Posts Tagged ‘health news’

Critical Illness Insurance Sales Tend To Be Small

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

More than half (53%) of men and 54 percent of women purchased individual critical illness insurance policies providing benefits of $20,000 or less, according to the 2012 Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and General Re Life Corporation.

For the second consecutive year, 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.  “People increasingly understand they have some financial risk as a result of higher health insurance deductibles or lost income resulting from a dread disease and are selecting nominal amounts of CI coverage because they believe it is both sufficient and affordable protection,” explains Jesse Slome, AACII executive director.

According to the 2012 National Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study some 29 percent of male buyers and 31 percent of female buyers purchased benefit levels of $10,000 or less.   Fewer than one in 10 male buyers (9%) and only eight percent of female buyers purchased over $50,000 in protection.

According to the Association’s online Critical Illness Insurance Price Calculator, a 40-year-old male non-smoker will pay about $20 monthly for $20,000 of CI protection.  Females pay less, Slome notes.

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:  www.aacii.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.

For long term care insurance information and costs visit our sister organization, the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance.

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.

New Information Can Help Predict Who’ll Survive Heart Attack

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Important news for the nearly one million Americans who will have their first heart attack over the next 12 months.  Researchers report that it may be possible to predict who will survive or die as a result of that attack. 

According to the new study which analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people there are traits that could predict the risk that a heart attack would be fatal. Those traits included having high blood pressure, being black and having a very high body mass index which is a measurement based on height and weight. 

“For some people, the first heart attack is more likely to end their life,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade group.  “But increasingly more people are surviving heart attacks as well as cancer and strokes.”

The researchers found that in general blacks are at higher risk than non-blacks of sudden cardiac death, in which the heart suddenly stops beating.  But, they noted, they are at less risk of coronary heart disease. 

High blood pressure and increased heart rate were stronger predictors of sudden cardiac death than coronary heart disease.   Extreme high or low BMI was predictive of increased risk of sudden cardiac death, but not of coronary heart disease. 

Certain markers that can be identified by doctors evaluating patients’ electrocardiograms are associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive director.

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.

Cancer Death Rates In Europe Drop

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

There will be nearly 1.3 million deaths from cancer in Europe in 2011, according to predictions from a study published in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology

The estimates, which have been reached after researchers used for the first time in Europe a new mathematical model for predicting cancer mortality, show a fall in overall cancer death rates for both men and women when compared to 2007. But they also highlight some areas of concern, particularly rising rates of lung cancer in women. 

Researchers looked at overall rates in the European Union (EU) and also individual rates in six major EU countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. 

They predicted there would be 1,281,466 cancer deaths in the EU in 2011 (721,252 men and 560,184 women), compared to 1,256,001 (703,872 men and 552,129 women) in 2007. When these figures are converted into world standardized rates per 100,000 of the population, this means there will be a fall from 153.8 per 100,000 to 142.8 per 100,000 in men, and from 90.7 to 85.3 in women — a drop of 7% in men and 6% in women — since 2007.

“Cancer is no longer an immediate death sentence, the vast majority of people today survive,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the leading U.S. trade organization.  The overall downward trend in cancer death rates is driven mainly by falls in breast cancer mortality in women, and lung and colorectal cancer in men.

However, the number of women dying from lung cancer is increasing steadily everywhere apart from in the UK, which has had the highest rates in women for a decade and is now seeing a leveling off. In the EU as a whole, world standardized death rates from lung cancer in women have gone up from 12.55 per 100,000 of the female population in 2007 to 13.12 in 2011. 

Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the first cause of cancer death in Polish women, as well as in women from the UK. The number of women who will die from lung cancer this year in the UK is 15,632 (compared to 14,900 in 2007); this represents a slight drop in the death rate from 20.57 per 100,000 women in 2007 to 20.33 in 2011. In Poland, 6,343 women will die from lung cancer this year compared to 5,643 in 2007, and this represents an increase in the death rate from 15.53 per 100,000 women to 16.60 in 2011. 

Declines in mortality from other major cancers such as stomach, uterus, prostate and leukaemia are likely to be seen in 2011, say the researchers.

Jesse Slome is executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance <a href> http://www.aaltci.org </a> and the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance <a href> http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org </a> leading national trade organizations.  The Association’s Consumer Information Center was voted the #1 source for information by consumer interest group rating and can be accessed at <a href> http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance </a>.

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.

Number of Americans with Diabetes Rises to Nearly 26 Million

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition, an estimated 79 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.   Prediabetes raises a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance <a href>http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org</a>.

Diabetes affects 8.3 percent of Americans of all ages, and 11.3 percent of adults aged 20 and older, according to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet for 2011. About 27 percent of those with diabetes—7 million Americans—do not know they have the disease. 

Prediabetes affects 35 percent of adults aged 20 and older.  In 2008, CDC estimated that 23.6 million Americans, or 7.8 percent of the population, had diabetes and another 57 million adults had prediabetes. The 2011 estimates have increased for several reasons:

More people are developing diabetes.

Many people are living longer with diabetes, which raises the total number of those with the disease. Better management of the disease is improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and reducing complications such as kidney failure and amputations.

Hemoglobin A1c is now used as a diagnostic test, and was therefore incorporated into calculations of national prevalence for the first time. The test, also called glycated hemoglobin, measures levels of blood glucose (sugar) over a period of two to three months. Because of this change, estimates of populations with diabetes and prediabetes in the 2011 fact sheet are not directly comparable to estimates in previous fact sheets.

In a study published last year, CDC projected that as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue. Type 2 diabetes, in which the body gradually loses its ability to use and produce insulin, accounts for 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes cases. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, having diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes), a sedentary lifestyle, and race/ethnicity. Groups at higher risk for the disease are African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and some Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Half of Americans aged 65 and older have prediabetes, and nearly 27 percent have diabetes.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.  Diabetes costs $174 billion annually, including $116 billion in direct medical expenses.

Heart Disease And Stroke Costs Will Triple

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The cost of treating heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 years, to $818 billion.

According to the American Heart Association this $545 billion increase in costs for treating heart disease and stroke is largely due to the aging of the population.

“The burden of heart disease and stroke on the U.S. health care system and American families will be substantial,” said Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

The projected increase in costs will be based on the current rate of heart disease adjusted for changes in the overall age of Americans and the anticipated racial mix of patients. 

Experts noted that these estimates do not take into account the additional costs for those who have more than one condition, or new treatments that might come along,  To curb this rise in costs, the panel said that effective prevention strategies are needed if we are to limit the growing burden of cardiovascular disease. 

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a news release that “unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans. Early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use and cholesterol levels.” 

Right now, 36.9 percent of Americans have some type of heart disease, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and other conditions. By 2030, that number will rise to 40.5 percent of the population, or about 116 million people, according to the report. 

The biggest increases are thought to be in stroke, up 24.9 percent, and heart failure, up 25 percent.

Between 2010 and 2030, the cost of caring for patients with heart disease will go from $273 billion to $818 billion, the panel predicted. 

In addition, heart disease will cost billions more in lost productivity, increasing from about $172 billion in 2010 to $276 billion in 2030. These losses include days missed from work or home tasks because of illness, plus lost earnings due to premature death. 

There are also a number of low-cost, high-value cardiovascular protective therapies that are available but are underutilized in routine clinical care that could also help to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease. 

These include keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control, not smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which means eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and keeping your weight down. These strategies have been proven to substantially reduce the risk of heart disease. 

For more information on affordable critical illness insurance protection which can provide a tax-free lump sum cash payment upon diagnosis of a heart attack or stroke, viasit the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance’s website <a href> http://www.crititcalillnessinsuranceinfo.org </a>.

Fruit And Veggies Can Cut Dying From Heart Disease

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. 

According to researchers who analyzed data from more than 300,000 people from eight European countries, there is just one more reason to eat vegetables and fruit daily.

Individuals between ages 40 to 85 who took part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study were followed for an average of nearly 8.5 years. 

The findings published online in the European Heart Journal found that there were 1,636 deaths from ischemic heart disease, which is the most common form of heart disease and a leading cause of death in Europe. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, people with ischemic heart disease have reduced blood flow to the heart, which can cause angina, chest pain and heart attack. 

According to the study results, people who ate at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 22 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those who ate fewer than three portions a day. A portion was considered to be 80 grams, which would equal a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot. 

For each additional portion above the lowest intake of two portions, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease was reduced by 4 percent, the study authors noted. 

The risk of a fatal ischemic heart disease for someone eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day would be 4 percent lower compared to someone consuming four portions a day, and so on up to eight portions or more. 

