Archive for December, 2009

Breast-Feeding May Help A Woman’s Heart

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Researchers found that those women who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care had previously looked at breast-feeding’s effect on older women.  Their study found that post-menopausal women who had breast-fed were less likely to report having heart disease.  Another study on breast-feeding from a different research group recently reported in the journal Diabetes that women who breast-fed were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that indicate an increased risk for heart disease.

The current study included women who had at least one baby. At the time of the study, they were 45 to 58 years old, had never been diagnosed with heart disease and had no known symptoms of heart disease.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the women who had not breast-fed had coronary artery calcification, compared with 17 percent of the breast-feeding moms. The researchers found calcifications in 39 percent of the aortas of women who hadn’t breast-fed, versus 17 percent of the women who had. They also found plaque deposits in the carotid artery of 18 percent of the women who had not breast-fed and 10 percent of those who had.

After adjusting the data for socioeconomic status, family history and lifestyle factors, heart disease risk factors and body mass, the researchers concluded that women who had not breast-fed were five times more likely to have aortic calcifications than women who consistently breast-fed. 

Report prepared by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Check out the website for costs for critical illness insurance coverage.

Protein Could Yield Treatments For Liver Cancer

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Research from United States and Japanese scientists explain that learning more about how TAK1 works could improve understanding about the development of liver disease and cancer, and lead to new therapies.

The researchers noted these findings in their report, released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

TAK1 appears to be a master regulator of liver function according to the dean of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine statement issued in a university news release. 

It was already known that TAK1 activates two proteins that play a role in immunity, inflammation, programmed cell death and cancer. But it wasn’t clear whether TAK1 promotes or prevents liver cancer.

To investigate this question, scientists created mice with liver cells that lacked TAK1 and found that the mice had a high rate of liver cell death. To compensate, the rodents’ livers produced too many cells, resulting in liver damage that led to liver cancer, the researchers found. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.  Visit our website for more information on critical illnesses and a form of insurance that pays a tax-free lump sum payment upon diagnosis of cancer.

Heart Disease To Cost $503 Billion In 2010

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The record amount represents an increase of nearly 6 percent, and many cases could have been prevented, according to the American Heart Association report. 

The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease, according to an update published online in the journal Circulation.  An estimated 80 million Americans – about one in three – have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Obesity and other risk factors, like too little exercise and poor diet, are fueling the expected increase in health care costs associated with heart disease and stroke.  Current statistical data shows Americans to be on average overweight, physically inactive and eating a diet that is too high in calories, sodium, fat and sugar according to the head of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee. 

According to the heart association, 59 percent of adults who responded to a 2008 national survey described themselves as physically inactive.  The report also says fewer than half of people with heart disease symptoms are receiving cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths globally in 2005. 

The heart association said the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures jumped 33 percent from 1996 to 2006, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.

Calorie Intake Linked To Longevity And Cancer Development

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

According to findings reported by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham,  reducing calorie-intake can benefit longevity and help prevent diseases like cancer that have been linked to aging.

The researchers conducted tests by growing both healthy human-lung cells and precancerous human-lung cells in laboratory flasks. The flasks were provided either normal levels of glucose or significantly reduced amounts of the sugar compound, and the cells then were allowed to grow for a period of weeks.   Restricted glucose levels led the healthy cells to grow longer than is typical and caused the precancerous cells to die off in large numbers.

Every year some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer.  It ranks as one of the leading factors for the need for costly long-term care according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance among aging seniors.

Two key genes were affected in the cellular response to decreased glucose consumption. The first gene, telomerase, encodes an important enzyme that allows cells to divide indefinitely. The second gene, p16, encodes a well known anti-cancer protein.

Healthy cells saw their telomerase rise and p16 decrease, which would explain the boost in healthy cell growth, the researchers explained.  The research into the links between calorie intake, aging and the onset of diseases related to aging is thought to be a first of its kind given that it used the unique approach of testing human cells versus laboratory animals.

The group’s study titled “Glucose Restriction Can Extend Normal Cell Lifespan and Impair Precancerous Cell Growth Through Epigenetic Control of hTERT and p16 Expression” has been published in the online edition of The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, or FASEB Journal.

