Archive for January, 2010

What To Watch For Early Spotting Of Ovarian Cancer

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

New research from the Cancer Research Center in Seattle shows that women with ovarian cancer are much more likely than healthy women to report symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and feeling full quickly after eating.  This is especially true if the symptoms are relatively new and persistent. 

While ovarian cancer is fairly rare, the symptoms are relatively common and possibly explained by less serious conditions.  Thus medical experts note that the ability to predict who has cancer based on symptoms alone is limited. 

Researchers found that for every 100 women in the general population whose symptoms matched those in a widely accepted ovarian cancer symptom index, only one would actually have early-stage ovarian cancer. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the disease strikes about one in 72 women.  Last year, 21,550 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed among U.S. women; 14,600 deaths were attributed to the disease.  

The study is published in the Jan. 28 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute notes that finding ways to detect early-stage ovarian cancer is an ongoing challenge.

Ovarian cancer sometimes is found during a pelvic exam, but tumors are often too deep within the body for doctors to detect. In addition, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often missed or misdiagnosed as other less serious conditions, including menopause, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or even depression. 

While nine of 10 women whose ovarian cancer is caught early are alive five years after diagnosis, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at their early stage, according to the American Cancer Society. 

According to the study findings, women who were diagnosed with cancer were 10 times more likely to experience the symptoms than women without cancer.   Among patients with early-stage disease, about 27 percent experienced the symptoms for at least five months before diagnosis.

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The research found that these people often were able to bypass the emergency room and go directly to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for treatment with what’s commonly known as an angioplasty. 

Findings published in the January issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions report those given an EKG by paramedics were treated 60 minutes, on average, after reaching the hospital, compared with 91 minutes for people who did not have an EKG before arriving at the hospital. 

Research has shown that rapid angioplasty treatment reduces the chances of dying within the next year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks informatioon on surving cancer, heart attacks or stroke, the three primary critical illnesses. 

For the study, the researchers examined medical records for cardiac patients taken to three hospitals in Southeast Michigan for five years to 2008.   Of those who did not have an EKG done before arrival, 2 percent died in the hospital. None of the patients who were given pre-arrival EKGs died in the hospital, the study reported.

Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Scientists found that those with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood had as much as a 40 percent lower risk for developing colorectal cancer than those with the lowest levels.
The researchers report however that it is not completely clear if higher intake of the vitamin actually prevents the disease.  ”The findings are definitely food for thought,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The organization reports that some 1.4 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the United State. 

Medical experts published their findings based on a study of more than 520,000 people from 10 countries in Western Europe. The study participants gave blood samples and filled out diet and lifestyle questionnaires between 1992 and 1998.   They were then tracked for several more years to see what happened to them. 

During the follow-up period, 1,248 of the study participants were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These participants were compared with a similar group of 1,248 people who were not diagnosed with the disease. 

The researchers cautioned that it’s not clear if there are risks from consuming high levels of vitamin D, which is available in supplements. It is also not known whether supplements are necessary if people reach certain levels through a healthy diet, exercise and moderate exposure to sunlight.

The study authors noted that current recommendations for preventing colorectal cancer include exercising, not smoking, reducing obesity and abdominal fat, and limiting consumption of alcohol and red and processed meats.

As Obesity Increases, So Does Stroke Risk

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Researchers followed over 13,500 middle-aged Americans for 19 years to determine incraesed stroke risk associated with several measures of obesity, emphasizing body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight and height, but also such measures as waist circumference.

Their findings published online in Stroke found that the risk of stroke was increased with each measure of obesity.   The degree of risk varied by sex and ethnic group. For example, people in the highest BMI category had a 1.43 to 2.12 times higher risk for stroke, with variations by race and sex. The risk ratios ranged from 1.65 to 3.19 when obesity was measured by waist circumference and from 1.69 to 2.55 when the ratio of waist to hip was used.

“Obesity contributes to both diabetes and hypertension [high blood pressure], which are associated with stroke and at an earlier age,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the organization’s annual statistical update.

The risk was especially high for blacks, the study found. For example, the incidence of stroke was 1.2 per 1,000 person-years for white women and 4.3 per 1,000 person-years for black women. In the highest BMI category, rates ranged from 2.2 for white women to 8.0 for black men.

That higher incidence of stroke for blacks has been found in many previous studies, and it also is seen in Asians, Yatsuya said. The reason is unknown, but there may be a genetic difference, the medical experts noted.

