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Shingles may increase stroke, heart attack risk
January 2nd, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Shingles may increase stroke, heart attack risk

Having shingles, especially when you are younger, may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack later in life, according to a new study published this week in the online issue of Neurology.

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the same virus that causes chickenpox. Also called herpes zoster, shingles appears as a painful rash, which in some cases can lead to further infection if left untreated. Doctors say the virus remains dormant in the nerve roots of people who have had chickenpox; anyone who has the virus as a child may develop an outbreak of shingles later on.

In this study, British researchers looked at more than 105,000 people who had had shingles and more than 213,000 people who had not. They found people aged 18 to 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a stroke, warning stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack), or heart attack later in life.
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Anemia linked to increased risk of dementia
July 31st, 2013
04:08 PM ET

Anemia linked to increased risk of dementia

There is no single test to determine if someone has dementia. The harsh reality is that at this point, it can only be conclusively diagnosed during an autopsy.

So for now doctors rely on physical exams, lab work and cognitive indicators to diagnose dementia with a high degree of certainty while a patient is still alive.

Anemia may be one sign someone has an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“I’ve been studying Alzheimer’s for a long time,” says study author Dr. Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California – San Francisco. “In particular, I’m interested in things you can modify: cardiovascular disease, sleep, physical activity. We’ve done a number of studies looking at how different chronic diseases of the body effect aging. We started looking into the issue of anemia... after seeing rudimentary studies that linked it to dementia.”
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Electronic health records improve colon cancer screening rates
March 4th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Electronic health records improve colon cancer screening rates

Centralized record-keeping systems may help improve rates of colon cancer screening, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Group Health Cooperative, a non-profit health care and insurance system in Washington state, used electronic health records to identify and monitor almost 5,000 patients who were due for a colon cancer screening but hadn't gotten it.

One group of patients received "normal care" - reminders from their doctor during appointments. A second group received a letter in the mail encouraging them to get screened; a third group got a call from a medical assistant on top of all of that, and a fourth group got a "patient navigator" to manage the screening process.

Each additional step increased the percentage of people who got screened, from 26% in the "normal" group to 65% in the patient navigator group.
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10 best cities for 'successful aging'
Boston, Massachusetts, ranked No. 1 for those over 80 because of its reputable health care facilities.
August 2nd, 2012
02:36 PM ET

10 best cities for 'successful aging'

It's a long-held belief that seniors, whether they retire to Florida or not, want one simple thing: to do as little as possible for as long as possible.

"That's out of date, to the extent that it was ever accurate," says Paul Irving, Milken Institute's senior managing director and chief operating officer. "Seniors want to remain active and engaged and healthy and connected to their communities. Many want to continue to work throughout life ... they want and deserve great health systems. They want to have a voice."

Baby boomers living in Provo-Orem, Utah, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are certainly in the right place. The two cities rank at the top of the Milken Institute's first "Best Cities for Successful Aging" report. Provo-Orem is No. 1 on the list of large metro areas and Sioux Falls is No. 1 for small metros.
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July 10th, 2012
12:20 PM ET

IOM: Elderly need better access to mental health, substance abuse care

Baby boomers in need of mental health and substance abuse services may have a hard time finding health professionals to provide that care unless the treatment system is revamped, according to a new study from the Institute of Medicine.

"The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Americans: In Whose Hands?" report concludes that Medicare and Medicaid payment codes must be revised to ensure counseling care and other critical services are covered so that doctors are willing to treat patients with these conditions.

"There is a conspicuous lack of national attention to ensuring that there is a large enough health care work force trained to care for older adults with mental health and substance use conditions," said Dan G. Blazer, one of the report authors and the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

"These conditions are relatively common, they can be costly, and they can have profound negative impacts on people's health and well-being. This report is a wake-up call that we need to prepare now or our older population and their extended families will suffer the consequences."
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Study: Shingles vaccine safe for patients on immune-suppressing drugs
July 3rd, 2012
07:39 PM ET

Study: Shingles vaccine safe for patients on immune-suppressing drugs

Shingles is a painful but common condition, affecting half of Americans by age 85. All adults aged 60 and older should receive a vaccine against it, according to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

But not everyone is eligible for this preventive measure. The vaccine is not recommended for people being treated with immune-suppressing drugs called “biologics,” which control how the body reacts to inflammation in a variety of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Contrary to that advice, a new study found no increased risk for shingles among people with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or inflammatory bowel disease who have been treated with biologic medicines and receive the shingles vaccine.  The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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Vitamin D deficiency may cause weight gain
June 25th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Vitamin D deficiency may cause weight gain

Older women who don't get enough vitamin D may be slightly heavier than those who do.

A Kaiser Permanente study, published online in the recent issue of the Journal of Women's Health, looked at more than 4,600 women aged 65 and older for a four and one-half year period. Researchers found women with low levels of vitamin D in their blood gained about two pounds more than those with adequate levels of the vitamin.

So what’s the big deal, you ask?
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Scientists confirm existence of 'old person smell'
May 30th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Scientists confirm existence of 'old person smell'

You know that smell in retirement homes and your grandmother's house? Mothballs and stale air may not be entirely to blame.

In a new study, researchers have confirmed for the first time that older people have a recognizable body odor that can't be fully explained by grooming, diet, or other environmental quirks. In fact, the study found, this "old person smell" is distinctive enough that young adults can more often than not identify an old person by body odor alone.

This isn't totally surprising. Scientists have known for years that a broad range of animal species-including mice, deer, otters, rabbits, and monkeys-undergo body-odor changes in adulthood, which may help the animals select suitable mating partners.

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April 30th, 2012
09:16 AM ET

New ED drug may work in 15 minutes

Look out Viagra - there's a new erectile dysfunction drug in town.

It's called Stendra (aka Avanafil) and it's newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, making it the first ED drug to come out in almost 10 years.

Although Stendra has not been tested against what is known as the "Little Blue Pill," drug makers say that - for some men - it may work faster.

"If things are heated up, theoretically you can get improved function earlier, within 15 minutes, with this drug," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, and co-author of a recent study about Stendra in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

"You can argue this is the first potential on-demand drug."
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Hospitalization may speed cognitive decline in seniors
March 21st, 2012
05:04 PM ET

Hospitalization may speed cognitive decline in seniors

People 65 years of age and older experience cognitive decline an average of 2.4 times faster if they have been hospitalized, compared to people of the same age who haven't, according to a new study.

For the study, published in Neurology, Robert S. Wilson, PhD. and colleagues reviewed the cognitive decline of more than 1,800 patients aged 65 and older who lived in Chicago. The patients were given a baseline cognitive test and then followed for an average of nine years with the same cognitive test repeated at least three times at intervals of three years.

They found that the natural cognitive decline people begin to experience as they age was sped up after a person had been hospitalized, regardless of the reason or how long the hospitalization lasted.

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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