Health event for black women

IN BRIEF

Screenings

November 01, 2007

The BET Foundation will sponsor a free symposium called "Remembering Our Health" on Saturday aimed at increasing awareness of health-related issues among African-American women.

National health data show a disparity in the rates of heart disease, diabetes and AIDS among black women and other groups. The symposium will offer free health screenings, exercise and healthy-cooking demonstrations and panel discussions.

It will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Coppin State University at 2500 W. North Ave. in Baltimore. Women age 18 and older can register there as space allows. Mayor Sheila Dixon and R&B singer Kelly Price are scheduled to attend. Information: go to ahealthybet .com.

Meredith Cohn

Pregnancy

Web site gives nutrition information

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have a new Web site to get individualized nutrition guidance.

Mypyramid.gov was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the George Washington University Medical Center. It allows mothers and mothers-to-be to plug in their personal information to get a specific food plan. Women enter their age, height, pre-pregnancy weight, physical activity level and due date or date of birth.

MyPyramid.gov was launched in 2005 to provide general nutritional information to the public and has since had 3.9 billion hits, according to the USDA. It's also been expanded to include information for kids and Spanish speakers. A menu planner is in the works and will provide users with real-time feedback on planned food choices.

Meredith Cohn

Heart failure

Male cereal eaters have lower risk

The key to a man's heart may be in a little bowl. Of cereal.

Men who eat whole-grain cereal for breakfast have a lower risk of heart failure than their cereal-averse peers, according to a new study from researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School.

Culling data from a national survey of more than 20,000 physicians launched in 1982, the investigators found that men who ate seven or more servings per week of cereal had 28 percent less risk of heart failure than those who ate no cereal at all.

The risk was reduced by 22 percent for those who ate whole-grain cereal two to six times a week.

"We found a dose response," reports Dr. Luc Djousse, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Thus, the more you eat, the better off you are, within reason." This is not a free ticket for huge consumption of cereal, he cautions.

"A half-cup to a cup of whole-grain cereal with 4 grams of fiber is fine. And use skim or low-fat milk."

The study appears in the Oct. 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Los Angeles Times

Cancer

Adding drug can lengthen lives

Adding the Sanofi-Aventis cancer drug Taxotere to standard chemotherapy helps people with head and neck cancer live more than three years longer, two teams of researchers reported last week.

The inclusion of Taxotere also did not worsen side effects, the researchers, whose studies were sponsored by the drug company, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Here you see the first improvement in head and neck cancer treatment in almost 25 years, and it's basically the addition of this drug Taxotere," said Marshall Posner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, leader of one of the studies.

"And this isn't some small 5 percent improvement. There was a 30 percent reduction in mortality. This was pretty impressive."

Any increase would be welcome for people who suffer tumors in the mouth, larynx and pharynx, which make up about 5 percent of newly diagnosed adult cancers in the United States and 8 percent worldwide.

Fewer than half of such patients are alive after three years, and in some instances the survival rate is even lower. About 11,000 people in the United States die from head and neck cancer each year, with 46,000 new cases reported annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Los Angeles Times

Psychology

Optimism seems tied to small part of brain

A person's optimism about the future seems to be controlled by a small front part of the mid-brain.

That area deep behind the eyes activates when people think good thoughts about what might happen. The more optimistic a person is, the brighter the area showed up in brain scans, scientists reported in a small study published online last week in the journal Nature.

That same part of the brain, called the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), seems to malfunction in people suffering depression, said the study co-authors, Elizabeth Phelps of New York University and Tali Sharot of University College London.

Researchers gave 15 people functional magnetic resonance imaging scans while they thought about future possibilities. When the participants thought about good events, both the rACC and amygdala, which is involved in emotional responses including fear, were activated. But the correlation with optimism was biggest with the cingulate cortex.

Psychologists have long known people have an "optimism bias," but the new study offers new details.

Having our brains wired to optimism is generally a good thing because "if you were pessimistic about the future, you would not be motivated to take a lot of action," Phelps said.

Los Angeles Times

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