Originally created 09/23/99


Aspirin limits

The old saw about doctors advising patients to "take two aspirins and call me in the morning" may be in for a slight revision based upon new evidence.

Perhaps the better advice is "take one aspirin" instead of two, at least for women who are seeking to avoid a stroke. Extensive research involving nearly 80,000 women for about 14 years suggests that although taking small amounts of aspirin regularly reduces the risk of stroke, taking larger amounts can actually increase risks.

"This is the first large-scale detailed study of the relationship between aspirin use and the risk of principal types of stroke," said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, a Harvard University professor of medicine and lead author of the study.

The study found that small doses of aspirin can fend off the most common type of stroke, which occurs when blood clots or other blockages close off an artery nourishing brain tissue. This is called an ischemic stroke.

But the research also suggested that excessive aspirin can invite a less common type of stroke, called a hemorrhagic stroke, that occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds.

Menopause study

A curious connection between the ability to perform well on mental exercises as a young girl and the age at which a woman enters menopause has been discovered by British researchers.

The study, conducted by the Medical Research Council in London, covered 1,600 women born in 1946 who were first tested at age 8 for verbal comprehension, vocabulary and reasoning. Researchers report a correlation between low scores on those tests as a child and early entry into menopause.

"The tie between childhood mental ability and timing of menopause was still sound after taking into account factors such as smoking, social class and education," said Marcus Richards, who led the study. "One possible explanation is the role that estrogen and other steroids have in programming the nervous system during fetal development.

"Since estrogen plays a role in brain development early in life, measuring mental ability may give us a clue about the brain's role in reproductive aging."

Foot health

Foot doctors are encouraged that American women seem at last to have embraced sensible shoes that are less likely to injure their feet than fashionable ones.

A survey of 500 working women conducted by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society found that only one woman in four regularly wears shoes with a heel height greater than 1 inch to work.

"The trend toward healthier shoes was especially evident in the younger respondents," said Dr. Cherise Dyal, who led the study. "Only 16 percent of women aged 20 to 30 indicated they wore heels higher than 1 inch to work, while 28 percent of women 40 to 50 said they did."

Nasal protection

Almost 75 years after Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, found that the secretions from human nasal passages contain antibacterial substances, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles repeated the study.

"Our study confirms Fleming's observation that nasal secretions have intrinsic antimicrobial activity," the UCLA authors wrote in the journal Infection and Immunity, "but it also shows that this activity is precarious."

The bacteria that nasal secretions will attack varies greatly from one person to another, the researchers found.

Pregnancy and exercise

Exercise before and after birth may be an antidote for the weight gain and postpartum blues that often follow delivery, a study at the University of Michigan has found.

A survey of more than 1,000 women six months after delivery showed that those who exercised an average of three times a week retained significantly less weight than non-exercisers and felt better about themselves, Carolyn M. Sampselle reported in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.

"We found that women who exercise were much more likely than not to participate in fun activities, such as visiting friends and family, engaging in hobbies or going to the movies," she said.

Bladder control

If you want to reduce your risk of developing bladder cancer, drink plenty of water, eat broccoli and cabbage and don't smoke.

That's the message from an Ohio State University study that found that men who ate two or more half-cup servings of broccoli or one or more servings of cabbage per week had a 44 percent lower rate of bladder cancer than men who didn't eat those vegetables.

Drinking 12 or more cups of water each day lowered the bladder cancer risk by 51 percent, but smoking increased the risk by 200 percent to 300 percent, said Steven Clinton. The findings were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


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