Scientists Crack Genetic Codes of Two Cancers

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The complete genetic codes of two human cancers have been mapped for the first time. It has been described as the most significant milestone in cancer research in more than a decade.  The findings could herald a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalized therapy. 

The research was led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England.  Medical experts note that the findings could launch a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalised therapy. 

Mapping of cancer code is a huge breakthrough and may soon herald blood tests that could detect tumors far earlier than currently possible explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.  There are 1.4 million cancer cases in the U.S. and well over 500,000 cancer-caused deaths occur annually. 

Scientists were examining which genes go wrong in different types of cancer.  The DNA code for the skin cancer called melanoma reportedly has more than 30,000 errors, mostly caused by too much exposure to the sun. The lung cancer DNA had more than 23,000 errors, most triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke.

The exhaustive genetic maps, which catalogue every DNA mutation found in two patients’ tumours, will transform treatment of the disease. Scientists predict that by about 2020 all cancer patients could have their tumours analysed to find the genetic defects that drive them. This information would then be used to select the treatments most likely to work. 

Physicians and researchers noted that insights will also lead to the development of powerful drugs to target DNA errors that cause cancer and highlight ways in which the disease can be prevented. Cancers would be diagnosed and treated according to their genetic profiles rather than their position in the body.

Life Expectency In U.S. Hits New High

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

According to federal officials women born in 2007 can expect to live to 80.4 years on average and men to 75.3 years.  The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that while Americans can expect to live longer than their parents, life expectancy in the United States is still lower than in many other industrialized countries, including Canada and Japan. 

Along with increased life expectancy, the report notes the death rate has dropped to an all-time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people, continuing a long-term trend.  “It is increasingly likely that Americans will live a long life into their 80s, 90s and even past 100,” explains Jesse Slome, execuitive director of the American Associatiion for Critical Illness Insurance.  “But few are prepared for the consequences of living that long.”

The death rate has been decreasing in the United States since the 1960s with fewer deaths from the three primary critical illnesses, heart disease, stroke and cancer are driving the trend, he said.   The report is based on data from nearly 90 percent of U.S. death certificates. 

According to the report, life expectancy in 2007 increased to 77.9 years (77 years and 11 months) up from 77.7 years in 2006. Since 2000, life expectancy has increased 1.4 years.

The five leading causes of death, accounting for 64 percent of all deaths, are heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents. 

Death rates in the United States vary by region and state, with the Southeast leading the nation. The researchers report that white women have the longest life expectancy (80.7 years) followed by black women (77 years).   At age 65, life expectancy was 18.6 years in 2007, an increase of 6 percent since 2000. 

Experts note that living longer will also have unforeseen effects on the country.  “People living 20 years or more than their predecessors will have to rethink retirement planning,” Slome said.  “The nation will see a significant drain on Social Security and Medicare benefits as these programs were designed to support people for only five to 10 years after retiring.”

Radiation From CT Scans May Cause Cancer Risk

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Research findings reveal that Americans who are overexposed to radiation from diagnostic tests, especially from a specialized kind of X-ray called a computed tomography, or CT, scan have an increased liability for incurring cancer.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, about 70 million CT scans were done on Americans in 2007, up from 3 million in 1980.  A chest CT scan exposes the patient to more than 100 times the radiation dose of a chest X-ray.

Medical researchers at the National Cancer Institute developed a computer model to estimate the impact of scans.  They estimated the scans done in 2007 will cause 29,000 cancers. A third of the projected cancers will occur in people who were ages 35 to 54 when they got their CT, two-thirds will occur in women and 15 percent will arise from scans done in children or teens. 

The researchers estimated there will be an extra 2,000 excess breast cancers just from CT scans done in 2007.  They found radiation dosage varied widely between different types of CT studies, from a median or midpoint of 2 millisieverts for a routine head CT scan to 31 millisieverts for a scan of the abdomen and pelvis, which often involves taking multiple images of the same organ. 

By comparison, the average American is exposed to about 3 millisieverts of radiation a year from ground radon or flying in an airplane — a level not considered a risk to health.

Many Stroke Survivors Don’t Take Lifesaving Meds

Monday, December 14th, 2009

According to research, about 19 percent of patients didn’t take prescribed blood thinners.  Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States and stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.   Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55 the Association notes.

Ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow in the brain. Several types of medications can reduce the risk of another ischemic stroke. These include blood thinners – also known as antithrombotic medications, of which aspirin is the most common.

This seven-year study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, examined 4,168 ischemic stroke survivors.  Researchers found that about 19 percent of patients didn’t take blood thinners. Men, older patients and non-Hispanic patients were more likely to take blood thinners.

 

The study will be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Bone Drugs May Cut Risk Of Breast Cancer

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute examined studies to determine whether bisphosphonates may actually prevent disease recurrence through a variety of mechanisms.  Bisphosphonates are already used to treat complications that result from breast cancer spreading to the bones. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance statistics, nearly 700,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with cancer each year.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. 

One study looked at more than 150,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the U.S. government-led Women’s Health Initiative.  The women taking bisphosphonates, namely Fosamax (alendronate), had a 32 percent reduction in their rate of invasive breast cancer compared to women who were not taking one of these drugs. 

When conducting the study, University of California, Los Angeles, researchers were able to control for the fact that women with low bone mineral density are already at lower risk for breast cancer.  

In another study, Israeli researchers found that postmenopausal women taking bisphosphonates for one or more years had a 29 percent reduction in their risk of breast cancer.  And the tumors that did appear tended to be estrogen receptor-positive and thus easier to treat than estrogen receptor-negative tumors. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, concluded that zoledronic acid, another bisphosphonate, is safe and effective for use by postmenopausal women with breast cancer who are being treated with aromatase inhibitors. Bone mineral density increased 6.2 percent in women taking zoledronic acid, compared with 2.4 percent in the control group.

Genetic Test Could Help Spot Breast Cancer

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

New research suggests that within the cell nucleus, chromosomes and individual genes occupy specific locations relative to one another. The organization of these bodies can change for many reasons, but one of them is cancer. 

Researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute have honed in on several genes that have a different physical position inside the nucleus in invasive breast cancer cells than in normal breast tissue cells. A change in the position of one gene in particular, HES5, predicted invasive breast cancer nearly all of the time, they found.

The discovery suggests that looking at three-dimensional properties of the cell could one day be used as a new method of diagnosing breast cancer.  Some 1.4 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.

The study published online in the Journal of Cell Biology reports that  while breast tumors are typically detected by a mammogram, which is basically an X-ray of the breast.  The other way of detection occurs when a woman or her doctor feels a lump. To determine if the mass is cancerous or benign, a doctor would order a biopsy, which involves the removal of a small tissue sample that is then analyzed by a pathologist. 

Using 11 normal human breast tissue samples and 14 invasive cancer tissue samples, the researchers identified eight genes that were frequently repositioned in cancer specimens. They found that the repositioning of the gene HES5 indicated breast cancer in nearly all samples. 

Previous research had implicated HES5 with cancer, according to background information in the study. In the new study, the researchers also found that changes in the location of several other combinations of two or three genes also indicated cancer with high accuracy.

Hops Compound May Prevent Prostate Cancer

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Medical researchers at the German Cancer Research Center, in Heidelberg, Germany have presented findings at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. 

The natural compound, xanthohumol, is derived from hops and belongs to the group of flavonoids that are found in many plants, fruit, vegetables and spices. Studies to date have shown that xanthohumol blocks the action of estrogen by binding to its receptor, which may lead to prevention of breast cancer. 

The researchers examined whether xanthohumol might not only block the effects of the male hormone androgen.  Researchers stimulated hormone-dependent prostate cancer cells with testosterone, which led to a massive secretion of prostate specific antigen (PSA). PSA is used for screening and early detection of prostate cancer in men. Cells were then treated with testosterone and xanthohumol and the effects were examined.

They found that xanthohumol inhibited its potential to stimulate the secretion of PSA and other hormone-dependent effects.  Molecular modeling results showed that xanthohumol directly binds to the androgen receptor structure. 

The researchers suggest that this compound may have beneficial effects in animals.  When they measured the anti-androgenic potential of xanthohumol in rats, they found that although xanthohumol was not able to prevent an increase in prostate weight after testosterone treatment, it could reduce testosterone-increased seminal vesicle weight. 

