Health Highlights: Aug. 12, 2007

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

'Brain-Drain' of Dangerous Protein May Offer Help for Alzheimer's

Is it possible to "flush" away the buildup of dangerous substances in the brain that cause Alzheimer's disease?

That's what researchers from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center have tried on laboratory mice, and the results have indicated that the amyloid protein linked to causing Alzheimer's can be drained away.

According to a university news release, the "brain-drain" method doesn't address the cause of Alzheimer's, which most medical researchers believe is the buildup of a protein in the brain called amyloid-beta. This substance creates the lesions that interrupt a person's memory signals and eventually leads to irreversible dementia.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • 'Brain-Drain' of Dangerous Protein May Offer Help for Alzheimer's
    • U.S. Ranks 42nd in Life Expectancy, Statistics Show
    • Obesity Cited as Elementary School Absenteeism Predictor
    • Don't Eat Certain Raw Oysters From Washington State, FDA Says
    • L.A. Hospital Loses Federal Funding, Closes Emergency Room and Inpatient Care
    • More American Seniors Have Drug Coverage

So, rather than attack the cause of the protein, the researchers found a way to increase the body's ability to absorb amyloid-beta. This causes the brain to "order" levels of the substance in the brain to decline. This was done by using a modified form of soluble low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein, which helps control the amount of amyloid-beta in the brain.

The result: The levels of amyloid-beta in the brains of the laboratory mice was reduced by 85 to 90 percent. The researchers are now working on adapting their procedure for clinical trial on humans.

The research paper was published online Sunday by the journal Nature Medicine.

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U.S. Ranks 42nd in Life Expectancy, Statistics Show

While Americans' life span continues to grow, people in the United States might be surprised to learn their longevity rate doesn't even come close to cracking the top 25.

According to a survey done by the Associated Press, the United States ranks behind most of Europe, Japan and even Jordan and Singapore.

Not only that, the AP reports, but also the United States' ranking at 42nd in life expectancy (average age of 77.9 years) is much lower than 20 years ago, when it ranked 11th.

Some of the reasons for the decline in ranking were the United States having the world's highest obesity rates and a five-year disparity in lifespan between white and black Americans (black Americans' average longevity is 73.5 years), according to research proved by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.

"The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy," Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta, told the AP. "We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times."

And where do people live the longest? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the country with that distinction is Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, with an average life expectancy of 83.5 years.

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Obesity Cited as Elementary School Absenteeism Predictor

It's not illness that keeps elementary school children away from the classroom most often.

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