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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(7):1253

Is a visit to the dentist’s office an important part of prenatal care? Research has shown that pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to give birth prematurely, according to a report in the University of Minnesota publication Pictures of Health. Now researchers from the university are looking for a direct causal link between the two. The director of the University of Minnesota Oral Health Clinical Research Center is undertaking a three-year, $7.5 million clinical trial, which the report says should be completed this year. Researchers theorize that the bacteria responsible for gum disease could cause problems in a pregnant woman’s immune system, possibly provoking premature labor.

The ill effects of secondhand smoke could be following children to school. A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives supports previous findings that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is linked to cognitive deficits in children. The study is the largest of its kind and the first to rely on biological indicators instead of questionnaires or interviews. Researchers compared levels of serum cotinine, the biological marker of ETS exposure, with math and reading test scores of over 4,000 children aged six to 16. Children exposed to varying amounts of ETS performed less well on the tests than those who were not exposed. The deficiency was comparable to the loss of five IQ points, according to the researchers.

Americans have indicated their top health care priorities for 2005, and lowering costs tops the list. A recent survey undertaken by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health asked interviewees which of 12 health care issues they want the president and Congress to address. Making Medicare more affordable and lowering the number of non-insured Americans followed lowering health care costs as top priorities, while lowering malpractice awards and increasing stem-cell research funding ranked lowest on the priority list. Health care in general was the third highest overall priority for Americans, according to the survey.

Could video games help people stay healthy? Maybe traditional video games can’t, but reports that a new gaming genre, “exergaming,” may do just that. Games such as “Dance Dance Revolution” require players to work up a sweat while trying to replicate complicated footwork shown on the screen. Konami Digital Entertainment has sold 2 million copies of “Dance Dance Revolution” worldwide, and other companies are starting to pick up on the idea, creating virtual golf, racing, and other sports games. The industry expresses high hopes that these games can help reduce the nation’s obesity problem, the report says.

Women aren’t the only ones trying to ward off wrinkles these days.USA Today reports that more and more men are trying to turn back the clock with cosmetic nips and tucks. The number of men opting for plastic surgery rose 10 percent between 2002 and 2003, according to the report. The first choice for men was a nose job, followed by eyelid surgery and liposuction. Researchers say that increased job competition and greater attention to appearance among aging men, as well as cheaper, quicker, and less invasive options, have contributed to the rising male interest in cosmetic procedures.

Have you ever felt that your high-pressure job was going to kill you? According to a case-control study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, it just might. The two-year study included residents of Stockholm County, Sweden, aged 45 to 70 years, with no previous diagnosis of myocardial infarction. Researchers found that persons facing a high-pressure deadline at work were six times more likely to have a heart attack; women who experienced a change in financial status were three times more likely to have a heart attack; and men were six times more likely to have a heart attack after an increase in work-related responsibilities. Vacation anyone?

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