By Brittany Patterson
Toss those vitamin bottles and instead opt for a well-balanced diet if you’re looking to prevent heart disease or cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new recommendations Monday regarding both multivitamins and certain supplements — and their potential to help prevent heart disease and cancer. The task force “concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms” of the use of multivitamins, vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements to prevent heart disease or cancer.
The task force is, however, recommending against use of beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements. Continue reading
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally.
The bill, SB 1005, would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission, are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status.
It’s not clear how much the new coverage would cost or how the state would fund it.
Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who represents Long Beach and southeast Los Angeles, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference Friday. He said immigrants contribute to the California economy and deserve to have access to health insurance. Continue reading
Clinical pharmacist Diana Arouchanova worked with patient Diana Freedman’s physician to switch one of the medications that helped lower her blood pressure (Heidi de Marco/KHN)
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
Jill Freedman felt like her heart was jumping out of her chest. She knew her blood pressure was too high and feared having a heart attack or a stroke.
“I was freaking out,” said Freedman, 55. “You get very emotional when you think you could drop dead at any moment.”
Her doctor doubled one of her medications, she said, but that only made her feel worse. So Freedman turned to the one person she knew she could count on — her pharmacist.
“We are the most overeducated and underutilized healthcare professional in the U.S.”
“It was Diana who figured out what the problem was,” said Freedman, referring to her longtime pharmacist Diana Arouchanova. “Had she not been on top of what I’m going through, God knows how many more weeks this could have potentially gone on.”
Arouchanova, who owns Clinicare Pharmacy in Northridge, reviewed Freedman’s medications and realized that her problem stemmed from the dangerous combination of two prescriptions. She got the physician to change the medications and started checking Freedman’s blood pressure daily. Soon, it began to drop. Continue reading
(David McNew/Getty Images)
By Danielle Venton
Mark Kohr doesn’t smoke pot. But open his freezer and among the tamales and organic chicken strips, you’ll also find four pounds of cannabis. He plans to process the cannabis, worth about $900, into an oil for his daughter.
Camille, who is 13, has a severe, sometimes fatal, form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Like many kids with Dravet Syndrome, conventional medications didn’t seem to work. Kohr says that the cannabis her parents prepare for her does.
“Here we are with one of the most difficult medical things to treat — seizures,” Kohr says. “And we’re making the medicine at home. Isn’t that the weirdest thing on earth?” Continue reading
Darryl Avery is a transgender man seeking medical care to complete his transition. (Angela Hart/KQED)
By Angela Hart
Among those estimated to enroll in the expansion of Medi-Cal, some of those most likely to benefit are among the most stigmatized in health care — transgender patients. Darryl Avery, 48, is one of them. Avery was born female, but identifies as a man. Several years ago, he began his transition. He moved to San Francisco where he sought medical care, stable housing, culinary schooling, and eventually, sex reassignment surgery.
“I’ve seen so many trans people with mental health problems, they get access to treatment, and it’s like you’ve flipped a light switch on.”
“Where I grew up in New Jersey, there were no resources for me,” Avery said. “I never had anyone I could relate to until I moved here. I was no longer called a freak.”
Avery lives without a steady source of income. Because California is expanding its Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal here, Avery now has access to health insurance. More than one million Californians are newly enrolled as of January 1.
And for people like Avery, who are seeking transgender care and sex-reassignment surgery, it’s a “big deal” says Dawn Harbatkin, Avery’s primary care physician who is also executive director for Lyon Martin Health Services, an LGBT-focused community health clinic on Market Street near San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.
A 12-ounce can of Coke has 9 teaspoons of sugar. (Kansir/Flickr)
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
We’ve written lots lately about the potentially addictive qualities of sugar and the public policy efforts to limit consumption.
Now comes a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, which finds that Americans who consumed the most sugar — about a quarter of their daily calories — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to 7 percent of their total calories.
To translate that into a 2,000-calorie a day diet, the big sugar eaters were consuming 500 calories a day from sugar — that’s 31 teaspoons. Those who tamed their sweet tooth, by contrast, were taking in about 160 calories a day from sugar — or about 10 teaspoons per day.
Unfortunately, most Americans have a sugar habit that is pushing toward the danger zone. Continue reading
KQED News interactive producer Olivia Hubert-Allen gets her flu shot. (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)
State health officials reported Friday that deaths from influenza have reached 147, including four children under age 18. Another 44 deaths are under investigation, but not confirmed.
The total deaths so far this flu season, which started last September, eclipses the number from all of last year — 106.
As health officials have noted all month, the H1N1 strain is circulating — that’s the same strain that led to the pandemic in 2009-2010. Younger adults are at increased risk from H1N1. The theory is that adults over 65 were exposed to H1N1 decades ago and have retained some immunity. Younger adults were (presumably) never exposed so have no natural protection.
Health officials urged all Californians over age 6 months to get a flu shot. This year’s vaccine is well-matched to the circulating strains, health officials say. They urge people who believe they have the flu to contact their doctors immediately and ask about anti-viral medications.
KQED radio’s Stephanie Martin talked to health editor Lisa Aliferis about the flu. Learn more:
Plans are rated with 1-4 stars, with 4 being high. (screenshot from Covered California)
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
Californians shopping for insurance policies through the state’s online marketplace can now compare plans based on customer quality ratings as well as cost.
Covered California assigned star ratings to the health plans based on member survey responses. Each health insurance plan is compared with results of other plans across the western United States. The surveys were taken before the insurance marketplace opened, so they only compare plans that had a track record beforehand.
The ratings cover such topics as access to medical appointments, customer service and the quality of medical care and are from the federal government’s Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems.
Consumers can purchase individual policies through the exchange and many are eligible for financial help paying their premiums. For coverage this year, they have until March 31 to enroll. Continue reading
(Go Interactive Wellness/Flickr)
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
Exercise helps recovery after cancer treatment, but fatigue can make working out hard. Yoga can help reduce fatigue for breast cancer survivors, a study finds. It’s one of a growing number of efforts using randomized controlled trials to see if the ancient practice offers medical benefits.
Women who took a yoga class three hours a week for three months said they experienced 40 percent less fatigue compared to a group of breast cancer survivors who did not do yoga.
“Fatigue is a major and serious problem in survivors,” even years after treatments have ended, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a psychology professor at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, said.
The participants who did yoga also had lower levels of cytokines, which are markers of inflammation, in their blood, Kiecolt-Glaser says. Cytokine levels were reduced up to 20 percent six months after starting yoga. It’s not clear how this may affect their health, she says. Continue reading