Thursday, January 31, 2013

AARP Returns to Hard Line Against Benefit Cutbacks

AARP Returns to a Hard Line Against Benefit Cutbacks - " . . . The group, which advocates a range of federal health and fiscal issues that affect older Americans, angered many of its own last year when it opened the door for the first time to the possibility of accepting modest cuts in Social Security benefits. Chastened, AARP now appears to have veered back to a hard-line position of opposing any cutbacks in Medicare or Social Security and is seeking to keep those programs off the bargaining table altogether. The group’s stance has made it a favorite target in recent weeks for conservatives pushing for cuts in social programs. The strong position has won back some skeptics who questioned whether the nation’s highest-profile advocate for older Americans was wobbling in its defense of crucial programs, said Witold Skwierczynski, a leader in a federal workers’ union who has been organizing pickets at Social Security offices nationwide to protest possible cuts. . . . "

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Exercise and the Human Brain

Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain - " . . . And there is scientific support for that idea. Recent studies have shown, he says, that “regular exercise, even walking,” leads to more robust mental abilities, “beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.” Of course, the hypothesis that jogging after prey helped to drive human brain evolution is just a hypothesis, Dr. Raichlen says, and almost unprovable. But it is compelling, says Harvard’s Dr. Lieberman, who has worked with the authors of the new article. “I fundamentally agree that there is a deep evolutionary basis for the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind,” he says, a relationship that makes the term “jogging your memory” more literal than most of us might have expected and provides a powerful incentive to be active in 2013."

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Predestined for Cancer?

In Pursuit of Answers One May Not Want to Know - "I jogged into the Stanford Cancer Clinic with my boyfriend, the youngest people there by two decades. We stood there sweating and holding hands, a jarring sight in the sickly light. “You are 18, right?” the receptionist asked. Behind me, a woman so gaunt that her cheekbones protruded rolled by in a wheelchair. The oncologist called me alone to the exam room, and I told her the story I had revealed to more doctors than friends: I carry the BRCA1 mutation, which gives you a 98 percent chance of developing cancer. When my family found out that I might have inherited the mutation from my mother, we took it as a given that I would get tested. Scientists, atheists and lawyers, we are compulsively rational. Yet when I learned I carried the mutation, I felt the cruel weight of a paradox: you can never know whether you want to know until you already do. . . ."

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Obamacare - Employers Must Offer (Unaffordable) Family Health Care

Employers Must Offer Family Health Care, Affordable or Not, Administration Says - "In a long-awaited interpretation of the new health care law, the Obama administration said Monday that employers must offer health insurance to employees and their children, but will not be subject to any penalties if family coverage is unaffordable to workers. Related Times Topic: Health Care Reform The requirement for employers to provide health benefits to employees is a cornerstone of the new law, but the new rules proposed by the Internal Revenue Service said that employers’ obligation was to provide affordable insurance to cover their full-time employees. The rules offer no guarantee of affordable insurance for a worker’s children or spouse. To avoid a possible tax penalty, the government said, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer affordable coverage to those employees. But, it said, the meaning of “affordable” depends entirely on the cost of individual coverage for the employee, what the worker would pay for “self-only coverage.”"

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wages and Health-Care Costs

the role of health costs in suppressing wage growth--

What Republicans Misunderstand About Health-Care Costs - Bloomberg: "The research that conservatives cite, in other words, doesn’t show that wage stagnation is nothing to worry about. It helps explain a troublesome trend. If you ignore the role of health costs in suppressing wage growth, you might be tempted to rely too much on other explanations, such as a technology slowdown or the decline of unions. The data also make clear that reducing health inflation would go a long way toward boosting wages. President Barack Obama’s health-care law is supposed to bring costs down, although there is reason for skepticism. Conservatives have their own ideas, but Republican politicians haven’t done much to advance them, partly because they haven’t paid much attention to the link between health costs and wages. (In fairness, Democrats sometimes get this link wrong, too.) Conservatives shouldn’t say that the wage-stagnation problem is an illusion because health benefits have been rising. They should say, instead, that the problem is real and that surging health costs are a major cause. The American dream isn’t to pay ever-higher health premiums."

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Perfect Sleep Position

What's your favorite sleep position?

