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

Graying America gets wired to cut healthcare costs

(Reuters) Baby boomers wired to their iPads and smart phones are giving U.S. health experts some new ideas about ways to cut the soaring costs of medical care in graying America…
Marilyn Yeats, 79, is suffering from congestive heart failure and uses a personal healthcare computer, called the Guide, provided by the health insurer Humana Corp. She calls it My Little Nurse for helping her keep track of her blood pressure, weight, temperature and whether she is taking her medicines on time…
If [programs like this] succeed, home technologies could help slash billions of dollars from the nation's $2.6 trillion healthcare bill by keeping the elderly in their homes longer and out of expensive hospitals and nursing homes.   
The United States spends far more on healthcare than any other country at 17.9 percent of GDP compared with the OECD average for advanced countries of 9.5 percent. And yet dollar for dollar it gets results that are consistently in the bottom third of developed countries along with Mexico or Hungary, as measured by average health outcomes.             
Cutting healthcare costs is essential if the United States is to tame its $15 trillion government debt load. Medicare, the healthcare program for the elderly, consumes 15 percent of U.S. budget spending. It is the biggest single expense after defense and the pension program Social Security.
Community: Mind your health, friends—it’s your patriotic duty!
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Report: Mass. Health Law No 'Budget Buster'

(Kaiser Health News) Outside Massachusetts, talk show hosts and politicians frequently blast the state’s health coverage law as a "budget buster."
"It has been an abject failure," candidate Rick Santorum told the audience during a presidential primary debate in January, directing his comments toward former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "He's stood by the fact that it’s $8 billion more expensive than the current law."
That’s just one of the myths the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) hopes to debunk with a report out Friday. The facts will help. Michael Widmer, president of the MTF, says the state has spent just $91 million more a year since 2006 to cover the uninsured, than it was spending before the law passed. The sum amounts to 1.4 percent of the state budget.
"That’s a very tiny additional cost to taxpayers for huge benefits," argued Widmer, whose organization is a fiscally conservative research group with strong ties to the business community. "No way can one say that this has been anything close to a budget buster. The facts put a lie to this myth."
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Healthcare reform is about lives, not just politics

(David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times) Dale … Berman, 54, of Burbank is a freelance photographer who has had Crohn's disease his entire life. Crohn's is a severe intestinal disorder that can cause intense pain and a variety of complications. Berman has had to undergo three operations and has been hospitalized on numerous occasions.He's also watched as his insurance costs have steadily increased over the years, forcing him to seek refuge in government programs for "high-risk" patients who are unable to receive affordable coverage from private-sector insurers…
[Berman is now enrolled in California’s] Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP, which costs only about $4,500 a year and has no limit on how much treatment will be covered annually…
If the reform law collapses, there doesn't seem to be any mechanism for PCIP funds to continue flowing from Washington. Nor does it seem likely that the exchanges would work as intended if insurers are no longer required to cover anyone who comes calling. That would give people like Berman few choices. He could turn once again to his photography association for coverage, but the annual cost had soared to more than $25,000 by last year for the HMO version and $36,000 for the PPO plan.
The state's high-risk plan, meanwhile, is currently charging about $13,300 for people in Berman's position and still has that $75,000 annual spending cap.
So Berman, like so many others with preexisting conditions (myself included), is watching the Supreme Court closely. He's paying particular attention to Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom many regard as the swing vote on the issue.
"My whole financial future is in Kennedy's hands," Berman said.
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New York establishes healthcare exchange

(UPI) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to create a statewide health exchange that is expected to lower the cost of coverage for some New Yorkers.
Cuomo said the state exchange, required by the Affordable Care Act, will reduce the cost of coverage for individuals, small businesses and local governments. The exchange will ensure eligible small businesses and individuals receive premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
"The bottom line is that creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments, and individual New Yorkers across the state. The sky-high cost of insurance in New York is driving businesses out of the state and preventing lower income New Yorkers from being able to afford needed coverage," Cuomo said in a statement. "Establishing the health exchange will bring true competition into the healthcare marketplace, driving costs down across the state."
By lowering the cost of healthcare insurance, the exchange will also help more than 1 million uninsured New Yorkers afford coverage, Cuomo said.
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Recipes

