could be detected and steps taken to prevent its spread.

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    Kidney Problems Can Lead to Heart Disease

    About 20 million Americans have some form of chronic kidney disease. Some have less than half the kidney function of a young adult.

    Many have diabetes, but high blood pressure is the underlying condition for 30 percent of cases. Chronic kidney disease patients, however, usually die from a heart attack or other cardiovascular event before their kidneys give out.

    Doctors at Harvard say studies show that many kidney patients don't receive heart medications or get coronary procedures that would save their lives.

    A test of kidney function can provide needed information for heart patients because "renal insufficiency" can accelerate cardiovascular disease. When the kidneys aren't working right, levels of homocysteine and other substances that are hard on blood vessels go up.

    For patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, a kidney function test will provide vital information. The test for creatinine should be plugged into a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) calculator.

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  • Inflammation a Concern for You?

    We usually think of inflammation as the heat and pain around an infected cut. In this case, inflammation is good. It's the body's way of destroying invaders and eliminating damaged cells.

    Inflammation of a less obvious type is now the focus of medical studies. This type is involved in diseases such heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's.

    You can't feel inflammation in the blood vessels, and without a specific test, your doctor can't detect it. Yet it is probably one big cause of unexplained heart attacks.

    Hidden inflammation isn't fully understood. It could develop in response to a bacterial or viral infection.

    Reported in Healthy Years, doctors recommend that patients at risk for heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease be tested for C-reactive protein. It is an indicator of inflammation.

    C-reactive protein could be a better indicator of heart disease than cholesterol readings. It can also be an indicator of such autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and asthma.

    Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen have not been proven to decrease inflammation in the blood vessels.

    Statins such as Lipitor and Pravachol are primarily used to lower cholesterol. Since the depositing plaque in arteries seems to be related to ongoing inflammation, evidence suggests that reducing one could help in reducing the other.

    Researcher Dr. William Joel Meggs of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., says, "Healthy habits help you avoid inflammation. Diet, exercise, weight control, and even your emotions can determine how our body deals with inflammation."

    Meggs is the author of The Inflammation Cure (McGraw-Hill)

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    Flu is Coming

    Health officials have worked to predict which strains of flu virus are most likely to cause widespread illness in 2006. These strains are contained in the vaccine for this year, the strains you will build immunity to after getting the shot.

    The immunization usually works to prevent the flu, but its effectiveness in part depends on your general health. Illness and age can influence its effectiveness. People over 50 may have less of an immune response to the vaccine.

    Even so, if you do get the flu, the vaccine will provide important protection and prevent a severe case. The shot will prevent prolonged illness, hospitalizations, pneumonia, and death.

    It's impossible for the flu shot to give you influenza. Some people experience a mild fever, and fatigue soon after receiving the vaccine. The symptoms are caused by the body's immune system, which is producing antibodies.

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    Pork Tenderloin, Pretty Lean

    A new U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis shows that a lean 3-ounce pork tenderloin contains only 2.98 grams of fat. That's a little less than a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast, which has 3.03 grams of fat.

    Fried pork tenderloin contains more fat, but is still a good addition to the diets of people who are watching their fats. Breaded and fried pork tenderloin contain even more, according to the University of California-Davis. Pork tenderloin that is roasted or grilled is a good alternative to skinless chicken breasts.

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