1. Archive

Facing confrontations

Beware husbands and wives: How you look at your spouse during fights may mean a lot more than you think. Facial expressions during marital confrontations may indicate whether a couple's marriage is destined to fail or succeed, according to a new study by two California psychologists. After studying numerous videotapes of couples fighting, psychologists Robert Levenson of the University of California and John Gottman of the University of Washington concluded that facial expressions of fear and disgust during marital conflicts seem to indicate the union will fail within four years. The key, explained Levenson, is that facial expressions associated with emotional distance _ fear and disgust _ seem to predict marital failure, while those associated with emotional involvement _ anger and sadness _ seem to predict marital success.No fountain of youth

When Retin-A first got headlines touting its potential for wiping out wrinkles, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons were deluged with inquiries from people willing to be guinea pigs in the quest for youth. Today, nearly three years later, doctors and patients still are enthusiastic but more cautious in their expectations of what the substance can achieve. The thrill isn't completely gone, but "I think reality has set in," said Dr. Thomas Nigra, chairman of the department of dermatology at Washington Hospital Center, a teaching hospital in Washington, D.C. "My patient population is much more stable and realistic today." Someone with deep furrows hoping that Retin-A will provide the poreless look of youth is destined for disappointment, he said. But "people that come in that have pigment abnormalities, fine wrinkles, blotchiness, darkening under the eyes, freckling . . . somebody like that, anywhere from age 30 to 70, will get a beneficial effect," he said. Retin-A costs $20 to $30 for a tube that lasts about two months.

Preventing pneumonia

The risk of influenza leading to a fatal case of pneumonia, especially among older people, can be significantly decreased by the flu vaccine. "Prevention is of utmost importance for people over 65, and those with lung disease and other illnesses," said Dr. Joseph Lowy, a lung specialist at New York University Medical Center. Everyone in these high-risk groups should get a flu shot before peak flu season, which runs from October through March, he urged. "For young and healthy people, neither flu nor pneumonia are life-threatening," Lowy said. "For older, ill, and immune-compromised people, pneumonia is a common and dangerous complication of flu." Pneumonia is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Video obesity

You may be "video obese" even if you exercise, warns the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter. Researchers from Alabama's Auburn University correlated the television-viewing

habits of 6,000 middle-aged men with their exercise habits and obesity levels. Even when exercise and other factors were taken into account, men who viewed at least three hours of TV daily had twice the obesity risk.

Calves deliver

In the quest for stronger, shapelier legs, the calf muscles often are ignored in favor of building up the powerful thigh muscles. But poorly developed calves, fitness experts say, can seriously affect performance in any exercise or sport. "Although the calves are not the most powerful muscle group in the body, they are used constantly," said Sue Thompson, an exercise physiologist and fitness consultant in Rolling Meadows, Ill. In walking, running or jumping, it is usually the calf muscles that work the hardest. They help to keep the body from falling forward. Weak calf muscles can also contribute to a common exercise complaint _ leg cramps. "When the muscle fatigues, it contracts and starts to spasm," Thompson said. "It needs to be stretched out then." People who are deficient in potassium _ a mineral involved in the contraction of muscles _ or who fail to drink enough fluid during exercise are more likely than others to experience muscle cramps. Strong calf muscles can also lead to a more graceful looking and well-proportioned leg. "People who want to improve the shape of their legs," said Thompson, "don't realize that if they build up the calf muscles, the whole leg _ including the thigh _ will look better."

Curing infertility

Recent surgical advances can often reverse infertility caused by problems in the Fallopian tubes and the uterus. "The Fallopian tubes, which lead from the ovaries to the uterus and in which fertilization occurs, can become closed or blocked, or may develop abnormally," said Dr. Bruce Young, professor of gynecology at the New York University School of Medicine. If the tubes are abnormal because of infection, congenital defects or endometriosis, eggs may not be able to enter or leave, sperm may be prevented from reaching the egg, or the fertilized egg's progress down the tube may be slowed. Lasers can be used to remove adhesions or scarring associated with inflammation, as well as to vaporize the misplaced uterine cells that occur in endometriosis. Microsurgery can be used not only to correct tubal disease, but to reverse tubal ligation, the most common method of female sterilization.

_ Compiled from wire reports