By Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK | Wed Feb 6, 2013 2:57pm EST
(Reuters Health) – Members of the baby boomer generation are in worse health than their parents were at the same age, according to a new study.
In a large national survey, about 13 percent of baby boomers – the generation born in the two decades after World War Two – reported being in “excellent” health in middle age, compared to 32 percent of the previous generation who said the same at the same stage of life.
“The baby boomer generation has a reputation of being active and putting off retirement… That did not seem to jibe with what we’re seeing in our medical offices,” said Dr. Dana King, the study’s lead author.
“We decided to compare them to the previous generation, who were the same exact age at the time,” said King, from the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown.
King and his colleagues used data from an ongoing national health and nutrition survey to compare the answers of people who were 46 to 64 years old between 1988 and 1994, and the baby boomers who were in the same age range between 2007 and 2010.
Overall, about 39 percent of boomers were obese, compared to about 29 percent of the previous generation. Baby boomers were also less likely to get regular exercise.
About 16 percent of baby boomers had diabetes, compared to 12 percent of the previous generation. And baby boomers were more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
King and his colleagues, who published their results in JAMA Internal Medicine, also found that more than twice as many baby boomers walk with a cane or walker, compared to the previous generation.
“I was surprised by the magnitude of the change. I suspected the current baby boomers would be not much healthier or maybe the same, but I didn’t expect them to have such a big change in disability and obesity,” King said.
In a political era of corporate dominance it was inevitable that doublespeak would become the official language of Washington, DC. Now “cuts” to social programs are referred to as “savings,” while the destruction of these programs is “reform.” This is the essence of President Obama’s doublespeakish “Race to the Top” public education “reform,” as well as his yet-to-be-announced deficit plan based on Medicare “savings.”
The Medicare cuts are part of a larger “reform” of health care in the United States, which ultimately serves to shift the cost of health care off the backs of corporations, placing the burden firmly on the shoulders of working people.The main reason that health care reform became a national priority for Obama is because it was a priority for big business: corporations have long complained that their employee health care costs were too high. And they’ve always hated paying payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Obama has responded gallantly to these grievances, as he did to the banks when they demanded to be bailed out with taxpayer money.
Obama has remained mostly quiet about his Medicare plans, but has stated repeatedly ” all options are on the table” (his favorite Bushism). The secretiveness is based on the unpopularity of the options, all of which have already been openly discussed in the media in the last two years of bi-partisan “Grand Bargain” haggling.
The Washington Post recently reported:
“Obama said that he is committed to a broad effort [a grand bargain] to restrain the national debt and that past White House proposals to rein in Medicare costs… “are still very much on the table” as part of that effort” (02-05-13).
When Obama says “still on the table” he’s referring to the January 1st fiscal cliff “crisis,” where Medicare cuts were being considered — along with Social Security cuts — as part of a Grand Bargain deal.The reason that Obama delayed the Medicare cuts is because he’s smart; better to first pose as the anti-corporate crusader by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire (which would have automatically expired in his first term had he not extended them). Now, Obama plans to pose as the “balanced” voice of reason, by balancing the national debt on the backs of working and retired people.
The most commonly discussed Medicare reform — among Republicans and Democrats — is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Such a drastic move would likely be phased in 10 years down the road, so that those approaching 65 don’t burn down the White House in response.
Where will the future Medicare-less 65-year-old’s go? They’ll remain captive to the insurance companies of course, at much greater expense to them and the rest of society, since Medicare costs are profoundly cheaper than the private sector that Obama has enshrined in his Obamacare policies.
Other possible attacks on Medicare include the innocuous sounding “means testing,” which at first appears as a well reasoned progressive tax on wealthier Medicare recipients. However, as a study by the Kaiser Foundation concluded, such a policy would likely create a mass exodus from Medicare into the private healthcare field for higher income individuals.
Aside from lining the pockets of the healthcare corporations, such a Medicare exodus would also raise the Medicare premiums for everyone else, while destroying Medicare’s universal status — the basis for its effectiveness. The right wing has long sought for ways to create private “individual accounts” for Social Security and Medicare, since breaking people away from participation in a popular single system is the best way to fragment it, and ultimately destroy it.
And while raising the Medicare eligibility age and “means testing” would both immensely benefit corporations, this consciously pro-corporate policy began with Obamacare. Although Obamacare was applauded for expanding Medicaid nationally — a state administered program — the state level austerity cuts have reduced Medicaid to a second rate health care service, which promises to further degenerate as the state-level austerity crisis grinds on.
