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Tuesday
Feb072012

Where Do Americans Get Their Salt? The Answer May Surprise You

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you're worried about salt in your diet, you may want to break your bread habit.

Sure, chips and pretzels are packed with sodium, but it's bread -- the number one source of salt in the American diet, according to a new list from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- that's the silent killer.

It's not that bread and rolls are saltier than other foods, it's just that we eat a lot of them, the report says, and it adds up. We get about 7 percent of our daily salt from dough, the study shows.

The full CDC list is as follows:

  1. Breads and rolls
  2. Cold cuts/cured meats
  3. Pizza
  4. Poultry
  5. Soups
  6. Sandwiches
  7. Cheese
  8. Pasta mixed dishes
  9. Meat mixed dishes
  10. Savory snacks

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Sperm Test to Hit Drugstore Shelves

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A home sperm test is set to join dozens of female fertility predictors on drug store shelves this spring.

Walgreen’s and CVS are already selling the sperm-counting kit, called SpermCheck Fertility, online. Now they’re banking on men -- and their mates -- favoring a quick pick-up at the drug store over a trip to the urologist.

“There is nothing like it on the shelf,” Maeve Egner of Fusion Marketing, the company hired to help market SpermCheck, told Bloomberg. “It’s plugging a gap.”

The $40 test is set to hit stores in April. To use it, a man mixes his semen with a solution in the kit and drops it onto a test strip. A reddish line means the sperm count is above 20 million per milliliter, which is considered normal. A negative test shows no color and means the man should, “should consult a physician about a complete fertility evaluation,” according to the kit’s instructions.

Studies have found that SpermCheck Fertility correctly counted sperm 96 percent of the time compared with laboratory sperm-counting methods. But some doctors say sperm count is only one aspect of male fertility.

“There are four major things we look for,” said Dr. James Goldfarb, a fertility specialist at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland: The number of sperm; their shape; their mobility; and the volume of the ejaculate. “This test only measures one thing.”

While a low sperm count may signal a problem, Goldfarb said a count of 15 million per milliliter -- considered “low normal” by the latest criteria -- can be more than enough if the other three fertility factors are in place.

“The biggest risk of this test is that a guy who gets a very low sperm count might panic and end up getting more intervention than he really needed,” said Goldfarb. “It might reassure some couples, but it might scare some couples, too.”

Sperm counts can vary widely from week to week, Goldfarb said. So a man who rings in at 15 million per milliliter one week could hit 40 million the next. If the sperm count stays low, however, there are options.

“First we would look for anatomical problems,” said Goldfarb, describing varicose veins in the scrotum or blockages to the penis that thwart sperm release. “Then we can look at hormonal things…If the problem can’t be found or corrected, the simplest solution is to concentrate sperm and do intrauterine insemination. That way, there are more sperm getting closer to the fallopian tubes.”

And if that doesn’t work, in vitro fertilization allows a single sperm to fertilize an egg.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Walmart Labels Healthier Foods 'Great For You'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Walmart, the largest food retailer in the United States, announced Tuesday plans to label its healthier foods with a new green label, “Great For You,” in an effort to make healthier products easier for shoppers to distinguish. Customers will begin to see the new label on products starting in the spring.

“Moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart.

The company will put the new label on select products in its Great Value and Marketside lines that meet defined criteria. The company says the “Great For You” products meet the rigorous nutrition criteria established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Medicine.

For a complete list of the detailed system of what gets the label and what doesn’t, visit www.walmartgreatforyou.com.

Walmart is not putting a restriction on the new labeling system and says other grocers are welcome to use the system.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Woman Gets Jaw Made by 3D Printer

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- In what has been called the first operation of its kind, an 83-year-old woman in the Netherlands has been fitted with a custom-made artificial jaw that was created by a 3D printer.

The titanium implant, which weighs less than 4 ounces, was created by taking a CT scan of the woman’s lower jaw and duplicating it with a 3D printer that lays down titanium powder instead of ink. The printer followed the pattern of the woman’s jaw bone layer by layer, fusing the titanium powder in place with heat. In just a couple of hours, the 3D replica was ready.

The woman, who has not been named, reportedly suffered a serious jaw infection that made reconstruction surgery too risky. The creation of the artificial jaw and the surgery to implant it are considered a major step forward for the use of 3D technology in medicine.

Just one day after the surgery, which took place in June 2011, the woman could move her jaw and speak, according to Xilloc, the company that made the implant. Xilloc, Layerwise and BIOMED were jointly awarded the grant of best innovation in the field of 3D printing at last week’s RapidPro conference in Veldhoven, Netherlands.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Where's the Best Place to Sit on a Plane to Avoid Blood Clots?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NORTHBROOK, Ill.) -- When it comes to health risks on long flights, it’s not what you pay for your seat, but where you sit that makes the difference.