MyRecipes.com:
Blackened Cumin-Cayenne Tilapia
Use your broiler to make already quick-cooking fish fillets an even speedier dinner option.
EatingWell:
Spring Chicken & Barley Soup
You might think of barley as an addition to hearty, wintery soups, such as mushroom-barley or beef-barley soup, but it also works well in lighter soups like this one with chicken, asparagus and peas.
5 Dinners, 1 Bag of Groceries
Get a shopping list and a meal plan to make a week's worth of dinners from just one bag of groceries.
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Gallup: U.S. eating more fruit, vegetables

(UPI) More U.S. adults ate fresh fruits and vegetables frequently this winter than last winter, a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicated…
The percentage of Americans who ate fresh fruit and vegetables frequently in January was at 55.7 percent, February at 57.4 percent and March at 57.4 percent in 2012 -- higher than in the same months in 2011, the survey said…
The Gallup and Healthways data indicated eating healthy food is challenging for many Americans -- 56 percent reported eating fresh fruits and vegetables frequently and 66.1 percent reporting they ate healthy all day the day before, but 90.8 percent said they have access to affordable fruits and vegetables in their community.
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Nut consumption associated with better diet quality

(NutHealth.org) In a study published in Nutrition Research, researchers looked at the association of out-of-hand nut (OOHN) consumption with nutrient intake, diet quality and the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in both children and adults. Consumers of OOHN, including tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts), had higher intakes of energy, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats) and dietary fiber, and lower intakes of carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium than non-consumers.
“Adult consumers also had a 19% decreased risk of hypertension and a 21% decreased risk of low high-density lipoprotein (HDL--the good cholesterol) levels—both risk factors for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” stated Carol O’Neil, PhD, MPH, RD, lead author on the paper and Professor at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
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Turmeric extract may protect heart after surgery

(Reuters Health) A new study from Thailand suggests that extracts from turmeric spice, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may help ward off heart attacks in people who've had recent bypass surgery.
During bypass surgery the heart muscle can be damaged from prolonged lack of blood flow, increasing patients' risk of heart attack.
The new findings suggest that curcumins -- the yellow pigment in turmeric -- may be able to ease those risks when added to traditional drug treatment.
But that conclusion is based on a relatively small group of subjects and needs to be confirmed in larger studies before all bypass patients rush out to get the extracts, researchers said.
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Sounding the sugar alarms

(Los Angeles Times) Worried about trans fat or salt? That's a little old-school. If you want to stay current on dietary villains, you'll want to start thinking about sugar.
Lots and lots of sugar — as in 77 grams, or nearly 20 teaspoons. That's how much added sugar the average American consumes every day, according to a 2011 scientific report, and that's not even factoring in the sugars naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk…
[Dr. Robert] Lustig says that sweets in processed food — whether it's high-fructose corn syrup in a soda or cane sugar in a candy bar — are the leading cause of metabolic syndrome, a dangerous collection of complications that includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure and decreased sensitivity to insulin. By some estimates, the syndrome more than doubles the risk of heart attack or stroke. And that's bad news, because about 1 in 4 U.S. adults — including many sugar junkies who look lean and fit — already have the syndrome. "Everyone needs to be aware of the danger," he says…
How to cut back? Instead of reading labels and counting grams, Lustig urges people to simply choose more foods that don't have nutrition labels at all. "I'm not suggesting that we take the sugar out of processed food. I'm suggesting that we eat real food."
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Baldness Drug Propecia Linked to Sex Dysfunction After Treatment

(Bloomberg) Merck & Co. (MRK)’s baldness drug Propecia and enlarged prostate therapy Proscar will carry labels linking them to sexual dysfunction after the treatments are no longer used, U.S. regulators said.
Propecia’s packaging will include warnings about libido, orgasm and ejaculation disorders that occur after patients stop using the medicines, the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement. Proscar’s similar warning is limited to decreased libido, and both drugs will include on their labels reports of infertility and poor semen quality that normalized when people stopped using the drugs, the agency said.
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Nicotine patch may help prevent smoking relapses

