This week's health news in brief

Depressed women at risk for more than just the blues; dogs lead the way in sniffing out cancer; addicts' issues start in the head; dried fruit found to firm up bones; office politics affects family harmony; doctors lament the loss of good bacteria.

Depressed women risk more than just 'the blues'

According to a recent study in Stroke (the journal of the American Heart Association), women who fall victim to mental-health disorders such as depression are almost 30 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke. The statistics, drawn from a six-year follow-up study of US female nurses, also reveal that women who used certain types of antidepressant medication had a 39 per cent increased risk of stroke. Researchers highlighted a link between depression and other health factors, including smoking and a lack of exercise, as a possible reason for the correlation.

Dogs lead way in sniffing out cancer

The earlier lung cancer is detected, the greater the chances of overcoming the disease. And now, it looks like man's best friend may be able to help in speeding up the diagnosis. In a report from the European Respiratory Journal, researchers reveal that dogs can be trained to sniff out lung cancer compounds in human breath samples. In tests involving 220 people - some had lung cancer, some did not - the dogs correctly identified non-cancer sufferers 93 per cent of the time and confirmed the presence of cancer cells in 71 per cent of samples.

Addicts' issues are all in the head

Addiction to cigarettes, gambling, alcohol and any other substance or habit, is now being attributed to a brain disorder, according to new findings presented by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). After a four-year study into the causes of addiction by 80 leading experts, the ASAM insist that addiction is about more than people behaving badly but instead owes much to a neural "hijacking" that triggers compulsive behaviours. The ASAM hopes the new research will steer treatment and understanding of addictions and combat some of the stigma attached to confronting the problem.

Dried fruit could firm up bones

Prunes are vaunted for having certain medicinal qualities, though that's usually associated with digestive problems such as constipation. Now, however, they're also being hailed as a simple defence against the effects ageing can have on our bones. According to a Florida State study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating 10 prunes a day was found to help combat the breakdown of bones - which causes osteoporosis - in a selection of post-menopausal women.

Office politics can ruin family harmony

The harmony of home life suffers if there's a lack of love in the workplace. According to a study from Baylor University's School of Business in Texas, the stresses and strain of dealing with awkward or discourteous colleagues spills over into family life where it can, in extreme cases, lead to marital breakdown. The study's authors, writing in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, suggest that bad office vibes are becoming increasingly commonplace during times of economic instability and so have a ripple effect on families and society in general.

Doctors lament loss of good bacteria

According to the latest issue of Nature, antibiotic overuse doesn't just lead to drug-resistant superbugs, it may also wipe out the body's good bacteria in the gut - permanently. Dr Martin Blaser, who heads the department of medicine at New York University's Langone Medical Center, is calling for more careful prescribing of antibiotics, particularly for pregnant women and babies. As antibiotic use has increased, studies have shown that the kinds of bacteria that we live with are changing, while others are becoming extinct. This is problematic, Blaser says, considering that good bacteria in the gut help create nutrients and boost immunity.

Published: August 29, 2011 04:00 AM

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