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Meningitis, West Nile occupy U.S. health officials...

Tonya Snyder, a Mycology Specialist in the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab for patient care examines samples to isolate and identify specimens for growth in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Tonya Snyder, a Mycology Specialist in the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab for patient care examines samples to isolate and identify specimens for growth in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Harrison McClary

NEW YORK | Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:38pm EST

(Reuters) – The year started in the United States with a mild flu season but ended up being marked by deadly outbreaks of fungal meningitis, West Nile virus and Hantavirus.

Tainted steroid medication has been cited as the cause of the meningitis outbreak that killed 39 people.

Weather contributed to the worst outbreak of West Nile virus since 2003 and an unusual outbreak of Hantavirus in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Transmitted by infected mice, Hantavirus is a severe, sometimes fatal syndrome that affects the lungs. West Nile can cause encephalitis or meningitis, infection of the brain and spinal cord or their protective covering.

As of December 11, 5,387 cases of West Nile virus had been reported in 48 states, resulting in 243 deaths, the CDC said in its final 2012 update on the outbreak. The 2003 outbreak left 264 dead from among nearly 10,000 reported cases.

A large number of cases this year occurred in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi where there are large mosquito populations.

CDC and state officials have said that rainfall in the spring and record high summer temperatures contributed to the severity of the outbreak by affecting mosquito populations, which transmit the disease by biting humans and animals.

Health officials said that only a small percentage of cases of West Nile virus are reported because most people have no symptoms and about 20 percent have mild symptoms such as aches and fever. One in 150 people with West Nile virus develop other illnesses such as meningitis and encephalitis.

The biggest outbreak in nearly two decades of Hantavirus, which emerges in dry and dusty environments, cropped up during the summer in 1,200-square-mile (3,100-square-km) Yosemite National Park, killing three of 10 infected visitors.

The National Park issued warnings to 22,000 people who may have been exposed to the rare disease, and 91 Curry Village cabins in the park were closed in late August.

In early September, a 78-year-old judge named Eddie Lovelace was rushed to a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Thought to have had a stroke, he died a few days later.

After a large outbreak of fungal meningitis was linked to tainted steroid injections, Lovelace’s cause of death was revised. He became the first documented death in a meningitis outbreak that has infected 620 people and killed 39 in 19 states.

The New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, was closed after investigators found that it had shipped thousands of fungus-tainted vials of methylprednisolone acetate to medical facilities around the United States. The steroid was typically used to ease back pain.

More than 14,000 people were warned that they may have had an injection of the tainted steroid. Doctors continue to see new cases of spinal infections related to the steroid, and cases of achnoiditis, an inflammation of nerve roots in the spine.

The outbreak led two Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of representatives to introduce legislation to increase government oversight of compounded drugs.

And what lies ahead in 2013?

“While there are some trends we can predict, the most reliable trend is that the next threat will be unpredictable,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden.

(This refile corrects paragraph two to 39 instead of 243)

(Reporting by Adam Kerlin; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

Rebecca Gibney Lillian Muller

Confessions of a fashionista: The big reveal! Our ...

By Daily Mail Reporter

|

My name is Angela Clarke and I write Confessions of a Fashionista. For the last three and a half years I’ve divulged gossip, anecdotes and stories from inside the fashion industry. This is my story…

I knew my days in the fashion industry were numbered when I could no longer wear high heels. I’d been in heels since the age of 14, long before I became interested in fashion and all it’s glitz – I was short, and I genuinely found them more comfortable.

In my late twenties everything changed, just placing my foot inside a stiletto caused spasms of agony. I assumed it was a short-term problem that would get better with rest. I’d been working in fashion for eight years – my arches were so high you could drive a bus under them – I simply couldn’t imagine a life without pumps.

Revealed: Angela Clarke is the lady behind confessions of a fashionista

Revealed: Angela Clarke is the lady behind confessions of a fashionista

To begin with it wasn’t an issue, I styled-out ballet shoes in the office. But soon people began to comment on my flat footwear at social events. It wasn’t their fault, working in fashion conditions you to think (and dress) a certain way. It’s part of your job.

By wearing flats I was failing to fulfil my professional obligations. Instead of getting better with rest, my feet were getting worse. Soon my legs were swelling.

Twisted and swollen, I looked like a knock-off Barbie doll your brother had a go at with a lighter.

The doctors were at a loss as to what was wrong with me, I presented arthritic symptoms, but my blood test results came back negative. I was in chronic pain, my walking became very laboured and I kept getting ill. I’d stand at celeb-filled parties, champagne glass in hand, fantasising about hot baths and my pyjamas.

I felt like I was losing my identity. I was a glamorous fashionista, with a vivid social life and the kind of handbags you see on Net A Porter, how could I be hobbling about like an old lady? My body was rebelling against me working in fashion.

Some other things contributed along the way, and I began to contemplate leaving the career I’d spent my twenties building up. I was head of a department, I had an amazing wardrobe, I owned 219 pairs of shoes, and I was close to many lovely down-to-earth fashionistas and artists. I will always adore fashion, but I knew I had to get out.

I felt like I was losing my identity. I was a glamorous fashionista, with a vivid social life and the kind of handbags you see on Net A Porter, how could I be hobbling about like an old lady?

I started to write. It felt natural. It kept me connected to my past, my present, to who I am. Soon an idea began to take shape. I could write about fashion, not about the latest trends, or what’s on the catwalk, but about the industry.

What it’s really like working in it: the good, the bad and the Botox. For years I’d entertained my non-fashion friends with stories from this weird and wonderful world: women that sniff cake rather than eat it, dogs that fly business class, model strops and the outrageous demands of popstars.

Why couldn’t I entertain others with it?

I didn’t come from a fashion background, I didn’t study at St Martins, or have famous parents who hung out with models or designers.