Data posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance that tracks data and research on the three primary critical illnesses, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Cancer Cases And Deaths Continue to Drop

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

According to the findings of a new report, new cancer cases and deaths from cancer have declined significantly for both men and women and for most racial and ethnic populations.

These decreases were largely due to decreased incidence and death from lung, prostate and colon cancer among men and a drop in two of the three leading cancers in women which include breast and colon cancers. 

Data from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries revealed that new diagnoses for all types of cancer in the United States declined almost 1 percent per year from 1999 to 2006 and cancer deaths dropped 1.6 percent per year from 2001 to 2006. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data for the three primary illnesses afflicting Americans (cancer, heart attack and stroke) there were nearly 1.5 million people with new cancer diagnoses in 2009. 

Cancer rates are still higher for men than for women, but men had the biggest declines in new cases and death, the study revealed.  This year’s report focused on trends in colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer, the third most-diagnosed cancer in both men and women, is also the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. 

Overall, colon cancer rates are declining, but the decline is mostly among those over 65. Increasing numbers of cases in men and women under 50 is worrisome, the report noted.  Among both men and women, there were major declines in colorectal cancer cases from 1985 to 1995, minor increases from 1995 to 1998, and significant declines from 1998 to 2006. Since 1984, death rates also dropped, with accelerated rates of decline since 2002 for men and since 2001 for women.

In fact, from 1975 to 2000, cases of colorectal cancer fell 22 percent; 50 percent of which was most likely due to changes in lifestyle, and 50 percent to more people being screened. 

In addition, deaths from colorectal cancer fell 26 percent during the same time; 9 percent of the drop came from lifestyle changes, 14 percent came from screening and 3 percent came from improved treatment, according to the report. 

Going forward, if there were no changes in lifestyle, screening or treatment, there would be a 17 percent drop in colorectal cancer deaths from 2000 to 2020. However, if current trends remain the same, there will be a 36 percent drop in colorectal cancer deaths. 

If more Americans adopted more healthy lifestyles, such as quitting smoking, and were screened for colon cancer and had access to optimal treatment (such as more effective chemotherapy), deaths from colon cancer could be reduced by 50 percent by 2020, the report predicted.

Drinking Coffee Reduces Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference revealed that coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. 

Medical researchers report that that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease. 

Some 745,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance that tracks critical illness data for cancers, heart attack and stroke.  Approximately 300,000 men die each year of cancer. 

The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.  They study examined both regular and decaffeinated coffee intake of nearly 50,000 men every four years from 1986 to 2006. 

Nearly 5,000 men developed prostate cancer over that time. The researchers examined the association between coffee consumption and levels of circulating hormones in blood samples collected from a subset of men in the cohort.  The results do suggest there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer, the report adds.

Losing Weight Proves Effective Cure for Sleep Apnea

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Medical researchers reported that obese men with severe sleep apnea when the study began benefited most from weight loss.   According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, sleep apnea involves the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep and is a relatively common but under-diagnosed disease. Five or more such events per hour is considered a disease. 

Untreated, sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of traffic accidents, as well as stroke and heart disease. Moderate and severe sleep apnea also increases the risk of premature death. It has long been known that people with overweight or obesity are more likely to develop the disease, and that men are more affected than women. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode lasts for at least 10 seconds and is caused by the collapse of the upper airways during sleep.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers examined if weight-loss can help to cure moderate and severe sleep apnea. 

The study included obese men between ages 30 and 65. The participants had moderate to severe sleep apnea.  The participants were randomly assigned to two groups, one of which underwent an intense weight-loss program, the other served as a control group, for a period of nine weeks. 

The results of the study show that the weight loss group lost roughly 40 pounds on average after nine weeks and more than halved the number of apnea events. None of the treated patients had severe sleep apnea, half had only mild sleep apnea and one in six could be declared healthy. The researchers also noted that the effect of the weight loss program was greatest in patients with severe sleep apnea.

Breast-Feeding Can Help Mom’s Heart Decades Later

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California reported that among women who didn’t have pregnancy-related diabetes, breast-feeding between one and five months lowered the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 39 percent.  Breast-feeding for the same duration lowered the risk of the syndrome by 44 percent in women with gestational diabetes. 

