These are my health links for February 5th through February 13th:
- Straining to Hear and Fend Off Dementia -At a party the other night, a fund-raiser for a literary magazine, I found myself in conversation with a well-known author whose work I greatly admire. I use the term “conversation” loosely. I couldn’t hear a word he said. But worse, the effort I was making to hear was using up so much brain power that I completely forgot the titles of his books.A senior moment? Maybe. (I’m 65.) But for me, it’s complicated by the fact that I have severe hearing loss, only somewhat eased by a hearing aid and cochlear implant.Dr. Frank Lin, an otolaryngologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describes this phenomenon as “cognitive load.” Cognitive overload is the way it feels. Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response.
- Fitness May Lower Dementia Risk -Being physically fit in midlife is associated with a lower risk of dementia in old age, a new study reports.Between 1971 and 2009, 19,458 healthy adults younger than age 65 took a treadmill fitness test as part of a broader health examination. Researchers followed the subjects through their Medicare records for an average of 24 years.After adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes, cholesterol and other health factors, the researchers found that compared with those in the lowest 20 percent for fitness in midlife, those in the highest 20 percent had a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia.
The reason for the association is unclear, but it was independent of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk factors for dementia, suggesting that both vascular and nonvascular mechanisms may be involved.
- Getting the Right Dose of Exercise -A common concern about exercise is that if you don’t do it almost every day, you won’t achieve much health benefit. But a commendable new study suggests otherwise, showing that a fairly leisurely approach to scheduling workouts may actually be more beneficial than working out almost daily.For the new study, published this month in Exercise & Science in Sports & Medicine, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham gathered 72 older, sedentary women and randomly assigned them to one of three exercise groups.One group began lifting weights once a week and performing an endurance-style workout, like jogging or bike riding, on another day.
Another group lifted weights twice a week and jogged or rode an exercise bike twice a week.
- Government says it recovers billions in health fraud crackdown -The federal government recovered a record $4.2 billion in the last fiscal year from medical providers and others who fraudulently billed government healthcare programs such as Medicare, the Obama administration announced Monday.The 2012 tally – which surpassed the $4.1 billion the government reclaimed the previous fiscal year – extends a years-long trend and reflects efforts by the Obama administration to crack down on healthcare fraud.The president’s healthcare law includes new initiatives to weed out fraudulent medical providers and bar them from receiving Medicare reimbursements.
- Does fluoride lower your child’s IQ? Dr. Joseph Mercola says yes on the Huffington Post. Don’t trust him. -So there I was last Sunday, filling my son’s sippy cup with tap water, when my friend told me about a Huffington Post article making the parenting rounds-the one titled “Harvard Study Confirms Fluoride Reduces Children’s IQ.” I set down my Brita pitcher, knowing that fluoride was one of the few chemicals it doesn’t remove, and sighed. Well, shit.Then I read the actual article, realized it was written by Dr. Joseph Mercola, the alternative physician who distinguishes himself as not being driven by “whatever has the most profit potential,” yet who sells fluoride-free toothpaste and hundreds of other products on his website (some of which have been slammed by the FDA for illegal marketing), and felt much better. Mercola frequently overstates the science and misleads his many readers-among other things, he preaches that vaccines cause autism and that homeopathy cures it, and oh, that animals are psychic-and this story (thankfully) is no different: The study on which he based his HuffPo article did find an association between high fluoride consumption and child IQ, but the findings aren’t applicable to American kids for a number of reasons.
- Southern diet, fried foods, may raise stroke risk -Deep-fried foods may be causing trouble in the Deep South. People whose diets are heavy on them and sugary drinks like sweet tea and soda were more likely to suffer a stroke, a new study finds.It’s the first big look at diet and strokes, and researchers say it might help explain why blacks in the Southeast – the nation’s “stroke belt” – suffer more of them.Blacks were five times more likely than whites to have the Southern dietary pattern linked with the highest stroke risk. And blacks and whites who live in the South were more likely to eat this way than people in other parts of the country were. Diet might explain as much as two-thirds of the excess stroke risk seen in blacks versus whites, researchers concluded.
“We’re talking about fried foods, french fries, hamburgers, processed meats, hot dogs,” bacon, ham, liver, gizzards and sugary drinks, said the study’s leader, Suzanne Judd of the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
People who ate about six meals a week featuring these sorts of foods had a 41 percent higher stroke risk than people who ate that way about once a month, researchers found.
- Tennis Elbow: No Long-Term Benefit From PT, Corticosteroids -A steroid injection and 2 months of physical therapy may not be the solution for lateral epicondylalgia, commonly known as tennis elbow, suggest research findings published in the February 5 issue of JAMA.Brooke K. Coombes, PhD, from the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia, and colleagues found that patients treated with a single corticosteroid injection had a 14% greater chance of poor outcome and a 77% increased risk for reinjury at 1 year relative to placebo.Eight weeks of physical therapy appeared to have no long-term benefit with the exception of decreased analgesic use. However, the physical therapy did improve short-term pain and disability outcomes at 1 month, although those benefits were lost when steroid injection was added to the treatment.
- Longer span between mammograms okay for older women -Screening women over 65 each year for breast cancer doesn’t catch any more early tumors – but it does lead to more false positives – than screening every other year, according to a new study.The findings are based on more than 140,000 older women included in five mammography registries across the United States.”This study clearly tells us that screening every two years may be more appropriate than screening women every year,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS).
- Old Age and Motorcycles Are a Dangerous Mix -If you’re over 40 and planning to hop on a motorcycle, take care. Compared with younger riders, the odds of being seriously injured are high.That is the message of a new study, published this week in the journal Injury Prevention, which found that older bikers are three times as likely to be severely injured in a crash as younger riders.The percentage of older bikers on the road is quickly rising, and their involvement in accidents is a growing concern. Nationwide, from 1990 to 2003, the percentage of motorcyclists over age 50 soared from roughly 1 in 10 to about 1 in 4. At the same time, the average age of riders involved in motorcycle crashes has also been climbing. Injury rates among those 65 and older jumped 145 percent from 2000 to 2006 alone.
- California’s Premature Birth Rate Continues To Fall -California’s rate of premature births declined slightly in 2011. A new report from the March of Dimes shows California’s rate has fallen five years in a row.The report shows overall, 9.8 percent of babies in California were born premature in 2011. Only four states have a lower premature birth rate: Oregon, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.In California, some populations had a much higher rate. For example, the premature birth rate among uninsured women was 25 percent.
- Forbidden fruit roll-ups: USDA plans to restrict school snacks -The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing regulations to keep the nation’s students from buying gummy bears, fruit roll-ups and cheese puffs from vending machines and at campus snack bars during the school day. But it would allow high school students to buy 12-ounce sports drinks and 20-ounce diet sodas.The rules would apply only during the school day, allowing candy sales and other fundraisers to continue during non-school hours (half an hour after the school day ends) and at off-campus events. A limited number of such fundraisers could occur during the school day, and parents would be able to pack whatever they choose in their children’s lunch bags and bring cupcakes or other treats for special events such as birthdays.