Health Highlights: Aug. 31, 2009

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

Docs to Watch for Guillain-Barré After H1N1 Vaccine

Neurologists should be on the lookout for any signs of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in people vaccinated against H1N1 swine flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Neurology announced Monday.

Experts do not expect the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to increase risk of the rare disorder, but are acting out "an abundance of caution," according to a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. Because of its association with the 1976 swine flu vaccine, GBS could be of greater concern with any pandemic vaccine, the release said.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Docs to Watch for Guillain-Barré After H1N1 Vaccine
    • Workouts Trump Angioplasty for Heart Woes, Experts Say
    • Gulf Coast Births Fell Post-Katrina
    • U.N. Wary of Swine Flu in Birds

"The active participation of neurologists is going to be critical for monitoring for any possible increase in GBS following 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccination," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, who is directing the AAN effort. The request comes as part of the CDC's national vaccine safety monitoring campaign.

The H1N1 vaccine is still in production. Officials expect that vaccination of high-risk groups -- including health-care workers, infants, children and young adults ages 6 months through 24 years, pregnant women and adults with underlying health conditions -- will start this fall.

In GBS, the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, causing tingling and weakness in the extremities. It is usually, but not always, treatable.

Neurologists and other health-care professionals should use the CDC and FDA Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System to report any post-vaccination adverse events, the announcement said.

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Workouts Trump Angioplasty for Heart Woes, Experts Say

There's mounting evidence that exercise may be a better fix for clogged arteries than angioplasty, although persuading patients to be more physically active is the tough part, experts said at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology on Sunday.

For example, one 2004 study, led by Rainer Hambrtecht of Klinikum Links der Weser in Bremen, Germany, found that nine out of 10 heart patients who bicycled regularly rid themselves of their cardiovascular troubles a year after beginning the exercise program, compared to 70 percent of patients who got angioplasty but didn't exercise.

"It's difficult to convince people to exercise instead of having an angioplasty, but it works," said Hambrecht, who spoke to the Associated Press from the meeting held in Barcelona, Spain.

Other research has shown that a third of heart attacks and strokes -- 280,000 U.S. heart deaths -- might be prevented if patients walked briskly for a total of 2.5 hours a week. However, experts say that less than 20 percent of heart patients get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five times weekly.

Exercise lowers artery-clogging LDL (bad) cholesterol while boosting levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, it helps the body deal with sugar better, and it breathes new health into blood vessel walls, the AP noted.

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