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

Survey says: You can avoid family feuds during holidays

(Chicago Sun-Times) To avoid conflict during the holidays, it’s important to seek out common ground instead of dredging up past grievances during get-togethers…
However, if you feel that detente is not possible within your family you might consider another option. Maybe it’s time for new celebrating traditions limited to immediate family and friends who might otherwise be alone.
According to social psychologist Dr. Susan Newman, author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever, there is still another way to avoid dysfunctional family gatherings. The solution lies in one simple word: no. It eliminates the need to push yourself to the max or to spend the holidays somewhere other than where you want to be.
“Learn to put yourself and your family first and say no to family gatherings you know will likely become toxic — then don’t obsess about the consequences,” said Newman. “Most people are understanding, especially during the holidays. And, if they’re not, do you really want them in your life? Remind yourself daily that ‘no’ is extremely liberating and needs no explanation. And to say it is your right.”
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Making Your Holidays Special

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) Rituals - activities that link past, present and future and help us to step out of ordinary time - play a strong and important role in emotional health…
To make your holiday gatherings more meaningful, consider reinvigorating old traditions and creating your own holiday rituals. Handmade presents - a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones while creating the treasures - often express more meaning than generic, store-bought gifts. Having everyone share a favorite thought of holidays past can fill a room with laughter and good memories. Taking a moment before a meal to remember loved ones who have passed on can be deeply meaningful.
Even new rituals can be rewarding; think of something you would like your family to carry on throughout the years, and put the ritual in place.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

When good cheer makes you say, 'good grief'

(Chicago Tribune) It's the season of merriment and joy — or at least that's what every TV commercial, magazine ad and thousands of other messages will keep telling us over the next month.
But what if you don't feel buoyant and twinkly? If you've lost a loved one in the past year, the non-stop bombardment of good cheer can make you feel even more lonely and out of sync with the world.
[Therapist Ruth Field:] It's important to acknowledge what we feel badly about. I'd encourage (the survivor) to just get it all out there. Imagine that (the deceased) is sitting with you and have that conversation…
It's important to have every family member weigh in on this ... and do it before you make your final plans. Ask yourself, "Who do I want to be this year?" Maybe I can't handle being a partygoer, but I can be a helper and work in a soup kitchen.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Five Slimming Solutions for Surviving Holiday Parties

(Appetite for Health) Tis the season to…gain weight?  Holiday time is often an excuse to indulge in fattening fare, sip on caloric beverages, and forgo the gym.  In fact, research shows that the number of Americans who exercise regularly drops to its lowest point during December.  Fortunately, with some strategic planning before your next holiday affair, you can save hundreds of calories–without feeling deprived.  Employ these five waist-friendly tips throughout the holiday season to ward off weight gain:
Skip the chips and dip:…
Instead, have a high protein snack, like a nonfat Greek yogurt or handful of nuts, before the party.  This will help to curb hunger so you aren’t tempted to overindulge…
Sip on spritzers and seltzer:
Instead of eggnog and other caloric drinks, opt for a white wine spritzer…
Pile on the greens:…
When making your plate, fill half with vegetables first.  This way, you will have less room for the more indulgent fare, while still being able to try your favorite holiday classics…
Bring a low-cal dessert
Avoid BLT’s:
I’m not talking about the sandwich here–BLT’s stand for bites, licks, and tastes.  Did you know each little BLT has around 25 calories?...
Have a sense of awareness of your hunger, stick to your game plan, and don’t deviate!
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]


Greek Steak Pitas
Serve a Mediterranean-inspired meal in minutes. These stackers are stuffed with bright flavors including Greek seasoning, lemon juice, red onion, and feta cheese. Creamy hummus rounds out this meal.
Creamy Turnip Soup
In this recipe, the humble turnip is transformed into a rich turnip soup made creamy with just 1 tablespoon of butter. Serve it as a starter or side soup. The mini salad on top is optional, but we love the bit of texture from the greens and pop of flavor from the vinaigrette.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Bread 'can keep fresh for 60 days'

