Medical Groups Fight Unnecessary Tests
Many common medical tests and procedures are performed even when they aren't necessary, argues a new campaign by several doctors' groups. Nine medical societies representing nearly 375,000 physicians say more health care is not always better, and before ordering a test or prescription, a doctor should ask if the patient really needs it. On Wednesday, the groups released a list of 45 tests and treatments their members should not automatically order. These include: electrocardiograms, CT scans for low back pain, chest X-rays before surgery, and heart imaging stress tests for patients without coronary symptoms. Brain scans for patients who fainted but didn't have seizures are also included, as are antibiotics for mild- to-moderate sinus distress. "We all know there is overuse and waste in the system, so let's have the doctors take responsibility for that and look at the things that are overused," Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine, told the Associated Press. "We're doing this because we think we don't need to ration health care if we get rid of waste." Though the recommendations will be circulated to both consumers and doctors, the medical societies don't have any power of enforcement.
Fight These 4 Causes of Aging
Benjamin Franklin once declared that "we get old too soon and wise too late." Applying a little wisdom, though, may keep you from aging before your time. "Only about 5 to 20 percent of the aging process has to do with our genes," says Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist and best-selling author of numerous books including The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer. "The rest has to do with how we treat our bodies, which determines whether, like a light switch, we turn the good genes on and the bad genes off." His book identifies what he calls "the four horsemen of aging," which are thought to be dangerous processes that age our bodies and are triggered by the foods we eat and the lifestyles we lead. Conquer these four horsemen, Bowden contends, and you can slow down the aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. (An added bonus: looking younger than your peers at your high school reunion.)
1. Free radicals. Similar to the way rust attacks a car, free radicals—chemically unstable molecules—attack our cells and damage our DNA, a process that many experts believe accelerates aging. Free radicals are also known to increase the risk of cancer. You can't, unfortunately, completely avoid these molecules—they're present in the air you breathe—but you can limit your exposure to them, says Bowden, by avoiding things like cigarettes, trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils which have been banned from many foods), excess sun exposure, charred meats, and other sources. Bowden also recommends buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible to limit your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, which also contain the harmful molecules. If you can't afford to go completely organic, try to at least buy the following foods organically: peaches, apples, blueberries, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, spinach, kale, and potatoes. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group found that these "dirty dozen" contain the highest level of chemical residue when compared to other kinds of produce. That being said, fruits and vegetables are also chock full of antioxidants, which are thought to neutralize free radicals, so you should still aim to get five servings a day, organic or not. Those with the highest amount of antioxidants include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, and kale. [Read more: Fight These 4 Causes of Aging.]
14 Heart Numbers Everyone Should Know
A long life free of heart disease does not come just from controlling the standard measures like blood pressure and cholesterol. Sure, keeping tabs on these indicators is essential to gauging your heart's health, but a few other numbers—some surprising—can be meaningful as well.
It's awareness worth having. The American Heart Association (AHA) noted in its annual review for 2011 that while the death rate due to cardiovascular disease in the United States fell between 1996 and 2007, the burden of the disease is still high. One in nearly three deaths was related to heart disease in 2007.
U.S. News consulted with cardiology experts to round up the target numbers you should strive for to keep your ticker in good shape over the long haul.
Alcohol intake. Those fond of tipple may be dismayed, but the science on alcohol as an agent to promote heart health is just not definitive. "If you have heart disease, alcohol plays no role in your medicine cabinet; if [you do] not, alcohol is not the right way to reduce your risk," says Jonathan Whiteson, director of the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program at New York University Langone Medical Center. Some research has suggested that drinking red wine may increase one's HDL, or "good" cholesterol, but Whiteson notes that the boost is minimal. "Exercise [offers] a better increase in HDL," he says.
While he's not against a drink in a social setting, it's certainly not something folks—especially those with heart disease—should engage in with the idea that it will offer a heart benefit, says Whiteson. In fact, medications' effectiveness can be either hampered or heightened by alcohol, sometimes to a dangerous extent. (Common herbal supplements can interact with heart drugs, too). And drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure or increased blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat.
Bottom line: The AHA suggests that otherwise healthy individuals who drink should do so in moderation. That's defined as one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. And be careful with that pour: The AHA defines a drink as one 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounce of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. [Read more: 14 Heart Numbers Everyone Should Know.]