Monday, September 29, 2008

Group Advocates Health Care Reform

news you may not knowWe Can Do This...

It's an unusual concept - particularly in the middle of a political season. We're used to high-minded talk mixed neatly with under-handed strategies. Bickering and sniping are the common languages of the right, left, and center. But...

What if a group decided to approach a problem without all the nonsense that embodies politics?

Well - "Divided We Fail" has done just that.

The Divided We Fail campaign is an association of several advocacy groups targeting health care. While many groups have advocated health care reform over the years, they've primarily done so from a position of self-interest. The insurers fighting the providers fighting the consumers fighting the...

The Divided We Fail group is unique - they don't advocate a particular health care program. Rather, they believe politicians must put aside their pettiness and find a workable solution to provide health care to all Americans.

Their "About Us" section states this about the group: "AARP, Business Roundtable, Service Employees Union (SEIU), and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are engaging the American people, businesses, non-profit organizations, and elected officials in finding bi-partisan solutions to ensure affordable, quality health care and long-term financial security - for all of us. The need for health and financial security is something we all share, not just for ourselves, but for future generations. It is the promise of America."

So, will the Divided We Fail approach work? Well, it has a chance - unlike the current stalemate brought to us by the politics-of-the-day.

To read a summary of the group's efforts, see this from Reuters. To learn more details about the group, see this from Divided We Fail.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lower Cancer Risk Through Exercise

tidbits that tantalizeSure - Walk With Friends...

Do you love to walk? Do you sneak in a little stroll on your lunch breaks during the week, then really roam far and wide on the weekend? Or, is vacuuming your preferred method of exercise? Maybe digging in the dirt is what gets your heart pumping – or a game of golf, building a new deck, pouring a bit of concrete…

…It’s all good.

New research out of Japan finds that exercise, of virtually any type, lowers the risk of several cancers. The scientists studied 79,000 men and women, ages 45 to 74, for up to ten years. The study participants answered surveys about their diets and lifestyles, and about their physical activities.

The study revealed that the most active men were 13 percent less likely to develop cancer than their couch-potato counterparts. The women fared slightly better – they were 16 percent less likely to develop cancers.

The researchers postulate exercise helps fight cancer by reducing body fat. Their study showed a lower correlation in risk reduction for overweight participants. Another possibility is that exercise stimulates the immune system, which is a natural defense against cancer.

Regardless of how it works, take the plunge. Get out that vacuum and clean like crazy. Or, build that deck, carry those bricks, roam that neighborhood…

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about leading an active lifestyle, see this from

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For Heart Health Skip the Elevator

tidbits that tantalizeYeah - They're Magic...

Modern conveniences are fabulous. Push a button, flip a switch. Soon, controlling your entire household may be as simple as blinking your eye. But, what about the downside of easy living? After all, exactly how much effort does it require to blink an eye?

…Or to walk up a flight of stairs?

Researchers in Switzerland decided to take their lab to the everyday work world. They were especially interested in the effect of the elevator on employee’s health. So, they enlisted 69 employees with a less-than-active lifestyle and put them through their paces for 12 weeks. In this case, the paces were dutifully completed on the stairways of the office building in which they worked.

The participants increased their average daily flights of stairs taken by over fourfold. Prior to the study they averaged just five flights of stairs per day – during the study they averaged 23. Their efforts paid off.

The participant’s aerobic capacity increased dramatically. The increase correlated to a 15 percent reduction in risk of dying prematurely. That’s impressive for a 12-week routine of taking the stairs. They also decreased their waist size, reduced body fat, and lowered both blood pressure and cholesterol.

So, now you know. When you go to work tomorrow walk right past that tiny little tin box and hit the stairs. Your heart will thank you – for many, many years to come.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about starting a walking exercise program, see this from The Walking Site.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Exercise Boosts Survival in Breast Cancer

news you may not knowGood for Mind and Body...

You don’t have to be an exercise fanatic to derive the benefits. You don’t have to have a lifelong habit of pre-dawn jogging excursions. As a matter of fact, your daily routine can pretty much consist of couch-related activities. But…

You’ve got to start your exercise program – today!

A new study shows, once again, that exercise has tremendous health benefits. This study focuses on the survivors of breast cancer and finds that even late starters can benefit. Of course, the greatest benefit was found among those aforementioned longtime exercisers.