(Reuters Health) Nicotine patches may help smokers recover from any initial setbacks in their attempt to kick the habit, a new U.S. study suggests.
"The clear implication is that you shouldn't give up, you should stay on the treatment with patch," said Saul Shiffman, one of the study's authors from the University of Pittsburgh.
People who "lapse," or give in to nicotine cravings when trying to quit, are at high risk of giving up and returning to smoking.
But contrary to common perception, they haven't failed at quitting and may get over initial lapses by continuing to use the patch, Shiffman said.
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Early breast cancer detection still saves lives

(Dr. Laura Berman) [E]arly detection in breast cancer treatment can and has saved innumerable lives. The mortality rate from breast cancer has decreased by 30 percent since 1991. While it is impossible to calculate the exact number of lives saved by early screening, we know that the earlier breast cancer is treated, the more likely it is that the treatment will be successful and less invasive.
Yet this doesn’t mean that women must blindly agree to their doctor’s suggestion for treatment or that they should choose the most aggressive option. There is so much fear when it comes to breast cancer, and this can cause patients to make decisions out of anxiety over the worst possible outcome, instead of their own individual case. The best thing you can do is listen to your doctor’s advice, do some research, and get a second opinion before undergoing aggressive treatment.
It is your body and you have the right and responsibility to safeguard your health, but the answer in every case will not be the same. We do know one thing: Early detection has saved many lives, so while breast cancer screening might have led to a few cases of over-treatment, there were many more women who were saved as a result.
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Modern Breast Screening Minimizes Risk for False-Positives

(Medscape) Women in the 1990s with false-positive results after mammography screening had a 67% greater subsequent absolute breast cancer rate compared with women who had negative test results. However, with the advent of newer screening technologies in the first part of the next decade, the cancer rate was not statistically significantly different between the 2 groups, indicating that more of the positive results were "true positives," and that false-positive results were reduced…
In a news release accompanying the publication, the journal highlighted the increased cancer risk after a false-negative mammography result in the earlier period, but failed to note the good news that newer technology has apparently overcome the earlier deficiencies in screening, which resulted in more false-positive results and may have led to more invasive testing and greater patient anxiety.
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No evidence found to support ovarian cancer screening

(Nurse.com) In its first review since 2004 of the benefits and harms of ovarian cancer screening, the United States Preventive Services Task Force found no new evidence to support routine screening.
Scanning 64 studies, including controlled trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the researchers found that a lack of accuracy in screening techniques leads to an inordinate number of false positives without a significant effect on mortality rates.
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EKG helps find heart-attack risk in seniors

(Fox News) A widely used test to measure electrical activity in the heart may help identify elderly people at risk of a heart attack, said a study…, rekindling a debate over the value of such tests in people without chest pain or other symptoms.
In a study involving 2,192 patients 70 to 79 years old without established heart disease, researchers found that abnormalities in an electrocardiogram, or EKG, were associated with a higher risk of heart attacks and other serious heart events over the following eight years.
But the overall benefit from EKGs when the results were adjusted for commonly used risk factors for heart disease was small. Researchers said further studies are needed to determine whether EKGs might be useful in guiding treatment and prevention strategies in such patients.
Community: But then again, see below.
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Just say no to EKGs for regular check-ups

(Consumer Reports) Should an electrocardiogram be a regular part of your annual exam? A [recent study] says maybe, if you're 70 or older. But we don't think so, and an accompanying editorial agrees—and even quotes us saying so.
The authors of the JAMA study acknowledge that routine EKGs in people 70 and younger without symptoms of heart disease don't make sense, since in them the test is often inaccurate and more likely to lead to unnecessary and expensive follow-up tests and treatment than needed care… [E]ven when an EKG does identify people at higher risk, they would still be urged to do what they are already urged to do: control high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lose excess weight, manage diabetes, quit smoking, and consider low-doses of aspirin…
For details, see our advice on detecting and treating heart disease, including Ratings of heart-screening tests and a calculator to estimate your risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.
Also, read more about our participation in the Choosing Wisely campaign—and what the New York Times said about it in an editorial.
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Summer Temperature Swings May Harm Elderly