New medical recommendations dispel the myth of “economy class syndrome,” the notion that cramped leg room in the cheap seats on long flights can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clots in the legs. The clots can travel through the bloodstream to block blood flow to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, deadly in as many as 30 percent of sufferers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sitting in roomier first class seats won’t lower the risk of developing DVT, but sitting in an aisle seat will, according to the American College of Chest Physicians.

In the new guidelines published Tuesday in the journal Chest, doctors list sitting in a window seat as a risk factor for DVT.

“Traveling in economy class does not increase your risk for developing a blood clot, even during long-distance travel; however, remaining immobile for long periods of time will,” said Dr. Mark Crowther, one of the authors of the guidelines, in a statement. “Long-distance travelers sitting in a window seat tend to have limited mobility, which increases their risk for DVT.”

Advanced age, pregnancy, use of oral contraception and other forms of estrogen, recent surgery and obesity can also increase the risk of developing DVT during air travel, according to the guidelines. Still, there’s no evidence that dehydration or alcohol intake will cause clots to form.

Crowther emphasized that passengers rarely develop symptomatic DVT on airplanes, and those who do are usually on flights of eight to 10 hours and have at least one additional risk factor.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

'Consumer Reports' Investigates Mini-Med US Health Plans

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Consumer Reports is warning against so-called "mini-med" health plans that offer limited protection, usually at lower cost, but with sky-high deductibles that can leave the insured paying thousands out of pocket.

Mini-med health plans tend to appeal to industries such as retail, temporary staffing agencies and food service, according to the consumer group.  The employers want to offer an added benefit to staff, but, in reality the plans offer little to no coverage, said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor at Consumer Reports.

"There is this persistent dream of consumers that if they only look hard enough, they'll find really good insurance that costs a lot less," said Metcalf.  "It's not going to happen.  There's no such thing as a bargain on health insurance.  If it's cheap, it's cheap for a reason."

Mini-meds offer a limited benefit health plan with extensive restrictions to those under the age of 65.  Most plans cap benefits at a few thousand dollars per year. While many of these companies maintain that these plans are better than no insurance at all, Metcalf argues that some people may be better off without any insurance rather than making monthly payments to a plan that will probably not give adequate coverage when needed.

"In my view, people are better off putting whatever you would have paid to that mini-med in the bank in case something happens in the future," said Metcalf.

Of course, Metcalf said that this is a last resort.

"This is an excellent report," said Jonathan Weiner, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It's great to see a clear discussion about these type of plans. They are not well-understood or widely publicized."

While Metcalf maintains that people should never purchase such plans, Weiner disagrees saying some may benefit despite the limited benefits.

"In almost all instances, consumers would be far better off if they are able to get coverage from other types of more conventional health plans," said Weiner. "But if there are no other options, and consumers understand what is and is not covered by these mini-meds, then the extra coverage would be helpful to those lucky enough to have only modest healthcare expenses during the year." 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

Florida Senator Wants to Keep Food Stamp Users from Buying Sweets

Hemera/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- In an attempt to cut down on purchases of junk food on the government's dime, Florida Sen. Ronda Storms is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the use of food stamps to purchase sweets.

The Republican lawmaker says she was appalled at watching people in supermarkets use their food stamps to buy soda, candy and other junk foods, and that if they want to buy unhealthy stuff, they should pay with their own money -- how it's done with tobacco and alcohol.

Storms' measure would prohibit all 3.3 million food stamp users in Florida from buying any candy, pre-made cakes, trans fats, Jello, Popsicles, ice cream, popcorn, pretzels, pies, muffins and all sweetened drinks.

Yet, even if the bill passes the Legislature, legal challenges would kill it -- since any changes in the law have to come from Washington because food stamps are federally funded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Hormone Therapy Raises Women's Risk for Bone Loss

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- A class of medication used to prevent and treat breast cancer in post-menopausal women may boost the risk of bone loss, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Lancet Oncology.

The medications, called aromatase inhibitors, are used as part of hormone therapy to stop estrogen production in post-menopausal women. Research suggests the class of medications can stop tumor growth and prevent recurrence. More recent studies suggest it can reduce a patient's chance of ever getting the getting breast cancer.

But the new study found healthy post-menopausal women who took 25 mg of a type of aromatase inhibitor called exemestane daily for two years experienced bone loss in their wrists and ankles.

Bone density is typically measured in doctors' offices by a standard bone density test. But the women enrolled in the study, who were, on average, 60 years old, were periodically monitored using both a standard bone density test and a CT scan.

This study is the first to use computed tomography (CT) scans to take a detailed look at the exact type of bone loss experienced by women who take aromatase inhibitors. The CT scan offered a more detailed three-dimensional look at the bone structure compared to the standard bone density scan. This helped researchers examine the outer structure of the bone separately from the inner meshwork.

"We know the bone structure matters in terms of strength," said Dr. Angela Cheung, director of the osteoporosis program at University Health Network in Toronto and lead author of the study.

In this case, the detailed look allowed researchers to see exactly how much bone loss the women experienced.

