Health Buzz: COPD Inhalers and Other Health News

Abortion rates now lower than ever, watching doctors wash their hands, and pain's link to sinusitis

+ More

COPD Inhalers Tied to Increased Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

Inhaled anticholinergic agents, commonly prescribed for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems, new research suggests. "We found a 58 percent increased risk of cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke," in people taking these drugs, said Sonal Singh, lead author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., told HealthDay. "In absolute terms, what it means is that if you were to use these drugs for a year, your absolute risk of developing an additional cardiac death would be 1 in 40." Taking medications in this category—such as Atrovent and Spiriva—was found to increase risk of cardiovascular death by 80 percent, heart attack risk by 53 percent, and stroke risk by 46 percent, according to the study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A study published earlier this month found that a broccoli compound may help treat COPD.

Abortions at Record Low Levels

The rate of women getting abortions is at its lowest level since 1974, according to a new Guttmacher Institute report. Abortions reached a peak of 29 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 1980 but fell to 20 abortions per 1,000 women in 2004, the most recent year analyzed. Still, those figures mask a larger issue, the report notes. "Many Americans will welcome the news that there are fewer abortions, particularly among teens, and that a larger proportion of abortions are now happening very early in pregnancy," Sharon Camp, Guttmacher Institute president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. "But at the same time, abortions are becoming more concentrated among women of color and low-income women." Hispanic and black women had abortion rates that were three and five times higher, respectively, than that of white women.

In August, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reported that abortions are unlikely to cause depression. Earlier this month, Adam Voiland explained how abortions affect men.

Video Monitoring, Hand Washing, and Your Health

No one can say with authority how much the number or rate of hospital-acquired infections would drop if hand-washing compliance shot up, but certainly it would be significant, Avery Comarow reports. Now, Arrowsight Medical, a division of a company in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., that offers video monitoring in food-processing plants and other operations, is offering video monitoring to help hospitals enforce hand-washing among their employees. One large eastern hospital, which Arrowsight spokesman Neil Vineberg would not name, has put cameras in its ICUs and is collecting hand-washing information that will be described in a future study. (Staffers are aware of the project and know about the cameras.) In a previous small-scale installation at an outpatient surgery center in Georgia, says Vineberg, compliance jumped within three months from 30 percent to more than 90 percent.

In January, Comarow wrote that hand-washing won't necessarily change a hospital's infection rate. He followed up by exploring other infection-control measures in February.

Body Pain Tied to Chronic Sinus Problems

Chronic sinus problems may be linked to body pain and fatigue, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology. "People with chronic sinusitis have about 24 percent more bodily pain than the average person—bodily pain very similar to [that in] those who are 35 years older [and] those with arthritis and depression," says Alexander C. Chester, lead author of the new analysis and clinical professor of medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center. Because many doctors haven't accepted sinus problems as a cause of body pain, clinicians may "ascribe bodily pain symptoms to another condition...such as fibromyalgia," the study reports. Chester estimates that 50 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have chronic sinus problems.