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Health Highlights: Jan. 5, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009 12:00 AM

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

56 Substances That Interact With E.D. Drugs Listed

Certain anti-angina drugs, blood pressure medicines, grapefruit juice and the herbal supplement St. John's wort are among the substances that could negatively interact with popular erectile dysfunction (E.D.) drugs, the consumer group Public Citizen said Monday in releasing a list of 56 such substances.

The substances were analyzed when taken with the E.D. drugs Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, Public Citizen said in a news release. The substances are capable of causing either:

A life-threatening drop in blood pressure,An overdose of the E.D. drugs because the other substances prevent the body from ridding itself of the E.D. drugs,Or reducing the effectiveness of the E.D. drugs by speeding up the body's metabolism.

E.D. drugs cause the blood vessels to dilate, and this process can be magnified when taken with blood pressure medicines such as Flomax or Cardura. Men who take hypertension medicines should avoid the E.D. drugs, the consumer group said.

The complete list of substances is available at Public Citizen's worstpills.org Web site.

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MRI Appears to Verify Everlasting Love

Cynics have long disputed the notion of everlasting love. But medical technology may prove them wrong, Britain's Sunday Times reported.

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York state scanned the brains of couples who had been together for 20 years. About one in 10 of these couples, when shown pictures of their loved ones, had the same chemical reactions in the brain as newlyweds.

Prior studies had shown that the intense "limerence" felt by new couples was virtually gone after a decade, the newspaper said.

The new study found that true love is born in the brain's "reward-seeking circuitry," not in the heart, as lore would have it. The scientists found that so-called "swans" who maintained an intensive love after two decades together tended to avoid anxiety and stress, shared most experiences, and had other common traits, including being generous, calm and deeply attached.

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Red Cross Says It Needs Blood Donors

With the start of the new year comes the America Red Cross' annual appeal for blood donations nationwide, to offset the drop-off in donations that typically occurs during the holiday season.

The lack of donations occurs each year because people are busier than usual during the holidays, and colder weather arrives. This is especially true this year in the northern United States, which has been plagued with an unusually high number of storms, All Headline News reported.

Less than 5 percent of eligible donors have given blood this year. This lack of blood donors has forced the Red Cross to cancel many blood drives throughout the country, the news service said.

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Avian Flu Returns, This Time in Hong Kong Poultry

Avian flu is back, not that it had ever been entirely eradicated.

New cases of the H5N1 flu virus -- the type that caused the destruction of entire flocks of fowl in previous years -- has resurfaced in Hong Kong poultry, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding to reported human cases at the end of 2008 in Indonesia, Egypt and Cambodia.

Two human deaths also were reported -- a 16-year-old Egyptian girl and a 2-year-old Cambodian girl, the newspaper reported, and other human cases of H5N1 were cited in Indonesia, long a hotbed of avian flu. However, as with all other cases involving humans, there was no indication of the virus being spread from person-to-person, a circumstance scientists have long feared could create a worldwide pandemic.

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'Fire-Safe' Cigarettes Required in 14 States by End of 2009

While just about every expert agrees there is no such thing as a "safe" cigarette, at least 14 states this year will require that all cigarettes sold within their borders be "fire-safe," USA Today reported.

These self-extinguishing cigarettes go out on their own if they are left unattended or are dropped, the newspaper reported, and this feature could prevent more than 1,000 fires annually.

Mandatory production of fire-safe cigarettes has long been opposed by the tobacco companies, USA Today reported, and Congress has not been able to pass legislation. So, individual states began adopting their own laws.

The first states to make fire-safe cigarettes mandatory are Texas, Delaware, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Later this year, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Washington and Wisconsin will adopt similar laws.

So, far, the tobacco industry appears to be more cooperative than combative with the new legislation, the newspaper reported. Phillip Morris USA spokesman David Sutton was quoted as saying his company would "continue to work with the states," but would not convert all of its manufacturing to making fire-safe cigarettes.

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