Researchers followed 351 women with no history of osteoporosis for two years, and found an eight-percent decrease in thickness and area in the outer shell of the bone -- called the cortical bone among the women taking exemestane, also known by the brand name Aromasin -- compared to only a one-percent loss in the placebo group.

The majority of fractures in older women are due to cortical bone loss, according to Jane Cauley, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, who wrote an accompanying editorial published in Lancet Oncology. The findings from the CT study, she wrote, suggest that the negative side effects of aromatase inhibitors on bone health are "substantially underestimated."

The study also found that the medication worsened age-related bone loss even for those who took adequate supplements of vitamin D and calcium, which are prescribed to prevent bone loss.

Cheung said the benefit of CT scans uncovered in this study does not indicate that the scans should become a routine form of bone testing, due to high cost, and because CT exposes the patient to radiation.

While low bone mass offers clues to a woman's risk of bone fracture or even osteoporosis, this study was too small and did not follow the women long enough to see whether either condition developed. Researchers now plan to follow these study participants for another five years.

Cheung said that the findings should not turn women away from taking aromatase inhibitors like exemestane.

"For people thinking of prevention for breast cancer, they need to weigh the risk and benefits," said Cheung. "For some, it's just a mild degree of bone loss and for others maybe not."

Many women on aromatase inhibitors are also prescribed bone-strengthening medications like bisphosphonates, said Lillie Shockney, administrative director at Johns Hopkins Breast Clinical Programs. But recent findings suggest that even bisphosphonates can raise a woman's risk of femur fractures.

"It is important for the primary care doctor and the medical oncologist to discuss this before automatically doing so (prescribing bisphosphonates), as these bone-building agents are not side-effect free either," said Shockney.

Most importantly, the way to prevent bone loss is simple: women need to stay active.

"Brisk walking several times a day or hopping on a treadmill is an effective way to keep bones strong," said Shockney. "Bone density should be reassessed periodically while on hormonal therapy and beyond."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Smoking Slows Memory, Reasoning in Middle-Aged Men: Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- New evidence suggests that smoking isn't only bad for the body, but can also take a toll on the mind.

A study published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry linked smoking to faster, more dramatic age-related mental decline in men.

Researchers from University College in London studied more than 5,000 men and 2,000 women from Britain's long-running Whitehall II study, which has surveyed the health of thousands of British civil service employees.

The researchers studied each participant's performance on tests of memory, verbal skills and reasoning over a period of 10 years, beginning when the participants were about 56 years old. They found that men who smoked showed a greater decline in these mental functions than those who had never smoked.

Smoking seemed to speed up the cognitive aging process, making men function mentally as if they were 10 years older, said Severine Sabia, the study's lead author.

"For example, a 50-year-old male smoker shows a similar cognitive decline as a 60-year-old male never-smoker," she said.

The brain changes weren't necessarily permanent. Men who stopped smoking more than 10 years before the tests performed as well as those who had never smoked. But men who kicked the smoking habit less than 10 years before the cognitive tests began didn't do much better than the men who'd kept smoking.

While smoking seemed to drain men's brains, the researchers didn't find a similar connection between smoking and declining mental function in women. Sabia said that could be because women in this age group smoked less than men do, or that there were simply fewer women in the study.

Researchers said there are several factors that could explain the connection between smoking and mental decline. One reason could lie in the way smoking affects the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Because smoking ups the risk of vascular disease, it could limit the body's ability to deliver the blood, oxygen and nutrients the brain needs to function at its best.

The study's authors said that smoking's long-term effects on mental function are probably underestimated, since smokers are more likely to die of other health problems before they have the chance to develop dementia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Coach Receives Miracle Organ Transplant

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Since he was diagnosed with cirrhosis five years ago, Ed Mooney knew that if he didn’t get a liver transplant soon he’d be in serious danger. “I probably had a million people ahead of me. My sister got denied as a donor, my brother had his paperwork in and if I didn’t [find] a donor in him, I basically was going to stay on a list, and my surgeon said I’d keep getting sicker and sicker,” Mooney told ABC News.

What the 52-year old baseball coach from Bergenfield, N.J., needed was a match -- in other words, a miracle. He just never thought the miracle would come from such a tragedy.

That’s where Dan Glover comes in. The 24-year old was a former star wrestler at Bergenfield High School and a player on Mooney’s Little League baseball team. “He wasn’t a big kid, but he was all heart.” Mooney said.

Glover died last week from injuries he endured in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And thanks to an unbelievable twist of fate, his liver went to his former coach. “This makes me want to live for more than one person – for me and for Danny, and all the people who can see that miracles can happen,” Mooney said from his bed at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mooney hopes to return home this week. When he does, he’ll finally have a chance to talk to Glover’s family, a conversation he knows will be difficult for both sides. But Glover’s sacrifice will never be forgotten by Mooney, but he knows this isn’t about him. He says, “It’s about the selfless act of a young kid who wanted to give life to others.”

Glover’s organs went to at least 50 people.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio