Is the U.S. Ebola strategy a tragic mistake?

Our protection against Ebola in the U.S. depends on guidelines determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But at least one informed researcher wonders if the CDC has allowed a serious breach in its defense strategy.

Right now, the U.S. healthcare system is trying to cope with the first cases of Ebola to strike an American. Supposedly, we are the best-protected people in the world against this type of epidemic. But scientists who are taking a closer look at the ways in which the CDC is trying to minimize the impact of the disease in North America have raised serious concerns about what’s being done.

A study by Charles Haas, an engineering professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, raises questions about one of the primary defenses against the spread of Ebola: the 21-day isolation period used to quarantine people exposed to the disease.

The World Health Organization reports that in two previous outbreaks of Ebola, people exposed to the illness who did not become sick within 21 days probably wouldn’t have the disease or spread it. But Haas thinks this might not be long enough to protect people from the latest cases.

“Twenty-one days has been regarded as the appropriate quarantine period for holding individuals potentially exposed to Ebola Virus to reduce risk of contagion, but there does not appear to be a systemic discussion of the basis for this period,” warned Haas.

When Haas analyzed Ebola outbreaks in the Congo in 1995 and in West Africa during the past year, he found there’s a 12 percent chance people could still be infected even if they didn’t get sick within 21 days. Therefore, he thinks the CDC should rethink — and probably lengthen — the time people exposed to Ebola should be quarantined.

“While the 21-day quarantine value, currently used, may have arisen from reasonable interpretation of early outbreak data, this work suggests reconsideration is in order and that 21 days might not be sufficiently protective of public health,” Haas says.

A new report by the World Health Organization seems to confirm Haas’ fears.

“Recent studies conducted in West Africa have demonstrated that 95% of confirmed cases have an incubation period in the range of 1 to 21 days; 98% have an incubation period that falls within the 1 to 42 day interval. WHO is therefore confident that detection of no new cases, with active surveillance in place, throughout this 42-day period means that an Ebola outbreak is indeed over,” the WHO report states. It does not identify what happens in the other 2 percent of cases.

One-Fourth Of Your Medical Dollars Disappear Into A Vast Healthcare Bureaucratic Rat Hole

The gibberish that is an overpriced hospital bill would be funny if it didn’t represent the giant waste of money that cripples American healthcare. International research shows that the U.S. squanders more than $1 billion dollars a day on medical bureaucracy, the most in the world.

According to a study coordinated at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the London School of Economics, a full 25 percent of the budget at U.S. hospitals goes for bureaucracy, double what hospitals spend in any other country.

The research shows that administrative costs are lowest (about 12 percent) in Scotland and Canada, where single-payer medical systems fund hospitals in the form of universal, lump-sum budgets, similar to the way U.S. fire departments get their funding.

In the U.S., annual hospital administrative spending now tops $667 per person. In comparison, the same spending comes out to only $158 per person in Canada, $164 in Scotland, $211 in Wales, $225 in England and $325 in the Netherlands. Because of varying methods of accounting, the researchers could not make comparable monetary estimates for Germany or France. But they figure that administrative costs in Germany and France are about 40 percent less than in the U.S.

The analysis pins the U.S. waste of money on two elements of our healthcare system:

  1. We have too many health insurance companies who use different pay scales and require different types of documentations from doctors and hospitals.
  2. In the U.S. system, hospitals have an incentive to maximize profits (nonprofit institutions vie for larger surpluses) to have the money to install new equipment and continually upgrade their facilities.

“We’re squandering $150 billion each year on hospital bureaucracy,” said researcher David Himmelstein, a professor at the CUNY/Hunter College School of Public Health and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “And $300 billion more is wasted each year on insurance companies’ overhead and the paperwork they inflict on doctors.”

The researchers believe that it will take a single-payer, government-run system to bring down these costs.

Researcher Steffie Woolhandler said: “For three decades our policy makers have pushed market-oriented strategies that have turned health care into a business. As a result, Americans now have the world’s costliest health care, and our life expectancy is years shorter than in most other wealthy nations. It’s time to admit that, when it comes to caring for sick people, markets don’t work.”

This Attitude Adjustment Protects Against Alzheimer’s

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

If you are worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease, that fear is justified. This frightening condition can wipe out your personality and memory. But scientists in Finland say you can actually lower your risk by changing your attitude toward your fellow humans.