Find the Perfect Sleep Position - "Dr. Wilmarth said that always sleeping in the same position can cause problems. Consistently compressing the body on one side or stretching another side over time can create an imbalance and result in soreness or pain in that area or exacerbate an existing condition. In general, for most painful conditions, experts say choosing a mattress that isn't too firm or soft is ideal. Something that conforms to your body without creating pressure points works best. And surrounding yourself with multiple pillows usually helps. Getting comfortable when you sleep is important because a lack of sleep can cause joint inflammation and lowers your pain threshold, experts say. Sometimes the right sleep position changes."

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Secrets Of The Happiest Companies

Secrets Of America's Happiest Companies | Fast Company: "approach that is solution-oriented.” WORK BURNOUT ISN’T ABOUT TOO MANY HOURS SPENT ON THE JOB, IT'S ABOUT FEELINGS THAT COME FROM IMPROVEMENT, OR LACK THEREOF. Another way to reduce grumblings is to cultivate a culture of mindfulness and meaning, according to Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business. "New research shows there is a strong correlation between happiness and meaning--in fact, having a meaningful impact on the world around you is actually a better predictor of happiness than many other things you think will make you happy," Aaker says. "When we can cultivate mindfulness and meaning in all that we do, including our work, we have the opportunity to influence not only our own well-being, but also the well-being of our family, friends, coworkers, and wider community.""

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Going Vegan

If you're going vegan, check out the following article (excerpt below):

How to Go Vegan - " . . . . I’ve spoken with numerous vegan chefs and diners who say it can be a challenge to change a lifetime of eating habits overnight. They offer the following advice for stocking your vegan pantry and finding replacements for key foods like cheese and other dairy products. NONDAIRY MILK Taste all of them to find your favorite. Coconut and almond milks (particularly canned coconut milk) are thicker and good to use in cooking, while rice milk is thinner and is good for people who are allergic to nuts or soy. My daughter and I both prefer the taste of soy milk and use it in regular or vanilla flavor for fruit smoothies and breakfast cereal. . . . ."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Want to Be CEO?--What's Your BMI?

Want to Be CEO? What's Your BMI? - "New research suggests that a few extra pounds or a slightly larger waistline affects an executive's perceived leadership ability as well as stamina on the job. While marathon training and predawn workouts aren't explicitly part of a senior manager's job description, leadership experts and executive recruiters say that staying trim is now virtually required for anyone on track for the corner office. "Because the demands of leadership can be quite strenuous, the physical aspects are just as important as everything else," says Sharon McDowell-Larsen, an exercise physiologist who runs an executive-fitness program for the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership."

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Home Planning for Your Dying Loved One

Dying at home requires planning--

What You Need to Bring Your Loved One Home to Die - " . . . 12. Consider hospice. Equipment aside, one of the biggest resources that a caregiver can call upon in these last stages, in addition to backup care from family, friends and home health aides, is hospice — as we’ve talked about in this blog many times. I can tell you from my family’s recent experience that hospice is like sending in a team of loving aunts – only they’re far more patient (no family baggage) and way more competent. A good hospice team not only helps the caregiver figure out a plan for care but arranges for Medicare approval and payment. What many don’t know is that hospice even covers “respite care” for the caregiver – paying for up to five days of room and board for the patient in a nearby medical facility (or nursing home) so the caregiver can take a break – even to go on vacation, according to Lori Mulligan, senior director of development marketing and community services at Gilchrist Hospice Care, the largest hospice care organization in Maryland. . . ."

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Obesogen: endocrine disruptors

Warnings From a Flabby Mouse - "Endocrine disruptors are a class of chemicals that mimic hormones and therefore confuse the body. Initially, they provoked concern because of their links to cancers and the malformation of sex organs. Those concerns continue, but the newest area of research is the impact that they have on fat storage.,Bruce Blumberg, a developmental biologist at the University of California, Irvine, coined the term “obesogen” in a 2006 journal article to refer to chemicals that cause animals to store fat. Initially, this concept was highly controversial among obesity experts, but a growing number of peer-reviewed studies have confirmed his finding and identified some 20 substances as obesogens."

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Will Power Is Not the Answer to Curing Bad Habits

Why Will Power Isn't the Answer to Curing Bad Habits | "2. Distract yourself. "Distraction is more effective than will power," Lickerman says. "If you are trying to lose weight, for example, and walk into a meeting and find treats, the best thing to do is to think about another pleasure. The trick is that you have to be ready; if you struggle to think of something, resisting will be difficult." 3. Avoid temptation completely. Lickerman says avoidance is the other half of the strategy. "This is simply the best way to manage temptation," he says. "Whatever you're trying to eliminate, don't let it cross your path." For example, if you spend too much time on social networking sites, download software that will curb this distraction, such as BlockSite or Freedom. Or if constant email monitoring is your bad habit, turn off automatic alerts or unplug your Wi-Fi."