I was born in Watford, I went to a state comprehensive, I was a 5’4, size 12, glasses-wearing ordinary girl who ended up working in an extraordinary world. Confessions of a Fashionista, was born.

Read all about it: Angela’s novel  reveals even more of her secrets

Some of my pieces have been angry at the industry, and the person I became working in it. Some have been sad, as I mourned my past and what I was leaving behind. Some have been contributed by those still working in fashion, keen to get the truth out. Most, I hope, have been funny.

Fashionistas don’t have a reputation for being amusing. Outsiders have written all the hilarious portrayals of the industry: Absolutely Fabulous, Ugly Betty, and even The Devil Wears Prada. I wanted to prove that you could work in fashion AND have a sense of humour.

As my body deteriorated further, my words got stronger. I got a book deal and I finally left the industry. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with a rare multi-systemic condition called Ehlers Danlos III.

A small percentage of sufferers end up in wheelchairs. Since then I’ve been able to get the help and treatment I need and my condition has stabilised.

I’m revealing my identity because I’m proud of what I’ve achieved: I loved working in fashion, I loved writing the column and I loved writing the book. Working from home allows me to manage my medical condition, and occasionally I’m even able to wear heels again.

I do sometimes have to use a walking stick, but I’ve bought four: all different colours to coordinate with my wardrobe. You can take the girl out of the fashion industry, but you can’t take the fashion industry out of the girl.

Confessions of a Fashionista, by Angela Clarke, is published by Virgin books on 17th January 2013.

Follow Angela on twitter at: @FashConfessions

Catherine Bosley Nigel Hawthorne

Our Health Comes Through Commitment to Others

Above physical factors, health is primarily a byproduct of how we relate to each other.

4195419849_c9fbfe64a8_z615.jpg

kevin dooley/Flickr

Mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. Many of us take this to mean that the soundness of the mind depends on the soundness of the body. But when the Roman poet Juvenal first coined this phrase, almost 2,000 years ago, he seems to have had the opposite in mind: the health of the flesh depends on the excellence of the thinking and feeling part. The purpose of developing virtues such as moderation is not primarily to enable us to lead longer, healthier lives and spend fewer of our days in a state of sickness or discomfort. Instead we aim first to become better people. Goodness is its own reward, and one of the byproducts of goodness is better health.

In the spirit of Juvenal, we should beware the temptation to think too much about the body, especially if it leads us to neglect what he would have called the needs of the soul. Health is not just the absence of disease. Nor is it merely the sum total of a battery of biological metrics, such as our waistlines, blood pressures, serum chemistry values, and an appropriately balanced mix of neurotransmitters. To be sure, it is a good thing when such values are in the normal range, but no amount of attention to getting the numbers right can guarantee the flourishing of mind and character.

3113085753_04d6c5b939_zinset.jpgperpetualplum/Flickr

As everyone is talking of the “holiday spirit,” remember that it means waking up each morning with the conviction that we are on a mission to enrich others’ lives. Isolation, mistrust, resentment, greed, and fear are all bad for us, not primarily because they render us more likely to develop cancer or suffer a heart attack or stroke, but because they undermine our capacity to live. The interests of the body are best served not by designated drivers and rigidly enforced diet plans, but by organizing our days so that each of us brings more humanity into the world. Health is not the most important thing in life. It is primarily a byproduct of the pursuit of the most important things life has to offer.

Health is also not something that we can hoard up for ourselves. Its value is realized not in its accumulation, but in its spending. 

If one day we wake up in full possession of our bodily faculties and feeling our best, our best course of action is not to down a fruit and vegetable puree or go for a jog. Health achieves its fullest expression in connection, trust, gratitude, and a habit of rejoicing in the flourishing of others.

Our Darwinian age tends to see life as a struggle against scarcity to survive, but in fact life for most of us life is characterized less as survival of the fittest than flourishing of the wisest. Health is not just what is happening inside the body of any particular person. Instead it is also what is going on collectively. How aware are we of one another? How committed are we to one another? How much of our hope and ambition for every day is bound up in an ongoing commitment to make a difference in the life of another person?

This is, of course, the essential lesson learned by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A physician might encourage him to take more exercise, to eat a more varied and balanced diet, perhaps to take medications to control his blood pressure or blood sugar. Seeing that he never smiles, we might even suggest that he consider an antidepressant. But all our prescriptions would be for naught, because Scrooge’s disorder is not primarily bodily but spiritual.

Recommended

Unemployed, I Went to Spain, to Walk

Through the opportunity to survey his days from a superhuman perspective, Scrooge learned that his life has been utterly empty and devoid of humanity. The opportunity to follow the Socratic injunction and examine life anew enables him to chart a new course, one centered less on taking for self and more on sharing with others. What Scrooge experiences for the first time in a very long time is the best medicine we have for the human soul. It is not found in a bottle, a pair of jogging shoes, or a juicer. The highest and best medicine, the only one that can truly suffuse and elevate everything else, is joy. Joy is life-affirming, life-restoring, and life-enhancing. Joy, and only joy, brings us truly and fully to life.

Our own health, the health of those around us, and the health of the nation depends less on what policymakers in Washington do or don’t do and more on the choices each of us makes. Do we know that we are here for a reason, that we are called to important work, that the world is beckoning us to share the very best we have to offer? Undue focus on our own health makes us less than we are meant to be.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/our-health-comes-through-commitment-to-others/266586/

Susan George Melanie Griffith

Some cancer docs say their income tied to treatmen...

NEW YORK | Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:16pm EST

(Reuters Health) – A survey of cancer doctors finds that some believe they get paid more when they administer their patients’ chemotherapy and other drugs, raising concerns about conflict of interest and the potential for overtreatment.

Researchers found that oncologists, surgeons and other cancer specialists who get paid based on the number of services they provide were seven times more likely to say their pay increases when they oversee their patients’ chemotherapy treatments, compared to doctors who are paid a flat rate or salary.