Less advertised was Obamacare’s Medicare “savings” [cuts] in the hundreds of millions of dollars, by singling out the Medicare Advantage program for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, while also reducing payments to Medicare contractors by hundreds of millions of dollars (hospitals, clinics, etc).
Of course hospitals simply shift this cost burden onto the patients, who receive less care, while giving doctors greater incentive not to see Medicare patients. As Medicare is steadily defunded, a two-tier healthcare system is created, where wealthier seniors will opt for private insurance while the rest will get second rate treatment, undermining the popularity and universality of Medicare, and thus making it more vulnerable to further cuts.
Obamacare will also levy a heavy tax on employers who actually give their employees good health care, thus discouraging the practice. For workers with union contracts, this tax will give employers leverage over the unions to make deep cuts in health care benefits, or end them completely. For non-union workers, employers are using Obamacare as an excuse simply to drop their employer-based health insurance, leaving workers to fend for themselves in the private realm.
The fact that Obamacare gives employers a strong incentive to weaken their employees health care plan is not an accident, but a key provision in the plan that will fundamentally change health care in a negative way for millions of people, and who will then be mandated to buy shoddy insurance for themselves. Corporations will thus save billions of dollars, while the health care corporations will have tens of millions of new paying customers, Obamacare’s real intention.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that at least 7 million people will be dropped from their employer health plan because of Obamacare, but the CBO also said that the figure could well rise to 20 million. Of course employers will take advantage of Obamacare to shift the cost of health care onto individuals, in the same way that employers shifted away from defined pension plans and onto the 401(k) scheme. Several employer surveys have reported that companies plan to dump their employee health care plans by the millions.
The attack on Medicare and health care in general is consistent with the many other attacks against the living standards of working people, including wages and benefits, safety net programs, full time employment, privatization of the public sector, etc.
Corporations benefit from all of these policies. High unemployment allows them to leverage lower wages, which create higher profits. The destruction of social programs and the broader public sector means lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations, who’d rather they fund private services explicitly for them and their rich friends.
All of these policies are “good for the economy” of the 1%, since the economy is dominated by the big banks and other corporations, who are strip mining the public sector for any bit of profitable morsel, and will continue to do so until they are stopped by a united effort of labor, community, and student groups demanding health care and jobs for all, to be paid for by the 1%.
Institute for Political Economy
February 6, 2013
Introduction by Paul Craig Roberts
The article below is the most comprehensive analysis available of “Obamacare” – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The author, a knowledgeable person who wishes to remain anonymous, explains how Obamacare works for the insurance companies but not for you.
Obamacare was formulated on the concept of health care as a commercial commodity and was cloaked in ideological slogans such as “shared responsibility,” “no free riders” and “ownership society.” These slogans dress the insurance industry’s raid on public resources in the cloak of a “free market” health care system.
You will learn how to purchase a subsidized plan at the Exchange, what will happen when income and family circumstances change during the year or from one year to the next, and other perils brought to you by Obamacare.
It is one of the most important articles that will be posted on my website this year. Americans will be shocked to learn the extent to which they have been deceived. The legislation neither protects the patient nor are the plans affordable.
The author shows that for those Americans whose income places them between 138% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, the out-of-pocket cost for one of the least expensive (lower coverage) subsidized policies ranges from 2% to 9.5% of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), a tax base larger than the adjusted Gross Income used for calculating federal income tax.
What this means is that those Americans with the least or no disposable income are faced in effect with a substantial pay cut. The author provides an example of a 35 year-old with a MAGI of $27,925.
The out-of- pocket cost to this person of a Silver level plan (second least expensive) is $187.33 per month. This cost is based on pre-tax income, that is, before income is reduced by payroll and income taxes. There goes the car payment or utility bill.
The lives of millions of Americans will change drastically as they struggle with a new, large expense – particularly in an era of no jobs, low-paying jobs and rising cost of living.
The author also points out that the cost of using the mandated policies will be prohibitive because of the large deductibles and co-pays. Many Americans will find themselves not only with a policy they can’t afford, but also with one they cannot afford to use.
Those who cannot afford the insurance, even with a subsidy, will be faced with a costly penalty, and in many cases, this, too, will be difficult, if not impossible, to pay. As each year’s subsidy is based on last year’s income, there will be a substantial year-end tax liability for those who must repay the subsidy in whole or part because their income increased during the year.
The stress alone from such a regressive scheme is, without a doubt, not conducive to good health and well-being.
