Health Briefs

January 18, 2010

HEALTH BRIEFS - Vitamin D + Calcium = Fewer bone fractures

Bone fractures pose significant dangers, particularly after middle age. A recent study on bone health added further weight to the belief that taking a combination of calcium and vitamin D supplements can help prevent bone fractures, even in patients who’ve experienced prior bone fractures – though calcium alone offers practically no additional fracture protection.

As first reported in the U.K.'s British Medical Journal, the research team’s analysis of data from over 68,000 patients with an average age of 70 revealed that vitamin D taken alone in doses of 10 micrograms to 20 micrograms per day did not help prevent bone fractures. However, patients who took calcium and vitamin D supplements together saw a meaningful reduction in their risk for fractures such as hip and vertebral fractures.

The researchers, based at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England, noted the growing consensus in the medical community for taking calcium and vitamin D supplements together to reduce fractures, and they called for additional research to determine the optimal dosage, duration of treatment and most effective method for taking the calcium/vitamin D combination.

New ‘score’ helps predict heart attacks among women

Is a heart attack in your future? A new scoring called the “Reynolds Risk Score” is showing promise in more accurately predicting a woman’s chance of suffering a heart attack over a 10-year time frame.

The Reynolds Risk Score study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, developed the measure by incorporating a patient’s family medical history, results from a blood test called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), the presence of artery inflammation, and a patient’s age, blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and tobacco usage.

According to the study, artery inflammation is one of the leading risk factors for heart attacks among women. After testing the new scoring measure on more than 24,000 women age 45 and older, results showed it to be more accurate for heart attack prediction compared to other measures that don’t include artery inflammation among risk factors. [A similar study on men is currently being conducted.] 

Women can calculate their individual Reynolds Risk Score online at the website


Unhealthy habits during pregnancy affect fetal development

Women’s poor lifestyle habits during early pregnancy can hinder their baby’s healthy growth in the first trimester of pregnancy and increase the risk of future complications. Those are the key findings of a recent study from the Netherlands’ Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.

The study, whose findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked more than 1,600 healthy pregnant women (average age: 31) and found that women who smoked, had high blood pressure and showed low levels of folic acid were more likely to have smaller-sized babies during their first trimester of pregnancy. Those risk factors also contributed to an increased risk for complications occurring later in the pregnancy, including premature birth, low birth weight and abnormal placenta function.

The research team also found that not being aware of their pregnancy was a leading cause for women continuing their unhealthy lifestyle habits even after conceiving. That’s one reason women planning to become pregnant should see their doctor well before a pregnancy, to begin preparing for a healthy pregnancy and help avoid potential complications.

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