Posts Tagged ‘critical illness’

Critical Illness Insurance Buyers Younger Than 45

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Roughly half (49%) of men and 46 percent of women who purchased individual critical illness insurance policies in 2011 were younger than age 45, according to the 2012 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and General Re Life Corporation.

Researchers analyzed data from 10 leading critical illness insurers, which accounted for over 57,200 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies made between January 1 and December 31, 2011.  “While the majority of critical illness insurance sales continue to be made in the worksite setting, sales to individuals are increasing as awareness grows,” explains Jesse Slome, AACII executive director.

According to the 2012 National Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study some18 percent of male buyers and 17 percent of female buyers were between the ages of 25 and 34.   Fewer than one in 10 buyers were age 25 or less and just over one in five buyers were age 55 or older.   This year’s study found that buying ages for men and women were more closely aligned compared to last year notes Stephen Rowley, Vice President for Gen Re.

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness such as cancer, heart attack or stroke.  Sold in 54 countries worldwide, the first policies became available in the United States around 1996 and today over one million individuals have such protection in the U.S.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.   For further information, visit the Association’s Website or call (818) 597-3205.

Height Plays Role In Heart Failure

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Men who are six feet tall or taller have a significantly lower risk of having heart failure according to new research.

Heart failure affects nearly five million Americans according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.   Heart failure is defined as a condition when the heart is too weak to pump blood and oxygen to the body’s organs.

Researchers analyzed data from over 22,000 male doctors who were divided into four categories based on their height.  The scientists found that the tallest doctors, those who were between six feet and six feet eight inches saw a 24 percent drop in the risk of developing heart failure compared to the doctors in the shortest category.  These doctors were five feet seven inches tall or shorter.

“Heart disease and heart failure is no longer an immediate death sentence but the financial ramifications are enormous forcing many Americans into bankruptcy,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  “Some 60 percent of bankruptcies are due to medical bills and 78 percent of these individuals had health insurance when the health incident first occurred.”

“Heart disease is one of the leading critical illnesses impacting men along with cancer,” Slome explains.  There were 780,000 new coronary attacks this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org report.  “Today heart attacks are survivable but  medical expenses are now a leading cause of financial bankruptcy,” Slome adds.  “Even the best insurance policies no longer cover every cost associated with treating cancers and families face huge expenses.”

Individuals interested in receiving a cost quote for critical illness insurance from a designated American Association for Critical Illness Insurance professional can complete the organization’s free quote request form accessible at http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org or obtain information by calling the Association’s offices.

Early Morning Smokers Face Higher Cancer Risk

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

American smokers who light their first cigarette soon after waking up may be at greater risk for lung, head and neck cancers a new study finds.

“First thing in the morning smokers face a greater risk according to new research,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org, a trade group.  “Those who wait longer before having their first cigarette apparently face a lower risk of cancers.”  There were 1.5 million new cancer cases in the U.S. according to Association data.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Cancer.  Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine explained that early morning smokers have higher levels of nicotine and possibly other tobacco toxins in their body.  As a result, they may be more addicted than smokers who refrain from smoking for a half hour or more. 

Researchers compared nearly 4,800 lung cancer patients with some 2,800 smokers who didn’t have cancer. They reported finding that those who smoked 31 to 60 minutes after waking up were 1.3 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who waited at least an hour before lighting up. 

The study researchers added that those individuals who smoked within 30 minutes of waking up were 1.79 times more likely to develop lung cancer. 

In a separate analysis, the investigators compared over 1,050 smokers with head and neck cancer with nearly 800 smokers without the disease. Those who smoked 31 to 60 minutes after waking up were 1.42 times more likely to develop cancer than those who waited more than an hour minutes to have a cigarette. Smokers who had their first cigarette within a half hour of waking up were 1.59 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer. 

The findings suggest the desire to have a cigarette immediately after waking up may increase smokers’ risk for cancer.  In particular, these smokers would benefit from smoking cessation programs and should focus specifically on this early morning behavior.

Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study – Part 2

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

More than half (53%) of women purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies last year opted for coverage equal to $20,000 or less.  Among men, some 49 percent purchased that amount according to the 2011 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and Gen Re.

“The market for individual critical illness insurance sales is definitely consumers looking to secure a reasonably affordable amount of protection,” states Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Individuals recognize the value of buying enough protection to pay for one or two years worth of mortgage or rent payments or to pay costs not covered by their health insurance.”

According to the survey, 22 percent of male buyers and an equal percentage of female buyers purchased between $20,001 and $30,000 of protection.  The survey found that 13 percent of men and 11 percent of women purchased coverage equal to $50,001 or more.  

Critical illness insurance pays a lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness such as cancer, heart attack or stroke notes Barry Eagle, Vice President, Marketing for Gen Re LifeHealth a Berkshire Hathaway Company.   The current version of critical illness insurance policies became available in the United States in the mid 1990s and today over one million individuals have such protection.

Researchers analyzed data for over 20,500 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies made between January 1 and December 31, 2010. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals. 

Free access to the organization’s online learning, marketing and sales center is offered to insurance and financial professionals.  For further information, visit the Website:  www.aacii.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.

Healthier Lifestyle Could Prevent 350,000 Cancer Cases

Monday, February 7th, 2011

About 340,000 cancer cases in the United States could be prevented each year if more Americans ate a healthy diet, got regular exercise and limited their alcohol intake.

These types of lifestyle changes could lead to significant reductions in particularly common cancers such as breast (38 percent fewer cases per year), stomach (47 percent fewer) and colon (45 percent fewer) according to according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Cancer is now one of the most significant critical illnesses according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “The chances of surving cancer today is good news for millions’ explains Jesse Slome, AACII’s executivce director.  “However, the emotional and financial toll are something most are not prepared for.”

Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases.  

Experts recommend that in order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily.

Other healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of cancer include quitting smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and preventing cancer-causing infections.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Each year, 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.6 million die from the disease. But 30 percent to 40 percent of cancers can be prevented and one-third can be cured through early diagnosis and treatment, according to the WCRF.

Genetic Code For Type of Cancer Is Cracked

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Scientists at Johns Hopkins have deciphered the genetic code for a type of pancreatic cancer. 

The findings described in Science Express online shows that patients whose tumors have certain coding “mistakes” live twice as long as those without them. 

Scientists report learning that each patient with this kind of rare cancer has a unique genetic code that predicts how aggressive the disease is and how sensitive it is to specific treatments.  What this tells us is that it may be more useful to classify cancers by gene type rather than only by organ or cell type according to Jesse Slome director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine cancers account for about five percent of all pancreatic cancers. Some of these tumors produce hormones that have noticeable effects on the body, including variations in blood sugar levels, weight gain, and skin rashes while others have no such hormone signal.

Researchers investigated non-hormonal pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors in 68 men and women. Patients whose tumors had mutations in three genes and lived at least 10 years after diagnosis, while more than 60 percent of patients whose tumors lacked these mutations died within five years of diagnosis. 

The Johns Hopkins team, which previously mapped six other cancer types, used automated tools to create a genetic “map” that provides clues to how tumors develop, grow and spread. 

In the first set of experiments, the Johns Hopkins scientists sequenced nearly all protein-encoding genes in 10 of the 68 samples of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and compared these sequences with normal DNA from each patient to identify tumor-specific changes or mutations. 

