Health Updates 14 June 2012

  • Pregnancy-related deaths fall worldwide: Report “The number of women worldwide who died from pregnancy-related complications each year fell from 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, according to a new report.  It also found that child death rates in many African countries have dropped twice as fast in recent years as during the 1990s….Similar progress has occurred in reducing pregnancy-related deaths in certain developing countries.  For example, maternal deaths fell by 75 percent in Equatorial Guinea, Nepal and Vietnam.  Despite this good news, too many women and children are still dying, according to the report written by an international group of academics and professionals.  Every two minutes, a woman somewhere in the world dies from complications of pregnancy and her newborn’s chances of survival are poor.  For every woman who dies, another 20 or 30 women suffer major and sometimes lifelong problems due to pregnancy.  Also every two minutes, nearly 30 young children die of disease and illness that could have been prevented or treated.”  According to UNICEF, global efforts to save the lives of women, children and young children are simply not moving fast enough.  (HealthDay)
  • Health tip: Finding protein in foods “Protein is an important part of your diet because it helps build lean muscle.  The American Dietetic Association says preferred choices for protein include:
    • Beans, lentils, peas and other legumes.
    • Seeds, nuts and nut butters (such as peanut butter)
    • Lean cuts of chicken, turkey and beef.
    • Seafood, including salmon, tuna and shrimp.
    • Cheese, yogurt and eggs.
    • Tofu and other soy-based foods, and meat substitutes such as tempeh. (
  • Obesity, depression blamed for daytime sleepiness ‘epidemic’: “Obesity has been linked to a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, and now new research adds excessive daytime sleepiness to this list.  Well-publicized risks associated with excessive daytime sleepiness among adults include accidents caused by drowsy driving and workplace injuries.  The new, related studies found that the main drivers of daytime sleepiness are obesity and depression.  The findings are scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting, in Boston.  ‘The “epidemic” of sleepiness  parallels an “epidemic” of obesity and psychosocial stress,’  study author Dr. Alexandros Vgontzas, of Penn State Hershey Sleep Research & Treatment Center, said in a meeting news release.  ‘Weight loss, depression and sleep disorders should be our priorities in terms of preventing the medical complications and public safety hazards associated with this excessive sleepiness’.”  The link between obesity and sleep is a complex one, and could be bi-directional, a chicken and egg type situation.  And while obesity also contributes to sleep apnea, which results in daytime sleepiness, there are far more sleepy people in the world than cases of sleep apnea.  As one expert observed, “‘We have to slim down as a nation….One of the effects will be a relief of excessive daytime tiredness and a mild decrease in depression.’  Sleep problems and depression are also inextricably linked, he said. ‘When we put people with depression and insomnia on an antidepressant, the insomnia gets better as does their depression, and then you are not as sleepy during the day’.” (HealthDay)
  • Healthy women advised not to take calcium and vitamin D to prevent fractures: “The United States Preventive Services Task Force, an influential group that recently recommended against routine PSA tests to detect prostate cancer, issued a draft statement on Tuesday recommending that healthy postmenopausal women should not take low doses of calcium or vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures.  The group, an independent  panel of experts in prevention and primary care appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, also considered use of the supplements by healthy premenopausal women and men.  For those groups, it said, there was insufficient evidence to recommend taking vitamin D with or without calcium to prevent fractures.  The supplements also have been studied to see if they prevent cancer.  But, the group said, there is insufficient evidence to say they do or do not.  The cancer studies included ones testing the supplements to prevent all cancers as well as ones asking about colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.  Their analysis of the effects of the supplements included 137 studies, including randomized controlled trials, the gold standard for clinical evidence.  The low doses that the group referred to, at least for postmenopausal women, were a typical level of 400 international units or less of vitamin D a day and 1,000 milligrams or less of calcium.”  Lower doses of calcium and vitamin D do not prevent fractures, and there is a small but measurable risk of kidney stones.  According to experts, for most people, there is no need for these supplements and good reasons for many not to take them. (NY Times)

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