Health Highlights: Jan. 22, 2010

Sept. 17 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Regular Sex Benefits Men's Hearts: Study

Having sex at least twice a week can reduce a man's risk of serious heart disease by almost half, says a new study.

It included more than 1,000 men, aged 40 to 70, who had no history of heart disease and were followed for 16 years. Men who had sex twice a week were as much as 45 percent less likely to develop serious heart conditions than men who had sex less than once a month, CBS News reported.

The study appears in the American Journal of Cardiology. Women weren't part of the study, but experts believe the findings would be true for them too.

Sex could help heart health through its physical and emotional effects, said the researchers, CBS News reported. Sex can be good exercise and men who have regular sex are more likely to be in a healthy relationship that reduces stress and provides them with social support.


No Medical Marijuana Limits: California Supreme Court

A California law that imposed limits on the amount of medical marijuana a patient can legally possess was overturned Thursday by the California Supreme Court.

In 1996, voters approved a measure to allow patients with a doctor's recommendation to possess an unspecified amount of marijuana. But in 2003, state lawmakers limited that amount to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, the Associated Press reported.

In its ruling, the court said only voters can alter amendments they've added to the state's constitution through the initiative process.

In related news, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that police can arrest a patient or search a home even if a patient has a doctor's permission to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. In the ruling, the court upheld the conviction of a man who had a doctor's authorization and was arrested with 2 pounds of marijuana.


Past Decade Warmest on Record: NASA

The past decade was the warmest on record, according to Earth surface temperature data released Thursday by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA said the figures also show that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when scientists first started recording such data. The warmest year was 2005 and the other warmest years have all occurred since 1998, The New York Times reported.

Changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles cause variations in annual global temperatures, but when "we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that variability we find global warming is continuing unabated," said James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The newly released data show an upward trend of about 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 degrees Celsius) per decade over the past 30 years. Since 1880, there's been an average 1.5 degree F rise in global temperatures, the Times reported.


Same-Sex Couples Good Parents: Study

Same-sex couples are as good as male/female couples when it comes to parenting, say researchers who reviewed 81 studies of one- and two-parent families, including gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples.

"Children being raised by same-gender parents, on most all of the measures that we care about, self-esteem, school performance, social adjustment and so on, seem to be doing just fine and, in most cases, are statistically indistinguishable from kids raised by married moms and dads on these measures," said review co-author Timothy Biblarz, of the University of Southern California, USA Today reported.

"It's more about the quality of the parenting than the gender of the parents," noted co-author Judith Stacey of New York University.

The researchers also found that "two women who choose to parent together are slightly more likely than a heterosexual couple to be actively committed to hands-on parenting. We don't have data yet on two men parenting, but I think it will come out fairly similar," Stacey said, USA Today reported.

The review findings will be published Friday in the Journal of Marriage and Family.


Herpes Drug Doesn't Reduce HIV Infection Risk

The herpes drug acyclovir doesn't reduce the risk of HIV infection, a new study says.

The five-year trial included more than 3,400 African couples in which one partner had HIV and one partner was HIV-free, Agence France Presse reported.

The infected partners were randomly selected to take twice-daily doses of acyclovir or a placebo.

During the study, there were 41 HIV infections among couples in which the infected partner took acyclovir, and 43 HIV infections among those who took a placebo. The researchers said this wasn't a significant difference, AFP reported.

The study appears online in the New England Journal of Medicine.