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CDC warns parents to beware button batteries
August 30th, 2012
02:46 PM ET

CDC warns parents to beware button batteries

They are used to power everything from flashlights to remote controls. So called "button batteries," which are the size of coins (and sometimes smaller), have grown in popularity over the past few decades. Now, the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents to keep them away from children.

According to this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, approximately 40,400 children aged 12 and younger were treated in emergency rooms for battery-related injuries between 1997 and 2010 

But here's the bigger concern: 14 children, all of them under the age of 4, died after swallowing batteries. Twelve of the 14 deaths involved button batteries. In most cases, the batteries got stuck in the esophagus.  Experts say when that happens, or if the batteries make it down to the intestine, they can emit hydroxide which can cause chemical burns.
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Fact-checking Ryan on Medicare
In his speech at the Republican convention, Paul Ryan called Obamacare "the greatest threat to Medicare."
August 30th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Fact-checking Ryan on Medicare

 The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican National Convention the Empowered Patient has been putting presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s health care plan under the microscope, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

Earlier this week we looked at Romney's ideas on preventive care, helping people with pre-existing conditions get insurance, and aiding seniors who get stuck in the prescription drug donut hole.

Today we're fact-checking vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan's statements about Medicare in his speech Wednesday night at the convention in which he called Obamacare "the greatest threat to Medicare."

According to Ryan, President Barack Obama's administration "didn't have enough money" to fund health care reform, "so they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."

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Romney's health care plan: Medicare 'donut hole'
August 29th, 2012
02:34 PM ET

Romney's health care plan: Medicare 'donut hole'

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican convention I’ll be putting Mitt Romney’s health care plan under the microscope, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

Monday we dissected Romney's ideas to help Americans afford preventive care. Tuesday we looked at his plan for helping people with pre-existing conditions get insurance. Now, we'll examine Romney's plan for filling the Medicare donut hole.

The Medicare donut hole is a coverage gap for seniors who take prescription drugs. In 2009, prior to Obamacare, seniors received help from Medicare when they spent up to $896 on prescription drugs, after which they received no help and had to pay for prescription drugs 100% out of their own pockets. Then, after spending a total of $4,350 on prescriptions, government assistance kicked back in again. This gap when seniors had to pay for their drugs on their own is called the “donut hole.”

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Mitt Romney's health care plan: Pre-existing conditions
Mitt Romney says he'll "prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage."
August 28th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Mitt Romney's health care plan: Pre-existing conditions

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican convention I’ll be dissecting Mitt Romney’s health care plan, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

Monday, we put preventive care under the microscope. Tuesday, we're looking at Romney's plan for helping people with pre-existing conditions - anything from back pain to cancer to diabetes - who have often been denied insurance  or asked to pay exorbitant premiums.

Obamacare requires insurance companies to sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions without charging a higher premium.

Romney has vowed he would act to repeal Obamacare on his first day as president. Instead, he says he would "prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage," according to his website.

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Mitt Romney's health care plan
Mitt Romney has said that if elected president, he would repeal Obamacare "on my first day."
August 27th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

Mitt Romney's health care plan

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican National Convention, I’ll be dissecting Mitt Romney’s health care plan, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

First under the microscope: Preventive care.

Romney said he would act to repeal Obamacare “on my first day if elected president of the United States.” The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires insurers to provide free preventive services such as mammograms, immunizations, and cholesterol checks. Patients will not have to pay a co-pay or meet a deductible.

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Older fathers may be linked to child autism
As many as 20 to 30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be because of the father’s advanced age, a new study found.
August 23rd, 2012
05:33 PM ET

Older fathers may be linked to child autism

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

Women aren’t the only ones whose biological clocks are ticking: A new study on the genetics of autism finds the sperm of older men may be to blame for many cases of the disorder.

The study, done by researchers in Iceland, indicates that as many as 20-30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be linked to the father’s advanced age.  Unlike findings on disorders such as Down Syndrome, this study found that the age of the mother made no difference.

“This is really a paradigm shift,” said Dr. Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center.