The increased risk linked to weight was evident in every ethnic group, according to the researchers.  Men and women in the highest obesity category had about double the risk for stroke as did those in the lowest category.  Obesity appears to act by increasing the incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes, two major risk factors for stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Disease

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the projected reductions would be similar to the benefits accruing from a 50 percent drop in the smoking rate and a 5 percent decline in body mass index among obese adults. 

U.S. health agencies recommend that most adults limit their daily consumption of salt to less than 5.8 grams (2,300 milligrams [mg] of sodium), with 3.7 grams a day preferable. 

The American Heart Association urges the average American to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, but also notes that older people, blacks and people with high blood pressure need to go even lower — to under 1,500 mg per day. 

Despite these recommendations, the average daily intake of salt is on the increase.  In 2005-2006, the study authors stated, men in the United States took in an average of 10.4 grams of salt a day and women consumed 7.3 grams a day, far more than the suggested limit. 

Excess salt can cause or worsen high blood pressure and raises the risk for cardiovascular disease.  Only about one-quarter of the salt in the U.S. diet comes directly from the kitchen table salt shaker.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, fed previously published data on heart disease in U.S. adults aged 35 to 84 into a computer model.  The model then predicted that the reduction of 3 grams of salt a day would cut the number of new cases of coronary heart disease each year by 60,000 to 120,000; stroke by 32,000 to 66,000 cases; and heart attacks by 54,000 to 99,000. 

The annual number of deaths from any cause would be reduced by 44,000 to 92,000.  Limiting salt intake would be good for the fiscal diet as well, saving an estimated $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs yearly, the paper found.

But if Americans cut even a mere 1 gram of salt from their meals and snacks every day, the effects would still be stunning, the authors stated: 20,000 to 40,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease; 18,000 to 35,000 fewer heart attacks; 11,000 to 23,000 fewer strokes; and 15,000 to 32,000 fewer deaths. 

Reported by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national non-profit trade organization.

Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

According to medical researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the more omega-3 that patients with coronary heart disease consumed, the slower their telomeres shrank. Telomeres are structures at the end of a chromosome that get shorter the more times a cell divides, making them a marker of biological age. 

The scientists finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, report that there is a significant impact of omega-3s on cell support and cell functioning.  They note that if you supplement with omega-3s or eat omega-3s, your cells stay healthier, your cells age less quickly. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, “Cardiologists have known for two decades that increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for patients with coronary artery disease, particularly those who have had a prior heart attack. It reduces the risk of subsequent heart attacks and death. 

Researchers noted that the reasons for that benefit have not been well defined.  For the new study, the researchers followed about 600 patients in the San Francisco Bay Area with coronary artery disease. Blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and telomere length were measured at the beginning of the study and again about five years later. 

The medical experts reported that as blood levels of omega-3 went up, the rate at which telomeres shortened decreased.  To the extent that that is a marker of biological aging, the rate of biological aging went down. 

The findings don’t change current recommendations regarding omega-3 fatty acids or what people should be doing.   The American Heart Association recommends that those with coronary heart disease get about a gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids.

Erectile Dysfunction Predicts Heart Disease

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

According to a report published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology erectile dysfunction is among the list of known risk factors determined by the Framingham Heart Study.  Other risk factors include cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.  Nearly 800,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The average age for heart attacks among men is 64. 

The study followed 1,057 men, aged 40 to 70, for an average of 12 years. Overall, 37 percent of the men with erectile dysfunction were in the high-risk category according to the Framingham standards, compared with 17 percent of men without erectile dysfunction. 

Once the link to cardiovascular problems was established, researchers started modeling to see if adding erectile dysfunction to the risk profile could reclassify some men.  Over the years, studies of a number of diagnostic techniques — including computerized tomography scanning and various molecular markers, such as inflammation-related C-reactive protein — have been shown not to improve on the Framingham profile’s predictive power. 

Medical experts note that other tests and measures are either costly, require blood tests or carry some risk, whereas erectile dysfunction can be determined by a simple question.  They advise doctors to ask a simple question in the office that will reveal a diagnosis very clearly.

It is also information that men should offer to their doctors which can lead to preventive therapy that can be lifesaving.

Drinking Green Tea Decreases Lung Cancer Risk

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Those who had at least a cup of day of green tea could see more than a 5-fold decrease in lung cancer risk. Still better were the results for former or current smokers, who saw a nearly 13-fold decrease in risk.

The theory is that smoking elicits an inhibitory effect in the well-known antioxidants in the green tea, which is why current and former smokers see a higher degree of protection. The findings were reported at the American Association for Cancer Research-International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer.

However, researchers still note that green tea or not, stopping smoking is the best way to remove lung cancer risk. Lin said, “We suggest smokers or nonsmokers, both of them, should drink green tea to keep away from lung cancer. However, the cessation of smoking is the best way for cancer prevention.”