The longer a woman breast-fed, the better it was for her later health the medical researchers noted. Breast-feeding for longer than nine months dropped the risk of metabolic syndrome by 86 percent in women with gestational diabetes. Women without gestational diabetes saw a 56 percent reduction in their risk of metabolic syndrome, according to the study. 

The benefits of breast-feeding for infants are well-documented and include lower risk of ear infections, stomach problems, respiratory illnesses, asthma, skin allergies, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For women, breast-feeding appears to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The researchers recruited some 1,400 women into a prospective, multi-center study designed to assess what factors increase the risk of coronary artery disease. At the start of the study in 1985, none of the women had been pregnant before, and none had metabolic syndrome. 

The women were examined at the start of the study, and again at 7, 10, 15 and 20 years after the start of the study.   While participating in the study, 704 of the women had babies. During pregnancy, 84 women developed gestational diabetes. During the study follow-up, 120 women developed metabolic syndrome.

Of those who developed metabolic syndrome, the average duration of breast-feeding was 2.6 months, while the average time breast-feeding for women who didn’t develop metabolic syndrome was seven months, according to the study. 

The researchers noted that women who would like to reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome should follow health-eating guidelines, get regular exercise, and if having a baby, consider breast-feeding.  The study appeared online in the journal Diabetes.

Report posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon And Breast Cancers

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Two studies strengthen the case for the dangers of secondhand smoke for people exposed to fumes as children and as adults.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some  17 cancers are now attributed to smoking.  Cancer and heart disease are the major critical illnesses impacting millions of Americans yearly.

Inhaling secondhand fumes may raise a woman’s odds for breast cancer or a child’s lifetime risk for lung malignancies according to the studies.  Another study found that long-term smokers have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, a finding that factored into the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to assert that there is “sufficient” evidence to link the two, up from its previous “limited” evidence. 

In preparing their reports, the researchers adjusted for other colorectal cancer risk factors, such as not getting screened, obesity, physical activity and eating a lot of red or processed meats.   They noted that people who smoke are already more likely to engage in these types of behaviors. 

This study followed almost 200,000 people over 13 years.  According to the medical researchers, current smokers had a 27 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer and former smokers a 23 percent increased risk compared with people who had never smoked. 

People who had smoked for at least half a century had the highest risk — 38 percent higher than never smokers — of developing colorectal cancer.  People who ceased smoking before the age of 40 or who had not smoked for 31 or more years had no increased risk. 

Other studies focused on the risk of secondhand smoke, or passive smoking. In one, children exposed to secondhand smoke had a higher risk of developing lung cancer as adults, researchers from institutions including the U.S. National Cancer Institute found. In another, California researchers found that adult non-smoking women who had spent long periods of time in smoking environments upped their odds of developing postmenopausal breast cancer. 

The breast cancer findings were seen mostly in postmenopausal women, with a 17 percent higher risk for those who had had low exposure, a 19 percent increased risk for those with medium exposure and a 26 percent increased risk for those who had high long-term exposure over their lifetime. 

The studies were published in the December issue of Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention,

More Americans Surviving Lung Cancer

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

According to the new study, researchers found that one-year overall survival rate for lung cancer increased from 13.2 percent in 1990 to 19.4 percent in 2005, while two-year overall survival increased from 4.5 percent to 7.8 percent. 

Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Lung and bronchial cancers account for about 15 percent of all cancer.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 100,000 patients diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) between 1990 and 2005. The patient information was in the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database. 

The study authors noted that the improved survival rates may come from changes in the management of advanced lung cancer over the past two decades, including new chemotherapy agents and regimens, increased use of salvage chemotherapy and the introduction of molecularly targeted therapies. 

The study is published in the December issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

Constipation May Be Early Sign Of Parkinson’s Disease

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

A Mayo Clinic study found a relationship between Parkinson’s and a history of constipation.  They note the incidence was about two times more frequent in a group of men and women with Parkinson’s disease than in an age-matched group of men and women who did not have the disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes body tremors, rigid muscles, and difficulty walking and talking according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization committed to educating Americans about health issues. The disease alters the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls spontaneous body processes such as heart rate, digestion, salivation, and bowel function. 

