Health Flash

Health Flash: 12.04.13

[stroke of genius]
A new study out of Washington University School of Medicine found that medication and lifestyle changes are safer and more effective stroke-prevention methods for patients who have already experienced strokes than stenting, a surgical procedure used to prop open narrow brain arteries. Dr. Colin Derdeyn, professor of radiology and director of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center, was the study’s lead author.

[pain exchange]
Chronic use of opioid painkillers may increase the risk of depression, according to research from Saint Louis University. A study published in Journal of General Internal Medicine found that patients who took opioids for six months or longer had a 53 percent increased risk of developing a new bout of depression. Higher doses of opioids were linked to higher risks. Jeffrey Scherrer, associate professor of family and community medicine, was the study’s principal investigator.

[hugs help the hippocampus]
The negative effects of childhood poverty are exacerbated by growing up without nurturing parents, a study from Washington University School of Medicine found. Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the research discovered that poor children without nurturing parents have less gray and white matter in their brains and smaller hippocampus regions, which affects learning and memory. Principal investigator Dr. Joan L. Luby says these findings suggest the importance of public health prevention programs that teach parental nurturing skills.

[breathing easier]
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked St. Louis seventh on its list of American asthma capitals, and the St. Louis College of Pharmacy wants to change that. With a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers from the school helped develop the Asthma Friendly Pharmacies program, which trains pharmacists and technicians about asthma-related health care. Eight pharmacies in St. Louis are currently certified by the program.

[smoking secrets]
Nicotine dependence is tied to smokers’ genetics, a study from Washington University School of Medicine shows. People who metabolize nicotine quickly are more likely to relapse but also more likely to respond to nicotine replacement therapy, while people who have a variant of the gene CYP2A6 metabolize it slowly and are less likely to succumb to cravings, according to the research published in Addiction. Dr. Li-Shiun Chen, assistant professor of psychiatry, is the study’s first author.

[healing herbs]
Herbal extracts may improve learning and memory, according to research from Saint Louis University. Geriatrics professor Susan Farr discovered that antioxidants found in spearmint and rosemary reduce age-induced cognitive impairment in mice, and she predicts additional research could find similar effects in humans.

By Rebecca Koenig