“I think there is evidence out there that doctors are very responsive to financial incentives… So I think some patients should realize that doctors who are prescribing chemotherapy may be benefiting financially,” said Dr. Nancy Keating from Boston’s Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the study’s senior author.

According to Keating and her colleagues, who published their study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on Wednesday, some cancer doctors offer chemotherapy and other therapies in their offices.

Indeed, the researchers note, previous studies have found that as much as 65 percent of an oncologist office’s income typically comes from administering treatments. The rest comes from evaluating and managing patients’ cancers.

There are some advantages to patients in getting treatments at their doctors’ offices, such as not having to travel to a hospital, but some observers worry the practice gives doctors incentive to prescribe more chemotherapy or more expensive drugs because they’ll make more money.

In the last decade, the U.S. government tried to reduce the profit margin doctors were able to make by administering chemotherapy to their patients, but Keating told Reuters Health that didn’t solve the problem.

“I think there is some evidence out there that doctors just started prescribing more profitable drugs. So this is still an issue,” she said.

While the study could not determine whether patients received any unnecessary treatments, the researchers wanted to see whether doctors believe their pay is tied to their ability to give patients chemotherapy.

The researchers used a survey from 2005 through mid-2007 of 480 oncologists, who treated patients from across the country.

Overall, most participants said their income would be unaffected by prescribing chemotherapy or other drugs, or by referring patients to other specialists or hospices.

But 27 percent of the doctors said their pay would increase based on how much chemotherapy they administered and 25 percent said they’d get paid more if they administered more growth factors, such as so-called hormonal drugs, that regulate cell growth.

Doctors who were in some way paid based on how many services they provide – known as fee for service – were about seven times more likely to say their incomes would increase if they administered more chemotherapy or growth factors, compared to doctors who got a flat salary.

Doctors who had their own practices or were part of a smaller oncology group were about nine times more likely to say their income would increase if they administered their patients’ chemotherapy, compared to those who worked in a hospital.

“It really is pretty substantial differences. And often, I don’t think people pay that much attention to where their doctor works, but I think it does make a difference,” Keating said.

But Dr. Yu-Ning Wong of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia cautions that the new study only looks at whether the doctors believed their pay would increase if they could administer chemotherapy or other treatments.

“It didn’t say it actually did,” said Wong, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

She also told Reuters Health that she would not want cancer patients thinking they are receiving unnecessary care or treatments based on this study.

Still, Keating and her fellow researchers say, there needs to be a new way to pay doctors “to counter or eliminate these incentives to decrease unnecessary care and ensure that health care resources are used most effectively.”

Until then, Keating said patients should feel free to ask doctors whether they’ll benefit financially from their treatments.

“It’s certainly something I would want to know,” she said. “But I agree it’s not an easy thing to ask, but I do think it’s something to be aware of and I think it’s a fair question to ask.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/gPtMdm Journal of Clinical Oncology, online December 26, 2012.

Gina Hiraizumi Paula Jai Parker

Rates of Childhood Obesity Fall Slightly

Dec. 25, 2012 — New data suggest that we may have turned an important corner in the childhood obesity epidemic.

While rates of obesity and extreme obesity in preschoolers rose from 1998 to 2003, they began to plateau soon thereafter. And childhood obesity rates decreased slightly in 2010.

“We are very encouraged by this data,” says study researcher Heidi M. Blanck, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta. “It’s pretty exciting and a nice turning of the tide. But we have to stay vigilant or it will go in the other direction.”

Researchers looked at data on 27.5 million children aged 2 to 4 from 1998 to 2010. These children were from 30 states and Washington, D.C. Many were eligible for government assistance.

The rate of child obesity rose from 13.05% in 1998 to 15.21% in 2003. But it fell to 14.94% in 2010.

The rate of extreme child obesity declined from 2.22% in 2003 to 2.07% in 2010, the study shows.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What makes the data even more promising is that many of the national initiatives aimed at lowering rates of childhood obesity hadn’t been started or were not at full force during most of the study period, Blanck says.

For example, efforts aimed at making it easier for new moms to breastfeed are just now gaining traction. Breastfeeding has been shown to help prevent obesity. There are also new programs that help people on food stamps purchase healthier foods.

Fighting Obesity With Lifestyle Changes

There’s also a lot that families can do in their own homes to encourage healthy lifestyles. These include getting more physical activity during the day and less screen time. “Walk the family dog together to get exercise,” Blanck says.

Also, get rid of sugary drinks and beverages in the home, and make fruits and vegetables available. “We know that childhood obesity tracks into adulthood, so it’s important to make these changes early and maintain them,” she says.

“The news is definitely encouraging,” says Leslie Lam, MD. He is a doctor at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

William Muinos, MD, says the new findings have not trickled down to his patients yet. He is the associate director of pediatric gastroenterology at Miami Children’s Hospital. “My childhood obesity clinic is growing in leaps and bounds,” he says. “We can do a lot better.”

Shari Barkin, MD, is also not sold on the fact that rates are declining yet. She is a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “I’m heartened because we are holding our own,” she says. “It is good news that we have stabilized, but these current rates, even stabilized, are unacceptable.”

Her advice to families is to aim for 30 minutes a day of physical activity. “More is great, but we should all start here,” she says. “The best way to get preschoolers active is to get the family involved. “Parents are the best teachers.”

And make it fun. “We don’t call it exercise, we call it play.”

Elena Anaya Zooey Deschanel

Boxing Day sales: We round up the deals to help yo...

|

Today shoppers will be racing through the doors as they try to snatch up armfuls of bargains in the Boxing Day sales.

Across the country customers will be ransacking the rails as they seek out slashed prices, but with our handy guide you can seek out the top bargains from the comfort of your living room.