A study of more than 1,400 seniors showed that those who were the most cynical, distrusting their friends and family to the greatest extent, were most at risk for dementia.

“These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health, says study author Anna-Maija Tolppanen, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. “Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia.”

The research showed that people with high levels of cynical distrust tripled their risk of dementia compared to people who were more trusting.

A Simple Way To Live Longer

Do you have a long-term goal in life? A study at Carleton University in California shows that merely picking the right purpose in life can help you live longer and healthier.

The main lesson of the research is that having a goal, almost no matter what you choose, is a health-booster.

“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” says researcher Patrick Hill. “So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”

Hill and colleague Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center used data from 6,000 people in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study to analyze how having a purpose in life changed longevity. They examined people’s reported purposes in life and factored in other characteristics of their personalities.

The study shows that having a purpose in your life is good for your health at any age.

“To show that purpose predicts longer lives for younger and older adults alike is pretty interesting, and underscores the power of the construct,” Hill says.

Coffee Can Give You Better Eyesight

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

Here’s another reason to drink coffee. Research at Cornell shows that the beverage contains chlorogenic acid, a powerful antioxidant that protects the retina in the eye.

According to the Cornell scientists, coffee consists of 7 percent to 9 percent chlorogenic acid, a natural chemical that may keep your eyesight from deteriorating and prevent blindness from retinal damage, glaucoma, diabetes and aging.

The retina is on the back wall of the eye. It contains millions of cells that receive light and transfers the information to nerve cells. The retina is very metabolically active and consumes plenty of oxygen. That makes it highly vulnerable to oxidative stress.

Coffee’s chlorogenic acid can help prevent potential damage from the by-products of this oxygen consumption.

An Easy Way To Live Five Years Longer

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

An analysis of life expectancy shows that by changing one habit in your daily life, you may be able to increase your life expectancy by five years. And you can start today.

The Australian research shows that all you have to do is turn off the television set. (And no cheating by switching to a computer screen!)

The researchers looked at reported TV viewing time and death compiled in the statistics of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab) and also used Australian national population and mortality figures for 2008 to put together a lifetime risk framework.

AusDiab is a database incorporating facts about the health of 11,000 people that was begun in 1999. The people in the study are older than age 25.

The researchers say their study “suggest(s) that substantial loss of life may be associated with prolonged TV viewing. While we used Australian data, the effects in other industrialized and developing countries are likely to be comparable, given the typically large amounts of time spent watching TV and similarities in disease patterns.”

The scientists estimate that Australians collectively watch almost 10 billion hours of television a year. Americans watch 250 billion hours annually.

Don’t Let Aging Destroy Your Memory

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

Reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is up to you. Research in Finland shows that something you can do twice a week helps protects your brain cells.

All you have to do, according to this study, is go for a long, vigorous walk twice a week to help your brain avoid deteriorating significantly as you age.

The researchers found that increased physical activity is particularly important if you are overweight. Having extra pounds increases your risk of dementia. But you don’t have to be a passive victim. Get moving!

The study also shows that you can start becoming more active at any age. Even if you are already a senior citizen, by exercising more you can still reduce the chance of your memory breaking down.

Do you Have The Personality To Live To Be 100?

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

What’s your outlook on living to be 90 or 100, optimistic or pessimistic? A study of people who have lived that long and beyond say your answer to that question may be a big factor in whether or not you make it to the century mark.

A study of more than 240 seniors, average age 97.6, shows that having a good sense of humor, not taking things too seriously and seeing the sunny side of life makes it more likely you will live longer.

“When I started working with centenarians, I thought we’d find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery,” says researcher Nir Barzilai. “But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up.”

The people who lived the longest were also less neurotic and more conscientious than average.

“Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don’t know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans,” says Barzilai. “Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity.”

Don’t Let Your Belly Shorten Your Life

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

If you’re worried about your waistline, you better do something about it. Researchers at Columbia University have calculated the odds of your bulging belly shortening your life. The frightening conclusion: Your life’s in more serious danger than you know.

“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” says researcher Ryan Masters, Ph.D., who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.”

The researchers calculate that being obese now leads to the premature deaths of one in five Americans.

In the various groups the researchers analyzed, black women ran the greatest risk of dying from obesity or from being overweight: 27 percent. The risk for white women was 21 percent. Obesity in black women is nearly twice the rate of white women.