(WebMD Health News) Extreme summer temperature swings may be a health threat for people ages 65 and older, a 20-year study shows.
Those kinds of big temperature swings are becoming more common, according to some climate models.
"It means we probably should be more concerned about climate change because there may be some significant health effects directly associated with the increasing variability of weather," says researcher Joel Schwartz, PhD,
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This year's tick season will be really bad

(MSNBC.com) According to Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., this is poised to be an especially bad tick season, because of the way the white-footed mouse population was affected by a great acorn season two years ago, and a bad acorn season this past year…
"Prevention is the key," says Dr. Wormser, who points out that it's much easier to take a few precautions in advance than deal with Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses after the fact. Here are his top strategies for preventing tick bites:
1. Stay away from tall grass, bushy shrubs and areas where there's a lot of leaf litter…
2. Use insect repellant on your exposed skin (other than your hands and face)…
3. After you've been outside and potentially exposed to ticks, take a shower or a bath…
4. Do a tick check… "If you can remove the tick within 24 hours of it biting you, you usually don't contract any of the related diseases."…
Once you pull out the tick with tweezers, Dr. Wormser recommends treating the area with a topical antibacterial (like Bacitracin) and observing the area for at least a month. "Typically a rash would develop 7-14 days after your remove the tick," he says, so if you have a rash right away, it's probably a reaction to the bite itself, rather than Lyme disease. In addition to watching out for a rash, you should make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms like headaches or fevers that don't seem to be related to a cold, says Dr. Wormser.
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No Posting today, April 13

Technical problems, sorry.

Death and Taxes: Accidents Mount on IRS Filing Day

(Bloomberg) Death and taxes aren’t only certain, they also seem to share a same deadline in the U.S., according to a study that points to the role of stress in fatal accidents.
Deaths from traffic accidents around April 15, traditionally the last day to file individual income taxes in the U.S., rose 6 percent on average on each of the last 30 years of tax filing days compared with a day during the week prior and a week later, according to research…
Even allowing Americans to file their taxes electronically hasn’t negated the crash trend, lead researcher Donald Redelmeier said. The findings suggest stress, lack of sleep, alcohol use and less tolerance to other drivers on tax deadline day may contribute to an increase in deaths on the road, Redelmeier said.
Community: There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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Everyday Stress Can Shut Down the Brain's Chief Command Center

(Scientific American) Freezing under stress, a common experience for all of us at some point in our life, has its roots in a loss of control over “executive functions” that allow us to control our emotions.
Prefrontal cortical areas, which serve as the brain’s executive command centers, normally hold our emotions in check by sending signals to tone down activity in primitive brain systems.
Under even everyday stresses, the prefrontal cortex can shut down, allowing the amyg­dala, a locus for regulating emotional activity, to take over, inducing mental paralysis and panic.
Researchers are probing further the physiology of acute stress and are considering behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions to help us retain composure when the going gets tough.
Community: There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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How Stress Influences Disease: Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit

(Science Daily) Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. For example, psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. But, until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health.
A research team … has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response.
Community: There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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Being Bullied Impacts Monkey Immune System

(LiveScience) The stress of being the new kid on the block may cause changes to the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to getting sick, finds a new study on monkeys.
Researchers knew that social stress of being the low female on the dominance totem pole induces social stress in monkeys, but Jenny Tung, an associate professor at Duke University, wanted to see how this stress impacted them physically…
"We were able to find that with changes in social environment, you see the gene-expression pattern seems to change with it. If you can improve your social environment, then that gene signature seems to go away too," Tung said. This means that by improving their social status, the monkeys could also improve their health.
Previous research has also shown the effects of social stress in humans, including increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. Humans could very well also experience immune system changes in response to increased levels of social stress, Tung said.
Community: We’ve also seen that people who are discriminated against are stressed. So let’s stop discriminating—and bullying. And there are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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Symptoms That Mimic Epilepsy Linked to Stress, Poor Coping Skills