The main message from this analysis is that people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.

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.

Red Meat Eaters Face Higher Cancer Risk

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Those who eat red-meat may have a greater likelihood of developing certain cancers.

According to a new study, meat lovers face increased risk of cancer of the throat and stomach than people who limit their intake of steaks and hamburgers.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, about 21,000 cases of stomach cancer and 16,640 cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 2010. 

Researchers found that among nearly 500,000 older U.S. adults followed for a decade, only a small number developed cancers of the esophagus or stomach. However, the risks were relatively greater among those who ate a lot of red meat, or certain compounds generated from cooking meat. 

Overall, study participants in the top 20 percent for red-meat intake were 79 percent more likely than those in the bottom 20 percent to develop esophageal squamous cell carcinoma — a cancer that arises in the lining of the upper part of the esophagus. 

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, do not prove that red meat promotes the two cancers, the researchers emphasize. 

However, the scientists report that the results add to what has been an uncertain body of evidence on the link between red meat and esophageal and stomach cancers. 

A 2007 research review by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, both non-profit groups, concluded that red and processed meats were associated with a “limited suggestive increased risk” of esophageal cancer. 

Researchers followed nearly 500,000 adults ages 50 to 71 over roughly 10 years. At the outset, participants completed detailed questionnaires on their diets — including the methods they typically used for cooking meat, and the usual level of “doneness” they preferred — as well as other lifestyle factors.

Over the next decade, 215 study participants developed esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; that included 28 cases among the bottom 20 percent for red-meat intake, and 69 cases in the top 20 percent.

Another 454 men and women were diagnosed with gastric cardia cancer. There were 57 cases among participants with the lowest red-meat intake, and 113 in the group with the highest intake. 

When the researchers accounted for other factors — like age, weight, smoking and reported exercise habits — participants who ate the most red meat were 79 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.

Vitamin E May Add To Stroke Risk

Friday, November 5th, 2010

People taking vitamin E supplements may put themselves at a slightly increased risk for a hemorrhagic stroke.

According to a new report, an estimated 13 percent of the population takes vitamin E supplements.  Some studies have suggested that taking vitamin E can protect against heart disease, while others have found that, in high doses, it might increase the risk of death reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medically-related news.

Vitamin E supplementation is not as safe as we may like to believe, noted one of the lead researchers with the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  Specifically, their findings reveal it appears to carry an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

While the risk is low translating into one additional hemorrhage per 1,250 persons taking vitamin E, widespread and uncontrolled use of vitamin E should be cautioned against the scientist added.

There are basically two types of stroke: one where blood flow to the brain is blocked, called an ischemic stroke, and one where vessels rupture and bleed into the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke. Of the two, hemorrhagic strokes are more rare, but more serious, the researchers noted.

The research team looked at nine trials that included 118,756 patients. Although none of the trials found an overall risk for stroke associated with vitamin E, there was a difference in the risk of the type of stroke.

The researchers found there were 223 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,334 people taking vitamin E, compared with 183 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,414 people taking a placebo.

However, for the risk of ischemic stroke, vitamin E was actually mildly protective, reducing the risk of ischemic stroke 10 percent, the researchers found.

Blood Test Can Predict Prostate Cancer Death

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

September 16, 2010.  A blood test at the age of 60 can accurately predict the risk that a man will die from prostate cancer within the next 25 years.

According to researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, and Lund University, in Sweden the test findings are quite significant for men. 

The research findings could have important implications for determining which men should be screened after the age of 60 and which may not benefit substantially from continued prostate cancer screening. 

Prostate cancer is one of the primary critical illnesses impacting men explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The national trade organization educates consumers regarding important health issues. 

The study analyzed blood samples from 1,167 men born in 1921 that were collected between 1981 and 1982. All men were carefully followed until they had reached age 85 or had died. 

After studying various biomarkers, the researchers found that the PSA level was a highly accurate predictor of long-term risk. PSA testing has been recommended for the early detection of prostate cancer for many years; however this new data suggests a baseline PSA could determine who should and should not continue to be screened for prostate cancer. 

According to the study, 126 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and of those, 90 percent of deaths occurred in men in the top 25 percent of PSA levels at age 60. The researchers concluded that men with a PSA level above 2 ng/ml at age 60 should be considered at increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and should continue to be screened regularly. 

Men with a PSA level below 1 ng / ml had a 0.2 percent chance of death from prostate cancer. The researchers concluded that men with PSA levels in this range, which is about half of all men, should be considered at low risk of prostate cancer death and may not need to be screened in the future. The study also indicated that some men found to be at low risk may actually have prostate cancer; however it is not likely to cause symptoms or shorten their life by the age of 85.

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.

Researchers Find Cause Of Cognitive Decline In Seniors

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Researchers have found that certain types of specializations on nerve cells called “spines” are depleted as a person ages, causing cognitive decline in the part of the brain that mediates the highest levels of learning. 

According to scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these spines receive an important class of synapses that are involved with the process of learning. The discovery provides the medical community with a new therapeutic target to help prevent this loss of function.

“Millions of aging seniors suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  These conditions account for the longest and most costly causes for long term health care.

When a person ages they lose certain spines the researchers noted.  We did not know which ones and how their loss impacted cognition.  The new study shows which spines are lost and what their impact is on brain function, giving us a foundation to research treatment interventions to protect against age-related cognitive decline.

The research team studied six young adult and nine older rhesus monkeys as they participated in a delayed response test. The monkeys watched as food was baited and hidden, and then a screen was put in front of them so they could no longer see the location of the hidden reward.

At the beginning of the test, the screen was raised immediately and the monkeys were able to find the food reward right away. The subject’s memory was tested by increasing the time that the reward was blocked from view to test if the monkeys retained where the reward was placed over longer intervals of time. Aged monkeys performed significantly worse on the tests than young monkeys, especially as the time intervals increased.

The researchers determined that the older monkeys lacked the thin spines but retained the larger spines, indicating that the loss of the thin spines may be responsible for the monkeys’ inability to learn and retain information during the test. For the first time, the researchers determined that the large spines were stable, which provides a synaptic basis for the observation that expertise and skills learned early in life are often maintained into old age. 

The study is published in the June 2 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

For no obligation, free quotes for long-term health care protection and to find the lowest cost LTC insurance, visit the AALTCI website’s Consumer Information Center.

Location Determines Heart Attack Survival

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Researchers found that people who suffer from cardiac arrest in some neighborhoods of Fulton County in Georgia — which is home to the city of Atlanta — are up to three times more likely to die than in other neighborhoods. They’re also less likely to have bystanders perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on them.

The neighborhoods with the highest cardiac arrest death rates tended to be poorer and less educated, with more black residents, the study authors noted in their report in the June issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance nearly 800,000 Americans will have a first heart attack in 2010 and some 470,000 will have a recurrent attack.

The findings have national public health indications experts explain. They show that it is time to change our thinking on how and where we conduct CPR training if we are ever going to change the dismal rate of survival from cardiac arrest,” the study author said.

The researchers at the University of Michigan estimated that 15 lives could be saved in Fulton County each year if the neighborhoods with the lowest rates of CPR had the same rates as those neighborhoods with the highest.

To improve cardiac survival rates that have been stagnant for 30 years, CPR training should be more basic and available to the people who are most likely to witness someone experiencing cardiac arrest, they note.  Health care resources are extremely limited. To make improvements, we need to understand where and how best to make change.

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.

Stroke Risk Not Cut By Folic Acid Supplements

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Their findings are based on a review of clinical trials involving more than 39,000 participants.  Prior studies experts explain have linked low blood levels of a chemical lowered by folic acid to lower rates of stroke.  Stroke is one of the three major illnesses impacting older individuals according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national educational organization.

Researchers at the UCLA Stroke Center in Los Angeles identified 13 well-designed clinical trials of folic acid and stroke. Participants in all the trials had been diagnosed with conditions such as kidney and heart disease, as well as stroke.

There were 784 strokes among 20,415 participants taking folic acid, compared to 791 strokes reported among 18,590 people who did not take the supplements.

The analysis which was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, settles the question about whether folic acid supplementation leads to a major reduction in stroke.  “The answer is ‘no,’” the lead researcher reports.

Still, the researchers suggest more research into folic acid and stroke, particularly for men and those in the earliest stages of heart disease. Data from both of those groups suggested there might be an effect, although researchers could not determine whether or not that was due to chance.

