Weekly health rail, with items about how to ensure your child gets a good night's sleep, the benefits of garlic and more.

Health Tip: Check ratio between index, ring fingers

Is your ring finger longer than your index finger? That may show a risk for knee osteoarthritis, especially in women, a British study shows.

It's not about whether your fingers are long or short. Instead, it's about the ratio between the length of your index finger (the second finger, counting from the thumb) and your ring finger (the fourth finger). People whose index finger was shorter than their ring finger were about twice as likely to have knee osteoarthritis, compared with other participants.

Rheumatology professor Michael Doherty, MD, and colleagues aren't sure how to explain their findings. They note that men are more likely than women to have index fingers that are shorter than ring fingers, so hormonal factors may be involved, but that's not certain.

Number to Know: 39

Thirty-nine percent of children ages 8 to 10 have sipped or tasted alcohol, according to a study that polled 452 children. Only 6 percent had had a full drink. Among the 8-year-olds, 35 percent had tasted or sipped, while 48 percent of the 10-year-olds had.

John E. Donovan, PhD, said it's too soon to know if early sips and tastes will lead to drinking and delinquency problems later.

Quote of Note

"The results show there's a world of people who cannot deny themselves that hamburger or extra piece of pizza, but probably make themselves feel better by washing it down with a diet cola."

Steve Garton of polling body Synovate. His survey of 13 countries found Britons are the world's biggest fans of fast food, just ahead of Americans, while the French are the least attracted.

Children’s Health

Here are some tips to make sure everyone in your household gets a good night’s rest:

- Start a routine. Initiate a nightly routine that signals that it’s almost time for bed, and follow this ritual at roughly the same time every night.

- Set the scene. Create a quiet, comfortable bedroom without distractions, such as a TV.

- Track caffeine. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine in your child’s diet.

- Watch the medications. Ask your doctor about anything in your child’s medications that might encourage alertness.

- Put them down drowsy. Leave when your kids are on the cusp of sleep but haven’t yet surrendered to it.

- Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common in children include multiple nighttime awakenings, snoring, trouble breathing, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.

Senior Health

Older adults who regularly walk for exercise may help lower their risk of vascular dementia, the second-most common form of this disorder after Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.

In a group of 749 adults who were 65 years of age or older, the Italian researchers found that those who regularly walked or got other forms of moderate exercise were less likely to develop vascular dementia over the next 4 years.

Healing Herbs

WebMD recently released a list of 10 herbs that are starting to attract interest from scientists as being beneficial for a variety of conditions. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll highlight some of these healing herbs.

Garlic: High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal and other cancers, says a 2006 research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A 2006 Japanese clinical trial also found that after a year of taking aged garlic extract supplements, people with a history of colon polyps saw a reduction in the size and number of the precancerous growths detected by their doctors.

GateHouse News Service