Diets will worsen for millions of Americans as they struggle with a new large expense. Thus, the effect of Obamacare will be to worsen the health of millions. Indeed, a “glitch” in the legislation allows millions to be priced out of coverage. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/
Alternatively, Americans might be able to acquire health insurance coverage but have no doctors willing to treat them. http://www.californiahealthline.org/road-to-reform
The demand that Obamacare places on household budgets in which there is no slack makes me wonder where the president’s economists were while the insurance lobby crafted the product that serves the profits of insurance companies. Two well-known economic facts are that real family income has been stagnant or declining for a number of years and Americans are over their heads in debt.
How does Obama preside over a recovery when consumer purchasing power is redirected to insurance company profits?
Obamacare not only rations health care by what a person or family can afford, but also has implications for Medicare patients. Hundreds of billions of dollars are siphoned from Medicare to help pay the cost of Obamacare.
The health care provided to Medicare patients will decline with the reduced payments to care providers. Health care seems destined to be rationed according to the age and illnesses of Medicare patients. Those judged too old and too ill could be denied expensive treatments or procedures that would prolong their lives.
Obama will rue the day that his name was put on this special interest legislation, and most Americans, once they realize what has been done to them, will be angry that special interests again prevailed over the health of the nation.
There was a time when retirement meant a move to a community where all your neighbors belonged to the same generation: Old.
No more. As baby boomers begin to retire, they’re going their own way — or ways — when it comes to housing choices and relocation strategies.
“As they age, boomers are going to be doing a lot of different things,” says John McIlwain, who just completed a housing report on the generation for the Urban Land Institute. “There’s not going to be just one trend.”
That may be especially true in South Florida, where so many residents hail from elsewhere.
South Florida boomers “form a lot of different slices,” says Michael Greene, a Coldwell Banker broker-associate who has worked in the local market for more than 40 years. “Their choices really depend on their particular situation.”
McIlwain’s report, “Housing in America – The Baby Boomers Turn 65,” details how this 78 million-strong generation is creating both challenges and opportunities for the real estate industry. About 10,000 boomers reach Medicare age every day, and the over-65 crowd is predicted to grow 36 percent by the end of this decade, to 54.8 million —up from 40 million in 2010. By 2030, the total will top 72 million.
Because there are so many of them, boomers will affect the housing market for a long time. But how is anybody’s guess. Some will stay in the homes where they raised their children. Others will downsize. Others may move to be closer to family or reduce housing costs down. And the affluent may buy a second home near the kids while keeping the old homestead.
Whatever they do, “two things are important to them,” says Ron Shuffield, president of EWM Realtors. “I call them the two C’s — community and convenience.”
Both come at a price, however, that some may be unable to afford after a housing bust and deep recession decimated their net worth. At a time when they should be retiring their mortgages, some boomers find themselves owing more than their homes are worth and unable to sell.
“The repercussions of the Great Recession are definitely being felt by the baby boomers,” says Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research and Consulting in Deerfield Beach. “Some of them took out home equity loans to finance everything from college to renovations, and now they’re finding they just don’t have the options they once had.”
Numerous studies also show boomers don’t have the retirement savings they need; a recent TD Ameritrade survey found that the average boomer is about a half-million dollars short.
“This generation has expectations that exceed its wallet,” says William Hardin, professor of finance and real estate at Florida International University. “The reality is that a lot of boomers are going to be faced with fewer choices.”
Even if Florida boomers have accumulated equity in their homes, downsizing may not make economic sense because of the Save Our Homes Amendment to the state constitution. It caps the increase in assessed value of homestead property at 3 percent per year, or the percent change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. While a 2008 portability law allows homeowners to transfer that accumulated homestead-exemption savings to a new place, those who have been in their homes for decades may end up paying higher taxes for a smaller place assessed at current market value.
Feb. 5, 2013 — Obesity kills, giving rise to a host of fatal diseases. This much is well known. But when it comes to seniors, a slew of prominent research has reported an “obesity paradox” that says, at age 65 and older, having an elevated BMI won’t shorten your lifespan, and may even extend it. A new study takes another look at the numbers, finding the earlier research flawed. The paradox was a mirage: As obese Americans grow older, in fact, their risk of death climbs.
