Health Buzz: Fish Oil and Omega 3's Don't Prevent Heart Attacks

New cancer drugs show great promise; diet and fitness tips to help you sleep

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Fish Oil is Not the Answer for Heart Attack Prevention, Study Says 

For the millions of Americans who take fish oil pills to dodge heart attacks, the results of a new study may be disappointing. When taken as a supplement or via diet, fish oil and its omega-3 fatty acids do not help prevent heart attacks, strokes, or death from heart disease, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association study published yesterday. Although a decade ago there seemed to be evidence that omega-3 acids could improve blood pressure levels and heart rhythm issues, the Greek researchers who led the new JAMA study came to a different conclusion after analyzing clinical trials of more than 68,000 participants. "I think the bottom line is supplements are not always the answer," Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, told Reuters. Lichtenstein did suggest other ways to promote heart health, including not smoking, exercising, and eating lots of whole grains and vegetables.

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  • New Cancer Drugs Are Showing Great Promise

    The results of Denise Nichols's genetic test were both a blessing and a curse. After doctors diagnosed her with advanced ovarian cancer in 2009, Nichols, 54, a nurse from Hamden, Conn., was treated with surgery and chemotherapy and tested for genetic glitches that predispose women to breast and ovarian cancer. Her test confirmed a harmful hiccup in the BRCA2 gene that made her 10 to 27 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than the average woman. But the finding had a bright side: It meant that Nichols could take a promising new drug, one thought to work only in women with defective BRCA genes.

    The drug blocks the action of a protein known as PARP that helps tumors in women like Nichols survive by repairing breaks in the DNA of their cells. Last summer, doctors detected rising levels of a cancer-related protein in Nichols's blood—a warning that her cancer might be coming back. Since March, Nichols has been taking the new drug, and her blood protein levels have dropped to near normal. "I want to be the one that this drug works on," she says. "And I don't ever want to have to go back on chemotherapy again."

    Nichols's battle is part of a revolution in cancer treatment that has swept the field in the past two years. Rather than treat all breast or kidney or lung tumors in the same way, doctors are now peering deep into the genetic code of a patient's cancer, personalizing a treatment path according to its specific mutations, and, if not yet providing a cure, often extending lives by many months—and offering hope. [Read more: New Cancer Drugs Are Showing Great Promise]

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    • Diet and Fitness Tips to Help You Sleep

      Ah, sleep. While some slip between the sheets and easily fall into a sound slumber, many of us fail to get enough of those coveted zzz's. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of American workers—about 40.6 million of us—average no more than six hours of sleep a day. The recommended amount of sleep is about seven to nine hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which says that any less than that is linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, and substance abuse. Lack of sleep can also increase appetite and the risk for future weight gain or obesity, writes U.S. News blogger Elisa Zied.

      In fact, the findings of two small, unpublished studies presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest that sleep deprivation could affect diet by increasing a preference for less healthy food and by dampening decision-making ability—especially in the face of fatty, caloric options.

      Despite these serious consequences, why do so many Americans skimp on sleep? Many of us stay up (or out) late to socialize with friends, watch ball games, or catch up on favorite TV shows. But we also sleep less to meet important work deadlines or family obligations such as caring for our family members. (Incidentally, on the morning I had planned to submit this article, our 10-year-old climbed into our bed at 4 a.m. after a bad dream; since I couldn't fall back asleep, I used that "bonus time" to edit this blog post and catch up on other work!) [Read more: Diet and Fitness Tips to Help You Sleep]