(Science Daily)  Based on their clinical experience and observations, a team of Johns Hopkins physicians and psychologists say that more than one-third of the patients admitted to The Johns Hopkins Hospital's inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit for treatment of intractable seizures have been discovered to have stress-triggered symptoms rather than a true seizure disorder.
These patients -- returning war veterans, mothers in child-custody battles and over-extended professionals alike -- have what doctors are calling psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES). Their display of uncontrollable movements, far-off stares or convulsions, Johns Hopkins researchers say, are not the result of the abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that characterize epilepsy, but instead appear to be stress-related behaviors that mimic and are misdiagnosed as the neurological disorder…
In the past, behaviors like PNES were called "hysteria." Now they are often considered by psychiatrists as part of a "conversion" disorder, in which the patient unconsciously converts emotional dysfunction into physical symptoms…
People with PNES can spend years in treatment for epilepsy, say [the researchers], who also report that neurologists may be misdiagnosing PNES patients by misreading their EEGs.
Community: There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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Sticking With a Job You Hate Can Make You Sick

(BusinessNewsDaily) Staying at a job you hate may affect more than just your happiness.  New research finds that employees who stay at jobs out of a feeling of obligation are prone to several health problems, including exhaustion, stress and burnout…
The research … found that employees who stayed at organizations out of either a feeling of obligation or a perceived lack of other job options were more likely than other employees to experience mental and physical health problems. Researchers based their findings on a study of 260 workers from a variety of industries.
The research also found that people with higher self-esteem were more greatly affected by a lack of employment options.
Community: There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
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Recipes

Cooking Light:
Healthy on a Budget
Still not convinced that flavor and nutrition can work their way into a tight food budget? Let our editors help, guiding you to the best store-brand products and providing delicious yet inexpensive recipes.
20-Minute Side Dishes
Make a side to match any kind of main in 20 minutes or less with these great recipes.
10 Snack Mix Recipes
Kids (of all ages) want sugar and salt and crunch. You want them to eat better. Here, 10 formulas.
Superfast Chicken and Prosciutto Salad with Arugula
A weekday dinner gets very easy and very tasty with this standout salad.
MyRecipes.com:
Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto
Gnocchi--small Italian potato dumplings--are a hearty alternative to pasta. While making gnocchi from scratch could take more than an hour, premade vacuum-packed dumplings cook in a few minutes.
EatingWell:
Toasted Quinoa Salad with Scallops & Snow Peas
This scallop-studded quinoa salad gets an exciting texture from crunchy snow peas, red bell pepper and scallions. Feel free to substitute shrimp or thin slices of chicken for the scallops.
Washington Post:
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Add Flavor to Foods With Basil

(SouthBeachDiet.com) Looking for a way to boost the flavor of your meals? Basil might be the answer. This delicious herb is rich in calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C and it can be enjoyed on all Phases of the South Beach Diet. Fresh basil is used whole, torn, or chopped in salads, egg dishes, and in sauces for pastas. Dried basil, on the other hand, is perfect for baked chicken or fish and in soups…
To keep basil fresh, put the stalks in a jar of water, like a bouquet of flowers, and keep outside the refrigerator. (Basil leaves turn brown when refrigerated.) The basil will last for about four days. Dried basil can be placed in a container and kept in a cool, dry place.
Community: Fresh basil is infinitely better than dried. Mr. Many Years Young makes a pesto with fresh basil and pine nuts that is just wonderful.
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Easy Foods to Grow Without a Garden

(Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D., EatingWell) I have never had a garden. For the past several years I’ve lived in small urban spaces with little to no outdoor room. I have often yearned to grow things, but haven’t had much of an idea of how to get started. So when I started editing stories in EatingWell Magazine about ways to grow food in your kitchen or with little outdoor space, I was stoked—no more excuses not to grow some of my own food!...
1. Microgreens
Microgreens are the first tender shoots of plants like collard greens, beet greens and mustard greens…
2. Salad Greens
If you have a porch or some bit of outdoor space, you can get some salad greens growing in a container…
3. Scallions
Plant them in a garden or container and snip the greens as you need them.
4. Herbs
Growing your favorite herbs in a pot on your kitchen windowsill makes it easy to have fresh herbs on hand easy…
5. Mushrooms
Try an easy-to-use mushroom kit, which lets you grow mushrooms in a nicely contained indoor box… Kits yield up to two pounds, with the first crop ready for harvest in 10 days.
Read more, including specific instructions for these items.
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Rise of Superbugs Spurs U.S. Rule for Antibiotic Prescriptions for Animals

