A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Even modest fitness may extend lifespan

(Reuters Health) People who stay even moderately fit as they age may live longer than those who are out-of-shape, a new study suggests.

The study, of nearly 4,400 healthy U.S. adults, found that the roughly 20 percent with the lowest physical fitness levels were twice as likely to die over the next nine years as the 20 percent with the next-lowest fitness levels.

That was with factors like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes taken into account -- underscoring the importance of physical fitness itself, researchers report.

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Swine Flu Vaccine Seems Safe in Early Trials

(HealthDay News) As the H1N1 swine flu virus continues to circle the globe, producing minor infections similar to seasonal flu, U.S. health officials said Friday that they were on track for a viable vaccine by the fall, with early indications that the shot is safe…

While the H1N1 swine flu is expected to return to North America in the fall, right now flu activity in the United States is low, and it appears to be winding down in the Southern Hemisphere, where winter is coming to a close.

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High-Octane Caffeine May Trigger Headaches

(HealthDay News) Caffeine, known to help alleviate headaches, may cause them if consumed in large quantities…

People who drank large amounts of caffeinated beverages each day had 18 percent more non-migraine headaches than those who drank few caffeinated beverages, according to researchers…

High caffeine consumption was defined as more than 500 mg of caffeine daily, about what's in five cups of coffee. Low caffeine consumption was about 125 mg per day, the study authors noted.

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Depression's Effect on Pleasure Is Real

(HealthDay News) Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities is a common sign of depression -- and it's a neurological response that researchers can actually see in the brain.

When listening to their favorite music, depressed people showed less activity in regions of the brain that are involved with experiencing pleasure and processing rewards compared with healthy people, Canadian researchers found.

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Daily drinking may raise risk of several cancers

(Reuters Health) Men who drink beer or liquor on a regular basis may face a heightened risk of several different types of cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 3,600 Canadian men ages 35 to 70, those who averaged at least a drink per day had higher risks of a number of cancers than men who drank occasionally or not at all -- including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate.

When the researchers looked at individual types of alcohol, though, only beer and "spirits" -- and not wine -- were linked to elevated cancer risks.

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Medication Review May Help With Heart Failure

(HealthDay News) If doctors and pharmacists work together to ensure that people with heart failure take their medicines correctly, hospitalizations would be less frequent, an Australian study suggests.

In a study of 5,717 people with heart failure, the hospitalization rate for the 273 who had their medications reviewed by doctors and pharmacists was 45 percent lower than the hospitalization rate for the others, whose medicines did not undergo a collaborative review.

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An Aide for the Disabled, a Companion, and Nice and Furry

(New York Times) Although few firm numbers are available, people in the profession say the number of assistance dogs in use in this country has continually grown, as experts have been able to train dogs for more types of tasks. Besides traditional activities, like guiding the blind and acting as hearing dogs for the deaf, the animals are increasingly being used to help people in wheelchairs and children with autism. Some dogs can even warn people with diabetes that they have low blood sugar or people with epilepsy that they are about to have a seizure. Still others help patients who are suffering from brain trauma and other cognitive disorders function better in the everyday world.

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Romantic, Candle-lit Dinners: An Unrecognized Source Of Indoor Air Pollution

(Science Daily) Burning candles made from paraffin wax –– the most common kind used to infuse rooms with romantic ambiance, warmth, light, and fragrance –– is an unrecognized source of exposure to indoor air pollution, including the known human carcinogens, scientists report.

Levels can build up in closed rooms, and be reduced by ventilation.

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In Brazil, you've got mail — and possibly an STD

(AP) You've got mail — and possibly an STD. The Brazilian Health Ministry has created a Web site to let people inform partners they've got a sexually transmitted disease via an e-mailed virtual postcard.

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Community: How long do you think it will it be before the email phishers latch on to the idea of using an STD warning as a way to make you give them your personal information?

