Thursday, March 31. 2011
Consumer health advocate Erin Brockovich testified in front of the U.S. senate Environmental and Public Works Committee with a doctor and a cancer survivor to urge lawmakers to pass a law to document disease clusters across the country.
A disease cluster signifies an unusual number of health events , such as cancer, that are grouped around a certain time or location. The issue is close to Brockovich's heart, as she came to prominence investigating the prevalence of cancer cases around Hinkley, California that was the result of local groundwater contamination. In 2000, Brockovich's story was produced into the critically acclaimed film "Erin Brockovich".
According to Reuters, Brockovich told the senate panel that she receives phone calls from thousands of Americans every month who say there are unexplained diseases in their neighborhoods. Senator Barbara Boxer, the chair of the committee, is also the co-sponsor of a bill meant to increase coordination, transparency and accountability when federal agencies investigate potential disease clusters.
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Disease Clusters Alliance found that there have been 42 disease clusters reported in 13 U.S. states, resulting in numerous forms of cancer, birth defects and other chronic illnesses that may result in higher health insurance rates.
While poor diet and lack of exercise are usually to blame for excessive weight gain, a new study from the Kaiser Permanante Center for Health Research discovered stress and sleep deprivation can also cause people to pack on the pounds.
The study, published in the Journal of Obesity, found people who are trying to lose at least 10 pounds were more likely to do so if they had lower stress levels and slept between six and eight hours a night. Nearly 500 overweight people from Oregon and Washington participated in the study.
Participants with the lowest stress levels who received more than six hours - but no more than eight hours - of sleep were twice as likely to shed at least 10 pounds compared to those who had either the highest stress levels or slept for less than six hours.
"Some people may just need to cut back on their schedules and get to bed earlier. Others may find that exercise can reduce stress and help them sleep," said Dr. Charles Elder, the lead author of the study.
A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep, a problem that could lead to weight gain and other conditions that could affect health insurance rates. Moreover, sleep deprivation can boost stress levels, making it more difficult to lose weight.
Walnuts contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than any other nut, meaning this snack should be a regular part of a healthy diet, according to research from the University of Scranton.
Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that can damage cells and cause disease. According to Dr. Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the university, in an analysis of 54 samples of both raw and roasted nuts he discovered walnuts have almost twice the antioxidants as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, cashews and other nuts. Vinson added that the antioxidants in walnuts are 4 to 15 times more potent as the amount found in vitamin E.
Vinson said many Americans have been trained to avoid nuts due to their high fat content. However, Vinson said that's an "old wives tale."
"We think nuts are good for you. Eat more. I'm not being paid by the walnut people to tell you this: I'm recommending nuts," he said.
Antioxidants can help prevent chronic illnesses that can lead to high health insurance premiums. However, many delicious foods and beverages such as berries, green vegetables, dark chocolate and even red wine are full of antioxidants, making them an enjoyable - and healthy - addition to a diet.
Tuesday, March 29. 2011
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug that has been shown to prolong the lives of patients with advanced melanoma.
The drug, Yervoy, was developed by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and works by using the body's own immune system to fight tumors. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, which said the disease killed about 8,700 people in the U.S. last year.
In a clinical trial of the drug, doctors found that 20 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma who were treated with Yervoy were still alive two years later, compared with 13.7 percent of those in the control group.
However, a Yervoy treatment, which is administered in four infusions over three months, is likely to be costly even for those with health insurance coverage. The Washington Post reports that one treatment cycle would cost about $120,000.
Exposure to harsh ultra violet radiation during childhood could lead to melanoma later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement that said teens should be banned from indoor tanning to reduce their chance of developing the disease.
Many overweight moms and children tend to underestimate their weight, according to a new Columbia University study, indicating that heavy has become the new norm in many urban neighborhoods.
To come to their results, researchers questioned 111 moms and 111 children from New York City about their age, weight and income. Sixty-six percent of the moms were overweight or obese while 39 percent of children were too heavy. About 80 percent of participants were Hispanic, while the rest were either black, white or Asian.
When asked to estimate their own weight, 82 percent of obese women believed they weighed less than they did, while 42.5 percent of overweight women did the same. In addition, 86 percent of heavy children underestimated their weight. However, while almost half of moms with overweight children thought their kids were at a healthy body mass index, 41 percent of children thought their moms should lose weight.
Children who are overweight are considerably more likely to be obese as adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a problem that could lead to a number of diseases and raise health insurance rates. The agency report[s] that one study discovered that 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 and 15 were obese by 25.