Whether it’s a little treat to beat the post-festive season blues, or a belated Christmas present for a loved one you’ve yet to see, there’s something for everyone.

Gina Hiraizumi Paula Jai Parker

Afghan bombing near U.S. base kills 3

Published: Dec. 26, 2012 at 5:56 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 26 (UPI) – A suicide bomber struck Wednesday outside a U.S. camp in Khost in eastern Afghanistan, killing three people and injuring six more, all Afghans, police said.

Those killed in the attack outside Camp Chapman included a security guard and two delivery truck drivers, CNN reported, quoting provincial police chief Abdul Qayoom Baqizoy. Those injured were civilians.

The blast occurred a minibus was stopped at the gate of the base for security check at the city near the Pakistani border.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, CNN said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the base had been secured.

Camp Chapman is where seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian intelligence official died in a suicide bombing Dec. 30, 2009.

Tonya Harding Michelle Johnson

Doctors save man’s life by using neat alcoho...

  • Ronald, 77, suffering from a life-threatening disturbance to heart rhythm
  • Neat alcohol injected into artery to destroy heart muscle causing the problem
  • Patient was well enough to leave hospital three days later

By Claire Bates

|

Doctors have saved a patient’s life by killing off part of his heart with neat alcohol.

Medics used the rare treatment on Ronald Aldom to induce a controlled heart attack, after they realised they could not safely perform standard procedures on him.

Cardiologist Dr Tom Johnson said his 77-year-old patient would have died without the procedure.

Roland Aldom with his wife Pam

Roland Aldom raises a toast with his wife Pam to the doctors who saved his life

Mr Aldom was suffering from a life-threatening disruption to his heart rhythm called ventricular tachycardia (VT) – which occurred as a result of a previous heart attack.

The team decided to treat Mr Aldom, from Portishead near Bristol, with ‘ethanol ablation’.

The treatment has only been conducted a handful of times in the UK to treat VT, Dr Johnson said.

The procedure involves passing a catheter to the heart from the groin which identifies which part of the heart the dangerous rhythms are coming from.

A tiny balloon is then blown up in the heart artery supplying that area and a small amount of absolute alcohol is injected into the artery to produce a small controlled heart attack.

Roland Aldom from Portishead

Roland was suffering from a life threatening disruption to his heart rhythm

This kills the area of the heart muscle causing the problem allowing the heart’s rhythm to return to normal.

Mr Aldom said he was admitted to hospital after his implantable defibrillator (ICD) gave him a “thunderstorm of shocks”.

Dr Johnson, an interventional cardiologist, said: ‘Mr Aldom presented a couple of months ago with this life-threatening type rhythm disturbance, VT, which was related to the damage done to the heart – the scar associated with his previous heart attack.

‘The defibrillator is there to try and prevent you from dropping dead in the community – they listen out for the heart doing unusual things – if your heart is doing something unusual like going very, very fast, firstly it will try and pace you out of that rhythm – it will try and suppress the activity within the heart.

‘If that fails it will actually illicit a shock of energy across the heart which hopefully straightens things out and puts you back into a normal rhythm.

‘It is potentially a rather difficult thing for a patient to live with because there is that threat that it could go off and actually when it does go off it is like being kicked in the chest.’

Mr Aldom added: ‘I was admitted to the Bristol Heart Institute after what doctors described as a thunderstorm of shocks from my ICD.

‘I had an ICD fitted about ten years ago after I had a double by-pass operation at the hospital. The device gives my heart a shock when the rhythm becomes abnormal; however, I had about 30 shocks and knew there was something wrong.’

Mr Aldom was treated at The Bristol Heart Institute, which is a state-of-the-art centre that opened in 2009

Mr Aldom was treated at The Bristol Heart Institute, which is a state-of-the-art centre that opened in 2009

Dr Johnson said the team of medics tried to treat Mr Aldom’s irregular heartbeat with medication and “electrical ablation” to try and burn away – or kill off – the area of muscle which was generating the irregular heartbeats.

Dr Tom Johnson performed the procedure

Consultant cardiologist Dr Tom Johnson performed the rare procedure

But they were unable to perform the procedures – so treating they decided to treat Mr Aldom with ethanol ablation.

‘The alternative, unfortunately, was that he was going to die from his irregular heart rhythm,’ he said.

Dr Johnson has previously performed the procedure for patients with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick – but this was his first use of the procedure to treat VT.

‘The patient is doing tremendously well and is doing and is much better,’ he said.

‘He wasn’t going to leave hospital unless something was done. There was no other option.’

Mr Aldom added: ‘After the procedure I was out of hospital within about three days.

‘I think it’s wonderful that the doctors tried everything to help me. If they hadn’t have done this I wouldn’t be here now.’

Portia De Rossi Anne Archer

Our Health Comes Through Commitment to Others

Above physical factors, health is primarily a byproduct of how we relate to each other.

4195419849_c9fbfe64a8_z615.jpg

kevin dooley/Flickr

Mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. Many of us take this to mean that the soundness of the mind depends on the soundness of the body. But when the Roman poet Juvenal first coined this phrase, almost 2,000 years ago, he seems to have had the opposite in mind: the health of the flesh depends on the excellence of the thinking and feeling part. The purpose of developing virtues such as moderation is not primarily to enable us to lead longer, healthier lives and spend fewer of our days in a state of sickness or discomfort. Instead we aim first to become better people. Goodness is its own reward, and one of the byproducts of goodness is better health.

In the spirit of Juvenal, we should beware the temptation to think too much about the body, especially if it leads us to neglect what he would have called the needs of the soul. Health is not just the absence of disease. Nor is it merely the sum total of a battery of biological metrics, such as our waistlines, blood pressures, serum chemistry values, and an appropriately balanced mix of neurotransmitters. To be sure, it is a good thing when such values are in the normal range, but no amount of attention to getting the numbers right can guarantee the flourishing of mind and character.

