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Health Capsules: Funds to fight cancer

Funds to fight cancerFunds to fight cancer

World-renowned musician William Close (pictured), creator of the famed Earth Harp, performed for guests at the recent St. Luke’s Hospital “Imagine” Gala at The Chase Park Plaza. The event raised $208,000 to support St. Luke’s Center for Cancer Care, which provides care in a state-of-the-art facility featuring the latest technology and medical expertise for cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research.


Dangerous prescriptions

Teenagers who are prescribed medications to treat anxiety and sleep problems are much more likely to abuse those drugs later, compared to teens who never were prescribed the drugs, University of Michigan researchers reported.

A study divided more than 2,700 adolescents into three groups: those who never were prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medications; those prescribed the medications during the three-year study period; and those previously prescribed the medications but not during the study period. Almost 9 percent of participants had received a prescription for an anxiety or sleep drug at some point, and more than 3 percent received at least one prescription during the study period.

Specifically, the study found:

• Adolescents prescribed anxiety medications, but not during the study period, were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anxiety medication than their peers who never were prescribed such drugs.

• Teens prescribed anxiety or sleep medications during the study were 10 times more likely to abuse them within two years, to get high or to experiment, than young people without prescriptions.

• White students were twice as likely as black students to use other people’s medications.

• Females older than age 15 and teens who had prescriptions for longer periods of time were more likely to abuse the medications.

The study authors recommended better education for parents and teens prescribed anti-anxiety and sleep medications, monitoring refills, and making it standard practice to give teens a substance use assessment before prescribing the drugs.

“What happened to (actor) Heath Ledger could happen to any teen who is misusing these medications, particularly if the teen uses alcohol in combination with these drugs,” study author Carol Boyd said.

Examples of anti-anxiety drugs include Klonopin, Xanax and Ativan; sleep medications include Ambien, Restoril and Lunesta.

The medications are controlled substances in part due to the potential for abuse, and it is a felony to share them, Boyd said.


Heartbreaking marriages

An unhappy marriage really can lead to a broken heart, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Aging. The danger is particularly high for women.

Hui Liu, sociologist at Michigan State University, analyzed five years worth of data on roughly 1,200 married people aged 57-85 at the study’s onset. Using survey questions about marital quality, lab tests, and measures of cardiovascular health to gauge the relationship between marital health and heart disease, she found that a bad marriage is more harmful to the heart than a good marriage is beneficial. Marital quality was shown to have a bigger effect on women’s heart health than men’s, which Liu said might be because women tend to internalize negative feelings.

The study showed also that once a woman gets heart disease, her perception of marriage quality tends to decline, but the same is not true for a man with heart disease. That could be because wives are more likely than husbands to provide support and care for a sick spouse, researchers said.

According to Liu, the study supports the use of marriage counseling even for those who have been married for 40 or 50 years.

The research was published online in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.


Survey says…

A recent survey of older adults in 11 countries revealed some good and bad news about health care in the U.S.

A Commonwealth Fund study surveyed more than 15,000 65-and-older adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.

Following are some key findings from the survey:

• Compared to those in other countries, older Americans seem to have the most health problems, with about half of respondents (53 percent) reporting taking four or more medications – the highest rate of all countries – and 25 percent of U.S. adults seeing four or more doctors in the past year, second only to adults in Germany (39 percent).

• The U.S. had the most adults (19 percent) who reported they had skipped needed health care because of costs and the most adults (11 percent) saying they had trouble paying their medical bills. Despite Medicare coverage, 21 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they had incurred out-of-pocket health care costs of $2,000 or more, second only to adults in Switzerland, where 22 percent of those surveyed spent that much.

• Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they could get a same- or next-day doctor’s appointment when they were sick, compared to 83 percent of those in France and New Zealand and 81 percent in Germany. However, 86 percent of U.S. adults said they could get an appointment with a specialist within four weeks – the highest rate in the survey. Only 46 percent of older adults in Canada said they could get a specialty care appointment within a month.