(The Telegraph) American researchers claim to have found a way to keep bread fresh for 60 days by "zapping" it in a special microwave…
The microwave designed by MicroZap, a private company founded by academics in Texas, was first intended to get rid of salmonella and MRSA. However, when researchers tested it on bread they discovered that they were able to keep it fresh far beyond the ten day period in which mould would normally set in…
Unfortunately, the technology is not quite ready for the home kitchen: the microwave is currently about the length of a small car.
Community: Will the bread makers buy the machines? Probably not, since it would reduce their sales.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Higher Meat & Poultry Prices Poised To Lift Retail Food Prices In Early 2013

(The Supermarket Guru) Based on the upward trend seen in wholesale food prices recently, The Food Institute projects that retail food prices will move marginally higher in early 2013, more closely mimicking that upward trend than in recent months. Nothing extraordinary is projected at this time in the overall retail price index for food at home overall, although certain categories will be impacted more than others.
Higher beef and poultry prices will account for a good portion of the overall advance as noted below. Pork prices may add to that advance later in 2013 as could anticipated hikes in processed vegetable prices and dairy.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Do Older Adults Need Vitamins, Supplements?

(WebMD Health News) At least half of adults age 65 and above take daily vitamins and other supplements, but only a fraction actually need them, says an Emory University expert. The majority of older adults, he says, can improve their diet to get needed nutrients…
Duffy MacKay, ND, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group representing dietary supplement makers, agrees that starting with a good diet is the best way to get needed nutrients. But he says that is not always reality, especially for older adults who may have obstacles such as a reduced appetite…
In particular, he says, older adults may lack calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium, and fiber. Changing the diet can be difficult for older people, he says. Living on fixed incomes may make fresh produce too costly. Some older adults don't know how to cook. For others, ill-fitting dentures or a reduced appetite may make eating difficult. "Where dietary changes are difficult, a dietary supplement can be a responsible, reasonable solution," he says.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Vitamin D Tied to Women's Cognitive Performance

(Science Daily) Two new studies … show that vitamin D may be a vital component for the cognitive health of women as they age.
Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to research conducted by a team … at the Angers University Hospital in France.
Similarly, investigators … at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis found that low vitamin D levels among older women are associated with higher odds of global cognitive impairment and a higher risk of global cognitive decline.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Mistletoe may help treat colon cancer

(UPI) Extract of mistletoe could either assist chemotherapy or act as an alternative to chemotherapy as a treatment for colon cancer, researchers in Australia said…
"Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it's important for us to understand the science behind it," [Professor Gordon] Howarth said in a statement.
[Researcher Zahra] Lotfollahi found one of the mistletoe extracts -- from a species known as Fraxini, which grows on ash trees -- was highly effective against colon cancer cells in cell culture and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

HPV tied to throat cancers: study

(Reuters Health) A sexually transmitted infection usually thought of in connection to cervical cancer is also tied to a five times greater risk of cancer of the vocal chords or voice box, a new report suggests…
Along with tobacco and alcohol, having a poor diet and exposure to certain chemicals can increase a person's risk of laryngeal and other head and neck cancers.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

CDC warns about bedbug pesticides

(Consumer Reports) If you've got a bedbug infestation, you probably want to do whatever necessary to get rid of them, including spraying your home with pesticides. But earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about a steep rise in injuries from misuse of pesticides to control the bugs.
Health effects ranged from mild to serious, including one death. Using pesticides that are designed for outdoor use indoors or using too much pesticide were often the cause.
Read more, including tips from the CDC on fighting bedbugs safely.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Vaccine Bark Equals Its Bite

(MedPage Today) A virus that commonly infects dogs, causing "kennel cough," may serve as a useful delivery vector for immunizations against influenza and other infections in humans, researchers reported…
The researchers … emphasized the safety of the virus, in that most humans carry antibodies for it without experiencing illness. In addition, it is an RNA virus, so would have no potential unintended consequences of host cell DNA recombination. Efforts are under way to explore this vector as a possible means of immunization for H5N1 influenza – bird flu – as well as for tuberculosis and malaria.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

New Poster Child for Disease-Mongering?

