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PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am

Dementia in men linked to belly size

Having a big belly - even if a man isn't obese - can significantly increase their risk of developing dementia such as Alzheimer's disease decades later, say US researchers, based on a nine-year study of more than 6,500 initially middle-aged men. Previous studies have shown a link between obesity and dementia. But the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research study found that men who aren't overweight but have a lot of fat around their abdomen are almost 90 per cent more likely to develop dementia, AP reports.

Breech delivery runs in families

If one or both parents were breech deliveries - born feet or bottom first, rather than head - their children are twice as likely to follow suit, say researchers, who examined data for all first-born children in Norway between 1967 and 2004. About one in 20 births are breech, which carries a greater risk that the baby will die or suffer health problems, reports. The increased risk of a breech birth appears to be genetic, says team leader Tone Nordtveit from the University of Bergen, because it holds true whether the mother or father was delivered that way.

Unhappy anniversaries for grievers

Anniversaries of the death of a parent can trigger sudden death, especially in men, say researchers from the Central University of Venezuela, based on a study of more than 100 such deaths, which are typically caused by unexpected arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rate. In 12 per cent of cases, the deaths occurred on the anniversary of the death of the parent. About one-third died about the same age as the parent, and almost 80 per cent of the anniversary sudden deaths were men, reports.

Red Cross targets HIV on mainland

The Red Cross Society of China has launched a nationwide human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) education programme and plans to reach every province by 2010. About 700,000 people on the mainland have HIV, with 20,000 having become infected last year and 20,000 having died of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids), according to official figures. But the Red Cross says the numbers may be far higher as many HIV cases are unreported and testing is not widespread, AFP reports.

Surprise benefits from giving

Spending on other people or giving to charity may make you happier than treating yourself, no matter how much you earn, say University of British Columbia researchers, based on self-assessments by almost 650 people. As a rule, the biggest givers rated themselves the happiest. Similarly, with workers who received a bonus, no matter how small: those who gave the most away reported feeling the happiest, WebMD reports. The results surprised both researchers and participants, most of whom thought treating themselves would make them happiest.

It's the thought that counts

Just thinking about being kind and compassionate significantly affects brain activity and makes people more likely to be empathetic, say University of Wisconsin researchers, who used a type of brain scan called functional magnetic resonance imaging to analyse the effects of so-called compassionate meditation. The results suggest that people can train themselves to be more compassionate, WebMD reports, just as they can train themselves to play a musical instrument. 'Thinking about other people's suffering ... helps to put everything in perspective,' says researcher Antione Lutz.