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Little Things Add Up in Fitness

Good and Bad, the Little Things Add Up in Fitness - " . .  . Specifically, an encouraging 2012 study of 52,656 American adults found that those who ran 1 to 20 miles per week at an average pace of about 10 or 11 minutes per mile — my leisurely jogging speed, in fact — lived longer, on average, than sedentary adults. They also lived longer than the group (admittedly small) who ran more than 20 miles per week. “These data certainly support the idea that more running is not needed to produce extra health and mortality benefits,” Dr. Carl J. Lavie, a cardiologist in New Orleans and co-author of the study told me. “If anything,” he said, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk.” Similarly, in a study from Denmark that I wrote about in September, a group of pudgy young men lost more weight after 13 weeks of exercising moderately for about 30 minutes several times a week than a separate group who worked out twice as much. The men who exercised the most, the study authors discovered, also subsequently ate more than the moderate exercisers. Even more striking, however, the vigorous exercisers subsequently sat around more each day than did the men who had exercised less, motion sensors worn by all of the volunteers showed. “They were fatigued,” said Mads Rosenkilde, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Copenhagen and the study’s co-author. Meanwhile, the men who had worked out for only about 30 minutes seemed to be energized by their new routines. They stood up, walked, stretched and even bounced in place more than they once had. “It looks like they were taking the stairs now, not the elevators, and just moving around more,” Mr. Rosenkilde said. “It was little things, but they add up.”. . . "

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Mammograms Do Not Save Lives

 In a system drowning in costs, and at enormous expense, we have systematically ignored virtually identical data challenging the effectiveness of cardiac stents, robot surgeries, prostate cancer screening, back operations, countless prescription medicines, and more. . . .

Why are taxpayers, insurers, the government, and patients having, and paying for, needless procedures like mammograms?  Read on to discover the sad truth--

Ignoring the Science on Mammograms - " . . . The New England Journal of Medicine published a study with the potential to change both medical practice and public consciousness about mammograms. Published on Thanksgiving Day, the research examined more than 30 years of United States health statistics to determine, through observation, if screening mammography has reduced breast cancer deaths.  . . . The results of more than a decade of follow-up on such studies, published more than 10 years ago, show that women in the mammogram group were just as likely to die as women in the no-mammogram group. The women having mammograms were, however, more likely to be treated for cancer and have surgeries like a mastectomy. (Some of the studies include trials from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and this major review of the data.) In other words, mammograms increased diagnoses and surgeries, but didn’t save lives—exactly what the researchers behind last week’s observational study concluded. It is affirming to see this newest study. But it raises an awkward question: why would a major medical journal publish an observational study about the effects of screening mammography years after randomized trials have answered the question? Perhaps it is because many doctors and patients continue to ignore the science on mammograms. For years now, doctors like myself have known that screening mammography doesn’t save lives, or else saves so few that the harms far outweigh the benefits. Neither I nor my colleagues have a crystal ball, and we are not smarter than others who have looked at this issue. We simply read the results of the many mammography trials that have been conducted over the years. But the trial results were unpopular and did not fit with a broadly accepted ideology—early detection—which has, ironically, failed (ovarian, prostate cancer) as often as it has succeeded (cervical cancer, perhaps colon cancer). More bluntly, the trial results threatened a mammogram economy, a marketplace sustained by invasive therapies to vanquish microscopic clumps of questionable threat, and by an endless parade of procedures and pictures to investigate the falsely positive results that more than half of women endure. And inexplicably, since the publication of these trial results challenging the value of screening mammograms, hundreds of millions of public dollars have been dedicated to ensuring mammogram access, and the test has become a war cry for cancer advocacy. Why? Because experience deludes: radiologists diagnose, surgeons cut, pathologists examine, oncologists treat, and women survive. Medical authorities, physician and patient groups, and ‘experts’ everywhere ignore science, and instead repeat history. Wishful conviction over scientific rigor; delusion over truth; form over substance. It is normally troubling to see an observational study posing questions asked and answered by higher science. But in this case the research may help society to emerge from a fog that has clouded not just the approach to data on screening mammography, but also the approach to health care in the United States. . . ."

