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Health Capsules: June 21

By: Lisa Russell


Safe travel on two wheels

More bicyclists than ever are pedaling the roadways in pursuit of fun and fitness this summer. But as biking has risen in popularity, the number of related accidents also has gone up nationwide, particularly among male riders, according to a recent study. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that over the most recent 15-year period for which data is available, hospital admissions due to bike crashes increased by 120 percent in the U.S. Men accounted for three-fourths of those injuries. During the entire 15-year study period from 1997 to 2013, there were 3.8 million non-fatal adult bicycle injuries and close to 10,000 deaths reported nationwide.

According to data from the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, about 400,000 Missourians now consider themselves “avid” cyclists, meaning they ride at least once per week. And though the number of people killed or injured while riding a bike in Missouri has declined since 2010, safety remains a significant concern; in 2015, nine cyclists were killed and 513 more were injured statewide.

A number of area organizations offer safe cycling information and group riding opportunities.

St. Louis Recreational Cyclists, an area bicycling group affiliated with the League of American Bicyclists, offers safety-focused group rides for those seeking moderate or more challenging courses. Its membership is open to all riders who are willing to abide by the group’s safe riding practices. More information is available on its website, www.stlrc.org. The outdoor advocacy group Trailnet also provides a calendar listing of area cycling events and groups at www.trailnet.org.

For local riders who prefer to stay off the roadways, the city of Chesterfield sponsors group rides for adults on the Monarch Levee Trail every Monday at 9 a.m. during the summer months. A complete list of bicycling rules and regulations in Missouri, as well as more information about bicycle routes statewide, is available online at www.mobikefed.org.


Sweet news on lowering irregular heartbeat risk

People who eat small amounts of chocolate regularly have a significantly lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation [A-fib], a heart condition characterized by a rapid or irregular heartbeat, Harvard researchers recently announced. Analyzing data from more than 55,000 Danish adults whose health was monitored for more than 13 years, the researchers found that eating between 2 and 6 ounces of chocolate every week was associated with a hefty 20 percent reduced risk of A-fib, which currently affects more than 2.7 million Americans. A-fib is characterized by the rapid, irregular beating in the heart’s upper chambers, or atria. According to the American Heart Association, people with A-fib are five times more likely to have a stroke and are at double the risk of heart-related death.

Participants in the study were required to complete dietary, health and lifestyle questionnaires, which the researchers used to gather data on overall health and chocolate intake. Over its course, the researchers identified 3,346 study participants with A-fib over the 13-year period.

Compared with those who consumed just 1 ounce of chocolate less than once each month, those who consumed 1 to 3 ounces of chocolate per month had a 10 percent reduced risk of A-fib.

Participants who ate 1 ounce of chocolate per week had a 17 percent lower risk; people who consumed 2 to 6 ounces each week were 20 percent less likely to develop A-fib.

For those who ate more than 6 ounces of chocolate per week, its effects on A-fib risk began to decrease; however, subjects who ate at least 1 ounce of chocolate daily still had a significant 16 percent lower risk of A-fib.

According to lead study author Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky, these findings, which were reported in the journal Heart, suggest that consuming just small to moderate amounts of chocolate – especially dark chocolate, which is higher in antioxidants – can benefit the heart. “Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended, however, because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems. But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice,” Mostofsky said.

Previous studies have also linked eating chocolate to better heart health. For example, a 2016 study found that eating a small amount of chocolate every day may lower one’s overall risk of heart disease.

Tests of potential sleep apnea drug show promise

For the estimated 22 million Americans who suffer from chronic obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is far more than just an annoyance. As an apnea sufferer sleeps, his or her airway collapses or becomes blocked, causing breathing pauses – sometimes 30 or more every hour – which can last from a few seconds to minutes. Then normal breathing starts again, often with a loud snorting or choking sound, which is the only outward sign of the condition. Sleep apnea has been found to pose significant health risks, including greater chances for coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. As many as 80 percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea currently go undiagnosed.

Scientists have attempted to identify drugs to treat sleep apnea for nearly 35 years, without success. But a new study conducted by University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University researchers has found that an older pharmaceutical product called dronabinol may help. Dronabinol was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than 25 years ago to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. For this study, adult patients were divided into three groups. One group was given a low dose of the drug, a second group received a higher dose and the third group received a placebo. Participants received the drug once daily before bed for six weeks.

Compared to a placebo, six weeks of treatment with the highest studied dose of dronabinol, 10 milligrams, was associated with a significantly lower frequency of apnea during sleep, less daytime sleepiness and greater overall treatment satisfaction, according to lead researcher David Carley, Ph.D. Carley and his colleagues presented the study results at SLEEP 2017, a worldwide forum on developments in sleep medicine, in early June. The drug soon will move on to expanded clinical trials.


On the calendar

Chesterfield Parks, Recreation and Arts sponsors a Youth Triathlon for children ages 5 to 12 on Saturday, June 24 beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Chesterfield Central Park, 16365 Lydia Hill Drive in Chesterfield. Events include a 25-yard swim, 1-mile bike ride and half-mile run for ages 5-8, and a 75-yard swim, 2-mile bike ride  and 1-mile run for ages 9-12. The top three male and female overall competitors in each age group will receive an award, and participation medals also will be presented. Fees vary from $13 to $20 per child based on Chesterfield residency; discounts are available by signing up for a free Get Active membership. To register, visit www.chesterfield.mo.us/youth-triatholon.html.

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Area residents are encouraged to participate in an American Red Cross blood drive on Wednesday, June 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. To schedule an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter the sponsor code SAINTLUKES, or call (314) 658-2090.

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A free information session on non-surgical weight loss options is offered on Wednesday, June 28 from 6-7 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Medical Building 3, 1020 N. Mason Road in Creve Coeur. Join a Washington University gastroenterologist to learn more about FDA-approved alternatives for those struggling with weight loss. For more information and to register, visit www.barnesjewishwestcounty.org or call (314) 542-9378.

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Home Alone, a program designed especially for children ages 9 and 10 who may be staying home alone for the first time, is on Wednesday, July 12 from 9-10:30 a.m. at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. Topics include handling the unexpected, stranger danger, simple first aid, dealing with loneliness and boredom, storm safety, trust and honesty. Children may not be registered for Home Alone and Sitter Skills classes on the same day. Cost is $15 per child. Register [using the child’s name] at www.stlukes-stl.com; for more information, call (314) 542-4848.

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Sitter Skills, a program for beginning babysitters, is offered on Wednesday, July 12 from noon-2:30 p.m. at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield.  The course is designed for girls and boys age 11 and older. It covers babysitting basics, safety information, first aid and child development. Participation certificate, babysitting handbook and bag, and a light snack are provided. Children may not be registered for Sitter Skills and Home Alone classes on the same day. Cost is $20 per child. Register [using the child’s name] at www.stlukes-stl.com; for more information, call (314) 542-4848.

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Cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings are offered on Friday, July 28 from 7-8:30 a.m. at St. Luke’s Convenient Care inside Dierbergs, 1080 Lindemann Road in Des Peres. A 10-hour fast and advance appointments are required. Cost is $20 for all screenings. Register online at www.stlukes-stl.com.

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