Cutting the Fat from Medical Costs

Obesity-related medical costs double earlier findings!

illustration of over weight man on scale with a fat surcharge bill of $2800 per person
The big fat bill for you and businesses

By Dan Bowman

Spending on obesity is worse than we thought. A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that obesity actually accounts for 17 percent of all medical costs annually, as opposed to 9 percent as previously determined last year.

The NBER research, conducted by John Cawley of Cornell University and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University, concluded medical costs in relation to obesity are closer to $170 billion per year than $150 billion due in large part to understated self-reporting and overly cautious research gathering, reports the Associated Press. The new report tries to take both factors into account and adjusts the statistics accordingly via balanced “repeated replications to estimate standard errors,” the study’s authors write.

“The authors tried to better establish that excess weight was a cause for medical costs,” the AP reports. “Previous studies stopped short of saying obesity caused the costs because there was too great a chance other factors could be responsible.”

The researchers compiled statistics from the exact same database used to come up with the $150 billion figure, which included information on 24,000 non-elderly adults gathered from 2000 to 2005. While the earlier estimate determined that obesity added $1,400 to a person’s annual medical bill, the new calculations found that number to be more than $2,800.

Cawley and Meyerhoefer point out that the motivation behind their research is not to push for more funding related to the treatment of obesity, but simply to inform. “This paper does not estimate the medical care cost of obesity in order to argue that treatment of obesity should be prioritized above treatment of other conditions, but so that the medical care consequences of obesity will be more accurately known,” they write.

Read more about: Obesity, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), John Cawley, healthcare costs
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CPR switch: Chest presses first, then give breaths

New guidelines out Monday switch up the steps for CPR, telling rescuers to start with hard, fast chest presses before giving mouth-to-mouth.

new CPR guide posterThe change puts “the simplest step first” for traditional CPR, said Dr. Michael Sayre, co-author of the guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.

In recent years, CPR guidance has been revised to put more emphasis on chest pushes for sudden cardiac arrest. In 2008, the heart group said untrained bystanders or those unwilling to do rescue breaths could do hands-only CPR until paramedics arrive or a defibrillator is used to restore a normal heart beat.

Now, the group says everyone from professionals to bystanders who use standard CPR should begin with chest compressions instead of opening the victim’s airway and breathing into their mouth first.

The change ditches the old ABC training — airway-breathing-compressions. That called for rescuers to give two breaths first, then alternate with 30 presses.

Sayre said that approach took time and delayed chest presses, which keep the blood circulating.

“When the rescuer pushes hard and fast on the victim’s chest, they’re really acting like an artificial heart. That blood carries oxygen that helps keep the organs alive till help arrives,” said Sayre, an emergency doctor at Ohio State University Medical Center.

“Put one hand on top of the other and push really hard,” he said.

Continue reading CPR switch: Chest presses first, then give breaths

Right Food Effectively Protects Against Risk for Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Cognitive Decline, Study Finds

Baby with BIG slice of watermelon
The great taste of health

ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2010) — For the first time, researchers in Sweden have found out what effect multiple, rather than just single, foods with anti-inflammatory effects have on healthy individuals.

The results of a diet study show that bad cholesterol was reduced by 33 per cent, blood lipids by 14 per cent, blood pressure by 8 per cent and a risk marker for blood clots by 26 per cent. A marker of inflammation in the body was also greatly reduced, while memory and cognitive function were improved.

“The results have exceeded our expectations! I would like to claim that there has been no previous study with similar effects on healthy subjects,” says Inger Björck, professor of food-related nutrition at Lund University and head of the University’s Antidiabetic Food Centre. Forty-four healthy, overweight people between the ages of 50 and 75 took part in the diet study. For four weeks they ate foods which are presumed to reduce low-grade inflammation in the body, a condition which in turn triggers metabolic syndrome and thus obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The test diet was high in antioxidants, low-GI foods (i.e. slow release carbohydrates), omega fatty acids, wholegrain products, probiotics and viscous dietary fibre. Examples of foods eaten were oily fish, barley, soy protein, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon, vinegar and a certain type of wholegrain bread. Some of the products in the food portfolio are not yet available in the shops, but were developed specifically for the study.

“Our purpose was to find out which preventive effect can be obtained on established risk markers by combining food concepts with an expected positive impact on inflammation.” Inger Björck believes that the study may have a broader impact on society.

