Health Buzz: Women's Life Expectancy and Other Health News

Health Buzz: Women's Life Expectancy and Other Health News


Women's Life Expectancy Has Fallen in Poor Parts of U.S.

Life expectancy for American women today is shorter in some geographical areas than it was in the 1980s, mostly because of chronic diseases linked to smoking, high blood pressure, and being overweight or obese, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine. Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate life expectancy for every year between 1961 and 1999 and found that women in certain areas of the United States are living shorter lives than they were in the 1980s. But when researchers looked at overall U.S. data, average life expectancy increased for men--to about 74 years--and for women--to nearly 80 years.

Still, the shortened life spans in certain areas of the country suggest that those people who were already disadvantaged became worse off between the early 1980s and 1999 and didn't benefit from gains in life expectancy seen in other, wealthier parts of the country. The findings show that it's important to monitor and address health inequalities, the study authors wrote.

Writer Sarah Baldauf recently explained the science of fat, including why it's so harmful, and she revealed her own body fat measurements and ticked off five urgent reasons to lose weight in '08. More on women's health can be found in, see the U.S. News On Women blog.

Heart Risk From ADHD Drugs Requires Testing, Cardiologists Say

Parents needn't panic about yesterday's announcement that children need cardiac screening before they can safely take stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, cardiologists say. The announcement, made by the American Heart Association in the journal Circulation, affects the 2.5 million or more children who take stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as children who are newly diagnosed with ADHD, Nancy Shute reports.

The recommended screening involves a physical exam and an electrocardiogram, or ECG, to screen for rare but potentially deadly heart problems that can be made worse by the use of stimulants. "You want to avoid giving this drug to children who have heart disease," says Steven Nissen, chairman of the cardiology department at the Cleveland Clinic, who calls the new screening recommendations "very solid advice."

In light of the AHA's new recommendations, U.S. News provides advice on treating ADHD without stimulants and highlights questions adolescents are asking about stimulants.

Contaminated Heparin Traced to Chinese Companies

Health officials have found contaminated heparin products in the United States and at least 10 other countries. Contaminated supplies of the blood thinner have been traced to 12 different Chinese companies that were involved in manufacturing the medication, which was marketed by Baxter International Inc. A chemical called oversulfated condroitin sulfate may be linked to dozens of deaths and hundreds of adverse reactions believed to have been caused by contaminated heparin between November and February. That problem comes against a backdrop of growing concern over the safety of drugs and supplements made in China, India, and other foreign countries.

As Boys Become Men, Their Hearts Face Growing Risks

Puberty is rough on a growing boy's heart. A new study finds that boys experience silent physiological changes during adolescence that leave them at a higher risk of heart disease than their female counterparts for the remainder of their lives,  Adam Voiland reports.

Men's blood pressure and triglyceride levels increase during adolescence, even as their beneficial HDL cholesterol levels fall, according to Antoinette Moran, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. In contrast, teenage girls experience decreases in triglycerides and an increase in HDL.

U.S. News offers tips on protecting your heart in its online Heart Center.

--January W. Payne