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Quick Study

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

STROKE

Physically active people seem to recover better.

THE QUESTION Does the amount of exercise people get affect how they weather a stroke?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 673 people who had an ischemic stroke (one caused by a clot) for the first time. About 21 percent reported doing aerobic exercise four or more times a week before their stroke, 29 percent exercised aerobically one to three times a week, and 50 percent did an aerobic workout less than once a week. In the three months after their stroke, people who had exercised at least once a week were twice as likely to have recovered quickly as those who had exercised the least, and they showed fewer effects from the stroke. They scored better, on average, on standardized scales that rated physical and neurological impairment, which affect such things as the ability to dress and bathe themselves and do other routine tasks that allow independent living.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who have an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. More than 780,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, most of them older than 65. The chances of having a stroke more than double each decade after age 55.

CAVEATS Data on physical activity were provided by the people in the study. The findings may not apply to people who have recurrent strokes or those who have hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain.

FIND THIS STUDY July 14 online issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

LEARN MORE ABOUT stroke at http://www.strokeassociation.org and http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders.

GENITAL HERPES

Condoms may offer some protection against herpes virus.

THE QUESTION Do condoms, which provide significant protection against HIV, offer similar protection against herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), which causes genital herpes?

THIS STUDY combined data from six studies, involving 5,384 men and women (average age, 29) who were HSV-2 negative when their study began. During the study periods, which ranged from six to 19 months, the virus was diagnosed in 415 people, women more often than men. Those who always used a condom were 30 percent less likely to have acquired the virus than were those who never used condoms. The more often people had unprotected sex, the greater their risk for infection.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who have unprotected sex. HSV-2 is spread most often by skin-to-skin contact. Because there is no cure, genital herpes is considered a lifelong infection.

CAVEATS Data on condom use were provided by the study participants. The authors theorized that the risk reduction for HSV-2 was so much less than the nearly 90 percent reduction for HIV because HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, which a condom can contain, whereas HSV-2 can be spread through skin contact in areas not protected by the condom.

FIND THIS STUDY July 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

LEARN MORE ABOUT genital herpes at http://www.mayoclinic.com and http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics.

PROSTATE CANCER

Heavy drinking may make aggressive disease more likely.

THE QUESTION Might alcohol consumption affect the risk for prostate cancer?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 10,920 men. In a seven-year span, prostate cancer was detected in 2,129 of them, including 564 men with high-grade tumors, which grow and spread quickly. Those who consumed, on average, four or more drinks a day (totaling roughly two ounces or more of pure alcohol) five days a week in the year before diagnosis were more than twice as likely to have developed high-grade prostate cancer as were those who did not drink. No link was found between prostate cancer and more-moderate drinking. Also, among men who had been randomly assigned to take finasteride (Proscar, Propecia) as part of other research to test the drug's ability to prevent prostate cancer, heavy drinking blocked the effectiveness of the drug.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men. Health experts suggest that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. Drinking more raises the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, violence and injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, and can lead to addiction. Prostate cancer affects about one in six men in the United States. As detection and treatment methods have improved, the death rate for prostate cancer has fallen to about one in 35 men.

CAVEATS Alcohol consumption data came from the men's responses to questionnaires, and long-term consumption was not assessed. Most heavy drinkers in the study consumed beer.

FIND THIS STUDY July 13 online issue of Cancer.

LEARN MORE ABOUT prostate cancer at http://www.cancer.gov and http://www.prostatecancerfoundation.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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