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Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(6):915

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is living up to its reputation as the “good” cholesterol. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found that HDL, in addition to shuttling cholesterol, triggers a process that keeps arteries clean and flexible. It has recently been found that HDL stimulates nitric oxide production in the endothelial cells lining arterial walls. Nitric oxide is an important factor in maintaining healthy arteries.

Question: What could be worse for your health than smoking and drinking heavily every day? Answer: Obesity. A recent issue of Business & Health reports on survey results that indicate obesity is worse for your health than smoking and drinking. More than 9,500 adults in the United States participated in the survey. Results showed that 59 percent of the respondents were overweight, and 23 percent of them were obese. The obese respondents had almost twice as many chronic illnesses as people of normal weight. They also had more health problems than smokers, drinkers and people living in poverty.

How well one recovers from a stroke may depend less on medical intervention than on one's outlook and personality. A recent issue of Psychology Today reports on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine, in which the personalities of 35 stroke patients were evaluated. Study results show that patients who are described as self-conscious and introspective are likely to suffer from post-stroke depression that affects their ability to recover, while energetic, outgoing people are much more adaptive to post-stroke recovery.

Winter's coming. That means people with hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol levels, a history of heart disease and other cardiovascular risk factors will be lined up—not to see their physicians, but to buy snowblowing machines. Many people believe that using a snowblower instead of a shovel to clear sidewalks and driveways will decrease their risk of heart attack, but are the machines a good investment? Probably not, according to an article in the American Journal of Cardiology that cautions at-risk people against being lulled into a false sense of security. The message from their retrospective review is that machine snow removal can be just as risky as manual snow removal. Even the limited cardiac demands of running a snowblower can be enough to trigger a myocardial infarction (MI) in people at risk. This is especially true during early morning hours, when the risk of MI is already heightened.

Space exploration has already yielded several beneficial medical discoveries. Not to be outdone by NASA, Russian and U.S. weapons scientists are now collaborating on a new product—a vibrating wheelchair seat. The device, slated for marketing in 2002, is designed to fit a standard wheelchair. Small pistons beneath the seat move the cushion's surface, promoting circulation and reducing the risk of pressure ulcers. An item in Family Practice News says “…there will be numerous other applications.” No doubt.

According to the Kansas City Star, mounting evidence suggests that estrogen is critical to the protection of a woman's mental functioning. Estrogen appears to enhance memory by increasing the number of synapses between nerve cells in the hippocampus. Estrogen may also greatly decrease a woman's risk for Alzheimer's disease by helping neurons grow and regenerate and decreasing inflammation.

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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