- Created on 11 January 2013
(AP) — Flu is more widespread across the nation, but the number of hard-hit states has declined, health officials said Friday.
Flu season started early this winter, and includes a strain that tends to make people sicker. Health officials have forecast a potentially bad flu season, following last year's unusually mild one.
The latest numbers, however, hint that the flu season may already have peaked in some spots.
Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday Many cases may be mild. The only states without widespread flu are California, Mississippi and Hawaii
The hardest hit states dropped to 24 from 29. Those are states where large numbers of people were treated for flu-like illness.
Those with less activity include Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina in South, the first region hit in the current flu season.
Nationally, 20 children have died from the flu. There is no running tally of adult deaths, but the CDC estimates that the flu kills about 24,000 people in an average year.
Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older. Health officials are still recommending vaccinations, even in areas with widespread flu reports.
Nearly 130 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed this year, and at least 112 million have been used, according to CDC officials.
Vaccine is still available, but supplies may have run low in some locations, health officials say.
Also on Friday, CDC officials said a recent study of more than 1,100 people has concluded the current flu vaccine is 62 percent effective. That's in line with how effective the vaccine has been in other years.
The flu vaccine is reformulated each year, and officials say this year's version is a good match to the viruses going around.
Flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.
Most people with flu have a mild illness. But people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.
- Created on 10 January 2013
About four years ago, I felt exhausted, weak, tired, and moody despite receiving adequate rest. I also had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. I felt like I had run out of fuel. These are just some of the symptoms I was experiencing when my doctor decided to screen me for Vitamin D deficiency, which I had attributed to a busy lifestyle, hormonal changes, and getting older. Surprisingly, I was chronically functioning in a vitamin D deficient state of health.
How are you feeling these days? Are you experiencing any of the above symptoms in addition to decreased energy, depressed mood, weakened immune system, muscle pain, and weak bones?
If so, you may be experiencing varying degrees of vitamin D deficiency. Eighty-five to 90% of patients don't get enough Vitamin D and awareness is on the rise. This is a hot topic in the medical community and it's time to have more conversations about it. It's imperative to spread the word about the importance of this vital supplement as it relates to your life.
Amazingly, vitamin D is the single most important vitamin our bodies need to assist with many functions. It can easily be considered a "wonder vitamin. Unfortunately, many medical providers have received very little training about the health benefits of vitamin D. This means you may not be getting screened adequately for this deficiency and may very well be living in a vitamin D deficient state of health.
Natural and alternative sources of vitamin D
No known fruit, vegetable, grain or nut seems to contain vitamin D naturally. It is, however, found naturally in various foods such as canned tuna, mackerels, salmon, sardines, catfish, herrings, cod liver oil and oysters. Very little is found in eggs. Some manufactured food products such as milk, margarine, some breads, breakfast cereals and orange juice have been fortified with added vitamin D. Additionally, soy products (Tofu and Soy milk) have also been fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements are available from pharmacies and health food stores in varying quantities. It is present in many multivitamins, or may be purchased as an independent supplement.
Vitamin D deficiency and what this means for you?
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may lead to deformed bones, easy fractures, high blood pressure, chronic pain or fatigue, periodontal disease, major depression, and other health problems. In post-menopausal women, this translates into increased risk of osteoporosis (bone weakness). A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can also help control some symptoms of PMS, anxiety, and irritability. Additionally, if you're struggling with your weight, particularly obesity, there's a possibility that you're deficient. Higher blood levels of vitamin D are linked to a leaner body mass.
Evidence is growing that vitamin D may protect against some cancers, particularly breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancers. In fact, over 60 years of research have shown vitamin D supplementation or sunlight-induced vitamin D conversion to be associated with lower incidence of cancers.
What can you do to prevent vitamin D deficiency?
One of the first things you need to do is speak with your primary care provider to determine your risk factors and need for screening at your next visit.
• Doctors will usually test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels.
• Adults ages 19 to 50 require approximately 400 to 600 daily units of vitamin D to maximize bone and muscle health.
• Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes in the sun 3 to 4 times a week.
• If you suspect you are deficient in vitamin D, please talk with your primary care doctor about supplementing with much higher weekly levels of vitamin D.
