• U.S.

Your Health: Nov. 22, 1999

2 minute read
Janice M. Horowitz

GOOD NEWS

ACE-ING IT Soon ACE inhibitors, a widely used high-blood-pressure medication, may be added to the roster of pills taken by folks at risk for a heart attack. A major study, released ahead of schedule to get out the good word, shows that daily doses of the ACE inhibitor ramipril led to a dramatic 25% decline in heart attacks and strokes among diabetics and patients with a history of heart disease. Cost: 85[cents] a day.

INSIDE INFORMATION Colonoscopy is probably the world’s most unpopular procedure, but the notoriously uncomfortable test, in which a probe is snaked through the anus and into the bowel, is still considered the gold standard for detecting colon cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. Now there may be a less traumatic alternative. A study shows that a “virtual colonoscopy”–basically, a fancy CAT scan–is nearly as accurate (82%) as the real thing in detecting tiny precancerous polyps. The procedure zaps patients with radiation equivalent to about five chest X rays, but it’s noninvasive, requires no sedation and is all over in about 10 minutes.

BAD NEWS

MINITEL MINI-STROKE A French psychiatrist became temporarily blind in one eye and could barely speak–classic signs of a mini-stroke–after talking on the phone for an hour with the receiver tucked between his head and neck. Physicians believe the torqued position tore a neck artery that supplies blood to the brain. It’s only one case, but the rest of us can learn from it. If you cradle the receiver, be sure to switch sides or transfer it to your hand from time to time. Better yet, try a headset.

COUCH POTATOES ARISE…SLOWLY Thought you’d never hear something bad about exercise? Try this. Sedentary folks who suddenly take up vigorous activity, like jogging or heavy lifting, have an astounding 30-fold increased risk of suffering a heart attack within the first hour. The jolt of exertion, though well intended, can cause plaque to rupture and trigger a heart attack. The best advice: if you can’t tell a treadmill from a pepper mill, spend at least a few weeks gradually building up your stamina.

–By Janice M. Horowitz

Sources: Good News: New England Journal of Medicine (early release of 1/20/00 issue); New England Journal of Medicine (11/11/99). Bad News: Neurology (11/10/99); Journal of the American Medical Association (11/10/99)

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