Health Highlights: Jan. 20, 2010

Jan. 21, 2010 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Too Much Sitting May Harm Health

Sitting for extended periods can harm your health, even if you get regular exercise, experts warn.

It may be time to rethink how physical activity is defined in order to emphasize the dangers of sitting, Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, wrote in an editorial published this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the Associated Press reported.

Guidelines currently recommend the minimum amount of physical activity, but don't suggest people limit the time they spend sitting.

"After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals," said Ekblom-Bak, the AP reported. Genes that regulate the amount of glucose and fat in the body start to shut down, she explained.


Graco Strollers Recalled Because of Amputation Risk

About 1.5 million Graco strollers have been recalled in the United States after reports that canopy hinges on the products had amputated five children's fingertips and cut the fingertips of two other children.

The recall includes certain model numbers of the Passage, Alano and Spree strollers and Travel Systems, said Pennsylvania-based Graco Children's Products Inc., the Associated Press reported.

The strollers were sold at retail stores nationwide from October 2004 to December 2009. Consumers should stop using the strollers and contact Graco for a free repair kit, advised the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

People who want more information about the recalled strollers can phone 800-345-4109, the AP reported.


California Sets Doctor Appointment Wait Limits

Time limits for doctors to see patients will take effect in California in January 2011, making it the first state to introduce this type of legislation.

The rules "set reasonable expectations about when care should be provided," said Cindy Ehnes, director of the state's Department of Managed Health Care, the Associated Press reported.

Family doctors in health maintenance organizations will be required to see patients seeking an appointment within 10 business days, while the deadline for specialists will be 15 days. Patients seeking urgent care that doesn't require prior authorization must be seen by a doctor within 48 hours. If they determine there's no threat to a patient's health, doctors can extend the waiting period.

"These regulations ... will not only get people access to care when they need it but will reduce unnecessary use of the emergency room," Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer group Health Access California, told the Los Angeles Times, the AP reported.


Recalled Dorel Asia Cribs Linked to Infant's Death

The death of a 6-month-old boy and a number of reports of injuries have prompted the recall of about 635,000 cribs sold by major retail stores in the United States.

The recall includes 20 models of Dorel Asia cribs with both drop sides and fixed front rails. In some models of the cribs, the drop sides can detach and create a space where an infant can be trapped and suffocate or strangle, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In other models, a child can become trapped if one of the slats is broken or damaged, which can occur when the crib is being used or when it's being assembled, taken apart, or shipped, the Associated Press reported.

There have been 31 reported incidents involving drop-side cribs, including 6 reports of children being trapped between the mattress and the drop side. The 6-month-old boy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa became trapped and strangled after the drop-side hardware broke.

Dorel Asia and the CPSC have also received 36 reports of broken slats, including two reports of trapped children, the AP reported.

The cribs were sold by Kmart, Wal-Mart, Sears and other stores. Consumers can receive a free crib repair kit by contacting Dorel Asia at 866-762-2304. More information about the recall is available on the Dorel Asia Web site.


Exercise Increases Memory-Related Brain Cells: Study

Mice who exercised grew more brain cells in a part of the brain associated with memory than mice that didn't exercise, a finding that may explain why physical activity can improve brain power, say scientists.

The 105-day study included two groups of mice. One group was allowed unlimited access to an exercise wheel and ran an average of more than 20 km (12 miles) a day. The other group of mice weren't allowed to exercise, BBC News reported.

Tests showed that the mice in the exercise group were better able to distinguish between memories of similar things. This is likely due to the additional brain cells generated by exercise, the researchers said.

"Keeping similar memories distinct is an important part of having a good memory," said study senior author Timothy Bussey of Cambridge University, BBC News reported. "It is this aspect of memory that is improved by exercise, our study shows. The human equivalent might be remembering which car parking space you have used on two different days in the previous week. It becomes difficult to distinguish memories when events are similar."

The study was published Jan. 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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