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Study Suggests Lower Mortality Risk for Overweight

Study Suggests Lower Mortality Risk for Overweight People - ". . . But a new report suggests that Miss Scheel may have been onto something. The report on nearly three million people found that those whose B.M.I. ranked them as overweight had less risk of dying than people of normal weight. And while obese people had a greater mortality risk over all, those at the lowest obesity level (B.M.I. of 30 to 34.9) were not more likely to die than normal-weight people. The report, although not the first to suggest this relationship between B.M.I. and mortality, is by far the largest and most carefully done, analyzing nearly 100 studies, experts said. . . . "

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Simple Daily Habits to Practice

5 Simple Daily Habits to Practice This New Year | "At the beginning of a New Year, many of us are left looking at our depleted savings accounts, wondering what the hell happened? Where did all that time and energy and money go? Not to mention the good intentions we had at the beginning of last year. It mocks us like a cheap champagne hangover. In this delicate state, I am loath as a business coach to offer “resolutions” on top of all the other burdens we already feel. But what I often try to do for myself at the beginning of each year, is simply to begin saving again. Small deposits, put somewhere safe, that over time, slowly accrue interest. I have five “buckets” that I like to use. You may have more or less. The trick is to make daily investments in each of these, small enough so that we don’t feel the pain. 1. Physical. Do something that improves your physical health. Instead of two hours parked in front of the TV or computer screen, can you turn it off and go for a 20-minute walk? Maybe you can walk to the store instead of driving? Climb the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. I have even started taking some meetings while strolling in the park. We’re more apt to begin on time, finish on time, and we get a little exercise in the process. . . . "

Related: New Year's Resolution Tips for Busy People

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Obesity and health

Obesity and health: Fat years | The Economist: "BEING fat is bad for you. That, at least, is the received wisdom. In reality the picture is more complex, because the prevailing measure of fatness, weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared, known as the body-mass index (BMI), is imperfect and because bad for you is a vague term. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA), being a bit too pudgy may in fact reduce the risk of dying in a given period. Researchers, led by Katherine Flegal of Americas Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, examined nearly 100 studies of more than 2.9m people and 270,000 deaths. Being overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 and 30. People with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. Dr Flegal and her colleagues observed that obesity was associated with a higher risk of mortality in a given study period. Interestingly, those who were only moderately obese (with a BMI of 30-35) had a 5% lower risk of death than those of normal weight and those who were merely overweight had a 6% lower risk. The mortality risk was much higher for those with BMI of 35 or above—they had a 29% higher risk of death in a given period than those of normal weight."

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Tainted steroids cause spine infections in addition to meningitis

Tainted steroids cause spine infections in addition to meningitis; all patients face grueling recovery - Lifestyle -  " . . . An avid gardener and dog-breeder, Adair was rolled into a Michigan emergency room in a wheelchair Nov. 15. She had been bedridden for days, and that morning a bolt of pain in her lower back had caused her to tumble to the bathroom floor. Doctors quickly reached a disturbing realization: An infection caused by black mold had infiltrated her spine, near where she had received an injection made by a Massachusetts pharmacy, and spread into the bone. It was not the ­meningitis that sickened hundreds of others in late summer and early fall, but part of a frightening second wave of ­fungal infections caused by contaminated drugs. Dozens more people have now been diagnosed with excruciating abscesses or inflamed nerves in their backs that are proving formidable to cure. In a health alert issued Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is worried that some patients with spinal infections may not even be aware of their condition because the symptoms mimic the very back pain they originally sought to treat with steroids. . . . "

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Power of Negative Thinking

The Power of Negative Thinking - " . . . studies suggest that peppy affirmations designed to lift the user's mood through repetition and visualizing future success often achieve the opposite of their intended effect. Fortunately, both ancient philosophy and contemporary psychology point to an alternative: a counter intuitive approach that might be termed "the negative path to happiness." This approach helps to explain some puzzles, such as the fact that citizens of more economically insecure countries often report greater happiness than citizens of wealthier ones. Or that many successful business people reject the idea of setting firm goals. One pioneer of the "negative path" was the New York psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who died in 2007. He rediscovered a key insight of the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome: that sometimes the best way to address an uncertain future is to focus not on the best-case scenario but on the worst. Seneca the Stoic was a radical on this matter. If you feared losing your wealth, he once advised, "set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: 'Is this the condition that I feared?' ". . . ."

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