(Bloomberg) Farmers will need prescriptions to get antibiotics for their livestock and the drugs should only be given when medically necessary to avoid overuse that can foster resistance, U.S. regulators said [Wednesday].
The Food and Drug Administration also suggested in three papers … that drugmakers change their labels to remove production uses of antibiotics, including for weight gain and accelerated growth. Even though farmers will need prescriptions for the antibiotics, they aren’t bound by the new guidelines to restrict nonmedical uses of the drugs.
Community: Voluntary compliance. Yeah, that works so well.
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Cleveland Clinic in Ohio Chided by Consumer Group Over On-Site McDonald’s

(Bloomberg) The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio doesn’t hire smokers, banned trans fats from the food it serves and took sugary soft drinks out of vending machines as part of an effort to emphasize the health in health care. McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) may be going next.
Corporate Accountability International chided 20 health- care facilities, including the Cleveland Clinic and seven children’s hospitals, for having the fast-food chain on their sites. The consumer group urged the hospitals in a letter yesterday to end their contracts with McDonald’s and “stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health.”
McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant operator, has introduced items including apple slices, yogurt and salads to provide healthy offerings to customers concerned about obesity and nutrition. The changes won’t be enough to keep the restaurant at the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top- rated hospitals, when its 20-year lease soon expires, said Eileen Sheil, a clinic spokeswoman.
“We feel as a health-care institution we should walk the talk,” Sheil said today in a telephone interview. “We are doing everything in our power to do that.”
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Social ties have mixed impact on encouraging healthy behaviors in low-income areas

(Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) In low-income, minority communities, tight-knit social connections -- with family members, friends, and neighbors -- can lead people to eat healthy and be physically active, but in some cases it may actually be an obstacle to a healthy lifestyle, according to new research by investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health.
To account for this paradox, researchers theorize that for people made vulnerable by low income and poor access to services, the demands of social responsibilities -- being a single parent or caregiver to an ill or elderly relative, for example -- can deprive them of the time and energy to adopt good health habits, although further research is needed to verify that hypothesis, investigators say…
The findings present a mixed picture of the benefits and potential downsides of social ties as they relate to a healthy lifestyle. People with many close friends, for example, tended to eat more servings of fruit and vegetables per day than those with fewer friends. On the other hand, people with strong relationships with many family members tended to consume more sugary drinks and fast food than others did.
"Social relationships are critical for anyone's well-being," [ the study's lead author, Sara L. Tamers, PhD, MPH,] remarks. "But for people in difficult economic circumstances, those same relationships may be a burden that limits their ability to eat right and get enough exercise. More research is needed to determine if this is indeed the case -- and, if so, how we can tailor community health programs to these circumstances."
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Generations Faring Well in Expanded Households

(Philip Moeller, The Best Life) More than 50 million Americans, including rising numbers of seniors, live in households with at least two adult generations, and often three. That's approaching 1 in 6 Americans—a significant percentage. The increases were driven largely by the Great Recession, with most of the gains occurring between 2007 and 2009. At the same time, economic and housing problems have resulted in low rates of migration and new household formation…
In a "forward to the past" finding, the Pew Research Center has reported in several studies since 2010 that the number of multigenerational households has reversed a century-old trend. Since the 1900s, it notes, Americans have moved away from home when they reached adulthood, and generally they've stayed away. Likewise, the percentage of people over age 65 who live alone had been on a 100-year upward curve…
Pew found that most people have benefitted economically from the trend and also looked favorably on the experience. The different generations have tended to pitch in to make ends meet, both financially and in terms of household chores and caregiving.
"Elderly persons may also benefit economically from multigenerational living arrangements," it added…
Whether or not the declining percentage of older Americans living alone is a sustainable trend, there is less uncertainty about the adverse health effects of living alone. Pew's research supports other findings that people who live alone—particularly men—are more unhappy, stressed, and less healthy than seniors who live with others. Across the board, Pew found in a survey, they also spend less time with family, less time on hobbies, drive less, use the Internet less, and have more trouble sleeping than seniors who do not live alone.
Community: I hereby predict that as the Baby Boomers age, older adults who don’t have much family will find ways to share living quarters with each other—with or without “benefits”.
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To Fight Alzheimer's, Research Should Be Priority No. 1