Those potential benefits appeared in trials carried out in countries whose food supplies were not fortified with folic acid. In the U.S., the benefits of folic acid supplementation may have already been achieved through food fortification. In an effort to reduce the birth defect spina bifida, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required the addition of folic acid to all enriched cereal-grain foods starting in 1998.

Gene Scan May Show Cancer Heart Risk

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

The Stanford University professor and researchers designed a computer algorithm to bring together known and genetic health risks. 

For example, a 40-year-old white male begins with a 16 percent lifetime chance of developing prostate cancer. But after taking his genes into account, the researchers put his risk at 23 percent. 

His Alzheimer’s risk, however, plummeted from 9 percent for most white men his age to 1.4 percent when genetics were considered. 

The gene scan cost about $50,000 to sequence, but the price is falling. The latest machines from companies like Illumina and Life Technologies Corp can map out a patient’s whole DNA code for as little as $5,000. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance this could eventually be reduced to a computer algorithm.  

“I think it will come to the point where this is happening for the average guy,” a researcher noted in a telephone interview. “We think the genomic information is going to be cheap and it is going to be fast … and the analysis could be run with the click of a mouse at any time .”

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.

Diet With Vitamin B Is Heart Healthy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

According to Japanese researchers who analyzed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and almost 36,000 women part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study diets with good levels of the vitamin are good for your heart.

The study found that women who ate more foods with the B-vitamins folate and B-6 were less likely to die from stroke and heart disease, while men who ate a diet high in these B-vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.  The study appears online in the journal Stroke.

During a median 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the people died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin B-12 intake was not associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers believe that folate and vitamin B-6 may help protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that’s affected by diet and heredity. Previous research suggests that too much homocysteine may damage the inner lining of arteries and promote the formation of blood clots.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance library of information, fish, liver, meats, whole grains and fortified cereals are sources of vitamin B-6, while vegetables and fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans and legumes are sources of folate.

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.

Being Overweight Increases Stroke Risk

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Being overweight puts an individual at significantly higher risk of ischemic stroke, with a serious possibility of permanent disability and reduced life expectancy.

Ischemic strokes occur when blood vessels supplying the brain are blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain, are less common.  Stroke is a leading critical illness according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization based in Los Angeles, California.

While being overweight increases a person’s likelihood of having stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, the question of whether being overweight or obese directly ups stroke risk has not been answered adequately; evidence from past research has been controversial.

Researchers examined medical literature for studies with at least four years of follow-up that looked at stroke risk based on body mass index, or BMI, a standard measure of weight in relation to height used to gauge how fat or thin a person is. They found 25 studies including 2,274,961 people, who had a total of 30,757 strokes.

People who were overweight were 22 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than normal weight people, while the risk for obese people was 64 percent higher, the researchers found. Hemorrhagic stroke risk wasn’t higher for overweight people, but it was 24 percent higher for obese people.

A person’s risk of having a stroke within the next 10 years can be estimated based on their gender, blood pressure, whether or not they smoke, and whether or not they have diabetes.

For example, a 62-year-old man whose systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 125, doesn’t smoke, and does not have diabetes or other cardiovascular problems, would have a 4 percent risk of stroke over the following decade; if the same man had a systolic blood pressure of 160 (140 and above is too high) and wasn’t receiving treatment for high blood pressure, his risk of stroke within the next 10 years would be 15 percent.

Obesity would raise the risk of stroke to nearly 6 percent for the man with normal blood pressure, and to 25 percent for the man with untreated high blood pressure.

Colon Cancer Deaths Drop As Tests Increase

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

According to medical researchers concluding the largest study of the procedure so far this is good news for Americans.

The colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening and is used in millions of people every year.  Until now, it has not been clear how its widespread use impacts the disease’s overall death toll.

The new report, based on close to 2.5 million Canadians, shows that for every one-percent increase in colonoscopy use, the risk of death from colon cancer dropped three percent.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance there were 1.4 million new cancer cases in the United States.  Approximately 10 percent were colon cancer cases.

During a colonoscopy exam, the doctor inserts a slim, flexible tube into the rectum. A camera at the tip of the tube shows the inside of the colon and allows the doctor to identify small cell clumps that might one day turn into a cancer tumor. The tube, or scope, can also be used to biopsy or remove the abnormal cells.

For their study, researchers used healthcare databases from Ontario, Canada, to link colonoscopy rates and colon cancer deaths in the province over 14 years. 

They followed more than 2.4 million people, who were between 50 and 90 years old at the outset of the study and did not have colon cancer. By 2006, about 1 in 100 had died from the disease, which mostly attacks older people.

Over the same period, as colonoscopy rates nearly quadrupled, the risk of dying from colon cancer tapered steadily, even after accounting for factors such as income and age.

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

County-By-County Report Sizes Up Americans’ Health

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A new ranking of nearly every county in the nation shows significant disparities in the overall health of residents, depending on where they live. 

Researchers from University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used data on premature deaths, self-reports about health and factors such as smoking rates, obesity, teen births, the percentage of children in poverty and number of liquor stores vs. grocery stores to rank more than 3,000 counties nationwide against others in their state. 

Researchers then chose each state’s healthiest county and compared it to each state’s unhealthiest county.  Here are some of the findings: 

Suburban and urban counties tend to be healthier than rural counties. About 48 percent of the healthiest counties were urban or suburban, while 84 percent of the unhealthiest counties were rural. 

The unhealthiest counties had 2.5 times the premature death rate, or people who die under age 75, than the healthiest counties. 

Residents of the unhealthiest counties were more than twice as likely to consider themselves in fair or poor health than those in the healthiest counties. 

Those in the least healthy counties were 60 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital for a preventable conditions. Misuse of hospitals for non-emergency or preventable conditions is often a symptom of not having access to outpatient care and primary care doctors, either because of lack of insurance or lack of providers. 

Children are three times more likely to live in poverty in the least healthy counties (30 percent) compared to the healthiest counties (9 percent). 

Counties ranked the unhealthiest are less likely to have at least one grocery store where people can buy healthy foods such as fresh produce. About 33 percent of zip codes in the unhealthiest counties had a grocery store, while 47 percent of zip codes in the healthiest counties had a grocery store. 

In the study, researchers ranked counties on two overall measures: health outcomes, which included information on mortality, self-reported health and low birth weight babies; and about 25 other factors that can impact health but don’t directly measure it. Those factors included rates of motor vehicle accidents, uninsured adults and violent crime; the number of primary care doctors in an area and usage of hospice for the terminally ill; measures of air pollution, liquor store density and the percentage of high school and college graduates.

Click here to view the reporthttp://www.countyhealthrankings.org/ 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which educates Americans about information pertaining to cancer and heart disease and other health matters.

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.

Migraines Linked To Heart Attack Risk

Friday, February 12th, 2010

According to a new study the incidence of heart attacks in people with migraine is almost double that of people who don’t suffer the headaches.  Researchers note that the exact reason why the two conditions are linked is still unclear.

The report in this week’s online edition of Neurology compared 6,102 people with migraine and 5,243 without the headaches.  The research found a 4.1 percent incidence of heart attacks in the migraine patients, compared with 1.9 percent in those without the debilitating headaches.

Previous studies have found an association between migraine and cardiovascular problems including heart problems and stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, an educational organization that tracks heart disease and cancer information. One study, which looked at only women, found an increased incidence of stroke, especially for migraine with the visual disturbances called aura (women are up to four times more likely than men to have migraines). Another study, which looked only at men, found an increased risk of heart disease.

The new study did find a higher incidence of heart attack for migraine with aura — three times that of the migraine-free group. It also found that people with migraine were more likely to have the classic risk factors for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems: diabetes (12.6 percent versus 9.4 percent), high blood pressure (33.1 percent versus 27.5 percent) and high cholesterol (32.7 percent versus 25.6 percent). 

Cardiovascular risk reduction is important for everybody. If you have migraine, it might be more important for you than for the general population. They should be particularly vigilant about controlling body weight, keeping blood pressure low, modifying all the risk factors that are within their control. 

The majority of people who have migraines are women, often young women according to some medical experts. This is a marker that might help prevent cardiac disease. There have been several large population studies that show women with migraines have an increased risk of cardiovascular events. These are the women we should be intervening with. If they use oral contraceptives there should be a concern, because they can form blood clots, particularly if they smoke.

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.

Heart Disease And New Study On Saturated Fat

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Research has shown that saturated fat can raise blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and elevated LDL is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Because of this, experts generally advise people to limit their intake of fatty meat, butter and full-fat dairy. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults get no more than 7 percent of their daily calories from the fat; for someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, that translates into fewer than 16 grams of saturated fat per day. 

