Health Buzz: Jalapeño Peppers and Other Health News

Disappointing Vytorin news, women rethinking tattoos, and an alternative to nursing homes

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Jalapeño Peppers Implicated in Salmonella Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that jalapeño peppers distributed since June 30 by Agricola Zaragoza Inc. of McAllen, Texas, have been recalled because of a link to the nationwide salmonella outbreak. A sample of jalapeños tainted with salmonella was found at a packing plant in Texas. The peppers originally came from a farm in Mexico but weren't necessarily contaminated there; they were sold to customers in Georgia and Texas. Last week, federal health officials said that tomatoes—which for weeks had been pulled from restaurants and stores—are now safe to eat. So far, 1,251 people have been sickened during the outbreak; at least 228 were hospitalized.

U.S. News 's Nancy Shute offered advice in June on how to foil salmonella by cooking your tomatoes.

Disappointing Results from Vytorin Study

The cholesterol medication Vytorin doesn't lower the risk of major heart problems, according to a study released yesterday by the drug's manufacturers, Schering-Plough Corp. and Merck & Co. The study of 1,873 people found that Vytorin, a pill that combines the cholesterol-lowering medications Zocor and Zetia, was no better than a placebo at decreasing the odds of major cardiovascular events in people with aortic stenosis (which involves blocked blood flow to the heart). Additionally, the drug didn't meet a secondary goal of improving aortic valve disease events, including surgeries for valve replacement, hospitalization due to heart failure, and death related to cardiac causes. Sales of the once blockbuster drug have slumped since January after a study cast doubt on whether Vytorin was more effective than Zocor alone in lowering cholesterol.

U.S. News's Avery Comarow answered common questions about Vytorin. Deborah Kotz offered the smart take on statins. And Bernadine Healy provided a cardiologists perspective on cholesterol.

Women More Likely to Rethink Tattoos

Women are more likely than men to have tattoos removed, according to a new study. Women, the study authors reported, seem to face more social stigma and negative comments because of their tattoos than men. Previous research showed that more than 80 percent of people with tattoos are happy with their decisions to get them. Among those dissatisfied are about 6 percent who decide to remove the tattoos. The new study, published in the July issue of the Archives of Dermatology surveyed 196 people who went to four dermatology clinics for tattoo removal in 2006. More than half reported getting tattooed between the ages of 16 and 23.

U.S. News's Lindsay Lyon explained in April that tattoos may deposit more than just color underneath the skin—like car paint pigments and lead.

The Alternative to Nursing Homes

Home repairs, meal preparation, transportation for doctor's appointments, and other daily activities can sometimes be too much for a frail senior to handle alone, Emily Brandon reports. Still, pricey nursing homes and assisted living are solutions that few elders want to use. Enter "aging in place" communities: nonprofit associations of seniors who pool their resources to stay safely in their homes longer. Each individual community is unique in pricing and services—which can include home maintenance, transportation, meals, health assistance, and social interaction. The prototype for aging-in-place communities, Beacon Hill Village in Boston, is a member-driven concierge service that provides or negotiates reduced rates on everything from high-end health services like personal trainers and massage therapists to more essential geriatric care managers and home hospice care.

Brandon describes nonprofits that help seniors stay in their homes longer. She also profiles a Massachusetts retirement community that allows people to remain at home while they receive organized support.

—January W. Payne