Major funding for the study was provided by the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, a nonprofit foundation which funds research on carcinoid cancer, pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, and related neuroendocrine cancers. Additional funding was from the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, the Joseph Rabinowitz Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Research Foundation, the AACR Stand Up to Cancer’s Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant and the National Institutes of Health.

Cancer Costs Will Soar In This Decade

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A new report predicts that by 2020, the annual cost of cancer care in the United States is expected to reach at least $158 billion. 

According to the report from the U.S. National Cancer Institute that’s a 27 percent jump from 2010.  The surge in cost will be largely driven by an aging population that is expected to develop more cases of cancer in the near-term. 

Projected costs could go even higher if the price tag for care rises faster than expected.  Experts described the 2020 cost estimate as “on the low side” according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medical and health issues impacting aging Americans. 

Cancer is a disease of aging and the population of elderly Americans is expected to rise from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million by 2030 notes Jesse Slome, executive director for the trade group. Improvements in screening mean cancer is becoming more identifiable and treatable, but therapies are becoming increasingly expensive. 

If the trend in survival and costs continue as they have been, then the estimates could be as high as $207 billion by 2020 one reseracher predicted. The report is published online Jan. 12 and in the Jan. 19 print issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute

To estimate the cost of cancer treatment, the research team looked at data on 13 cancers in men and 16 in women. Tracking the rate of these cancers and the current costs to treat them in 2010, they were able to project costs in 2020. 

In these calculations researchers assumed that costs would rise by only 2 percent a year.  The largest increases in cost over the period will be for breast cancer at 32 percent and prostate cancer at 42 percent, simply because more people will be living longer with these diseases, the researchers noted. 

For example, while the cost of treating breast cancer remains relatively low (compared to other tumor types), by 2020 this cancer will incur the highest costs — about $20.5 billion — since there are expected to be many more women living with the disease. 

Commenting on the study, Elizabeth Ward, at the American Cancer Society, said that “a big component of the rise in cost is just the growth and aging of the population. We are just going to have more people developing cancer and under treatment for cancer,” she said.

New Study Ties Diet To Less Critical Illness, Longer Life

Monday, December 27th, 2010

December 27, 2010.  According to medical researchers, today’s leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases.  These include cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Both of these illnesses may be affected by diet a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals. 

Researchers examined data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality.

By 2030, an estimated 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to critical illnesses. This study sought to determine the dietary patterns of a large and diverse group of older adults, and to explore connections between these dietary patterns with survival over a 10-year period.

Researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices including healthy foods, high-fat dairy products, meat, fried foods, and alcohol and sweets and desserts.

The “Healthy foods” cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. The “High fat dairy products” cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

The study was unique in that it evaluated participants’ quality of life and nutritional status, through detailed biochemical measures, according to their dietary patterns.

After controlling for gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the “High-fat dairy products” cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the “Healthy foods” cluster. The “Sweets and desserts” cluster had a 37% higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the “Healthy foods” cluster and the “Breakfast cereal” or “Refined grains” clusters.

New Report: Aspirin May Now Prevent Cancer

Monday, December 6th, 2010

 Taking low doses of aspirin can reduce the risk of many kinds of cancer.

A report by scientists reveals that the evidence is strong enough to suggest people over 40 should take aspirin daily as protection.

In a study of eight trials involving 25,570 patients, researchers found that cancer deaths among those who took aspirin in doses as low as 75 milligrams a day were 21 percent lower during the studies and 34 percent lower after five years.

Aspirin protected people against gastrointestinal cancers the most, the study found, with rates of death from these cancers around 54 percent lower after five years among those who took aspirin compared to those who did not.

Researchers at Oxford University noted that while taking aspirin carries a small risk of stomach bleeding, that risk was beginning to be “drowned out” by its benefits in reducing the risk of cancer and the risk of heart attacks.

Previous studies have found taking aspirin can cut the risk of developing colon or bowel cancer and suggested it does so by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase2 which promotes inflammation and cell division and is found in high levels in tumors.

In the latest study, published in The Lancet, researchers found the 20-year risk of death was reduced by about 10 percent for prostate cancer, 30 percent for lung cancer, 40 percent for colorectal or bowel cancer and 60 percent for oesophageal cancer in those taking aspirin.

 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Neck Surgery Can Reduce Stroke Risk

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

A surgical procedure to widen carotid arteries that have become narrowed and restrict blood flow to the brain reduces the risk of stroke over a 10-year period.

According to British researchers the carotid artery supplies blood carrying oxygen to the head, so a procedure to widen it helps restore blood flow to the brain. However, the operation, called a carotid endarterectomy, has about a 3 percent risk of causing an immediate stroke, the researchers cautioned.

For some elderly patients, this risk may outweigh any long-term benefit. But older, healthy patients will likely benefit from the procedure, the study authors noted.

Recent studies suggest that the rate of stroke in patients with [narrowed carotid arteries without symptoms] is lower than the rates found in this trial, according to the highlighted report posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the trade group.

Although the study found the rate of stroke in patients without a carotid endarterectomy to be 1.8 percent a year over a 10-year period, the rates are thought to be about 1 percent a year, but may be as low as around 0.5 percent a year.

The lower rates of stroke, medical reserachers report, are thought to be due to advances in medical treatment such as blood pressure control, antiplatelet drugs and more widespread use of statins.

The report is published in the Sept. 25 issue of The Lancet.

In the Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial, a research team led by Dr. Alison Halliday of the John Radcliffe Hospital, the University of Oxford, randomly assigned 3,120 patients with narrowed carotid arteries to surgery or to no surgery until their condition required it.

Some of the patients originally assigned to the “no surgery” group did undergo the operation during the study, the researchers noted.

A total of 1,979 operations were performed. Among these the risk of stroke within 30 days was 3 percent, including 26 minor and 34 disabling or fatal strokes, Halliday’s team reported.

Over an average of five years of follow-up, 4.1 percent of those who underwent the procedure suffered a stroke, compared with 10 percent of those who did not have the operation.

At 10 years, 10.8 percent of those who had the operation had suffered a stroke, compared with 16.9 percent of those who were not operated on, the researchers found.

In addition, over the years of the study, patients in both groups were also taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Even these medications did not affect the benefit of the surgery, the researchers said.

“This trial took more than 15 years to complete, because we wanted to know about the long-term effects of surgery,” Halliday said in a statement.

“The finding that successful carotid artery surgery can substantially reduce the stroke risk for many years is remarkable, because it means that most of the risk of stroke over the next five years in patients with a narrowed carotid artery is caused by that single carotid lesion. The definite benefits that we have found will be of practical value to doctors and patients deciding in the future whether to take the immediate risk of having such surgery,” she said.

The rates of stroke were reduced from about 2.2 percent a year to 1.4 percent a year over five years and from 1.8 percent a year to 1.3 percent a year over 10 years, he said.

Cancer Occurs But Deaths Decline

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

According to a report from the American Cancer Society there will be 1,529,560 new cancer cases in the United States in 2010 and 569,490 deaths. 

Death rates for all cancer types fell by 2 percent a year from 2001 to 2006 among men and 1.5 percent per year from 2002 to 2006 in women.  The reduced death rate from cancer was due a decline in smoking, better treatment and earlier detection.

New cases of colorectal cancer fell 3 percent a year in men and 2.2 percent a year for women from 1998 to 2006, while lung cancer rates have fallen in men by 1.8 percent each year since 1991 and finally started leveling off among women.  Cancer remains one iof the primary illnesses impacting Americans according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The drops in mortality rates have meant that nearly 800,000 people who would have died prematurely from cancer over the past 20 years did not. 

