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June 4, 2009, 3:22 AM CT

Illness, medical bills linked to nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies

Illness, medical bills linked to nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies
Medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all bankruptcies in 2007, as per a research studyin the recent issue of the American Journal of Medicine that will be published online Thursday. The data were collected previous to the current economic downturn and hence likely understate the current burden of financial suffering. Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6 percent. The authors' prior 2001 findings have been widely cited by policy leaders, including President Obama.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by medical problems had health insurance. More than three-quarters (77.9 percent) were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage. Most of the medically bankrupt were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit. Two-thirds were homeowners and three-fifths had gone to college. In a number of cases, high medical bills coincided with a loss of income as illness forced breadwinners to lose time from work. Often illness led to job loss, and with it the loss of health insurance.

Even apparently well-insured families often faced high out-of-pocket medical costs for co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services. Medically bankrupt families with private insurance reported medical bills that averaged $17,749 vs. $26,971 for the uninsured. High costs - averaging $22,568 - were incurred by those who initially had private coverage but lost it in the course of their illness.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


June 3, 2009, 5:19 AM CT

Exercising while you have an aching back

Exercising while you have an aching back
People with lower back pain are better off exercising more, not less.

A University of Alberta study of 240 men and women with chronic lower-back pain showed that those who exercised four days a week had a better quality of life, 28 per cent less pain and 36 per cent less disability, while those who hit the gym only two or three days a week did not show the same level of change.

"While it could be assumed that someone with back pain should not be exercising frequently, our findings show that working with weights four days a week provides the greatest amount of pain relief and quality of life," said Robert Kell, main author of the study and an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus.

About 80 per cent of North Americans suffer from lower back pain.

Kell presented some of the findings May 30 at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Seattle, Wash.

In the study, groups of 60 men and women with chronically sore lower backs each exercised with weights in two, three or four-day weekly programs, or not at all. Their progress was measured over 16 weeks. The level of pain decreased by 28 per cent in programs that included exercise four days a week, by 18 per cent three days a week and by 14 per cent two days a week. The quality of life, defined as general physical and mental well-being, rose by 28 per cent, 22 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 26, 2009, 6:34 PM CT

The evolution of migraine

The evolution of migraine
Patients living with migraine have strong reason for new optimism concerning a positive future. Two review articles and an accompanying editorial, "The Future of Migraine: Beyond Just Another Pill," in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are the basis for an ironic premise.

"Migraine is a potentially chronic, progressive disease that substantially affects patients, families, workplaces, and society," as per the editorial written by Roger Cady, M.D., of the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Mo. "Ironically, this is the springboard for renewed optimism of a more positive future for patients living with migraine."

Traditionally, Dr. Cady explains, migraine has been considered a pain disorder involving separate or even sporadic episodes. Now, the condition is defined as an all-encompassing and progressive disease that negatively affects all aspects of an individual's life. Migraine can erode quality of life during what should be a person's most productive years, as per Dr. Cady. Because migraine patients' quality of life has not improved at a pace with medical advances, research is addressing the overall severity and potential progressive nature of migraine, particularly migraine episodes as a forerunner of chronic migraine.

As per the three articles, these new insights and understandings are requiring professionals to explore well beyond traditional migraine management. "Understanding migraine as a potentially chronic disease mandates a collaborative health care model with patients and health care professionals working in a partnership toward common therapeutic goals," writes Dr. Cady, specifically intervention and prevention. Physicians and patients must be encouraged to be partners, he says, and assessment must go far beyond the doctor just asking, "How are your migraines?" The models must include an invitation to comprehend and address all migraine-related health issues facing patients, Dr. Cady writes. In addition, understanding the evolutionary "stages" of migraine from sporadic to persistent offers an opportunity to develop new therapies that individualize and personalize care.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