3113085753_04d6c5b939_zinset.jpgperpetualplum/Flickr

As everyone is talking of the “holiday spirit,” remember that it means waking up each morning with the conviction that we are on a mission to enrich others’ lives. Isolation, mistrust, resentment, greed, and fear are all bad for us, not primarily because they render us more likely to develop cancer or suffer a heart attack or stroke, but because they undermine our capacity to live. The interests of the body are best served not by designated drivers and rigidly enforced diet plans, but by organizing our days so that each of us brings more humanity into the world. Health is not the most important thing in life. It is primarily a byproduct of the pursuit of the most important things life has to offer.

Health is also not something that we can hoard up for ourselves. Its value is realized not in its accumulation, but in its spending. 

If one day we wake up in full possession of our bodily faculties and feeling our best, our best course of action is not to down a fruit and vegetable puree or go for a jog. Health achieves its fullest expression in connection, trust, gratitude, and a habit of rejoicing in the flourishing of others.

Our Darwinian age tends to see life as a struggle against scarcity to survive, but in fact life for most of us life is characterized less as survival of the fittest than flourishing of the wisest. Health is not just what is happening inside the body of any particular person. Instead it is also what is going on collectively. How aware are we of one another? How committed are we to one another? How much of our hope and ambition for every day is bound up in an ongoing commitment to make a difference in the life of another person?

This is, of course, the essential lesson learned by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A physician might encourage him to take more exercise, to eat a more varied and balanced diet, perhaps to take medications to control his blood pressure or blood sugar. Seeing that he never smiles, we might even suggest that he consider an antidepressant. But all our prescriptions would be for naught, because Scrooge’s disorder is not primarily bodily but spiritual.

Recommended

Unemployed, I Went to Spain, to Walk

Through the opportunity to survey his days from a superhuman perspective, Scrooge learned that his life has been utterly empty and devoid of humanity. The opportunity to follow the Socratic injunction and examine life anew enables him to chart a new course, one centered less on taking for self and more on sharing with others. What Scrooge experiences for the first time in a very long time is the best medicine we have for the human soul. It is not found in a bottle, a pair of jogging shoes, or a juicer. The highest and best medicine, the only one that can truly suffuse and elevate everything else, is joy. Joy is life-affirming, life-restoring, and life-enhancing. Joy, and only joy, brings us truly and fully to life.

Our own health, the health of those around us, and the health of the nation depends less on what policymakers in Washington do or don’t do and more on the choices each of us makes. Do we know that we are here for a reason, that we are called to important work, that the world is beckoning us to share the very best we have to offer? Undue focus on our own health makes us less than we are meant to be.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/our-health-comes-through-commitment-to-others/266586/

Suzanne Snyder Alek Wek

Government base overtaken in Sudan

Published: Dec. 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM

GOLO, Sudan, Dec. 25 (UPI) – A battle in Central Darfur between Sudanese government and revolutionary troops has resulted in the capture of a government military base in Golo, Sudan.

The Sudan Revolutionary Forces claimed Monday it had captured a major base operated by the Sudanese Armed Forces, leaving the army with only two bases in the area — but independent Radio Dabanga reported Monday local residents witnessed bombings of the area by the military and troop movements into the area.

A spokesman for the Sudan Revolutionary Force said 90 Sudanese Armed Forces soldiers were killed in the battle and the force lost the base and about 15 trucks.

Several of the trucks were equipped with Dushka guns, a type of heavy machine gun, he said.

Romane Bohringer Gisele Bundchen

I Love My DL1961 Emma Legging Jeans

My new DL1961 Emma Legging Jeans arrived today!  I love my dark blue Emma’s that I jumped at the chance of buying them on Ideeli.com.  It was priced at $69.99 and retails for $148!  YAY!

If you haven’t tried DL1961 jeans, try it!  Great stretch without loosing its shape and very flattering!

Laura Dern Malin Akerman

My Grampa Saved Santa’s Life

People get older, and people get tired, but tradition stays with us.

GrampaSanta1 - 615.jpg

[Orci]

Growing up I thought I was special because on Christmas Eve every year Santa Claus would visit my grandparents house in East L.A. The evening would go something like this. I’d open the screechy white metal door to my grandparents house that protected the actual wooden door– and the delicious familiar smells of pozole and frijoles de la olla would give me a great big olfactory hug. Then my abuela and abuelo and all my aunts and uncles and cousins would individually give me a great big hug. Then I’d make a big paper plate of cookies and see how many I could eat without getting trouble. After a few hours, the phone would ring. Only one person would ever call my abuelos’ house on Christmas Eve, and that’s Santa Claus.

“Hello, SANTA!?” Whoever answered the phone would say– loud enough to get the kids to stop chasing each other or showing off any early presents they’d negotiated opening. “Where ARE you!? How DID you find time to CALL!?” My entire family has a penchant for the dramatic. The phone would then be passed around to all the children who were old enough to hold a phone. Santa would have the same conversation with all of them, “How are you? Have you been good?” “I’m flying over China!” That was Santa for you, always flying over China. However formulaic, this conversation made me feel the most special I’d felt all year. We’d chat a little more about the health of his reindeer and how I was doing in school, and then he’d always end the conversation by telling us to go to sleep and that he’d see us soon.

Then we’d all run into my Mom’s old bedroom, piling one on top of one the other on the bed, and pretend to be asleep for about 30 minutes until Santa came. As kids we never cared that this part made no logical sense. This is how it had always been and this was how it always would be.

meritbadgeman.jpg

No one ever slept. Instead, in between excited squeals and the shushing of said squeals, one of the older kids would retell the legend of how grampa saved Santa’s life. The story was different every time. Most of the time the narrative involved wars and trenches but the point of the story was to explain that because abuelo saved Santa’s life, as a token of immense gratitude, Santa came to my grandparents house in East L.A. every year on Christmas Eve. The story was full of plot holes, of course, but before any kid could ask something like, “When was grampa in a war? I thought he was a barber?” Santa’s actual arrival would interrupt the story.