The overall U.S. death rate from cancer in 2007 was 178.4 per 100,000 people, a 1.3 percent drop from 2006, when the rate was 180.7 per 100,000.

Mortality rates have decreased by 21 percent among men and by 12 percent among women, due primarily to declines in smoking, better treatments, and earlier detection of cancer.  Lung cancer remains the No. 1 cancer killer of both men and women in the United States. Breast cancer comes in No. 2 for women, prostate cancer is the second most common killer of men, and colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both sexes.

Long Sleep Linked To Increased Health Risks In Older Adults

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Metabolic syndrome is a group of obesity-related risk factors that increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

A person with at least three of these five risk factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome: excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health conditions impacting the aging American public.

According to a research abstract presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies participants who reported a habitual daily sleep duration of eight hours or more including naps were 15 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome. 

This relationship remained unchanged after full adjustment for potential confounders such as demographics, lifestyle and sleep habits, and metabolic markers. Removing participants with potential ill health from the analysis slightly attenuated the observed association. Although participants who reported a short sleep duration of less than six hours were 14 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome in the initial analysis, this association disappeared after controlling for potential confounders.

Researchers noted that the most surprising aspect of the study was that long sleep – and not short sleep – was related to the presence of the metabolic syndrom.

The study involved over 29,000 adults, making it the largest study to assess the relationship between sleep duration and the presence of metabolic syndrome. Participants were 50 years of age or older. Total sleep duration was reported by questionnaire.

We can recommend that long sleepers reduce the amount of overall sleep they achieve, which may in turn have beneficial effects on their health one medical expert noted. Programs can be developed to modify sleep in an attempt to reduce the health burden on elderly populations, who are already at higher risk of disease.

Irregular Periods Tied To Heart Disease

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

According to a new study women who said they’d typically had irregular periods in the past were 28 percent more likely than women who reported regular monthly periods to develop heart disease.

The study, which followed more than 23,000 Dutch women for a decade, found that there was no increased risk seen among women who reported regularly long menstrual cycles (30 or more days between periods) or regularly short cycles (26 or fewer days between periods).

Despite their relatively higher risk, though, the large majority of women with irregular periods did not develop heart problems during the study period. Of the roughly 4,000 women who reported a history of irregular periods, 150 were diagnosed with coronary heart disease over the next 10 years.

Just over 17,000 study participants reported having either regular monthly periods (between 27 and 29 days) or regularly short cycles. Of those women, 530 developed coronary heart disease.

The women were 50 years old, on average, at the start of the study.

It’s known that women with a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have higher risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes than other women their age. In that disorder, the ovaries produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones and menstrual periods are irregular or completely absent.

Reserachers found no evidence that altered hormone levels explained the association between irregular periods and heart disease risk. Nor did factors such as body weight, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol account for the link.

In this study, women with irregular periods tended to have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those with monthly periods; however, the association was not statistically significant — meaning the finding may have occurred by chance.

Reported by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Critical Illness Insurance in the United States

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Critical Illness Insurance in the United States

Black Women Wait Longer For Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Researchers from the George Washington Cancer Institute looked at 581 breast cancer patients who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. and found that insured black women and uninsured white women waited more than twice as long to be given a definitive breast cancer diagnosis than insured white women. 

Lack of health insurance slowed the speed of diagnosis among white patients, but having insurance did not lead to quicker diagnosis among insured black women.

Overall, black patients waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis. 

The findings highlight the need for improved outreach and other types of assistance for black patients.

Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Blacks Hit Hardest By Lung Cancer

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

According to a new report from the American Lung Association, environmental factors, biological factors, cultural attitudes and biases in the health-care system conspire to make this deadly disease even deadlier among members of this minority group.

Despite lower smoking rates, African-Americans are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than whites. African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed later when the cancer is more advanced. Also, African-Americans are more likely to wait longer after the diagnosis to receive treatment or perhaps to refuse treatment and to die in the hospital after surgery.

Black men bear an even more disproportionate share of the burden, being 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer and 22 percent more likely to die of the disease than white men. 

Only 12 percent of blacks will be alive five years after their lung cancer diagnosis, compared with 16 percent of whites, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. 

The ALA report points to a number of factors that could explain the disparity, including differences in socioeconomic status, big business behavior and environmental exposure.  Blacks have higher rates of smoking menthol cigarettes than other groups. Smokers of menthol cigarettes tend to have higher blood levels of cotinine, an indicator of how much nicotine a person is absorbing. 

Education and income levels also play a role. Not only do these factors impact lifestyle choices and access to health care, including health insurance, but they largely determine where blacks are likely to work and live.

According to one study, predominantly black neighborhoods have noticeably higher levels of air pollution than other communities.

Chocolate May Make Some Strokes Less Likely

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Unfortunately for chocolate fans, the same research found that chocolate does not appear to have a protective benefit for the most common type of stroke.

People who have a stroke have either an ischemic or a hemorrhagic stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked, either partially or completely. This type of stroke accounts for about 80 percent of all strokes. 

In the context of an appropriate intake, eating small amounts of cocoa could be beneficial, the researchers noted.  The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention in San Francisco. 

The benefit attributed to cocoa stems from substances it contains known as flavonoids, which are believed to help protect against certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood clotting. 

In the study, the researchers reviewed data from 4,369 middle-age French women, none of whom had any evidence of heart disease at the start of the study in 1993. The women’s average body-mass index was 23, a number that’s considered normal weight. 

In the next 12 years, 493 of the women were diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease: 200 had heart attacks and 293 had a stroke. Of the strokes, 189 were ischemic and 91 were hemorrhagic.

After adjusting the data to account for known cardiovascular disease risk factors — such as smoking, physical activity, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and diabetes — the researchers found no statistically significant association in the risk for cardiovascular disease between the highest levels of cocoa consumption and the lowest.

Stroke Incidence Rises Significantly Among Younger Americans

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A new report presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted that the average age of stroke patients in 2005 was nearly three years younger than the average age of stroke patients in 1993-1994.

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, this represents a significant decrease as the percentage of people 20 to 45 having a stroke was up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.  Stroke is one of the three most frequently incurred critical illness.  Cancer and heart disease are the other two impacting millions of Amerucans yearly.

Stroke has traditionally been considered a disease of old age.  Medical experts report that the findings are of great public health significance because of the potential for greater lifetime burden of disability among younger patients.

Researchers examined data from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, which includes about 1.3 million people. They report that the trend is likely occurring throughout the United States because the higher prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes seen in the young here are also seen throughout the country.

The study recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

In 1993-94, the average age of first stroke was 71.3 years old. The average age dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and was down to 68.4 by 2005.

Researchers also found racial differences in stroke incidence. For blacks, the incidence of strokes among those over age 85 dropped significantly by 2005. For whites, the incidence decreased significantly starting at age 65 by 2005.

Coffee Drinking Reduces Risk Of Stroke

Friday, February 26th, 2010

According to a new study self-reported coffee consumption was inversely related to stroke risk.  The study followed 23,000 men and women.  They were followed for an average of 12 years found by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England.

Overall, people who reported any intake of coffee had a 27 percent lower risk of stroke than those who said they never drank java, the researchers reported. Drinking more coffee was not associated with a greater reduction in stroke risk. 