(MedPage Today) One of our readers tipped us off to what he called “a new poster child for overtreatment.”  We’ll call it disease-mongering.
It’s the website of the drug company promoting Zicam.
The new pitch promotes Zicam for “pre-colds.”
What’s a Pre-Cold™?, the website asks, anticipating our astute question.
Well, as you can see, it’s a term that the drug company trademarked – they thought it was that clever…
[W]e ALL have signs of this monstrous pre-disease.  So we are ALL potential customers. And we should ALL start buying and using this product at the first sign – making all of us worried “patients” for a few extra days. Or is it just a few? The span of Pre-colds is, conveniently, never defined. We could take this throughout the year!
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Public Health Programs No Match for Sandy

(David Nash, MD, MBA, FACP, MedPage Today) Of all the complex, costly, and downright intimidating issues in U.S. healthcare today, Super Storm Sandy tops my list as the scariest…
I was truly shocked to learn that the international humanitarian aid group, Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders had set up a makeshift clinic in the Rockaways.
MSF sets up emergency clinics in war-torn, poverty-stricken countries that lack sufficiently trained healthcare personnel and medical supplies. They dispatch doctors to Third World countries like Rwanda, Chechnya, Haiti, and Republic of Congo, not the U.S. – at least not until now…
Sandy will not be the last natural disaster in the U.S., and, for me, the take-away message is crystal clear: New York and other large – especially coastal – cities need to go back to the drawing board and come up with better ways to assure that the healthcare needs of their most vulnerable citizens can be met when large-scale, complex disasters strike.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Falling off the fiscal cliff could hurt your health

(CNN) If President Barack Obama and Congress cannot reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff, economic experts agree it would be devastating.
It would likely send the country back into recession, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and some 3.4 million jobs would be lost. And ultimately, it could hurt your physical and emotional health.
That's because the part of the government that handles health-related programs -- Medicare, medical research, food safety inspectors -- all would be automatically cut starting January 2 if there is no agreement on the Budget Control Act. If not amended in time, the move would abruptly remove $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.
Community: Wrong, CNN, economic experts don’t agree that allowing the automatic tax increases and spending cuts to take place would be devastating. In fact, some believe that it would be a good thing. I am truly sick and tired of daily, weekly, and monthly crises. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another dang thing!
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

The Role of Medicare and Medicaid in the Deficit Negotiations

(Laura D’Andrea Tyson, New York Times) [T]he argument for including Medicare and Medicaid in a framework for long-run deficit containment is compelling. The single most important factor behind the projected growth in federal spending is the growth in health care spending, driven primarily by the growth in Medicare spending per beneficiary.
The outlook has already improved as a result of significant changes in the delivery and payment of health care services in the Affordable Care Act. As a result of these changes, growth in Medicare spending per enrollee is projected to slow to 3.1 percent a year during the next decade, about the same as the annual growth of nominal G.D.P. per capita and about two percentage points slower than the annual growth of private insurance premiums per beneficiary.
Speeding up the pace of the Affordable Care Act changes along with others, such as reducing subsidies for high-income beneficiaries and drug benefits and introducing small co-pays on home health-care services, would mean even larger Medicare savings.
A “structural reform” popular among Republican deficit hawks like Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to convert Medicare to a premium-support or voucher system would be counterproductive and would drive up both spending per beneficiary and overall costs in the health care system.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Key Group Rejects Calls To Limit Seniors' Medigap Policies

(Kaiser Health News) A key group of state insurance commissioners dealt a blow Friday to proposals that would shrink Medicare spending by asking seniors who have supplemental Medigap policies to pay more out of pocket for their healthcare. 
The health law requires the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to examine whether seniors would use less Medicare services if the most popular Medigap plans were less generous. 
“Everything we’ve looked at has shown that increasing cost-sharing does stop people from seeking medical care,” said Bonnie Burns, training and policy specialist at California Health Advocates who serves on an NAIC committee that has studied the issue for more than a year. “The problem is they stop using both necessary and unnecessary care.”
Community: They really are trying to kill us off, my friends.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Essential Oils Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

