Think of It As a Luscious Band-Aid: Women who opt for hormone replacement therapy now may want to reject the pill for a patch: a new British study shows that those who used patches had significantly less risk of (otherwise unfortunately common) gallbladder problems.

When rates of the illness among HRT users and women who did not use HRT were compared, the link between the hormones and the condition was confirmed.

However, hospital admission rates for patch-wearers were only 30% higher than for those who did not take HRT, while the rates for pill-users were roughly doubled, with two out of every 100 women taking oral HRT requiring gall-bladder removal.

The researchers suggested that the main reason for this was that while the hormone oestrogen taken in pill form is mostly broken down by the liver, next door to the gallbladder, before entering the circulation, the lower doses in the patch are absorbed directly through the skin into the bloodstream.

Back to the future, just in time: Colleen Oakley at Women’s Health magazine looked over a range of about-to-pop research to offer her readers a crystal ball. Within 3-5 years, her sources predict, some issues facing many midlife women (and men) may get  a little or a lot easier. A few samples:

Needle-Free Blood Sugar test. Here’s the scoop If you’re one of the 21 million Americans with diabetes, checking your blood sugar as often as you check your e-mail can be a pain–literally. A new contact lens could soon replace the finger prick. The lens–which will also correct poor vision–contains a photonic crystal that changes color when the glucose level of your tears increases or decreases. One glance in the mirror and you’ll know your blood sugar status. “This technology doesn’t draw blood, it doesn’t cause pain, and it allows you to continually monitor your glucose level,” says Sanford Asher, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who is involved in testing the lens.

An Easier Cancer Treatment Here’s the scoop Though a cure for the Big C is still out of reach, scientists are on track to render the nasty side effects of treatment–fatigue, nausea, hair loss–a thing of the past. “All of the current therapies [chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery] destroy healthy cells along with the cancer cells, which is what causes the side effects,” says Marek Malecki, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in South Dakota State University’s department of pharmaceutical sciences.

“We’re genetically engineering antibodies [proteins that the immune system uses to identify and destroy germs and other foreign objects] to seek out and go after tumors while leaving healthy cells untouched.” The antibodies–which are specific to each type of cancer–would be administered through a series of injections. Malecki recently tested the breast and ovarian cancer antibodies on mice, and “so far, it’s been successful,” he says.

Oakley’s sources also predict advances for sexual health, including reversible vasectomies (Newsmix’s personal favorite, which we’ve advocated ever since Cecelia Holland’s early novel “Floating Worlds” envisioned it) and equity with the boys’ pills and condoms:

Female Viagra Here’s the scoop; For 10 years, men have been able to pop a pill and go from limp to lusty. Soon–fingers crossed–women may be able to get their own boost from a prescription bottle. The German company Boehringer Ingelheim has developed flibanserin, which works by reducing serotonin at the receptor in the brain responsible for sexual desire. “Serotonin suppresses dopamine, which in turn stimulates arousal,” says Anita Clayton, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia. “By decreasing serotonin at that receptor, we’ll allow dopamine to emerge and do its thing.” So you can do your thing.

Hey, I Still Got it…Oh no –  I’ve got it. That STD gel may be coming none too soon, given the news about infection rates in the over-45 crowd. When the British Health Protection Agency looked at clients in selected STD clinics from 1996-2003, they found more and more were over 45:

In total, 4,445 infections were detected in older people, with genital warts accounting for almost half of these diagnoses. Herpes was the next most common, with one in five diagnoses. Within the over-45 age group, men and people aged 55 to 59 were most likely to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The overall rate of infections more than doubled over the eight-year period from 16.7 per 100,000 population to 36.3 per 100,0000. This meant a significantly higher increase for older people compared with younger patients…

“Older people are increasingly likely to be single or undergoing relationship changes and are less likely to consistently use condoms, perhaps because the risk of pregnancy no longer exists [said a clinic administrator].  “Increased international travel, internet dating, new drugs to counter erectile dysfunction and overlapping sexual networks may also be factors.”

Julie Bentley, the chief executive of the sexual health charity FPA, said: “We’ve also noticed a rise in the numbers of over-45s phoning our helpline.”

Part of the problem, said Bentley, is that “campaigns are targeted at the under 25s so over-45s think that sexual health has nothing to do with them and don’t even know when they’re taking risks.”  Meanwhile, that high rate of genital warts should cause the FDA to reconsider its refusal, as we noted last month,  to approve the use of Gardasil in older women

If I can’t dance,I don’t want to be part of your adulthood. Cheers to Tara Parker-Pope at the Times Well blog for giving Newsmix a solid reason to post Matthew Harding’s ubiquitous “Dancing” video here at WVFC. We knew there was a reason we spent the first adulthood on the amateur dance floor — turns out there’s good reason not to stop:

Mr. Harding is a 31-year-old YouTube sensation featured in The Times
this week for an uplifting video that shows him dancing a sort of a
jig, described by my colleague Charles McGrath as “an arm-swinging,
knee-pumping step that could charitably be called goofy.” Mr. Harding
dances alone, and he dances with lemurs, underwater and with children
and crowds at various locations around the world.

While Mr. Harding probably isn’t the most graceful dancer you’ve
ever seen, his video is a happy reminder that the benefits of dancing
aren’t limited to physical exercise. A telling 2003 New England Journal
of Medicine report
showed a lower risk for dementia among people over 75 who regularly
danced during leisure time. But what was so surprising about the report
is that other types of physical exercise didn’t affect dementia risk —
dancing was the only physical activity that made a difference.

Other studies have shown music plays an important role in depression. Dance therapy has been used to relieve anxiety about taking tests, and researchers are studying the tango to help patients with Parkinson’s. Dance therapy has been shown to improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients as well.

Even if you’ve seen it before, check out “Dancing” below. You may not dance to it right away, but maybe you’ll turn on your favorite guilty-pleasure music afterward, and see what your own body wants to do.

By Chris Lombardi

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