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

It's time to get your flu shot

(CNN) Now is the time to get your flu shot -- and this vaccine is expected to be more effective than last season's.
Flu season is that time of year when more of your co-workers call in sick and more of your children stay home from school; it starts in October and typically runs through May.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't generally start to keep a running count of the new season's cases until the end of the month, but doctors advise getting the shot now because it takes about two weeks for the body to build up immunity against the virus.
And yes, you do need a flu shot every year, as every season's flu virus is a little different.
While the flu and the aches, pains, fever, chills and coughing that come with it can be manageable for some, it can also be deadly.
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Flu Vaccine May Reduce Stroke Risk

(University Herald) New research suggests that the flu shot reduces the risk of suffering a stroke.
Researchers from the University of Lincoln found that chances of having a first stroke fell by around a fifth in the first 59 days after receiving the flu jab.
In the first week after the jab, there were 36 per cent fewer cases of stroke than would be otherwise expected among a 'baseline' population, while the second week showed a 30 percent reduction. The third and fourth weeks saw 24 percent fewer stroke cases, dropping to 17 percent between 29 days and 59 days after the jab.
"This is a significant finding, and if confirmed in a clinical trial could be one that can change lives," researcher Niro Siriwardena said in a statement.
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Flu shots may cut risk of blood clots forming in veins

(American Heart Association) Flu shots may reduce the risk of blood clots forming in veins by 26 percent, according to research…
"Our study suggests for the first time that vaccination against influenza may reduce the risk of venous thrombotic embolism (VTE)," said Joseph Emmerich, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of vascular medicine at the University Paris Descartes and head of the INSERM Lab 765, which investigates thrombosis. "This protective effect was more pronounced before the age of 52 years."
VTE is the formation of a blood clot in a vein. The condition is dangerous because the blood clot can break loose and travel through the circulatory system to the right side of the heart. From there it can go to the lungs (a pulmonary embolism), which can be life-threatening or even fatal.
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Flu-associated pneumonia tied to skipped flu vaccine

(Reuters Health) The flu vaccine may help prevent flu-related pneumonia, a study suggests.
When researchers looked at patients with pneumonia, those whose pneumonia was related to the flu were more likely to have skipped the flu vaccine, compared to patients with pneumonia from other causes.
Pneumonia can be a serious and common complication of catching the flu, the authors write.
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Nutritional Needs for Skeletal Health Change as You Age, Says New Scientific Review

(International Osteoporosis Foundation) Whether you're young or old, the right nutrition can make a difference to your bone health and influence your ability to live an independent, mobile, fracture-free life into your more senior years. That's the key message of a new scientific review…
In adults and seniors, studies have shown that calcium intakes are often considerably below those recommended by national guidelines. Similarly, alarmingly low levels of vitamin D have been found in populations around the world. Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and a very high or low body mass index (BMI) also elevate fracture risk for a substantial number of people.
The impact of nutrition on falls and fracture prevention in seniors, who are a growing segment of the population and most affected by osteoporosis, is discussed. The review shows how deficits in protein intake as well as malnutrition, which is sadly common in older people, can negatively affect their bone and muscle health. It also highlights how together with appropriate exercise, adequate nutritional intake in those at high risk of fracture plays an important complementary role to pharmacotherapy.
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Calcium From Supplements or Dairy Doesn't Strengthen Bones, Study Finds

(NBC News) A new study should put the final nail in the coffin for any lingering beliefs that calcium supplements are good for you.
The new study finds that people over 50 don't get stronger bones either by taking supplements or from eating extra servings of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products.
The findings, reported in the British Medical Journal's online publication BMJ.com, support what U.S. health officials have been telling Americans for a few years now — taking calcium supplements is not just a waste of time, but it could be harmful. The extra calcium doesn't go to strengthen bones but instead can build up in the arteries, causing heart disease, or in the kidneys, causing kidney stones…
What can people do?
Exercise is one possibility. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, playing tennis, lifting weights and dancing can strengthen bones. Swimming and bicycling does less to build strong bones, according to the NIH.
Cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking can also help — both can weaken bones.
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Proteins from Rice: Raw Materials Instead of Waste

(Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft) Rice contains many valuable nutrients and serves as a staple food for large parts of the world's population.
The rice grain is made up primarily of rice starch. A number of producers extract and resell this starch, for instance as gluten-free or allergen-free baby food. The proteins left over during this process are disposed of by producers in a number of ways, and also at high cost. However, due to their physiological activity, these proteins can be very useful in items such as nutritional supplements or cosmetics. They are an all-natural product that is easily absorbed by the human body.
As a part of the EU project BIORICE, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen are currently working together with other European partners to develop a process that can harness this valuable raw material. "We have taken a by-product that generated additional expenses and converted it into a valuable commodity that can be used in foodstuffs and cosmetics," says Fraunhofer UMSICHT scientist Dr. Jürgen Grän-Heedfeld. "For this material, that is something new and unique."
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High Dietary Fiber Intake Linked to Health Promoting Fatty Acids

(BMJ) Eating a lot of fibre-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and legumes--typical of a Mediterranean diet--is linked to a rise in health promoting short chain fatty acids, finds research published online in the journal Gut.
And you don't have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to reap the benefits, the findings suggest.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which include acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are produced by bacteria in the gut during fermentation of insoluble fibre from dietary plant matter. SCFAs have been linked to health promoting effects, including a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease…
[The researchers] conclude: "We provide here tangible evidence of the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern on gut microbiota and on the beneficial regulation of microbial metabolism towards health maintenance in the host."
And they add: "Western omnivore diets are not necessarily detrimental when a certain consumption level of [plant] foods is included."
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Mangia! Mediterranean Diet Good for the Gut

(MedPage Today) Adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with health-promoting microbes and microbial metabolites in the gut, Italian researchers said.
Specifically, the Mediterranean diet -- high in fruits, vegetables, and legumes -- was associated with the presence of a group of short-chain fatty acids thought to protect against inflammatory diseases and colon cancer, the researchers reported…
"We provide the first concrete evidence for the interconnection between Mediterranean dietary patterns, gut microbes, and microbial metabolites," wrote senior investigator Danilo Ercolini, PhD, of the University of Naples Federico II, and colleagues.
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Fall Recipes

(Cooking Light) When the air is crisp and the leaves start to fall, you'll love these recipes that showcase the season's best flavors.
Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions
Pork chops and apples make a perfect pairing for a quick meal that feels like fall.
Sautéed Carrots with Sage
You can easily double, triple, or quadruple this small-yield recipe to feed more hungry diners. A few simple fall ingredients turn carrots into a star side dish.
Cider and Sage Pork
The classic ingredient combination of cider and sage allow the delicious flavor of the pork to shine through. Serve with steamed green beans.
Beef Filets with Mushroom Sauce and Parmesan Popovers
The hearty and earthy mushroom sauce tastes divine atop the filets. Parmesan popovers make for a satisfying accompaniment.
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Aldi supermarkets remove artificial ingredients from food

(Fox News) Supermarkets are beginning to follow in the footsteps of food producers who are banning transfats and other ingredients in their food that the public has deemed unhealthy or unnecessary.
The Aldi supermarket chain Thursday announced that by the end of the year all of its branded products, which make up most of its offerings, will be free of synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and added MSG, reports Supermarket News.
“Since more than 90 percent of the products we sell are under our exclusive brands, CEO Jason Hart said in a statement, “eliminating these ingredients will have a real impact on the over 30 million people who shop in our stores.”
The German-based supermarket chain has about 1,400 stores in the U.S. and mostly sells its own private-label items to keep prices low. It also offers no counter service (each store typically has just three to five employees working at a time) and even requires a $.25 deposit to use a shopping cart, which is returned.
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Packaged Food Purchases at Non-Grocery Stores Are Up but Nutritional Quality Is Down

(Elsevier) What foods are Americans really buying, where are they buying them, and how nutritious are these purchases? A new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has determined that consumers are increasingly making packaged food purchases (PFPs) at warehouse clubs, mass merchandisers, and convenience stores. These outlets offer a selection of foods that have poor nutrient profiles, with higher calories and more sugar, sodium, and saturated fat compared to grocery stores. This represents a potential U.S. public health concern…
Barry M. Popkin, PhD, … and co-investigators noted that both small and large stores stock large quantities of low-nutrient foods. Although much has been written about "food deserts," where only smaller stores that sell less nutritious foods are available, unhealthy foods and beverages are ubiquitous and Americans are purchasing them everywhere.
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Rebates a Cost-Effective Way to Boost Healthy Eating Among Low-Income People, Study Finds

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Providing low-income households that receive federal food assistance benefits with financial incentives to buy fruits and vegetables would encourage them to purchase and consume more healthy food, and slightly increase their longevity, a new study suggests.
Despite some critics' concerns, these incentives, in the form of rebates for purchasing healthy foods, are unlikely to prompt consumers to increase their spending on junk food as well, according to University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An.
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JetBlue Plants a Seed With Farm-to-Tray-Table Concept