When Santa arrived, he often smelled like my Grampa’s pomade. He was short, about 5’4″, just like my grampa. His white beard contrasted with his brown skin– and when you sat on his lap, his breath didn’t smell like milk or cookies, but Folger’s, my grampa’s brand of coffee. But we suspended our disbelief. Even one year when Santa’s red furry trousers fell down and my abuela shrieked, “Ramon! Your pants!” My cousin rushed to Santa’s aid, holding the back of his pants as one would a bridal train, and Santa merrily waved goodbye out the screechy white metal gate of my grandparents house. No kid suspected a thing.

The toys Santa gave were often unimpressive (one time I got batteries). But it didn’t matter because actually seeing Santa Claus was the best present any kid could get for Christmas. There was something about that fact growing up that comforted me and led me to believe my life was charmed. Going back to school after the holiday break, maybe other kids got the Power Wheels Barbie Jammin’ Jeep I wanted but never got, maybe they got to fly somewhere far away that had snow like Nevada, maybe they got to see Santa at the mall, but no one got to see Santa in their house. Except me. I’d even talked to the real Santa while he flew over China. So by the associative property, I kinda flew over China, too. I always thought I had better Christmases than any of my friends. Until last year.

Two Novembers ago my grampa, now 84, had to have heart surgery. I got so scared that I didn’t visit him in the hospital. When I was little, I thought my grampa was beyond magical — after all, he saved Santa’s life. But when I got a got a picture text from my Mom of a half-conscious old man, thinner than I remember, with tubes coming out of him every which way, I panicked. I didn’t want it to be real. Couldn’t Santa return the favor now? Didn’t he remember the trenches?

It’s funny. Sometimes crisis can turn us back into children.

The surgery was fortunately a success. And I later apologized to my abuelo for not being there for him. He forgave me, saying, “Don’t worry hita, I’m still around, causing trouble.” I cried. It was at my Mom’s birthday dinner. The waitress asked, “How’s the steak?” I couldn’t taste it.

meritbadgeman.jpgMy mother and maternal grandparents in East L.A. in the 1950s. My grandfather is on the far left.

Santa didn’t come last year. There was no phone call, no cramming into my Mom’s old bedroom. No story of how Santa saved my abuelo’s life. Instead my grama passed out bars of chocolate shaped like Santa, his cartoon image printed on foil covering the hollow chocolate. I MAY have been disproportionately upset about the whole thing. “How could this happen?” I asked my grama. “Santa can’t not come!” But the answer of course was obvious. People get older; people get tired. People have heart surgery. People pass on their traditions, and traditions make us feel like were special. Now it’s more up to me than it is to them to keep those traditions alive. Only for a variety of reasons, I’ll never be able to be my 5’4″ Santa with the Folger’s breath.

I’ll be in Pittsburgh with my boyfriend’s family this Christmas Eve, trying to balance tradition with change. I’m trying to figure out if I should go through the trouble of making tamales, if frijoles de la olla and pozole would have crossover appeal to Pittsburg German-Italians. I’m trying to figure out where to put my Santa. Until I can figure out how to bring him around again for Christmas Eve, I will have a story, because stories are as much part of tradition as anything else. It begins, “My grandfather’s not just a barber, he’s also a a great Christmas hero.”

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/my-grampa-saved-santas-life/266516/

Angie Hart Carey Lowell

Little change in overtreatment at doctors’ o...

NEW YORK | Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:22pm EST

(Reuters Health) – Although some Americans are getting more of beneficial treatments that were underused in the past, including drugs for heart disease, others are still being overtested or overtreated for a range of conditions, according to a new study.

Researchers found U.S. doctors’ offices made progress on six of nine “quality indicators” for recommended and underused therapies but only scaled back on two of 11 unnecessary and potentially harmful health services.

Those findings reflect a growing concern over skyrocketing health care costs – and the realization that doctors and hospitals are going to have to find places where services can be scaled back.

“We all know that we need to do something about it, and one component of the high health care costs is the overuse and misuse of therapies and interventions,” said Dr. Amir Qaseem, director of clinical policy at the American College of Physicians.

It’s not about getting rid of services that are too expensive, he told Reuters Health, but evaluating what current tests and treatments may offer little value for certain patients.

For example, two overuse indicators included in the new analysis are screening men age 75 and up for prostate cancer and screening women 75 and older for breast cancer.

“For men who are getting screened over the age of 75, the likely benefit doesn’t happen within a patient’s lifetime,” Qaseem said, because prostate cancer is often very slow-growing. And that’s assuming prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests are beneficial at all.

Regardless of a man’s age, however, the tests can still lead to invasive biopsies that come with side effects such as a risk of incontinence and impotence.

“We really need to start looking at some of these services that may be harmful,” added Qaseem, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

The findings are based on nationally representative studies of adult care in outpatient offices, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data came from 79,083 office visits in 1998-1999 and 102,980 visits in 2008-2009.

During that span, the use of many recommended therapies improved. For example, 28 percent of people with coronary artery disease were given aspirin in 1998-1999, compared to almost 65 percent a decade later.

Likewise, the use of statins more than doubled in those same patients, from 27 percent to 59 percent. In people with diabetes, statin prescriptions increased from 12 percent to 36 percent.

However, there was little change in rates of unnecessary and overused services, including some types of cancer screening for older adults or x-rays and urine tests done as part of a general check-up.

Two of those overuse indicators improved: cervical cancer screening for women over 65 dropped from 3 percent to 2 percent, and unnecessary antibiotic prescribing for asthma flare-ups fell from 22 percent to 7 percent.

