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First use of 'bionic eye' for macular degeneration
First use of 'bionic eye' for macular degeneration
July 23, 2015

There is new hope for the millions of Americans with macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss.

Action News first told you about this new technology, known as a 'bionic eye', last fall.

Thanks to a new device implanted at Wills Eye Hospital, Fran Fulton of Center City was able to see again for the first time in 15 years.

Fulton has a rare eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa.

But doctors at Royal Manchester Hospital in Manchester, U.K., just implanted the same bionic eye, the Argus II system by Second Sight, in Ray Flynn, who suffers from the more common macular degeneration.

AMD sufferers lose their central vision, so they won't see someone's face when they meet them, can't drive, and have a hard time doing other daily tasks, from cooking to using an ATM.

Here's how Argus II system by Second Sight works: the patient wears special glasses with a camera.

Information picked up with the camera are transmitted to the retinal implant.

Those signals are sent to the brain to interpret.

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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM - Link to this entry  |  Share this entry  |  Print

Becoming a dad? Expect to gain 3 to 5 pounds, study suggests
Becoming a dad? Expect to gain 3 to 5 pounds, study suggests
July 23, 2015

Many men gain a new sense of responsibility and purpose when they become fathers. A new study suggests they also gain 3 to 5 pounds.

The research wasn't designed to prove fatherhood causes weight gain and raises more questions than it answers. But one outside expert, while noting its limitations, said the research is provocative and should spark further study.

Doctors pay attention to the weight gain of mothers - both before and after pregnancy. But the waistline of dads? That's not on most doctors' radar, said Tom Wadden, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.

The study's lead author - Dr. Craig Garfield of Northwestern University - said he could only speculate about what's behind the extra pounds.

"For men who become fathers, their whole life changes," Garfield said. They may sleep less, exercise less, and experience more stress - all of which can lead to weight gain, he said.

It doesn't help that the food selection at home may gradually change to include more things like "making chocolate chip cookies with the kids," said Garfield. A dad himself, Garfield said his weakness is finishing his kids' leftover cheese pizza.

For their work, the researchers looked at results from another study, which tracked the health of adolescents over two decades. The researchers focused on teen boys and young men, comparing weight changes in the 3,400 who became dads and the 6,800 who didn't.

There was a difference.

After becoming a first-time dad, a typical 6-foot-tall man who lives with his child will gain an average of about 4 pounds, the study suggested. A same-sized man who does not live with his child can expect to gain nearly 3 pounds,

But a 6-foot man who does not have children typically loses about 1 pounds over the same time period, researchers found - after making statistical adjustments to iron out the potential influences of age, marriage, and other factors.

The study checked weights of the men at four times over the two decades. The researchers were not able to determine at what point in time dads put on the weight. Most of it could have gone on during the pregnancy, Wadden noted.

The study found men who lived with their children were a little heavier to begin with, on average, and ended up heavier than the absent fathers and the men who didn't have kids.

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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM - Link to this entry  |  Share this entry  |  Print

Losing half a night's sleep affects formation of memories
Losing half a night's sleep affects formation of memories
July 16, 2015

A full night of sleep allows the brain to form memories better and deal with stress more efficiently when compared with only half a night of sleep, according to a new study.

While the study found that half a night of sleep was enough for the brain to form memories, stressful situations following a partial night of sleep revealed an impairment not found in those who sleep a full night.

In the study, researchers taught 15 participants the locations of objects and a finger tapping sequence in the evening. The participants were then given the option to sleep for either 4 hours, a short sleep condition, or 8 hours, a full sleep condition.

The researchers found that after waking up both groups recalled what they'd been taught. After being put through a stressful situation, both groups were still able to reproduce the finger tapping sequence. The short sleep group, however, had trouble recalling the locations of objects after experiencing stress while the full sleep group's performance was unchanged.

"Even though losing half a night of sleep may not impair memory functions under baseline conditions, the addition of acute cognitive stress may be enough to lead to significant impairments, which can possibly be detrimental in real-world scenarios," said Jonathan Cedernaes, a researcher in the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, in a press release. "An important next step will be to investigate how chronic sleep loss and or more chronic stress may interact to impair the ability to retrieve memories that are consolidated during sleep."

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Secondhand Smoke Tied to Raised Stroke Risk in Study
Secondhand Smoke Tied to Raised Stroke Risk in Study
July 16, 2015

New research suggests that exposure to secondhand smoke may increase nonsmokers' risk of stroke by nearly one-third.

"Our findings suggest the possibility for adverse health outcomes such as stroke among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke and add to the body of evidence supporting stricter smoking regulations," said lead author Angela Malek, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 22,000 white and black American adults older than 45. About 23 percent said they were exposed to secondhand smoke in the previous year.

Between April 2003 and March 2012, there were 428 strokes among the study participants. There were 352 ischemic strokes (blockage of blood flow to the brain), 50 bleeding (hemorrhagic) strokes, and 26 strokes of unknown subtype.

