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Health Headlines - October 8

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
More Americans Are Becoming Active: CDC

Physical inactivity -- a risk factor for heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes -- has fallen an average of 0.6 percent per year during the past 11 years as more Americans find that it's wise to exercise, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

In 2004, the percentage of survey recipients who declared themselves "inactive" had fallen to decade-low rates of 21 percent of men and 26 percent of women, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

While the trend is improving, too many people are still inactive, the agency said. Among people age 70 and older, 30 percent said they didn't exercise. In addition to being at high risk for the chronic diseases mentioned above, inactive older adults are also at greater risk of disability, loss of muscle mass, and falling, the CDC said.

Both the agency and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Regular exercise, even if begun in a person's later years, can offer significant health benefits, the CDC said.

Illinois Gov. Proposes Universal Child Health Insurance

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is proposing to make Illinois the first state to offer universal health coverage for children, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The Democratic governor's "All Kids" program would cover 250,000 of the state's children who currently lack health insurance, the wire service said. The plan would target families that don't earn enough for private coverage but earn too much for state-subsidized insurance.

The cost, estimated at $45 million in the first year, would be offset by using managed care programs to cut $56 million from the state's health programs, the AP reported, citing a statement from Blagojevich.

Parents of uninsured children would be able to buy insurance from the state with premiums and deductibles that are much lower than those offered by the private sector, the statement said.

2nd U.S. Case of Organ Donor West Nile Virus Transmission

The second reported case of organ transplant recipients being infected with West Nile virus from a common donor was reported Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three transplant recipients were infected after receiving organs from a New York City resident who died after a traumatic head injury. A New York liver recipient and a Pennsylvania lung recipient both became ill with West Nile and went into comas, the Associated Press reported.

A kidney recipient was also infected with West Nile but had no symptoms. No sign of the virus was detected in a fourth recipient, who also received a kidney.

The first U.S. case of donor-recipient transmission of West Nile virus occurred in 2002. That case involved virus-contaminated blood, the AP reported.

Since 2003, the blood supply in the United States has been screened for West Nile. That has helped lower the risk of donation-related infection, a CDC official said.

Another factor that helps limit organ donation-related West Nile virus infection is that the human immune system typically eliminates the virus from the blood within a few days. Many organ donors spend many months in a hospital before they die and their organs are harvested for transplant, the AP said.

However, the donor in this latest case was apparently infected with West Nile shortly before he died. His blood wasn't tested until the recipients were diagnosed with West Nile infection, the news service reported.

Toronto Respiratory Illness is Legionnaire's Disease

Legionnaire's disease is the illness that killed 16 elderly people at a Toronto nursing home, a medical officer said Thursday.

There have been no new deaths and the spread of the illness has been contained, David McKeown, of Toronto's health department, told the Associated Press.

"Some people are fragile enough that they may still succumb to this," McKeown said at a briefing that included Toronto Mayor David Miller and Dr. Donald Low, medical director of Ontario's Public Health Laboratories.

So far, 70 residents, 13 employees and five visitors to the Seven Oaks Home for the Aged have been infected, and 38 are hospitalized. The illness first surfaced on Sept. 25.

McKeown played down the risk this outbreak poses to the public. He stressed that it's in no way similar to the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto that killed 44 people, the Globe and Mail reported.

"The outbreak is confined to residents and staff and people closely associated with this one facility, so it's not a general public health risk," McKeown said.

New Orleans Hospitals Should Be Torn Down: Official

Both of the public hospitals in New Orleans should be torn down due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, the chief of the state's Charity Hospital System said Wednesday.

Charity and University Hospitals "were issued their death warrant by Katrina and the cataclysmic floods it spawned," said Donald Smithburg, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Louisiana State University officials had been pushing to replace the facilities even before the storm, the wire service reported. Charity was built in the 1930s and University in the 1960s, the AP said.

Weeks after Katrina savaged Louisiana, many of the people killed by the storm remain unidentified.

So far, 972 deaths have been confirmed in Louisiana but only 32 victims' names have been made public and only 61 bodies have been released, The New York Times reported.

In Mississippi, 196 of the 221 people killed by Katrina have been publicly identified.

Food Fact:
Buy local produce.

It's not only a matter of hometown pride -- it's a way to maximize nutritional benefit. When produce in the grocery store has traveled a great distance, nutrients break down due to exposure to light, time, etc. Your next best bet is frozen fruit and vegetables; freezing preserves the nutrients.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Do the stroll.

The Surgeon General and American Heart Association agree -- you can walk away from serious disease. Each says adopting a routine of daily physical activity will help you achieve this goal and more. For starters, daily walks help control your weight, both by burning additional calories and by increasing the size of your working muscles (which in turn reduces the number of calories converted into body fat). Regular walks also reduce your risk of dying prematurely, significantly reduce your risk of dying from coronary artery disease or a heart attack (exercise has as much effect as quitting smoking), and increase your likelihood of quitting or cutting back on smoking.

FAQ of the day:
Is cheese a good source of protein?

Cheese is a good source of protein, but so what? Most Americans get more than enough protein. A much larger problem is that we get too much saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol and contributes to heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer. A grilled cheese sandwich made with 1 1/2 oz. of cheddar cheese provides 10 grams of protein (about 20% of a 150-lb. person's daily needs) but also 9 grams of saturated fat (about 40% of the upper limit for a person who consumes 2,000 calories a day). Low-fat and fat-free dairy is a better bet.
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