Lin’s group designed a hospital-based study that included questionnaires and genetic typing. They used 170 lung cancer patients and 340 healthy controls. The longer the green tea “habit,” the better, as well. Researchers saw a more than threefold reduction in risk for more than 10 years compared with none among both smokers and those who never smokers.

An earlier study that we reported on showed another possible antioxidant benefit of green tea. It showed that green tea may also help slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Visit website for free information on this important protection.

More Proof That Statins Cut Stroke Risk

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

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.  African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with white adults. 

Researchers found that much of the benefit from statins such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor appears tied to the drugs’ lowering of blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Their review of data from clinical trials including almost 267,000 participants showed an overall 12 percent reduction in stroke incidence among those taking statins, with each 1 percent reduction in total cholesterol predicting a 0.8 percent relative risk reduction of stroke. 

Medical experts note that the report contains hints that the reduction of stroke risk is not entirely explained by the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins.  They noted that there are many possible explanations for the reduction in stroke risk observed in actively treated patients, and one of those is a reduction of inflammation with statin therapy. 

There was no debate about the value of statin therapy in reducing other cardiovascular risks in people with high LDL levels. The Italian analysis found more benefits from statins than from other cholesterol-lowering regimens. 

The most gratifying thing reported by this meta-analysis is that statins among all lipid-lowering therapies appear to be the most effective, noted an expert from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The use of statin therapy is particularly important among people who have had a stroke. They are being used more aggressively in people who have had a stroke in an attempt to prevent another. 

At least one trial has shown a significant reduction in second strokes among people taking statins.  The report, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was led by physicians at G. d’Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy.

New Stroke Therapy May Restore Function

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Researchers at University of California, Irvine, have found that a protein naturally occurring in humans restores motor function in rats after a stroke. Administered directly to the brain, the protein restores 99 percent of lost movement; if it’s given through the nose, 70 percent of lost movement is regained. Untreated rats improve by only 30 percent. 

Presently no drugs exist that will help a stroke after a few days.  Medical experts noted that the findings offer optimism that there may be therapies that can repair damage to a significant degree long after the stroke.  The studies chronicle the success of a small protein called transforming growth factor alpha, which plays critical tissue-forming and developmental roles in humans from just after conception through birth and into old age.

Each year about 600,000 Americans have their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the country,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the non-profit organization.  “Most people survive but the financial and emotional costs can be devastating to families.” 

TGF alpha has been studied for two decades in other organ systems but never before has been shown to reverse the symptoms of a stroke. No lasting side effects were observed.  

When put inside a cylinder, healthy rats will jump up with both front legs, but stroke-impaired rats will use just one leg, favoring the injured side. When given a choice of directions to walk, impaired rats will move toward their good side. 

One month after the study rats suffered an induced stroke (equal to about a year for humans), some were injected with TGF alpha. Within a month, they had regained nearly all their motor function, hopping up with both legs in the cylinder exercise and not favoring a side in the directional test. Rats that did not receive treatment improved just 30 percent.

Weekend Stroke Victims Receive More Aggressive Treatment

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

January 13, 2010.  Stroke victims brought to a hospital on a weekend are more likely to receive the powerful clot-dissolving drug tPA than those who arrive on a weekday.

Researchers conducted the study following a report showing that aggressive treatment for heart attacks was more likely to be given during the week rather than the weekend.

The heart attack study sent researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina.Kazley searching through the records of almost 79,000 people admitted to Virginia hospitals between 1998 and 2006 with ischemic strokes, in which a clot blocks a brain blood vessel.

The research team found that relatively few patients received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which works quickly to break up clots. In fact, only 543 of the 58,378 people admitted on weekdays got the drug, compared to 229 of the 20,279 admitted on weekends. The numbers show that the weekend stroke victims were 20 percent more likely to be given tPA than weekday arrivals.

The findings published in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology explained that because there are fewer elective procedures on weekends, patients have better access to expertise and better access to diagnostic technology such as CT [computed tomography] scanners. They are also more likely to present at an earlier time, since they are less likely to have to battle traffic to get to the hospital.

Despite the higher level of tPA treatment on weekends, no statistical significance in the death rates of the two groups was seen in the study. Only about one percent of patients who got the treatment, and at those low numbers it is very difficult to find a significant difference.

“It is vital for all adults to understand the symptoms of a stroke vital to getting treatment quickly,” explains jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.   Stroke symptoms can include a sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, vision trouble, dizziness and headache.

