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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(12):2236

Do you ever think of new medical breakthroughs as “space-age medicine”? According to American Medical News, researchers are developing treatments to enable humans to make the longer-than-one-year round-trip journey to Mars, and some of those treatments can help people on Earth today. For example, an ultrasound system created to assess bone weakness caused by near-weightless space conditions could help assess not only bone density, but also bone quality in patients with osteoporosis. Also, research on light treatment to modify circadian rhythm could help not only those catching their Z’s in space, but also the millions of people on Earth suffering from insomnia. And for those who fear needles, needle-free blood and tissue testing may be on the way thanks to space medicine research.

Everyone knows that being overweight has health risks, but a new study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows that obesity may have more risks for women than men. The study of 1,000 patients aged nine to 26 years showed that body mass index was directly related to asthma risk in women. The same association was not found in male patients. Researchers found that 28 percent of asthma cases in women and girls that developed after age nine were related to weight.

An electronic nose has long been used in the food, wine, and perfume industries. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation report that the technology also might be helpful in early detection of lung cancer. Scientists discovered that the breath of 14 lung cancer patients had distinct, identifiable characteristics that differed from 45 healthy patients and patients with other lung diseases. The electronic nose is a biosensor that produces a “smell-print,” which researchers hope will eventually replace the current vague or invasive screening tests for lung cancer.

You may have heard about the dreaded “freshman 15” when you went off to college, but did anyone tell you how to prevent it? According to an report, one school is trying to prevent students from packing on those extra 15 pounds. This fall, the University of Missouri-Columbia will offer one of the first courses in the country that will focus on the lifestyle costs of neglecting exercise, including obesity, premature aging, chronic illnesses, frailty, and dementia. The school hopes that teaching students about these consequences early will help them stay healthy for life.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Adolescent males who have little objective knowledge about proper condom use but feel that they know a lot are three times less likely to use a condom at the time of their first intercourse than boys who feel that they know less. The study published in Pediatrics included 404 boys aged 15 to 17 years. Researchers suggest that sex education programs should focus not only on objective knowledge about condom use, but also on students’ perceived knowledge.

Americans may have taken the advice, “Take it with a grain of salt,” to heart—literally. A new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest states that many Americans consume twice the recommended daily amount of salt, which is raising blood pressure and killing roughly 150,000 people each year. According to the report, almost 80 percent of salt in the diet comes from restaurant food and processed foods, such as canned soups and frozen dinners. The report cites one frozen dinner that contains three-and-a-half times the recommended amount of daily sodium intake for healthy young adults. Researchers say that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods are the best ways to lower sodium intake.

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