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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(4):749

For people who have trouble swallowing pills, time-release capsules haven't been an option. Instead, these people relied on taking small, frequent doses or using chewable pills, sometimes as often as six times a day. However, researchers at Oregon State University may have come up with a solution. The invention of a time-release chewable pill may revolutionize the prescription and over-the-counter market. The pill is made of alternate layers of polymers, creating a system that bonds with stomach acids to produce the time-release effect even after the pill has been chewed, reports Prevention.

Drinking wine may increase the risk of a second heart attack in cardiac patients, and the risk may be even greater when drinking is combined with a fatty diet, say French researchers from University Hospital in St. Etienne. A four-year study of 256 male drinkers and 171 nondrinkers found that progressive use of alcohol (mainly wine) over several years was related to significant linear increases in cholesterol levels. In men with an average daily intake of 2,000 calories, drinking four to five glasses of wine per day caused total cholesterol to rise an average of 1 nmol per L. Total cholesterol rose more in the 129 drinkers on a high-fat Western diet than in the 127 drinkers on a high-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet, according to Physician's Weekly.

Waking up under the surgeon's knife isn't most people's idea of a good time. Estimates are that about 30,000 people each year experience awareness during surgery. Luckily, monitoring devices are now available that will alert medical staff to a patient's state of consciousness during general anesthesia, reports U.S. News & World Report. The Bispectral Index monitor (approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996) and the patient state analyzer (to be approved by the FDA possibly in 1999) both measure brain-wave activity through sensors placed on the patient's head. Another invention is the facial affective consciousness electromyogram, which tracks the minute currents of electricity that cause movement in facial muscles to detect whether a patient is experiencing pain. The inventor hopes for FDA approval in 1999.

With chronic, recurring headaches affecting more than 45 million persons in the United States, headache consultations are becoming more common. According to the National Headache Foundation, patients may help their doctor identify which type of headache they have if they come prepared with a headache diary. The diary should include the date and time of the headaches from start to finish, the intensity rated on a scale of 1 to 10, any preceding symptoms or triggers, headache medications that are taken, the dosage used and the degree of relief achieved (complete, moderate or none).

The media, which glamorizes skinny models and hard-bodied actors, is often blamed for promoting the development of eating disorders. Since all women are exposed to these ideals, why does bulimia nervosa develop in only 1 to 3 percent of women? Results of a study published in Archives of General Psychiatry suggest that biology is to blame. Thirty-one healthy women were compared with 30 women who had recovered from bulimia, with normal weight, regular menstrual cycles and no bingeing or purging for over a year. Compared with the women in the control group, the women with previous bulimia had higher levels of serotonin metabolite in the brain and experienced more negative moods and obsessions with perfectionism and exactness, while levels of other brain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) were normal.

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