Weekly health rail, with items on migraines, laughing gas at the dentist, lowering cholesterol, and more.

According to an August 2008 survey from the National Headache Foundation, 78 percent of migraine sufferers reported missing work due to their migraine pain or other associated symptoms.

For many years, the pain and associated symptoms of migraine were thought to be caused by problems in brain blood vessels. New studies, however, suggest that migraine may instead be a disorder of the nervous system.

Certain small chemical messengers in the brain, including one known as calcitonin gene related peptide, have been identified as potential mediators of migraine pain.

It is important that migraine sufferers remain in dialogue with their doctors to discuss available treatment options and make sure they are taking the right medication to meet their needs.

-- ARA

Study: People more suggestible under laughing gas

The pain-relieving effects of nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, may be enhanced by suggestion or hypnosis, according to a new study by University College London.

The study’s findings that people are more suggestible under the gas mean that dental patients may benefit from being coached to relax while undergoing sedation.

The study supports dentists who find that their patients respond well to being spoken to in a quiet, hypnotic manner – the new findings suggest that these effects could be further enhanced with laughing gas.

Health Tip

Want to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease? Managing your cholesterol can help. But cholesterol, a type of fat in your blood, can be confusing. What do you really need to know to protect your health?

- Lower your bad cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein is the bad cholesterol that blocks your blood vessels. Try to keep your LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl.

- Raise your good cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol that helps remove deposits from your blood vessels. Aim to raise your HDL above 60 mg/dl.

- Triglycerides raise your chances for a heart attack or stroke if your levels are too high. Aim for triglycerides lower than 150 mg/dl. Your doctor may also give you a "total" cholesterol number. A good total cholesterol goal is less than 200 mg/dl.

Your doctor can do a simple blood test to measure all your cholesterol numbers. If your levels are off, you're not alone: About one in four American adults face the same challenge. But many others have learned to achieve a healthy cholesterol balance-and you can, too.

Here are five tips to help you manage your cholesterol:

1. Eat smart. One simple way to lower your bad cholesterol is to eat fewer trans fats and high-cholesterol foods. You can also help your body absorb less bad cholesterol by eating foods that contain soluble fiber.

2. Stay active. You can raise your good cholesterol and lower the bad at the same time with exercise. To get this powerful benefit, exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

3. Drop a few pounds. Being overweight raises your bad cholesterol. At the same time, it lowers your good cholesterol.

4. Quit smoking. It's no surprise that smoking lowers your good cholesterol. If you smoke, quitting can help your HDL jump as much as 10 percent.

5. Consider cholesterol medicines. Ask your doctor if medicines such as statins, fibrates and niacin can help you lower LDL while raising HDL levels.

-- ARA

Did You Know?

Research from Duke University shows that just seeing someone smoke can trigger smokers to abandon their efforts to kick the habit.

Number to Know: 21,000

Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Children’s Health

Researchers have hypothesized that people with lower IQs may have a higher risk of adult mental disorders, but few studies have looked at the relationship.

In a new, long-term study covering more than three decades, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that children with lower IQs showed an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders as adults, including schizophrenia, depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

Lower IQ was also associated with psychiatric disorders that were more persistent and an increased risk of having two or more diagnoses at age 32.

-- Harvard School of Public Health

Senior Health

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have discovered the first gender-linked susceptibility gene for late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

The research showed that women who inherited two copies of a variant in a gene found on the X chromosome are at considerably greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Women with a variant on one of their two X chromosomes also had some increase in risk, as did men with the variant on their single X chromosome, but these effects were weaker than inheriting two variants.

-- Harvard School of Public Health

GateHouse News Service