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Today's Health Highlights: Jan. 13, 2002

Bush Feels 'Great' After Fainting While Choking on PretzelStudent Athletes Using More Body-Enhancing Drugs Laborers Near Ground Zero to Get Health Tests Promising Diabetes Treatment Enters Human Testing Phase Antarctica Cooling Despite Global Warming, Says Study Anthrax Case Puzzles Experts Women: Hold Back Anger and Wait for the Backfire

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

President Feels Fine After Brief Fainting Spell

President Bush was back at work today after fainting briefly in the White House residence yesterday while choking down a pretzel, the Associated Press reported.

"I feel great," Bush told reporters on the White House lawn as he prepared to board a helicopter for a two-day trip to the Midwest and Louisiana. "My mother always said, 'When you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow,'" he added. "Always listen to your mother."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president had been checked by his physician, Dr. Richard Tubb, today and his vital signs were normal. Bush, 55, suffered an abrasion on his left cheek the size of a half dollar and a bruise on his lower lip after falling onto the floor from a couch while watching a football game on television and eating pretzels.

Tubb said in a telephone interview that Bush quickly recovered from the episode, apparently brought on by swallowing a pretzel awkwardly which triggered a temporary decrease in heart rate. He said the president had been feeling under the weather over the weekend.

Tubb examined Bush, including monitoring his heart, and found nothing abnormal. But Bush has a rigorous exercise regime that keeps both his blood pressure and heart rate at low levels -- a healthy plus that in this case appeared to be a factor in the fainting spell.

The pretzel-caused coughing apparently stimulated a nerve that further slowed Bush's heart rate, Tubb said.

In medical terms, it's called vasovagal syncope. The body sends a signal to the heart via the vagus nerve, slowing heart rate enough that the person briefly loses consciousness. It's very common. Fear, even intestinal cramps, can cause vasovagal fainting.


Student Athletes Using More Body-Enhancing Drugs

Even after all the warnings about what they will do to your body, steroids and other strength drugs are being increasingly used by high school athletes. Some of the substances are supplements outside the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, but steroids still seem to be very popular.

The Associated Press reports that a study done for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that 3.7 percent of the high school seniors surveyed had used steroids at some time during their athletic careers. Another study has steroid use increasing by a third between 2000 and 2001.

On top of that, students also seemed to accept the fact that steroid use was a way of life for athletes. About 89 percent disapproved of their use in 2000, but only 68 percent said steroid use was wrong in 2001.

The survey was conducted among 44,000 students nationwide by a research organization called Monitoring the Future.


Laborers Near Ground Zero to Get Health Tests

Day laborers helping to clean up office and apartment buildings in the vicinity of the World Trade Center will receive free medical exams and be tested for health problems related to working at the site beginning this week.

Wire service reports say many of the workers are illegal immigrants who have no health insurance and have been working without proper protective gear.

Some firefighters who raced to the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack now face similar health problems because of contaminated air at the disaster site. A few hundred are reportedly experiencing respiratory illnesses, including asthma, persistent cough and diminished lung capacity.


Promising Diabetes Treatment Enters Human Testing Phase

A substance that shows promise of helping diabetics manage their illness better has moved from the animal to human testing stage.

The substance, called the INGAP - Islets Neogenesis Associated Protein - Peptide, encourages the growth of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Diabetes causes an inability to make or use insulin, according to the Associated Press.

Researchers have found that injections of INGAP in certain diabetic animals can increase insulin levels and lower glucose levels. In tests, some animals were cured of their illness 39 days after beginning the therapy and showed normal blood sugar levels after stopping the treatment for eight days.


Antarctica Cooling Despite Global Warming, Says Study

In the midst of global warming, Antarctica's desert valleys have been becoming increasingly colder since the mid-1980s, reports the Associated Press. And scientists don't know why.

Researchers from 11 American universities and international laboratories report that air temperatures in the polar deserts and across the White Continent have declined by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the 14-year period ending in 1999.

According to the report, published in an online edition of the journal Nature, Antarctica is the only one of Earth's seven continents that is cooling, while all of the warmest years around the rest of the globe have occurred in the past decade.

The cooling trend has reportedly caused consequences, including a 10 percent decline in tiny soil organisms and a 9 percent annual decline in the biological productivity of some ice-covered freshwater lakes in the sensitive region known as the Dry Valleys.


Anthrax Case Puzzles Experts

Apparently, anthrax can be as stubborn as it is dangerous.

Among the long list of anthrax-related issues that have doctors mounting a major investigation is the case of a postal worker who worked at an anthrax-contaminated office in Washington. He has shown symptoms of the disease but never tested positive for anthrax, CNN reports.

The employee worked at the Brentwood Post Office, where one person died of inhalation anthrax and two others were diagnosed with the disease.

The worker in question was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of inhalation anthrax. He was given a 10-day course of the drug Cipro, but apparently missed two doses.

The symptoms reportedly subsided, but then returned and have continued to come and go to various extremes while he is on a 60-day antibiotic regimen.

In a report about the case in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, doctors speculate that the man may represent a case of "aborted anthrax infection," in which the initial doses of the antibiotic Cipro killed most of the bacteria, but allowed a small number of spores to hide out in a lymph node.


Women: Hold Back Anger and Wait for the Backfire

Women should go ahead and honk that horn or tell the husband off, because failure to do so may only increase their anger.

That's the conclusion of research reported by the BBC, indicating that women who suppress their emotions may be left feeling even angrier.

The research, financed by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council, looked at what happened when women intentionally concealed their anger.

Researchers with the University of Aberdeen in England conducted experiments in which three groups of women and men were asked to watch an emotional film clip.

The first group was asked to conceal their emotions, the second did not do so and a third group was told to switch any angry feelings with happy memories.

After watching a second emotional film clip, women in the first group were permitted to express anger. They reported feeling angrier, more outraged, upset and disgusted than male counterparts and those in the other groups.

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