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RESTRICTED ACTIVITY PLAGUES THE ELDERLY
Restricted activity, defined as spending at least half a day in bed, or
cutting down on activities due to illness or injury, affects more than three-quarters of
elderly people, Yale researchers report in a new study. Many of these people do not seek
medical attention. Lead investigator Thomas M. Gill, M.D., and his colleagues followed 754
people aged 70 or more for an average of 15 months. Seventy-seven percent of the
participants reported restricted activity during at least one month, and 39 percent
reported restricted activity for two consecutive months. Fatigue, back or joint pain or
stiffness, and dizziness or unsteadiness were the most common causes. The participants did
not seek medical care when they restricted their activity and often had to curtail their
doctor visits. Gill warns family and friends not to accept restricted activity as an
inevitable part of aging and to help their older loved ones seek medical attention to
restore their independe! nce.
HORMONES AND VITAMIN D BUILD BONE IN OLDER WOMEN
Vitamin D combined with hormone replacement therapy can increase bone
density by as much as 12 percent in elderly women, say researchers at Creighton
University. After studying 500 elderly women for three years, the scientists, led by J.
Chris Gallagher, M.D., found that HRT by itself increased bone density in the spine and
hip by five percent and four percent, respectively. Adding vitamin D to the regimen
boosted spine and hip density by seven percent and five percent. They also noticed that
the use of vitamin D significantly reduced the number of falls that elderly women suffered
over three years by about 30 percent, and also tended to reduce the chance of fractures.
These results show that combination therapy can make some women more responsive to HRT and
increase their gain in bone density, says Gallagher. "Combination therapy is best
used in women who lose bone on a single drug, or who present with multiple
DENTAL X-RAYS IDENTIFY WOMEN AT HIGH RISK OF STROKE
A new study suggests that the panoramic or wide-angle radiography used
in some dental offices can reveal neck arteries blocked by atheromas, or hardened fatty
tissue, in some older women. The atheromas develop as estrogen levels decline during and
after menopause. They build up in the carotid artery in the neck, where they can block
blood flow from the heart to the brain, leading to the possibility of a stroke. Arthur H.
Friedlander, D.D.S., and Lisa Altman, M.D., of UCLA, assessed the dental x-rays and
medical records of women whose average age was about 70. Radiographs of 16 women (31
percent) revealed atheromas in the neck. Those women also had many of the risk factors
associated with stroke: obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a history of smoking.
Women or men whose dental x-rays show calcified atheromas should be referred to their
physicians for confirmation of these findings, Friedlander and Altman write.
MALARIA DRUG SHOWS PROMISE
It is relatively rare in the United States, but malaria remains a
scourge throughout most of the world: it infects 300 million to 500 million people
annually and causes 1.5 million to 3 million deaths. The most commonly fatal strain of the
malaria parasite is showing considerable resistance to current treatments, making the
development of new drugs a priority. Now researchers at Johns Hopkins University have
designed a new drug to fight malaria that has passed the first stages of testing in mice
and rats. Not only does it appear to be safe and effective, it is water-soluble and thus
easily administered either orally or intravenously. Compounds the parasite normally
creates as part of its metabolism combine with the drug to create harmful substances that
prove fatal to the bug. The research team, led by Gary Posner, professor of chemistry at
Johns Hopkins, used a technique he calls "molecular architecture" to design
molecules with better malaria-fighting c! haracteristics. Future plans include the
production of about two pounds of the drug for testing in larger animals and humans.