The reduced risk was irrespective of the type of coffee consumed, caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the educational organization, prior studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes — a major risk factor for stroke — and also with a reduced risk of heart disease. 

Those studies generally have not been carried out with rigorous methods, researchers note.  Typically, they rely on self-reports, how much coffee you say you drink.  But what might be two cups for me might be an entirely different two cups for you. 

So, there are no official suggestions that people drink coffee to lower their risk of stroke. There has been no study designed to produce the kind of evidence needed to make recommendations, they noted.

Single Men Face 64% Greater Risk Of Stroke

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

According to a new Israeli study when age and known stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diabetes were included in the analysis, single men had a 64 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than married men. 

The study, which tracked more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers from 1963 to 1997, found that 8.4 percent of the single men died of strokes, compared to 7.1 percent of the married men. 

According to the medical researchers, the 3.6 percent of men who reported dissatisfaction with marriage also had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke, compared to those who considered their marriages to be very successful. 

“Clearly stroke is one of the three major critical illness that threaten Americans,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “It’s clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors.” 

Most of the men (86 percent) were immigrants, some of whom arrived before the state of Israel was created, one researcher noted.  A not inconsiderable proportion of these men had migrated from states of personal persecution and economic hardship and it is not known whether this had something to do with the finding.

Gas Cooking May Increase Cancer Risk

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Researchers in Norway have found that cooking with gas produces more potentially harmful fumes than electric cooking.    In a report published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, they also point out that professional chefs and cooks are more at risk than the average at-home cook. 

The risk to average at-home cookers is low, at least under Norwegian conditions, where most homes have a kitchen exhaust fan, reports the study’s author.   The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cooking fumes from frying at high temperatures as “probably carcinogenic.” The fumes have been found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines, higher and mutated aldehydes, and fine and ultrafine particles. 

But a remaining question has been what role, if any, does the energy source — gas or electric– or type of fat used in frying play in producing the fumes. 

The researchers created a kitchen typical of those in Western European restaurants, measuring 62 square feet and containing both a gas stove and an electric stove with a canopy hood.

They fried 17 pieces of beefsteak, each weighing about a pound, in both margarine and soya bean oil for 15 minutes. The only PAH found was napthalene (now banned, but once found in mothballs), most notably when frying with margarine on a gas stove, according to the report. 

The highest levels of all compounds, including ultrafine particles that more easily penetrate the lungs, were produced while frying with gas. 

In their homes, people can make sure that they have a powerful exhaust fan, preferably one that is vented directly to the outside and does not have a charcoal filter, one of the researchers emphasized. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Lower IQ Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, February 15th, 2010

An estimated 80 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade group.  Nearly 800,000 Americans will suffer their first heart attack this year.

The findings do not prove that those with low IQs develop more heart disease.  The study’s authors point out that they only show a possible connection between intelligence level and heart problems. 

Still, one of the authors suggested the findings show the value of helping kids to be smarter. From a public health perspective, there is the possibility that IQ can be increased, with some mixed results from trials of early learning and school readiness programs. It may also be worthwhile for health promotion campaigns to be planned with consideration of individual cognition levels. 

The study, published in the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, examined more than 1,100 Scottish men and women aged around 55 years in 1987, who were followed-up for two decades. 

Of the factors studied, cigarette smoking boosted the risk of heart disease the most, followed by low IQ. The researchers suggested that low IQ could boost the risk of heart disease due to its links to lack of healthy activities and related obesity and high blood pressure. Low IQ could also be a sign of illness or insufficient nutrition during a person’s lifetime.

Does Eating Chocolate Lower Stroke Risk

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Researchers presenting at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto report another study found that eating chocolate may lower the risk of death after suffering a stroke.

The analysis involved reviewing three studies on chocolate and stroke.  More research is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk, or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate than others reported one of the experts from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks research and data pertaining to stroke and other critical illnesses, chocolate is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against stroke.  More research is needed their director notes.

The first study found that 44,489 people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who ate no chocolate. The second study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46 percent less likely to die following a stroke than people who did not eat chocolate. 

The researchers found only one additional relevant study in their search of all the available research. That study found no link between eating chocolate and risk of stroke or death.

Drinking Soda Increases Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

New research finds that , new research suggests that adult soda drinkers may also engage in other lifestyle habits, such as smoking, which could contribute to the elevated risk. 

The study was a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and National University of Singapore.

The analysis involved more than 60,000 middle-aged or older Chinese Singaporeans. Researchers calculated how much juice and soda the participants drank on average and followed them for 14 years to see how many developed cancer of the pancreas. 

Those who drank two or more sodas a week were 87 percent more likely to develop this kind of tumor than individuals who didn’t consume any soda. 

Researchers found no link between juice consumption and cancer risk, perhaps because fruit juice has less effect than sugary sodas on glucose and insulin levels, the authors noted. 

Previous research in United States. and Europe has suggested an association between sweetened sodas and juices and pancreatic cancer. This is the first study to examine the association in an Asian population, although the authors feel the findings can be extrapolated to Western nations. 

Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks has been linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes. Both obesity and diabetes are associated with higher risk of pancreatic cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. 

The overall number of people developing the malignancy is over 42,000 new cases last year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The non-profit organization tracks data regarding cancer and heart diseases.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pregnancy-Produced Hormone May Prevent Breast Cancer

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Researchers at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Albany Medical College, N.Y., report that the protein, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), may serve as a viable, well-tolerated agent for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.  AFP is a protein normally produced by the liver and yolk sac of a fetus. 

Hormones produced during pregnancy, such as estrogen, all induce AFP, which directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer, noted one of the researchers.  Medical experts explain that the body can produce a natural defense system against breast cancer.  They note this can be developed into a drug that can be used to protect women from breast cancer. 

Recent studies have shown that hormones released during pregnancy, such as estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin, reduce a women’s risk for breast cancer.   Nearly 700,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer affects about 26 percent of female cancer victims.

Researchers’  results showed that treatment with estrogen plus progesterone, estrogen alone or human chorionic gonadotropin reduced the incidence of mammary cancers in rats.   The researchers noted that each of these treatments elevated the serum level of AFP and that AFP directly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells growing in culture.  While none of these treatments prevented mammary tumors in 100 percent of the rats, it appears to delay mammary tumor formation and prevent breast cancer development in approximately 30 to 50 percent of the rats.

Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Older Men, Not Women

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

New research examined over 3,000 men and women, average age 69, who were followed for about nine years.  During that time, there were 238 strokes among the participants. At the start of the study, 20 percent of the participants said they did regular moderate-to-high intensity exercise such as jogging, swimming or tennis.  Some 41 percent said they did no physical activity. 

Men who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise were 63 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who didn’t exercise. Over five years, the baseline risk of ischemic stroke which is the leading type of stroke for all study participants was 4.3 percent; 2.7 percent for those who did moderate-to-high intensity exercise and 4.6 percent for those who didn’t exercise. 

The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia appears in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Neurology.  Taking part in moderate-to-heavy intensity physical activity may be an important factor for preventing stroke, noted the study’s author. 

A large percentage of the participants were not taking part in any physical activities. This may be true of many elderly people who live in cities. Identifying ways to improve physical activity among these people may be a key goal for public health.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  This year some 600,000 Americans will suffer their first stroke.

Migraine Increases Likelihood Of Stroke

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by plaque accumulation or a blood clot.

In astudy presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed the findings of 21 studies that included a total of 622,381 men and women, aged 18 to 70, in Europe and North America.

