Originally created 07/12/01

Capsules



Calming carpal-tunnel

Contrary to popular belief, extensive computer use doesn't increase a person's risk of developing carpal-tunnel syndrome, the painful affliction caused by repetitive movement, a new study asserts.

The study, by neurologists at the Mayo Clinic, did find a lot of complaints among heavy computer users, but mostly they didn't meet the medical definition of carpal-tunnel syndrome, which is common among workers in meatpacking plants and some other industrial settings.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, examined 257 employees at the Mayo Clinic's Scottsdale, Ariz., location. Among those employees, who used computers six hours daily, on average, about 30 percent complained of pain or a feeling of "pins and needles" in their hands.

Upon further examination, however, the neurologists concluded that only nine people, or 3.5 percent of the group studied, actually suffered from carpal-tunnel syndrome.

Vitamin therapy

For the many cancer patients who suffer pain, bleeding, incontinence and diarrhea after radiation therapy, there is new hope for relief.

Though radiation kills cancer cells, it also damages nearby healthy cells, causing them to release harmful free radicals that cause the condition known as proctitis. Most patients recover from radiation damage, but about 20 percent experience lingering symptoms for which there has been no effective therapy.

Reporting in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Dr. Keith Bruninga of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago said daily doses of two potent free-radical-fighting vitamins, C and E, quickly helped patients recover from proctitis.

"Our study showed that we can harness the potent antioxidant properties of the vitamins to repair cell damage and bring relief to many people who suffer from the persistent, lifestyle-altering symptoms of chronic radiation proctitis," he said.

Hearts at risk

For young men who smoke and have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the risk of developing heart disease is clear.

Northwestern University Medical School researchers followed more than 11,000 men ages 18 to 39 for 20 years. Their findings: High cholesterol increased the risk of heart disease by 92 percent, high blood pressure increased it between 20 percent and 32 percent, and smoking increased it 36 percent.

"Major coronary disease risk factors, many of which are modifiable, are strong contributors to prediction of future risk, even in young men," Dr. Philip Greenland reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Clog prevention

A new study suggests that the nutrient lutein may help prevent clogged arteries, which is interesting because a major dietary source of lutein is egg yolks, which are not viewed favorably in dietary guidelines promoted by the American Heart Association.

The new study was published in Circulation, the association's journal. It found that people who had higher levels of lutein in their blood had less thickening of their carotid arteries than people with low lutein levels.

Studies in mice also found a connection between lutein and healthy arteries, and other studies have suggested that lutein may help ward off macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in older people.

Besides being found in egg yolks, lutein also is found in dark green leafy vegetables, which the association's dietary guidelines praise relentlessly.

Weighty matters

Heavy thinking can tire you out almost as much as strenuous physical labor, and the older you are, the more that is true, researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana have found.

Although the research focused on rats, the results also apply to humans, said Paul Gold, a psychology professor. Dr. Gold and his colleagues found that when rats concentrate on certain tasks, the parts of their brains they must use require glucose as fuel to do the necessary thinking.

Glucose flows more freely in the brains of young rats but not in the brains of older animals, the researchers found.

Scientists had thought that the brain's access to glucose was unrestricted except in situations where someone was starving. That may be true in regard to consciousness, Dr. Gold said, but learning and memory functions can run out of fuel.

"Glucose enhances learning and memory not only in rats but also in many populations of humans," he said. "For schoolchildren, this research implies that the contents and timing of meals may need to be coordinated to enhance learning."