Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Pill Power Trumps Will Power Against Migraines

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Migraine sufferers take note: don’t try to stave off that encroaching headache through sheer will power. Most people who treat their migraines with triptans, among the most popular and effective medications, will find they work best if taken early in the attack, before skin sensitivity develops, according to Harvard Medical School research.

As their headaches progress, nearly four out of five migraine sufferers develop skin hypersensitivity. Merely touching their hair, scalp, or skin around the eyes causes pain. A Harvard study shows that, once this hypersensitivity takes root, it’s too late to abort the painful attack. However, if a triptan is taken before sensitivity develops, it is likely to completely relieve the pain.

Other research from Florida’s Palm Beach Headache Center suggests two-thirds of the people with migraines are pain-free within four hours if they take sumatriptan early enough in the attack.

If the triptans are taken before the skin becomes hypersensitive, they can completely alleviate the pain, Harvard researchers reported. They point out that it is vital that patients learn to recognize the first signs of skin hypersensitivity and to take their triptans before a migraine goes too far.

More than 28 million Americans get migraine headaches. Many are reluctant, for a variety of reasons, to take medication at the first sign of the attack for various reasons. Among them is the feeling that they should be abort their own headaches without medication. The irony, however, is that if a migraine sufferer waits until the headache is bad, the or she may need more medication to try to get rid of it.

People who are having more than two or three migraines a week need to see their doctors so they can be prescribed preventive medication, according to the Palm Beach researchers, who studied 691 migraine sufferers. They all were required to take medication within two hours of the start of the migraine — 236 were given a placebo, 233 were given 50 milligrams of sumatriptan, and 222 were given 100 mgs. of sumatriptan.

After four hours, 71 (30 percent) of the placebo group were pain-free, compared with 142 (61 percent) of the 50 mg. group and 151 (68 percent) of the 100 mg. group. The study also revealed that side effects,such as dizziness and nausea, were less if the medication was taken earlier than later.

A similar study by the American Academy of Neurology focusing on a different medication supports those findings. Of 250 patients studied, 60 percent of those who took the medication within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms were pain-free two hours later.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 29, 2012 at 12:05 am

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Slip, Slop, Slappin’ Your Sun Tan

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

  As long as a tan is considered cool, the risk of contracting skin cancer will continue.
  More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Malignant melanoma, which is easily preventable by wearing sun-protective clothing, using sun screen and seeking shade, will kill some 7,500 Americans this year. While melanoma accounts for only 5  percent of skin cancer cases, it causes 80 percent of skin-cancer deaths.
  Social acceptance — indeed, favor — of tanning is at fault, said Dr. Martin Weinstock, chairman of the American Cancer Society’s skin-cancer advisory group. More than half the population believes people look better with a tan.
  “A hundred years ago it was a very unfashionable thing,” Weinstock said. “It signified that you were the type of person who had to work for a living, usually out in the field under the sun. People who owned farms and big plantations could spend the day inside.” Industrialization changed all that, as workers moved inside large manufacturing plants and the wealthy began lolling along tropical beaches. So tans became a fashionable sign of leisure.
  That image must be changed and Weinstock thinks there are signs of a pendulum swing. A tan is evidence that your skin has been damaged and this damage accumulates with each tan. “Unfortunately, a lot of people simply do not use sun screen correctly. One of the findings in a survey we did was that a lot of people, when they got the worst sunburn of the summer, were using a sun screen of SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or greater. If someone goes to the beach, plays a couple of games of volleyball and then says, ‘My skin is turning red, I’d better put on some sun screen,’ well, obviously that’s too late. Most of the damage has already been done.”
  Added problems are that too little sun screen is used or it may be washed off by sweat or swimming. An SPF of 30 or greater is Weinstock’s recommendation. He also emphasizes that “it’s not the tan that’s the problem; it’s the ultraviolet radiation used to get a tan. ” What causes the problem is the ultraviolet radiation from the sun that triggers a reaction in pigment-producing skin cells to produce a browner color in the skin. This same radiation “causes damage in the DNA of skin cells as well as other types of damage to the skin, and that is what has been related to the risk of skin cancer” as well as premature aging of the skin.
  There are two reasons tanning salons are not safe, even though they may advertise that they use innocuous UVA radiation and not the UVB that causes sunburn. First of all, UVA is not totally harmless. Secondly, most tanning booths give users some UVB also.
  If you use an artificial tanner – tan in a bottle – it probably will give you a tan in color only. “They don’t protect you against sun exposure,” he said. ” They don’t protect against ultraviolet light.”
  “We have a slogan at the American Cancer Society. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap:’ slip on a shirt, slop on sun screen, slap on a hat. “

