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Brain-Disease Deaths Not Unusual, Officials Say

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New Jersey and federal health officials said Friday an investigation showed nothing unusual about the number of deaths from a rare brain-destroying disease among people linked to a now-closed racetrack.

The inquiry was prompted by a businesswoman's research into the deaths of people who worked at or frequented the Garden State Racetrack in Cherry Hill between 1988 and 1992. All died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a brain-destroying disorder, or neurological problems.

Janet Skarbek, an accountant, believes the deaths were caused by eating mad-cow tainted meat served at the track, which closed in 2001.

Dr. Clifton Lacy, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said 17 deaths had been investigated from 1995 through 2004. He said tests indicate three people had other diseases, three investigations are not yet complete and 11 cases have been ruled as naturally occurring, or sporadic, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Stroke risk

People who lose their jobs in the years just before they're due to retire have twice the risk of stroke as peers who are still working, according to a new study. The results are reported in the May issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Researchers used six years of data from the national Health and Retirement Survey to identify 457 workers who were laid off or left jobless because of a plant shutdown.

About 700,000 people in the United States will have a stroke this year, according to the American Heart Association. Of those, around 160,000 will die from their stroke.

Menstrual periods

Women with irregular menstrual periods may be at higher risk of heart disease at a young age, particularly if they are overweight, a study suggests. The finding emerged from studies of women with polycystic ovary syndrome, one of the leading causes of infertility. Women with PCOS -- up to 10 percent of those of reproductive age -- tend to suffer from amenorrhea (no menstrual period) or oligomenorrhea (irregular bleeding).

The research was published in the May edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Zeev Blumenfeld, a researcher at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, and senior author of one of the studies, said that physicians should ensure that women suspected of having PCOS undergo further testing for cardiovascular risk factors.

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