• Among chronically ill adults surveyed in the U.S., 58 percent said they had discussed treatment goals with a physician and were given clear instructions about when to seek further care. Fifty-nine percent of adults in the U.K. – but fewer than half of the chronically ill in the other nine countries – reported the same.

• Adults in the U.S. for the most part reported satisfaction with the level of patient-doctor communication, with 86 percent of respondents reporting their doctors spent enough time with them and 81 percent saying they were encouraged to ask questions.

• Twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults who had been hospitalized reported problems with their discharge/planning arrangements, such as not knowing what symptoms to watch for, not having written instructions, etc. That was among the lowest problem rates reported.

• Americans were the most likely to report having taken steps to express their end-of-life care preferences in the event they become unable to make decisions for themselves.

The study was published in the December issue of Health Affairs.


Younger colon cancer patients

The incidence of colorectal cancer in the U.S. among adults aged 50 and older has declined 30 percent in the last 10 years, but incidence of the disease among adults aged 20-49 has increased, according to a new report published by JAMA Surgery, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Increased colonoscopy screening is credited for the decrease in colorectal cancer (CRC) rates among those 50 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal screenings for everyone aged 50-75 as part of routine preventive health care, and according to the American Cancer Society, screening rates almost tripled among that age group from 2000 to 2010.

But researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who analyzed CRC data from 1975-2010 found that while overall incidence rates for the disease have declined, rates increased for patients aged 20-49, with the biggest increase nearly 2 percent among those aged 20-34. The rate among those in the 35-49 age group increased 0.41 percent.

The study authors projected that by 2020, the incidence of CRC will increase by 37.8 percent among those aged 20-34, and by 2030, it will increase by 90 percent for that age group, while rates will continue to decrease significantly for those older than 50.

“The increasing incidence of CRC among young adults is concerning and highlights the need to investigate potential causes and external influences such as lack of screening and behavioral factors,” the authors said.


Weather-ready food tips

If severe winter weather causes a power outage, the USDA recommends placing thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to help ascertain whether food is safe to consume.

If severe winter weather causes a power outage, the USDA recommends placing thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to help ascertain whether food is safe to consume.

Harsh winter weather brings the threat of power outages that could compromise food safety. The following are some of the steps the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends for reducing the risk of food-borne illness during severe weather events:

• Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer. Safe temperatures are 40 degrees F or lower in the refrigerator and 0 degrees F or lower in the freezer.

• Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. They can be placed around refrigerated and frozen foods to keep them cold if the power goes out.

• Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry in advance of severe weather.

• Group foods together in the freezer; the “igloo” effect will keep them cold longer.

• Avoid putting food outside in ice or snow; it could attract wildlife and could thaw when the sun comes out.

• Keep on hand ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed, and a freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours if full and 24 hours if half full.

• Place meat and poultry on one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross-contamination from thawing juices.

• After a power outage, check frozen food for ice crystals. Food in a freezer that has partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or its temperature is 40 degrees F or below.


On the calendar

“Legal Matters and Goals of Care” is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 12634 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur.  An attorney presents information on advance directives, powers of attorney and qualifications for assistance. A facilitator leads the group in ways to engage a loved one in conversations about his/her goals of care.  Admission is free, and no registration is required.  For more information, call (314) 542-9378.

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Cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings are offered from 7:15-9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11 at Desloge Outpatient Center, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. The one-on-one consultation includes a lipid panel, blood pressure and body composition measurements. A 10-12-hour fast is required. The fee is $20. To schedule an appointment, call (314) 542-4848.

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Body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure screenings are offered free of charge from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12 at St. Luke’s Convenient Care inside Dierbergs, 1080 Lindemann Road in Des Peres. No appointment is required. Call (314) 542-4848 for more information.

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An American Red Cross blood drive is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. To schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org, and enter the sponsor code: SaintLukes.


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