Health Updates 12 April 2012

  • Stroke risk considerably higher if sibling had stroke: “If your brother or sister had a stroke, you may be at least 60 percent more likely to have one too, according to research reported in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.  The findings come from the first large study to examine the combined influence of age, gender and sibling history on stroke risk.  The study focused on ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood vessel blockage that cuts off blood flow to part of the brain.  Ischemic strokes are by far the most common type, striking almost 700,000 American annually.  The study also found that if your sibling was 55 or younger at the time of the stroke, your risk of having one at 55 or younger is almost doubled, said Erik Ingelsson, MD,PhD, senior author of the study and professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.  ‘Health professionals should pay as much attention to a family history of stroke in siblings as in parents, and make patients aware than a genetic predisposition exists,’ Ingelsson said.  ‘The gender of either sibling did not influence the stroke risk’….The increased familial risk may not solely be due to genetics….similar lifestyle habits within families also could be at work – and those could be changed.”  (American Heart Association)
  • Lack of sleep may raise risk of diabetes: “Your mother was right: regular bedtimes and a good night’s sleep are good for you — or at least, researchers reported, irregular bedtimes and not enough sleep are bad for you.  In a 39-day experiment with healthy volunteers, shortened sleep time and varying bedtimes — meant to  mimic shift work — led to impaired glucose regulation and metabolism, according to Orfeu Buxton, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and colleagues.  Over time, the observed changes could increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, Buxton and colleagues reported online in Science Translational Medicine.  The findings support epidemiological studies linking disrupted sleep with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the researchers noted — especially in workers on the night shift.  ‘Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day,’ Buxton said in a statement.  ‘The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect.” (Michael Smith, MedPage Today)
  • Breast cancer treatment side effects may last for years: “Treatment-related complications are common in breast cancer patients long after their therapy has been completed, a new study says.  Researchers looked at 287 Australian breast cancer patients and found that more than 60 percent of them had at least one treatment-related complication up to six years after their diagnosis, and 30 percent had at least two complications.  Complications included skin reactions to radiation therapy, weight gain, fatigue, surgery-related issues, upper body symptoms and physical limitations, and lymphedema — a painful limb-swelling condition.  ‘Our work provides the first accounting of the true magnitude of the post-treatment problems suffered by breast cancer patients, and serves as a call to action for proper monitoring and rehabilitation services to care for them,’ study leader Kathryn Schmitz, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university news release.  ‘We can no longer pretend that the side effects of breast cancer treatment end after patients finish active treatment.   The scope of these complications is shocking and upsetting, but a ready solution for many of them already exists in rehabilitative exercise…”. (HealthDay)
  • J&J fined $1.2 billion in drug case: “A judge in Arkansas ordered Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay more than $1.2 billion in fines on Wednesday, a day after a jury found that the companies had minimized or concealed the dangers associated with an antipsychotic drug.  The fine, which experts said ranked among the largest on record for a state fraud case involving a drug company, is the most recent in a string of legal losses for Johnson & Johnson related to its marketing of the drug, Risperdal….The size of the fine calls into question the status of pending lawsuits filed by several state attorneys general against the companies, said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, an advocacy group for whistle-blowers.  Given the decision in Arkansas, ‘the game has fundamentally changed,’ he said.  ‘Most attorneys general can do the math, and there’s no reason for any state to settle if they can win really big numbers in court’….Prosecutors have accused Johnson & Johnson…of hiding the risks associated with Risperdal, which is approved to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and behavior problems in teenagers and children with autism.  Side effects can include weight gain, an increased risk of diabetes and, in older patients, an increased risk of stroke.”  Critics also contend the drug was massively overpriced in relation to its qualities. (NY Times)

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