Ryan Masters, PhD, and Bruce Link, PhD, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in collaboration with Daniel Powers, PhD, at the University of Texas published the results online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The researchers argue that past studies of longevity and obesity were biased due to limitations of the National Health Interview Survey, or NHIS, which provides information on obesity. The survey excludes individuals who are institutionalized, such as in a hospital or nursing home — a group largely made up of seniors. Consequently, the data is overrepresented by older respondents who are healthy, including the relatively healthy obese. What’s more, many obese individuals fail to make it to age 65 — and thus do not live long enough to participate in studies of older populations.
“Obesity wreaks so much havoc on one’s long-term survival capacity that obese adults either don’t live long enough to be included in the survey or they are institutionalized and therefore also excluded. In that sense, the survey data doesn’t capture the population we’re most interested in,” says Dr. Masters, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia’s Mailman School and the study’s first author.
Liz Szabo, USA Today
Published: Jan 11, 2013, 11:18 PM EST
Americans die younger than people in other wealthy countries — and the gap is getting worse, a new report shows.
American men have shorter lives than men in 16 developed nations. American women also fall near the bottom of the list, living 5.2 fewer years than Japanese women, who live the longest.
Americans “have a long-standing pattern of poorer health that is strikingly consistent and pervasive” over a person’s lifetime, says the report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, independent, non-profit groups that advise the federal government on health.
“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries,” the report says, “but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”
Family physician Steven Woolf, who chaired the panel that wrote the report, says authors were “stunned by these findings.” The report’s most important purpose, he says, is to alert Americans to these problems.
“Our sense is that Americans don’t really know about this,” says Woolf, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “I don’t think people realize that their children are likely to live shorter lives than children in other countries.”
February 4, 2013
GPs are to be forced to hand over confidential records on all their patients’ drinking habits, waist sizes and illnesses.
The files will be stored in a giant information bank that privacy campaigners say represents the ‘biggest data grab in NHS history’.
They warned the move would end patient confidentiality and hand personal information to third parties.
The data includes weight, cholesterol levels, body mass index, pulse rate, family health history, alcohol consumption and smoking status.
Diagnosis of everything from cancer to heart disease to mental illness would be covered. Family doctors will have to pass on dates of birth, postcodes and NHS numbers.
January 26, 2013
Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die?
Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says.
January 26, 2013
Smokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than Americans with other unhealthy habits.
The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”, could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual, starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health conditions would not be subjected to.
A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the penalty will be.
Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and low-income individuals. >>> READ FULL ARTICLE
Heart disease in older women tripled their likelihood of mild cognitive impairment, data from a large cohort study showed.
The association between heart disease and cognitive function was limited to the non-amnestic subtype of impairment, which involves cognitive domains other than memory. Among women with cardiac disease, the hazard ratio for non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment was 3.07 versus women without cardiac disease (95% CI, 1.58 to 5.99), according to Rosebud Roberts, MB, ChB, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and co-authors.
In contrast, men with cardiac disease had a nonsignificant 1.16 hazard ratio compared with men who did not have cardiac disease (95% CI 0.68 to 1.99), they reported online in JAMA Neurology.
Men with heart disease also had an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment, but the association did not achieve statistical significance, the investigators found.
“Our findings support the hypothesis that non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment has a vascular etiology,” they wrote. “For women, the association of cardiac disease with non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment persisted after the exclusion of participants with a history of stroke and after adjustment for several confounders.
By Randy Dotinga
SUNDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) — It’s no secret that your memory skills decline as you get older, making it harder for you to pick up new tasks or remember where you put your keys.
Now, a new study suggests that the culprit lurks in the lighter sleep that accompanies aging.
Researchers found that older people get less deep sleep than their younger counterparts, and this appears to be directly linked to less reliable memory. Older people were more than 50 percent less able to remember new things after sleeping than young people.
The study, however, isn’t definitive. It was fairly small, mostly looked at women and examined only one kind of memory — the ability to remember pairs of words. Its authors, however, said the findings are strong enough to justify paying more attention to helping older people sleep better.
“In the young adults, sleep was doing a really good job at not letting those memories dissolve,” explained study author Matthew Walker, an associate professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. “Sleep just wasn’t doing that same kind of job in the elderly. As a consequence, they had far more severe forgetting, and a significant reason was because of the quality of their deep sleep.”
by Susan Patterson
January 25th, 2013| Updated 01/25/2013 at 3:57 am
Diabetes has, unfortunately, become commonplace in America. Over 105 million people now suffer from this condition or have the symptoms of pre-diabetes. One of the scariest facts is that the number of children being diagnosedis growing rapidly. Diabetes is linked to a number of very serious health conditions such as heart disease, nerve and kidney damage. Now, researchers from Japan are finding the condition also negatively impacts the brain, causing cognitive decline and dementia.The study involved 1,017 individuals aged 60 and older. After determining if the individuals had diabetes, they were “followed-up closely” for 11 years and then tested for dementia. Researchers stated, after conducting the 11-year study, that persons with diabetes are more likely than those without diabetes to develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Vascular dementia results when the brain is deprived of oxygen. Each year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with dementia or dementia related conditions.
“Our findings emphasize the need to consider diabetes as a potential risk factor for dementia. Diabetes is a common disorder, and the number of people with it has been growing in recent years all over the world. Controlling diabetes is now more important than ever,” Yutaka Kiyohara, MD, PhD, said
In part, due to potentially severe side effects, just under 50 percent of all women who are prescribed the drugs, fail to complete the full prescribed course.
To find out how women who survive breast cancer actually feel about AIs, the researchers analyzed 25,256 message board posts on 12 websites popular with breast cancer survivors, including breastcancer.org, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Oprah.com.
“Both the availability and anonymity provided by message boards – and increasingly, other forms of social media such as Twitter and Facebook – offer patients a place to voice concerns and connect with an audience of peers in similar situations,” lead author Jun J. Mao said. “This type of social support can be very valuable to patients who are struggling with side effects.”
(NaturalNews) The rate of deaths attributable to breast cancer in Spain has dropped among young and middle-aged women since 1992, but has not decreased among elderly women, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid and published in the journal Public Health.The study is one of the first to look at variation in breast cancer death rates between different age groups of women. It points to the need for further research into the way that breast cancer progresses in these different age groups, as well as the relative effectiveness of different prevention, screening and treatment techniques.
The researchers analyzed breast cancer mortality data from the years 1981 to 2007 using a technique known as the Lee-Carter model. This model is normally used to analyze mortality from all causes, rather than from one specific cause.
The researchers found that overall breast cancer mortality increased in Spain between the years of 1981 and 1992, then fell between the years of 1993 and 2007. Over the course of the study period, the rate of breast cancer mortality fell among young and middle-aged women, while among women over the age of 85, it continued to increase.
The study comes at the same time that the U.S. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer (1975-2009) and the American Cancer Society both announced that overall cancer death rates and death rates from breast cancer specifically have both fallen in the United States over the past decade. The incidence of breast cancer in the United States did not change over that time period, however.
“While this report shows that we are making progress in the fight against cancer on some fronts, we still have much work to do, particularly when it comes to preventing cancer,” said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The carotenoids are pigments that give plans deep yellow, orange or red colors. They include alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Foods high in carotenoids (particularly beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin) include carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash, apricots, mangoes and papayas. Despite their color, green leafy vegetables are also high in carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein – the chlorophyll in their leaves merely masks the orange color beneath. Tomatoes, guava and pink grapefruit are also high in lycopene.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the data from 8 separate studies on a total of 7,000 women – consisting of 80 percent of all published data on the link between carotenoids and breast cancer. In addition, the researchers re-analyzed all the original blood samples in order to standardize measurements of carotenoid levels.
They found that women whose blood was in the top 20 percent in terms of carotenoid levels were 15 to 20 percent less likely to develop breast cancerthan women whose blood was in the bottom 20 percent.
By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, February 8, 2013 12:15 EST
The Affordable Care Act’s prescription for the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare Part D has saved America’s disabled and elderly $5.7 billion on prescription drugs since being implemented, according to a report published Thursday (PDF) by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The patch in the law works by gradually closing the gap in coverage some Medicare recipients face when buying prescription drugs. The new law took effect in 2010 by sending a one-time check to people who reached the coverage gap, and drug prices were significantly discounted for people in the “donut hole” by 2011.
About 6.1 million seniors felt the initial round of benefits, the report adds. Average savings per person should add up to about $5,000 in 2022, although an estimate predicts some could see savings over $18,000.
Published February 08, 2013
Proposed U.S. guidelines may make it easier for drug companies to test Alzheimer’s treatments in people at an earlier stage, when scientists think they may have the best shot at working.
The draft guidance document, issued on Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, reflects changes in scientists’ understanding of Alzheimer’s. They now believe the disease begins at least a decade before symptoms appear.
“The scientific community and the FDA believe that it is critical to identify and study patients with very early Alzheimer’s disease before there is too much irreversible injury to the brain,” said Dr. Russell Katz, director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Current Alzheimer’s drugs treat symptoms, but none has been proven to interrupt the steady destructive course of Alzheimer’s that robs sufferers of their memories and independence.
“I think this will be hugely useful to the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr. Paul Aisen of the University of California, San Diego, and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, a joint effort between the university and the National Institute on Aging focused on identifying the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s.
Article Date: 06 Feb 2013 – 2:00 PST
In a small pilot study, a team of US researchers has discovered how vitamin D3, a form of vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids may help the immune system clear the brain of amyloid plaques, one of the physical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Due to appear this week in the print issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the new study builds on previous work by the same team, from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA).
Co-author Milan Fiala, a researcher at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, says in a statement released on Monday:
Vitamin D3 is essential for bone and immune system health. The main source of the vitamin, which is made in the skin, is sunshine. Deficiencies may occur during winter months or in those who are indoors most of the time, such as people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega 3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in marine and plant oils. They are considered essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized in the body but are vital for healthy metabolism. They are thought to play an important role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.
In their earlier work, the researchers showed how certain mechanisms regulated by vitamin D3 help clear amyloid-beta, the abnormal protein found in sticky plaques that clog up the important communication space between brain cells in people with Alzheimer’s.
In the new study, they extend what they discovered about vitamin D3, and highlight the role of a fatty acid called omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
They identify key genes and signaling pathways controlled by vitamin D3 and omega-3 DHA, that may help the immune system regulate inflammation and get rid of plaque.
By Amy Norton
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) — The number of Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease could triple within the next 40 years if no progress is made against the disease, new projections show.
Reporting in the Feb. 6 online issue of the journal Neurology, researchers say that by 2050, nearly 14 million Americans could have Alzheimer’s — the most common form of dementia. That’s close to triple the prevalence in 2010, when an estimated 4.7 million U.S. adults had the memory-robbing disease.
The new prediction is an update of a report published a decade ago — which also projected a near-tripling in Alzheimer’s disease in the next few decades.
So, not much has changed. “This is where we’re headed if we don’t make any progress in Alzheimer’s research,” said researcher Jennifer Weuve, an assistant professor at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago.
Published January 29, 2013
Police chiefs from the Wabash Police Department in Indiana will soon require their police officers to undergo training on how to interact with individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, PoliceOne.com reported.
The training is part of new legislation passed by the Indiana House this week. The bill, from State Rep. Bill Friend, was introduced in response to an incident that occurred in June 2012, in which James Howard, a 64-year-old individual with Alzheimer’s living in a nursing home in Peru, Indiana, was tased five times by a police officer. According to PoliceOne.com, Howard had become aggressive with nursing staff and police, refused to get into an ambulance and did not listen to the officer’s commands.
After an investigation into the incident, the police officer who had tased Howard was fired for using excessive force.
Friend’s bill was created when Howard’s family petitioned Friend to require training for officers on how to deal with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. The bill will mandate that officers be trained on how to handle those with Alzheimer’s, as well as related dementia diseases and missing endangered adults.
By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today
Use of new, FDA-approved imaging technologies for beta-amyloid protein plaques in the brain should be limited to a relatively small subset of individuals, according to a new guideline issued jointly by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
According to the statement, PET scans with florbetapir (Amyvid) or other tracers now in the development pipeline are appropriate only for three patient presentations:
In such patients, the presence or absence of substantial plaques would clearly improve diagnostic accuracy, according to the guidelines. The other seven potential uses for beta-amyloid brain imaging identified in the statement were tagged as inappropriate. These ranged from confirming an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in elderly patients showing clear symptoms of the disorder to assuaging fears in healthy individuals with a family history of dementia.
Jan. 23, 2013 — During a five-hour surgery last October at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Kathy Sanford became the first Alzheimer’s patient in the United States to have a pacemaker implanted in her brain.
She is the first of up to 10 patients who will be enrolled in an FDA-approved study at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center to determine if using a brain pacemaker can improve cognitive and behavioral functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The study employs the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS), the same technology used to successfully treat about 100,000 patients worldwide with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. In the study, researchers hope to determine whether DBS surgery can improve function governed by the frontal lobe and neural networks involved in cognition and behavior by stimulating certain areas of the brain with a pacemaker.
Dr. Douglas Scharre, neurologist and director of the division of cognitive neurology, and Dr. Ali Rezai, neurosurgeon and director of the neuroscience program, both at Wexner Medical Center, are conducting the study.
“If the early findings that we’re seeing continue to be robust and progressive, then I think that will be very promising and encouraging for us,” says Rezai, who also directs the Center for Neuromodulation at Ohio State. “But so far we are cautiously optimistic.”
The deep brain stimulation implant is similar to a cardiac pacemaker device with the exception that the pacemaker wires are implanted in the brain rather than the heart. “Basically, the pacemakers send tiny signals into the brain that regulate the abnormal activity of the brain and normalize it more,” says Rezai. “Right now, from what we’re seeing in our first patient, I think the results are encouraging, but this is research. We need to do more research and understand what’s going on.”
Jan. 15, 2013 — A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This major breakthrough, details of which are presented January 15 in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), opens the door to the development of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a vaccine to prevent the illness.
One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta. Microglial cells, the nervous system’s defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called senile plaques.
The team led by Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center, identified a molecule that stimulates the activity of the brain’s immune cells. The molecule, known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), has been used extensively as a vaccine adjuvant by GSK for many years, and its safety is well established.
In mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms, weekly injections of MPL over a twelve-week period eliminated up to 80% of senile plaques. In addition, tests measuring the mice’s ability to learn new tasks showed significant improvement in cognitive function over the same period.
Thursday, February 07, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) For the past several years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been actively promoting the shingles vaccine as the solution to what some experts say is a building shingles epidemic. But a new study published in the German medical journal Der Hautarzt, or “The Dermatologist” in English, has revealed that the childhood vaccine for chicken pox, a common viral disease related to shingles, may actually be directly responsible for triggering this epidemic.
Also known clinically as varicella-zoster virus (VZV), chicken pox is a relatively mild form of herpes virus that typically manifests itself during the early childhood years. Nearly all children who develop the condition at a young age, in fact, never develop it again, and are also usually imparted with lifelong immunity to both VZV and its relative, herpes zoster, a more severe form of the disease commonly referred to as shingles.
According to the new study; however, getting vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine, which first became commercially available in the U.S. back in 1995, could damage this natural immune cycle. Based on the available data, getting vaccinated for chicken pox may end up blocking the mechanisms the body uses to develop its own natural immunity to both chicken pox and shingles, causing much worse infection later on down the road.
A five-year-old girl, it turns out, was found recently to have developed severe symptoms of shingles not long after being vaccinated for chicken pox. Researchers from Helios Klinikum in Germany conducted a direct immunofluorescence assay on the child to look for evidence of the vaccine strain in the infection, and found that the vaccine strain had, indeed, caused the child to become infected with the much more severe shingles virus.
“This case demonstrates that a negative VZV direct immunofluorescence assay does not exclude an infection with the vaccine strain,” wrote the authors in their study abstract, which you can view here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23358727
The Deputy Prime Minister in Japan, who has been in office for less than five days, Taro Aso made a few controversial comments about the care (or cessation of care more accurately) of the elderly in Japan according to this ABC News article.
He referenced the elderly who need help feeding themselves as “tube people” and went so far as to say that the elderly should, “Hurry up and die.”
His reasoning behind this comment? Because their deaths would alleviate the cost it takes to keep them alive which is paid for by the Japanese government.
He later said these comments were misinterpreted, saying he was speaking of his own personal wishes for a timely death not those of all Japanese elderly people.
He went on to say that his will was already in order with his family and that he would not want to linger.
According to the article:
“Even if (doctors) said they could keep me alive, it would be unbearable,” he said. “I would feel guilty, knowing that (treatment) was being paid for by the government.”
This is not the first time Aso has been in the hot seat for his comments on Japan’s aging population.
Five years ago, he said the elderly were a “feeble” group and, “Why should I have to pay taxes for people who just sit around and do nothing but eat and drink?””
He subsequently apologized for these comments publicly. Since Japan has the fastest growing aging population in the world the country’s views on euthanasia and elder-care are going to be coming to the forefront in the years to come.
Politicians have imposed tax hikes to help supplement the strain on the government healthcare system.
Only time will tell how this nation will handle this issue. Is it really the government’s place to decide who lives and who dies? You be the judge.
by Michael Cook | 27 Jan 2013
The year is barely a month old, but BioEdge is already sure who will win the annual “Foot in Mouth Award”: Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso.
The outspoken Mr Aso did not win many votes among Japan’s swelling elderly with his remarks at a meeting of the national council on social security reforms. They should “hurry up and die” to relieve pressure on the government to pay their medical bills, he said. “Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government.”
He also referred to elderly sick who cannot care for themselves as “tube people”.
This is not the first time that Mr Aso has questioned the state’s obligation to care for the infirm. In 2008, while serving as prime minister, he described “doddering” pensioners as tax burdens who should have looked after themselves better.
“I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor,” he told at a meeting of economists. “Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I’m paying more in taxes.”
To be fair to the 72-year-old Mr Aso, he is consistent. He has told his family not to use extraordinary means to keep him alive if he collapses.
Where have you heard this before: The elderly should be allowed to “hurry up and die” instead of costing the government money for end-of-life medical care?
If you’re from Colorado, you might have said former Gov. Dick Lamm, who was famously misquoted in 1984 as saying the elderly and terminally ill had a “duty to die.”
Although Aso has already backpedaled, saying he was referring to himself personally, Lamm said this morning it’s important to have the discussion that his misquote famously started. The issue isn’t “hurrying people along,” Lamm said, but high-technology medicine that can keep almost anyone alive.
Article Date: 06 Feb 2013 – 1:00 PST
“Decision aids came into being because of the concern that clinicians aren’t telling patients all the options,” said Blumenthal-Barby. “Decision aids standardize things so patients get a fair view of all the options, their risks and benefits.”
In some cases, however, an even-handed presentation may not give patients a fair understanding of the options. In those cases, it might be ethical to alter the playing field by placing a certain option first or help patients understand how one option might be compatible with their lives while another might not.”
Article Date: 06 Feb 2013 – 10:00 PST
There has been an increase in hospice usage and ICU utilization over the last ten years among elderly patients, researchers from Brown University reported in JAMA. The authors added that with more late health care transitions, repeat hospitalizations, does such aggressive care really represent what patients and their loved ones really want? Probably not.
More seniors are dying with hospice care than ten years ago, the authors explained. However, a growing number of them are doing so for a very short time immediately after being in an ICU (intensive care unit). It appears that palliative care for elderly patients is often occurring only as an afterthought, rather than a properly planned part of patient care in which doctors, providers, patients and their family sit down and discuss options.
Lead author, Dr. Joan Teno, professor of health services policy and practice in the Public Health Program at Brown University, and a palliative care physician at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, said:
“For many patients, hospice is an ‘add-on’ to a very aggressive pattern of care during the last days of life. I suspect this is not what patients want.”
Dr. Teno and team gathered and examined data from the Medicare fee-for-service records of over 840,000 elderly patients (aged 66+) who died in 2000, 2005 and 2009. They focused on where these people died, what kind of medical services they received during their last three months of life, and for how long.
Since 2000, hospice and hospital-based palliative care teams have become major players in the health care system – what the authors describe as “mainstream”. However, after analyzing more deeply, Teno and team found that often the fee-for-service system does not fully ensure the “full measure of comfort and psychological support that hospice is meant to provide dying seniors”.
Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, reported in Archives of Internal Medicine that patients with terminal cancer who are reaching the end of their lives have a better quality of life if they are not in hospital, not in intensive care, and have a therapeutic alliance with their doctor.
By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
February 5, 2013, 9:07 p.m.
For Americans with a terminal diagnosis, death increasingly comes in the places and ways they say they want it — at home and in the comfort of hospice care.
But for a growing number of dying patients, that is preceded by a tumultuous month in which they endure procedures that are often as invasive and painful as they are futile.
New research finds that the proportion of Medicare patients dying in hospice care nearly doubled from 22% in 2000 to 42% in 2009, an apparent bow to patients’ overwhelming preference for more peaceful passings free of heroic measures. At the same time, though, many of those patients were treated aggressively until days before death seemed inevitable.
Based on the medical and death records of almost 850,000 Medicare patients, the study, published in Wednesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., paints a picture of increasing commotion in the final weeks of patients’ lives.
The patients in the analysis all suffered from the end stages of chronic diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or dementia. But thousands of them endured multiple hospitalizations and treatments before receiving care aimed solely at making their final days comfortable.
During the decade studied, the proportion of patients who spent part of their last month in an intensive care unit grew from 24% to 29%, and the percentage who were hooked to a ventilator rose from 8% to 9%. Among dying patients, the median number of disruptive moves — for example, from nursing home to hospital, from hospital to hospice, from rehabilitation facility to home — grew from 2.1 to 3.1. Among those who spent their final days in a hospice program, 28% were there for under four days.
In surveys, almost 9 in 10 Americans say that when the end is near, they would prefer to die at home, with medical care that maximizes their comfort and minimizes the pain and turmoil of treatments aimed at extending, not saving, their lives.
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