Originally created 02/18/99

Health capsules: Brain power



People who exercise for their heart may also find it benefits their brain, according to an analysis of 15,371 people in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.

Physical activity is a well known protector against heart disease, but it can also significantly lower the risk of stroke, said Kelly R. Everson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

People who were the most active at work had a 49 percent lower risk of stroke than the least active; those who engaged in the highest level of sports activity had a 23 percent reduced risk; and people who were active during their leisure time had an 11 percent reduced risk of stroke, she reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.

Physical activity may work to reduce stroke risk by lowering blood pressure, clotting problems, the accumulation of fat and the likelihood of developing diabetes.

Teen smoking

Nicotine dependence is noticeable as early as age 16 among adolescents who smoke, and they can suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.

A study of 249 10th-graders who attempted to quit smoking found that 45 percent reported a strong need to smoke, 32 percent reported feeling nervous and tense, 29 percent were restless, 29 percent were irritable, 25 percent were hungry, 22 percent were unable to concentrate, 14 percent felt miserable and sad and 12.8 percent had trouble sleeping, said Neal L. Rojas of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

"These results demonstrate that highly nicotine-dependent adolescent smokers may require better preparation before challenging the difficulty of smoking cessation," he reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Home births

Babies born at home not only have all the comforts of the family nest, they also have less risk of running into trouble.

A study of 1,404 women who delivered at home under the care of certified nurse-midwives found that the neonatal mortality rate was only 1.8 per 1,000 births, compared with 4.9 infant deaths nationwide.

"Home birth can be accomplished with good outcomes under the care of qualified practitioners and within a system that facilitates transfer to hospital care when necessary," said Patricia Aikins Murphy of Columbia University and Judith Fullerton of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Certified nurse-midwives played a key role in the lower than average neonatal mortality rate by identifying women with pregnancy risks and referring them for hospital care, the researchers reported in Obstetrics and Gynecology, a publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Mental health

When it comes to choosing between antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy for treating major depression, you may as well flip a coin.

Both strategies seem to be equally effective in treating major depression, according to a report in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Among less severely depressed patients, antidepressant drugs were quicker to provide relief, but after four months psychotherapy had caught up in terms of effectiveness, said psychologist Herbert C. Schulberg of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Goodbye migraines

Migraine sufferers may have a new remedy for their intense headaches -- eating foods rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

A study of 55 migraine patients found that those taking high doses of B2 (400 milligrams) had 37 percent fewer migraines than patients taking a placebo, according to a report in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The vitamin may work by boosting the flagging energy level of brain cells in people with migraines, said Dr. Jean Schoenen of the University of Liege in Belgium.

Although the dose used in the study was high, it did not seem to cause serious side effects, he said. Foods rich in riboflavin include milk and other dairy products, eggs, meat, green leafy vegetables, nuts and products enriched with riboflavin, such as bread, cereal and other grain products.

Bonding envy

If babies don't breast-feed, it may be the father's fault.

An Ohio State University review of 12 studies found that three out of four mothers said that their partners' feelings about breast-feeding influenced their decision to go ahead or not.

Men's negative views of breast-feeding were usually based on misconceptions or feelings of being left out, Rick Petosa reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The most common reasons men give for not supporting breast feeding include their fear of separation from the mother, envy of the special bonding between the mother and child and general feelings of inadequacy because only the mother can breast-feed the child.