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Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 2004

Caesarean Sections Hit Record High in 2003 Report Identifies Dangerous Toys Battle of Waterloo May Hold Key to Organ Failures Study Says Seniors Aren't Eating Well Fire Safety Groups Warn Against Turkey Fryers 40 Million People Worldwide Have AIDS: UN

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

Caesarean Sections Hit Record High in 2003

A new report says that 27.6 percent of all babies born in the United States in 2003 were delivered by caesarean section, a six percent increase from 2002 and the highest rate on record.

The National Center for Health Statistics report, released Tuesday, also found that the birth rate for women aged 40 to 44 increased by five percent in 2003, the rate for women aged 45 to 54 remained the same, and the rate for teenage girls aged 15 to 19 declined to 41.7 births per 1,000 from 43.0 per 1,000 in 2002.

Birth rates for women aged 30 to 34 increased by four percent, the rate for women aged 35 to 39 increased by six percent, the rate for women aged 20 to 24 decreased by one percent; and the rate for women aged 25 to 29 increased two percent.

The report said the proportion of births to unmarried mothers increased from 34 percent in 2002 to 34.6 percent in 2003.

There was also a decline in the percentage of mothers who smoke during pregnancy, from 11.4 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2003. The number of preterm babies (born after less than 37 weeks of gestation) increased to 12.3 percent from 12.1 percent.

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Report Identifies Dangerous Toys

Parents beware! There are still lots of dangerous toys lurking on store shelves across the United States, says a nationwide survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

The annual "Trouble in Toyland" report identifies toys that are choking hazards, dangerously loud, potentially toxic, or strangulation hazards.

For example, the report identifies a toy called a yo-yo water ball that poses a strangulation hazard because the toy can wrap tightly around a child's neck. It can also cause injuries to the eyes, face and head. Several countries have banned this toy but it's still available in the U.S.

The report also identifies many examples of toxic children's nail polish and toys that have small parts that pose a choking hazard.

"Even though most toys now meet current safety requirements, toy related injuries sent 155,400 children to emergency rooms last year," U.S. PIRG consumer advocate Lindsey Johnson said in a prepared statement. And the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that last year, 11 children under age 15 died from toy-related injuries and more than 200,000 people were treated for toy-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms.

Here's where you can find the Trouble in Toyland report.

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Battle of Waterloo a Key to Understanding Organ Failure

Information about wounded British soldiers who survived the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 may provide clues for modern-day doctors on how to prevent death from multiple organ failure, the leading killer of intensive care patients.

University College London scientist are studying why some critically ill patients succumb to multiple organ failure while others survive, BBC News Online reported.

One of the scientists, Prof. Mervyn Singer, said he and his colleagues may get some clues from impressive survival statistics for a group of wounded soldiers from the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon suffered his final defeat.

Singer noted that 52 privates in the British 13th Light Dragoons suffered sabre, cannon and gunfire wounds during the battle, yet only two of them later died of their injuries. That indicates that the body is able to heal itself under tough conditions, Singer said.

"Despite the non-existence of antibiotics, blood transfusions, life- support machines and other paraphernalia of modern intensive care, most of these soldiers recovered, often from life-threatening injures," Singer told BBC News Online.

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Study Says Seniors Aren't Eating Well

Two-thirds of older Americans aren't getting the right amounts of fruits and vegetables, and 20 percent of people 65 or older are at least 30 pounds overweight, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Merck Institute on Aging and Health (MIAH).

The authors said that doctors and communities should do all they could to encourage the elderly to eat better and to generally adopt healthier lifestyles. Other suggestions include exercising more and undergoing regular screenings for chronic conditions including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, according to an account by the Associated Press.

"This is not rocket science. These are very practical and relatively simple changes people can make," said MIAH executive director Patricia Barry.

Among the study's other findings:

  • Hawaii had the most active seniors, as only one-fifth said they hadn't exercised in the past month. Tennessee was least active, with 48 percent reporting no activity in the prior 30 days.
  • Kentucky had the greatest percentage of smokers, at nearly 17 percent; Utah had the lowest percentage at 4.8 percent.

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Fire Safety Groups Warn Against Turkey Fryers

If you're thinking of frying a turkey to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, you may be cooking your own goose, two fire safety groups warn.

Turkey fryers can tip over, overheat, or spill hot oil on users, the National Fire Protection Association and the American Burn Association said. While the agencies concede that many people think fried turkey tastes better and cooks faster, they say the deep-frying process requires up to five gallons of oil be heated to about 350 degrees before the user lowers the turkey into the device.

Consumers who prefer fried turkey should consider buying them already cooked from local supermarkets or restaurants, the groups advise.

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Nearly 40 Million People Worldwide Have AIDS: UN

Some 39.4 million people across the globe now harbor the AIDS virus, and more than 3 million are expected to die this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a grim report released Tuesday.

The organization said those tolls would represent the highest numbers in the 23-year history of the disease, according to the Agence-France Press news service. WHO warned that the disease is progressing especially rapidly among women, who now make up more than 47 percent of new cases.

The group's annual AIDS report, published ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, estimated that a record 4.9 million people will have become infected with the deadly HIV virus this year.

Global hotspots include sub-Saharan Africa, south and east Asia, and the countries of the former Soviet Union, the report said.

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