Those with migraines were 2.3 times more likely than people without migraines to suffer ischemic stroke. The risk was 2.5 times higher for migraine sufferers who experienced aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred vision), and for women experiencing aura, 2.9 times higher.

The findings reinforce the link between migraine and stroke and also correct some discrepancies in previous analyses that yielded mixed results, according to Hopkins cardiologist and senior study investigator Dr. Saman Nazarian.

Nazarian said nearly 1,800 articles have been written about the relationship between migraine and stroke, but the Hopkins review is believed to be the largest of its kind and was more selective, including only studies that used similar designs and groups of people.

“Identifying people at highest risk is crucial to preventing disabling strokes. Based on this data, physicians should consider addressing stroke risk factors in patients with a history or signs of light flashes and blurry vision associated with severe headaches,” Nazarian said in a Hopkins news release.

There are a number of migraine prevention and treatment options, including smoking cessation, taking medications to lower blood pressure or taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, Nazarian added. For women with migraines, additional options include discontinuing use of birth control pills or stopping hormone replacement therapy.

For information on critical illness insurance visit the website of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance where you can obtain free, no obligation costs for this important protection.

Moderate Exercise May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Researchers examined men who underwent biopsies for possible prostate cancer.  Those who exercised moderately, the equivalent of three to six hours of walking per week, were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. 

The study found that compared with their sedentary counterparts, these men were two-thirds less likely to have a biopsy positive for prostate cancer. In addition, men who performed one to three hours of walking each week had an 86 percent lower chance of having an aggressive form of the cancer. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, some 745,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each week.  Prostate cancer is the leading cancer impacting men.  The study findings which appear in the current issue of the Journal of Urology do not prove that exercise helps prevent prostate cancer the researchers point out. But it could offer men another incentive to get active. 

A number of studies have looked at the relationship between exercise and prostate cancer, and while most have pointed to a protective effect, about one-third have found no association.   And among men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 51 percent of sedentary patients had more-aggressive cancer, versus 22 percent of those who had been mildly active — getting the equivalent of one to three hours of moderate walking per week.

Eating Red Meat Linked To Prostate Cancer

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute report the findings of a major study.  Researchers followed more than 175,000 men for nine years.  Those who ate the most red and processed meats had heightened risks of developing any stage of prostate cancer, or advanced cancer in particular.  Prostate cancer is the most commong cancer in men according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, followed by lung and colon.

The findings which were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology add to a conflicting body of research on meat intake and prostate cancer risk.   Prior studies have come to different conclusions.  However, medical experts generally consider the evidence linking red and processed meats to the disease to be limited and inconclusive.

These latest findings do not settle the question. The researchers explain that they do suggest that processed red meats and high-heat cooking methods — namely, grilling and barbecuing — may be particularly connected to prostate cancer risk.

The researchers used that information to estimate the levels of certain potentially cancer-promoting chemicals in the men’s diets.  Over the next nine years, 10,313 study participants developed prostate cancer and 419 died from the disease. 

Overall, the researchers found, the 20 percent of men with the highest intakes of red meat, which in this study included beef and pork, were 12 percent more likely than those who consumed the least to develop prostate cancer.

Cholesterol-lowering Medicines May Be Effective Against Cancer

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Statins lower cholesterol by blocking certain enzymes involved in metabolism.   Medical experts note that  they have also been shown to help proteins attach to cell membranes.  Because many of the proteins that are lipid-modified cause cancer, there are now hopes that it will be possible to use statins in the treatment of cancer. 

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Germany, conducted studies that show statins can have a dramatic inhibitory effect on growth and development.  The researchers note that their results support the idea that statins can be used in more ways than just to lower cholesterol.  Not least that they can prevent the growth of cancer cells caused by lipid-modified proteins, but also that they can be effective in the treatment of diabetes and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. 

The findings were published in the article Statins Inhibit Protein Lipidation and Induce the Unfolded Protein Response in the Non-Sterol Producing Nematode C. elegans, published in the journal PNAS.  The study is the result of a research partnership between the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology.

 Information on critical illness is gathered and posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization focused on helping individuals understand the importance of protecting their financial futures.

Women Having More Heart Attacks. They’re More Likely To Survive

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Two new studies reveal that men still have a higher prevalence of heart attack than women.  Medical researchers report that the gap has narrowed as heart attacks among women have increased while they have decreased among men.

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California revealed that 2.5 percent of the men and 0.7 percent of the women reported a history of heart attacks in the prior surveys.  In the more recent study, they found 2.2 percent of men and 1 percent of women reported heart attacks. 

The narrowing of the male-female difference is easily explained, according to medical experts.  They point to the fact that risk factors are being better controlled in men than in women.  In men, levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol remained the same between the two surveys, while levels of “good” HDL cholesterol improved. Blood pressure levels improved, and fewer men smoked. 

Researchers noted that the improvements for women were marginal, with LDL cholesterol levels about the same. The only risk factor that improved in women was HDL cholesterol. Diabetes and obesity increased in both men and women, the study found.

Coffee May Slow Liver Disease

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

New research published in the November issue of the journal Hepatology reveals information on the first study to address the association between liver disease progression related to hepatitis C and coffee intake. 

Researchers studies nearly 800 patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) who were asked to report their intake of coffee, green tea and black tea. The patients were seen every three months during the nearly four-year study, and liver biopsies were taken at 18 months and 3.5 years to determine the progression of liver disease. 

Patients who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 53 percent less likely to have liver disease progression than those who didn’t drink coffee. Green and black tea didn’t appear to have an effect, but tea consumption was low among the study participants, the researchers noted in the report

Given the large number of people affected by HCV, the researchers noted the importance of identifying modifiable risk factors associated with the progression of liver disease.  Although we cannot rule out a possible role for other factors that go along with drinking coffee, results from our study suggest that patients with high coffee intake had a lower risk of disease progression, the study concluded. 

HCV infects about 2.2 percent of the worldwide population, including more than 3 million Americans according to the Ameriocan Association for Critical Illness Insurance. The virus is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States and is responsible for 8,000 to 10,000 deaths in the country each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breast Tenderness Linked To Elevated Cancer Risk

Friday, October 16th, 2009

According to researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA they are not certain why breast tenderness indicates increased cancer risk among women on the combination therapy.

The researchers based their findings by examining data on more than 16,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative estrogen-plus- progestin clinical trial.   They speculated that it may be because the hormone therapy is causing breast-tissue cells to multiply more rapidly, which causes breast tenderness and at the same time indicates increased cancer risk.

The UCLA research, published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, compared the daily use of oral conjugated equine estrogens (0.625 mg) plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (2.5 mg), or CEE+MPA, with the daily use of a placebo pill. 

Of the participants in the trial, over 8,500 took estrogen plus progestin and just over 8,100 were given placebos. Participants underwent mammography and clinical breast exams at the start of the trial and annually thereafter. Self-reported breast tenderness was assessed at the beginning of the trial and one year later, and invasive breast cancer over the next 5.6 years was confirmed by medical record review. 

Women on the combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the trial’s inception were found to have a threefold greater risk of developing tenderness at the one-year mark, compared with participants who were assigned placebos (36.1 percent vs. 11.8 percent). Among the women who did report breast tenderness at the beginning, the risk at one-year was about 1.26 times that of their counterparts on placebos. 

Of the women who reported new-onset breast tenderness, 76.3 percent had been on the combination therapy.

Women in the combination therapy group who did not have breast tenderness at the outset but experienced new-onset tenderness at the first annual follow-up had a 48 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer than their counterparts on combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the first-year follow-up.

Green Tea May Curb Some Cancers

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

According to a study by Japanese researchers noted that it may take at least  5 cups a day to reduce the risk.

Drinking green tea has been associated with lower risk of dying and heart disease deaths, medical experts have reported.  The just-released study notes that drinking green tea may have a favorable effect “for particular cancers.”

Researchers gathered information on the diets and green tea drinking habits of a large group of Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years old.  They followed the group for development of blood and “lymph system” cancers. The lymph system is a major component of the body’s immune system.

Some 40,000 men and women who participated in the study had no previous history of cancer.  During 9 years of follow up, 157 blood, bone marrow, and lymph system cancers developed in the study group.

The researchers found that the overall risk for blood cancers was 42 percent lower among study participants who drank 5 or more, versus 1 or fewer, cups of green tea daily.  Drinking 5 or more cups of green tea daily was also associated with 48 percent lower risk for lymph system cancers.

These associations held up in analyses that allowed for age, gender, education, smoking status and history, alcohol use, and fish and soybean consumption.  The report appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology, September 15, 2009.

Skin Cancer Can Be Inherited

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

 Two new studies suggest that skin cancer can be inhereited.

One study found that having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of developing the disease much more than having a fraternal twin with this type of skin cancer.  The other study revealed that having a parent or sibling with one of several different types of non-melanoma skin cancer increased risk as well.

Having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of the disease nearly 10-fold, while melanoma associated with having a non-identical twin with the disease was roughly doubled. 

Prior studies have suggested melanoma and other skin cancers run in families.  But medical experts note it has been difficult to separate the difference between the influence of genes and those caused by other environmental conditions.  Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. 

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia looked at twin pairs in which at least one sibling had been diagnosed with melanoma.  After looking at hundreds of candidates, the researchers found that in four of the 27 identical twin pairs, both had melanoma, while three of the 98 fraternal twin pairs had both been diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer. 

In the second study conducted at the University of California Los Angeles, researchers looked at the Swedish Family-Cancer Database to gauge the risk for several types of skin cancer among siblings and children of people diagnosed with these diseases.

They found that people with a sibling or parent diagnosed with some types of skin cancer were more likely to develop skin cancers of various types, not just the ones their relatives had. When tumors occurred at parts of the body more likely to have been exposed to the sun (such as the face, compared to the torso), the familial risk was stronger.  The findings were reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, September 2009.

Women With Breast Cancer Have Low Vitamin D Levels

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

The finding comes from scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center who recommend women should be given high doses of vitamin D.   The U.S. Institute of Medicine suggests that blood levels nearing 32 nanograms per milliliter are adequate.

Vitamin D, obtained from milk, fortified cereals and exposure to sunlight, is well known to play an essential role in cell growth, in boosting the body’s immune system and in strengthening bones. 

In a study of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, nearly 70 percent had low levels of vitamin D in their blood, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco. The analysis showed women with late-stage disease and non-Caucasian women had even lower levels. 

Scientists analyzed vitamin D levels in each woman.  They found the average level was 27 nanograms per milliliter.  More than two-thirds of the women had vitamin deficiency. Weekly supplementation with high doses of vitamin D — 50,000 international units or more — improved the levels, according to the researchers. 

Previous studies have shown that nearly half of all men and women are deficient in the nutrient, with vitamin D levels below 32 nanograms per milliliter.   Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, symptoms of depression and sleep irregularities.

Some 692,000 American women are diagnosed annually with cancer in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade group.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting 26 percent of women diagnosed with the illness.

CI Sales Boot Camps Set For Texas, California

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

The nation’s first industry-supported sales boot camps will be held to educate insurance and financial professionals about critical illness insurance protection.   The focus will be on successfully selling insurance protection to individuals as well as in the worksite.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) is organizing the half-day sales conferences that will be held in California (Anaheim) and Texas (Dallas and Houston).

“Few agents are aware of critical illness insurance,” explains Jesse Slome, AACII’s executive director.  “The market is set to explode because everyone knows someone who has had a critical illness but they are not aware of CI protection.”  Critical illness insurance has gained widespread sales abroad in Canada, Britain and other countries.  The initial policies were first introduced in the U.S. in the mid 1990s.

The Southern California Critical Illness Sales Boot Camp will be help May 18, 2010 in Anaheim.  Information will be posted on the Association’s website.  For further information on exhibiting, contact the Association at (818) 597-3205 or via E-mail to: mailto:jslome@aacii.org. 

Shingles Raises Risk Of Stroke In Adults

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

According to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association the risk was even greater when the infection involved the eyes.  Every 40 seconds someone in America has a stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus; the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body. Usually the virus doesn’t cause problems, but it can reappear years later, causing shingles. 

Studies have shown that people with herpes zoster infection are more likely to develop stroke. The researchers noted that this is the first study to demonstrate the actual risk of stroke following herpes zoster infection. 

Medical experts at the Taipei Medical University Hospital studied some 8,000 patients 18 years and older who received shingles treatment between 1997 and 2001. These people were matched by age and gender with 23,280 adults who weren’t treated for shingles (controls). 

During the one-year follow-up, 133 shingles patients (about 1.7 percent) and 306 of the controls (about 1.3 percent) had strokes.   The researchers noted that people treated for a shingles infection were 31 percent more likely to have a stroke, compared with patients without a shingles infection. 

Patients with shingles infections that involved the skin around the eye and the eye itself were 4.28 times more likely to have a stroke than patients without shingles.  Shingles patients were 31 percent more likely to develop an ischemic stroke during the one-year follow-up than those without shingles. 

Ischemic strokes, which are caused by the blockage of an artery, account for 87 percent of the new or recurrent strokes that strike some 800,000 Americans yearly, Jesse Slome, executive director of the critical illness insurance trade group. 

Shingles usually starts as a rash on one side of the face or body. The rash starts as blisters that scab after three to five days and usually clears within two to four weeks. There is often pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash develops.

Stem Cell Research Offers Colon Cancer Vaccine Hope

Friday, October 9th, 2009

October 10, 2009.  Human stem cells may provide a means of creating a vaccine against colon cancer and other types of cancers.

Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade orgganization.  “Some 10 percent of cases in both men and women are colon cancer,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director.

American and Chinese scientists reporting noted that cancer and stem cells share many molecular and biological features.   Dr. Zihai Li, of the University of Connecticut Stem Cell Institute, said in a news release that by immunizing the host with stem cells, the researchers were are able to ‘fool’ the immune system to believe that cancer cells are present and thus to initiate a tumor-combating immune program.  The research by Li and colleagues is the first to make the connection between human stem cells and colon cancer vaccination.

 

The study authors noted that, it has long been believed that immunizing people with embryonic materials may trigger an anti-tumor response by the immune system, but this theory has never advanced beyond animal research. The finding that human stem cells may help immunize against colon cancer is new and unexpected they added.  The study was published online Oct. 7 in the journal Stem Cells.

 

The researchers vaccinated mice with human embryonic stem cells and found that the mice developed a consistent immune response against colon cancer cells. The vaccinated mice showed a dramatic decline in tumor growth, compared with non-vaccinated mice.

