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Testing for High Blood Pressure

A new genetic test has arrived on the market that can help doctors handle high blood pressure in their patients more effectively. The test scans for a gene that helps identify hypertension patients that are sensitive to salt.

A gene has been found that tells the body to make excess amounts of angiotensin, a hormone that constricts blood vessels and increases the retention of sodium. Twenty percent of whites and 75 percent of blacks carry two copies of this gene, and face greater risk of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Those who carry one copy of the gene may face similar but lesser risks.

The benefit of the test is that physicians can better single out those patients with the problem and treat them with a low-sodium diet. A study funded by the company that markets the genetic test found that a low-sodium diet over three years cut the incidence of high blood pressure by about 43 percent in those with two copies of the salt sensitvity gene but did nothing for those without the gene. Most patients who are placed on a low-sodium diet have difficulty sticking to it. Knowing that the diet would most likely be beneficial in lowering blood pressure could be a motivating factor in sticking to the diet.

Dirty Coffee Mugs

Researchers at the University of Arizona have confirmed what many office coffee drinkers already knew - most workplace coffee mugs are nasty business. Of 53 cups rounded up from office kitchens around campus, 22 were tainted with a significant number of bacteria that signal poor hygiene. Although the numbers and types of organisms found probably would not make a healthy person sick, they could adversely affect some one who is already run down.

The office sponge appears to be the carrier for germs from people from all over the office. In the study, those mugs cleaned with common sponges or dishcloths often were more contaminated after cleaning than before. The bacteria can be killed by running the sponge or cloth through a dishwasher or placing it, while damp, in the microwave for two minutes. Otherwise, replace the sponge weekly or clean the mugs with a disposable paper towel.

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This page was last updated on: Tuesday, June 2, 1998
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copyright 1998 by HealthCare Equity, Inc.