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Today's Health Highlights

Limit the Steroids for Preemies Bypass Surgery Tougher for Women Religion Can Be Good Medicine, Study Says

(WEDNESDAY, Oct. 3) -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of The HealthDay Service:

Help for Preemies Is One-Shot Deal

A single injection of hormones late in pregnancy is all that's needed to reduce the incidence of illness and death for premature babies, a study finds.

Gynecologists have been giving injections of corticosteroid hormones to women at high risk of premature delivery for several years to prevent serious respiratory problems and brain hemorrhages in their babies. Many doctors have been giving weekly shots to be sure the treatment is effective. Now a study at 13 medical centers finds no advantage and some possible risk in multiple shots, HealthDay reports.

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Bypass Surgery Tougher for Women

Women have good reason to worry about the risks of heart bypass surgery, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Ohio found women who have a coronary artery bypass graft operation have a much tougher time before, during and after the surgery than men who undergo the same procedure, a HealthDay story says.

The study looked at gender when comparing the outcomes of 5,324 bypass surgeries at a private teaching hospital in Ohio over a period of seven years. The review included 1,742 women and 3,582 men, and the results would make any woman nervous: Women often entered the hospital in worse shape than their male counterparts, they suffered more complications during surgery, and they wound up staying in the hospital longer. The findings will be presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Atlanta.

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Religion Can be Good Medicine, Survey Says

Adding still another voice to the ongoing debate about the link between health and spirituality, an examination of two decades of research concludes that religion can make you healthier and doctors should add it to their treatment process, HealthDay reports.

Dr. Mark Su, a second-year resident in the Tufts University Family Practice Residency program who describes himself as a nondenominational Christian, has amassed a wealth of research pointing to a link between good health and religious commitment. He is presenting his findings today at the annual scientific assembly of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Atlanta.

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U.S. Reaps Rewards for Reducing Heart Risk

Americans have curtailed smoking, reduced cholesterol levels and controlled blood pressure, and the effects were well worth the efforts -- the rate of death from heart disease has gone down, a new study says.

In the 1980s, deaths from heart disease were reduced by 430,000. And the really good news is yet to come, says Dr. Lee Goldman, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, and author of the study that appears in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"In some instances, the positive results are not seen right away. It can take time; so as time goes on, these numbers are likely to get even better," says Goldman, in a HealthDay story.

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Is Teaching a Risky Business?

Kids are germ factories. Just ask any parent. But do teachers pay a very high price for their long-term exposure to children and their germs -- maybe an increased risk of serious immune system diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus?

A new study suggests they might, lending weight to the theory that if someone is genetically susceptible to a certain disease, environment could trigger its onset, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut reviewed 11 years of death certificates. Their findings: Deaths from some autoimmune diseases among kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers were more than twice as high as those for people in other professions.

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No Mercury Risk Found in Childhood Vaccines

A mercury preservative that until recently was commonly added to vaccines in the United States does not appear to pose a risk of autism, hyperactivity and other neurological problems in children, according to a new report that looked at the possible risk.

The report, from the Institute of Medicine, an advisory panel to the government, failed to find a link between the additive thimerosal, used in vaccines and other drug products, and brain damage, HealthDay reports.

But the panel also concluded that it was "biologically plausible" that cumulative exposure to thimerosal might make children vulnerable to mercury-related disorders. So the report recommends that vaccine makers take steps to eliminate thimerosal from their products whenever possible.

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