(Science Daily) The scents which permeate our health spas from aromatic essential oils may provide more benefits than just a sense of rest and well-being.
For according to a new study…, the essential oils which form the basis of aromatherapy for stress relief are also reported to have a beneficial effect on heart rate and blood pressure following short-term exposure -- and may therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, on the downside, those beneficial effects were reversed when exposure to essential oils lasted more than an hour.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Beans Are Good for the Heart

(The People’s Pharmacy) The best diet for people with diabetes has been controversial for decades. Many organizations recommend that people with diabetes limit their consumption of fat. As a result, the diet tends to be rather high in carbohydrates. Some experts believe that this dietary pattern increases insulin resistance and makes control of type 2 diabetes more challenging.
A new study of 120 individuals with type 2 diabetes shows that a low glycemic-index diet containing a cup of beans, chickpeas or lentils daily can help lower blood pressure, modestly improve blood sugar control and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Milk Drinkers May Yet Get Heart-Healthy Omega-3s by the Glass

(Science Daily) [F]ood science researchers at Virginia Tech may have reeled milk into the omega-3 delivery system, showing it is possible to incorporate fish oil into milk and dairy-based beverages in amounts sufficient to promote heart health, without destroying the product's taste or limiting its lifespan.
Even better, the milk passes the sniff test. Twenty-five volunteers evaluated one-ounce cups of standard 2 percent milk alongside samples of skim milk containing 78 parts butter oil to 22 parts fish oil in institutionally approved study conditions.
"We couldn't find any aroma differences," said Susan E. Duncan , a professor of food science and technology.
Community: Despite recent announcements, "After decades of studying omega-3 fatty acids, it's clear that they have value in primary prevention of heart disease," according to an expert.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Cost becomes bigger question in treating heart disease

(Reuters) The cost of treating heart disease has become a key factor in decisions by U.S. cardiologists grappling with the nation's No. 1 killer.
Record prices for drugs and devices, reduced reimbursement by insurance plans and the looming full implementation of the healthcare reform law are convincing doctors to consider not only novel treatments, but also how to get the most bang for the buck…
"We have an unsustainable economic model in healthcare delivery in the U.S.," said Dr. Elliott Antman, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the AHA Scientific Sessions Committee. "We all have to be conscious of ways we can be more cost efficient, and that includes understanding what the big breakthroughs mean in terms of cost."
Community: Preventing heart disease decreases both high costs and a lot of human suffering.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

More Recent Research on Heart Health and Heart Disease

(MedPage Today) Unemployment is a significant risk factor for acute myocardial infarction, results of a large cohort study suggested, although the risk fades with joblessness lasting more than a year.
(MedPage Today) Atrial fibrillation may raise the risk of sudden cardiac death, according to findings from two large population-based cohorts.
(Science Daily) Relatives of young people who have died suddenly from a heart-related problem are at greatly increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease according to a study… The authors of the study say these findings have two major implications; firstly, they strongly support the fact that autopsies should always be performed in cases of young sudden unexplained death; and secondly, since the involved diseases are all treatable if identified in time, the findings suggest that close relatives of these victims should be screened to detect those who would benefit from preventive treatment.
Community: We could all benefit from preventive treatment for heart disease.
(MedPage Today) Escherichia coli might disrupt the gastrointestinal tract, but it won't lead to major cardiac problems down the road, according to a community-based cohort study.
(Science Daily) [Researchers] found that a shortage of the genetic factor KLF4, which regulates endothelial cells lining the interior of blood vessels, makes the lining more prone to the buildup of harmful plaque and fat deposits. In addition they showed that the deficiency of KLF4 also made the blood vessel more susceptible to clot formation. The plaque buildup (called atherosclerosis) narrows vessels and provides the foundation for clot formation (called thrombosis) that leads to heart attack and stroke… The researchers are now developing tools to identify small molecules that increase KLF4 levels.
More . . .


