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Health trends

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

US doctors overtesting, overtreating

Too much cancer screening, too many heart tests, too many Caesarean sections. A spate of recent reports suggest that too many Americans - maybe even President Barack Obama - are being overtreated.

Is it doctors practising defensive medicine? Or are patients so accustomed to a culture of medical technology that they insist on extensive tests and treatments? A combination of both is at work, but now new evidence and guidelines are recommending a step back and more thorough doctor-patient conversations about risks and benefits.

A New England Journal of Medicine study suggested that too many patients are getting angiograms - invasive imaging tests for heart disease - who don't really need them; and specialists convened by the National Institutes of Health said doctors are too often demanding repeat Caesarean deliveries.

- Source: The Associated Press

Threats to the liver

Obesity plus daily drinking boosts the risk of liver disease in men and women, researchers report in two new studies. In one study, scientists at the University of Oxford examined the medical records of 1.2 million middle-aged British women. They followed them for an average of about six years and found that overweight or obese women faced a higher risk of cirrhosis of the liver, and the risk increased if they also reported drinking an average of a third to one-half a drink a day.

Still the overall numbers were small: Of those who drank that much, only 0.8 or 1 in 1,000 was admitted to the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver or died of the disease over five years. But among those who reported drinking an average of 2.5 drinks a day, the rate was 2.7 in 1,000 among those with healthy weight and five in 1,000 among those who were obese.

- Source: HealthDay News

Blood pressure and stroke risks

People with occasional spikes in their blood pressure could be at higher risk for a stroke than those with regularly high blood pressure, new studies said last week. In four articles published in the medical journals, Lancet and Lancet Neurology, European researchers suggest current guidelines for treating people with high blood pressure need to be revised.

In one of the studies, Peter Rothwell of the Stroke Prevention Research Unit at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Britain, tracked about 8,000 patients who had had a heart attack. They found patients who had consistently variable blood pressure rates were at least six times more likely to have a stroke than those with regularly high blood pressure.

- Source: The Associated Press