May 26, 2009, 6:32 PM CT

Youth baseball-related injuries down 25 percent

Youth baseball-related injuries down 25 percent
Spring marks baseball season for more than 19 million children and adolescents who play each year as part of a team or in backyards throughout the United States. The good news for these players is that the number of injuries from the sport is on the decline. A newly released study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital observed that the number of children and adolescents treated for baseball-related injuries in hospital emergency departments decreased 25 percent from 1994 through 2006 going from an estimated 147,000 injuries in 1994 to approximately 111,000 injuries in 2006. This is the first national study of youth baseball injuries requiring emergency therapy, and is now available online in the June electronic issue of Pediatrics

"Eventhough baseball injuries have declined, the consistently high numbers of injuries requiring emergency therapy highlight the importance of increasing our prevention efforts," said co-author of study Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and an associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

As per the study, being hit by the baseball was the most common mechanism of injury (46 percent of injuries), followed by being hit with the bat (25 percent). The most common types of injuries were soft tissue injuries (34 percent) followed by fractures and dislocations (20 percent). The face (34 percent) and the upper extremities (32 percent) were the most usually injured body regions.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 15, 2009, 5:29 AM CT

Quitting smoking during pregnancy?

Quitting smoking during pregnancy?
Scientists from the Peninsula Medical School and the University of Bristol, using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and the Exeter Family Study of Childhood Health, have identified a common genetic variant that explains why some women may find it more difficult to quit smoking during pregnancy.

Their paper, "A common genetic variant in 15q24 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4) is linked to a reduced ability of women to quit smoking in pregnancy", is published in Human Molecular Genetics

Maternal smoking during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and problems at birth. Statistically, women are more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy that at any other time in the lives, but some pregnant women continue to smoke despite a strong and direct public health message.

The study tested whether a genetic variant that is correlation to greater cigarette consumption was also responsible for a reduced likelihood of quitting smoking during pregnancy.

The research team studied 7,845 women of European descent from the South West of England. Using 2,474 women who smoked regularly immediately before they became pregnant, the association between the variant and smoking cessation and smoking quantity during pregnancy was analysed.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


May 11, 2009, 9:36 PM CT

Older people need more sun

Older people need more sun
Spending more time in the sunshine could help older people to reduce their risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Exposure to sunlight stimulates vitamin D in the skin and older people are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency due to the natural aging process and lifestyle changes.

Scientists at the University of Warwick have shown vitamin D deficiency is significantly linked to metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical and metabolic disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The research team, led by Dr Oscar Franco at Warwick Medical School, investigated the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in 3,262 people aged 50-70 years old in China.

His team found a high connection between low vitamin D levels and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. They found 94% of people in the study had a vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) deficiency or insufficiency. The results showed 42.3% of these people also had metabolic syndrome.

The results of the study, published in Diabetes Care journal, are consistent with the findings of other studies in Western populations and Dr Franco suggests vitamin D deficiency could become a global health problem.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 11, 2009, 9:21 PM CT

Women have a more powerful immune system

Women have a more powerful immune system
When it comes to immunity, men may not have been dealt an equal hand. The latest study by Dr. Maya Saleh, of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University, shows that women have a more powerful immune system than men. In fact, the production of estrogen by females could have a beneficial effect on the innate inflammatory response against bacterial pathogens. These surprising results were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

More specifically, estrogen naturally produced in women seems to block the production of an enzyme called Caspase-12, which itself blocks the inflammatory process. The presence of estrogen would therefore have a beneficial effect on innate immunity, which represents the body's first line of defence against pathogenic organisms. "These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men," said Dr. Saleh.

This study was conducted on mice that lack the Caspase-12 gene, meaning that the mice were extremely resistant to infection. The human Caspase-12 gene was implanted in a group of male and female mice, yet only the males became more prone to infection. "We were very surprised by these results, and we determined that the estrogen produced by the female mice blocked the expression of the human Caspase-12 gene," explained Dr. Saleh. "We were also able to locate where the estrogen receptor binds on the gene in order to block its expression, which indicates that the hormone exerts direct action in this case".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


May 8, 2009, 5:28 AM CT

Smoking: mortality and cardiovascular disease

Smoking: mortality and cardiovascular disease
Non-smokers live longer and have less cardiovascular disease than those who smoke, as per a 30-year follow-up study of 54,000 men and women in Norway. Smoking, say the investigators, is "strongly" correlation to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality from various causes.