Give Your Favorite Junk Foods a Makeover
[Y]ou don't have to swear off your favorite foods to keep your heart healthy. You just have to know how to make small changes in order to enjoy them in healthier ways. We've got strategies to lighten up seven of the worst junk foods for your heart so they can have a (small) place in your diet.
Cincinnati Turkey Chili
Ladle bowlfuls of inspired Midwestern chili for your next casual dinner party or football gathering.
Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Salmon
These crisp quinoa cakes spiked with smoked salmon and topped with lemony sour cream make a lovely appetizer.
Huffington Post:
Homemade Groceries: 10 Do-It-Yourself Recipes
We decided to take a look at some of the healthful foods that can be effectively made better at home, avoiding health hazards at every turn (just as long as you keep a sanitary kitchen!): Peanut Butter… Pickles… Tofu… Mustard… Yogurt… Whole Grain Bread… Fruit Roll-Ups… Flavored Oatmeal… Flavored Water… Granola Bars
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

U.S. diets not up to U.S. standards: study

(Reuters Health)  In a broad comparison of U.S. dietary standards and real Americans' eating habits, researchers found that people fall short of nutritional recommendations overall, but some groups are worse than others.
Among the findings, researchers said that children and the elderly seemed to eat a healthier diet than younger and middle-aged adults, and women had a better diet than men. Hispanics also tended to have better quality diets than either blacks or whites.
"I think it's a really important piece of science because it demonstrates what many of us suspected for a long time: there are many profound disparities in the American diet," said Gary Bennett, who was not involved with the new work but studies obesity prevention at Duke University.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Nuts And Seeds With Big Health Perks

(Dr. Lisa Young, nutritionist) While you may have been told to avoid nuts and seeds due to their high fat and caloric content, these tasty gems contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and are truly terrific to include in your diet. They contain protein, fiber, and plant stanols, which may help lower cholesterol, and antioxidants including vitamin E.
Research has found that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control total calories. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts aid in satiety and help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less during the day. Nut eaters have also been shown to have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely ate nuts.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Supplements' Effectiveness Not a Concern for Many

(MyHealthNewsDaily) Taking supplements is common among U.S. adults, and the most oft-cited reasons that people give for taking them are wanting to feel better, improve energy levels and boost the immune system, a new survey finds.
But these aims have little to do with measurable improvements to health, the researchers said. Moreover, most people taking supplements indicated that the supplements' proven effectiveness didn't matter to them — only 25 percent said they stop taking a supplement if it was found to be ineffective, according to the survey.
"Supplement users are unlikely to change behavior in response to statements from public health authorities about studies showing the ineffectiveness of particular supplements," the researchers wrote.
Community: Well, I take a number of supplements, but I don’t take any that I think aren’t going to be effective. Why waste the money?
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Painkillers May Protect Liver

(MedPage Today) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, especially aspirin, may help prevent serious liver problems, a large observational study suggested.
Aspirin users were 41% less likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma and 45% less likely to die from chronic liver disease than non-users, both statistically significant differences, Vikrant V. Sahasrabuddhe, MBBS, DrPH, of the National Cancer Institute…., and colleagues reported.
Other NSAIDs were also associated with reduced mortality from chronic liver disease, but not with less liver cancer.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Hot flashes may return after ending antidepressant

(Reuters Health) For about a third of women taking antidepressants to treat menopause symptoms, hot flashes and night sweats will return after discontinuing the drug, according to a new study.
"It's important for people to understand that...the benefit of the treatment is related to the duration of the treatment," said Dr. Hadine Joffe, lead author of the study. But that shouldn't discourage women from trying an antidepressant if they want to, she added.
"Just because symptoms come back after you stop it doesn't mean it didn't make a big difference when you took it," said Joffe.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Magnet Device Aids in Spinal Cord Injury