But in the new analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, researchers found no clear evidence that higher saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of heart disease or stroke. 

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, may sound like good news for steak lovers, but a past AHA president cautioned against “over interpreting” the results. 

They note that no one is saying that some saturated fat is going to harm you…people should enjoy their food.  They point out, many studies have shown that dietary saturated fat can raise people’s cholesterol, and the new analysis is not going to change recommendations to keep saturated fat intake in check. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit educational organization that tracks data related to heart disease and cancers, a number of studies have linked the so-called Western diet to greater heart disease risks; that diet pattern is defined as one high in red and processed meats and saturated fats — but also high in sweets and other refined carbohydrates like white bread. 

On the other hand, diets described as Mediterranean or “prudent” — generally high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, unsaturated fats from vegetable oil — may help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.  It’s that type of eating pattern that people should strive for. 

For the current study, researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in California, pooled data from 21 studies that included a total of nearly 348,000 adults.  

Participants, who were generally healthy to start, were surveyed about their diet habits and then followed for anywhere from five to 23 years. Over that time, 11,000 developed heart disease or suffered a stroke.

Hormone Replacement May Lower Cancer Risk

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Researchers followed nearly 57,000 California teachers to examine hormone replacement therapy (HRT) impact.  They found that women who were using HRT at the outset were 36 percent less likely to develop colon cancer over the next decade than those who had never used HRT. 

Of the 34,433 HRT users, 193 were diagnosed with colon cancer during the study period; that compared with 151 cases among the 13,778 women who had never used hormone replacement. 

HRT — with either estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progestin — was linked to a lower colon cancer risk even when the researchers accounted for the women’s age, weight, exercise levels and race.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a non-profit educational organization that tracks data related to cancer and heart diseases, older age and African-American race are risk factors for colon cancer.  There is evidence linking obesity and a sedentary lifestyle to the disease as well. 

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, support the theory that estrogen offers some protection against colon cancer.  Some past studies have linked not only HRT, but also use of birth control pills, to a lower colon cancer risk. And lab experiments have shown that estrogen may inhibit tumor development in the colon by affecting cell growth, or by lowering levels of a cancer-linked hormone called IGF-1. 

However, no one is recommending that women take HRT to ward off colon cancer. Millions of women stopped using the hormones after a large U.S. government study in 2002 found that postmenopausal women given HRT had higher risks of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots than women given an inactive placebo. 

As a result, medical experts now advise that while HRT is effective at relieving menopausal symptoms — like hot flashes and vaginal dryness — women should take it at the lowest dose and for the shortest time possible. 

The findings are based on 56,864 menopausal women who took part in the California Teachers Study, a health study begun in 1995. Most of the women were past menopause at the outset, and 61 percent were currently using HRT.  Over the next decade, 442 women were diagnosed with colon cancer. 

While women who were current HRT users at the start of the study showed a lower risk of the disease, the same was not true of those who were former users.  The researchers note that the implications of that finding, if any, are not yet clear. 

Family history of colon cancer is an established risk factor for the disease, but only one study, according to Henderson’s team, has looked at whether family history affects the link between HRT and colon cancer risk — and it found no evidence that it did.

Poor Mental Functioning Could Predict Stroke

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Researchers found that older men who were not diagnosed as having dementia but who did poorly on a test of mental function had a greatly increased risk for stroke. 

 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke each each.  “Some one in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, the non-profit educational organization’s director.

 

 Medical researchers at Uppsala University published theuir findings yesterday Neurology.  There are indications that the test results could show the chances of survival for someone who has a stroke, they noted.

 

The research involved nearly 1,000  Swedish men, who averaged 70 years old at the start of the study. None had a history of stroke. They were given three widely used tests of mental function.  Over the next 13 years, 166 of the men had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain.

 

The 25 percent of men who performed worst on the B test were three times more likely to have a stroke or a TIA than the 25 percent of the men with the highest scores, the study found.  The results support the idea that cognitive decline, regardless of whether a person has dementia, may predict risk of stroke, researchers explained. 

The Swedish study adds to the list of unconventional factors linked to the risk for stroke.  One recent study of more than 13,000 Americans found an association with obesity, measured by either body-mass index or waist circumference. In some cases, the most obese individuals were more than three times as likely to have a stroke as the leanest.

What To Watch For Early Spotting Of Ovarian Cancer

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

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

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

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

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

Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

As Obesity Increases, So Does Stroke Risk

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Disease

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erectile Dysfunction Predicts Heart Disease

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drinking Green Tea Decreases Lung Cancer Risk

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Proof That Statins Cut Stroke Risk

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with white adults. 

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

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

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

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

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

New Stroke Therapy May Restore Function

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study appears in the January issue of Diabetes Care.

Pediatric Cancer Survivors Face Higher Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 11th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Study Reveals Risk Of Having A Critical Illness Before Age 65

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increased Diabetes Risk For Those Who Quit Smoking

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Menstruation Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 4th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Protein Could Yield Treatments For Liver Cancer

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calorie Intake Linked To Longevity And Cancer Development

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientists Crack Genetic Codes of Two Cancers

Friday, December 18th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many Stroke Survivors Don’t Take Lifesaving Meds

Monday, December 14th, 2009

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bone Drugs May Cut Risk Of Breast Cancer

Monday, December 14th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Losing Weight Proves Effective Cure for Sleep Apnea

Monday, December 7th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breast-Feeding Can Help Mom’s Heart Decades Later

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon And Breast Cancers

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Americans Surviving Lung Cancer

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Constipation May Be Early Sign Of Parkinson’s Disease

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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.

Diabetes Cases To Double In US

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginkgo Won’t Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke in Elderly

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Researchers report that the herbal supplement may help ward off peripheral artery disease.  According to the findings of a new study, the popular herbal remedy might help prevent the leg-circulation problem known as peripheral artery disease.  

Ginkgo contains nutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, and are believed to offer some protection against cardiovascular events, according to the researchers.   The supplement, increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, has been touted to improve memory, and to prevent dementia, heart disease and stroke. 

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh found that ginkgo had no benefit in preventing heart attack or stroke.  Consistent with observations of researchers in Europe, the medical experts noted that ginkgo appeared to have some benefit in preventing peripheral vascular disease.

Last year the same University of Pittsburgh team reported that ginkgo biloba had no effect on preventing dementia.  For their latest study, reearchers randomly assigned 3,069 patients to 120 milligrams of highly purified ginkgo biloba or placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.

Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes (“transient ischemic attacks”) and 207 had chest pain, the researchers found.  There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of these outcomes, the study reports.

However, among the 35 people who were treated for peripheral artery disease, 23 received placebo and 12 were taking ginkgo — a statistically significance difference, the researchers noted.  About 8 million Americans have peripheral artery disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Peripheral artery disease typically affects the arteries in the pelvis and legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the hip muscles and legs when walking or climbing stairs, although not everyone who has PAD is symptomatic. The pain usually subsides during rest.

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.

Kidney Transplant Plus Sleep Disorder Adds Up to Trouble

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Researchers in Hungary conducted a study of kidney transplant recipients and found that 25 percent had moderate to severe sleep apnea, a rate similar to that seen in kidney disease patients on dialysis awaiting a transplant. 

The findings they note indicate that both types of patients who have the breathing-related sleep disorder should be considered at high risk for serious heart-related complications.  Transplant recipients with sleep apnea were more than twice as likely as those without the syndrome to be taking three or more anti-hypertensive drugs, but still had higher blood pressure than those without the sleep disorder. Obesity increased a transplant patient’s risk of developing sleep apnea.

Organ transplants are increasingly available according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some critical illness policies will provide a cash benefit when a transplant is received.

When the Hungarian medical researchers calculated risk scores, they found that kidney disease patients with sleep apnea were twice as likely to suffer heart disease or stroke than those without sleep apnea.  They recommend that physicians should screen transplant patients for obstructive sleep apnea and offer appropriate treatment,” the study authors concluded. 

The study will be published in January in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Moderate Drinking May Help Your Heart

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

The type of alcohol — beer, wine or spirits — made no difference, the researchers reported in the Nov. 19 online issue of Heart. The Spanish analysis used 10-year data on over 40,000 men and women who were participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study. 

But for men, there was a point at which the coronary benefits of alcohol declined, and risk began to rise again.  The rate of coronary heart disease for non-drinking women in the study was 56 per 100,000. For women listed as low drinkers, averaging less than 5 grams a day, it was 42. For women who were moderate drinkers (5 to 30 grams a day), it was 36; for high drinkers (30 to 90 grams a day) it was 12; and for heavy drinkers (more than 90 grams a day) it was 12. 

