Friday, December 31, 2010

Women living with fibromyalgia may top number with diabetes, study finds

Athena Champneys is no stranger to questions about fibromyalgia, the disease that leaves her feeling wiped out and in pain. Some people don't trust it exists, and most don't understand it well. So it's no wonder that a national survey released this month doesn't shock Champneys, who was diagnosed in December 2003. The research found that American women with the condition experience prolonged physical and emotional struggles. Champney's diagnosis came after debilitating pain settled in as a burning sensation up and down her spine and into her extremities.

The survey, conducted for, a top online women's health web site, found that it had taken most women who had fibromyalgia at least a year to get a diagnosis and that a fourth of them wait five years or more to find out what's incorrect. Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, executive director of, told an estimated 75 percent of those with the disease may still be undiagnosed. The numbers, she noted, could rival those living with diabetes.

"Even minimal activity drains the living tar out of me," said Champneys. "By afternoon, I need to lie down and rest. If I am having a bad day, I have to use an electric wheelchair in stores. You get all kind of attractive looks if they see you walk up to it."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Researchers Find Links Between Sleep, Anesthesia and Coma

Doctors can study more about anesthesia, sleep and coma by paying attention to what the three have in general, a new report suggests.

"This is an effort to try to create a general discussion across the fields," said review co-author Dr. Emery N. Brown, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. "There is a relationship between sleep and anesthesia: could this help us understand ways to produce new sleeping medications? If we understand how people come out of anesthesia, can it help us help people come out of comas?"

The researchers, who compared the physical signs and brain patterns of those under anesthesia and those who were asleep, report their findings in the Dec. 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. They acknowledged that anesthesia, sleep and coma are very different states in several ways and, in fact, only the deepest stages of sleep resemble the lightest stages of anesthesia. And people choose to sleep, for example, but lapse into comas involuntarily. But, as Brown puts it, common anesthesia is "a reversible drug-induced coma," even though physicians prefer to tell patients that they're "going to sleep."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected

An early feature of the new health-care law that allows people who are previously sick to get insurance to cover their medical costs isn't attracting as many customers as expected.

In the meantime, in at least a few states, claims for medical care covered by the "high-risk pools" are proving very expensive, and it is an open question whether the $5 billion allotted by Congress to start up the plans will be sufficient.

Federal health officials contend the new insurance policy, designed solely for people who already are sick, are merely experiencing growing pains. It will take time to spread the word that they exist and to adjust prices and benefits so that the plans are as attractive as possible, the officials say.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Low Vitamin D in Newborns Linked to Wheezing

Infants at age 3 months who had newborn blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D -- a measurement of vitamin D less than 25 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) were twice as likely to develop respiratory infections as infants who had levels at 75 nmol/L or higher, according to an international study.

That finding is based on umbilical cord blood samples taken from more than 900 infants to measure blood vitamin D levels. Previous research has suggested that mothers who have higher levels of vitamin D in their blood during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to infants who are at a lower risk for wheezing.

Investigators led by Carlos Camargo, MD, DrPH, an associate professor of drug and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School, examined whether vitamin D levels in the infants’ umbilical cord blood were associated with risk for respiratory infections, wheezing, or asthma.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sonoma County: Highest smoking rate in Bay Area

Sonoma County has the maximum smoking rate in the Bay Area, according to a survey released this week by the California Tobacco Control Program.

More than 16 percent of county residents smoke cigarettes, more than two times the rate of neighboring Marin County, which had the lowest proportion of smokers in the state 7.3 percent.

The results took some local experts by shock. Sonoma County has lately been making waves as an anti-smoking locale with cities such as Sebastopol passing tight restrictions on smoking, even in apartments. Santa Rosa is being asked to follow suit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Chocolate cough remedy' in sight

Scientists are carrying out the ending stages of clinical trials of a drug that contains theobromine, an ingredient found in chocolate and cocoa.

The UK developers say the drug could be on the marketplace within two years.