Vigorous Exercise Associated With Reduced Breast Cancer Risk

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

October 8, 2009.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there’s good news for post-menopausal women.  Engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise may result in a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one quarter (26%) have breast cancer recognized as the most common cancer affecting U.S. women,

Researchers writing the open access journal BMC Cancer investigated the link between breast cancer and exercise.  According to the international team of researchers headed by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, this new study is one of the first prospective investigations to look at the importance of various intensities of exercise at different stages in an individual’s life. 

Over 110,000 post menopausal women were asked to rate their level of physical activity at ages 15-18, 19-29, 35-39, and in the past 10 years. It was found, over 6.6 years of follow up, that women who engaged in more than 7 hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for the last ten years were 16% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were inactive. 

No link was observed between breast cancer risk and physical activity in women who were active at a younger age.  The findings could help inform the mechanisms of the physical activity-breast cancer relationship.

Dental Plaque May Raise Heart Risk in Black Men

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

October 6, 2009.  Neglecting oral hygene could place black males at increased risk for heart problems a new study reveals.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Dentistry studied women and men who were asked to neglect their oral hygiene as part of the study.  The researchers were seeking to determine whether there would be equal buildup of dental plaque caused a change in total white blood cell count, a known risk factor for heart problems.

They found that the accumulation of dental plaque accumulation in black males was associated with a significant increase in the activity of white blood cells called neutrophils, an important part of the immune system, the researchers noted.  An elevated white blood cell count is one of the major risks for heart attack, previous research has found.

Medical experts noted that when a bacterial infection occurs anywhere in the body, billions of neutrophils are produced in the bone marrow to defend against the intruder.  The researchers observed that with poor dental hygiene, white blood cell activity increased in black men but not black women or whites of either sex.  The findings they note suggest both gender and racial differences in the inflammatory response to dental plaque. 

None of the study participants had periodontal (gum) disease.  the study authors explained.  The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

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Protect Yourself From Breast Cancer

Monday, October 5th, 2009

According to medical experts, since 1990, more and more women have been surviving breast cancer, largely because of early detection through mammography and improvements in treatment.

Despite the progress, some 1.4 million American women will be diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer accounts for 26 percent of cancer in women and is still the second leading cause of cancer death exceeded only by lung cancer.

Mammograms can find breast cancers earlier, when they are easier to treat and the chances of survival are higher. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms and breast exams for women 40 and older.

Medical specialists also recommend eating a healthy diet to help control weight, since being overweight or obese may raise breast cancer risk.  Get regular physical activity. The American Cancer Society recommends 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week. Forty-five to 60 minutes a day is even better for reducing breast cancer risk.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than 1 drink per day. Alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

And perhaps most important, be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts or have any other concerns. That conversation could save your life doctors note.

Asian Spice Could Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

An estimated six million women in the United States currently use hormone replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause.

Taking a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy has increased their risk of developing progestin-accelerated breast tumors note medical experts.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance nearly 700,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with cancer this year and over one-quarter will have breast cancer.

University of Missouri researchers have found that curcumin, a popular Indian spice derived from the turmeric root, could reduce the cancer risk for women after exposure to hormone replacement therapy.

The results of the study showed that women could potentially take curcumin to protect themselves from developing progestin-accelerated tumors, researchers noted.  In the study, researchers found that curcumin delayed the first appearance, decreased incidence and reduced multiplicity of progestin-accelerated tumors in an animal model.

New Discoveries Offer Hope for Failing Eyes

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Already a leading cause of vision loss among people older than 60, macular degeneration involves the breakdown of the macula, which helps provide clear vision. As the macula deteriorates, people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision.  The blurriness grows over time. 

Researchers report that new treatments now under study or in development could be used to treat the two forms of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Current treatments for the wet form of the disease have proven quite successful. The wet form is more rare but can cause rapid vision loss if not caught early.

Researchers have discovered a combination therapy of vitamins and antioxidants that reduces the risk of progressive vision loss by more than 20 percent, according to a report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Other progress against the wet form of the disease has come through the use of drugs that target vascular endothelial growth factor.  Caught early in the course of the disease, the chance of vision loss is less than 10 percent over a two-year period, scientists note.  Cutting-edge research also may have found another way to tackle the wet form of macular degeneration. In the June 14 issue of Nature, doctors reported that blocking the activity of a specific protein can reduce the same blood vessel growth that leads to the wet form.

No effective treatments have been found for the dry form of macular degeneration.  The dry form accounts for 85 percent of all macular degeneration cases, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

Medical experts note that a combination of antioxidants and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. Smokers should not use this treatment.  The recommended supplements contain: 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc and 2 milligrams of copper.

 

On a positive note, scientists reportedly are optimistic that within three to five years a treatment for the dry form of macular degeneration will exist.

Exercise May Prevent Protate Cancer

Monday, September 28th, 2009

According to a new study released today by Duke University Medical Center men who were moderately active were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Moderately active was defined as anything equivalent to walking at a moderate pace for several hours a week.

The researchers looked at men who had a prostate biopsy and found that exercise was associated with less aggressive disease in men who did develop prostate cancer.  As the amount of exercise increased, the risk of cancer decreased, the study’s lead author said in a news release.

The majority (58 percent) of the men in this study were sedentary, which means they exercised less than the equivalent of one hour per week of easy walking.

Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in men of all ages and is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over 75 years old. Prostate cancer is rarely found in men younger than 40.

Men at higher risk include African-America men older than 60, farmers, tire plant workers, painters, and men exposed to cadmium. The lowest number of cases occurs in Japanese men and those who do not eat meat (vegetarians).

Prostate cancers are grouped according to tumor size, any spreading outside the prostate (and how far), and how different tumor cells are from normal tissue. This is called staging. Identifying the correct stage may help the doctor determine which treatment is best.

Aspirin Protects Against Colon Cancer

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Colorectal is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the United States and Europe, where a total of 560,000 people develop the disease each year, and 250,000 die from it according to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, the national trade organization.

Scientists at the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University in Britain said the benefits of aspirin were only seen after several years.  The researchers noted that they uncovered a simple way of controlling stems cells that make tumors grow.

The researchers tested over 1,000 people with Lynch syndrome — an inherited condition that predisposes a person to a range of cancers, particularly of the colon.  Some were given aspirins and some a placebo.

Follow-up tests after 10 years showed that although there was no difference in cancer rates after 29 months, a significant difference was detected after four years.  Fewer people in the aspirin group developing colon cancer, the study’s leader noted.

To date, there have been only six colon cancers in the aspirin group as opposed to 16 who took placebo, the study notes.  There is also a reduction in endometrial cancer.

People with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of many cancers including stomach, colon, brain, skin, and prostate. Women carriers also have a high risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers.

In low daily doses aspirin has been found to stave off the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as chase away occasional aches and pains.  Other scientists have previously found it can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and suggested it does so by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase2, or COX-2, which promotes inflammation and cell division and is found in high levels in tumors.

Older Individuals Should Eat More Whole Grains To Lessen CI Risk

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The study looked at the eating habits of hundreds of men and women in their 60s.  Overall, the participants consumed relatively low amounts of whole-grain foods, averaging 1.5 servings a day, and dietary fiber, averaging 18.6 grams a day. 

According to health insurance professionals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines recommend that older people consume three or more servings daily of whole-grain foods and 21 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. 

Among the study participants, bread and cold breakfast cereals were the main sources of whole grains.  Women were more likely than men to consume whole grains, the researchers found.