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Web-Based Psychotherapy Can Work

(HealthDay News) Online psychotherapy with patient and therapist texting each other in real-time can be effective, potentially giving thousands or even millions of patients new access to much-needed treatment, researchers say.

The new study adds to a growing body of research and practice involving technology-based treatments for depression and other mental health issues. In this case, the specific type of therapy used was cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)…

This and other computer-based treatment could benefit people in rural or remote areas who need psychotherapy, including traumatized veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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[Sleep Improves] Heart Health

(RealAge.com) Napping, sleeping in, going to bed early . . . we think of them as lazy indulgences. But your heart really wants you to do it…

In a 5-year study of middle-aged adults, the more sleep people got, the lower their rate of arterial calcium deposits. Good news, because calcium deposits help form the plaques that can clog arteries…

Besides being bad for your heart, sleep deprivation can hurt your health in a number of other ways. It can make you drowsy, grumpy, and more prone to accidents, and it may even encourage weight gain. So take steps to kick restless nights out of the bedroom with these easy tips:

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Sleep Training Helps Ease Insomnia Tied to Arthritis

(HealthDay News) Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps improve pain and sleep in older people with osteoarthritis and insomnia, researchers say.

The findings suggest that insomnia is not just a symptom of osteoarthritis but is actually a co-existing illness, lead study author Michael V. Vitiello…, said in a news release. About 60 percent of people with osteoarthritis report pain during the night, and better sleep quality can reduce their suffering, he added.

"The particular strength of CBT-I is that once an individual learns how to improve their sleep, study after study has shown that the improvement persists for a year or more," Vitiello said.

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Heart Risks Rise With Smokeless Tobacco

(HealthDay News) Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of fatal heart attack and stroke, say researchers who reviewed the results of 11 studies…

[T]heir review found that users of smokeless tobacco products had a slightly higher risk of death from heart attack and stroke than non-users…

The increased risk is small, but the consistency of the results among the studies included in the review suggests that the findings are credible, according to the researchers.

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Can Stem Cells Treat Heart Failure?

In the hope of rejuvenating his failing heart, Brent Benson, 68, signed up to have his own stem cells injected directly into the deteriorating organ. As part of a clinical trial at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, stem cells were extracted from bone marrow taken from Benson's hip, processed, and a few weeks later injected into his heart. The 30-some injections targeted areas of his heart that were essentially hibernating—not well-functioning, yet not scarred, as a particularly damaged heart can become after injury.

The ongoing study is one of many clinical trials now testing the ability of heart failure patients' own stem cells—which renew themselves and can develop into a range of cell types—to regenerate heart muscle and restore blood flow inside the heart tissue…

By at least one objective measure, Benson's heart has considerably improved in the nearly five months since his treatment…

Researchers' significant interest in using stem cells to treat heart failure arises, in part, because the disease is so prevalent. The American Heart Association estimates 5.7 million Americans live with the disease and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

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Watching Stem Cells Repair The Human Brain

(Science Daily) There is no known cure for neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But new hope, in the form of stem cells created from the patient's own bone marrow, can be found — and literally seen — in laboratories at Tel Aviv University

[Researchers have] been able to track [the cells’] progress within the brain, and initial studies indicate they can identify unhealthy or damaged tissues, migrate to them, and potentially repair or halt cell degeneration.

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Increase In Visceral Fat During Menopause Linked With Testosterone

(Science Daily) In middle-aged women, visceral fat, more commonly called belly fat, is known to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but what causes visceral fat to accumulate?

The culprit is likely not age, as is commonly believed, but the change in hormone balance that occurs during the menopause transition, according to researchers…

"Of all the factors we analyzed that could possibly account for the increase in visceral fat during this period in a woman's lifetime, levels of active testosterone proved to be the one most closely linked with abdominal fat," said … the study's lead investigator.