White men did better: Only 15 percent died because of their bellies. And black men’s risk of dying from being very overweight is only 5 percent. But the researchers say black men don’t die of obesity because their lives are already shortened by tobacco-related illness, violence and other causes.

Live Longer By Avoiding This Deadly Emotion

This story originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

Your feelings can kill you. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that older people enjoy longer life expectancy if they avoid certain emotional relationships and maintain others.

The deadly emotion to avoid is loneliness along with social isolation. Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to this study. It is twice as deadly as obesity.

“Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” says researcher John Cacioppo.

Cacioppo points out that solitude or physical isolation is not deadly if you don’t feel painfully isolated. So an older person living by himself won’t be fatally lonely if he’s socially engaged and has friends he sees frequently. But physical infirmities like being hard of hearing or blind adds to the risk of loneliness and isolation.

Energy Drinks + Alcohol = ‘Wide-Awake Drunkenness’

Energy drinks are supposed to give you more energy. But research shows that these beverages may imperil your health in a wide variety of ways. They are especially risky when you combine them with alcohol.

Scientists find that when you often mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, you are more likely to drink an increased amount of alcohol and develop a drinking problem. A study at the University of Maryland demonstrates that energy drinkers are more likely to start drinking alcohol at a younger age and consume more alcohol at each drinking session.

“We were able to examine if energy drink use was still associated with alcohol dependence, after controlling for risk-taking characteristics. The relationship persisted and the use of energy drinks was found to be associated with an increase in the risk of alcohol dependence,” says researcher Amelia Arria, director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

Arria’s research reinforces the concern that mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to “wide-awake drunkenness.” The caffeine in energy drinks can mask the self-perception of being drunk, but doesn’t reduce your boozy impairment.

Consequently, combining energy drinks with alcohol can make you think you are less drunk than you actually are. The frequent result: You drink even more and drive drunk.

“Caffeine does not antagonize or cancel out the impairment associated with drunkenness — it merely disguises the more obvious markers of that impairment,” says Kathleen Miller, a research scientist from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo.

Take This Simple Step To Fight Heart Disease

Researchers looking at the health of more than 9,000 people who were having blood sugar problems have discovered a simple step you can take to significantly cut your risk of heart problems. Even if you do nothing else, this easy lifestyle change can save your life.

The simple step is to simply take more steps. The study found that if you take an extra 2,000 steps a day (about a half hour of walking) you can shrink your risk of heart disease by about 8 percent. And taking even more steps reduces your chances of heart problems even more.

According to researcher Thomas Yates, “Our results provide novel evidence that changing physical activity levels through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke. Importantly, these benefits are seen regardless of bodyweight status or the starting level of activity. These novel findings provide the strongest evidence yet for the importance of physical activity in high risk populations and will inform diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programs worldwide.”

In this research, scientists analyzed the health of 9,306 people from 40 countries who had impaired glucose tolerance. The people were given pedometers to record how much they walked daily during a one-year period.

Fend Off Stroke With These Foods

A stroke kills an American every four minutes. But researchers in France have found that certain foods can significantly lower your risk of this dangerous killer.

The study of people who suffered an intra-cerebral hemorrhagic stroke, the kind that occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in your brain, showed that not having enough vitamin C in your body makes you more vulnerable to this dangerous development.

The researchers recommend eating more foods like oranges, berries, broccoli, cauliflower and papaya that are good sources of vitamin C.

“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,” says researcher Stéphane Vannier, M.D., with Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France. “More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.”

Vannier notes that vitamin C also helps the body produce collagen, a protein incorporated in bones, skin and tissues.

Drink Up! Look Younger

People spend a fortune on facial creams, special soaps and other treatments designed to improve their appearance as they age. But one of the most effective ways to look younger, researchers say, is to consume foods and beverages that support healthy skin.

A study at Newcastle University in England demonstrates that nutrients in certain foods and beverages can help facial skin cells fight aging.

The most potent of these natural chemicals are antioxidants that support mitochondria (cellular structures that produce energy). Some of the best items for helping mitochondria include:

  • Resveratrol found in red wine.
  • Green tea.
  • Curcumin contained in the spice turmeric.

A significant element of aging is caused by the ultraviolet A (UVA) rays conveyed by sunlight that penetrates the skin. The researchers found that resveratrol protects against 22 percent of UVA damage. Curcumin offers 8 percent protection against UVA.