Each year in Britain an estimated 7.5m people suffer from persistent cough - a cough lasting more than two weeks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fearless woman's brain reveals key to phobias

The case of a literally unafraid woman rendered so after brain damage has helped scientists prove that a part of the brain structure regulating emotions is the key to human and animal phobia.

The 44-year-old mother of three, referred to in the journal present Biology as SM, has a rare psychological impairment due to a genetic disease called lipoid proteinosis that left holes where her amygdala — the brain’s danger detector — would normally reside.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Health Risks Rise for Medicare Patients in Year After Stroke

Within a year of having a stroke, almost two-thirds of Medicare patients die or wind up back in the hospital, a new research reports.

The findings highlight the need for better valuable care for stroke patients, in the hospital and after they are sent home, experts noted.

"Patients with acute ischemic stroke are at very high risk for recurrent hospitalization and post discharge mortality," told Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, chief of cardiology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and the study's lead researcher.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Report: About 17% in U.S. get sick from food each year

One in six Americans gets ill from food each year, and about 3,000 die from those illnesses, according to record released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These are preventable diseases," said Chris Braden, acting director of the division of food-borne, water-borne and environmental diseases at the CDC. "We need to do more to lower the impact of these sickness in the U.S."

The numbers mark the first time since 1999 that the federal government has updated the estimates for food-borne illnesses. The latest figures are lower than those in the 1999 report, which estimated that one in four Americans got sick from food each year and that 5,000 died.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Many Brain Tumor Patients Turn to Alternative Therapies

About 40 percent of patients with incurable brain tumors use different therapies in addition to conventional treatments, finds a new study.

German researchers asked 621 patients with incurable grade II to grade IV gliomas (tumors) about their apply of alternative therapies.

Of those who used different remedies, 39 percent used homeopathy, 31 percent used vitamin supplements and 29 percent tried psychological therapies.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Diabetes Advance: Researchers Grow Insulin-Producing Cells From Testes

New study suggests it may be possible for people with type 1 diabetes to grow their own insulin-producing cells -- an advancement that could lead to a cure for this form of diabetes.

The preliminary findings are slated to be presented at the American Society of Cell Biology 50th yearly meeting in Philadelphia.

“The aim here is to cure diabetes, not to treat it,” says study author G. Ian Gallicano, PhD, an associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology and the director of the Transgenic Core Facility at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Study: 99% of Children Living in Apartments May Be Exposed to Secondhand Smoke

There are fewer and fewer places where smokers can light up these days, with smoking bans being instituted by governments and private companies in virtually every public place, from offices and airplanes to bars and restaurants. And now there's proof that supports bringing no smoking policies to the only remaining place (other than outdoors) where smokers can still light up inside their homes.

Or, at least where smokers are living in apartments. In a study of tobacco exposure from secondhand smoke in more than 5,000 children, researchers led by Dr. Karen Wilson at University of Rochester found that youngsters aged 6 to 18 years who lived in multi-unit housing had a 45% raise in a chemical byproduct of tobacco in their blood compared with children who lived in detached family homes. And these were youngsters who lived in units where nobody smoked inside the apartment itself, meaning that the exposure was occurring primarily via secondhand smoke drifting in from other units.

Friday, December 10, 2010

U.S. Failing to Meet Goals for Women's Health: Report

The United States has failed to achieve almost every goal set for women's health, a new report says.

Conducted by the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), the report -- based largely on federal objectives drawn from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 agenda -- is the fifth in a 10-year look at the status of women's health in this country. In this current analysis, a satisfactory rating was only handed out on three of 26 measures of fine health for women.

Some health insurers raising rates again

Some health insurers are bumping up rates yet again to reflect changes mandated by the latest federal health overhaul law as well as state reforms that will go into effect Jan. 1.

Blue Shield of California, for example, has sent letters informing customers with individual policies that their premium will go up in the low single digits because of the federal law.