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 1, 2012 at 12:28 am

Posted in Health

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Doctor, Dentist Visits Quell Smoking

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

  If you see your doctor  and dentist on a regular basis, you’re more likely to quit smoking and to remain a non-smoker, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

  “Having a regular physician and seeing a physician recently seems to have an important  association with whether or not an older patient is a current smoker,” according to Mark S. Kaplan and Jason T. Newsom of Portland State University and Bentson H. McFarland of the Oregon Health & Science University. “Older adults’ contacts with physicians and dentists are strongly negatively associated with smoking among older adults.”

  Kaplan and his colleagues base their conclusion on a study of one of the largest samples of older adults in which correlations of late-life smoking have been investigated. The sample also included one of the largest arrays of social and demographic variables as predictors of smoking behavior. The analysis is based on data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada of 73,402 households across Canada. Kaplan and his associates used the health files of 13,363 persons aged 65 and older who had complete data.

  In the study, 15 percent were current smokers, 41 percent were former smokers, and 44 percent never smoked. The majority of older smokers had not visited a dentist in more than five years. More specifically, individuals without a regular physician and with infrequent physical and dental checkups were more likely to be smokers.

  Kaplan and his associates hope the study will help guide physicians and dentists when they see older patients. “Although physicians have a unique opportunity to intervene when their patients need help to quit smoking, previous studies have shown that fewer than half ask their patients about tobacco use,” he said. While dentists are more likely than physicians “to estimate their patients’ tobacco use accurately, they were less likely to assess and intervene, and less supportive of tobacco cessation, according to prior studies,” said Kaplan.

  “Given the frequency of dental-care among older smokers, communication and cooperation between physicians and dentists are of crucial importance with respect to the management of late-life smoking.”

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

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The Heart is a Lonely Killer

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Lonely people face a greater risk of heart disease, the biggest killer on the globe, according to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Lonely students at Ohio State University showed increased blood pressure caused by increased resistance to blood flow that may be harmful in the long run when performing mentally and emotionally stressful tasks. Non-lonely students recorded a more-normal response of increased blood flow from increased cardiac output. Both chronic high-blood-pressure and vascular resistance have been linked to increased risks of heart disease

The students were given a loneliness questionnaire, then monitored during one task involving mental arithmetic and one involving writing and giving a speech to defend themselves against a false accusation of stealing. Blood pressure before and during these stress-inducing tasks rose similarly for both groups, but lonely students had significantly higher vascular resistance and lower cardiac output than the non- lonely students.

In a parallel study of healthy older men and women, aged 53 to 78, systolic blood pressure rose with age in the lonely while it remained more stable in those who were not lonely. The subjects in this study were also given a questionnaire on loneliness, but underwent several medical tests to assess blood pressure and other clinical measures. Blood pressure was significantly higher in the older half of the lonely group. It was similar across all ages among the non-lonely. The study also revealed that lonely people were no different from the non-lonely in terms of behavior risk factors such as drinking, smoking, diet, and compliance with medical treatments.

“Differences in the (mechanisms of blood flow) observed through the session in younger adults may contribute to elevated blood pressure across time in lonely adults,” said Dr. John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago. “Previous research has shown that passive coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to vascular resistance, whereas active coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to increases in (cardiac output),” the researchers stated in their report.

“The parallels between these findings are suggestive of recent evidence that lonely individuals are less likely throughout the day to actively cope and more likely to feel anxious and threatened than non-lonely individuals.” Loneliness appears to be a stable characteristic across all ages, they suggest. “Lonely individuals tend to perceive their social world as less reinforcing and more threatening generally than non- lonely individuals.”

Mature Life Features. Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

April 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm

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Costs Cut Into Government-Controlled Health Care

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By Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Government-cotrolled services  of any sort may focus on cost regardless of their intent.

You’d like to believe a politician who proclaims to be the crusader who will make sure you will never be deprived of health care or necessary medications. Especially when he or she pounds the podium with charges that the rising costs of both are caused by greedy medical- insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, doctors, and health-care providers.

Bring on the Canadian system, they say, where government has stepped in to keep the cost of personal health-care coverage down.  That’s fine, if you can get treated. And if you can get get a prescription for the best drug for your condition.

