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Health Headlines - January 9

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Israel's Sharon Breathing on His Own

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was breathing on his own Monday and moving some of his limbs as doctors lifted the anesthesia that had kept him in a medically induced coma since his massive stroke Wednesday.

Doctors in Jerusalem made the decision to lift the anesthesia after a round of consultations Monday and after a brain scan Sunday showed continued improvement, the Associated Press reported.

Hadassah Hospital director Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef said the process of weaning Sharon from sedation could take hours or days.

"As soon as we started reducing the drugs ... the prime minister started to breathe independently, although he is still hooked up to a respirator that is used as an aid," Mor-Yosef said. He added that Sharon, 77, remains in critical condition.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Felix Umansky, the chief neurosurgeon treating Sharon, said it was too early to "speak about cognitive function. It will take a number of days. We will continue to reduce the level of anesthesia. "

He said that during a pain test, Sharon's blood pressure increased, which is a normal reaction, The New York Times reported. "I want to emphasize that this is a very, very gradual process," Umansky said. He added that Sharon had not yet opened his eyes.

On Sunday, Mor-Yosef said the brain scan showed that Sharon's vital signs, including the pressure inside his skull, were normal, his brain swelling had decreased and his cerebral spinal fluid was draining well.

Doctors had initially planned to stop the coma-inducing sedatives Sunday but decided to wait another day before assessing the extent of brain damage Sharon suffered from the massive stroke Wednesday and three rounds of emergency brain surgery after that.

On Saturday, one of his surgeons said Sharon's chances of survival are high, but that his ability to think and reason would be impaired.

"He will not continue to be prime minister, but maybe he will be able to understand and to speak," Dr. Jose Cohen said.

That massive stroke followed a mild one Sharon suffered Dec. 18 and occurred the night before he was scheduled to undergo a procedure to repair a hole in his heart that was discovered after the first stroke.

Prostate Cancer Harder to Detect in Obese Men: Study

Prostate cancer can be 20 percent to 25 percent harder to detect in obese men because their prostate gland is larger than in other men, says a Duke University Medical Center study.

The researchers said that because biopsies sample less of the total tissue in an obese man's larger prostate, it's more difficult to find hidden cancer, the Associated Press reported.

Doctors need to take this into consideration and be especially diligent when checking obese men for prostate cancer, said the researchers, who examined the medical records of about 1,400 men whose prostates were surgically removed after a cancer diagnosis.

The study included 245 men who were moderately obese. The average weight of their prostates was 1.4 ounces. Normal-sized prostate glands weigh 50 percent to 75 percent of that, the AP reported.

The findings appear in the February issue of the Journal of Urology.

More U.S. Doctors Accepting New Medicare Patients: Study

Despite a slight decline in reimbursement rates, the percentage of U.S. doctors accepting new Medicare patients has increased over the past four years, says a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

The survey found that 72.9 percent of doctors were accepting all new Medicare patients, compared with 71.1 percent in 2000-2001. Primary care doctors accounted for the bulk of the increase, the Associated Press reported.

The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan research organization. President Paul Ginsburg noted that a slight reduction in reimbursement rates for Medicare patients doesn't mean these patients are less lucrative to doctors than they were a few years ago.

Ginsburg said doctors are billing Medicare for more services -- such as echocardiograms, lab tests, and cardiovascular stress tests -- per patient, the AP said.

He also said that while doctors are willing to accept a one-time reduction in Medicare fees, year after year of fee cuts would lead to a reduction in the number of doctors willing to accept new Medicare patients.

Cheney Hospitalized for Shortness of Breath

Vice President Dick Cheney was hospitalized for a little more than four hours Monday morning after suffering from shortness of breath.

Doctors ruled out any recurrence of his long-standing heart problems, according to The New York Times.

A statement from his office said that he was taken by car to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., about 3 a.m. He was released four hours later, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The problem is believed to be associated with anti-inflammatory medicine that Cheney, 64, is taking for a foot problem. The vice president is suffering an osteoarthritis problem in his left foot, CNN reported.

In September, Cheney had surgery to remove blood clots behind each of his knees. He underwent angioplasty in November 2000 after suffering his fourth heart attack since 1978. He had a defibrillator implanted in June 2001 to regulate his heartbeat.

Five New Suspected Bird Flu Cases in Turkey

Preliminary tests results released Monday indicate that there are five new human cases of the H5N1 bird flu strain in Turkey, the Associated Press reported.

The tests were conducted on samples collected by five people suspected of having the disease. The testing was done in Turkish labs and the results have not yet been confirmed by the World Health Organization. If the five cases are confirmed, that would bring to 15 the number of human bird flu cases in Turkey.

These apparent new cases are in people from four separate provinces on the Black Sea coast and in eastern and central Turkey. This suggests that bird flu is continuing to spread across the country, the AP reported.

Bird flu has claimed the lives of three siblings from the eastern city of Van. They're the first confirmed bird flu fatalities outside of Asia, where 74 people have died since 2003.

It's feared that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted from person to person.

On Monday, the European Union banned imports of untreated feathers from six countries that border Turkey. Other poultry imports from those nations had already been banned by the EU, the AP reported.

Food Fact:
Eat more whole grains.

With a few almost invisible substitutions, you can boost fiber and eat healthier. Research shows that people who eat regular servings of whole grains -- such as whole wheat, bran and brown rice -- have a significantly reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Try buckwheat pancakes at breakfast instead of regular; use at least half whole-wheat flour in any recipe that calls for flour; mix bran flakes in whenever a recipe calls for breadcrumbs.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Walking tall.

Walking even just a few minutes every day can help regulate high blood pressure. According to the Surgeon General and the American Heart Association, adopting a routine of daily physical activity can help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, or help you lower it if it's already too high. Walking also significantly reduces your risk of dying from coronary artery disease or a heart attack (exercise has as much effect as quitting smoking), and makes your heart stronger and more efficient, so that it pumps more blood with each contraction.

FAQ of the day:
What's the best fish to eat for a healthy heart?

All fish and shellfish are heart-healthy. To get the most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, choose fatty fresh, cold-water fresh, or fresh, unprocessed frozen fish. Salmon, bluefish, and sardines are good choices. Tuna and shellfish are OK, too.
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