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Can Coffee Cut a Woman's Stroke Risk?

Swedish study shows even a cup a day reduces the risk; experts say more proof needed

Women who have at least one cup of coffee -- or even five cups -- daily may be reducing their risk of stroke by as much as 25 percent, new Swedish research shows. And women who don't drink coffee at all may actually be increasing their risk for stroke, the researchers noted. However, the researchers added, these findings are preliminary and should not cause any change in coffee-drinking habits.

"Results from our study in women showed that consumption of 1 to 5 cups of coffee per day was associated with a 22 to 25 percent lower risk of stroke, compared with consumption of less than 1 cup a day," said lead researchers Susanna Larsson, from the National Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

"Even small amounts of coffee may reduce the risk of stroke," she added.

The study is published in the March 10 issue of Stroke. For the study, Larsson's team collected data on 34,670 women, aged 49 to 83, who took part in the Swedish Mammography Cohort, which looked for associations between diet, lifestyle and disease.

Between 1998 and 2008, 1,680 women had a stroke. But the researchers found that coffee drinkers had a 22 percent to 25 percent lowered risk. Women who reported drinking 1-2 cups a day, 3-4 cups a day or 5 or more cups had similar benefits, compared with women who drank less than a cup of coffee, the researchers found.

The results remained unchanged even after taking into account smoking, weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or drinking, they added. Although the women in the study were not asked whether they drank decaf coffee, most Swedes drink caffeinated coffee, Larsson noted. The researchers speculated that coffee might reduce inflammation, lower oxidative stress and improve insulin resistance, which in turn could lower the risk for stroke. However, one expert doesn't think this study convincingly shows a strong link. The problem with this type of study is that there are too many factors unaccounted for and association does not prove causality, said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center. "Subjects were asked about their past coffee consumption in a questionnaire and then followed over time.

There is no way to know if they changed their behavior," Goldstein said. And, he noted, there was no control for medication use or other potential but unmeasured factors. "The study is restricted to a Scandinavian population, and it is not clear, even if there is a relationship, that it would be present in more diverse populations. I think that it can be concluded, at least in this population, that there was not an increased risk of stroke among coffee drinkers," he said. A link between regular coffee drinking and reduced risk of stroke in a general population was reported by British researchers last year at the American Stroke Association's annual stroke conference.

A University of Cambridge study of 23,000 men and women who were followed for an average of 12 years found that those who reported any intake of coffee had a 27 percent lower risk of stroke than those who said they never drank java. More research last year showed that drinking coffee or tea in moderation reduces the risk of developing heart disease. In a study published online June 18 in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht followed 37,514 residents of The Netherlands for 13 years. They found that people who had two to four cups a day of coffee had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those drinking less than two or more than four cups a day. Moderate coffee intake also slightly -- but not significantly -- reduced the risk of death from heart disease and all causes, they reported.

Peanut allergy linked to gene defect

Children with a certain gene defect are more likely to develop a peanut allergy, an international study suggests. Researchers studied the effect of changes in the gene filaggrin, which helps the skin block out allergens.

Changes in the gene were already thought to reduce the effectiveness of the barrier, increasing the risk for eczema and asthma, say the U.K., Dutch and Canadian the researchers. Now, such changes appear to raise the risk of peanut allergy as well, said the team, whose work is published in the March issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. "It was a logical next step to investigate whether filaggrin may also be a cause of peanut allergy, since a child may develop all three of these diseases together," Dr. Sara Brown of the division of molecular medicine at the University of Dundee said in a release. "Allergic conditions often run in families, which tells us that inherited genetic factors are important.

In addition to that, changes in the environment and our exposure to peanuts are thought to have been responsible for the recent increase in peanut allergy seen in the Western world in particular." The team's findings suggest one in five peanut allergy sufferers has a filaggrin defect, which means it is not the only cause of peanut allergies, said Prof. Irwin McLean, a study co-author also based at Dundee in Scotland. But people with the defect are three times more likely to suffer a peanut allergy than people with normal filaggrin, the researchers reported. The study looked at 71 English, Dutch, and Irish patients with positive peanut results in an oral food test, where the patient eats the food while a physician watches carefully for symptoms.

Their genetic findings were compared with 1,000 controls from the English population. The investigation was then repeated in 309 Canadians with peanut allergies — defined by a food challenge, clinical history or skin prick test — and another 891 controls from the general Canadian population. "Taken together, our experimental data from four populations of European origin demonstrate a strong and significant association of loss-of-function mutations within the filaggrin gene with clinically significant peanut allergy," the authors concluded. It's estimated about one in 50 Canadian children has a peanut allergy, and about one to two per cent of these can have severe or life-threatening reactions, according to Anaphylaxis Canada.

The Canadian peanut allergy study was supported by grants from the Canadian Dermatology Foundation, the University of Saskatchewan, Department of Medicine Research Fund, the Foundations of the McGill University Health Centre and the Montreal Children's Hospital as well as grants from the Canadian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation and the AllerGen Network of Centres of Excellence.

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