POWERFUL PREDICTOR Had your high-sensitivity C-reactive protein tested lately? Maybe you should, even if you've never heard of it. Its presence indicates inflamed arteries, and researchers report that it may be more strongly linked to heart attacks than cholesterol. A study of 28,000 healthy women found that those with high blood levels of hs-CRP (as your doctor calls it) are 4 1/2 times as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke even if their cholesterol count is normal. The test for hs-CRP is inexpensive and has been approved for use since late last year.
NOT JUST FOR DOGS Finally, a broad look at whether glucosamine and chondroitin--two wildly popular arthritis treatments first used for gimpy dogs and horses--really work on humans. Analysis of eight trials involving 1,500 people confirmed that a daily dose of 1,500 mg of glucosamine or 1,200 mg of chondroitin relieves arthritis pain more effectively than a placebo, with chondroitin edging glucosamine by a nose. Don't get too frisky, though; longer and larger studies are still needed.
MOTHER LOAD When Mom's blue, the kids feel it. And psychologists who studied 85 families have discovered another fascinating consequence of a mother's mild-to-severe depression: daughters may go into puberty early. That also seems to happen when an unrelated male, like a stepfather, joins the family. No one knows why, but it's thought that stress hormones and other chemicals play a role.
HIDDEN HERPES Think you don't have herpes? Well, you might. Researchers have found that two-thirds of those who turn out to be positive for the virus on a blood test have no idea they're infected, in part because their symptoms aren't obvious. But like those with full-blown oozing blisters, they still shed the virus--and can infect others. If you're worried, use a condom and get a blood test.
--By Janice M. Horowitz
Sources: Good News--New England Journal of Medicine (3/23/00), Journal of the American Medical Association (3/15/00). Bad News--Child Development (4/00), New England Journal of Medicine (3/23/00)