Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2007

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

Psychological Distress Less Common Among Parents

It may be hard to believe, but a new U.S. study says parents are less likely to suffer serious psychological distress than non-parents.

Researchers at RTI International in North Carolina analyzed data on more than 33,000 American adults, ages 18 to 49, who took part in the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. They found that nine percent of parents had experienced serious psychological distress in the past year, compared to 12 percent of non-parents, ABC News reported.

    • Psychological Distress Less Common Among Parents
    • Lead Concerns Prompt More Recalls of Chinese-Made Products
    • Treadmills Help Down Syndrome Babies Walk Earlier
    • Retinoic Acid May Cut Ex-Smokers' Lung Cancer Risk
    • More Young Adults Take Cholesterol, Blood Pressure Drugs
    • Concurrent Sexual Partnerships Common Among U.S. Men

Of all the adults, younger women with lower incomes were most likely to experience serious psychological distress, the study found.

In explaining the difference between parents and non-parents, the researchers said parents with a strong social support network of family and friends may recover more quickly from psychological problems, ABC News reported.


Lead Concerns Prompt More Recalls of Chinese-Made Products

More lead-related recalls of Chinese-made toys and novelty items were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recalls include:

  • About 43,000 fake teeth with paint that contains excessive levels of lead. The teeth are painted white, black and orange with brown gums. They were imported by Amscan Inc. of Elmsford, N.Y., and sold as party favors in packages of eight, with UPC 0-48419-65002-7 and UPC 0-48419-61663-4 printed on the packaging. Consumers should return them to the place of purchase for a refund.
  • About 16,000 "Elite Operation" toys with surface coatings that contain excess levels of lead. The recall of the toys, imported by Toys "R" Us Inc., includes Super Rigs (#1004), Command Patrol Center (#1020), Barracuda Helicopter (#1023), and 3 Pack 8-inch Figures (#1024). Consumers should return the toys to Toys "R" Us for a refund.
  • About 1,500 SimplyFun Ribbit board games that have frog-shaped wooden playing pieces that contain excess levels of lead. Consumers should immediately remove the frog playing pieces from the game and contact SimplyFun LLC, of Bellevue, Wash., for a replacement set. The number is 877-557-7767.


Treadmills Help Down Syndrome Babies Walk Earlier

Compared to traditional therapies, treadmills can help infants with Down syndrome learn to walk months earlier, says a University of Michigan study published in the October issue of the journal Physical Therapy.

The study included 30 babies with Down syndrome who were walked on a treadmill for eight minutes a day, five days a week, Agence France-Presse reported. As a result, the babies learned to walk four to five months earlier than usual 24 to 28 months it takes using traditional physical therapy alone.

Helping babies with Down syndrome learn to walk earlier can boost their motor skills, social skills, perception and spatial cognition, explained study author Dale Ulrich of the university's division of kineisiology.

"The key is if we can get them to walk earlier and better, then they can explore their environment earlier and when you start to explore, you learn about the world around you," Ulrich told AFP. "Walking is a critical factor in development in every other domain."


Retinoic Acid May Cut Ex-Smokers' Lung Cancer Risk

Retinoic acid -- a derivative of vitamin A -- may help reduce former smokers' risk of lung cancer, according to a University of Texas study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

It's believed that lung cells damaged by smoking can continue to grow and turn cancerous even after a person has kicked the habit. Nearly half of newly diagnosed lung cancers occur in former smokers, BBC News reported.

This study of 225 former heavy smokers found that three months of treatment with retinoic acid reduced the growth of lung cells damaged by smoking. The study authors said more research is needed to learn more about the exact effects of treatment with retinoic acid.

"These results are intriguing, but much more work is needed before we know for sure whether these chemicals could prevent, or slow, lung cancer growth," Josephine Querido, of Cancer Research UK, told BBC News.


More Young Adults Take Cholesterol, Blood Pressure Drugs

The number of young American adults taking cholesterol and blood pressure medications is increasing rapidly, even faster than rates among seniors, says a study released Tuesday by prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc.

Between 2001 and 2006, the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among Medco clients ages 20 to 44 went from 2.5 percent to 4 percent, a 68 percent increase. Translated nationally, that means about 4.2 million Americans in that age group now take cholesterol-lowering drugs, the Associated Press reported.

The study also found that the use of blood pressure medicines by people in that age group went from 7 percent in 2001 to more than 8 percent in 2006, a 21 percent increase. That suggests that about 8.5 million Americans ages 20 to 44 take blood pressure drugs.

Among Americans 65 and older, the use of cholesterol drugs increased 52 percent and the use of blood pressure drugs increased by 9.5 percent over the same period, the AP reported.

Higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol among young adults, along with more aggressive preventive treatment by doctors, are likely behind that age group's increased use of these drugs, according to experts.


Concurrent Sexual Partnerships Common Among U.S. Men

Over a one-year period, about 11 percent of 4,928 men included in a study had concurrent sexual relationships, say University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers. They said this type of behavior may be an important contributing factor to the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Rates of concurrent sexual partnerships were higher among black and Hispanic men than in other groups, according to the study. The study also found that men with concurrent partners were more likely: to be unmarried; to have been in jail in the past year; to have had sex while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol; to have had sex with other men; and to have female sex partners who also have concurrent sexual partners.

"All of these findings are cause for concern, because each by itself increases the risk of HIV transmission," lead author Dr. Adaora Adimora, an associate professor in the schools of medicine and public health, said in a prepared statement. "By connecting more people to each other and to people with these risky behaviors, concurrent partnerships may be an important factor in the spread of HIV infection in the United States and in continuing the epidemic transmission of HIV among blacks and Hispanics."

The study is published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.