The rates for men were 398 per 100,000 for those who never drank, 318 for low drinkers, 255 for moderate drinkers, 278 for high drinkers and 334 for heavy drinkers, the researchers reported.

The report showing that the source of alcohol made no difference does help puncture one explanation for what has come to be called the “French paradox,” the low level of heart disease seen in that country despite consumption of what Americans would describe as an unhealthy, fat-rich diet. Some experts have attributed the paradox to the beneficial effects of red wine. 

A number of well-done studies have shown that people who drink have higher levels of HDL cholesterol.  HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind that prevents formation of artery-blocking plaque deposits. 

The American Heart Association recommendation is that “if you drink, do so in moderation.” That means one to two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a woman, with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Every 34 seconds an American will suffer a heart attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

SOURCES: Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor, epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., internist, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, associate professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Nov. 19, 2009, Heart, online.

Diuretics Still Best Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Medical researchers reported the findings of a study at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association this week.   They reported that the thiazide-type diuretic chlorthalidone outshone three other treatments — a calcium channel blocker, an ACE inhibitor and an alpha-receptor blocker — in most areas.  This was especially effective in lowering the incidence of stroke and heart failure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 will have a new coronary attack this year according to the industry trade group. 

The findings the medical experts note are largely unchanged.  They note that the main message is that treating hypertension [high blood pressure] is very necessary and that treating hypertension with chlorthalidone resulted in a significant reduction in heart failure and stroke. 

The original trial, begun in 1994, involved more than 42,000 patients with hypertension and at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The participants were randomly assigned to take one of the following anti-hypertensive drugs: chlorthalidone (the diuretic), amlodipine besylate (the calcium channel blocker), doxazosin mesylate (the alpha blocker) or lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor). 

The five-year follow-up, which ended in 2002, was intended to see if new differences emerged with long-term use of the medications, especially regarding coronary heart disease, total mortality, heart failure and aggregate cardiovascular disease. 

This is the largest hypertension trial to date, one researcher noted.  Earlier results had also found that diuretics were as good or better than other blood pressure-lowering drugs for treating hypertension in patients with metabolic syndrome (a collection of factors that put people at risk of heart disease), especially black patients.

Rapid Cooling May Help When Heart Attack Hits

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Swedish researchers examined the use of a device called RhinoChill, which cools the brains of heart attack patients during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The median time between cardiac arrest onset and the start of cooling was 23 minutes. On arrival at hospital, the average body temperature of cooled patients was 93.56 degrees F, compared with 95.9 degrees for standard care patients. 

The study found that 46.7 percent of patients in the cooling group survived to hospital discharge, compared with 31 percent of patients who received standard care.   In addition, some 36.7 percent of those in the cooling group and 21.4 percent of those in the standard care group were in good neurological condition when discharged from the hospital. 

Patients who received a combination of early CPR — started within six minutes of collapse — and cooling had the best outcomes.   The researchers noted that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better. When resuscitation efforts were delayed, there was no significant difference in survival.  

The study was to be presented Nov. 15 at an American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some785,000 Americans will have a new cornary attack this year.

Drug Shrinks Lung Cancer Tumors

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Researchers report that the drug also stopped lung cancer tumors from growing and becoming resistant to treatment.

One in five people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer and only three per cent of these people are expected to survive for five years. With this form of lung cancer, tumors spread quickly so it is rarely possible to remove the tumors surgically. Because of this, small cell lung cancer is treated with chemotherapy, with or without additional radiotherapy. 

Initially, the treatment often appears to work, reducing the size of the tumors. However, the tumors usually grow back rapidly and then become resistant to further treatment. 

The researchers have identified a drug that, in some mice, was able to completely shrink tumors away. In the mouse models, it was also able to stop tumors from growing and it helped other forms of chemotherapy to work more effectively. If the drug proves successful in humans, the researchers hope that it could help patients with this kind of lung cancer to live longer. 

The Section of Molecular Oncology and Lung Cancer Research at Imperial College London which conducted the study suggests that it may be possible to develop the drug PD173074 into a new targeted therapy for small cell lung cancer.  

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancer killer in the world according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.   Around one in five of people diagnosed with lung cancer will have small cell lung cancer. Although it responds to chemotherapy initially, the tumors soon become resistant to treatment and sadly nearly all people with the disease do not survive.

Study: Breast Cancer Cured But Pain Survives

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

According to a report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association the pain exists even two or three years following treatment.  Almost 60% of the over 3,000 women surveyed experience other symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or tenderness, according to a study of women treated for breast cancer in 2005 and 2006. 

The researchers noted that women under 40 and those who have more extensive surgery, such as a mastectomy, and radiation are the most likely to report pain.  Women, they report, also have more pain if surgeons removed many of the lymph nodes in their armpits, a common place for breast cancer to spread.

Most breast cancer patients can ease their symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers.  Every year nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one in four women are diagnosed with breast cancer and as a result of early detection and improved treatment, most survice.

 

While the medical experts explain that it is not always possible to prevent chronic pain, there are ways women can reduce their risk.

 

Women should choose doctors who perform “sentinel-node” biopsies, one of the experts writing in the Journal noted. In the procedure, surgeons remove and test one or a few key lymph node for malignant cells instead of automatically removing all of the nodes. If the sentinel node is cancer-free, surgeons leave the others in place. The procedure also reduces the risk of lymphedema, a painful swelling in the arm.

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.

Obesity Causes 100,000 U.S. Cancer Cases

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Researchers estimate that obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States or an estimated $147 billion a year.  Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. The American Cancer Society reports that nearl 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 562,000 will die of the disease. 

Medical researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that having too much body fat causes nearly half the cases of endometrial cancer, which is a type of cancer of the uterus.  Too much body fat they note was also responsible for one third of esophageal cancer cases.

The researchers expect the number of cancer cases will likely rise as Americans get fatter.  Nearly a third of Americans are overweight, defined as having a BMI of 25 to 30. 

More than 26 percent of Americans are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes obese at 180 pounds (82 kg). 

The American Institute for Cancer Research reported the percented of cancer cases that would be prevented if everyone in the United States maintained a healthy weight.  Here are some of its estimates of cancer types that could be prevented annually if Americans stayed slender:

Endometrium – 49 percent of cases or 20,700 people

Esophageal – 35 percent of cases or 5,800 people

Pancreatic – 28 percent or 11,900 people

Kidney – 24 percent or 13,900 people

Gallbladder – 21 percent or 2,000 people

Breast – 17 percent or 33,000 people

Colon – 9 percent or 13,200 people

Article prepared by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Click here for a free quote for critical illness insurance protection.

Race, Income, Marital Status Has No Impact On Prostate Cancer Outcome

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A study conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that socioeconomic status factors had no impact on predicting the outcome of treatment. All patients did equally well, based on the known prognostic factors. 

The study, presented this week at the American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting in Chicago is unique in that nearly 50 percent of patients in the analysis are African American. 

Prostate cancer affects one in six men in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and the majority of all prostate cancer are diagnosed in men older than 65.  Most individuals diagnosed with the illness will survive.  Only one in 35 will die of prostate cancer.   Radiation therapy involves administering high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. 

According to the study’s lead researcher, prior studies on socioeconomic status and cancer outcomes done by other groups have had conflicting results.  One study, for example, suggested that African Americans with breast or colon cancer do much worse than white patients because they receive care at hospitals with less expertise.

Another study the medical experts noted show that men with prostate cancer who are married have better outcomes than those who are unmarried or without a partner. And yet other studies suggested that hospitals with large minority patient populations have higher mortality for cancer.

A shortcoming of many of the studies is the fact that they include a relatively small percentage of African American patients.  By comparison, almost half of the Ford study group was African American, which allowed researchers to undertake a more accurate assessment of how socioeconomic status affects prostate cancer outcomes.

Low Cholesterol May Be Sign Of Cancer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Previously, some medical experts had thought that low cholesterol may have been a cause.  According to researchers reporting this week, findings suggest that men who have low cholesterol actually have a lower risk of developing high-risk prostate cancer.

There were some 1.4 million cancer cases in the United States last year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The cost of caring for medical conditions caused over 60 percent of the 1.5 million Americans to declare bankruptcy.

A study of more than 5,000 U.S. men conducted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found a link between low cholesterol and a lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer among men over age 55.

The researchers report that if men had total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter, they had a nearly 60 percent lower risk of developing high grade prostate cancer, the riskiest kind. 

