Medical researchers have identified a compound that may reduce the risk of a dangerous type of heart rhythm that can lead to strokes, dementia, heart failure and early death. In a new study, people who used this compound were up to 20 percent less likely to experience the heart condition. What is this wonder drug? Chocolate. Compared with people who ate chocolate less than once a month, those who ate it one to three times a month were 10 percent less likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Study participants who ate chocolate once a week were 17 percent less likely to have AF, and those who ate it two to six times a week fared best, with a 20 percent lower risk. Atrial fibrillation is believed to result from the release of certain molecules that ultimately damage heart tissue. That damage changes the way electrical signals travel through the chambers of the heart, causing one’s heartbeat to flutter instead of beating in a steady rhythm. Ingredients in chocolate are known to counteract some of these problems. For instance, chocolate contains flavonols that can prevent the kind of inflammation that can lead to tissue damage. They may also counteract the clots that could form when an irregular heartbeat allows blood to pool up in the heart.

Surgical site infection risk rises in summer

As the weather gets warmer, the risk of developing an infection at the site of a surgical wound increases, a new study reports. Researchers used databases of hospital discharges across the United States to identify every adult hospitalization with a surgical site infection from 1998 to 2011, and tracked local temperature with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study included more than 55 million hospitalizations in more than 2,500 hospitals. Compared with January, the risk of being admitted to a hospital for a surgical site infection rose steadily from 9 percent higher in February to 21 percent higher in August. Then the risk declined in each month through December. After controlling for many other variables, the researchers found that for every 5-degree Fahrenheit increase in average monthly temperature, the risk of hospital admission for a surgical site infection increased by 2.1 percent. Why this happens is not clear.

New advice to move more after concussion

When young athletes suffer concussions, they are typically told to rest until all symptoms disappear. That means no physical activity, reading, screen time or friends, and little light exposure, for multiple days and, in severe cases, weeks. Restricting all forms of activity after a concussion is known as “cocooning.” But now new guidelines, written by an international panel of concussion experts and published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, question that practice. Instead of cocooning, the new guidelines suggest that most young athletes should be encouraged to start being physically active within a day or two after the injury.

News services