(AP) JetBlue Airways is trying to bring a little bit of country to the city — opening its own "farm" at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The 24,000 square-foot space — less than half the size of a football field — outside JFK's Terminal 5 is meant to educate travelers more than actually feed them. Although eventually JetBlue would like to serve items grown there in terminal restaurants and even make some blue potato Terra Chips that are served on flights.
One day, if the airport allows it, there might even be animals, such as bees and butterflies.
The goal is to try and teach people about farming and to improve the appearance of the terminal's exterior.
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Michigan providing water filters in Flint after high lead readings

(Reuters) Michigan on Tuesday began distributing free water filters to residents of Flint, a week after confirming that some children had elevated levels of lead in their blood since the city began taking water from a nearby river…
The filters are being distributed to public assistance recipients and Flint residents through a partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department.
About 5,500 filters had already been given out through private donations.
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Smartphone-Based Device Provides Rapid Molecular Diagnoses at Low Cost

(National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering) NIBIB-funded researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a smartphone-based device that can reliably carry out molecular diagnoses in under an hour for approximately two dollars per patient. The device could enable point-of-care cancer diagnostics in low- to middle-income or remote areas, which often have high rates of mortality from cancer due to missed opportunities for treatment.
"In these areas, patient samples often have to be shipped to facilities that are capable of carrying out conventional pathology services," says Richard Conroy, Ph.D., program director for Molecular Imaging at NIBIB. "As a result, it can take several days before a diagnosis is returned to the patient. In many cases, patients aren't able to return for follow-up care either because they have to travel long distances to reach a clinic or can't afford to take multiple days off work. A low-cost technology that can diagnose cancer at the point-of-care would enable patients to begin treatment on the same day that they are tested, greatly increasing the number of patients who receive treatment."
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Chimpanzees Shed Light on Origins of Human Walking

(Stony Brook University) A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results … indicate that our early human ancestors, including the famous fossil 'Lucy' (a species known as Australopithecus afarensis), may have been able to use their torsos to increase walking efficiency in the same way as modern humans.
The torso (the part of the body that includes the ribcage, belly and pelvis) of chimpanzees has long been thought to be a rigid block, best suited for a life of tree climbing. Humans, on the other hand, have long and flexible torsos that aid in walking by allowing us to rotate our upper body in the opposite direction of our lower body. The findings from the paper, titled "Surprising trunk rotational capabilities in chimpanzees and implications for bipedal walking proficiency in early humans," changes the evolutionary view of how early human ancestors walked and what they were able to do.
"During walking, we actually observed as much rotation within the torsos of chimpanzees as in humans," said Nathan Thompson, lead author and a PhD student in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University. "This means that the widely accepted assumptions in the scientific community about how the chimpanzee torso works based on the skeleton alone are incorrect. Our results also point to the notion that a limitation to upright walking that we thought affected Lucy and other early human ancestors probably was not a limitation at all."
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The Federal Reserve Has Some Advice for Your Love Life

(Bloomberg) Economists Jane Dokko, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes … scoured quarterly data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Consumer Credit Panel, based on information provided by Equifax that includes a "risk score" similar to the more commonly known FICO measure of an individual's probability of failing to meet their credit obligations in the not-too-distant future…
Here's a summary of their findings:
·         People with higher credit scores are more likely to be in a committed relationship and stay together
·         People tend to form relationships with others who have a similar credit score as them
·         The strength of the match, both in the headline credit score and its details, is predictive of whether or not a couple is more likely to break up for observable reasons pertaining to finance and household spending; and
·         Credit scores are indicative of trustworthiness in general, and couples with a mismatch in credit scores are more likely to see their relationships end for reasons not directly related to their use of credit.
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Love Life Making You Sick?

(Sharecare) [W]orrying about the state of your love life can cause your stress level to go through the roof and even weaken your immune system. 
Researchers at Ohio State University asked 85 married couples questions about their relationship, then tested their levels of a key stress-related hormone and certain immune cells. The study was published in the January 10, 2013 edition of the journal Psychological Science.
People who worried the most about the future of their relationship produced 11 percent more cortisol, the “fight or flight” stress hormone that, in the long term, has been linked to heart disease, depression and other health problems. They also had 22 percent fewer T-cells, which are a key part of the body’s system to fight off infection.
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Single People Can be Happy, Too

