High Blood Pressure on the Rise
Thanks to a rise in obesity, more people than ever before are being treated for hypertension, or high blood pressure, according to a new study published in Hypertension. "Additional efforts are needed to prevent hypertension from developing in the first place, with primary emphasis on prevention of obesity," lead researcher Paul Sorlie, chief of the Epidemiology Branch in the institute's Division of Prevention and Population Sciences, told HealthDay. "For those who have hypertension, additional efforts are needed to diagnose, treat, and effectively control hypertension to reduce the adverse outcomes associated with hypertension."
About 50.3 percent of Americans had high blood pressure in 1994, and 55.5 percent had the condition in 2004. Also, those with prehypertension (considered a precursor to high blood pressure) saw an increase from 32.3 percent to 36.1 percent during the study period.
Alcohol and Brain Shrinkage
Drinking alcohol may decrease the size of your brain, according to a new study published in Archives of Neurology. Those who drank alcohol, even in moderate amounts known to help ward off heart problems, have a smaller brain volume than those who don't drink, CNN reports. The study involved 1,839 healthy people who had an average age of 61 and told study investigators how often they drank alcohol. MRI scans showed that the more alcohol study participants drank, the smaller their brains. Those who didn't drink at all had larger brains than former drinkers and light, moderate, and heavy drinkers.
Internet Searching May Be Good for Your Brain
Surfing the Internet might be good for your health, according to a new study, expected to be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Researchers examined whether using an online search engine such as Google is beneficial to the brain. Twenty-four participants, ages 55 to 76—about half of whom had extensive experience with online searches—underwent MRIs while viewing a computer screen through goggles and using a keypad to control a cursor. They were instructed to search for details about various topics while researchers measured their brain activity.
Those who had prior experience searching the Internet experienced higher brain activity, HealthDay reports. But even those who weren't familiar with Internet searchers saw a boost in brain activity after doing searches for one hour per day for five days.
In May, U.S. News explored whether online and video-game play is becoming an obsession.
Heart Symptoms Too Often Blamed on Stress in Women
Just as the breast cancer awareness movement has its pink ribbons, the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign is using cute red dress pins (and singer Toni Braxton) to wake women up to their No. 1 killer. Trouble is, plenty of doctors still downplay signs of trouble in women. New research from Weill Medical College of Cornell University suggests that primary-care doctors are more likely to attribute shortness of breath, chest pain, and other heart disease symptoms to stress when they see such symptoms plaguing stressed-out women than they do when they see the same signs in stressed-out men.
U.S. News's Deborah Kotz offers tips on what to do if you're worried about heart problems.
—January W. Payne