Traditionally, women have borne the brunt of concerns about having a healthy child as they age, while many men have assumed their sperm were no different at 80 than at 20.

“I had my babies at 38 and 39 and I was terrified,” said anchor Ashleigh Banfield on CNN Newsroom. “Honey, you’re in the conversation now. It’s not just me.”

Video: Older fathers may be linked to autism

While older men have an increased risk of fathering a child with autism, the risk is still low – 2% at the most for dads over 40, according to the new study.

The authors looked at random mutations in genes that are linked to autism and schizophrenia. Looking at 78 families, the researchers found that on average, a child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to the father’s genes. Children born to 40-year-old fathers had 65 mutations.

As men age, "Sperm will have acquired more mutations than when they were younger, which will increase the chance of children they father inheriting a disease-producing mutation,” said Richard Sharpe, who does research on male reproductive health at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh.

One scientist said men might want to take a tip from some young women who freeze their eggs to use when they’re older.

“Collecting the sperm of young adult men and cold-storing for later use could be a wise individual decision,” wrote Alexey Kondrashov, a professor who studies evolution at the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute.

With autism, no longer invisible


FDA warns of dangerous dietary supplements
Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium are used to treat conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis and muscle pain.
August 22nd, 2012
10:14 AM ET

FDA warns of dangerous dietary supplements

The Food and Drug Administration has received dozens of reports about harmful side effects - including stroke and death - linked to two dietary supplements currently on the market, Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium.

The agency has issued a safety alert to warn consumers about the dangers of the supplements. They are both marketed as natural dietary supplements but the FDA claims they have potentially dangerous active ingredients that aren't listed on their labels. The supplements are used to treat arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle pain, bone cancer and a host of other ailments.

They are manufactured in Mexico by Riger Naturals, but sold in the United States in some stores, Internet sites and flea markets. Most are labeled in Spanish but there could be versions with English labels.

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5 secrets you should never keep from your cardiologist
August 21st, 2012
12:49 PM ET

5 secrets you should never keep from your cardiologist

Editor's note: These tips were originally published on CNN.com in 2011. To read the full article, click here.

When Rosie O'Donnell wrote about her recent heart attack on her blog, she mentioned several symptoms that she ignored before going to her cardiologist.

"i had an ache in my chest, both my arms were sore... i became nauseous, my skin was clammy, i was very very hot, i threw up... i googled womens heart attack symptoms, i had many of them, but really? – i thought – naaaa."

Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women, but O'Donnell's response is common, experts say - especially among women.

Although most report symptoms of chest pain with a heart attack, women are more likely to report unusual symptoms like back pain, jaw pain, light-headedness and extreme fatigue, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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'Super brains' in old folks identified
Scientists have identified "SuperAgers," whose brains seem immune to typical declines in thinking and memory.
August 17th, 2012
09:26 AM ET

'Super brains' in old folks identified

A group of 80-year-olds is making scientific waves because of an uncanny ability to age gracefully, from a cognitive standpoint. The moniker they've been given by scientists is "SuperAgers," because as they age, their brains seem immune to typical declines in thinking and memory.

"We know that as we age, our cognitive skills decline, and there's also a change in the amount of brain matter," said Emily Rogalski, assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Then there are these people over 80 who seem particularly sharp and somehow resist changes in memory when they age."

That resistance to memory changes means identifying what makes someone a "SuperAger" is important because of the insight their brains could provide for their cognitive opposites, those who suffer with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

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Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure
A study shows dark chocolate may lower blood pressure slightly.
August 16th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure

Eating a little dark chocolate each day may be good for the heart, but only if you grab your running shoes in one hand and an apple in the other.

New research found that people who ate dark chocolate or cocoa for short periods of time saw a slight drop in blood pressure. But there is a caveat: If you eat these treats, you need to make sure you're doing all of the right things to stay healthy, such as exercising, eating right and - if you're on blood pressure medicine - taking that as well.

The study

Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, curious about the role of dark chocolate in heart health, looked at 20 studies in which adults ate dark chocolate or cocoa. More than 850 people participated in the trials that generally ran from two to eight weeks.

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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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