(Discovery News) In the United States, 51 percent of adults are single. That number will likely only grow with marriage on the decline and divorce rates at historic highs, although not rising as quickly as past years.
Single people outnumbering married couples represents a historic moment in the United States, but the culture still stigmatizes staying solo. Out of those 128 million Americans who aren’t married, surely some number of them prefer to avoid long-term relationships, and don’t merely find themselves that way by circumstance?
Despite the fact that we live in a society where technology is increasingly connecting more people and bringing them closer than ever before, plenty of folks really do just want to be left alone, finds a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. In fact, despite social norms and cultural expectations, some singles are perfectly happy spending their lives in solitude.
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Stomach Is the Way to a Woman's Heart, Too

(Drexel University) You've heard that romance starts in the kitchen and not in the bedroom. Well, researchers at Drexel University finally have the science to support that saying -- but not the way you might think.
In a new study published online in the journal Appetite, researchers found that women's brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than an empty one. The study explored brain circuitry in hungry versus satiated states among women who were past-dieters and those who had never dieted.
The study's first author Alice Ely, PhD, … said the results are contrary to several previous studies, which showed that people typically demonstrate greater sensitivity to rewarding stimuli when hungry. Such stimuli may include things like food, money and drugs.
"In this case, they were more responsive when fed," she said. "This data suggests that eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food. It also supports a shared neurocircuitry for food and sex."
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Couples who share housework have the most sex and best sex lives

(Washington Post) [C]ouples who split the housework fairly are the happiest between the sheets. They have the most sex, are the most satisfied with their sex lives, and express the highest level of sexual intimacy.
That’s at least according to new work that will be presented at the upcoming American Sociological Association annual meeting.
“The conventional view, based on data that’s a quarter century old, is that sexual arousal for heterosexual couples is dependent traditional gender roles, on a man being manly and a woman being feminine,” said Dan Carlson, a sociology professor at Georgia State University and one of the authors of the new study. “But given the changes in attitudes over time and what people want, we weren’t so sure that conventional gender behavior was the only thing that turns people on anymore.
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Happy Vegetarian Month!

(Mediterranean Foods Alliance) It's October, and that means we're celebrating Mediterranean vegetarian dishes in honor of Vegetarian Month. Whether you are a vegetarian or not, the Mediterranean diet offers plenty of inspiration for meals sans meat, poultry, and fish. A plant-based diet is something to think about given recent health studies that show it may reduce the risk of developing cancer and inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve blood sugar control.
When we talk about traditional Mediterranean cuisine, we are usually referring to Mediterranean peasant cooking, a class of cooking tied to inexpensive ingredients with long shelf lives and seasonal, easy-to-grow vegetables. It also happens to be predominantly vegetarian. Mediterranean cooks without the means to afford animal protein learned to be extremely resourceful. They created a depth of flavor in their meals by using other powerful ingredients that were available to them such as herbs, spices, cheese and olive oil, and cooking techniques that maximized the flavor of their produce…
There are several standard Mediterranean dishes that can be adapted based on ingredients on hand and easily satisfy for a vegetarian main meal. Pasta dishes are a prime example, with classics like mushroom ravioli and spinach lasagna we all know and love. Here are a few more adaptable main dishes to try.
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74 overdoses in 72 hours in Chicago: Laced heroin may be to blame

(Chicago Tribune) [N]early 75 people have overdosed in Chicago since Tuesday afternoon from dangerous batches of narcotics, possibly heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl, according to city health and fire officials. Police were investigating if at least one recent death was caused by a heroin overdose.
"We suspect what is happening is the same thing that happened in 2006 when people were getting heroin that was cut with fentanyl, which is a very strong narcotic," said Diane Hincks, a registered nurse and emergency room director at Mount Sinai on the West Side. "That's what we think is happening."
By early Friday afternoon, emergency crews had responded to 74 cases over 72 hours, more than double the same three-day period last year, said Larry Langford, spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department.
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Tobacco Use Boosts Cost of Artery Disease Therapy

(MedPage Today) The annual cost of treating smokers with peripheral artery disease (PAD) was around $18,000 higher than the cost of treating nonsmokers who had the circulatory condition, with much of the excess cost attributable to additional hospitalizations, researchers reported.
In the first large study to examine the impact of tobacco use on outcomes and medical costs in a PAD population, nearly half (49%) of smokers with PAD were hospitalized over the course of a year, and this hospitalization rate was 35% higher than that seen in PAD patients who did not smoke, reported Sue Duval, PhD, of the University of Minnesota Medical School at Minneapolis, and colleagues.
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Big Data Will Reshape This Decade