“We hope that these results on healthy subjects will inspire more intense preventive efforts in society.” It is not possible to tell precisely which food factors have greater or lesser impact on the research results. “That’s the point. We believe in the idea of combined effects. Drug or specific products with health claims affect only one or maybe a couple of risk factors. By a combination of food you can in a simple and striking way affect many risk parameters simultaneously,” explains Inger Björck.

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Lund University, via AlphaGalileo.

Watermelon Lowers Blood Pressure!

slice of watermellon
Not just for picnics anymore

ScienceDaily (Oct. 13, 2010) — No matter how you slice it, watermelon has a lot going for it — sweet, low calorie, high fiber, nutrient rich — and now, there’s more. Evidence from a pilot study led by food scientists at The Florida State University suggests that watermelon can be an effective natural weapon against prehypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the exercise value of a “seed spitting contest.”

It is the first investigation of its kind in humans. FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi found that when six grams of the amino acid L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract was administered daily for six weeks, there was improved arterial function and consequently lowered aortic blood pressure in all nine of their prehypertensive subjects (four men and five postmenopausal women, ages 51-57).

“We are the first to document improved aortic hemodynamics in prehypertensive but otherwise healthy middle-aged men and women receiving therapeutic doses of watermelon,” Figueroa said. “These findings suggest that this ‘functional food’ has a vasodilatory effect, and one that may prevent prehypertension from progressing to full-blown hypertension, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

“Given the encouraging evidence generated by this preliminary study, we hope to continue the research and include a much larger group of participants in the next round,” he said.

Why watermelon?

“Watermelon is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure,” Figueroa said.

Once in the body, the L-citrulline is converted into L-arginine. Simply consuming L-arginine as a dietary supplement isn’t an option for many hypertensive adults, said Figueroa, because it can cause nausea, gastrointestinal tract discomfort, and diarrhea. Continue reading Watermelon Lowers Blood Pressure!

Greenwala – Ginger can reduce muscle strain after exercise.

photo of ginger root
Put some ginger in your step

Ginger is Good for What Ales You – Not Just for Tummy Aches
A new study has shown that taking ginger in small amount every day reduces strain on muscles after workout.

Ginger has long been used for nausea, but research has shown that it has other powerful properties, reports the Daily Mail.

In a recent study, American scientists gave one group 2 gm. of raw ginger, another group was given an equal quantity of heat treated ginger, and a third group was given a placebo. All the participants were put through a series of arm exercises.

The results showed that 24 hours after the exercise, pain levels in the raw-eating ginger group were 25% lower than the placebo group. Results for the heat-treated group showed pain levels were 23% lower.

The study indicates that ginger does have pain killing effects.

Source: Journal of Pain, and as reported by ANI/DNA India.

More Simple Tips on Running a Successful Return To Work Program

Back to Work t-shirt logo
.... but gently

Remember the question we often hear is “Okay, we want a successful return to work program, but how is it done?” and we know achieving a proficient return to work program requires EFFORT on the part of the employer beyond placing the injured employee back into his/her previous job with instructions “not to pick up anything heavy.”

Employees benefit from awell-constructed return to work program by:
1.       A reduction in the economic impact on the employee who is receiving a regular salary as opposed to the lower amount received in workers comp indemnity benefits.
2.       A reduction or elimination of the psychological effects of being separated from the work place.
3.       It allows the injured employee to maintain the social network and emotional ties to the work place and remain a part of the work environment. (WCxKit)
4.       A faster recovery from the injury – research has shown. (Inactivity leads to muscle and joint stiffness causing a negative effect on the employee’s ability to recover from the injury).
Overcoming Roadblocks
Some employers run into roadblocks when trying to construct their RTW program. There are valid reasons preventing the employer from providing customized transitional duty. Some of the roadblocks are:

1.     Union contracts

2.     Inability to alter machinery or equipment.

3.     The necessity of the employee being in top physical shape to perform the job.

An approach used by many employers to deal roadblocks to their RTW program is to have an alternative “modified duty off site” program. When the employee’s restrictions or other barriers prevent the employee from working at the job site, placement of the employee at a non-profit charitable organization is an excellent alternative.  The employee remain productive and does not get into the daytime television syndrome. The employer gets a charitable donation for the value of the salary and benefits paid to the injured worker.
Non-profit charitable organizations to consider:
1.       Thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill
2.       Homeless person shelters
3.       Animal shelters
4.       Meals-on-wheels
5.       Food banks
6.       Literacy programs
7.       Senior centers