On the other hand, rates of prostate cancer screening for older men increased, from between 3 and 4 percent to almost 6 percent, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The lead author on the study from New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Minal Kale, said the set of quality indicators her team used doesn’t necessarily represent all tests and treatments provided in outpatient care.

And she added that the overuse of medical services is a complicated issue.

“Culturally, there’s a lot of resistance to limiting access to health care services because it quickly becomes politicized,” Kale told Reuters Health.

“The question about overuse really needs to come back to quality. It’s about quality of the care that we’re delivering to patients.”

The goal, she said, is to “increase the value and the quality of our health care system while also paying attention to the costs.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/LvmYaB Archives of Internal Medicine, online December 24, 2012.

David Beckham Ann-Maree Biggar

How to cope with holiday blues

Published: Dec. 24, 2012 at 7:16 PM

TORONTO, Dec. 24 (UPI) – It may be the best time of the year for many, but for some, the holidays are the most depressing time of the year, Canadian researchers say.

Colleen Carney, a sleep and depression expert and psychology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, says when people feel down, they often avoid being around others, which increases the likelihood their depression will worsen.

Instead, she says, be sure to be around people this holiday season, but don’t put up with acquaintances, friends or family members who make you feel badly. Instead, limit the amount of time spent with those who tend to have negative attitudes and surround yourself with close friends who can offer you lots of support and understanding.

For those who can’t sleep, Carney says not being able to sleep might be a cue to take better care of yourself.

If an all-day family marathon produces dread and remorse, consider a change — reduce the time spent visiting, reduce expectations, or make an appearance and then leave and do something you enjoy.

Excess food or alcoholic beverages can make a person feel uncomfortable, sluggish, or even guilty, leading to more depression. Caffeine, alcohol and foods that produce an upset stomach or acid reflux/heartburn could interfere with sleep, while alcohol or caffeine could affect mood and sleep patterns as well, Carney says.

Feeling depressed or unable to derive pleasure from activities for more than two weeks might be more than just the holiday blues, so talk to your doctor about whether you are suffering from clinical depression, Carney suggests.

Martina Warren Hugh Grant

Little change in overtreatment at doctors’ o...

NEW YORK | Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:22pm EST

(Reuters Health) – Although some Americans are getting more of beneficial treatments that were underused in the past, including drugs for heart disease, others are still being overtested or overtreated for a range of conditions, according to a new study.

Researchers found U.S. doctors’ offices made progress on six of nine “quality indicators” for recommended and underused therapies but only scaled back on two of 11 unnecessary and potentially harmful health services.

Those findings reflect a growing concern over skyrocketing health care costs – and the realization that doctors and hospitals are going to have to find places where services can be scaled back.

“We all know that we need to do something about it, and one component of the high health care costs is the overuse and misuse of therapies and interventions,” said Dr. Amir Qaseem, director of clinical policy at the American College of Physicians.

It’s not about getting rid of services that are too expensive, he told Reuters Health, but evaluating what current tests and treatments may offer little value for certain patients.

For example, two overuse indicators included in the new analysis are screening men age 75 and up for prostate cancer and screening women 75 and older for breast cancer.

“For men who are getting screened over the age of 75, the likely benefit doesn’t happen within a patient’s lifetime,” Qaseem said, because prostate cancer is often very slow-growing. And that’s assuming prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests are beneficial at all.

Regardless of a man’s age, however, the tests can still lead to invasive biopsies that come with side effects such as a risk of incontinence and impotence.

“We really need to start looking at some of these services that may be harmful,” added Qaseem, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

The findings are based on nationally representative studies of adult care in outpatient offices, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data came from 79,083 office visits in 1998-1999 and 102,980 visits in 2008-2009.

During that span, the use of many recommended therapies improved. For example, 28 percent of people with coronary artery disease were given aspirin in 1998-1999, compared to almost 65 percent a decade later.

Likewise, the use of statins more than doubled in those same patients, from 27 percent to 59 percent. In people with diabetes, statin prescriptions increased from 12 percent to 36 percent.

However, there was little change in rates of unnecessary and overused services, including some types of cancer screening for older adults or x-rays and urine tests done as part of a general check-up.

Two of those overuse indicators improved: cervical cancer screening for women over 65 dropped from 3 percent to 2 percent, and unnecessary antibiotic prescribing for asthma flare-ups fell from 22 percent to 7 percent.

On the other hand, rates of prostate cancer screening for older men increased, from between 3 and 4 percent to almost 6 percent, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The lead author on the study from New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Minal Kale, said the set of quality indicators her team used doesn’t necessarily represent all tests and treatments provided in outpatient care.

And she added that the overuse of medical services is a complicated issue.

“Culturally, there’s a lot of resistance to limiting access to health care services because it quickly becomes politicized,” Kale told Reuters Health.

“The question about overuse really needs to come back to quality. It’s about quality of the care that we’re delivering to patients.”

The goal, she said, is to “increase the value and the quality of our health care system while also paying attention to the costs.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/LvmYaB Archives of Internal Medicine, online December 24, 2012.

Famke Janssen Thora Birch

I Love My DL1961 Emma Legging Jeans

My new DL1961 Emma Legging Jeans arrived today!  I love my dark blue Emma’s that I jumped at the chance of buying them on Ideeli.com.  It was priced at $69.99 and retails for $148!  YAY!

If you haven’t tried DL1961 jeans, try it!  Great stretch without loosing its shape and very flattering!

Josie Bissett Holly Combs

Gwyneth Paltrow reveals how to copy her ‘sex...

By Lucy Waterlow

|

With an indie musician for a husband, Gwyneth Paltrow knows something about how to work a rock chick look. Now she’s sharing her secrets in a new campaign for Max Factor.