Do Not Give This To Your Valentine

The ingredients of the typical American meal are not heart-healthy. But one ingredient in particular endangers your heart with every bite. And with Valentine’s Day on Friday, it’s a great time to bring it up.

Every extra teaspoon of sugar you take in increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In particular, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (seven servings or more per week of soft drinks, fruit juice, etc.) significantly threatens your life from a heart-related malady.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), confirms that a daily sugar indulgence puts your heart in serious danger. Too many of us are consuming too much sugar in the form of sweetened soft drinks, cakes, cookies, fruit juices and candy.

The CDC study shows that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7 percent in 1988 to 1994 to 16.8 percent in 1999 to 2004 and decreased to 14.9 percent in 2005 to 2010.

In 2005 to 2010, most adults (71.4 percent) consumed 10 percent or more of their calories from added sugar. An alarming 10 percent of adults consumed 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to fewer than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men.aily for women and 150 calories daily for men.

Don’t Let Stress Make You Sick

Stress at work or at home can make you more vulnerable to infections and illness. But a research review at the Ohio State University College of Medicine points the way to defusing the damaging effects of stress and staying healthy, even when you feel surrounded by chaos.

Studies show that stress can lead to inflammation, which is normally the body’s method for dealing with infectious pathogens. It also can help the body heal when it releases known as proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6).

But too much inflammation damages the body and may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

If you’re angry or depressed, your body may increase its production of proinflammatory cytokines. For instance, a recent analysis shows that when you take care of a spouse with dementia (and face continual stress), you endure a four times larger annual rate of increase in serum interleukin-6 levels compared to people without that kind of responsibility.

The way to offset some of this stress, according to Ohio State review, is to make your diet anti-inflammatory while eliminating toxins from your home and environment:

  • Consume foods higher in omega-3 fatty acids like fish and walnuts. These fats can help improve your mood and soothe your immune system.
  • Don’t use insect spray in your home. These toxins can increase your risk of allergies, asthma and viral infections.
  • Perform moderate exercise. Comforting walks or other activity can help regulate your immune system and improve your emotional outlook.

Stop Mindless Eating, Start Losing Weight

Eating food out of habit, even if you’re not hungry (called “mindless eating”), puts your waistline at risk. So pay attention: There are straightforward steps you can take to control your eating and take off pounds.

Because of poor eating habits, many people eat more than they know, according to researcher Brian Wansink, a marketing professor in Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

But if you can make small, gradual changes to the way you eat, says Wansink, you can take off pounds and keep them off.

“(Our study) results confirm that small, consistent changes in our daily eating behavior can result in gradual weight loss and in developing healthier eating habits,” Wansink argues.

The most effective ways to zap mindless eating include:

  • Clear your kitchen counters of all foods except healthy foods.
  • Don’t eat from food packages. Always dish out portions of food onto a plate.
  • Eat something hot for breakfast within your first waking hour.
  • Graze during the day. Don’t let yourself go more than three or four hours without having a small snack.
  • Put down your knife and fork between bites to slow down your eating.

Can’t Sleep? This Bad Habit May Be To Blame

In a surprising finding, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., have found that millions of insomniacs may be able to blame their inability to sleep on a daily habit that disrupts brain function.

According to these scientists, smoking blocks brain circadian activity that makes it easier to fall asleep at night.

“(Our) study has found a common pathway whereby cigarette smoke impacts both pulmonary and neurophysiological function. Further, the results suggest the possible therapeutic value of targeting this pathway with compounds that could improve both lung and brain functions in smokers,” says researcher Irfan Rahman, Ph.D. “We envisage that our findings will be the basis for future developments in the treatment of those patients who are suffering with tobacco smoke-mediated injuries and diseases.

Rahman and his colleagues found that tobacco smoke affects clock gene expression rhythms in the lungs by producing inflammation and depressed levels of brain activity.

Smoking decreases a molecule known as SIRTUIN1 (SIRT1, an anti-aging molecule) and this reduction alters the level of the clock protein (BMAL1) in both lung and brain tissues

“If you only stick to one New Year’s resolution this year, make it quitting smoking,” warns Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal where the study appeared. “Only Santa Claus has a list longer than that of the ailments caused or worsened by smoking. If you like having a good night’s sleep, then that’s just another reason to never smoke.”

Alter Your Eating To Drop Pounds

When researcher at the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Christian University took a look at how eating behavior affects how much we eat, they made surprising observations. And you can use their findings to slim your waistline.

