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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(8):2088

That crack in the sidewalk could really break your mother's back. A study of 50 women and 29 men who were all healthy and 65 years of age or older revealed that women are four times more likely to fall after tripping, compared with men of the same age, under equal conditions. Participants wearing safety harnesses were tripped by a concealed mechanical obstacle as they walked. Researchers found that women younger than 70 years of age fell more often than women older than 70 years of age, suggesting that older women had learned to adapt to their gait pattern, reports the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Can eating nuts lower the risk of total and sudden cardiac death? According to results of the 12-year Physician's Health Study, which enrolled 21,219 male physicians, nut-eaters have a slightly lower risk of cardiac death than their non–nut eating peers. Diet questionnaires filled out a year after enrollment showed that cardiac deaths decreased as nut consumption increased, even after adjustment for age, treatment and other factors. Researchers speculate that the high levels of a-linoleic acid and linoleic acid found in nuts may have antiarrhythmic properties. According to Family Practice News, the study did not specify what types of nuts the participants ate.

Do patients lie to their doctors, even when it's in their best interest to tell the truth? Researchers at the University Clinic of Bonn in Germany determined that they do, at least when it comes to home monitoring of blood pressure. Thirty patients with hypertension were given home monitoring devices for blood pressure. They were instructed to measure their blood pressure once in the morning and once in the evening for two weeks. Researchers did not inform the participants of a memory chip in the monitoring device. The results showed that 19 of the 30 patients both omitted readings and added fake readings, too. The high rate of fabricated results makes any study based on home blood pressure monitoring suspect, says the American Journal of Hypertension.

New evidence suggests that consuming a diet rich in potassium is associated with a lower risk of stroke. In an eight-year study of 43,738 men ages 40 to 75 with no history of heart disease, diabetes or stroke, participants completed questionnaires about their diet and dietary supplements. Men who were in the top fifth of the group in terms of potassium intake were 38 percent less likely to have a stroke than men in the bottom fifth. Also, men with the lowest risk of stroke ate an average of eight servings of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables per day, compared with only half as much eaten by the men with the highest risk. Researchers emphasize that the findings show only an association between a high-potassium diet and lower stroke risk, not a causal relationship, reports Harvard Health Letter.

Can you guess a woman's level of education simply by looking at her heels? A survey by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society of 531 women who work outside of the home revealed that the higher a woman's education level, the lower the heels of her shoes. Fifty-eight percent of women with more than four years of college wear flats (shoes with heels lower than 1 inch), compared with 46 percent of women with a four-year degree, 40 percent with less than four years of college, and 37 percent who have a high school education or less.

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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