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Health Highlights: Sept. 22, 2009

Personal Emergency Response Button Poses Choking Hazard: FDA New OxyContin Offers 'Limited' Resistance to Abuse: FDA Exercise Boosts Postmenopausal Women's Cardiovascular Fitness Eye Test Detects Stroke Better Than MRI: Study

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

Personal Emergency Response Button Poses Choking Hazard: FDA

A type of personal emergency response button worn around the neck poses a choking hazard, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Tuesday.

Between 1998 and 2009, there were six reports of serious injury or death, including four deaths in the United States, after the cord on the Philips Lifeline Personal Help Button became entangled on other objects, the FDA said.

The choking risk is greatest for people with mobility limitations or for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, beds with guard rails, or other objects that could entangle with the device's neck cord.

Users and caregivers should consult with health-care providers to determine which style of emergency button is best for an individual patient, the FDA said. Some emergency buttons are worn on the wrist.


New OxyContin Offers 'Limited' Resistance to Abuse: FDA

A new version of the painkiller OxyContin is somewhat harder to abuse than the current version, say U.S. health officials.

The new version, made by Purdue Pharma LP, has a plastic-like coating that's designed to make it more difficult to crush, snort or inject the drug, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists said the new version's resistance to abuse is "limited," but "may provide an advantage over the currently available OxyContin."

Last year, an FDA advisory panel told Purdue that it needed to conduct more tests to demonstrate the tamper resistance of the new version. On Thursday, the panel will decide whether new data submitted by Purdue is sufficient to recommend approval of the new version of OxyContin, the AP reported.


Exercise Boosts Postmenopausal Women's Cardiovascular Fitness

Despite changes in hormones and body composition, postmenopausal women show significant cardiovascular improvements when they do regular, vigorous exercise, according to a U.S. study.

The study included 10 healthy but sedentary women, average age 55, who did endurance training on an exercise bike for one hour, five days a week, at 65 percent of their maximum lung capacity, United Press International reported.

The women's ability to consume and use oxygen increased by an average of 16 percent, and their resting heart rates decreased by an average of four beats per minute. By the end of the study, the women had the cardiovascular and metabolic traits of women 16 years younger, said the University of California, Berkeley researchers.

The study appears in the journal Metabolism.


Eye Test Detects Stroke Better Than MRI: Study

A quick, inexpensive eye movement test was better than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at identifying patients with strokes, a U.S. study found.

The one-minute eye exam reveals eye movement changes associated with stroke damage in various areas of the brain, United Press International reported.

"The idea that a bedside exam could outperform a modern neuroimaging test such as MRI is something that most people had given up for dead, but we've shown it's possible," Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Some stroke patients can't immediately adjust their eye position if they turn their heads quickly to the side, while others may have jerky eye movements when trying to focus on a doctor's finger positioned on either side of their head, UPI reported.

The study was published in the journal Stroke.

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