(Bloomberg Business Week) [Yesterday] the World Health Organization released a downbeat report on dementia that says there is a new case every four seconds somewhere in the world, and that predicts the number of cases worldwide will roughly triple by 2050… There is a fatalistic tone to the document, in that it focuses on coping with the disease rather than preventing it. The WHO recommends early diagnosis; raising public awareness and reducing stigma; and providing better care as well as more support to caregivers.
The closest the report comes to calling for a cure is near the end. In the leaden language of international bureaucrats, the report says, “A balance must be struck between research into treatment, care and cure on the one hand and pharmacological and psychosocial intervention approaches on the other.”
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or reduce the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. Why aren't the "experts" concentrating on prevention?
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Cost of aging rising faster than expected: IMF

(Reuters) People worldwide are living three years longer than expected on average, pushing up the costs of aging by 50 percent, and governments and pension funds are ill prepared, the International Monetary Fund said.
Already the cost of caring for aging baby boomers is beginning to strain government budgets, particularly in advanced economies where by 2050 the elderly will match the numbers of workers almost one for one. The IMF study shows that the problem is global and that longevity is a bigger risk than thought.
"If everyone in 2050 lived just three years longer than now expected, in line with the average underestimation of longevity in the past, society would need extra resources equal to 1 to 2 percent of GDP per year," it said in a study to be released in its World Economic Outlook next week.
For private pension plans in the United States alone, an extra three years of life would add 9.0 percent to liabilities, the IMF said in urging governments and the private sector to prepare now for the risk of longer lifespans.
Community: And just when there are fewer ice floes, due to global warming!
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Study: 20% of U.S. healthcare wasted

(UPI) Twenty percent of the more than $2.2 trillion spent on healthcare in the United States each year is wasted, two healthcare experts suggest.
"The savings potentially achievable from systematic, comprehensive and cooperative pursuit of even a fractional reduction in waste are far higher than from more direct and blunter cuts in care and coverage," [Dr. Donald] Berwick said in a statement.
"The need is urgent to bring U.S. healthcare costs into a sustainable range for both public and private payers. Commonly, programs to contain costs use cuts, such as reductions in payment levels, benefit structures and eligibility. A less harmful strategy would reduce waste, not value-added care. The opportunity is immense."
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Panel Proposes A New Tax To Pay For Public Health

(NPR News) It may sound counterintuitive, but a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine has concluded that the best way to slow the nation’s breakneck spending on medical care is to impose a tax on every health care transaction…
The public health infrastructure has taken a hit during the recent economic downturn: Roughly one-fifth of the local public health workforce has been lost through attrition and layoffs. Renewing that infrastructure could have a profound impact on slowing the rate of growth in health spending, the panel argues.
For example, public health measures — including community-based outreach — could help reduce adult obesity by 50 percent, the panel says. Sounds ambitious, but as the panel notes, that’s about the same relative reduction in smoking rates that resulted from the “public health community’s multifaceted attack on smoking” in the past few decades. It would also save the U.S. an estimated $58 billion in health care spending.
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The Misconceptions About Where Our Tax Dollars Go