Women who exercise regularly have a 40 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer in the first place. Women who were already exercising in the year prior to diagnosis are 31 percent less likely to die of breast cancer. And, at the two-year mark following diagnosis, doing any exercise at all reduced the risk of death by an astounding 64 percent.

So, though breast cancer is certainly a major challenge, there are steps you can take to increase your odds of living a long and healthy life. Grab those sneakers, or those loafers, or, heck – go barefoot. But, go. Get out of the house and wander down the street. The fresh air will help clear your mind and the exercise will help heal your body. It’s a win-win.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, see this from

Monday, September 15, 2008


the perfect time to travel Enjoy the Journey...

I'll be on vacation the week of the 15th. Normal blogs will return on the 22nd.

Have a fabulous week...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Uninsured Pay Billions for Health Care

news you may not knowThis May Get Pricey...

One would think there is little difference between the physical health of an insured and an uninsured individual. But, that would be thought worth a healthy dose of rethinking. The truth is that the uninsured, though certainly starting out on even footing, often see their health deteriorate rapidly because they simply can't afford medical care.

That's a serious problem - for all of us.

It's a serious problem for the uninsured because they don't go to the doctor for routine checkups. They don't pay attention to the little aches and pains that turn into the monstrous health care issues that threaten their wellbeing. They blow right past the prevention stage to the serious - and often preventable - life-changing disease stage.

It's a serious problem for the insured because everyone pays the price. Even though the uninsured don't seek care nearly as often as those with insurance, they do occasionally have to go to the doctor. And, when they can't pay for their care, the tab is dropped on the community.

The figures are significant. The uninsured pay out of pocket expenses of $30 billion each year. They'll also receive $56 billion in free care each year, with about $43 billion of that funded by the federal government.

Now, not to confuse the issue, but if the uninsured received coverage they'd actually spend about $100 more each year out of pocket. But, insurers would cover the current "free" portion of their care and they'd get at those medical issues before they became a big deal.

So - rock the vote this year. Take a good look at the presidential contenders and give serious consideration to their stance on health care.

To read more about the report, see this from Reuters. To compare the health care plans of John McCain and Barack Obama, see this from

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sci-Fi Suit Helps Paralyzed Walk

tidbits that tantalizeThe Future is Now...
(photo courtesy of Argo Medical)

The future is a strange thing. We're always looking forward to it - or dreading it, worrying about it, dreaming about it... Sometimes we spend so much time contemplating the future we really pay precious little attention to the here and now. Then a surprising thing happens - in the blink of an eye we realize we're already smack dab in the middle of the future. Today...

Amit Goffer was paralyzed in an accident in 1997. That both landed him in a wheelchair and set him on a mission. He founded Argo Medical Technologies, an Israeli high-tech company, and got to work developing a sci-fi age solution to paralysis.

The result is the ReWalk, a human exoskeleton with a remote control and motorized leg supports. The ReWalk controls are carried in a backpack, which also houses the rechargeable batteries. The user selects from a number of settings, including stand, sit, walk, and climb.

Then they're off. Walking in a manner that has previously been impossible for them. The user must have full use of their arms, as crutches are still required to maintain balance.

It's a fabulous device, now in clinical trials, and slated for release to the public in 2010. The cost is estimated at $20,000.

To read more about the ReWalk, see this from Reuters. To read the full details of ReWalk, see this from Argo Medical.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Stop-Smoking Campaigns Work

news you may not knowYeah, It's Worth It...

How do you fight the $13 billion big tobacco companies spend each year to promote their addictive product? [The ethics of spending billions to promote a known cancer-causing agent is an issue for another time] Well, if you live in sunny California you take the same approach to this problem as you do to most others: you throw money at it.

California spent $1.8 billion combating smoking over a 15-year period. Sure, it's a drop in the bucket compared to big tobacco's spending. But, the payoff was impressive. A study conducted by the University of California San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education showed California got a hefty return on their money.

The group estimates California saved $86 billion over the 15-year effort. That's close to a 50-fold return on their money. In today's market that's quit a trick. The savings are based on the reduction in costs to provide health care for smoking related disease.

The fascinating aspect of California's initiative is that it focused on adults - most programs typically focus on teens, in an effort to prevent them from becoming first-time smokers. California pursued an aggressive media campaign aimed at encouraging adults to quit smoking. They combined their media blitz with public policy directives aimed at creating smoke-free environments.