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Fatigue Related To Radiotherapy May Be Caused By Inflammation

(Science Daily) Patients who experience fatigue during radiotherapy for breast or prostate cancer may be reacting to activation of the proinflammatory cytokine network, a known inflammatory pathway, according to a report…

Stephen Hahn, M.D…. said this study is an important step forward in understanding the biological basis for fatigue.

"Fatigue related to radiotherapy is very common but we do not have any good idea about why it occurs. This suggests one possible mechanism and suggests an avenue for treatment," said Hahn.

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The Health Benefits of a Weekend Getaway

(Health.com) According to a [new study], engaging in enjoyable leisure activities can lower stress hormones and blood pressure, make you feel better all over, and reduce your waist circumference and body mass index…

In the study, 1,400 people reported how often they participated in activities like vacationing, going to clubs, playing sports, or plain old loafing around. Folks who spent the most time doing many different fun activities reaped the most health benefits.

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CDC says life expectancy in U.S. up

(AP) U.S. life expectancy has risen to a new high, now standing at nearly 78 years, the government reported Wednesday. The increase is due mainly to falling death rates in almost all the leading causes of death…

The United States continues to lag behind about 30 other countries in estimated life span. Japan has the longest life expectancy — 83 years for children born in 2007, according to the World Health Organization…

Heart disease and cancer together are the cause of nearly half of U.S. fatalities. The death rate from heart disease dropped nearly 5 percent in 2007, and the cancer death rate fell nearly 2 percent, according to the report.

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Living Longer And Happier

(Science Daily) A new study … may shed light on how to increase the level and quality of activity in the elderly. In the study, … researchers found that gene therapy with a proven "longevity" gene energized mice during exercise, and might be applicable to humans in the future.

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Anti-aging Gene Linked To High Blood Pressure

(Science Daily) Researchers, led by principal investigator Zhongjie Sun, tested the effect of an anti-aging gene called klotho on reducing hypertension. They found that by increasing the expression of the gene in laboratory models, they not only stopped blood pressure from continuing to rise, but succeeded in lowering it. Perhaps most impressive was the complete reversal of kidney damage, which is associated with prolonged high blood pressure and often leads to kidney failure.

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Ancient Chinese herbs may help heart

(UPI) Ancient Chinese herbal formulas for heart disease may produce large amounts of artery-widening nitric oxide, U.S. researchers said…

Senior author Nathan S. Bryan said the study reveals that ancient Chinese herbal formulas "have profound nitric oxide bioactivity primarily through the enhancement of nitric oxide in the inner walls of blood vessels, but also through their ability to convert nitrite and nitrate into nitric oxide."

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New Chemical Imaging Technique Could Help In Fight Against Atherosclerosis, Suggests Research

(Science Daily) The team behind the new imaging technique, which is known as Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging (ATR-FTIR imaging), believe that with further refinement, it could become a useful tool for doctors wanting to assess a patient’s lesions. For example, by combining fibre optic technology with ATR-FTIR imaging, the researchers believe doctors could carry out real-time inspections of patients with atherosclerosis, in order to assess the progress of the disease and establish which patients are at the greatest risk of complications.

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Newer Drug Beats Tamoxifen for Older Breast Cancer Patients

(HealthDay News) For postmenopausal women with breast cancer, treatment with the drug letrozole (Femara) increases survival after surgery more than the widely used tamoxifen, a new study confirms…

"This study reinforces the benefits of letrozole over tamoxifen, and leaves five years upfront use [of letrozole] as the preferred option, especially in patients judged to be at higher risk for recurrence," said lead researcher Dr. Alan Coates.

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Health-care cost burden for obese getting bigger

(Reuters Health) Caring for obese people is eating up an ever-bigger slice of the US health care spending pie, a new government report shows.

From 2001 to 2006, health care expenditures on obese adults rose from $167 billion to $303 billion, an 82 percent jump, according to an analysis…

Costs for overweight individuals rose 36 percent, from $202 billion to $275 billion, while spending on normal-weight people rose 25 percent, from $208 billion to $260 billion.

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Neurons That Control Obesity In Fruit Flies Identified

(Science Daily) [S]cientists … have pinpointed two groups of neurons in fruit fly brains that have the ability to sense and manipulate the fly's fat stores in much the same way as do neurons in the mammalian brain. The existence of this sort of control over fat deposition and metabolic rates makes the flies a potentially useful model for the study of human obesity, the researchers note.

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Personality Traits Associated With Stress And Worry Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

(Science Daily) Personality traits associated with chronic worrying can lead to earlier death, at least in part because these people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, according to research…

Chronic worrying, anxiety and being prone to depression are key aspects of the personality trait of neuroticism. In this study, the researchers looked at how smoking and heavy drinking are associated with the trait. A person with high neuroticism is likely to experience anxiety or depression and may self-medicate with tobacco, alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.

They found that smoking accounted for about 25 percent to 40 percent of the association between high neuroticism and mortality. The other 60 percent is unexplained, but possibly attributed to biological factors or other environmental issues that neurotic individuals experience.

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Community: I stopped worrying as much as I had done when I realized that my worrying never, not one time, influenced the outcome of whatever it was I was worried about.

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Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks

(HealthDay News) Eating a bowl of your favorite cereal every day is a great source of natural antioxidants, new research shows…

"Cereals have a plethora of [good things]," said [researcher Joe] Vinson, who tested more than 30 brands and types of breakfast cereals found in supermarkets. "They all have polyphenols."

Whole grains are the main source of polyphenols in breakfast cereals, and since nearly all cereals contain at least some whole grains, it stands to reason that consumers should consider making cereals a regular part of their diet, said Vinson, adding that he received no food industry funding for his study…

"We found that, in fact, whole-grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables," Vinson said. "This is the first study to examine total phenol antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks, whereas previous studies have measured free antioxidants in the products."

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Community: I now have to stay away from the salty foods, though, sad to say.

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Daily Alzheimer's-fighting substance best

(UPI) In a study of rats, polyphenols in red wine or grape juice that help prevent Alzheimer's are absorbed better after continued ingestion, U.S. researchers say.

Mario Ferruzzi [and others] say previous studies of a single or sporadic dose found little bioactive polyphenols reaching the brain.

However, the [new study] finds the amount of polyphenols from grapeseed extract that can reach a rat's brain is as much as 200 percent higher on the 10th consecutive day of feeding as compared to the first.

"This shows that reasonable and chronic consumption of these products may be the way to go, rather than single, high doses, similar to drugs," Ferruzzi says in a statement. "It's like eating an apple a day, not a case of apples over two days every month."

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Superfoods shouldn't overshadow vegetables

(UPI) Zucchini may not be a nutritional powerhouse -- or described as a "superfood" -- but it should be eaten regularly, a U.S. nutritionist advises.

Lona Sandon … says superfoods like broccoli, spinach or tomatoes may make headlines, and many popular summer vegetables such as summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers may seem nutritionally insignificant, but they do have value.

"These vegetables may not be packed with a lot of the major nutrients touted on charts and labels, but they're good sources of other nutrients, including zinc, potassium and folic acid," Sandon says in a statement. "They're also high in water and fiber and are low-fat, meaning they can help you lose weight so they should find their way onto your plate."

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Folic Acid: Mandatory Fortification May Be Unnecessary

(Science Daily) Persistently present levels of unmetabolized folic acid found in the population indicate that introducing mandatory food fortification may result in an 'overdosing' effect. A study of blood donors, new mothers and babies … has found that most already get enough folic acid from voluntarily fortified foods.

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Ask questions to stretch health dollars

(UPI) Asking health providers questions may help health dollars go farther, a U.S. newsletter suggests.

The Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource recommends partnering with doctors to ensure tests are not being duplicated and asking if lower-cost treatment options are available.

For instance, the newsletter suggests asking if a nurse line is available to call for medical advice when it's unclear if a medical appointment is needed and determining if urgent care is necessary, or if outpatient services can be used.