On a cable-Canadian televison show more than a dozen years ago, a panel of six Canadian and six American experts at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, agreed on only one thing: Canada’s health-care system not only is bankrupt, it’s in debt and will never get out of debt.

The same could be happening to Medicare in this country.

Medicare funds come from four sources: payroll taxes on workers’ income, a tax on Social Security benefits, premiums paid by beneficiaries, and general tax revenues. In 2000, payroll taxes covered 65 percent of Medicare expenses. Payroll-tax revenue is expected to drop below 40 percent by 2025. That means money will have to be taken out of general tax revenues to cover Medicare expenses or it, too, will run out of money like the Canadian program.

This is translated into patient deaths for our northern neighbor because waiting lists have grown longer.

While Canadians don’t pay for health services when they receive them, they pay for this “free” care by waiting, according to Sally C. Pipes, president and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute. “Between 1993 and 2001, the median waiting time from referral by a general practitioner to treatment increased by seven weeks, from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 16.2 weeks in 2001,” she wrote.

That’s one reason why Canadians requiring surgical or other procedures expeditiously swarm into the United States and pay the full costs for such care on the south side of the U.S.-Canadian border.

While government intervention is designed to focus on costs to the patient, it also focuses on costs to the government.

“Consider Positron Emission Tomography machines, or PET scanners,” Pipes said. This piece of equipment that helps doctors predict disease when other tests are negative, saving a lot of pain and suffering for cancer patients, costs more than $3 million. By the fall of 2001, there were more than 250 of these machines in the United States, 48 in Japan, 45 in Germany and nearly 20 in Belgium. There were two fully operational in Canada.

Canadian hospitals are not free to develop services, such as open-heart surgery and transplants, or to purchase expensive equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, “without specific approval from provincial governments,” she said.

This government-controlled, budget-focused system leads to some absurdities.

A quota was set in 2001 at Queensway-Carlton Hospital in Ottawa on the number of babies it would deliver. While able to handle 2,700 “free” deliveries a year, the facility decided to cut that number down to 2,100. This was designed to save $600,000. Doctors who delivered too many newborns faced the loss of their jobs.

It was revealed in 1998 that St. Joseph’s Health Centre in London, Ontario, was renting access to its MRI machine to veterinarians after hours to provide cat scans for pets. The hospital was turning its idle equipment into a revenue producer because, while humans don’t pay when they use the machine, pet owners do.

Both federal and provincial governments also are involved in setting price controls for prescription drugs. This regimentation has several costs. Before doctors can prescribe drugs, they must wend their way through a bureaucratic morass, Pipes said. This is the result of the procedures overseen by the federal Patented Medicines Prices Review Board that is charged with monitoring manufacturers’ drug pricing. The labyrinthine labeling of the three categories of drugs permitted on the market make it almost impossible to determine what is a legitimate cost for drug therapy.

Compounding the problem is that the provinces step in before a drug is allowed to be prescribed. For example, 99 new drugs were approved by the federal government from 1994 to 1998, yet Ontario patients had access to only 25 of them. And, as Pipes points out, “The cheapest drug might not be the most effective, but that doesn’t matter to the government.”

She cites the example of a British Columbia senior who was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding three days after “the government switched him to an older, cheaper, and less-effective drug to treat his peptic ulcers.”

She also addressed what appear to be attractive bargains on drugs in Canada. “A study by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton  school business school professor Patricia Danzon found that U.S. consumers, if they purchased the same bundle of drugs they actually purchase in the U.S. in Canada, they would have paid 3 percent more.”

The reason is that generic drugs, which account for half of U.S. consumption, are less expensive under the competitive U.S. system than the price-controlled Canadian system.

 

Mature Life Features,  Copyright 2003

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 8, 2012 at 12:05 am

Kids’ Gift Benefits Grandparents

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

One day a year has been set aside to honor a generation that gives of itself 365 days a year. That day is Grandparents Day.

It falls on Sept. 8 this year (2003), which is when Americans will honor those unsung heroes and heroines whose many sacrifices have made life easier and better for succeeding generations.

Many people are unaware that Grandparents Day exists and would be puzzled by the prospect of what to give as a gift. In fact, if one were to ask any grandparent what he or she would like for Grandparents Day, the odds are the reply would be, “Something I can give my grandchildren, something that will make them healthier and happier.”