To achieve the look with the help of make-up artist Mel Arter, the actress wore dark eyeshadow with black kohl pencil eyeliner and ‘false lash effect’ mascara, all from the brand’s range.

She teamed the smokey eye look with messy hair and a pink sequin mini dress to complete her transformation into a rock chick.

Smouldering: Gwyneth Paltrow's smokey eye look is achieved using dark eye shadow, eye liner and false lash effect mascara from Max Factor

Smouldering: Gwyneth Paltrow’s smokey eye look is achieved using dark eye shadow, eye liner and false lash effect mascara from Max Factor

Behind the scenes on the shoot, which you can view a video of below, Gwyneth said: ‘It’s how I would do punk rock, it’s free, it’s sexy and it’s expressive.’

The mother-of-two, who is married to Coldplay front man Chris Martin, was hired to be the face of Max Factor because of her ‘natural beauty, but also her chameleon style and ability to carry off diverse and arresting glamour statements,’ according to a spokesman for the brand.

Rocking out: The actress said the punk look, complete with tousled hair and a sequin mini dress, makes her feel ‘free, sexy and expressive’

They added: ‘With many different roles to play in her everyday life, Gywneth epitomises the modern day multi-tasking woman.

‘She was the perfect person to inspire the Max Factor network to create stunning looks, which will in turn act as inspiration for women everywhere to find their own personal glamour statements.’

Gwyneth’s life has inspired Max Factor to create seven different make-up styles that women can copy at home.

How to get the rock chick look is explained by Arter in the video below. She said the style is easy to replicate because you need minimal products and time to achieve it.

Glamorous: Gwyneth shows off her slim pins as she talks about her look in a behind the scenes video you can view below

Glamorous: Gwyneth shows off her slim pins as she talks about her look in a behind the scenes video you can view below

The writer: In her previous persona for the campaign, the actress had a more natural look

The writer: In her previous persona for the campaign, the actress had a more natural look

Previously, Gwyneth’s look as ‘the writer’ for revealed for the campaign – inspired by her work as founder and contributor to her lifestyle website Goop and as the author of a cookbook released last year.

Unlike the rock chick look which includes heavy eye make-up, for the writer persona she has simple eyeliner, mascara and a hint of blusher for a more natural day-to-day style.

Gwyneth said ‘the writer’ persona was ‘me going into town for a lunch or into London for a meeting or going to a friend’s house for dinner. Or me when I’m most myself, doing something creative, having a look that says, confidence, creativity but still very much who I am.’

See how to get Gwyneth’s rock chick look by watching the video below…

 

Helena Christensen Diane Lane

9/11 responders may have higher risk of some cance...

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Rescue and recovery workers who provided aid after the World Trade Center attacks may have an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate and thyroid cancers, a new study suggests.

However, that finding was based on a relatively small number of cancers. And neither relief workers nor people who lived, worked or went to school near the towers had a higher-than-average chance of being diagnosed with all cancers combined up to seven years later.

“There’s a lot of interest in the question of, does exposure to the World Trade Center cause cancer?” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City Health Commissioner.

In part, that interest has been driven by a debate on whose health care should be covered by the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act – set up to care for World Trade Center victims – and what conditions should be included.

Based on this study, Farley said the role of the attacks on cancer risk is “complicated.”

“Most of the people who have had cancer so far would have had it anyway,” Farley told Reuters Health.

But because cancer can take 20 or more years to develop, the true risks may not become clear for many years, he added.

Researchers have predicted that exposure to dust, smoke and other chemicals after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks may have put people who were nearby or involved in the clean-up efforts at risk of some diseases, including cancer.

To see how those workers and residents had fared through 2008, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tracked 55,778 enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. That included 21,850 people involved in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Using state cancer records, the research team, led by Jiehui Li, recorded any new diagnoses among those groups and compared their chance of cancer to data from all of New York State during the same time period.

In total, there were 1,187 new cancers among everyone in the health registry. The overall rates for both rescue workers and residents were similar to the rate of cancer diagnoses across the state.

Out of 23 types of cancer the researchers examined, three cancers were more common in rescue and recovery workers during the last two years of the study: prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma – cancer of the bone marrow cells.

Aid workers were between 1.4 and 2.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with one of those cancers in 2007 or 2008 than other New Yorkers, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That was based on 67 prostate cancers, 13 thyroid cancers and seven myelomas among responders.

TIME WILL TELL

Dr. Jacqueline Moline from North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, New York, said studies have consistently shown a higher rate of thyroid cancer in responders – but it’s unclear why rescue workers would also be at increased risk of prostate cancer.

Farley said it could be that people who were exposed have had better health care in recent years, so they’ve been checked for prostate and thyroid cancer more often.

“It may be that these would be cancers that would never have been picked up” had workers not been screened, he said.

Moline, who has studied cancer in World Trade Center responders but wasn’t involved in the new report, also noted that seven years isn’t a very long time to track the growth of solid tumors.

“I think as times goes on we are going to see increased rates of cancer in those who were exposed, at higher rates than we would expect if they weren’t exposed,” she told Reuters Health.

Researchers should especially be on the lookout for whether certain cancers show up earlier than usual, or in unexpected populations – for example if lots of non-smokers are diagnosed with lung cancer, Moline said.

“We don’t have a really good handle on what happens when people are exposed to a complex mixture of carcinogens,” she added.

“I think we’re not going to get a full answer for many years.”

That’s a concern, Moline said, because the Zadroga Act only provides health monitoring and care for people affected by the attacks through 2016 – before some related cancers may have even been diagnosed.

Farley said the major health risks linked to the World Trade Center attacks so far have been breathing problems such as asthma and mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder. But he said he and his colleagues will continue to monitor cancer in relief workers and residents.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/JjFzqx Journal of the American Medical Association, online December 18, 2012.

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