Excess Protein in Urine Is Indicator of Heart Disease Risk Among Whites

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine note that proteinuria, a long accepted indicator of heart disease risk, has far less impact on blacks than it does on whites.   Medical experts believe that the more protein in a patient’s urine, the greater the risk for heart disease and stroke. 

The study indicates that excess protein in the urine — a common finding with progressive kidney disease in individuals with diabetes — is strongly associated with calcium deposition in the major arteries in white patients, but not in black patients.  Therefore, they conclude, that proteinuria appears to be associated with an increased risk of heart attack in the white ethnic group. There may be biologic factors predisposing whites to heart disease or protecting blacks from developing it, the scientists note.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to cancer, heart disease and stroke, in the general community, blacks have more heart disease risk factors than whites, including higher blood pressures and LDL (known as “bad”) cholesterol levels, and higher blood sugars in patients with diabetes. As such, they face a higher risk for heart attack than whites. 

Several large studies have shown that despite having more risk factors for hardening of the arteries, black men had less calcium in the heart arteries — one-eighth the amount — compared to white men. In addition, given access to equivalent healthcare as whites, blacks with diabetes face only half the risk of a heart attack, indicating that blacks appear to somehow be protected from the cardiovascular effects of these risk factors. 

The researchers evaluated whether excess protein excretion in the urine — a major heart disease risk factor in whites — was also a risk factor for heart and vascular disease in blacks. The level of urine protein was examined in over 800 white participants and nearly 400 black participants, all with diabetes. Participants were also tested for atherosclerosis, based on the buildup of calcium in their major arteries. 

The research team found that in the white population, greater amounts of protein in the urine were directly associated with higher levels of atherosclerosis. This association, however, was not seen in the black study population. 

The study appears in the January issue of Diabetes Care.

Pediatric Cancer Survivors Face Higher Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 11th, 2010

These risk factors for heart disease are being found at an earlier age than in the general population, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

An estimated 80 million Americans have cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance 2010 Fact Book.  Someone suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds the report notes.

Researchers at Emory University, extracted data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which included 8,599 cancer survivors and 2,936 of their siblings.  In data previously published from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, pediatric cancer survivors were found to be at almost 10-fold greater risk for cardiovascular disease than their non-survivor counterparts. 

In this study scientists identified whether the predisposing risk factors for cardiovascular disease — obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemea and diabetes — were present at higher rates compared to siblings. If the risk factors could be recognized and treated early it is hoped some of the long-term cardiac side effects could be averted. 

They found that cancer survivors were nearly twice as likely as their siblings to take medication for high blood pressure, 60 percent more likely to take cholesterol medication and 70 percent more likely to have diabetes. 

Radiation treatment may be playing a role in the development of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Total body irradiation was linked with a 5.5-fold increased risk and chest and abdomen radiation a 2.2-fold increased risk of cardiovascular risk factor clustering, which when present is associated with subsequent cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers examined the presence of cardiovascular risk factors and found that physical inactivity among cancer survivors was linked with a 70 percent increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering. Older age at the time of the study was linked to an 8.2-fold increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering among survivors compared with children who had never had cancer.

Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Researchers at the University of Rochester explain that darker skin reduces production of vitamin D, which is made during exposure to sunlight.  They note that several studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Medical experts noted that people with dark skin who live at higher latitudes, where the intensity of sunlight is less, may be at greater risk.

As estimated 80 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Nearly 800,000 have a new coronary attack each year.

Doctors at the University of California, Davis examined data on more than 15,000 U.S. adults in a national nutritional study. They found that overall, the 25 percent of adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death. When they singled out blacks, the report found a 38 percent higher incidence of such deaths than among whites. Most of that difference was related to lower levels of vitamin D. 

A second issue concerns the proper level of intake of the vitamin.  The experts noted that a consensus is evolving that the current levels recommended are too low, and those with darker skin need higher levels.

The current recommendation is a daily intake of 400 International Units (IUs) for most adults, and 600 IU for those over 70.

Study Reveals Risk Of Having A Critical Illness Before Age 65

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

 A 25-year-old male non-smoker has a 24 percent chance of having a critical illness (cancer, heart attack or stroke) prior to turning age 65.   The same-aged male who smokes has a 49 percent chance according to the first National Critical Illness Risk Assessment Study published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

“Cancer, heart attacks and strokes happen at all ages and most people are not prepared for either the emotional or financial cost,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses and 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance when they were first diagnosed.”

