News September 2007 Issue

In The News: 09/07

Exercise Reduces Risk of Hip Fracture in Older Men

Researchers in Sweden, following 2,205 men over a 35-year period, claim that exercise goes a long way toward reducing the risk of fractures as you age. Their study included men whose physical

activity was monitored at age 60, 70, 77, and 82. At the end of follow-up, hip fractures had occurred in 8.4 percent of men with a high level of physical activity, 13.3 percent of men with a medium level of activity, and 20.5 percent of men with a low level of activity. Researchers estimated that one-third of all hip fractures could be prevented by participating in recreational sports activities. The study concluded that an "effective dose" of exercise for reducing the risk of hip fractures could also be attained by heavy gardening or other activities of similar intensity performed for at least three hours a week.

DMARD Treatments for RA Also Protect Your Heart

More evidence is accumulating that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk of heart disease. Data reported by the European League Against Rheumatism have shown double the risk of cardiac death in RA patients. The good news is that treating RA with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which slow or stop the immune system from attacking the joints, can reduce the risk of heart disease. One study, in which 613 patients with RA took DMARDs such as hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, and sulfasalazine, showed that those taking a traditional DMARD were up to 20 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who had never used a DMARD.


Antidepressants Linked to Lower Bone Density

A class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be linked to increased bone loss in older

women. SSRIs inhibit the protein that transports serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in depression. According to a study in the June issue of

Archives of Internal Medicine, this protein was discovered in bone as well, raising the possibility that SSRIs may impact bone density and increase the risk of fracture. Researchers studied 2,722 women (average age 78) who used SSRIs and found that bone mineral density at the hip decreased 0.82 percent, compared with a decrease of 0.47 percent among those who used tricylic antidepressants and those who did not take any antidepressants.


Alcohol May Protect Against RA Risk

Consuming up to three alcoholic drinks per week may cut your

chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in half. In fact, the more alcohol you consume, the more your risk for RA is reduced, according to a study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden. The study included 1,400 RA patients and 1,700 controls who answered questions about their drinking habits. In both groups, a DNA marker that indicates the risk of RA was examined. Although the protective mechanism of alcohol is not known, researchers believe that it may act by reducing inflammation. The study’s authors warned that although alcohol has benefits in terms of RA, excessive consumption can lead to other health problems, including liver damage, and that alcohol should not be consumed when taking certain arthritis medications.


Electrical Stimulation Zaps Knee Pain

Pulsed electrostimulation (PES), in which a special device is wrapped around the knee to deliver low-level pulsed electrical

signals, may not only be effective in reducing pain and improving function in knee osteoarthritis (OA)—its use may even enable the wearer to postpone the need for joint surgery. A study of 58 patients with moderate-to-severe knee OA, randomized to wear an active or placebo device for 6-14 hours a day, revealed that patients who wore the device (made by BioniCare) experienced a 31.2 percent greater improvement in pain than those wearing the placebo device. The percentage of patients who improved by more than 50 percent was 38.5 percent greater in the group that wore the device vs. 5.3 percent in the placebo group. The study’s authors concluded that the device works quickly and is effective in improving pain, function, and reducing the need for medication.