The results, presented in Stockholm at EuroPRevent 2009, reflect what a number of other studies have indicated, but, says investigator Professor Haakon Meyer from the University of Oslo and Norwegian Institute of Public Health, these results provide a picture of the long-term, absolute "real life" risk.

Behind his conclusions lies a far-reaching follow-up study which began in 1974 with an invitation to every middle aged man and woman (aged 35-49) living in three counties of Norway to take part in a basic cardiovascular screening examination. The invitation had a huge response, with 91% attending for the baseline screen.

Over the next three decades deaths were recorded by linkage to the Norwegian population registry and, between 2006 and 2008, those surviving responded to a follow-up questionnaire. This allowed division of the participants as per their smoking status never-smokers, ex-smokers, current smokers of 1-9 cigarettes a day, 10-19 cigarettes a day and more than 20 cigarettes a day (the last group referred to as "heavy smokers").........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


May 5, 2009, 8:40 PM CT

Concerns over dietary supplements

Concerns over dietary supplements
As the FDA warns consumers to stop using Hydroxycut products, a new editorial reported in the May 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal shows that this FDA warning is not unique. In the editorial, Gerald Weissmann, M.D. Editor-in-Chief of the journal and Research Professor of Medicine and Director of the Biotechnology Study Center at NYU School of Medicine, examines litigation involving StarCaps dietary supplement weight loss capsules to illustrate regulatory loopholes that make it impossible for the FDA to prevent dangerous substances sold with health claims from reaching the market.

"You don't need to be a pharmacologist to suspect that almost anything that really affects the structure or function of the human body might have an unwanted side effect (a.k.a., toxicity)," Weissmann states. "Indeed, a search in PubMed for 'herbal drugs/toxic effects' finds such 460 articles.These range from hepatotoxicity from herbals and weight-loss supplements in the United States to kidney failure as a result of aristolochia, a Chinese herb used worldwide".

In the editorial, Weissmann looks back to the late 1800s to point out that Coca Cola once made medicinal claims fueled by an original recipe that included secret amounts cocaine among other drugs. A 1902 trial where Coca Cola's secret ingredients came to light, ultimately helped lead to the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, provisions of which still guide today's FDA. Then, through the course of his editorial, Weissmann explains how and why the dietary supplement industry is at odds with the FDA's origins and mission, and that these supplements represent little more than unregulated drugs that have tangible personal and professional consequences that go well beyond anything described on their labels.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


May 5, 2009, 8:38 PM CT

Drinkers Not Only Zone Out But.....

Drinkers Not Only Zone Out But.....
A newly released study out of the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a moderate dose of alcohol increases a person's mind wandering, while at the same time reducing the likelihood of noticing that one's mind has wandered.

The paper, titled "Lost in the Sauce: The Effects of Alcohol on Mind Wandering," explores this phenomenon and is published in this month's issue of "Psychological Science."

The study provides the first evidence that alcohol disrupts an individual's ability to realize his or her mind has wandered, suggesting impairment of a psychological state called meta-consciousness. These findings suggest that distinct processes are responsible for causing a thought to occur, as opposed to allowing its presence to be noticed.

Led by University of Pittsburgh professor of psychology Michael Sayette, scientists Erik Reichle, associate professor and chair of Pitt's cognitive program in psychology, and Jonathan Schooler, professor of psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara, studied a group of men-half of whom had consumed alcohol and half of whom had been given a placebo. After 30 minutes, the participants began reading a portion of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" from a computer screen. If they caught themselves zoning out-having no idea what they had just read or thinking about something other than the text-they pressed a key on the keyboard. They also were prompted at intervals, to see if they could be "caught" mind-wandering before they realized it themselves.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

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