Health Buzz: Waiting Room Death and Other Health News

Concern over the HPV vaccine, relaxation techniques, and disturbing dementia news

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Woman Dies on Hospital Waiting Room Floor

The patient was dead for more than an hour, collapsed on the waiting room floor of a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital, by the time workers checked on her, the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports. A surveillance video, released this week, captured the incident that occurred in June at Kings County Hospital. Esmin Green, 49, fell face down from her seat in the waiting room at 5:32 a.m. on June 19 and stopped moving about a half-hour later, but a hospital staffer didn't check on her until 6:35 a.m. At that point, Green was dead, according to the Associated Press. Green had been involuntarily committed to the hospital's psychiatric unit the previous day and was waiting for a bed. Six hospital staffers have been fired in the wake of the incident, the Washington Post reports.

U.S. News's Avery Comarow regularly reports on hospital quality issues in his On Quality blog.

Is HPV Vaccine to Blame for a Teen's Paralysis?

About a month after being vaccinated against the cervical cancer-causing HPV virus, 13-year-old Jenny Tetlock missed the lowest hurdle in gym class, the first hint of the degenerative muscle disease that, 15 months later, has left the previously healthy teenager nearly paralyzed, Deborah Kotz reports. Did the vaccine, Gardasil, cause her condition? Her father, Philip Tetlock, a psychology professor at UCBerkeley's Haas School of Business, has embarked on an odyssey to find out whether the vaccine or random coincidence is to blame. In addition to contacting top medical experts, he started a blog that reveals his anger and frustration.

Kotz discusses reports of adverse reactions to Gardasil in her On Women blog. U.S. News's Bernadine Healy previously reported on the mounting evidence that the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal could trigger autism in certain susceptible kids.

Relaxation Techniques May Alter Gene Activity

Relaxation techniques such as prayer, yoga, and meditation may alter patterns of gene activity that have an effect on how the body responds to stress, according to a new study, published in the journal PLoS One. "What we have found is that when you evoke the relaxation response, the very genes that are turned on or off by stress are turned the other way," Herbert Benson, cosenior author of the new study, told HealthDay. "The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes. The mind is not separated from the body." Other mind-body approaches that elicit a relaxation response include tai chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery, and Qi Gong.

Deborah Kotz explained in June that stress, if managed, may actually be good for you. She also described how mindfulness meditation and biofeedback may help you, and she recently revealed whether a flotation tank helped her relax.

Dementia News Isn’t So Great for Men

Medical researchers have known for some time that the prevalence of dementia doubles every five years among people over 65, Adam Voiland reports. It hasn't been clear, however, whether that trend continues into the 90s and beyond. This week, after surveying more than 900 people over the age of 90, researchers have offered an answer: yes for women, no for men. Still, the news for men isn't as encouraging as it seems. Fewer men in their 90s were found to suffer from dementia, but the difference wasn't because men were less likely to get dementia; rather, it seems to be because they died more quickly with the condition. Voiland also lists five changes that men can make to hold off dementia in his On Men blog.

Voiland previously explained that men seem to die earlier than women, and in disproportionate numbers, from many conditions. And earlier this week, Deborah Kotz reported on a study that indicates that low levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol raise a person's risk of memory loss and dementia.

—January W. Payne