Health Buzz: Allergies May Protect Against Brain Cancer

Best nursing homes: behind the rankings. Plus, a workout plan for seniors.

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Allergies May Lower Brain Cancer Risk

There could be an upside to all that sneezing and wheezing: Allergies may protect against brain cancer, new research suggests. The more allergies a person has, the lower his or her risk of developing a glioma, the most common type of brain tumor, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Gliomas account for more than half of the 22,000 new cases of brain and nervous system cancers diagnosed in the United States each year. Researchers analyzed surveys from more than 10,000 people with and without gliomas; all were asked whether they had doctor-diagnosed allergies and if they took antihistamines. The approximately 400 participants with brain tumors were likeliest to report being allergy-free. The researchers did not, however, specify how much more likely someone without allergies was to develop brain cancer than someone with allergies, CNN reports. Though the reason for the association is unclear, the study authors speculate that an overactive immune system, which causes allergies, increases the chances of warding off cancer.

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  • Best Nursing Homes: Behind the Rankings

    More than 3.2 million Americans will spend at least part of 2011 in one of the nation's 16,000-plus nursing homes, writes U.S. News's health rankings editor Avery Comarow. How can those millions of people and their families find a source of good care? To ease the difficult search, U.S. News ranks and displays data about nearly every U.S. nursing facility and updates the information every quarter. The 2011 Honor Roll lists 18 homes that received perfect ratings for four consecutive quarters.

    The U.S. News rankings rely on data from Nursing Home Compare, a consumer web site run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS sets and enforces standards for all nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. (For government purposes, a nursing home is a Medicare or Medicaid facility that provides 24-hour nursing care and other medical services. We don't rank retirement and assisted-living communities, which aren't part of Medicare or Medicaid and don't offer such services.) The data for Nursing Home Compare come from regular health inspections carried out by state agencies and from the homes themselves. Using that information, CMS assigns an overall ratings of one to five stars to each nursing home, other than a small number too new to have generated meaningful data. Homes are also given one to five stars in how well they do in the health inspections, in providing enough nurses, and providing a high level of quality of care. [Read more: Best Nursing Homes: Behind the Rankings.]

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    • A Workout Plan for Seniors

      If you think you need to slow down as your body starts to age, think again. Seniors who maintain their physical fitness or who start exercising even after years of being sedentary can reap big rewards: less physical frailty, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, and other "signs" of aging, U.S. News reports. To get these payoffs, they should follow exercise guidelines issued by the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association.

      Rx for aerobic exercise: The guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (running, walking, swimming, biking) five days a week. Those who do vigorous workouts that cause a big increase in heart rate and heavy breathing should aim for a minimum of 20 minutes, three days a week.

      Rx for weight training: Two to three workouts per week of all major muscle groups on nonconsecutive days at a weight that allows 10 to 15 repetitions per set are recommended. Muscle-strengthening activities include exercises with free weights, resistance bands, or weight machines as well as sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups. [Read more: A Workout Plan for Seniors.]

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