People forget that what makes grandparents happy is seeing their grandchildren (and their children, of course) happy, many experts say. Many grandparents see their grandchildren every day.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that grandparents headed 2.3 million American households in 1993. That figure represents 2.5 percent of American households. That number is expected to increase.

Grandparents often wind up taking care of their grandchildren for long periods of time. Watching active youngsters can be challenging at any age, which is why grandparents would certainly welcome new products that enable them to keep tabs on their grandchildren without constant physical exertion.

One such product being marketed by Tender Care Products, the Parent Pager, is a dual-unit electronic device that sounds an alarm if a child wanders beyond a pre-determined distance. For enhanced safety when playing around water, the grandparents’ unit immediately sounds if the child’s unit is inadvertently shut off or if the batteries get low.

“It isn’t easy for grandparents to keep track of their grandchildren every moment, especially in the hectic, fast-paced world in which we live,” said Geoffrey Walsh, chairman of Venture Initiatives, which markets the unit. “Parent Pager is an excellent way to give children a manageable amount of freedom and their grandparents peace of mind at the same time.”

 

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 8, 2011 at 12:48 am

Dental Debaters Getting Foot in Mouth

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Consumers are caught in the crossfire over the debate about the safety of silver-colored fillings, known as dental amalgam.

The controversy pits science against emotion.

The decision about what to use to fill cavities is a matter best decided by the patient and his or her dentist, says the American Dental Association. Yet emotional reports claiming amalgam is responsible for a variety of diseases are confusing and perhaps even alarming people to the point where they will not seek necessary dental care.

Of the dental filling materials available today – gold, silver-colored amalgam, and tooth-colored
fillings – one material, amalgam, has been attacked to the extent that some would ban it. This
would deprive dental patients of a valuable – and, in some instances, irreplaceable – treatment
option, says the ADA.

The ADA says it is concerned that misguided fears about the safety of amalgam, coupled with the
added costs of the more expensive filling options, may cause people to forego necessary dental
care. Far fewer people have dental insurance than medical insurance, and not all insurance plans
cover all filling options.

Despite amalgam’s long and impressive track record, the ADA says a small group has been
communicating primarily through the Internet that amalgam is somehow responsible for diseases
such as autism, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis because it is an alloy with mercury. Physicians and researchers have yet to determine the cause for each of these diseases, leaving the door open for speculation.

The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, U.S. Public Health Services, National Institutes of Health  and other organizations responsible for protecting the nation’s health have extensively evaluated amalgam declared it safe and effective.

Concern about amalgam because it contains mercury is intuitive but not supported by scientific
fact, the ADA says. It is true that amalgam contains mercury, but when it is mixed with metals
such as silver, copper and tin, it forms a stable alloy that dentists have used for years to
successfully treat dental disease in millions of people. Similar to the way sodium and chlorine (both hazardous in their pure state) combine to form ordinary table salt, the mercury in dental amalgam combines with other metals to form a stable dental filling.

 Amalgam has been used for more than a century to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of
decayed teeth, according to the ADA. Until the advent of amalgam, most people lost their teeth
due to decay. Critics claim that amalgam, because it has been in use for over a hundred years, is outdated and
should be replaced with other, newer materials.

Getting rid of amalgam would be like getting rid of aspirin, according to ADA officials. In some situations, such as large cavities in the rear molars or cavities below the gum line, amalgam is often used because of its durability and affordability, and because it is one of the best filling materials that can be placed in areas of the mouth that are difficult to keep dry.

In other situations, such as a tiny cavity where the tooth needs very little preparation or because
the patient wants a more natural-looking filling, amalgam clearly takes a back seat to tooth-colored fillings, officials agree.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

October 31, 2011 at 12:05 am

Science Battling Social, Economic Disparities in Health

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

 

 

 

  Science may be helping to eliminate socioeconomic disparities in health, according to researchers at Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. It could be accomplished in part by specific intervention, such as the adoption of a rigid treatment plan and intensive patient monitoring that help patients better manage their own treatment.

  This could have far-reaching effects on the nation’s graying population.

  The Rand study revealed an association between a patient’s level of education and adherence to complex treatment regimens for two diseases — HIV and diabetes. Researchers found  income, age, race, and gender were not as important as education in influencing one’s level of health. Differences associated with less education could be overcome, resulting in improved compliance and improved health outcomes.

