MDs, patients must be aware of heart risk/psoriasis link

The skin condition psoriasis has long been associated with a higher risk of heart disease, but a new recommendation in the American Journal of Cardiology says that patients, and even their physicians, are often unaware of the link and need to be educated.

The authors urge that patients with moderate to severe psoriasis be evaluated for coronary artery disease. It remains unclear just how the skin condition is connected to heart disease, but inflammation is thought to play a role. The link between severe psoriasis and heart attack is similar to that of other key cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, studies have found.

Patients in their 50s with severe psoriasis are estimated to have an extra risk of about 1 in 400 per year of having a heart attack.

Among the authors of the recommendations was dermatologist Joel Gelfand of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The authors' work was partly funded by Amgen, which makes a psoriasis drug.

In a separate new study, published online by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Gelfand and colleague Shanu Kohli Kurd estimate that 600,000 to 3.6 million U.S. adults have undiagnosed cases of psoriasis.

- Tom Avril

Study finds stress worsening college students' sleep loss

It's not the parties. It's not the all-night jam sessions or movie-watching or drinking.

A worrisome number of college students are suffering from "stress-induced sleep deprivation," say officials at the University of San Diego.

A recent study by the university's College Health Association Assessment found that only 23 percent of students were getting eight hours of sleep at night, and 25 percent said sleep deprivation was affecting their academic achievements.

Hardest hit were freshmen who were freaking out about their first final exams, and seniors who were angst-ridden about finding jobs in the current economic downturn.

School health officials' advice: Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Use your bed for sleeping, not studying. Take naps. Exercise regularly. Don't pull all-nighters.

And one more: Like, don't stress.

- Sandy Bauers

Merry mythmas: Debunking poinsettia, suicide, sugar tales

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not toxic to people or animals, suicides do not increase over the Christmas holidays, and sugar does not make kids hyperactive.

Those are some of the conclusions in the British Medical Journal's annual Christmas issue, a compilation of the weird and lighthearted papers its editors accumulate over the year. Poinsettias have long been a subject of warnings, but numerous reports from poison control centers, and even animal studies, do not support the warnings, according to Rachel C. Vreeman and Aaron E. Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine.

They reviewed nearly 900 calls to such centers reporting poinsettia consumption.

Similarly, they reviewed data on suicides in the United States for the last 35 years and found no increase before, during or after the holidays. In fact, they found that suicides peak in the summer and are lowest in winter.

A variety of studies show that children who consume large amounts of sugar are no more hyperactive than those who don't. But parents who think their kids have eaten sugar, even when they haven't, tend to rate them as being more hyperactive.

- Thomas Maugh, Los Angeles Times

Use of Avandia, Actos linked to higher fracture risk in women

Long-term use of the family of diabetes drugs that includes rosiglitazone and pioglitazone (brand names Avandia and Actos) doubles the risk of bone fractures in women but not in men, according to a new analysis of several large clinical trials.

Diabetic women are already at a higher than normal risk of fractures, experts said, so a doubling of risk could be substantial.

Researchers had known there was an increased risk of fractures associated with the drugs, but not the magnitude of the risk, said Sonal Singh of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who led the new study, reported online last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Use of the drugs for at least a year in women over age 70 would result in at least one more fracture among every 21 women, Singh and colleagues reported.

The drugs would produce an additional fracture for every 55 women between ages 55 and 70, they said. An estimated four million Americans are now taking the drugs, about half of them women, researchers said.

- Thomas Maugh, Los Angeles Times