Friday, March 23, 2007

Health Insurance


Monday, March 5, 2007

Research links vasectomy with higher dementia risk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Men who have had a vasectomy may face an increased risk of developing a rare type of dementia marked by a steady loss of language skills, researchers said Tuesday.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, writing in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, linked this male sterilization surgery to a neurological condition called primary progressive aphasia, or PPA.

They surveyed 47 men with the condition being treated at Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, as well as 57 men who did not have PPA. Their ages ranged from 55 to 80.

Of those with primary progressive aphasia, 40 percent had undergone a vasectomy, compared with 16 percent of the others. Those with PPA also suffered the ailment an average of four years earlier than the others.

Preliminary data also linked vasectomies to another form of dementia involving behavioral changes. Among 30 men with frontotemporal dementia, more than a third had undergone a vasectomy, the researchers said.

Sandra Weintraub, who led the study, acknowledged that the research involved a small number of people and said she planned to conduct a larger national study to see whether the findings hold up. In the meantime, she said her findings should not stop men from getting vasectomies.

"I was hoping not to, but unfortunately it's the kind of news that ends up scaring people even though they may not need to be scared," Weintraub said in an interview.

"This was just a clinical observation that started with one of my patients telling me that he first noticed the onset of his symptoms a couple of years after he had a vasectomy, and he wondered whether that might have something to do with it," Weintraub said. "In his mind, these things were connected."

Primary progressive aphasia, which affects people usually after age 50, can be mistaken for Alzheimer's disease since initial symptoms are similar. In this incurable disorder, nerve cells die in the brain region responsible for language skills.

It causes people's language capabilities to decline steadily, with symptoms such as faulty recollection of names of people and things, difficulties in speech, reading and writing, and poor comprehension.

A vasectomy is an operation in which the tubes through which sperm travels are cut, leaving sperm unable to reach the testes and making a man unable to impregnate a woman.

The study did not look at the mechanism behind any link between PPA and vasectomies, but Weintraub said it may be because the surgery allows sperm to leak into the blood. Antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the sperm might trigger damage that causes dementia, she said.

Bob Woodruff recovering, able to speak

NEW YORK (AP) — Five weeks after ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff was seriously injured in an Iraqi explosion, he remains hospitalized but is able to say a few words and is starting to walk, his brother said Tuesday.
Woodruff suffers from serious head injuries and other wounds in an Iraqi explosion. Woodruff suffers from serious head injuries and other wounds in an Iraqi explosion.

"In the last couple of days, he's taken a lot of great leaps forward," David Woodruff said. "He's definitely doing so much better."

Bob Woodruff and ABC cameraman Doug Vogt were standing in the hatch of an Iraqi mechanized vehicle, reporting on the war from the Iraqi troops' perspective, when the roadside bomb exploded Jan. 29. Both were wearing body armor, which doctors say likely saved their lives.

The men underwent surgery in Germany before being flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Woodruff, 44, still is on heavy pain medication as his body recovers from the serious head injuries and other wounds. But he recognizes people, he can tell his daughter he loves her, and the multilingual journalist has even said a few words in Chinese and German, his brother David Woodruff told ABC's Good Morning America.

The first response David Woodruff recalls getting from his brother in the hospital was a smile when he told him: I hate to tell you this, but you still have a face for TV.

"My brother's been an overachiever his entire life. I think none of us expected him to do anything less in this whole process," David Woodruff said. "We know that top on his mind is getting back to his family, to his kids and getting back to doing what he loves to do."

Bob Woodruff grew up near Detroit in Oakland County's Bloomfield Township and is a 1979 graduate of Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills.

Vogt left Bethesda Medical Center in late February and returned home to France, where he is undergoing rehabilitation, the network said.

Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer have been substituting for Woodruff, who started as co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight with Elizabeth Vargas earlier this year.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

SEED: For Post-Traumatics

If you've had a traumatic day, sleeping it off might not be the best idea.

New research out of the Medical University of L├╝beck in Germany suggests that sleep following learning could bolster long-term retention of emotional memories. Therefore, a nap after trauma could increase the likelihood that a patient will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the psychological fallout of a horrific experience. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, emotional detachment, clinical depression and anxiety. The research is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Neuroendocrinologist Ullrich Wagner had one group of subjects read a text designed to provoke an emotional response—the passage either detailed the sexual problems of a paraplegic man or the various killing procedures of a child murderer—and a control group read an emotionally neutral text on either bronze sculpture or dressmaking patterns. The subjects rated their emotional reactions to the pieces, and Wagner measured galvanic skin response—the change in the skin's ability to conduct electricity—to get an objective measure of emotional response. Then half of each group slept for three hours while the others were kept awake.
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Four years later, Wagner called his subjects to see if they remembered what they had read. The subjects who read an emotional text and slept afterward exhibited significantly greater recall than any other group.

"The main finding in the present study is that only three hours of sleep after learning exert a memory-enhancing effect that persists over several years," Wagner said.

James McGaugh, a neurobiologist at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine, said Wagner's results make sense.

"It's just a fact that we remember accidents, insults, embarrassments, praises, prizes, failures. All of those events are remembered selectively better—either a little better, or a lot better—than emotionally neutral or less exciting events," he said. "[And] most fair-minded people would say, 'Yes, if you learn something and fall asleep, there's pretty convincing evidence that you're going to remember something better later on than if you learn something and stay awake.'"

But Wagner said the exciting part of the study was the duration of the effect.

"This is remarkable, because normally in studies on sleep effects on memory, the memory test is performed immediately after sleep or wakefulness," he said. "So it was widely unknown so far how long such sleep effects can persist."

Wagner noted that his experiments were performed on healthy individuals, so he can't make any certain conclusions about clinical applications without further study. But he said his findings do suggest that keeping people awake after a trauma could help dull memory formation, decreasing the likelihood that they would develop PTSD.

But our bodies may have already discovered this technique, Wagner said.

"The frequent observation in cases of traumatic experiences that sleep is disrupted involuntarily in the nights following trauma means that possibly 'the body' already knows that sleeping less after the trauma may help to prevent a deeper engraving of the traumatic event in memory," he said, "which could later result in PTSD."