Report Finds Healthcare Spending Grows, but More Slowly
A government report released today indicates that in 2008, the recession slowed U.S. healthcare spending to its smallest annual increase on record, Reuters reports. Analysts from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that while the year's healthcare spending totaled $2.3 trillion, it grew at a rate of 4.4 percent, less than the 6 percent growth seen in 2007, according to Reuters. Federal spending on healthcare also increased as the government funneled funds into the Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs. Medicare spending rose faster in 2008 than in the previous year, reaching $469.2 billion, while Medicaid spending grew at a slower rate than in 2007.
When, if Ever, Is Colon Cleansing a Good Idea?
A hundred years ago, it was felt that a daily bowel movement was important to good health. Prolonged retention of stool in the colon was thought to release toxins into the body and possibly be associated with colon cancer and other maladies. This was a driving force leading to the establishment of the breakfast cereal industry, writes Bryan Arling, an internal medicine physician and U.S. News health advice expert.
We now recognize that there is little difference in health between individuals who have three bowel movements a day and those who have one bowel movement every three days—though we still do believe that adding fiber to the diet decreases the risk of constipation and helps to lower cholesterol. Actual cleansing of the bowel is only necessary to prepare for diagnostic procedures, including colonoscopy or elective surgical procedures on the intestinal tract, Arling writes. Bulk electrolyte mixtures such as MiraLax can be taken in small quantities to keep bowels regular or in larger quantities to provide watery diarrhea, removing the vast majority of fecal material in the colon. Read more.
Extending Longevity—This Time, of Body Parts
More than half of babies born today in the developed world will live to see 100, according to a review published in October in The Lancet. While life expectancies are rising, our bodies were not designed for such a long haul, and current solutions to address that wear and tear have their drawbacks, U.S. News contributor Thomas Grose writes.
Bioengineers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, however, have a plan to make 100 the new 50: They've launched an $82 million project to develop and quickly bring to market new therapies—mainly implants—that would replace the body parts most likely to falter or fail, without the problems of current replacements. "We're not extending life, just enhancing the quality of life," explains John Fisher, director of the university's Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. The project's key innovation, already being tested in humans in a clinical trial in Brazil, is a heart valve bio-scaffold invented by immunologist Eileen Ingham. Read more.
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