It is not clear whether taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might help men with prostate cancer. That would need to be studied, the medical experts noted.  The study was reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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.

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Low Vitamin D Linked To Heart, Stroke Deaths

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

A new study reports that adults with lower, versus higher, vitamin D levels in their blood may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.  Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in several thousand men and 3,402 women.

Participants were just over 49 years old on average at the beginning of the research and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease.  During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants’ with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, the researchers noted.  There was a “particularly striking association” between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, they explain.  Those having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer “twice the risk,” compared with those having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.  In this study, vitamin D levels were “substantially lower” than levels thought to be sufficient, and “somewhat lower” than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit industry organization, some 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year.  From 1995 to 2005, the death rate from coronary heart disease declined 34 percent.  The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

High-Definition Colonoscopy Detects More Polyps

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic it appears that high-definition colonoscopy detects more precancerous polyps.  The difference could be as much as 20 percent.

 Approximately 14 million colonoscopies are performed each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry organization that tracks and reports data related to critical illnesses.  Some 745,000 men were diagnosed with cancer each year, roughly 10 percent with colon cancer. 

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in San Diego, Calif., are not only important because a large group (2,430) of patients participated, but they resulted from the only study to date that has compared these two methods in a general clinical practice setting, among all the patients who needed a colonoscopy and with all the physicians who performed it. 

An endoscope is the lighted tube inserted into the colon and rectum to look for, and remove, polyps. A high-definition endoscope uses both a high-definition video chip and HD monitors (like HD television) that increase the resolution of the image. 

Researchers found that the rate of detection of adenomas — polyps that are likely to become cancerous — was 29 percent among patients who were scanned with high-definition endoscopes, versus 24 percent for those in which standard endoscopes were used.

Fitness Level, Not Body Fat, Stronger Predictor Of Longevity After 60

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A study reveals that adults over age 60 who had higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness lived longer than unfit adults, independent of their levels of body fat.

Prior studies have provided evidence that obesity and physical inactivity each can produce a higher risk of death in middle-aged adults. Whether this is also true for older adults is uncertain, according to background information in the article.

Medical researchers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia examined the associations between cardiorespiratory fitness, various clinical measures of adiposity (body fat) and death in older women and men. The study included 2,603 adults age 60 years or older (average age, 64.4 years; 19.8 percent women) enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study who completed a baseline health examination during 1979-2001. Fitness was assessed by a treadmill exercise test and adiposity was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat. Low fitness was defined as the lowest fifth of the sex-specific distribution of treadmill exercise test duration. There were 450 deaths during an average follow-up of 12 years.

The researchers found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels, and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors. However, there were no significant differences in adiposity measures. Participants in the higher fitness groups were for the most part less likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels.

Fit participants had lower death rates than unfit participants within each stratum of adiposity, except for two of the obesity groups. In most instances, death rates for those with higher fitness were less than half of rates for those who were unfit.

Study: Migraine With Aura Can Double Stroke Risk

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Medical researchers advise that they should stop smoking and using birth control pills because new findings reveal they may increase their risk of stroke. 

People who suffer migraine headaches with aura experience visual disturbances before or during the migraine.  For these individuals, the medical scientists found that the risk for ischemic stroke is doubled. Being female, under 45, smoking and using oral contraceptives that contain estrogen added to the risk.   Studies were conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

 According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national organization that tracks data on strokesm heart attacks and cancer, an ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel. The connection between migraine and stroke was already suspected executives note. What was unknown was the extent of risk and who is most at risk. 

Migraine headaches affect up to 20 percent of the U.S. population. Women are up to four times more likely than men to get migraines, and as many as one third also experience an aura before or during a migraine.

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.

Diabetes Drug May Also Help With Weight Loss

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Medical researchers reported that three-quarters of patients on high doses of the drug liraglutide lost 5% or more of their body weight.  The medication is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.  It was approved earlier this year in Europe for the treatment of diabetes and is marketed under the brand name Victoza.

The injected drug stimulates the release of insulin when glucose levels become too high. It also helps curb appetite. In a new study, researchers in Denmark assigned obese people to one of four liraglutide doses, a placebo or the weight-loss drug orlistat. All the participants followed a diet of about 500 fewer calories than they needed to maintain their weight. They also increased their physical activity levels.

After 20 weeks, those on the medication liraglutide lost more weight than those on the placebo.  Participants on the highest dose of the medication lost 15 pounds, compared with 6 pounds on the placebo and 9 pounds on orlistat. Three-quarters of the subjects on the highest dosage of lost 5% or more of their body weight.

Researchers reported that the medication also reduced blood pressure. At the three highest dosages, reduced symptoms of pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels above normal but not yet high enough to qualify as diabetes.
The study was funded by Novo Nordisk, the Denmark-based company that makes Victoza.

Well-educated Women Hardest Hit By Breast Cancer

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

A study undertaken by Australia’s Monash University Medical School’s Women’s Health Program, found that well-educated women and those who live alone are emotionally the hardest hit.  Older women tended to similarly experience lower levels of overall well being compared to women of similar age in the community two years after their diagnosis. 

Nearly 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2010 according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group, including almost 180,000 breast cancer cases in women.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. With improvements in detection and treatment of breast cancer, 87 per cent of women affected survive five years or more from the time of detection. 

The researchers found that two years post diagnosis women with breast cancer were not more likely to be depressed but were more likely to experience a lowered sense of control over their life, and lower general health, with lessened vitality being limited to older women. 

One researcher explained that the experience of having breast cancer is a personal one and is often accompanied by very complex emotions due to the fact that it strikes at a woman’s very sense of self, purpose and sexuality.

That women living alone were more likely to have a lower well being is a novel and important finding they noted suggesting that such women may benefit by targeted provision of social support.  More educated women are likely to be the best informed about their breast cancer and treatment, and their lower well-being results may reflect greater anxiety over decision making and their difficulty coping with a sense loss of control over their health. 

The study reported that women’s well being two years out from being treated for the disease was overall only modestly lower than for women in general.  The researchers noted that women who struggling with their emotions following breast cancer treatment may benefit from sharing their feelings with those close to them and discussing their concerns with health professionals or participating in breast cancer support group.

Link Between Depression And Chronic Kidney Disease

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center conducted the first study to examine the relationship. 

Medical experts have noted that patients in the early stages of chronic kidney disease are at increased risk for clinical depression according to the study in the current issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

Previous research has shown that depression rates in the general community are 2 percent to 4 percent.  Among diabetes patients, the rate is 11 percent.  Among congestive heart failure patients, 14 percent; and among coronary artery disease after heart attack patients, 16 percent.

Chronic kidney disease patient depression numbers may be higher due to the presence of the same simultaneously occurring conditions that resulted in progressive kidney disease, such as diabetes and atherosclerotic vascular disease, one of the researchers noted.  Patients such as diabetics, who are depressed, may develop progressive kidney disease because of non-adherence to medications and physicians’ advice.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and millions more are at increased risk. If treatment does not begin early, the condition progresses to end-stage renal disease. At that point, a patient’s kidneys have failed to the point where dialysis is needed.  Dialysis involves filtering of toxic chemicals in the blood and removing fluid to help control blood pressure.

Stroke Treatment Allows A Third More Time

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Previously published findings indicated that tPA treatment led to better outcomes than placebo in stroke patients treated from three hours to 4.5 hours post-stroke.

In this new study, medical researchers at the University of Heidelberg, and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of data using different endpoints. They focused on the efficacy and safety of tPA treatment and also looked for any factors or patient subgroups that might affect treatment outcome.

The study included patients who received alteplase from three hours to 4.5 hours after a stroke, and patients who received a placebo. The results showed a clear benefit from treatment with alteplase in all types of patients, including those younger and older than 65 years, men and women, and those with or without a history of diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure.

The study was released online in advance of publication in the December print issue of The Lancet.

Protein May Predict Heart Attack

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

According to a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology the C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation in the blood, may predict those at higher risk for heart attack and death but not stroke. 

The study involved over 2,200 people who were 40 years old or older and stroke-free.  All participants had their blood tested for CRP levels and were evaluated for stroke and heart attack risk factors. 

Participants were followed for an average of eight years. In that time, there were 198 strokes, 156 heart-related events and 586 deaths.  The group was comprised of 63 percent Hispanic, 20 percent non-Hispanic black and 15 percent non-Hispanic white residents. 