  “Lower socioeconomic status — less education, and lower income and wealth – has for some time been strongly linked with poorer health,” said Rand researcher James P. Smith. “This research offers a new and practical explanation for why these differences in health may occur and how we might address them.” He noted that experts have looked at several possible explanations for health disparities associated with socioeconomic status. Researchers have found differences in access to health care and insurance or in smoking and drinking among affluent and poor groups, but exactly how these factors contribute to differences in health is unclear.

  “This report takes a clever and useful approach to looking at health disparities,” said Richard M. Suzman, associate director of the National Institutes of Aging’s Behavioral and Social Research Program. “We knew that education was one of the most important contributions to health and life expectancy, but were not sure exactly why. These analyses give us hope that we can define strategies to help improve the health of people with less education, using interventions for illnesses that require adherence to complex regimens.”

  The study of people with diabetes compared patients’ behaviors. When the researchers compared the conventional therapies with a more intensive therapeutic approach, they found that education no longer had an effect on outcome. There was little difference in health status among people in different educational groups using the more intensive, enforced treatment, showing that imposing strict adherence to a treatment regimen helped the less educated more than those with higher education.

  “These analyses show that the ability to adhere to a treatment regimen, while it can be influenced by education, is the bottom line for better health,” according to the Rand report. “Our study suggests to health providers that not all patients are alike in their ability to adhere to and maintain complicated medical regimens. But we also demonstrate that socioeconomic effects are amenable to change with training, monitoring, and possibly other approaches.”

  Many experts believe this could impact how the United States manages spiraling medical costs as the the largest population of seniors in the nation’s history begins using health-care resources at an unprecedented rate.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 28, 2011 at 12:05 am

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Crunching Candy, Ice-Cubes Crumples Teeth

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

     Using your teeth to rip off clothes tags or crack open nuts or crunch ice and hard candy can wear down and weaken the surface of your enamel.
     Over time, these habits can chip the enamel or break a tooth at the gum line, said Dr. David McFadden, a Harvard Medical School associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
     Enamel protects the core of each tooth from the pressure and attrition of chewing as well as from invasive bacteria. Even though it is the hardest substance in your body, it can still incur damage.
     “When you chew food, pressure is equally distributed over the entire surface area of your mouth,” said McFadden. “But the force drastically increases when the focal point is concentrated on a
small surface area, as is the case when you eat hard candy.”
     While you shouldn’t forget to brush and floss to maintain dental health, McFadden suggests
chewing not chomping to preserve your teeth from undue pressure.
Mature Life Features, Copyright 2002

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 21, 2011 at 12:05 am

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“Inside Outside” Helps Sun-Proof Skin

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 By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Recent studies suggest that taking carotenoid and vitamin E supplements, which has grown popular in Europe as a sun-protection strategy, may be an effective adjunct to sun screens in reducing sunburn.
The findings may offer some surprising advice for those who spend time in the sun and
want to protect themselves against damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. The two supplements, natural
mixed carotenoids and vitamin E that are more-often associated with nutrition than sun
protection, were found to help protect the skin from the dangerous rays.
Researchers revealed in the March 2002 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that
natural mixed carotenoids and vitamin E reduce the skin-reddening effects of sunburn. This
bolsters results of earlier benchmark studies conducted in Germany.
“Beta-carotene has been widely used as an oral sun-protectant with few studies into its
effectiveness,” according to the AJCN.
However, clinical evidence suggests that beta-carotene modifies sunburn damage, and vitamin E
may assist. Sunburn intensity was significantly reduced in subjects who took vitamin
supplements over a 12-week period while being exposed to UV radiation.
“It appears from the research that what carotenoids do for plants, they can do for the skin,” said
Ronald Watson, professor of public health research at the University of Arizona Health Sciences
Center in Tucson. “We found that the natural carotenoid supplements reduced skin reddening
after the subjects were exposed to UV rays. While this may suggest a new idea in sun care for the
many sun worshipers out there, it’s important to note that these supplements must be taken along
with the use of sun screens.
“When we say ‘inside-outside’ protection,” said Watson, “we mean taking natural mixed
carotenoid supplements and also apply your sun screen on the outside all over your skin for
optimum protection.”
Supplementation must be administered for at least three months before benefits can be seen, said
Watson. “It takes time for your body and skin to accumulate enough of these natural carotenoids
to provide some UV protection.”
Mature Life Features Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 9, 2011 at 10:00 am