- Created on 09 January 2013
(AP) — The United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation, due in part to the widespread possession of firearms and the practice of storing them at home in a place that is often unlocked, according to a report released Wednesday by two of the nation's leading health research institutions.
Gun violence is just one of many factors contributing to lower U.S. life expectancy, but the finding took on urgency because the report comes less than a month after the shooting deaths of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents. None of the 16 other countries included in the review came anywhere close to that ratio. Finland was closest to the U.S. ranking with slightly more than two violent deaths per 100,000 residents.
For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages that people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.
The result is that the life expectancy for men in the United States ranked the lowest among the 17 countries reviewed, at 75.6 years, while the life expectancy for U.S. women ranked second lowest at 80.7 years. The countries reviewed included Canada, Japan, Australia and much of Western Europe.
The nation's health disadvantages have economic consequences. They lead to higher costs for consumers and taxpayers as well as a workforce that remains less healthy than that of other high-income countries.
"With lives and dollars at stake, the United States cannot afford to ignore this problem," said the report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.
In attempting to explain why Americans are so unhealthy, the researchers looked at three categories: the nation's health care system, harmful behaviors and social and economic conditions. Researchers noted that the U.S. has a large uninsured population compared to other countries with comparable economies, and more limited access to primary care. And although the income of Americans is higher on average than that of other wealthy countries, the United States also has a higher level of poverty, especially among children.
Researchers said American culture probably plays an important role in the life expectancy rates falling short of other wealthy countries.
"We have a culture in our country that, among many Americans, cherishes personal autonomy and wants to limit intrusion of government and other entities on our personal lives and also wants to encourage free enterprise and the success of business and industry. Some of those forces may act against the ability to achieve optimal health outcomes," said Dr. Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, who served as chairman for the study panel.
The National Rifle Association did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the report, but in the past gun-rights advocates have fought any suggestion that firearms ownership has public health implications, and they have won cuts in the government's budget for such research.
The researchers reviewed an array of studies over the years. They estimated that homicide and suicide together account for about a quarter of the years of life lost for U.S. men compared to those in those peer countries.
Homicide, they noted, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24. The large majority of those homicides involve firearms.
The researchers said there is little evidence that violent acts occur more frequently in the United States than elsewhere. It's the lethality of those attacks that stands out.
"One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home. The statistics are dramatic," the report said.
For example, the United States has the highest rate of firearm ownership among peer countries — 89 civilian-owned firearms for every 100 Americans, and the U.S. is home to about 35 to 50 percent of the world's civilian-owned firearms, the report noted.
Woolf said that researchers had expected that homicide would be an important factor in explaining the health disadvantage that existed in younger adults in the U.S., particularly among young men.
"The size of the health disadvantage was pretty stunning. The fact that our risk of death from homicide is seven times higher and from shootings 20 times higher is pretty dramatic, but I would add that was probably just as important to us was the extent of the health disadvantage in young Americans that had nothing to do with violent injuries."
Woolf cited the statistics regarding premature babies and the high prevalence of illness among teenagers as equally disturbing as the statistics on guns and violence.
- Created on 10 January 2013
(AP) — Illinois residents are being reminded to check on older family members during this flu season and, if needed, to help get them to clinics or a pharmacy to get a flu shot.
The American Association of Retired Persons cites health officials as listing Illinois as one of 41 states reporting widespread flu activity. The advocacy group also notes Illinois health officials have reported six deaths due to flu-related illness so far this season.
In a Wednesday statement, AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo says this year's fast-spreading flu virus presents serious health risks for the elderly. And he encourages older residents to take the time to get vaccinated.
The AARP says that 90 percent of flu-related deaths are of people age 65 and older.
- Created on 03 January 2013
Chatham 14 Theaters will be offering free blood pressure, Hepatitis C and HIV health screenings, as well as screening vouchers for glucose and cholesterol to seniors every first Friday of the month.
The very first screening will be held from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday, January 4, 2013.
Have questions about your medications? Ask the Walgreens pharmacist that will be on site to answer any pharmaceutical questions you may have.
All seniors are welcome.
Chatham 14 Theaters is located at 210 West 87th Street, Chicago, IL 60620 in the Chatham Ridge Mall. For more information call (773) 783-8711.