The study’s researchers found that people with CRP levels greater than three milligrams per liter were 70 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack and 55 percent more likely to die early compared to people who had levels of one milligram per liter or less of the protein in their blood. The protein was not associated with an increased risk of stroke once other risk factors were taken into account.

Prior studies have found the C-reactive protein to be a marker for predicting risk of heart disease.  CRP protein levels are associated with such medical and lifestyle risk factors as diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.   A lead researcher noted that by living a healthy lifestyle, one may be able to lower these protein levels, thus lowering the risk of cardiac events and possibly early death.   The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Breast Cancer May Be Developing Earlier

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The findings presented at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium, held last week in San Francisco, could potentially affect how women are screened for breast cancer.   

Reserachers reported that women with a high genetic risk of developing breast cancer are being diagnosed sooner than similar women in the past.  They note this may suggest that tumors are being found earlier in the younger generation. 

About 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be connected to a genetic mutation that is also linked to ovarian cancer. Women with the mutations, known as BRCA1 or BRCA2, have an increased risk of developing breast tumors the scientists noted. Over a lifetime, 60 percent of these women will develop the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer. 

Women who have the genetic mutation are advised to be screened for breast cancer starting when they are 25.  The same they note is true for women whose mothers or aunts have the genetic mutation.  A Mammography and MRI are now recommended for these women.

In the new study, the researchers examined the medical records of women with the genetic mutation who took part in the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s clinical cancer genetics program.  The median age of diagnosis in the newer generation was 42, but 47 in the older women. The study authors report that this is worrisome because it could mean that the cancer is developing earlier. 

The findings the researchers noted are concerning and could have implications on the screening and genetic counseling of these women.

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.

Aging Heart Can Be Prevented

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Old age is a major risk factor for heart failure, a condition when the heart is unable to pump enough blood around to supply the oxygen the body needs.  Some 5.7 million Americans have heart failure, and nearly 10 out of every 1,000 people over age 65 suffer heart failure every year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Japanese researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto described how they managed to suppress a variety of the P13K gene in a group of elderly mice.  The gene regulates the lifespan of cells and plays a role in the aging of tissues. 

Prior studies found that the suppression of this gene extended the lifespan roundworm and kept the hearts of old fruit flies healthy.  The Japanese researchers reported that compared with another group of mice in which the gene was left intact, mice with the suppressed gene had improved cardiac function and fewer biological markers of aging. 

The medical researchers noted that mice are considered a good surrogate for studies of human diseases and conditions.  Their body plan, physiology and genome share many features with humans they note. The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

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.

New Way To Repair Heart Tissue

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Researchers announced they mimicked the way embryonic stem cells develop into heart muscle in a lab. Using mouse embryonic stem cells, the bioengineers used a novel mold of their own design to fashion a three-dimensional “patch” made up of heart muscle cells. 

The new tissue exhibited the two most important attributes of heart muscle cells -– the ability to contract and to conduct electrical impulses. The researchers grew the cells in an environment much like that found in natural tissues. 

The scientists reported that they were able to grow heart muscle cells that were able to contract with strength and carry electric impulses quickly.  One of the major challenges they still face is establishing a blood vessel supply to sustain the patch.

The researchers plan to test their model using non-embryonic stem cells.  Recent studies have demonstrated that some cells from human adults have the ability to be reprogrammed to become similar to embryonic stem cells.

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.

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.

New Test Assesses Individual Breast Cancer Risk

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

October 7, 2009.  Some 692,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one quarter (26%) have breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a new report notes that analyzing individual breast tissue for specific structural characteristics may more precisely determine a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.

Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers report that the more acini a woman has and the larger her breast lobules, the higher the chance she will get breast cancer.  Acini, the medical experts note, refers to a cluster of cells that in this instance are the sacs that produce milk.

Currently, factors such as family history of breast cancer, number of pregnancies and age at first pregnancy are helpful in predicting how often breast cancer will arise in a larger population. But, reserachers note, these same tools are poor indicators of individual risk.

Other than family history and genetics, the best tool experts have to predict individual breast cancer risk is the Gail model, which takes into account age and number of previous biopsies, as well as family history and pregnancy history.   But, the authors of the report note that the Gail model is “only slightly better than chance alone.

Breast cancer originates in the breast lobules. The lobules are supposed to disappear as a woman ages, reducing her breast cancer risk, but this doesn’t always happen.  The researchers tissue from women with breast cancer (as well as earlier tissue samples taken before they developed the cancer).  The more acini per lobule a woman had and the larger the lobule, the higher her risk for developing breast cancer, the researchers found.   This new technique proved more accurate than the Gail model.

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.

Drug Duo May Reduce Heart Attack And Strokes

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A combination of cholesterol and blood pressure medicine can cut the incidence of attacks by up to 60 percent according to a new study.

According to Kaiser Permanente researchers, an inexpensive combination of one drug used to lower cholesterol and another medication used to lower blood pressure can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 60 percent.

“An American suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. “Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, making these two of the most common critical illnesses afflicting individuals.”

Giving the drugs to nearly 70,000 people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes prevented an estimated 1,271 heart attacks and strokes in one year, Dr. James Dudl of Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute and his colleagues reported in the American Journal of Managed Care.

According to reports, the inspiration for the study resulted from the Archimedes Model, a sophisticated computer simulation of the human body that predicted that lowering blood pressure and cholesterol simultaneously in those at the highest risk for cardiovascular problems. The Model predicted that the combination could reduce the incidence by 71 percent. The report noted that no study had been performed to test the prediction.

The Kaiser team chose two generic drugs, lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure, and offered them to 170,000 members of their managed-care programs in Northern and Southern California who suffered from heart disease or diabetes.

Some of the patients were already taking one of the drugs, but none of those selected was taking both. About 75 percent were also taking daily aspirin, but the researchers did not include aspirin in the protocol because they had no way to monitor usage.

They began the program in 2004 with nearly 70,000 patients. The team monitored compliance for two years by checking whether and how often patients refilled their prescriptions, then monitored health effects in the third year through the patients’ health records.

Some 47,268 patients had what the team termed “low exposure” to the drugs, taking them less than half the time. Their risk of hospitalization for heart attack or stroke was lowered by 15 events per 1,000 person-years, and an estimated 726 events were prevented.

Breast Cancer Rates Drop 2 Percent Annually

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Deaths from breast cancer have dropped more than two percent each year since 1990 according to a report, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010, released by the American Cancer Society. 

In 2009, some 192,370 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, accounting for more than one in four cancers diagnosed according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.

As a result of improved treatments and increased mammography screening rates, the breast cancer death rate continues to decrease in U.S. women.  The death rate from breast cancer peaked in 1989, and rates have dropped nearly 30 percent.  According to the researchers some 130,000 lives were saved. 

Medical experts note the survival rate could be increased further.  Among uninsured women, only 30 percent had a mammogram during the past two years, compared with about 70 percent of insured women.  If breast cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent, but if you catch it late the survival rate is only 24 percent.

Some 40,170 women will die from breast cancer this year.  Only lung cancer kills more women.  From 2002 to 2003, there was sharp decline in breast cancer rates, particularly for women aged 50 to 69. This reflects the drop in hormone replacement therapy by menopausal and postmenopausal women that began in 2002. Breast cancer rates have remained about the same since 2003.

From 1997 to 2006, breast cancer deaths dropped by 1.9 percent a year among white and Hispanic women, 1.6 percent a year among black women, and 0.6 percent annually among Asian-American and Pacific Islander women.  Black women still have a 40 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than white women,   Death rates have stayed the same for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mini-Stroke Precedes 1 In 8 Strokes

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

For the study published in the Sept. 29 issue of Neurology, researchers found that, of the 16,409 people diagnosed with stroke over a four-year period, 2,032 — or 12.4 percent of them — had a TIA in the weeks before the stroke.

As a result, the medical experts concluded that a TIA does not have enough predictive power to warrant intensive preventive measures.

A TIA, which some refer to as a mini-stroke, occurs when a clot briefly blocks a brain artery. Symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke — sudden onset of weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, loss of vision or double vision, speech difficulty, dizziness, loss of balance — but they go away, often in a few minutes. Many people ignore the symptoms, but they are clear signs of possible trouble.

 

Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center. But he disagrees with the Canadian report’s  interpretation of the predictive importance of TIAs.  “They predict 10 to 15 percent of strokes,” Goldstein said. “This is not a small number, so it is an opportunity to prevent stroke that you don’t want to miss when it happens.”

Some medical experts noted that better predictive tools are available.  Many prefers carotid ultrasound, an inexpensive way to listen to blood flow in the main artery to the brain.