(Peter Diamandis, Human Longevity Inc.) Hundreds of startups are working to make you the 'CEO of your own health' — to augment (or replace) doctors and hospitals.
I expect new AI-enabled healthcare options to be free or near-free, and so much better, that people will forgo traditional medical care in favor of these superior options. This will cause today's healthcare system to crater.
Think libraries in an age of Google...think traditional wired landlines in an age of mobile telephony...think taxis in an age of Uber…think long-distance in an age of Skype…the list goes on.
So what's coming?
The $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE will give birth to devices (i.e., the Star Trek Tricorder) that allow you, the consumer, to self-diagnose, anytime, anywhere.
Sick of going to the hospital? Companies like Walgreens and CVS are working to become your healthcare center.
My company Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) will sequence all 3.2 billion letters in your genome, plus your microbiome and compare your data to a massive database of millions of consumers.
Such data mining will allow you (your AI or your physician) to know in advance which diseases threaten you, and make your healthcare proactive and preventive…
[S]ensors will constantly monitor your health—heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, and even small molecules released from cancers or cardiac trauma.
Coupled to your genomics, this sensor data will be uploaded seamlessly to your health app, giving you the needed warning to stop disease or damage before it happens. To quote SU professor and friend Dr. Daniel Kraft, think of this as "OnStar for your body."
Who will pay for it? Probably not you. Probably your insurance company, which makes a lot more money when you stay out of the hospital and live longer (they collect more fees and pay out far less).
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MacArthur ‘genius’ Gary Cohen: Health industry’s epiphany creates science opportunity

(Washington Post) [Gary] Cohen runs Health Care Without Harm, an organization he co-founded in 1996. It advocates for health-care corporations and hospital systems to become ecologically sustainable in the face of climate change. The nonprofit is headquartered in Reston, Va., but has offices around the world…
In what he labels a "coming-to-Jesus" moment, Americans now recognize that the nation spends more money on health care than any other country on the planet, and yet often has worse health.
"Everybody is seeing that, and it creates an opportunity in health care to re-evaluate what we're doing," Cohen said. That means hospital executives and others are more willing to address fundamental issues that make people sick in the first place, such as poor housing, poor food and a polluted environment.
Hundreds of hospitals around the country are now using their purchasing power to support local farmers, which benefits their employees, patients and the local economy, he said. In California, his organization is working with 55 hospitals and five school systems to link their combined purchasing clout.
There's also been a big change in hospitals' attitudes on climate change.
"Three years ago, you couldn't talk about it," Cohen recalled. But hospitals and health systems now are realizing they can lock in better energy pricing by using renewable sources and "that's happening in a dramatic way."
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3 Scientists Win Nobel Prize in Medicine for Parasite-Fighting Therapies

(New York Times) Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering “therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases,” the Nobel committee announced on Monday.
William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura won for developing a new drug, Avermectin, which has radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis. They shared the prize with Youyou Tu, who discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced death rates from malaria…
Dr. Tu and her colleagues pored over the literature on ancient Chinese remedies and collected 380 extracts from 200 herbs that offered promise. One of the plants they studied was sweet wormwood, or Artemisia annua, which was used by Chinese herbalists centuries ago to treat fever. They found a way to extract an active substance from the plant, removed a toxic portion of it and show that it wiped out the malaria-causing parasite in animals. Today, Artemisinin and its derivatives are typically coupled with other therapies as the “first-line treatment” to combat malaria.
Community: Is this the first Nobel Prize awarded for a treatment based on traditional medicine?
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Obamacare not spurring more early retirements yet despite predictions

(Mark Miller, Reuters) The Affordable Care Act is doing plenty of good for older Americans, but one thing it is not doing is convincing them to retire early…
Still, the ACA has had an enormous, positive impact on older Americans.
At the end of the ACA's first full year, the share of Americans ages 50 to 64 without health insurance had fallen by nearly a third, to just 8 percent, according to research by the Urban Institute and AARP. The uninsured rate was even lower in the 27 states that chose to expand Medicaid eligibility - just 5.5 percent at the end of last year.
It is too early to document improved health, but [researcher Helen] Levy and other experts think the higher coverage rates will mean healthier seniors in the years ahead.
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California governor signs bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide

(Reuters) Physician-assisted suicide will become legal in California under a bill signed into law on Monday by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, despite intense opposition from some religious and disability rights groups.
The law, based on a similar measure in Oregon, allows doctors to prescribe medication to end a patient's life if two doctors agree the person has only six months to live and is mentally competent.
In a rare statement accompanying the signing notice, Brown, a former Roman Catholic seminarian, said he closely considered arguments on both sides of the controversial measure, which makes California only the fifth U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
"I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain," Brown said. "I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others."
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