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Health bulletin
By Susan Stevens | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/31/2007 12:14 AM

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Experts update 'food pyramid' for older adults

A nearly decade-old food guide pyramid for older adults has gotten a makeover to make it more user-friendly and to emphasize the special dietary needs of people older than 70.

Published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults stresses that older people should be careful to get enough fiber, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12.

While older adults need fewer calories as their metabolism slows, their bodies need the same or higher levels of nutrients, say researchers at Tufts University who designed the new pyramid.

It also emphasizes the importance of regular exercise and adequate fluid intake.

Regular flu shot may fight H5N1

Ordinary seasonal flu vaccines may provide a small amount of protection against bird flu, Italian researchers reported. Their study is among the first to support the idea that getting an annual flu shot may help people's bodies fight off the H5N1 virus, which has killed 210 people in 13 countries and infected 341.

Ablation cuts help hearts beat properly

Treating heart attack victims with radio waves helps reduce the likelihood that implantable defibrillators will need to jolt ailing hearts into beating properly, researchers reported.

The radio wave technique involves sending a probe into the heart, finding scar tissue from an earlier heart attack, and using radio waves to destroy the portion of that scar that can catastrophically disrupt the heartbeat.

Neuroticism hard on the heart

Neurotic people are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, while being extroverted seems to protect people from dying from respiratory illness, U.K. researchers report based on a study they conducted.

Neuroticism -- a proclivity toward worry and emotional ups and downs -- is related to anxiety and depression, which could help explain the relationship with heart trouble, note Beverly A. Shipley of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colleagues in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Ultrasound fails to spot early cancer

Annual screening with a technique called transvaginal ultrasound, coupled with a blood test for CA125, a protein that can be elevated in the setting of ovarian cancer, does not reliably detect ovarian cancer early, at a more curable stage, according to a new study.

"We and other groups confirm that the current method of ovarian screening, which is a combination of ultrasound scans and (blood) markers, is ineffective," said Dr. Emma R. Woodward from Birmingham Women's Hospital

Sex ed helps teens delay sex

Teenagers who have had formal sex education are far more likely to put off having sex, contradicting earlier studies on the effectiveness of such programs, U.S. researchers said.

They found teenage boys who had sex education in school were 71 percent less likely to have intercourse before age 15, and teen girls who had sex education were 59 percent less likely to have sex before age 15.

Doctors to defer booster shots

Doctors should defer giving booster shots of a widely used childhood vaccine in the wake of a voluntary recall last week of 1.2 million doses by Merck & Co Inc., U.S. health authorities said. Merck recalled its vaccine against Hib disease (Haemophilus influenzae type b) after quality-control checks found production equipment may not have been properly sterilized.

Pregnant women often constipated

Half of all pregnant women will suffer from constipation at some time during their pregnancy, new research shows.

While constipation is widely believed to occur frequently in pregnancy, there has been little research to determine its actual prevalence, Dr. Catherine S. Bradley of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City and colleagues report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.