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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(11):2121

Dark chocolate might reduce blood pressure? Now that would be a good thing! As reported in a research letter published in JAMA, 13 adults with untreated mild hypertension were randomly assigned to receive polyphenol-rich dark chocolate bars or polyphenol-free white chocolate bars for two weeks (one bar per day for each participant). After a cocoa-free period of seven days, the participants who had eaten white chocolate bars were switched to dark chocolate bars, and vice versa, for another two weeks. Participants ate the chocolate bars instead of the sweets they usually consumed. After two weeks, the mean systolic blood pressure dropped an average of five points and the mean diastolic pressure dropped an average of two points in the dark chocolate group compared with the white chocolate group. Plant polyphenols have been shown to lower blood pressure in animals.

More good news about walking! According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, walking is associated with lower death rates in adults with diabetes. The prospective cohort study was conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and included 2,896 participants in the National Health Interview Survey. The researchers conclude that walking at least two hours per week may prevent one death per year for every 61 persons who can be persuaded to undertake this exercise. Physical activity has been found to improve glycemic control, insulin sensitivity, and cardiovascular risk factors in persons with diabetes.

It's not quite a bionic arm—but it does “grow.” As reported in the Washington Post, the right humerus of a five-year-old boy diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma was removed and replaced with a titanium prosthesis; every summer, the prosthesis had to be lengthened in surgery to accommodate the boy's growth. Now 11 years old, the boy recently had a new prosthetic device, called the Repiphysis, inserted into his arm. The device contains a polymer that can be melted and manipulated through exposure to an electromagnetic ray. The device lengthens as an internal spring stretches the material during the cooling process. Without invasive surgery, the device can “grow” by as much as 0.33 cm in 20 seconds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave permission for insertion of the device, although it has not yet approved the device for use as an arm bone replacement. In December 2002, the Repiphysis was approved for use in lower limbs.

Are your prescriptions being understood? They might not be if your patients speak English as a second language. A survey reported in America's Pharmacist found that nearly one in 10 children of parents who are non-native English speakers have been given medications incorrectly. One third of the 600 respondents, whose first language was Spanish, Russian, Chinese, or Hindi, said that they had left their physician's office without clearly understanding how to take or administer a medication. Because of language problems, 28 percent of respondents guessed about medication dosages, and 17 percent participated in activities they shouldn't have while they were taking a medication.

More and more grandparents are paying for their grandchildren's college educations. According to an AIG SunAmerica survey published in Physician's Money Digest, 54 percent of grandparents are paying part of their grandchildren's college costs. One in four plans to pay 25 to 50 percent of these costs, while one in five expects to pay as much as 75 percent.

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