SOURCES: Daniel G. Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, neurology, clinical pharmacology and epidemiology/biostatistics, Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre, Robarts Research Institute, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., director, Duke Stroke Center, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Sept. 29, 2009, Neurology

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

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.

PSA Test Unreliable Prostate Cancer Screening

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

New research reveals the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test may lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of prostate cancer.

Researchers noted that the inability of the PSA test to distinguish between deadly and harmless prostate cancers makes it unusable as a population-wide screening tool.  PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland. It is found in small amounts in the blood of healthy men, and is often elevated in men with prostate cancer, but also in men with benign prostate enlargement.

Some 745,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  Nearly 300,000 will die and prostate cancer causes about a quarter of all cancer deaths among men.

The lead author of one study, a urologist with Gavle Hospital in Gavle, Sweden, noted that in addition to PSA, further biomarkers are needed before inferring population-based screening for prostate cancer.  The claim was based on a study of PSA tests of over 500 men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Their PSA was measured several years before being diagnosed. Scientists compared those tests with PSA tests from over 1,000 men without prostate cancer.

Reserachers reported that in men with a prediagnostic PSA level below 1 nanogram per milliliter, only six men [1.2 percent] were later diagnosed with a high-risk prostate cancer. Hence, PSA levels below [that] almost ruled out a future high-risk prostate cancer diagnosis.  They noted that the direct implication of their findings in a screening situation was that no matter which PSA cut-off you adopt for selecting men for further diagnostic work-up, you will either have too many false positives or too many false negatives.

Given the current trend in lowering the PSA cut-off to about 3 nanograms per milliliter, the medical reserachers noted that a large number of healthy men will be subject to painful, stressful and costly diagnostic procedures.  Their report worried that the wide overdiagnosis of slow-growing tumors causing unnecessary medical treatment and anxiety.

Although most agencies providing recommendations on prostate cancer screening, especially those outside the United States, do not recommend routine PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer, it continues to be performed frequently medical experts noted.

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.

Excess Body Weight Causes 124,000 New Cancers

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Based on estimates from a new modeling study, the proportion of cases of new cancers attributable to body mass index were highest among women and in central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. 

The lead author of the study noted that as more people stop smoking and fewer women take hormone replacement therapy, it is possible that obesity may become the biggest attributable cause of cancer in women within the next decade.

 Researchers created a sophisticated model to estimate the proportion of cancers that could be attributed to excess body weight in 30 European countries. Using data from a number of sources including the World Health Organization they estimated that in 2002 (the most recent year for which there are reliable statistics on cancer incidence in Europe) there had been over 70,000 new cases of cancer attributable to excess BMI out of a total of nearly 2.2 million new diagnoses across the 30 European countries.

 The percentage of obesity-related cancers varied widely between countries, from 2.1% in women and 2.4% in men in Denmark, to 8.2% in women and 3.5% in men in the Czech Republic. In Germany it was 4.8% in women and 3.3% in men, and in the UK it was 4% in women and 3.4% in men.

 They found that the number of cancers that could be attributed to excess body weight increased to 124,050 in 2008. In men, 3.2% of new cancers could be attributed to being overweight or obese and in women it was 8.6%. The largest number of obesity-related new cancers was for endometrial cancer (33,421), post-menopausal breast cancer (27,770) and colorectal cancer (23,730). These three accounted for 65% of all cancers attributable to excess body mass index.

Flu Can Increase Heart Attack Risk

Friday, September 25th, 2009

British researchers report.that both seasonal and the pandemic H1N1 swine flu will put more people at risk for heart attacks.  They urged those most prone, especially those with heart disease and diabetes, to get a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot which may reduce the chance of getting the flu and thereby lower the risk for a heart attack.

In thre United States someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds and 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year according to data published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, an industry trade group.

Medical experts note that influenza – or the flu – is most concerning because of its secondary complications.  They note that death or hospitalization isn’t because of the influenza but rather it’s because influenza puts you in a weakened state and is a stress on the system.  The British researchers noted that the flu virus may have a negative effect directly on the heart.

To determine the risk of heart attack among those with flu, researchers at the UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in London, reviewed nearly 40 studies conducted between 1932 and 2008.  The studies showed an increase in deaths from heart disease and more heart attacks during flu season.

Excess deaths because of heart disease averaged 35 percent to 50 percent, according to the report in the October issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.  The studies also showed that getting a flu shot reduced the risk of dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology strongly recommend that all individuals with cardiovascular disease receive annual influenza vaccination.

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.

Prostate Cancer Treatment May Spark Heart Problems

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The findings from new research conducted at King’s College in London could make doctors think twice before prescribing the standard hormone treatment to men with prostate cancer, particularly if they are at risk of heart disease.

More than 670,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer globally every year, making it the second-most common cancer in men, after lung cancer.  In the U.S., over 185,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  About 600,000 men are being treated with endocrine therapies for prostate cancer worldwide.

Researchers studied 30,000 men in Sweden with prostate cancer who received hormone therapy between 1997 and 2006. They compared the rate of heart problems in those patients to the rate in the general Swedish population.

Prostate cancer patients had a 28 percent higher relative chance of having a fatal heart attack and a 21 percent increased chance of dying from heart disease.  While these risks were still low in absolute terms, the researchers estimated that the hormone therapies would cause heart problems including a heart attack at the rate of about 10 persons for every 1,000 prostate cancer patients.

Previous studies have found hormone therapy given to prostate cancer patients with a history of heart disease increases their chances of dying.  Scientists believe that male-produced testosterone has some protective effect on the heart. Thus, hormones that interfere with testosterone could be deadly.

Vitamin D Proves Heart Healthy

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

An estimated 800,000 Americans will have a first heart attack this year and the combined financial cost of heart attacks and strokes is over $225 billion.  Most personal bankruptcies today are directly tied to medical and healthcare costs.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital studied the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and the death rates of those 65 and older.  

Researchers found that older adults with insufficient levels of vitamin D die from heart disease at greater rates that those with adequate levels of the vitamin.  The results are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

It’s likely that more than one-third of older adults now have vitamin D levels associated with higher risks of death and few have levels associated with optimum survival noted the lead author on the study. 

The study noted that older adults are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency often because their skin has less exposure to the sun as a result of less time spent outdoors as well as the body’s reduced ability to make vitamin D.

The study analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics that was of the 24 million older adults in the United States. Compared to those with optimal vitamin D status, those with low vitamin D levels were 3 times more likely to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause.

“Vitamin D has health effects that go beyond strong bones,” one of the researchers explained. “It’s likely that it makes a vital contribution to good health.”

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.

Childhood Stroke More Common

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Medical experts note that pediatric strokes are rare.  A new estimate puts its incidence at only 2.4 strokes per 100,000 person-years. But the study, reported in the September 17 online issue of Stroke, also cites five previous studies in which the estimated incidence ranged from .54 to 1.2 per 100,000 children per year.

Medical researchers at the Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital examined data on 2.3 million children up to the age of 19 who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care plan in northern California from 1993 to 2003.

They searched for stroke cases listed by diagnostic code for billing purposes and also for reports indicating strokes in radiological studies, including computed tomography and MRI. The radiology reports yielded a higher incidence of stroke.

The concept that children simply don’t have strokes is widely prevalent, one of the lead researchers noted.

This new comparison of the two methods of identifying a pediatric stroke found that radiological evidence was much more sensitive than the billing code. The radiology method was far more sensitive (83 percent) than the billing code method (39 percent.)

SOURCES: Heather J. Fullerton, M.D., director, Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center, University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital; E. Steve Roach, M.D., director, pediatric neurology, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Sept. 17, 2009, Stroke, online

Weight Loss Good For Kidney Health

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Medical experts explain that kidneys filter waste products from the blood and excrete them in the urine. When damaged, their ability to perform these vital functions is reduced. 

Some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and millions of others are at increased risk.  By 2015, experts predict there will be more than 700,000 people with the most advanced form of kidney disease known as end-stage renal disease.

More than a third of US adults are either overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for kidney trouble, not to mention heart trouble and diabetes.   To determine if weight loss could help protect the kidneys, medical researchers at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic studied data from studies that examined the impact on kidney function of weight loss achieved through diet, exercise, or surgery.

The researchers found that losing weight through diet and exercise reduced one key measure of kidney damage – namely, excess excretion of protein in the urine, what doctors call “proteinuria.”   The medical report noted that weight loss achieved through surgery seemed to help normalize the rate at which the kidneys filter waste products in obese adults with abnormally high filtration rates.

The findings were reported in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology.