New research from the Moffitt Cancer Center aims to place more emphasis on quality of life in cancer care. Treatment options are mostly measured by how long they can help patients survive cancer with less focus on how well they survive cancer. The researchers at Moffitt hope to, not only assess the quality of life associated with many cancer treatments, but also develop better measurements for determining the level of quality offered by a particular treatment. The authors of the study said that quality of life includes everything from the physical to the social and should be factored into which treatments are prescribed to patients. If two treatments are found to work equally, the one that provides a higher quality of life should be chosen. More here.
A new study of nearly 75,000 adults who were followed for an average of 10 years found that those who ate low-fat versions of dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese lowered their stroke risk by 12 percent as compared to people who ate the full-fat versions of those foods. The study, published in the journal Stroke, was one of the largest of its kind and its findings suggest that choosing low-fat dairy products can help prevent high cholesterol and blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke. The authors said full-fat dairy products may increase cholesterol levels and counteract the health benefits of consuming dairy, such as the absorption of vitamin D and calcium. Low-fat products, on the other hand, would preserve the associated benefits of dairy without raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels. More here and here.
A county-level analysis of life expectancy found a large majority of American counties have been falling behind as compared to countries such as Japan and Canada that rank among the top performers in the world. The research, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, found that 80 percent of counties in America fell below the average of the 10 nations with the highest life expectancies between 2000 and 2007. For men, life expectancy ranged from 65.9 to 81.1 years and, for women, between 73.5 and 86 years. Regionally, the worst performing counties were in the South, Appalachia, and Northern Texas and the best life expectancies were found on the coasts and in the Northern Plains. The authors noted that, more than racial or economic factors, the reason behind America’s poor performance was primarily preventable factors such as smoking, high obesity rates, and other lifestyle-related behaviors. More here and here.
A team of researchers at Newcastle University have created a car aimed at studying the reactions and habits of older drivers. As we age, our reaction times slow which can make driving hazardous. Still, for elderly Americans living alone, driving is vital to getting out of the house, staying active, and taking care of oneself. The research car is fitted with tracking systems and bio-monitors to better understand the concentration and stress levels of older drivers. With a better understanding of the difficulties seniors face behind the wheel, the team at Newcastle hopes to develop new technologies that will make it easier for older adults to continue driving such as night-vision systems, speed adapters, and spoken navigation tools. Being able to improve the safety and security of older drivers will lead to more independent and socially active seniors. More here.
A review of 29 clinical trials covering nearly 1,400 adults between the ages of 22 and 74 found that taking vitamin C supplements may have a lowering effect on blood pressure. Participants in the study took 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily for eight weeks and, in people with high blood pressure, systolic pressure fell nearly 5 points and diastolic pressured dropped 1.7 points. Despite the results, the study’s authors stress that more research is needed before they can recommend vitamin C supplements for high blood pressure. Researchers say the reviewed studies were often small and included instances where patients were taking supplements in addition to medication for their blood pressure. In America, one in three people has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. More here.
Americans age 65 and older have a 70 percent chance they’ll require long-term care at some point in their lives. And, as the costs associated with such care increase, so does the need for retirement-age Americans to have a plan in place for their long-term needs. In 2009, long-term care support and services accounted for one in every seven healthcare dollars in the U.S., or nearly $295 billion. And that number would be even larger if not for the 62 million Americans providing uncompensated care for elderly friends and family. In 2009, unpaid caregiving resulted in an estimated savings of $450 billion. But with demographic trends indicating a coming decline in the number of unpaid caregivers and an increasing number of elderly Americans, experts warn that individuals should be paying more attention to these long-term care costs and planning in advance for their future expenses. More here.
Like any other part of your body, your immune system is dependent on a healthy and nutritious diet to function at its best. Fortunately, there are many foods and spices that can naturally boost your body’s ability to fight off disease. Among them, garlic has been shown to have cardiovascular and anti-microbial benefits. Diets rich in garlic have also been associated with lower rates of many cancers. Additionally, turmeric has been shown to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s associated with settling the stomach and protecting the liver. Ginger, Ginseng, and Gingko Biloba also are commonly thought to have immune-boosting properties. And finally, bell peppers contain high levels of lycopene which is linked to a lowered risk of cancer. Peppers are also high in beta-carotene and Zeaxanthin, which is known to prevent macular degeneration. More here.
After hitting a record high in 2009, new social-security claims have fallen the past two years. In 2009, 3.2 million Americans over the age of 62 began collecting social security. In 2010, that number fell to 3.1 million and last year it dropped to 3 million. The downward trend in social-security claimants is partly due to a stronger economic environment and labor market, along with the incentive to delay claiming to boost benefits. The analysis, from the Urban Institute, found that 31 percent of eligible people registered for social security in 2009 and, by 2011, that percentage dropped to 26.9 percent. Richard Johnson, a senior fellow and director of retirement policy for the Urban Institute, wrote in the report that the trend toward delayed claiming that began around 2000 seems to have resumed after a spike in claimants during the recent recession. More here.
As prescription drug prices increase, many people are tempted to try their luck with online pharmacies promising cheaper drugs delivered directly to their door. But online pharmacies come with their own costs. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University found one in every three online searches for prescription drugs leads to a site illegally selling the drugs and, among those, many sell pills in the wrong dosage or that contain a different drug altogether. The Mayo Clinic recommends using a licensed pharmacy with access to a registered pharmacist. Other suggestions include not using sites that offer drugs without prescriptions and avoiding any online pharmacy that doesn’t provide a street address and a phone number. More here.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual retirement confidence survey finds Americans once again expressing concern about their ability to afford retirement. Among respondents, only 14 percent say they are very confident they’ll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. Medical expenses and long-term care costs remain among their chief concerns, ranking far below their confidence in their ability to pay basic expenses. And though current retirees express a higher level of confidence than current workers, retirees also say they are significantly more reliant on social security as a major source of income than workers expect to be. Also in the report, the number of workers who said they expect to retire after age 65 has risen to 37 percent, up from 11 percent in 1991. And 60 percent of workers say the total amount of their household’s savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home, is less than $25,000. More here.