(Chad Stone, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) With tax day fast approaching, it's worth remembering why we collect taxes. It's to pay for things we want government to do.
Americans don't like government spending in the abstract; a Gallup poll shows that they think about half of all federal spending and over 40 percent of state spending is wasted. When it comes to specifics, however, most Americans oppose cuts in Social Security, Medicare, defense, education, and antipoverty programs while favoring cuts in foreign aid.
These poll results show not only how schizophrenic Americans are about government spending, but also how little they know about where their taxes go. Those facts are laid out in two "policy basics" documents from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one on where federal taxes go and one on where state taxes go.
At the federal level, most of the budget goes toward defense, Social Security, and major health programs, as the chart below shows. Programs that most Americans oppose cutting—Social Security, defense, education and Medicare (which accounts for almost two-thirds of the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP slice of the pie)—plus interest on the debt account for about three out of every five federal dollars. Only about 1 percent of the budget goes toward foreign aid. Knowing these facts, would Americans still think that more than half the federal budget is waste that could be cut away without seriously harming government programs they value?...
Some grumbling about our tax bills is natural at this time of the year. But Americans might want to take a closer look at how their government actually spends their tax money and remember the observation of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., that "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society."
Community: Tea Partiers don’t want a civilized society? I think they do. They just don’t want to pay for it. They’re freeloaders.
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Time to Include Aspirin in Cancer Prevention Guidelines?

(Science Daily) A new report by American Cancer Society scientists says new data showing aspirin's potential role in reducing the risk of cancer death bring us considerably closer to the time when cancer prevention can be included in clinical guidelines for the use of aspirin in preventative care. The report … says even a 10% reduction in overall cancer incidence beginning during the first 10 years of treatment could tip the balance of benefits and risks favorably in average-risk populations.
Current guidelines for the use of aspirin in disease prevention consider only its cardiovascular benefits, weighed against the potential harm from aspirin-induced bleeding. While daily aspirin use has also been convincingly shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and recurrence of adenomatous polyps, these benefits alone do not outweigh harms from aspirin-induced bleeding in average-risk populations.
But recently published secondary analyses of cardiovascular trials have provided the first randomized evidence that daily aspirin use may also reduce the incidence of all cancers combined, even at low doses (75-100 mg daily).
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Use caution before starting a daily aspirin regimen

(USA Today) Aspirin may be a cheap, century-old drug made from plants known for many centuries to have medicinal properties, including pain and fever relief. Yet in 2012, doctors are still figuring out how to best use it, and how to offer patients its benefits without exposing them to unacceptable risks…
The easiest calls are for people who have had heart attacks, clotting strokes, bypass surgery or blocked arteries. They should take daily aspirin "unless there's a good reason not to," such as a history of ulcers or aspirin allergy, says Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic and co-author of Heart 411: The Only Guide to Heart Health You'll Ever Need.
An example of the potential benefit: Heart attack survivors were 26% less likely to have another attack when they took a daily aspirin in one research review published in 2008.
But for people without clear cardiovascular risks, benefits often are outweighed by bleeding risks, from nose bleeds to stomach ulcers and sometimes devastating hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes, Becker says.
Studies suggest many people with relatively low heart risks are taking aspirin inappropriately, and risking those bleeding crises, Becker and Nissen agree.
Community: There’s a history of heart attacks and stroke in my family. I take low-dose aspirin for that reason. But I cut my own pills in fourths. The cost per mg of baby aspirin or specifically formulated low-dose aspirin is much, much higher than the regular size pills. I have become my frugal French grandmother.
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Genital warts tied to range of cancers

(Reuters Health) People who've ever had genital warts may have a somewhat higher risk of several types of cancer -- possibly including common skin cancers, a new study suggests…
Genital warts are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). It's well known that some of those HPV strains -- some of which are the focus of vaccines -- can also promote tumors.
In most people, the immune system is able to clear HPV infection fairly quickly. But some people harbor persistent infections, and a chronic infection with a cancer-linked strain can eventually lead to cancer in some cases.
Community: We’ve seen before that viruses may cause cancer.
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Eliminating the ‘good Cholesterol’ Receptor May Fight Breast Cancer

(Science Daily) Removing a lipoprotein receptor known as SR-BI may help protect against breast cancer, [suggest] new findings…
In vitro and mouse studies revealed that depletion of the SR-BI resulted in a decrease in breast cancer cell growth.
SR-BI is a receptor for high-density lipoproteins (HDL) that are commonly referred to as "good cholesterol" because they help transport cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver for excretion…
Environmental factors, such as diet and obesity, have long been considered risk factors for the high breast cancer incidence in the Western world, and epidemiologic evidence indicates that cancer patients display abnormal levels of cholesterol carrying lipoproteins.
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