In their study, the scientists had people eat two different meals in their lab. At the first meal, everyone in the study ate at a slow speed. They were told to imagine that they had no time constraints, take small bites, chew thoroughly, and pause and put the spoon down between bites.

At a second meal catered in the lab, they were instructed to eat quickly and to imagine that they were on deadline. At this meal they took large bites, chewed rapidly, did not pause and never put their silverware down.

The investigators found that people who were “normal” weight consumed a statistically significant reduced number of calories when they ate slowly (88 calories less). Overweight people also ate, on average, 58 fewer calories, but, according to the researchers, this was not statistically significant.

However, both groups felt less hungry after the slow meal.

“In both groups, ratings of hunger were significantly lower at 60 minutes from when the meal began during the slow compared to the fast eating condition,” says researcher Meena Shah. “These results indicate that greater hunger suppression among both groups could be expected from a meal that is consumed more slowly.”

Also, both the normal weight and overweight or obese groups consumed more water during the slow meal. During the fast meal, on average, each person only consumed 9 ounces of water. During the slow meal, they drank about 12 ounces.

“Water consumption was higher during the slow compared to the fast eating condition by 27 percent in the normal weight and 33 percent in the overweight or obese group. The higher water intake during the slow eating condition probably caused stomach distention and may have affected food consumption,” says Shah.

The message for those looking to lose weight: Eat slowly and carry a big glass of water.

Watch Out For The Most Common New Year’s Health Crisis

If you survived Christmas, watch out for New Year’s. Research shows that this is the deadliest time of the year.

The health crisis to stay wary of on New Year’s? Everything. In the U.S., every cause of death spikes on Christmas and New Year’s. You may be tempted to stay in bed for New Year’s, but a study of deaths at this time of year shows that not even hiding under the covers will help you survive.

“We found that every major cause of death shows a Christmas spike and a New Year’s spike even after you correct for seasonal fluctuations in mortality,” researcher David  Phillips told Sarah Jane Tribble of ideastream.

The study shows that deaths from virtually every significant disease peaks on Christmas and New Year’s. The only exception is cancer: Cancer deaths show a slight drop.

One contributing factor may be a tendency not to go seek medical help during holidays.

Phillips tells Tribble: “The patient may be feeling symptoms and may then say, well, I’m going to take care of this after the holiday because I have all my holiday plans and my relatives who are visiting. I’m not going to go in now, I’ll go in after the holiday.”

Another confounding factor is the lack of competent medical help during the holidays. Much of a hospital’s staff is probably home with their families.

Phillips warns: “If you’re feeling symptoms, don’t wait until after the holidays. Go in now.”

Unfortunately, now that we’re in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, your life is already in danger.

This Eating Trick May Slow Aging And Cancer

When the DNA in your cells misbehaves, it can speed up the aging process and lead to cancer. But laboratory research at Brown University shows that a simple eating trick may be able to stop that misbehavior while keeping you younger.

The trick is to simply eat less. When scientists took a close look at what they call “parasitic” strands of DNA, genetic material that can run amok, they found that consuming fewer calories can keep these rogue genes under better control

“As (organisms) age we are seeing deregulation of these elements and they begin to be expressed and increase in copy number in the genome,” says researcher Jill Kreiling. “This may be a very important mechanism in leading to genome instability. A lot of the chronic diseases associated with aging, such as cancer, have been associated with genome instability.”

The researchers found that this aging process apparently takes place in many different species. As animals get older, their parasitic DNA, also called RTEs (retrotransposable elements) becomes more active.

“This brings home the magnitude of the problem,” says John Sedivy, a professor at Brown. “We looked in some pretty major tissues. This appears to be a much more widespread phenomenon. The observation that RTEs become activated with chronological aging of (animal) tissues also brings this research in close alignment with very similar discoveries using the fruit fly Drosophila in the labs of Brown Professors Stephen Helfand and Robert Reenan. The remarkable evolutionary conservation of these fundamental molecular processes indicates that they are likely important aspects of aging. ”

In the laboratory, the RTEs proliferated at a lower rate in animals fed 40 percent fewer calories than those who ate normally. Calorie restriction has been frequently demonstrated to offset many consequences of aging in different animal models.

On the other hand, the researchers found that several RTEs were much more abundant in mouse tissues affected by naturally occurring cancers, such as lymphoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.