(MedPage Today) Precisely timed nerve stimulation in patients with spinal cord injuries improved their ability to use their hands, at least temporarily, researchers reported…
The researchers found that the stimulation process significantly increased the force the injured participants could produce, by about 20 percentage points over baseline within the first 20 minutes…
A similar effect, but with a more rapid onset, was seen in the healthy controls.
As well, the average time it took for injured participants to complete the peg test fell by about 15% points from baseline within the first 30 minutes, changes that again were significant…
"Human electrophysiology can be a powerful tool for developing therapies," Perez commented. "We need to explore new targets to improve rehabilitation strategies by taking advantage of our knowledge in human physiology and their mechanisms."
Community: I'm assuming that the kinds of magnets used in this research aren't the kind you can buy from the snake oil salesmen on the internet.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

CBO: Cigarette Tax Hike Would Cut Deficit

(MedPage Today) Increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 50 cents a pack would save lives and reduce the federal deficit even though people would be living longer on Medicare, a study found.
Raising the cigarette tax -- currently at $1.01 per pack -- would cause 1.4 million adults to quit smoking and save 10,000 lives in its first decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted. Those numbers would increase to 3 million and 200,000 respectively by 2085.
Despite an uptick in long-term health spending because more people would live longer, additional revenue from the cigarette and income taxes taken together "would lead to a net deficit reduction in the primary deficit in every year through 2085" -- because of the increased revenue generated by the tax itself and through more taxes being paid by people who would be working for a longer amount of time, James Baumgardner, PhD, deputy assistant director for health policy at the CBO, and colleagues wrote.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

More Workers Covered By Bosses’ Self-Insured Plans

(Kaiser Health News) The number of U.S. workers covered by self-insured health plans—in which their employer assumes the financial risk for health costs rather than paying insurance companies to do that—has grown steadily in recent years. But such plans are still primarily used by large companies, not small employers, a new study finds.
As of 2011, more than half of U.S. employees were covered under these self-insured plans, compared to about 41 percent in 1998, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. These plans can lower costs for employers by reducing administration, exempting them from state-mandated services, and allowing them to provide uniform coverage across state lines…
Businesses with less than 50 employees have not followed the same trend, with only 10.8 percent of private sector enrollees in self-insured plans in 2011. The number has remained generally around 12 percent since 1998, according to EBRI.
Community: Larger companies have more employees for spreading the risk. And spreading the risk is why we should have one national insurance plan that covers all of us. Medicare for everyone!
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Medicare: Did Obamacare secretly increase Part B premiums?

(Consumer Reports) Q. I heard that the Medicare Part B premium was going to go up to $120 in 2013 and $247 in 2014 as part of Obamacare, and that this was kept under wraps so as not to influence the outcome of the 2012 election. True or false?
A. I've been sitting on this question for awhile awaiting the announcement of the 2013 Medicare Part B premium. Now it's time to answer. And the answer is that everything you heard was a fiction.
Per a law that has been in effect now for 15 years and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Affordable Care Act, every fall Medicare sets the Part B premium for the coming calendar year at a level that will cover exactly 25 percent of Part B's projected costs. So right off you can see that there is no way that the health reform law, enacted in 2010, could have set premiums three and four years in advance, which, once again, it did not.
Medicare recently announced what the 2013 Part B premium will be. It's $104.90 (not $120). This represents about a five percent increase over 2012's premium of $99.90.
You didn't ask, but should also be aware that higher-income Medicare beneficiaries must pay more than this standard Part B premium, thanks to the same 2003 law that established Medicare Advantage and the Part D prescription drug benefit.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Insurers Join Former Adversaries to Publicize Health Law

