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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page HE06


Controlling homocysteine may help survivors avoid fractures.

THE QUESTION Someone who has had a stroke is more than twice as likely as a healthy person to break a hip. Might it help to take supplements to decrease blood levels of homocysteine, the amino acid thought to contribute to brittle bones?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 628 stroke victims 65 years of age or older to take folate (five milligrams) and vitamin B{+1}{+2} (1,500 micrograms) or two placebos daily. All participants had some paralysis on one side of the body. After two years, people in both groups had fallen about the same number of times, but 27 members of the placebo group had broken a hip, compared with six of those who had taken the supplements. Homocysteine levels had decreased by 38 percent in the supplement group and increased by 31 percent for the others.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Anyone who has had a stroke. Among stroke victims who break a hip, fractures usually occur on the paralyzed side of the body.

CAVEATS The study did not detect whether increased consumption of vitamin B{+1}{+2}, which can aid bone formation as well as lower homocysteine levels, might have affected the results. The biological reason for the effect of homocysteine remains unclear. The findings may not apply to people who have not had a stroke.

BOTTOM LINE Stroke survivors may want to talk with a doctor about their homocysteine levels.

FIND THIS STUDY March 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association; abstract available online at www.jama.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT the effects of a stroke at www.clevelandclinic.org/healthand www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders.

overactive bladder

A drug for incontinence does not seem to harm thinking ability.

THE QUESTION A list of common drawbacks of aging probably would include a need for more medication, the increased likelihood of cognitive problems (some brought on by the added drugs) and a growing probability of bladder problems. Might a drug used to treat an overactive bladder also affect thinking?

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