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Hospitals Reduce Heart Attack Deaths

(HealthDay News) A decade-long, government-led effort has reduced the death rate for patients hospitalized for heart attacks and improved the performance of hospitals that deal with these daily emergencies, a nationwide study finds.

Between 1995 and 2006, the in-hospital death rate for Medicare patients treated for heart attacks decreased, from 14.6 percent to 10.1 percent, while the 30-day death rate in such cases dropped from 18.9 percent to 16.1 percent, according to a report.

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Community: There are as many as 98,000 deaths per year in the U.S. due to medical errors. We don’t put up with that kind of statistic for airline accidents. That’s because we have strict, enforceable rules on how airplanes must be built, tested, and maintained; and we do exhaustive studies on every accident to improve those rules and their enforcement. Before this project, there were no such controls over medical procedures.

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Cannabis chemicals may help fight prostate cancer

(Reuters) Chemicals in cannabis have been found to stop prostate cancer cells from growing in the laboratory, suggesting that cannabis-based medicines could one day help fight the disease, scientists said Wednesday.

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Estrogen Plays Surprise Role in Breast Cancer Treatment

(HealthDay News) Researchers report that the paradoxical strategy of treating breast cancers that have become resistant to anti-estrogen therapies with estrogen actually shrank some tumors.

Not only that, but the estrogen made some of the tumors sensitive to anti-estrogen drugs once again…

"It's an interesting observation, but it needs to be expanded into a large trial," said Dr. Jay Brooks… "There's probably something biologically going on here that we don't quite understand. The question is, can we translate this into really clinically meaningful responses?"

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Ultra-tiny 'bees' target tumors

(CNN) They're ready to sting, and they know where they're going.

They're called "nanobees," and they're not insects -- they're tiny particles designed to destroy cancer cells by delivering a synthesized version of a toxin called melittin that is found in bees…

Nanobees are one of the latest examples of how nanotechnology may change the way diseases are treated.

Nanotechnology encompasses a wide array of innovations that make use of structures that are 100 nanometers or smaller. That means they generally cannot be seen under a regular microscope, but are larger than individual atoms. For example, a nanobee is less than 10 times the diameter of a red blood cell, Wickline said.

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New DNA Test Uses Nanotechnology To Find Early Signs Of Cancer

(Science Daily) Using tiny crystals called quantum dots, Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a highly sensitive test to look for DNA attachments that often are early warning signs of cancer. This test, which detects both the presence and the quantity of certain DNA changes, could alert people who are at risk of developing the disease and could tell doctors how well a particular cancer treatment is working.

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Does Sugar Feed Cancer?

ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2009) — Researchers … have uncovered new information on the notion that sugar "feeds" tumors. The findings may also have implications for other diseases such as diabetes…

"It's been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells. Our research helps show how this process takes place, and how it might be stopped to control tumor growth," says [researcher] Don Ayer…

During both normal and cancerous cell growth, a cellular process takes place that involves both glucose (sugar) and glutamine (an amino acid). Glucose and glutamine are both essential for cell growth, and it was long assumed they operated independently, but Ayer's research shows they are inter-dependent. He discovered that by restricting glutamine availability, glucose utilization is also stopped. "Essentially, if you don't have glutamine, the cell is short circuited due to a lack of glucose, which halts the growth of the tumor cell" Ayer says.

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Faith rites boost brains, even for atheists: book

(Reuters) Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns boost their brain power through meditation and prayer, but even atheists can enjoy the mental benefits that believers derive from faith, according to a popular neuroscience author.

The key, Andrew Newberg argues in his new book "How God Changes Your Brain," lies in the concentrating and calming effects that meditation or intense prayer have inside our heads.

Brain scanners show that intense meditation alters our gray matter, strengthening regions that focus the mind and foster compassion while calming those linked to fear and anger.