After adjusting for factors such as levels of physical activity, the study findings noted that a higher intake of whole grains was associated with lower amounts of total body fat and abdominal fat.  Obesity is a leading predictor of health conditions and a cause of nearly two million Americans having a heart attack or stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The study found that people who consumed the highest amounts of whole grains had about 2.4 percent less total body fat and 3.6 percent less abdominal fat than those who ate the least. This difference was found to be related to fiber in cereal, but not in fruits or vegetables. When only cereal fiber was taken into account, those who consumed the most had 3.2 percent less body fat and 5 percent less abdominal fat than those who ate the least amount of cereal fiber.

The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Middle-Age Heart Risk Factors Shorten Men’s Lives

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Although death from heart disease has been declining, in part due to better control of cardiovascular risk factors and better care, a study by British researchers looks at death from heart disease in terms of life expectancy.

The researchers collected data on nearly 19,000 men ranging from 49 to 69 years of age. The men were first evaluated between 1967-1970.  At the start of the study, the men completed a questionnaire that included questions about their medical history, smoking, employment and marital status. In addition, height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were also measured.

After about 28 years of follow-up, 7,044 surviving men were examined again in 1997.  When the study began, 42 percent of the men smoked, 39 percent had high blood pressure and 51 percent had high cholesterol. By 1997, about two-thirds had stopped smoking and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels had also dropped, the researchers noted.

Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, the study found.

Men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.

Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so, te research team reported.  The study was published in the Sept. 18 online edition of the British Medical Journal,

SOURCES: Robert Clarke, M.D., reader in epidemiology, University of Oxford, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 18, 2009, British Medical Journal

Surviving Cancer Can Depend On Where You Live

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Researchers with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services analyzed survival patterns in different areas of New Jersey among 25,040 men and women diagnosed with colorectal cancer from 1996 through 2003, and monitored through 2006.

They found that the number of people who lived at least 5 years after being diagnosed and treated was about 84 to 88 percent in high-income white neighborhoods, compared with 80 percent statewide.

Survival rates were much lower – just 73 percent – “in low income, racially diverse neighborhoods,” they found.  Five-year survival was 83 percent among Caucasians compared with 75, 79, and 80 percent among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders.   These findings are similar to those from other regions in the U.S. and elsewhere. Taken together, the data provide strong support for the theory that health is affected by many factors, such as biological, behavioral, and environmental traits, the researchers note.

SOURCE: International Journal of Health Geographics, July 23, 2009.

Coffee Linked To Heart And Stroke Risk

Friday, September 4th, 2009

People who drink lots of coffee but who don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Barcelona.

Researchers studied patients who’d been recently diagnosed with the common heart arrhythmia to supply information about their dietary habits, including caffeine consumption. Their diets were compared with those of people without atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation means the heart’s two upper chambers quiver instead of beating regularly, leading to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increase in the risk of stroke.

According to the scientists, daily coffee intake was divided into four categories: none, low (one cup per-day), medium (two to three cups a day), and heavy (more than three cups).

The individuals participating in the study were cross-ranked according to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and includes little red meat.

The report notes that individuals with atrial fibrillation were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet than those without the heart condition. Those with atrial fibrillation also consumed more red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were also more likely to have atrial fibrillation than those who drank less, the study found.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 30, 2009

Strokes Occurring At Younger Ages

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Strokes are no longer an affliction of old age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis found that people in the working ages of life are having strokes with greater regularity than ever before. 

While more people under the age of 65 are suffering strokes, rehabilitation is often not offered to younger people with mild stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Heart attacks, cancer and strokes are the three major critical illnesses affecting Americans.

The study examined data on nearly 8,000 people treated for stroke between 1999 and 2008. Researchers found that 45 percent were under 65 and 27 percent were under the age of 55. This differs drastically from data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which states that 66 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65, the report in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reports.

Most of the strokes among those under 65 were mild.  Individuals typically do not have outward signs of impairment and therefore are discharged with little or no rehabilitation.  The report noted that these individuals have trouble reintegrating back into complex activities of everyday life such as employment.

About 71 percent of patients who had a mild to moderate stroke were discharged directly home, discharged with home services only, or discharged with outpatient services only.   Follow-up with stroke victims revealed that 46 percent of those with a mild stroke said they were working slower, 42 percent said they were not able to do their job as well, 31 percent said they were not able to stay organized and 52 percent said they had problems concentrating.

SOURCES: Timothy J. Wolf, O.T.D., M.S.CI., O.T.R/L, instructor, occupational therapy and neurology and investigator for the Cognitive Rehabilitation Research Group, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Isaacson, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September/October 2009, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

Men Who Gain Weight At Risk Of Prostate Cancer

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Men who gain weight as young adults are at heightened risk of developing prostate cancer according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii reported that obesity is a risk factor for many common cancers, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. However, whether obesity plays a role in prostate cancer risk has been unclear, researchers say.

The new study finds that body mass in both younger and older adulthood, and weight gain between these periods of life, may influence prostate cancer risk. There are some 1.4 million new cases of cancer diagnosed each year in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. Over 565,000 Americans die from cancer each year.

The researchers collected data on almost 84,000 men. The study also examined the relationship between weight and prostate cancer in a multiethnic population including blacks, Japanese, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians and whites. Men who were overweight or obese at 21 had a lower risk of localized and low-grade prostate cancer, the researchers found.

The study findings revealed that when men put on weight seemed to matter, as did race and ethnicity. Higher weight in older adulthood was associated with increased risk of prostate cancer among white and Native Hawaiian men and a decreased risk of prostate cancer among Japanese men.

Ankle Circulation Can Warn Of Strokes

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A simple test of blood circulation in the ankle could help physicians identify individuals at higher risk of suffering another stroke according to the American Heart Association.

According to researchers, a simple test to compare blood flow in the ankle to that in the arm is all that’s needed.  A significant difference between the two readings could suggest that a patient suffers from peripheral artery disease, caused by fatty plaque buildup in the arteries of the extremities.

Stroke survivors and those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks — also known as TIAs or mini-strokes — are at high risk of stroke if they have peripheral artery disease according to the scientists.

Researchers screened survivors of strokes and mini-strokes using a device similar to a blood-pressure cuff to check circulation in their ankles. They found that 26 percent of the patients had peripheral artery disease without symptoms. Those patients were three times more likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack or death within the next two years compared to those who didn’t have the condition.

Declines In Cancer Deaths

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The scientists note that younger adults between ages 35 and 45 years old experienced the steepest declines in cancer death rates.  They noted that all age groups showed some improvement.  The findings of the study appear in the journal Cancer Research.

The news has both positive and negative implications some experts note.  Surviving cancer often results in an enormous financial toll on both the survivor and their family.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance the industry trade group, uncovered medical costs are a leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States.

While U.S. government estimates suggest there had been little improvement in cancer death rates throughout the 20th century, scientists noted the government reports did not tell the whole story.  Researchers used a different way of looking at cancer death rates that measured improvements in cancer deaths by age.

By comparison, government data tends to average all age groups together to produce a composite rate.

Because most cancer deaths occur in older Americans, the average was weighted toward experiences of older people.   Instead, the researchers looked at improvements in cancer deaths among groups of individuals born in five-year intervals starting in 1925.

 Using this methodology, they found that everyone born since the 1930s has enjoyed a decreased risk of cancer death, at every age.  People in the youngest age group (between 35 and 45) had a greater than 25 percent decline per decade in cancer deaths.