(Bloomberg) Aetna Inc. (AET) and other insurers that initially fought President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul are reversing course and supporting the effort by funding a group planning to spend $100 million to help the uninsured get coverage under the law. Enroll America, a nonprofit created two years ago, has gathered support from the insurers that opposed the law and consumer organizations such as Washington-based Families USA that supported it. The new organization plans a broad-based educational campaign to make uninsured people aware of the health-care law’s benefits and help them sign up, said Ron Pollack, Enroll America’s chairman.
The group will reach out to the 43 million uninsured whose participation will help strengthen the funding formula that holds the 2010 Affordable Care Act together. The new customers are expected to help offset added costs for the insurers from new regulations and taxes included in the law.
“Business people in the end have to be pragmatic,” Robert Laszewski, a health insurance industry consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia, said of the companies’ efforts to help the law succeed. “The industry has gotten over it.”
Community: Would that Republicans in office would “get over it.” See below.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Analysis: Health Exchanges And The Litigation Landscape

(Kaiser Health News) [S]ome health law opponents … are urging Republican-led governments to refuse to set up the online insurance purchasing exchanges, which would, as the argument goes, make their residents ineligible for the tax credits and subsidies. They say that this step also would gut the so-called employer mandate, which the law says will take effect in states where residents are eligible for such assistance…
Health law critics theorize that by refusing to set up exchanges, states could also carve a hole in the provision that requires individuals to either obtain insurance or pay a tax as a consequence of choosing not to, which the Supreme Court upheld in June. And if states could disable both the employer mandate and part of the individual mandate, they could wreak havoc with the law's overall operation.
Indeed, if lots of states also refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion, as the Supreme Court ruled they can do without penalty, "the ACA may end up being fully applicable only in a portion of the United States," says David Rivkin, a Washington lawyer who spearheaded the constitutional challenges that fell one vote short of striking down the entire measure last summer…
The Obama administration and other ACA supporters dismiss these legal theories as far-fetched and view conservatives' broader hopes of crippling the entire law as wishful thinking. They say states have no power to limit the subsidies, the employer mandate, or the individual mandate; and, that if they did, the effect would be to block their own citizens from receiving large federal tax breaks and obtaining affordable health insurance.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

U.S. lays out plan for achieving worldwide AIDS-free generation

(Reuters) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday unveiled a game plan for achieving a global "AIDS-free generation," committing the United States to rapidly scaling up medical interventions that are beating back what once was seen as an unconquerable disease.
Clinton, announcing the next stage of the decade-long U.S. fight against AIDS around the world, said advances in drug treatment and prevention strategies had brought the end of the epidemic within reach.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Positive mental health boosts lifespan, study finds

(Emory University) People who are flourishing – both feeling happy and functioning well in their lives – are 60 percent less likely to die prematurely, finds a major study that followed more than 3,000 U.S. adults over 10 years.
"We've shown that, even when you factor in many other variables, if you are flourishing you have a dramatically lower risk of premature mortality, no matter what the cause of death," says lead author Corey Keyes, a sociologist at Emory University and a pioneer of positive psychology…
"What was most amazing to me was that the results held for all ages," Keyes says. "Even late in life, if you are flourishing you are significantly less likely to die prematurely."
Tobacco use and physical inactivity, behaviors associated in previous studies with people who have lower levels of emotional well-being, may partially explain how positive mental health affects mortality, Keyes says.
"We focus so much of our national health resources on treating mental illness, when it's actually the absence of well-being that is getting to us," Keyes says. "It may be common sense, but it's uncommon public policy to invest more in promoting well-being."
Community: Last year, “1-in-5 U.S. adults had mental illness.”
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Positive Outlook on Aging Helps Seniors Heal

(MedPage Today) Older patients who see the bright side of aging may be more likely to fully recover from severe disability, researchers found.
A positive stereotype about aging was associated with a 44% greater likelihood of recovery from severe disability versus negative stereotypes…, according to Becca Levy, PhD, … and colleagues.
Holding positive stereotypes in older age was also significantly associated with a slower rate of decline in activities of daily living… they wrote.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

