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Health Capsules: Good news for runners

Running does not increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis and may even help prevent it, a recent study showed.

Running does not increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis and may even help prevent it, a recent study showed.

Good news for runners

Runners are not at increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis and may even be at a lower risk than the general population, according to research presented this month at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful disease involving progressive damage to joint cartilage. Known risk factors for knee OA, which is common, include age, being overweight, injury or stress to joints and a family history of the disease.

Speculating that regular running might contribute to OA but noting also that runners typically have a body mass index (BMI) on the lower side, researchers studied more than 2,600 adults (mean age of about 64), 29 percent of whom reported having run at some time in their lives.

After looking at X-rays, assessing symptoms and reviewing questionnaires completed by participants, researchers found that runners, regardless of their age when they ran, had a lower prevalence of knee pain and lower incidence of knee OA. They concluded that regular running, even at a non-elite level, does not increase the risk of developing knee OA and may actually protect against it.

“This does not address the question of whether or not running is harmful to people who have pre-existing knee OA,” said lead study author Dr. Grace Hsia-Wei Lo, of Baylor College of Medicine. “However, in people who do not have knee OA, there is no reason to restrict participation in habitual running at any time in life from the perspective that it does not appear to be harmful to the knee joint.”


Seeking study participants

Women are being recruited for a local, 12-week study on improving weight and health. The Study on Insulin-Efficient Lifestyle (SIEL) will measure the effects of a lifestyle program developed by Dr. Steven Willey, a local physician and author of “Reprogram Your Life: Bioscience for a Healthier You” (Good Health Publishing, 2015).

The SIEL study will look at the short-term effects of managing insulin in healthy women, including measuring fitness levels and weight improvements.

Eligible study participants must be female; 30-50 years of age; generally healthy, with no history of cancer, diabetes, dementia, heart disease or orthopedic problems; slightly to moderately overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 28-34; and able and willing to visit a gym for at least one hour three times per week during the study period.

Participants will attend a two-hour orientation in early January; meet Willey at his Chesterfield office to discuss progress and measure weight, BMI and blood pressure (progress meetings are held every 14 days); undergo blood and exercise capacity tests at the beginning and end of the program; follow SIEL nutrition guidelines; and exercise at a gym three times per week for one hour each time. Participants who do not have a gym membership will be provided one at a gym near their home.

Those interested in participating in the study may register at siel-study.com from Dec. 1-Dec. 15, and participants will be notified no later than Dec. 19. The study will run from Jan. 12-April 5, 2015.


Surviving heart attack and stroke

The chances of surviving a heart attack or stroke are better than ever, but survivors often face problems that worsen with time, a new study suggests.

“More people are surviving heart attack and stroke than ever before, but the long-term consequences for survivors may be much greater than we thought,” said Dr. Deborah Levine, who led a nationally representative study at the University of Michigan. “We found that over time, survivors had increasing difficulty performing everyday tasks like walking, bathing, shopping and managing money and that these struggles got progressively worse every year following a heart attack or stroke.”

Researchers analyzed medical records of 391 heart attack survivors and 370 stroke survivors. Over a 10-year period, those who survived heart attacks gained about 1.5 to 3.5 new functional limitations, and stroke survivors gained approximately 3.5 to 4.5 limitations.

The study findings were published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.


Bilingual brains

Being bilingual has benefits beyond simply being able to communicate in more than one language. A recent study found the brains of bilingual people process information more efficiently and more easily than the brains of people who speak only one language. According to Northwestern University researcher Viorica Marian, the bilingual brain is constantly activating two languages and choosing which one to use. Since the bilingual brain gets so much exercise, it doesn’t have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks.

“(The bilingual brain) is like a stop light,” Marian said. “Bilinguals are always giving the green light to one language and red to another. When you do that all the time, you get really good at inhibiting the words you don’t need.”

Marian said the cognitive benefits of learning a second language can be seen after a single semester of studying.

The report was published online in the journal Brain and Language.


French mothers know best

A small study has demonstrated that feeding a bit of vegetable puree to infants at the time of weaning increases little ones’ future appetite for vegetables.

Researchers at the University of Leeds found that babies who were fed breast milk or formula mixed with vegetable puree followed by rice mixed with vegetable puree subsequently ate substantially more vegetables than babies who consumed just milk followed by rice before being introduced to veggies.

“We took inspiration from French mothers, as previous studies in this area have shown that they often add vegetable cooking water to their infants’ milk to help introduce them to eating vegetables at weaning,” said Professor Marion Hetherington, who led the study. “For years, French mums have shown that getting their children to eat vegetables early is child’s play.”

According to Hetherington, the process works because since vegetables typically are bitter, a gradual introduction to them allows children to get used to their taste.

The research was published in the journal Appetite.


More med school students

The number of students enrolled in U.S. medical schools reached a new all-time high of 20,343 this year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The number of medical school applicants also reached a new high, totaling 49,480, which is an increase of 3.1 percent.

As in previous years, about 52 percent of this year’s medical school enrollees were male and 48 percent were female.

According to the AAMC, the increases in med school applicants and enrollees are a result of an expansion of the nation’s medical school capacity. Since 2002, 17 new medical schools have been established in the U.S., and med school enrollment has increased by 23.4 percent.


Preventing kidney stone recurrence

One in 11 people living in the U.S. has had a kidney stone, and every year, more than 300,000 people nationwide visit an emergency room for a kidney stone-related problem. Those who have had a kidney stone might be able to prevent another one from forming by drinking more fluids and making some dietary changes, according to new recommendations from the American College of Physicians (ACP).

“Increased fluid intake spread throughout the day can decrease stone recurrence by a least half with virtually no side effects,” ACP President Dr. David Fleming said in a news release.

Fleming noted that people who already drink the recommended amount of liquids or for whom increased fluid intake is contraindicated should not increase their fluid intake.

According to the new ACP guidelines, the “recommended amount” of fluid intake for a person who has had a kidney stone is enough to produce at lest two liters of urine per day. If an increase in fluids does not reduce stone formation, the ACP recommends adding medication.

As for dietary changes, the ACP recommends reducing foods known to increase oxalate in the urine, such as chocolate, beets, nuts, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, tea and wheat bran; cutting down on dietary animal protein and purines (high-purine foods and drinks include beer, sugary soft drinks, fatty foods and others); and maintaining normal dietary calcium.

A kidney stone forms when tiny crystals in urine stick together. According to the ACP, studies show the recurrence rate of kidney stones within five years of an initial stone ranges from 35-50 percent without treatment.


Many recent calls to poison control centers have involved young children consuming energy drinks, with some experiencing abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

Many recent calls to poison control centers have involved young children consuming energy drinks, with some experiencing abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

Kids and energy drinks

More than 40 percent of recent reports to U.S. poison control centers for “energy drink exposure” involved children younger than the age of 6, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014. Effects in reported cases included some serious cardiac and neurological symptoms, including abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

Researchers analyzed October 2010-September 2013 data from 55 poison control centers and found that 40 percent of the more than 5,000 reported energy drink exposures were unintentional exposures to young children.

“Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets, and anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their health care provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks,” said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, the study’s senior author.

Lipshultz, chair of pediatrics at Wayne State University and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said he was interested in studying the effects of energy drinks after treating children who became ill after consuming them.

Some energy drinks contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per can or bottle, and caffeine poisoning can result from levels higher than 100 mg a day in adolescents and from 2.5 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight in children younger than 12, Lipshultz said.

According to the American Heart Association, many of the added ingredients in some energy drinks never have been tested for safety in children.


On the calendar

“Legal Matters and Goals of Care” is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 12634 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur.  An attorney presents information on advance directives, power of attorney and qualifications for assistance. A facilitator leads the group in ways to engage a loved one in conversations about his/her goals of care.  Admission is free, and no registration is required.  For more information, call (314) 542-9378.

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Cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings are offered from 7:15-9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11 at Desloge Outpatient Center, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. The one-on-one consultation includes a lipid panel, blood pressure and body composition measurements. A 10-12-hour fast is required. The fee is $20. To schedule an appointment, call (314) 542-4848.

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An American Red Cross blood drive is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. To schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org, and enter the sponsor code: SaintLukes.


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