‘Game-Changer’ in Evolution from S. African Bones

Two million-year-old bones belonging to a creature with both apelike and human traits provide the clearest evidence of evolution’s first major step toward modern humans — findings some are calling a potential game-changer.

An analysis of the bones found in South Africa suggests Australopithecus sediba is the most likely candidate to be the ancestor of humans, said lead researcher Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

The fossils, belonging to a male child and an adult female, show a novel combination of features, almost as though nature were experimenting. Some resemble pre-human creatures while others suggest the genus Homo, which includes Homo sapiens, modern people.

“It’s as if evolution is caught in one vital moment, a stop-action snapshot of evolution in action,” said Richard Potts, director of the human origins program at the Smithsonian Institution. He was not among the team, led by South African scientists, whose research was published online Thursday in the journal Science. Continue reading

Fashion and Beauty Trends in Fall Takes Toll on Health

While women are all set to bid adieu to their summer wear, and get ready to shop for the latest fashion gear for fall, experts have advised them to be aware of fashion and beauty trends that may be harmful to their health.

Shazia Khan, co-medical director, Loyola Primary Care Center at Oakbrook Terrace, Continue reading

Laptop Save Student From Dropping Dead

HOUSTON – Heart tests done with a laptop computer and software that cost $4,000 may help save high school athletes from sudden cardiac death, according to a study of 2,057 students in Texas.

Each year, about 300 U.S. high school and college players die suddenly from heart conditions, said Anthony Magalski, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. The Texas research used laptops to perform electrocardiograms that identified 11 students with ailments that were dangerous enough to keep them from playing sports, the researchers said.

Overall, sports trainers at 10 Houston high schools found abnormal readings for 186 athletes, including three with “serious cardiac conditions.” The finding was reported today at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida.

“Screening with an EKG, if done the right way, is beneficial,” said Magalski, author of related research reported in March at an American College of Cardiology conference. “The question is the logistics and the cost and the further testing that’s required because the EKG is just a screening tool.”

In the Houston study, data was sent to a cardiologist who found three students with “serious cardiac conditions” that were previously undiagnosed. This including a narrowing of the aorta and a heart muscle that was abnormally enlarged, thick or stiff, according to the heart association statement.

The study was led by Thomas DeBauche, a doctor at Cypress Cardiology in Cypress, Texas.

Hearts Risks

Seventeen students in the study had mitral valve prolapse, meaning the valve between the upper and lower chambers of the heart didn’t close properly. Six were diagnosed with high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, which makes the heart work harder than normal, the researchers found. Two athletes had defects in aortic valves.

Electrocardiograms, or EKGs, can determine if the heart has abnormalities such as chamber walls that are too thick. Screening for defects can enable athletes to take measures to minimize the risk that sports play will aggravate aberrations.

Screening has generated debate because some athletes have abnormal EKG test results caused by workouts. Some doctors discount the EKGs and others say the screening isn’t cost effective.

An individual EKG costs between $25 and $50, Magalski said, while a follow-up echocardiogram costs up to $600.

The Texas researchers said laptop equipment could be provided to school districts for about $500, according to a statement from the heart association. DeBauche declined to comment in advance of the research presentation.

The issue of heart risks for student athletes gained national prominence in March 1990 when Hank Gathers, a 23-year- old basketball player, collapsed during a game at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

 

Loss of Loved One make Grievers Vulnerable to Heart Attacks

SYDNEY – People traumatized by the loss of a loved one are more susceptible to having a heart attack, says a new study.

The study conducted by the Sydney University Medical School (SUMS), provides new insight into why people going through the emotional stress caused by bereavement are more at risk of heart disease.

It involved 80 bereaved adults and is the most comprehensive of its type ever undertaken in anywhere.

Thomas Buckley, study co-author senior lecturer at SUMS nursing faculty, said the link between bereavement and heart attacks has not been well understood because no comprehensive study has been done in the first weeks after bereavement.

“CARBER (Cardiovascular Risk in Bereavement) is the first to look in detail at people during the first weeks immediately following their loss,” said Buckley, “revealing that across all age groups and both sexes, emotional and mood changes were greatest during this time.

“Overall the bereaved who participated in CARBER had increases in anxiety, depression and anger symptoms, together with elevated stress hormones and reduced sleep and appetite,” said Buckley.

“They also showed increases in blood pressure and heart rate, together with immune and blood clotting changes – all changes that could contribute towards a heart attack,” he said.

The study also found that most of the heart risks of bereavement faded after six months, Buckley added, according to a SUMS release.

Geoffrey Tofler, cardiologist the SUMS senior study investigator, says that at a time when the focus is naturally on the deceased person, this study shows the importance of maintaining the health of bereaved family members.

Results were published in the Internal Medicine Journal.

Persistent Pain in Younger People Ages them by 20 Years

SAN FRANCISCO – Persistent pain in younger people ages them by 20 to 30 years in terms of physical abilities, a new study suggests.

The study established that people with pain develop functional limitations associated with aging at much earlier ages.

Researchers looked at data from 18,531 participants, aged 50 and older, who took part in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study.

The four physical abilities considered were: mobility, for example walking or jogging; stair climbing; upper extremity tasks and; activity of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating etc.) with or without help.

Twenty four percent of participants had significant pain (moderate to severe pain). Participants with pain across all four physical abilities, had much higher rates of functional limitations than subjects without pain.

Kenneth Covinsky, University of California, San Francisco said that those aged 50 to 59 with pain were far more comparable to subjects aged 80 to 89 without pain.

“Four percent were able to jog one mile and 55 percent were able to walk several blocks, making pain sufferers appear 20 to 30 years older than non-pain sufferers, Covinsky added.

Our study cannot determine whether pain causes disability or whether disability causes pain. We think it is likely that both are true and that pain and disability worsen in a downward spiral, said Covinsky.

These findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.