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High blood pressure cases up after decades of decline

After nearly three decades of improvement, high blood pressure in the United States has reversed course, registering a increase between 1991 and 2000, according to a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

And obesity, which has been linked to a growing list of health problems, is the likely cause of at least half the increase, said study co-author Theodore Kotchen, a professor of medicine and associate dean of clinical medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Nearly 29 percent of adults had high blood pressure in 1999-2000, up from 25 percent in the early 1990s, researchers at the Medical College and the University of South Carolina found.

"A small percentage is a lot of people," Kotchen said. "You are talking about millions of Americans."

A total of 58-million adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, a major contributor to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

The study found 30 percent of those with hypertension were unaware of their illness, 42 percent were not being treated for it and 69 percent did not have their hypertension under control.

The study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which measured the blood pressure of more than 5,400 U.S. adults.

FDA alerts doctors to problem with new stents

The Food and Drug Administration Tuesday alerted cardiologists and heart patients to a potential problem with new drug-coated stents and cautioned doctors to use the new device correctly.

The newest generation of stents might have caused up to 47 people to develop possibly life-threatening blood clots, the FDA said.

The manufacturer of the tiny wire-mesh devices used to help clear blocked heart arteries and prevent them from reclogging said more than 50,000 patients had received such stents since late April when the FDA approved them.

The new stents made by Cordis Corp., a division of Johnson & Johnson, are coated with a drug to help prevent arteries from becoming reclogged _ a major problem of bare metal stents. The formation of blood clots around stents can cause patients to suffer heart attacks and sometimes to die.

TRANS FAT ADDED TO LABELS: Under regulations to be announced by the Food and Drug Administration today, the nutrition label on food will get a new line listing the amount of trans fat in each food under the amount of saturated fat it contains, say consumer advocates and industry representatives familiar with FDA's decision. Adding the two lines will show the total of heart-risky fats in every serving.

FDA APPROVES DIABETES DEVICE: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first device that checks a patient's blood sugar, automatically calculates how much insulin they need and signals an implanted pump to send out the right dose.

The Paradigm system is a first step toward developing an artificial pancreas. Specialists hope the device will cut down on dosing errors and make it easier for patients to manage their disease.

Medtronic MiniMed Inc. said the prescription-only device will begin shipping July 21 and cost $5,995, $500 more than Medtronic's manually programmed insulin pump.

Police chief in sniper case to keep profits from book

Former police chief Charles Moose agreed to turn over to Montgomery County, Md., the $4,250 from consulting on a movie deal while in office under an agreement reached with the county's Ethics Commission Tuesday. In exchange, he will be allowed to write a book about last fall's sniper crisis and keep the profits.

Moose on Tuesday dropped two lawsuits he had filed against the commission for refusing to grant him a waiver last March in order to write the book while wearing his police uniform.

The book is to be published by E.P. Dutton this fall.

Arkansas man awakes from 19-year coma

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. _ A man regained consciousness after spending 19 years in a coma as the result of a car crash, greeting his mother who was waiting at his bedside.

"He started out with "Mom' and surprised her and then it was "Pepsi' and then it was "milk.' And now it's anything he wants to say," Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center social director Alesha Badgley said Tuesday.

Terry Wallis, 39, had been at the Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since the July 1984 crash.

"I couldn't tell you my first thought. I just fell over on the floor," his mother, Angilee, said.

Gases had breached wing of shuttle "Atlantis'

WASHINGTON _ Superheated gases breached the left wing of shuttle Atlantis during its fiery return to earth in hauntingly similar fashion to the demise of Columbia nearly three years later, internal NASA documents say.

Unlike Columbia, Atlantis suffered no irreparable damage during the May 2000 episode and, after repairs, returned to flight four months later. NASA ordered fleetwide changes in how employees install protective wing panels and sealant materials.

Elsewhere . . .

PROBATION FOR EAVESDROPPING: Edmund Matricardi III, the former head of Virginia's Republican party, was sentenced Tuesday to three years of probation and fined $5,000 for eavesdropping on a Democratic Party conference call.