Reserachers noted that chronic constipation is common among people who suffer from Parkinson’s.  They note that constipation may precede the appearance of classic movement symptoms of the disease in some people.   The medical experts evaluated about 38 years of medical records comparing constipation history in 196 men and women who developed Parkinson’s at an average age of 71 years, and 196 Parkinson’s-free “controls” of similar age and gender. 

Roughly 36 percent of the Parkinson’s patients had a history of constipation compared with only 20 percent of the controls, a significant difference.  After allowing for differences in age, smoking, coffee drinking, the use of constipation-inducing drugs, and constipation during the 19 years prior to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s patients remained about two times more likely than controls to have a history of constipation.  Their findings were reported in a recent issue of Neurology.

First National Critical Illness Insurance Study Examines U.S. Buyers

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Nearly half of individuals purchasing critical illness insurance protection were under age 45 according to the first national study of buyers conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

The industry trade group released the findings of a study that reveals one third (34%) of purchasers were between ages 45 and 54 and the majority (87%) purchased $50,000 or less in benefits.  The study examined sales data for over 130,000 individual and voluntary worksite policies and certificates issued. 

“Critical illness insurance is growing in acceptance as consumers understand the risk and financial exposure resulting from cancer, a heart attack or stroke,” explains Jesse Slome, the organization’s executive director.   First introduced in the United States in 1996, some 600,000 individuals have purchased critical illness coverage available from about 20 insurance companies.             

Nearly a quarter (24%) of individual buyers opted for coverage of less than $20,000 according to the study’s findings.  For those purchasing in the worksite setting, some 65 percent chose benefits of $20,000 or less.              

The vast majority of purchasers do so prior to turning age 55.  Among those purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies, 20 percent were under age 35; 27 percent were between ages 35 and 44 and 34 percent were between 45 and 54.  Buyers purchasing coverage in the workplace were about the same age according to the Association report.  Policies providing a $10,000 benefit for a 40 year old can range from $150 to $300-per-year. 

Individual buyers tended to be male (52% versus 48% female) while those purchasing in the workplace were more likely to be female (59% versus 41% male). 

“We anticipate the market for critical illness insurance products will increase in the years ahead,” predicts Slome.  The Los Angeles-based association will undertake an aggressive consumer awareness campaign in 2010 to build an understanding of the benefits of the protection that is popular outside of the United States.  “Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with a critical illness and the vast majority survive,” Slome explains.  “The financial cost even for those with health insurance can be devastating and one of the leading reasons 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy even before the current economic crisis.”  Critical illness insurance policies range in cost based on the age, sex and use of tobacco products.  A policy providing a $10,000 cash benefit can range from about $150 a year to $400 a year experts explain.

The full study results can be viewed online: Go to: <a href>http://www.aacii.org</a>.

Stroke Risk Highest For Those Born In South

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

According to a new report in Neurology reveals that people born in the North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama show a consistently higher incidence of stroke compared to those born elsewhere.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. 

The higher stroke incidence in those seven states has been recognized for years.  Researchers , at the Harvard School of Public Health’s division of society, human development and health noted that the reason is unclear. 

Researchers studied data from 1980, 1990 and 2000 U.S. national death records for people aged 30 to 80 who were born and lived in 49 states. They calculated stroke death rates by linking the data to U.S. census information. 

The findings revealed that white people who were born and lived their adult lives in what is often referred to as “the stroke belt” were 45 percent more likely to die of a stroke in the 1980 group, 29 percent more likely in the 1990 group and 34 percent more likely in the 2000 group than those who were born and lived outside the seven Southern states. 

The findings were comparable for blacks: 55 percent, 47 percent and 34 percent higher risk for the respective groups.  Among whites who moved to the stroke belt as adults, the risk was 11 percent greater, according to the 2000 data, and 20 percent higher for those who were born in the stroke belt but later lived elsewhere. 

The higher rate was attributed to multiple factors such as genetics, environmental toxins and learned behavior.  They noted social environment that dietary habits and access to medical care may result in some element of socioeconomic risk.

