A newly published study using ultrasound scans to check for fetal defects found that children who went on to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) had a greater head and abdominal size at 20 weeks in the womb compared with children who did not develop ASD. This discovery could offer a small window into fetal development that could help doctors diagnose and treat ASD earlier. However, these findings were presented at a medical conference and are considered preliminary since they have not yet undergone a peer review process.
International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, June 2014
A ban of certain types of pavement sealants made from coal tar has led to lower levels of cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in an Austin, Texas lake. In 2006, Austin was the first city in the United States to ban these types of pavement sealants. Past studies have shown that PAHs cause cancer in animals, and there are concerns that these compounds could be harmful to human health as well.
Environmental Science & Technology, June 2014
An analysis of more than 146,500 individuals revealed that for every 10% increase in vitamin D blood levels, researchers found a corresponding 8% decreased risk for developing high blood pressure. According to study leader Dr. Elina Hypponen, “In view of the costs and side effects associated with antihypertensive drugs, the potential to prevent or reduce blood pressure and therefore the risk of hypertension with vitamin D is very attractive.”
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, June 2014
Participating in school sports during adolescence appears to have a protective effect on mental health in young adulthood. Researchers surveyed 850 students for five years about their participation in school sports such as basketball, soccer, track and field, wrestling, and gymnastics. Three years following graduation, the researchers followed up with these former students to find out how often they experienced depressive symptoms, how much stress they experienced, and how they rated their mental health on a scale of 1 to 5. Those who participated in sports were less likely to be depressed, were better able to handle stress, and were more likely to rate their mental health as excellent.
Journal of Adolescent Health, June 2014
Nearly a third (32.9%) of patients receiving pharmaceutical treatment for chronic low back pain report that their current medication does not improve their pain, according to a study of over 3,000 chronic low back pain patients in South Korea. Among the patients surveyed, 67% classified their pain as moderate to severe, 43.5% had been in pain for more than two years, 32.4% had trouble sleeping because of their pain.
Asian Spine Journal, June 2014
A panel of American health experts recommends that older men who smoke or who are ex-smokers should be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weak spot in the main blood vessel that takes blood from the heart and can be fatal if it bursts without warning. The risk for an abdominal aneurysm in men who have smoked is approximately 7% compared to just 2% for men who have never smoked. Because the risk for women who have smoked is less than 1%, screening for females is not recommended.
Annals of Internal Medicine, June 2014