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Health Highlights: Oct. 15, 2008

Cheney Treated for Abnormal Heart Beat Nancy Reagan Breaks Pelvis in Fall Bottled Water No Cleaner Than Tap Water: Study 75 Million More People Went Hungry in 2007: UN Bayer Asked to Prove Aspirin Product's Cholesterol Claims Economic Turmoil May Affect HIV Vaccine Research

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Cheney Treated for Abnormal Heart Beat

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was treated for an irregular heart beat Wednesday afternoon, which was diagnosed earlier in the day by his physician, the Associated Press reported.

Cheney, 67, underwent an outpatient procedure at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, which returned his heart to normal rhythm.

He went home after the procedure, which a spokesman described as an electric shock.

"During a visit with his doctors this morning, it was discovered that the vice president is experiencing a recurrence of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart," said his spokeswoman, Megan Mitchell.

Cheney was treated for the same problem in November 2007, the wire service said. An electric shock was administered to the vice president's heart to restore normal rhythm.

The vice president has had four heart attacks, the first when he was age 37. He's also had quadruple bypass surgery and two other procedures to clear clogged arteries. Seven years ago, he had a pacemaker implanted, and last year, the device was surgically replaced, the AP said.


Nancy Reagan Breaks Pelvis in Fall

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was recovering at a Los Angeles hospital Wednesday after breaking her pelvis in a fall at her Bel-Air home, the Associated Press reported.

Reagan, 87, fell last week after getting up in the middle of the night and twisting on her leg, AP reported. She decided to visit Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center because of lingering pain.

Although no surgery will be needed, it's unclear how long Reagan will be hospitalized, said her spokeswoman, Nancy Drake.

Reagan was hospitalized in February after a similar accident, although tests at the time to determine whether she had broken her hip proved negative, the AP said.


Bottled Water No Cleaner Than Tap Water: Study

Leading brands of bottled water in the United States contain many of the same contaminants as tap water, according to a study released Wednesday by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

The 10 brands of bottled water included in the two-year study were found to contain 38 impurities, including bacteria, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals, the radioactive element strontium and the pain reliever acetaminophen, the Associated Press reported.

"In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better," said study co-author and environmental engineer Jane Houlihan.

While all the bottled water brands met federal health standards for drinking water, two of them violated a California state standard for chlorine. Those two brands were Sam's Choice sold by Wal-Mart and Acadia of Giant Food supermarkets.

These "alarmist" findings are based on the faulty premise that a contaminant is a health concern "even if it does not exceed the established regulatory limit or no standard has been set," Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, told the AP.


75 Million More People Went Hungry in 2007: UN

About 75 million more people joined the ranks of the world's underfed last year, making the goal of halving global hunger by 2015 "even more remote," the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said this week.

In 2007, higher food prices were a major reason why the number of malnourished people rose from 850 million to 925 million, said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, Agence France Presse reported.

Of the 75 million new people who were underfed last year, 41 million were in Asia and the Pacific, 24 million in sub-Saharan Africa, six million in Latin America, and four million in North Africa and the Middle East, the Rome-based agency said.

The FAO added that continuing increases in the prices of grains and oil probably mean that the number of underfed people worldwide will go up again this year, AFP reported.


Bayer Asked to Prove Aspirin Product's Cholesterol Claims

Drug maker Bayer is being asked by two U.S. lawmakers to explain why it defied U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations in adding dietary health claims to Aspirin with Heart Advantage. The tablets contain a plant supplement called phytosterois, which Bayer claims lowers bad cholesterol.

On Tuesday, Democratic Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, sent a letter to Bayer that quoted an FDA advisory that "strongly recommends that firms refrain from marketing products that combine or co-package drug and dietary supplement ingredients," the Associated Press reported.

Such claims give the false impression that the FDA has evaluated both the drug and the supplement, but the FDA only regulates the drug, the advisory stated.

In their letter, the two lawmakers asked Bayer to provide all studies that show Aspirin with Heart Advantage helps lower bad cholesterol and protect against heart disease, the AP reported.


Economic Turmoil May Affect HIV Vaccine Research

Worldwide economic problems could lead to reduced AIDS research funding and add to the many difficulties hampering efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, according to leading scientists attending the international AIDS vaccine conference in Cape Town, South Africa. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The U.S. government has cut its spending on AIDS research, and "the increases in the budget that we hoped for will not be forthcoming," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Associated Press.

He and others also said the global financial turmoil may cause cutbacks in AIDS research funding from philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The new money worries heighten the sense of gloom caused by recent HIV vaccine research failures. For example, a recent study showed that a potential vaccine doesn't prevent infection and may actually increase the risk of contracting HIV, the AP reported.

It's impossible to predict whether an effective HIV vaccine will ever be developed, Fauci said.

"Will there be a guarantee that we will get a vaccine in the classical sense? Realistically, you can't say that. But that doesn't mean we are going to give up trying," Fauci told the AP.

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