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Health Updates 16 February 2012

  • Millions of Americans have untreated hearing loss“About 27 million Americans aged 50 and older have lost some of their hearing and could benefit from a hearing aid, a new study finds.  However, many people don’t get hearing aids because they’re often not covered by insurance, they don’t receive training in integrating hearing aids into their daily lives, or they consider hearing loss an inevitable part of aging and not a major concern, according to the researchers.  ‘There’s still a perception among the public and many medical professionals that hearing loss is an inconsequential part of the aging process and you can’t do anything about it’, said study senior author Dr. Frank Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a university news release.  ‘We want to turn that idea around’….’Understanding current rates of hearing loss treatment is important, as evidence is beginning to surface that hearing loss is associated with poorer cognitive functioning and the risk of dementia’…” (HealthDay)
  • Tai Chi may help Parkinson’s patients: “Practicing the ancient art of Ta Chi twice a week helped Parkinson’s patients improve their balance and walking ability, a new study shows.  ‘Tai Chi has been suggested for a while [for those with Parkinson’s], but it’s not been scientifically or clinically validated,’ said study author Fuzhong Li, a research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene….Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative brain disorder, affects about 1 million people in the United States, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.  It typically progresses slowly, but as it does the ability to control movement declines and symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness and instability appear.  Physical activity is known to help slow this deterioration of motor function….’Tai Chi did better in comparison to resistance training and stretching in terms of improvement in balance and walking ability’ Li said.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Screening children for cholesterol: “It doesn’t have a particularly snappy title, but the Summary Report of the Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents makes for surprisingly accessible and interesting reading.  For one thing, it’s well written, especially for a scientific report and a set of clinical guidelines.  For another, the report, published in late 2011 in the journal Pediatrics, takes on a question at once basic and profound: What do we know about how the hearts of children become the hearts of adults?”  Now comes the tough part: do we routinely screen all children?  start those thought to be at risk on medication as children? participate in lifestyle interventions and help with diet and exercise?  Surely, the discussion among experts has just gotten started. (Perri Klass/NY Times)
  • No cancer benefit from Vitamin B, omega-3 supplements in heart patients: “Patients with a history of heart disease will most likely not reduce their risk of developing cancer by taking Vitamin B and/or omega-3 fatty acids and supplements, a new French analysis suggests.  ‘In the population we studied, we found no beneficial effects of either B vitamins or omega-3 fatty acids taken over five years on cancer occurrence or cancer-related death,’ noted the study author…’The results of our study suggest individuals should exercise caution when deciding to take dietary supplements, especially over a long period of time and without a physician’s advice….Such supplements constitute active substances and might have adverse effects in some populations.  To be on the safe side, individuals should strive to achieve dietary recommendations via healthy, balanced diets’.” (NIH/MedlinePlus)
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