Health News in Brief

Because we understand that knowledge is power, we encourage our patients to become informed about health issues. Here are some brief news nuggets about health issues, along with Web sites for more in-depth information (FMI.) It’s important to note that Women’s Care physicians don’t necessarily endorse these findings.

*A vaccine against the leading causes of cervical cancer may be approved by the FDA sometime in 2006. The vaccine targets the most common forms of human papilloma virus (HPV), which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. Cervical cancer caused an estimated 3,700 deaths in the U.S. in 2005.

*A new study shows that people who exercise in middle age are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia when they’re older.
Researchers checked for dementia or Alzheimer’s in a group of nearly 1,500 patients 65 and older whose exercise habits have been monitored for nearly 35 years. They found that people who engaged in leisure physical activity at least twice weekly as they passed through middle age had a 50% lower chance of developing dementia and a 60% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s compared with more sedentary peers.

Such retrospective studies don’t prove cause and effect, and it’s possible that people who are predisposed to Alzheimer’s exercised less for some reason related to the disease. But the finding confirms what previous smaller studies in animals and humans have hinted at.

*Consuming fish at least once a week is associated with a 10% per year slower rate of cognitive decline in the elderly, according to a recent study. The research adds to evidence that a fish-rich diet helps keep minds sharp. Previous studies found that those who ate fish lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Fish such as salmon and tuna that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids also have been shown to prevent heart disease.

For the new study, researchers measured how well 3,718 people did on cognitive tests, such as recalling details of a story. The participants, aged 65 and older, took the tests three times over six years. They also filled out a questionnaire about what they ate.

At the same time, the FDA warns pregnant women, nursing mothers and children to avoid certain fish with high levels of mercury — shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Mercury can damage the growing brains of fetuses and children.