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Nerve stimulation cuts migraines in study

Daily electrical stimulation of a nerve in the forehead may reduce the number of migraines after three months of treatment, a European study found.

The study included 67 participants who suffered an average of four migraines a month. Half received electrical stimulation to the nerve for 20 minutes a day for three months. The other half received a sham form of stimulation for the same duration.

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The participants who received nerve stimulation had fewer migraines during the third month of treatment compared with those who received the sham procedure. Those who underwent nerve stimulation went from suffering migraines an average of seven days per month to about five days per month. There was no significant reduction in migraines among those who underwent sham treatment.

Unlike medications used to prevent migraines, nerve stimulation had no side effects, potentially making it a safer alternative, the researchers reported.

BOTTOM LINE: Daily electrical stimulation of a nerve in the forehead may reduce the number of migraines after three months of treatment.

CAUTIONS: The study was too small to know whether the treatment is safe and effective for a wider group of migraine sufferers. It also is not known whether the benefits would last beyond three months.

WHERE TO FIND IT:  Neurology, Feb. 6

Calcium supplements linked to heart-related deaths in men

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Taking calcium supplements daily to strengthen bones may increase the risk of heart disease-related death in men, a study by the National Institutes of Health found.

The study included more than 388,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 who responded to a questionnaire between 1995 and 1996 about their dietary and supplement intake. After a 12-year follow-up, the study found that men who took more than 1,000 milligrams per day of calcium supplements at the beginning of the study had a 19 percent increased risk of death from heart disease.

According to the researchers, daily calcium supplement use may contribute to calcification of arteries, leading to heart problems. But calcium supplements did not seem to affect women similarly and calcium intake through foods did not seem to add to heart-related risk.

Men who took calcium supplements and who also smoked were at highest risk for heart-related problems, the study found.

BOTTOM LINE: Daily calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart disease-related death in men.

CAUTIONS: The study does not suggest that taking calcium supplements can cause heart disease or heart-related death. The study relied on participants’ answers to the questionnaire, which may have been unreliable. Also, the study did not look at how long the participants took calcium supplements.

WHERE TO FIND IT:  JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb. 4

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