Some of those similar policyholders also could see their rates go up as much as an extra 17.7 percent to account for a new state law that will prohibit insurers from charging women more for insurance than men.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Orexigen Vote Provides Hope For Approval, Other Cos

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel's positive recommendation of Orexigen Therapeutics Inc.'s (OREX) weight-loss drug Contrave raises the likelihood for approval and provides hope for Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ARNA) and Vivus Inc.(VVUS), both of which had their diet drugs rejected by the agency in October.

The FDA doesn't have to follow the panel's recommendation, but the positive vote puts Orexigen ahead of the other two companies--which received negative recommendations from similar panels previous this year--by easing investor concerns that major clinical studies would be needed before approval.

Although cautious, the panel on Tuesday was persuaded that Contrave's potential protection risk can be managed and tested after it hits the market. The FDA is expected to make its decision on Contrave in January, but some analysts expect a delay to work out post-marketing requirements.

"We think yesterday's vote suggests Contrave is likely to get FDA approval during 2011," Cowen & Co. analyst Phil Nadeau said in a note to clients. After the FDA panel decisions on Arena and Vivus, Wall Street had low expectations for Orexigen, Nadeau said.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Half of Europeans overweight: report

More than half of adults in the European Union are fat or obese, according to a new report.

The European Commission and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published the report, Health at a Glance: Europe 2010, on Tuesday.

The rate of obesity has more than doubled over the past 20 years in most EU countries, which has main implications for health, health systems and the wider economy, the report's authors said.

Among adults, 50.1 per cent are currently overweight or obese, based on the body mass index or BMI — a calculation based on a person's weight-to-height ratio.

Healthy adults should have a BMI of between 18.5 and 25, the World Health Organization recommends. Overweight people have a BMI of between 25 and 30 and obese people have a BMI of 30 or more.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Treating Eating Disorders and Paying for It

Notoriously hard to treat, eating disorders may persist for years, wreaking havoc not just on the patient’s health and personal relationships but often on family finances, as well.

Hospitalizations for problems caused by eating disorders grew 18 percent from 1999 to 2006, with the steepest increase among children under age 12 (up 119 percent), followed by adults ages 45 to 64 (up 48 percent) and men of all ages (up 37 percent), according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Care for these patients can be costly. Many must be seen on a weekly basis by a team of specialists, including a psychiatrist, a physician and a nutritionist. A residential program costs $30,000 a month on average. And many patients need three or more months of treatment, often at a facility far from home. Even after leaving a specialized program, patients may need years of follow-up care.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Employer Insurance Costs Rising for Workers

Although premiums for employer health insurance have risen 41 percent since 2003, latest research says that employees are getting less bang for their buck.

In addition, individual deductibles have skyrocketed 77 percent, according to the statement from The Commonwealth Fund.

"Health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for families during the years before enactment of the Affordable Care Act," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis told during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

"During that time, benefits were scaled back as employers and employees struggled to keep up in a difficult economy," she said. "The new law provides us with the opportunity to reverse these unsustainable raises and ensure that families in every state have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance."

The report says that if expenses continue to rise at the same pace as they did from 2003 to 2009, annual premiums shared by employers and employees would increase 79 percent, costing an average family $23,342 by 2020.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No evidence linking vitamin D to most chronic diseases

Most North Americans get enough calcium and vitamin D through their diets, according to a comprehensive report containing updated dietary reference intakes (DRIs), released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The statement also concludes that there is "insufficient evidence" to suggest that low levels of either nutrient could be associated with a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, although the authors underscored the importance of calcium and vitamin D in maintaining bone health.

Dr Catharine Ross (Pennsylvania State University, University Park) chaired a committee of 14 experts appointed to assess present data of health outcomes associated with calcium and vitamin-D intake.

"We could not get solid evidence that consuming more of either nutrient would protect the public from chronic disease ranging from cancer to diabetes to improved immune function," said Ross during a press conference about the new report. "On the other hand, regarding bone health, the amount of proof that has been accumulating is really quite impressive."

The group reviewed more than a thousand studies looking at the link between vitamin D and a wide range of chronic diseases.

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