News From the World of Medicine

Read up on the latest medical news and studies: drinking milk to benefit your knees, games that improve vision, how anger hurts your heart.

A Better Blood Pressure Measure


Your doctor likely checks your blood pressure in one arm, but a Framingham Heart Study suggests that taking readings in both arms may help better identify patients at higher risk of heart disease. When researchers analyzed data on nearly 3,400 patients over 13 years, they found that about 10 percent of participants showed higher systolic readings (the upper number) in one arm. Those with arm-to-arm discrepancies of ten points or more were 38 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other coronary event. Such imbalances may indicate plaque in major arteries.

Milk Does Your Knees Good


Low-fat or fat-free milk may help slow the progression of arthritis in the knee, found a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study. Researchers asked 1,260 women with arthritis in at least one knee about their food intake and assessed the women’s knee health for up to four years. The more milk the women drank (from less than one glass a week to seven or more), the more slowly their arthritis progressed. Cheese intake seemed to worsen the disease, possibly because its saturated fat may trigger inflammation.

The “Weekday Diet”


Dropping pounds may still allow for some indulgences over the weekend, according to new research from Cornell University and Finnish researchers. Participants, who ranged from normal weight to obese, checked the scale daily for up to 11 months. Scientists found that those who slimmed down during that period compensated for any weight gained over the weekend by following a stricter weekday routine, resulting in dropped pounds by week’s end. Those who gained weight didn’t stay on track during the week.

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A Video Game That Improves Vision


UltimEyes—a video game created by scientists at the University of California, Riverside—may improve vision and hone certain split-second decision making by training your brain to respond to visual stimuli. Developers tested the technology on college baseball players: Users clicked on fuzzy blobs as soon as they appeared. Team members, who played for 25-minute sessions four days a week for eight weeks, improved their distance vision by an average of 31 percent. They were less likely to strike out and got more runs than players who hadn’t gotten the training. Experts are testing the game in elderly patients, police officers, and radiologists. To try it yourself, download the app at for $5.99.

Beware the Angry Heart


Anger can lead to real heartbreak. A person’s risk of having a heart attack increased nearly fivefold within two hours of having an angry outburst, according to a new Harvard University review of more than 6,000 people who experienced a cardiovascular event. The risk of stroke increased by more than threefold. Anger ups heart rate and blood pressure and makes blood vessels stiffen, straining the cardiovascular system.

Kidney Donation: A Very Safe Choice


Reassuring news for the 6,000 Americans who donate one of their kidneys every year—and the many thousands more who may consider the selfless act: A new JAMA study has found an extremely low estimated risk that a donor’s remaining kidney will fail over the course of his lifetime. Researchers discovered that the overall risk of donors developing kidney failure is more than three times lower than that of the general population. Also, kidney donors and non-donors who were just as healthy at the time of donation have equally low mortality rates from any cause. Researchers attribute the findings to the rigorous physical and psychosocial testing that potential donors undergo to make sure they can thrive with one kidney.

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A Shot to Cool Hot Flashes


For women who want to avoid easing menopausal hot flashes with hormone therapy, a nerve-blocking shot may provide relief. In a recent small Northwestern University study, women who received the shot experienced a 52 percent reduction in the frequency of moderate to very severe hot flashes; they continued to report improvement after four months. The stronger the women’s hot flashes were, the more the shot helped to soothe them.

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