In Brief

In Brief

July 14, 2006

Cardiology

Disease risk double in those alone

Living alone doubles your risk of heart disease, according to Danish researchers.

Scientists at Aarhus Sygehus University Hospital in Denmark, who analyzed the health records of 138,290 people between ages 30 and 69, found that 646 had suffered a heart attack, died of a heart attack or were diagnosed with severe angina between 2000 and 2002.

Age and living alone were the two strongest indicators in determining who developed heart problems. Women older than 60 living alone and men older than 50 in the same category were twice as likely to develop heart problems as the rest of the group, the researchers say.

Lone women older than 60 accounted for just over 5 percent of the population, but were more than a third of the female patients who died within 30 days of being diagnosed with heart problems. Lone men older than 50 made up 8 percent of the group, but accounted for almost two thirds of the male deaths within 30 days.

People living alone were more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for heart problems, the study said. Those included smoking, obesity, high cholesterol and fewer visits to a doctor.

The findings were published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Dennis O'Brien

Geriatrics

Job loss hurts workers' health

Being laid off from work is always stressful and can even cause physical problems. But the health effects of a layoff near retirement age can be much worse, according to new research at Yale University.

Scientists studying people who lost their jobs after age 50 found that they had twice the risk of stroke and heart attack as people their age who were still working.

The researchers, led by Dr. William T. Gallo, followed the health of almost 600 people for 10 years after they were laid off.

"The true costs of late-career unemployment exceed financial deprivation, and include substantial health consequences," the researchers wrote in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Apart from the loss of income, the study said, layoffs near retirement can disrupt long-standing social networks. And someone laid off after age 50 is also likely to have more trouble finding another job than a younger worker.

New York Times News Service

Research

Cancer drug raises women's heart risks

Women with heart disease or a high risk for it would trade one set of odds for another if they took the drug raloxifene to try to prevent breast cancer, a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine suggests.

Raloxifene helped prevent cancer, but raised the risk of blood clots and fatal strokes. It also didn't lower the risk of death, hospitalization or heart attack, as some had hoped it would. Doctors have been testing the drug as an alternative to tamoxifen for preventing breast cancer and as a way to lower heart disease risks.

Based on the new study's results, "most people would decline taking raloxifene" unless they have a high risk of breast cancer, said Dr. Linda Vahdat, director of breast cancer research at Weill Cornell Medical College in Ithaca, New York.

The drug, made by Eli Lilly & Co., is sold as Evista for treating the bone disease osteoporosis.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Psychology

Just a few drinks affect cognition

A couple of beers might not seem like a lot to drink, but it can make people oblivious to seeing certain things. Even a gorilla.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle gave 23 people enough alcohol to reach a blood alcohol level of .04 percent. That's half the legal driving limit in many states and the equivalent of about 2 1/2 beers for a 180-pound man. A second group of 23 people drank no alcohol.

The researchers showed both groups a 25-second video clip in which two teams passed a ball back and forth -- and asked them to count the number of times one team passed the ball. During the clip, a person in a gorilla suit walks through the crowd, thumps its chest and walks off.

Researchers found that 46 percent in the control group saw the gorilla, but only 18 percent in the alcohol group did.

"Alcohol limits our attention span and is doing something to the brain cognitively, picking up on some information at the expense of other information," says Seema Clifasefi, a senior research fellow and lead author of the study.

The study appears in this month's issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Los Angeles Times

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