With spring just around the corner, everyone from kids to older folks are beginning to think about getting back to the garden. PDQhealth talked wth Candice Shoemaker, professor of horticulture at Kansas State University, about her research into the health and longevity benefits of digging plants.
A rosy complexion really does spell good health, according to a clever experiment conducted by researchers at the University of St. Andrews. The results offer one more good reason to get fit.
Computer games aren’t just for kids–at least they shouldn’t be. A Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who spent an hour a day in front of a challenging game that tested mental processing speed significantly improved their memories.
Most of the time we complain about videogames, which seem to encourage violent impulses and physical slothfulness. Now comes news that playing fast-paced video action games actually improves vision.
A bacterial infection that causes chronic diarrhea and fever, among other symptoms, is on the rise, experts say. Since 2000, the incidence has increased 25 percent a year. The chief cause of the epidemic: the very drugs designed to fight off bacterial infections, antibiotics.
The current economic downturn can be measured by all kinds of economic indicators–including some showing up in hospitals and doctors’ offices around the country, where surveys show that patients are deferring non-emergency care and not showing up for appointments. In response, some doctors are offering special rates and payment plans. Some are even treating patients in dire straits for free.
Antioxidants are good. The free radical molecules they neutralize are bad. Or so we’ve all been led to think. Now a study of exercise and insulin sensitivity turns that conventional notion on its head.
After cancelling his wildly popular comedy tour “Weapons of Self-Destruction” because of serious heart problems, Robin Williams is soon to be back on the circuit. And by all accounts, his over-the-top sense of humor is undiminished. The tour was postponed after the comedian underwent major surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in March to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve and treat an irregular heartbeat.
Asthma sufferers, it’s time to lighten up. Rich, high-fat meals appear to increase airway inflammation, University of Newcastle researchers report. High-fat meals may also inhibit the asthma medication albuterol (Ventolin).
For the study, scientists offered a randomly selected group of asthmatics burgers and hash browns (1,000 calories, 52 percent from fat). The remaining subjects ate a meal containing reduced fat yogurt (200 calories, 13 percent from fat).
Within hours, the fast food group saw a significant increase in markers for inflammation, as well as reduced bronchodilator effect from the drug. Research has previously shown a link between high fat foods to inflammation, This was the first study to look specifically at asthma. The drug effect was a surprise and remains unexplained.
Every 90 seconds, an American family is forced to file for bankruptcy–not because they’ve mismanaged their finances but because their savings have been wiped out by medical expenses.
That shocking statistic is part of a new report from Harvard Medical School and Ohio University researchers that compares 2001 and 2007 bankruptcy data in the U.S. The experts found that 60 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were driven by unaffordable medical bills, up 50 percent from six years earlier. The odds that a bankruptcy resulted principally from medical expenses was almost 2.4 times greater in 2007 than in 2001.
That’s troubling enough. Even more disturbing: many of the families forced to declare bankruptcy had health insurance. Either it didn’t cover many of their expenses or the policies were cancelled when families needed them most. Among bankrupt families, those with health insurance had out-of-pocket expenses averaging $17,749. Those without insurance found themselves socked with bills averaging $26,971. Among families that had health insurance but then lost it, out-of-pocket expenses totalled an average of $22,568.
Those numbers won’t surprise many Americans who have gone in for health care recently, even basic recommended preventive care and screening. In our family of two, for instance, we were recently hit with more than $8,000 in out-of-pocket expenses after we followed our doctors’ orders and underwent screening colonoscopies. And we have insurance!
The latest statistics underscore a stubborn fact: Fixing the nation’s economy requires fixing the health care system.
Even when results from early clinical trials are overwhelmingly positive, medications once approved often prove less effective than first hoped. Indeed, there’s a joke among doctors about newly-approved drugs that goes like this: “Prescribe it now…while it still works.”
Why do drugs lose their lustre when they begin to be widely used? For many reasons. Initial enthusiasm on the part of investigators may bias the results to make them seem more favorable, even in controlled studies. Drug makers, who fund the clinical trials that are conducted to win approval, may intentionally make the results appear rosier by fiddling with statistics or leaving out less-encouraging results.
Now a new study offers another surprising reason. Volunteers chosen for clinical trials may not represent the patients who ultimately end up taking the drugs.
How worried should you be about swine flu?
That’s the question of the hour for world health officials and the rest of us alike.
For decades, virologists have worried about exactly this nightmare scenario: a brand new influenza virus makes the leap from birds or pigs to human beings and then begins to spread freely from person to person. The imaginary nightmare would be even scarier if it began in one of the world’s densely-crowded megacities–a place like Mexico City, for example–where it could infect millions of people before anyone knew it even existed.
That’s exactly the sort of nightmare that seemed to be unfolding as swine flu emerged and began to spread.
It comes as no surprise. As the gloomy economic news mounts and more and more Americans find themselves unemployed or underemployed, stress is on the rise. The number of respondents who reported that the economy is causing significant stress jumped from 66 percent a year ago to 80 percent last September, according to the American Psychological Association. Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline surged from 39,465 in January 2008 to 50,158 this past January.
In a recent New York Times poll, 70 percent of respondents worry that a member of their household will become jobless. A vast majority say they’re convinced the recession will last another year or more.