Smoking Damage Appears Reversible
Women who quit smoking have a 21 percent lower risk of death from coronary heart disease within five years of smoking their last cigarette, according to new research. The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the harms of smoking are reversible and may decline to the level of nonsmokers, the study authors said. Smoking--which can cause lung cancer and has been linked to heart disease, other cancers, and respiratory diseases--remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million people in industrialized countries will have died because of tobacco use by 2030.
Shop Around for Prescription Drugs
It pays to shop around when it comes to prescription drugs, suggests a new survey published in the June issue of Consumer Reports. Prices may vary by $100 or more for the same medication from store to store, or even within the same store chain. "More people are paying a higher percentage of out-of-pocket expenses for their prescriptions than they did in 2002," Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports magazine, told HealthDay. Consumer Reports called 163 pharmacies to get prices for four prescription drugs. Costco had the cheapest prices, and Walgreens and Rite-Aid were the most expensive.
Screening Men for Osteoporosis
New guidelines, developed by the American College of Physicians, offer advice for how and when to screen men for osteoporosis. Doctors should periodically check older men's osteoporosis risk factors and order a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan for men who are at increased risk and may be candidates for medication. The new guidelines, which are based on a review of previous research, were published in the May 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Men's osteoporosis risk factors include: older age, weight loss, physical inactivity, low body weight, previous fractures not due to substantial trauma, low-calcium diets, and ongoing use of some medications, including corticosteroids like prednisone or drugs sometimes used for prostate cancer.
U.S. News reported on the National Osteoporosis Foundation's inclusion of men in updated guidelines released earlier this year.
A Follow-Up Question on Medical Travel
Is it un-patriotic or un-American to travel overseas for surgery? That's a question explored by On Quality blogger Avery Comarow, who recently wrote a story about medical travel. Comarow asks, "Why should someone with bad hips or a bad heart and no health coverage--the sort of person fueling the foreign-surgery trend--be criticized for seeking care at a perfectly good hospital 10,000 miles away at a quarter or a fifth of the price a U.S. hospital would charge?"
--January W. Payne