Whether the meditator believes in the supernatural or is an atheist repeating a mantra, he says, the outcome can be the same - a growth in the compassion that virtually every religion teaches and a decline in negative feelings and emotions.

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Inflammation and how it relates to chronic diseases

(Los Angeles Times) Inflammation is clearly the culprit in rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis (in which chemicals produced by immune cells cause joints to swell) and some other chronic pain conditions such as sciatica and temporomandibular joint disorder.

But a growing number of scientists are looking at the role of inflammation in other chronic diseases -- and are finding significant links.

For example, there is ample evidence showing that cardiovascular disease is at least partially dependent on inflammation. Plaque that builds up on the walls of arteries is seen as an injury by the body, which then recruits immune cells to the site of damage. The cells, and the chemicals they release, soften the plaque in a process that can cause the deposit to rupture, block blood flow and result in a heart attack.

There is also increasing evidence that Alzheimer's disease is partially due to inflammation.

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Key to Affordable Health Care Revealed

(LiveScience.com) Scientists this week are reporting a breakthrough therapy to lower the risk of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases - diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer - by about 80 percent.

In some ways, this might sound like old news. The therapy is called taking care of yourself: not smoking,exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

True, you'd have to be smoking something hallucinogenic to not understand that cigarettes are unhealthy. Take away cigarettes, and you take away lung cancer and a good deal of heart disease. Similarly, the mantra of eating right and exercising has been drilled into us. Pork rinds and videogame expertise does not a healthy body make.

What's new, though, is evidence of the cumulative protective effect provided by all four healthy factors.

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Those who run the hardest may get addicted

(UPI) Exercise is always being advised for good health but a study in rats found extreme exercise may be physically addicting, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Robin Kanarek of Tufts University said excessive running shares similarities with drug-taking behavior.

"As with food intake and other parts of life, moderation seems to be the key," Kanarek says in a statement. "Exercise, as long as it doesn't interfere with other aspects of one's life, is a good thing with respect to both physical and mental health."

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Duke University sttudy: Many over 50 are binge drinkers

(Charlotte Observer) A significant percentage of people older than 50 are binge drinking, and experts fear the trend could cause severe health problems in the near future for baby boomers who continue their heavy drinking habits, according to a new study…

Drinking is more likely to compound health problems among older people as the body's natural immunities are weakened, said Dr. Dan Blazer, the study's lead author.

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Sleep apnea raises death risk 46 percent: study

(Reuters) Severe sleep apnea raises the risk of dying early by 46 percent, U.S. researchers reported Monday, but said people with milder sleep-breathing problems do not share that risk

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Elders lack knowledge of stroke signs, risk factors

(Reuters Health) Older people poorly understand most of the important warning signs of stroke and factors that increase risk for this medical emergency, researchers from Dublin, Ireland, have found.

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Antioxidants Pose No Melanoma Threat

(HealthDay News) -- Vitamins C, E and other antioxidants do not increase the risk for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, a new study found.

A recent study had suggested that the risk for melanoma was increased four-fold among women who took supplemental vitamins C and E, beta carotene, selenium and zinc. Because 48 to 55 percent of U.S. adults take vitamin or mineral supplements, the potentially harmful effects of the supplements was alarming…

The researchers found that multivitamins and supplements taken over 10 years, including selenium and beta carotene, were not associated with the risk for melanoma among both women and men.

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Special Stem Cells Build 'Biological Bypass'

(HealthDay News) U.S. researchers have identified stem cells that are able to grow new coronary arteries, a finding that could lead to new ways to treat atherosclerosis.

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Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue

(HealthDay News) The natural glue a sea creature uses to build its home has offered scientists a new way to repair bones shattered in car crashes and other accidents…

The traditional method of repairing shattered bones is to use connectors such as nails, pins and metal screws for support until the bones can bear weight. But it can be incredibly difficult to align small bone fragments with screws and wires, said Russell Stewart, a bioengineer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

A medical adhesive would provide a much better alternative.

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