So, that money California threw at the tobacco problem? Bull's eye!

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To find help in quitting smoking, see this from

Friday, September 05, 2008

Red Bull Boosts Energy - And Stroke Risk

tidbits that tantalizeHow Far Will it Push You?

Late night study sessions, final exams, and cross-country drives. They all call for a bit of superhuman effort, a stamina that goes beyond the normal resources. What's a young guy or gal to do? Well, reach for a Red Bull of course.

Red Bull is a popular stimulant energy drink created by an Australian entrepreneur in the 1980s. It's wildly popular among young adults, with over 3.5 billion cans sold in 143 countries in 2007. That's a lot of Bull...

But, despite the welcome surge of energy, the young imbibers are also getting a more worrisome physiological boost. Their risk of stroke and heart attack, even after a single can, is spiking significantly. Researchers at the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital assessed the impact of Red Bull in the cardiovascular systems of young drinkers. They found that within one hour of drinking Red Bull the blood in the test subjects had become sticky, viewed as a warning sign of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Red Bull Australia disputes the findings. But, even they recommend against consuming more than two cans each day. They also failed to mention that Norway, Uruguay, and Denmark have banned the sale of Red Bull due to health concerns. Hmm...

The scientists say that individuals with any predisposition to cardiovascular disease should be especially cautious. They also warn that drinking Red Bull when you're already stressed, or have high blood pressure, could have dire consequences.

So, it appears to come down to this: whom do you trust to give you the straight scoop when it comes to Red Bull - the marketers or the scientists?

To read more about this study, see this from Reuters. To read a thorough assessment of energy drinks, see this from Family and Consumer Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Young Women Who Smoke Risk Stroke

tidbits that tantalizeWow - Maybe Quitting Makes Sense...

Girls are growing up faster today than ever. In some ways that's a good thing. It means they're more mature and make better decisions earlier in life - sometimes. Other times it means they get sucked into the same poor decisions adults make, but at an earlier age. And, just as with adults, poor choices very often lead to negative consequences.

A new study highlights the dangers of stroke among young female smokers. Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore tracked over 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49. Approximately 450 of these women had already had a stroke, and just over 600 had not.

The results are startling.

Current smokers were 2.6 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who had never lit up. Heavier smokers fared the worst. Women smoking between 21 and 39 cigarettes each day were 4.3 times more likely to have a stroke. Crossing the 40 per day threshold made things even worse.

"Among women who smoked 40 or more cigarettes a day, the stroke risk increased more than nine times over that of a non-smoker," said John Cole, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of neurology.

While the outlook is bleak, the report also points to some positive news. As soon as a person quits smoking their risk for stroke begins to decline. At the two-year mark their risk is significantly less, and at five years they have no greater risk for stroke than a nonsmoker. Not only that, they'll feel better, their clothes will smell fresh and their teeth will sparkle.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To find help to quit smoking, see this from

Monday, September 01, 2008

Antibiotics Send Thousands to Emergency Rooms

news you may not know
How Much is Enough?

It's not exactly what springs to mind when you think of a drug overdose sending someone to the hospital. Images of back alley deals, dimly lit hallways and dirty needles flood your consciousness. But that's not always the case. In fact, the real culprit may be the usually life-saving gold standard of medications, penicillin.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find that the good guys don't always yield good outcomes. Antibiotics are truly a miraculous class of drugs, responsible for saving millions of lives. But, because they are so effective, we've adopted a more-is-better attitude. And, say the scientists, that is precisely the problem.

Complications from antibiotic use send an estimated 140,000 people to emergency rooms each year. It accounts for over 19 percent of all drug-related ER visits, with 78 percent of the visits being due to an allergic reaction. The negative reactions may be as simple as a rash, or they may be anaphylaxis, a serious reaction that can be fatal. The final 22 percent of antibiotic-related ER visits are due to errors and the aforementioned overdoses.

We're hooked on antibiotics. Over 100 million prescriptions are written for antibiotics each year. Oh, yes - the pharmaceutical industry has a hand in this as well: they spend over $1 billion each year promoting antibiotics.

So, exercise some caution. Sometimes all that's needed to cure a common cold is a bit of common rest.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read recommendations for the safe use of antibiotics, see this from Johns Hopkins.