A little exercise can lessen

metabolic syndrome

Moderate exercise can reduce metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, Duke University researchers report.

About a quarter of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome, characterized by at least three of the following: a large waist; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; and high blood sugar.

In the Duke study, 171 middle-aged, overweight individuals walked briskly at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week - about 11 miles weekly - for eight months. Over that period, the fraction who had metabolic syndrome dropped from 41 percent to 27 percent.

The study appears in the Dec. 15 American Journal of Cardiology.

- Marie McCullough

Focus on indoor-tanning types could hone cancer warnings

Indoor tanning can raise the risk of skin cancers, yet the number of people who go to tanning salons has doubled to nearly 30 million in the past decade.

East Tennessee State University researchers set out to learn why and how often people tan, in an effort to better tailor cancer prevention messages.

Among 168 women, four types were identified: those who tan for special events such as weddings; those who tan spontaneously or when the mood strikes; regular year-round tanners; and mixed-reason tanners.

Regular tanners had the riskiest behaviors, while event tanners tanned the least and were the least dependent on the practice.

The study, in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology, concludes that doctors can make warnings more effective by considering the tanners' "behavioral type."

- M.M.

Surgical patients could benefit from traditional massage

Once upon a time, hospital nurses routinely gave patients a massage. Now,

fuggedaboutit

. There are too few nurses and too many demands on their time.

Nonetheless, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Ann Arbor, Mich., says it may be time to "reintegrate" the nursing tradition of massage into care of surgical patients.

The study compared 200 veterans who received a daily 20-minute back massage during the five days after major surgery with 400 patients who got no massage.

The massaged group reported short-term decreases in anxiety and pain intensity and unpleasantness. However, the length of hospital stay, amount of pain-relieving medications and long-term anxiety was the same between the rubbed and the non-rubbed groups.

The study, in the December issue of Archives of Surgery, urged "the use of effective and less dangerous approaches to relieve patient distress."

- M.M.

Study cites 'false alarms' in catheterization, angiography

Thanks to guidelines issued in 2004, suspected heart attack patients quickly undergo procedures to reopen blocked blood vessels - but sometimes the procedures turn out to be unnecessary, a new study says.

Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation researchers reviewed records from 1,335 patients who underwent emergency catheterization and angiography, in which a tube is threaded to the heart to open a blocked artery.

Doctors should decide within 10 minutes whether "reperfusion therapy" is needed because restoring blood flow is vital, expert guidelines say. But initial diagnostic tests may be inconclusive, and there may be no time to rule out causes other than a heart attack.

Of the 1,335 patients, 14 percent did not have a clearly blocked artery, and 9.5 percent did not have significant coronary artery disease.

The study, in the Dec. 19 Journal of the American Medical Association, says that although restoring blood flow is important, the costs and risks of "false alarms" need to be considered.

- M.M.