After adjusting for other stroke risk factors - such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease - the researchers found that exposure to secondhand smoke was linked to about a 30 percent increase in nonsmokers' risk of stroke.

However, the association seen in the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

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Medicare Plans to Pay Doctors for Counseling on End of Life
Medicare Plans to Pay Doctors for Counseling on End of Life
July 9, 2015

Medicare, the federal program that insures 55 million older and disabled Americans, announced plans on Wednesday to reimburse doctors for conversations with patients about whether and how they would want to be kept alive if they became too sick to speak for themselves.

The proposal would settle a debate that raged before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when Sarah Palin labeled a similar plan as tantamount to setting up "death panels" that could cut off care for the sick. The new plan is expected to be approved and to take effect in January, although it will be open to public comment for 60 days.

Medicare's plan comes as many patients, families and health providers are pushing to give people greater say about how they die - whether that means trying every possible medical option to stay alive or discontinuing life support for those who do not want to be sustained by ventilators and feeding tubes.

"We think that today's proposal supports individuals and families who wish to have the opportunity to discuss advance care planning with their physician and care team," said Dr. Patrick Conway, the chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which administers Medicare. "We think those discussions are an important part of patient- and family-centered care."

Dr. Conway said a final decision on the proposal would be made by Nov. 1. The plan would allow qualified professionals like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as doctors, to be reimbursed for face-to-face meetings with a patient and any relatives or caregivers the patient wants to include. Dr. Conway said the proposal did not limit the number of conversations reimbursed.

"The reality is these conversations, their length can vary based on patients' needs," he said. "Sometimes, they're short conversations - the person has thought about it. Sometimes, they're a much longer conversation. Sometimes, they're a series of conversations."

Major medical organizations endorsed Medicare's proposal. The National Right to Life Committee opposed it on grounds that it could lead to patients' being pressured to forgo treatment.

The reimbursement rate paid under the proposal and other details will be determined after public comments are received, Dr. Conway said. People covered by Medicare account for about 80 percent of deaths each year.

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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM - Link to this entry  |  Share this entry  |  Print

Breakthrough Heart Failure Drug Approved
Breakthrough Heart Failure Drug Approved
July 9, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new drug for heart failure that some say could replace current drugs and procedures used to treat the condition.

On Tuesday, the FDA approved drug company Novartis' Entresto, formally known as LCZ696, for clinical use. In trials, the drug cut deaths or hospitalization from heart disease by 20%.

Novartis developed the drug hoping to replace ACE inhibitors, which are one of the go-tos for heart failure treatment. In a previous trial, an ethics council had requested that Novartis end the trial early since the data showed that trial participants using LCZ696 lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure compared to people using the common ACE inhibitor, enalapril.

Patients swallow two tablets a day, which cost about $12.50 (or $4500 a year). So far, the side effects include low blood pressure and a drop in kidney function, as well as some swelling in the face, but experts, and the FDA, believe the benefits in improving heart function generally outweigh these potential adverse events.

Early reports suggest the drug will be a "blockbuster" on Wall Street.

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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM - Link to this entry  |  Share this entry  |  Print

Surging Food Supply Linked to Global Obesity Epidemic
Surging Food Supply Linked to Global Obesity Epidemic
July 2, 2015

The global obesity epidemic is linked to an oversupply of food available for human consumption, a new study suggests.

There are enough extra calories available to explain the weight gain reported in many countries around the world, the researchers found.

"Much of the increase in available calories over the decades has come from ultra-processed food products, which are highly palatable, relatively inexpensive and widely advertised, making overconsumption of calories very easy," study author Stefanie Vandevijvere, a senior research fellow in global health and food policy at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said in a World Health Organization news release.

These findings suggest government officials need to implement policies that will result in a healthier food supply and reduced rates of obesity.

In conducting the study, researchers examined increases in the global food supply - also called the food energy supply - and the rising rates of obesity. They included information from 69 countries that ranged from high- to low-income.

They compared information from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization database with the average adult body weight from various databases, including the World Health Organization global database on body mass index (BMI) between 1971 and 2010.

Countries' food supplies are estimated by balancing imports, local production and country-wide stocks with exports and agricultural use for livestock as well as farm and distribution waste.

Between 1980 and 2013, the number of overweight men went from 29 percent to 37 percent. During that same time, overweight in women went from 30 percent to 38 percent, the researchers said.

Food energy supply increased in 81 percent of these countries along with body weight. The researchers noted the increase in available calories for consumption was more than enough to explain rising rates of obesity in 65 percent of the countries. Food waste also increased significantly in these regions, the study found.

The study was published June 30 in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Vandevijvere said factors such as increased urbanization, dependence on cars and jobs that don't require any physical activity all contribute to the global obesity epidemic.

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Posted by Ken at 1:43 AM - Link to this entry  |  Share this entry  |  Print

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