The national critical illness risk assessment prepared by Milliman, Inc., a leading actuarial firm, reveals the likelihood of incurring a critical illness for men and women at different ages up to age 55.  According to the study’s findings, women face less risk than men at all ages.  Non-smoking women are at significantly less risk than their male smoking counterparts.  While nearly half (49 percent) of 35-year-old male tobacco users will incur a critical illness before age 65, only 35 percent of female smokers will according to the report. 

REPORTERS:  If you would like the complete finding of the study with breakdown by ages, please call the Association at (818) 597-3205 or E-mail Jesse Slome at mailto:jslome @ aaltci.org

The study reveals that 17 percent of non-smoking men and 36 percent of male smokers who reach the age of 55 without having a critical illness will be diagnosed with one prior to turning age 65.  For women who reach age 55, some 12 percent of non-smokers and 23 percent of smokers will face a critical illness before reaching age 65.

INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS:  The complete findings are available to Association members.  Click here for membership information.

“Surviving a critical illness is likely today as a result of advances in emergency treatment and medical care,” states Slome.  “Survival comes with a high cost even for those with health insurance which often is accompanied by co-pays, high deductibles and exclusions for various new treatments.”   Michelle Dyke, actuary with Milliman, adds, “there are substantial non-medical expenses associated with battling a critical illness including travel expenses to see specialists and lost wages that health insurance does not cover.”

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness.  The first policies became available in the United States in 1996 and today some 600,000 individuals have such protection.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  The organization is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Hazards of Obesity Now Rival Smoking in U.S.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University and The City College of New York analyzed 1993-2008 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that included interviews with more than 3.5 million adults. 

The results showed that the quality-adjusted life years lost to obesity are equal to, or greater than, those lost because of smoking. 

From 1993 to 2008, the number of adult smokers decreased 18.5 percent and smoking-related quality-adjusted life years lost remained relatively stable at 0.0438 quality-adjusted life years lost per population. Over that same time, the proportion of obese Americans increased 85 percent, resulting in 0.0464 quality-adjusted life years lost. Obesity had a larger effect on disease, while smoking had a greater impact on deaths, the researchers found. 

Although life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy have increased over time, the increase in the contribution of mortality to quality-adjusted life years lost from obesity may result in a decline in future life expectancy. 

The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Another recent study concluded that if both smoking and obesity rates in the United States remain unchanged, life expectancy in the nation will be reduced by almost nine months. That study was published in the Dec. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Visit our website to obtain a free quote for this important protection.

Increased Diabetes Risk For Those Who Quit Smoking

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that smoking is a well-known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  New research points out that elevated diabetes risk is related to the extra pounds people typically put on after renouncing cigarettes. 

Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that interferes with the body’s ability to properly use sugar, and to regulate and properly use insulin, a substance produced by the pancreas that normally lowers blood sugar during and after eating.

“No one should use the study’s results as an excuse to keep smoking, which is also a risk factor for lung disease, heart disease, strokes and many types of cancer,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The study which was published in the January 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported that people who quit smoking have a 70 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first six years without cigarettes as compared to people who never smoked. 

The risks were highest in the first three years after quitting and returned to normal after 10 years. Among those who continued smoking over that period, the risk was lower, but the chance of developing diabetes was still 30 percent higher compared with those who never smoked. 

The study comprised nearly 11,000 middle-aged adults who did not yet have diabetes from 1987 to 1989. The patients were followed for up to 17 years and data about diabetes status, glucose levels, weight and more were collected at regular intervals. 

According to the study, those who smoked the most and those who gained the most weight had the highest likelihood for developing diabetes after they quit. On average, over the first three years of the study, quitters gained about 8.4 pounds and saw their waist circumferences grow by approximately 1.25 inches.

Early Menstruation Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Researchers have found that among nearly 16,000 middle-aged and older women followed for more than a decade, those who’d started menstruating before age 12 were 23 percent more likely to develop heart disease and 28 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular causes like heart attack or stroke. 

These women also had a 22 percent higher overall death rate and a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer, according to findings published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

Previous studies have found evidence that early menstrual periods can affect health later in life.  A large study of Norwegian women, for instance, found that those who began menstruating before age 12 were slightly more likely to die during the 37-year study period than their peers who’d begun menstruating at age 14. 

Another study linked earlier menarche to a higher risk of diabetes in adulthood — a connection that appeared to be explained by higher body mass index (BMI) among women who’d begun menstruating earlier. 

Early menarche remained linked to higher risks of coronary heart disease and deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer after the researchers accounted for a number of other factors — such as age, BMI, smoking, exercise habits and education. 

A number of studies have linked early menarche to an increased risk of breast cancer — possibly due to greater lifetime exposure to estrogen.  Women with an early menarche also had higher rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol — but the reasons for that are unknown. 

Posted by American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.