Health Highlights: June 22, 2011
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Under Health Care Law, Some in Middle Class Qualify May for Medicaid
Millions of middle-class Americans who retire early could get Medicaid under the new health care law, according to federal officials.
Under the law, up to 3 million more people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 because most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility for the health insurance program meant for the poor, the Associated Press reported.
For example, a married couple with a total annual income of about $64,000 could get Medicaid.
"I don't generally comment on the pros and cons of policy, but that just doesn't make sense," Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster said at a recent professional society meeting, the AP reported.
The situation is due to the effort to simplify rules for determining who is eligible for Medicaid, say White House officials and senior Democratic lawmakers.
"This simplification will stop people from falling into coverage gaps and may cause some to be newly eligible for Medicaid and others to no longer qualify," Brian Cook, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the AP.
Birth Defects More Common in Mountaintop Mining Counties: Study
Children born in mountaintop coal-mining counties in Appalachia are 26 percent more likely to have birth defect than those born in non-mining regions, a new study finds.
Previous research has linked mountaintop coal mining -- where the tops of elevations are blasted off in order to expose coal seams -- to air and water pollution, USA Today reported.
For this new study, researchers examined 1.8 million births in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia between 1996 and 2003. Rates of birth defects were 235 per 10,000 live births in mountaintop mining areas vs. 144 per 10,000 live births in non-mining areas.
After adjusting for other factors such as poverty, smoking, drinking, race and mother's education, the researchers concluded that the risk of birth defects was 26 percent higher in mountaintop mining communities, USA Today reported.
The study appears in the journal Environmental Research.
Models' Altered Photos in Ads Harm Kids: AMA
The use of software-altered photographs of models in advertisements can give children and teens unrealistic expectations of body image and guidelines are needed to control the practice, a new American Medical Association policy says.
The guidelines should be developed by advertising groups working with public and private sector organizations involved in child and teen health, the AMA says.
"The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image. In one image, a model's waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist," AMA Board Member Dr. Barbara L. McAneny said in an AMA news release. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software."
The policy was passed Tuesday at the AMA's annual meeting.
Fake Fat Makes Rats Gain Weight: Study
You'll gain weight, not lose it, if you eat products that contain the calorie- and fat-free fat substitute Olean, according to a new study.
Rats that were fed Olean-containing potato chips as part of a high-fat diet ate more overall and gained more weight than rats that ate regular potato chips as part of a high-fat diet, Purdue University researchers found, ABC News reported.
The study was published this week in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.
"Fat substitutes can interfere with the body's ability to regulate what it eats, and that can result in overeating," explained lead author and psychology professor Susan Swithers, ABC News reported.
In addition, weight gain may occur due to fake fats' disruption of the body's ability to digest and metabolize food, researchers say.
Hospitalizations Linked to Blood Poisonings Rising: CDC
Hospitalizations for sepsis (blood poisoning) in the United States more than doubled between 2000 and 2008, a new study finds.
Two-thirds of the cases involved people 65 and older and the rate of sepsis increased with age. The hospitalization rate for sepsis among people 85 and older was 30 times higher than for those younger than 65, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said, msnbc.com reported.
Among the other findings in the report released Tuesday:
- Patients with sepsis spent 75 percent longer in hospital than other patients.
- Sepsis patients were more than eight times as likely to die as other patients.
- The overall death rate for sepsis patients was 17 percent, but rose to 20 percent among sepsis patients 65 and over.
Sepsis patients who survive can be left with debilitating problems such as mental impairment, physical disabilities and organ damage, the researchers said, msnbc.com reported.
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Discusses Her Diabetes
Having diabetes doesn't prevent you from doing anything you want, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Tuesday when she met with a group of children who have diabetes.
"It's a disease you have to deal with, but you can," she told the 150 children, the Associated Press reported.
Sotomayer, 56, learned she had diabetes when she was seven years old and coping with it has become second nature. She injects herself with insulin four to six times a day.
It's no secret that Sotomayor has diabetes, but this is the first time she's spoken so openly about managing the chronic condition, the AP reported. Her meeting with the children was part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Children's Congress.