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The Top 10 Health Stories of 2008, from the Harvard Health Letter
Date:12/4/2008

Boston, MA (PRWEB) December 4, 2008 -- The top 10 health stories of 2008 may not be as funny as David Letterman's nightly countdown, but they can actually make a difference for long-term health. Here are this year's winners, chosen by the editorial board of the Harvard Health Letter:

1. Blood sugar: How low should it go?

The single-minded pursuit of low blood sugar levels is probably not the best approach to type 2 diabetes, particularly in people ages 60 and older. People with diabetes should not give up blood sugar control, but three clinical trials show it's unwise to be overzealous about lowering high blood sugar, and certainly not without also attending to high blood pressure and cholesterol.

2. 80 ain't old.

Results from the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET) showed that reining in high blood pressure pays off even in an age group that was once viewed as being extremely old--those 80 and older. After two years, the treated group in the study had lower rates of heart failure, strokes, and deaths overall. HYVET is more evidence that the age for effective medical intervention--through pills, surgery, or devices--is getting older and older.

3. Nice name, nice numbers, but let's see what you can do.

Results from two clinical trials reported this year dinged the reputation of cholesterol drug Vytorin (ezetimibe plus simvastatin). One showed that in people with a rare inherited condition, Vytorin did a great job lowering cholesterol but didn't reduce atherosclerosis. In a second trial, among people with aortic valve stenosis, Vytorin again lowered cholesterol, but it didn't slow progression of the valve disease or reduce serious cardiovascular events. Vytorin seems to be another example of a new medication that ought to be prescribed sparingly until we have better evidence that it really improves health.

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