Five secret de-agers

(Chatelaine) Five major factors cause aging. Here are the best ways to combat them:
1. Chronic inflammation
Secret de-ager: Healthy fats. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and flaxseeds all have anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Oxidative stress
Secret de-ager: Moderate exercise. Working out can boost antioxidant levels and destroy free radicals. Make sure not to overdo it or you risk increasing inflammation.
3. Glycation
Secret de-ager: Cut out high-fructose corn syrup. It’s a nasty form of refined sugar in processed foods. If a food has substances ending in -ose, skip it!
4. Methylation
Secret de-ager: Sunflower seeds. They’re loaded with folic acid, a mighty methylation regulator.
5. Immune impairment
Secret de-ager: Clean hands! Good old-fashioned soap and water is the single best way to keep your immune system strong.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

The Ultimate Anti-Aging Vitamin

(RealAge.com) Now that the days are shorter than a teenager's attention span, you may be missing something big (other than the opportunity to look cool in sunglasses while driving). Namely, vitamin D3, which your body makes when sunlight hits your skin…
Without D3, you're vulnerable to aging because the sunshine vitamin not only protects your bones but also defends you against cancer, keeps your heart young, and improves more processes than a high-priced business consultant, tuning up your immune system, insulin secretion, blood pressure, balance and muscle strength, and brain development. In fact, 36 different organ tissues contain cells that respond to vitamin D3…
Check the D3 in your multi and/or calcium tablet, then add a supplement that gets you to a total of 1,000 international units (IU) of D3 a day. Make that 1,200 IU if you're 60 or older. And take it with a little healthy fat -- D3 isn't well absorbed without it.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]

More Recent Research on Aging

(Scientific American) Caring for the young may delay—and in some cases, even reverse—multiple negative effects of aging in the brain. Gro Amdam, who studies aging in bees at Arizona State University, observed tremendous improvements in cognition among older bees that turn their attention back to nursing. She has reason to believe that changes in social behavior could shave years off the human brain as well.
(Singularity Hub) Toni Balcean turned 101 in September. How’d she beat a century? Simple. “Clean living and good Italian wine.” Case closed! Unless, of course, you like science. A retooled Archon Genomics X PRIZE aims to help scientists better understand healthy aging by sequencing 100 healthy centenarian genomes—in a month, with an  accuracy of one error per million base pairs, and for under $1,000 per genome… [Says Grant Campany, Senior Director of the Archon Genomics X PRIZE,] “The older an individual is, the more likely their longevity is linked to their genes… [W]e are hoping we will be able to answer one key question: What enables these unique individuals to live so long and evade many debilitating diseases?”
(University of California - San Diego) In a new study, researchers … describe markers and a model that quantify how aging occurs at the level of genes and molecules, providing not just a more precise way to determine how old someone is, but also perhaps anticipate or treat ailments and diseases that come with the passage of time… [The researchers focused] on DNA methylation, a fundamental, life-long process in which a methyl group is added or removed from the cytosine molecule in DNA to promote or suppress gene activity and expression… [They] found that an individual's "methylome" – the entire set of human methylation markers and changes across a whole genome – predictably varies over time, providing a way to determine a person's actual biological age from just a blood sample.
(Science Daily) Researchers at the University of East Anglia have found that biological age and life expectancy can be predicted by measuring an individual's DNA… [T]heir research shows that individuals differ radically in how quickly their telomeres [protective end caps on DNA sequences] shorten with age, and that having shorter telomeres at any age is associated with an increased risk of death. Telomere length is a better indicator of future life-expectancy than actual age and may, therefore, be an indicator of biological age.
(Shots, NPR) A massive research project in California is beginning to show how genes, health habits and the environment can interact to cause diseases. The new combination of genetic and health information is one of the most powerful research tools on earth, a researcher says.
(Science Daily) A new method of growing cardiac tissue is teaching old stem cells new tricks. The discovery, which transforms aged stem cells into cells that function like much younger ones, may one day enable scientists to grow cardiac patches for damaged or diseased hearts from a patient's own stem cells -- no matter what age the patient -- while avoiding the threat of rejection.
[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]