First Study Of Critical Illness Insurance Buyers

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

December 1, 2009 — Nearly half of individuals purchasing critical illness insurance protection were under age 45 according to the first national study of buyers conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  One third (34%) of purchasers were between ages 45 and 54 and the majority (87%) purchased $50,000 or less in benefits.

Research conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) examined sales data for over 130,000 individual and voluntary worksite policies and certificates issued.  “Critical illness insurance is growing in acceptance as consumers understand the risk and financial exposure that is the result of cancer, heart attack or stroke,” explains Jesse Slome, the organization’s executive director.   Introduced in the United States in 1996, some 600,000 individuals have purchased critical illness coverage.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of individual buyers opted for coverage of less than $20,000 according to the study’s findings.  For those purchasing in the worksite setting, some 65 percent chose benefits of $20,000 or less.

The vast majority of purchasers do so prior to turning age 55.  Among those purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies, 20 percent were under age 35; 27 percent were between ages 35 and 44 and 34 percent were between 45 and 54.  Buyers purchasing coverage in the workplace were about the same age according to the Association report.

Individual buyers tended to be male (52% versus 48% female) while those purchasing in the workplace were more likely to be female (59% versus 41% male).

“We anticipate the market for critical illness insurance products will increase in the years ahead,” predicts Slome.  The Association will undertake an aggressive consumer awareness campaign in 2010 to build an understanding of the benefits of the protection that is popular outside of the United States.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national organization serving insurance and financial professionals who provide critical illness insurance solutions.                                                                                                                                 

Findings:  2009 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study
conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Sales By Issue Age (Individual Critical Illness Insurance)
Under 35            20.0 %
35 – 44            27.0 %
45 – 54            34.0 %
55 – 64            15.5 %
65 or older              3.5 %

Sales By Issue Age (Worksite / Voluntary Critical Illness Insurance)
Under 35            22.0 %
35 – 44            28.0 %
45 – 54            32.0 %
55 – 64            17.5 %
65 or older              0.5 %

Benefit Purchased (Individual Critical Illness Insurance)
Under $20,000            24.0 %
$20,001 – $50,000       63.0 %
$50,001 – $100,000      6.0 %
$100,001-$250,000      4.0 %
$250,001 +                      3.0 %

Benefit Purchased (Worksite / Voluntary Critical Illness Insurance)
Under $20,000            65.0 %
$20,001 – $50,000            28.0 %
$50,001 – $100,000              6.5 %
$100,001-$250,000              0.5 %
$250,001 +              0.0 %

Sales By Policyholder Sex  (Individual Critical Illness Insurance)
Male                        52 %
Female                        48 %

Sales By Policyholder Sex  (Worksite / Voluntary Critical Illness Insurance)
Male                        41 %
Female                        59 %

Diabetes Cases To Double In US

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The study published in the December issue of Diabetes Care predicts that by 2034 about 44.1 million people will have the disease, up from 23.7 million today.  At the same time, the cost of treating people with diabetes will triple, rising from an estimated $113 billion in 2009 to $336 billion in 2034. 

Researchers note that a key factor driving the soaring costs is the number of people living with diabetes for lengthy periods.  Over time, the cost of caring for someone with diabetes tends to rise along with their risk for developing complications, such as end-stage renal disease, which requires costly dialysis according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

In making their estimates, researchers at the University of Chicago used data on people 24 to 85 years old who took part in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Study. 

Prior forecasts, including the ones currently used by the federal government’s budget analysts, have underestimated the burden, the researchers noted. A 1991 study, for example, predicted that 11.6 million people would have diabetes in 2030. In 2009, there were already more than twice that many living with diabetes. 

Among Medicare beneficiaries, the number with diabetes is expected to rise from 8.2 million to 14.6 million in 2034, with an accompanying rise in spending from $45 billion to $171 billion the study reveals.  The high cost of chronic disease is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States as legislators grapple with financial strains on Medicare and the larger issue of health-care reform, the researchers explained. 

Factors driving the increase in diabetes cases include the aging population and continued high rates of obesity, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use it correctly.  In the study, the researchers assumed that the obesity rate would remain relatively stable, topping out at about 30 percent in the next decade and then declining slightly to about 27 percent in 2033.