1 in 10 Americans Has Experienced Ringing in the Ears

1 in 10 Americans Has Experienced Ringing in the Ears


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News Picture: 1 in 10 Americans Has Experienced Ringing in the EarsBy Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — One in 10 Americans has experienced ringing in the ears, a condition called tinnitus, and that is likely the result of prolonged exposure to loud noises, new research suggests.

Of those who were struck by tinnitus, only 36 percent said they had it constantly, however.

Tinnitus is characterized by hearing sounds when there are none. The sounds can be perceived as ringing, buzzing, crickets or hissing. For those who struggle with it on a daily basis, the noise is so bothersome that it interferes with thinking, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration, the researchers said.

In the study, “durations of occupational and leisure-time noise exposures correlated with rates of tinnitus and, accordingly, there are likely correctable risk factors that can be addressed in the workplace and at home,” said lead researcher Dr. Harrison Lin. He is an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of California, Irvine.

But guidelines for treating tinnitus are rarely followed, and “consequently there is considerable room for improvement in the care provided by health care professionals for patients with chronic, bothersome tinnitus,” Lin added.

“Noise exposures at work and at home seem to correlate with the prevalence of chronic tinnitus, and accordingly these noise exposures should be addressed and minimized,” he said. But the study did not prove that such exposure caused the condition.

Doctors can also get better at evaluating and treating patients with chronic tinnitus by “recommending audiological evaluations, sound and hearing aid therapies, and psychological interventions,” Lin said.

For the study, Lin and his colleagues evaluated data on nearly 76,000 adults who took part in the 2007 National Health Interview Survey.

Using that sample to estimate the prevalence of tinnitus in the entire U.S. population, the researchers estimated that nearly 10 percent of adults suffer from tinnitus.

Among those with tinnitus, 27 percent had symptoms for more than 15 years, and 36 percent had nearly constant symptoms, the researchers found. Fifteen percent had symptoms at least once a day, while over 14 percent had symptoms at least once a week. The rest had symptoms less than weekly.

Tinnitus was most common among those with consistent exposure to loud noises at work and during leisure time.

About 7 percent said tinnitus was a “big or a very big problem,” compared with 42 percent who said it was a “small problem.”

About 49 percent had discussed tinnitus with a doctor, and about 45 percent discussed medications with a doctor.

Other treatments weren’t discussed as often: hearing aids (9 percent), wearable (3 percent) and nonwearable (2 percent) masking devices, and cognitive behavioral therapy (less than 1 percent), the researchers found.

The report was published online July 21 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head Neck Surgery.

One expert thinks tinnitus is even more common than this study reports.

“Usually we estimate 10 to 15 percent of adults have tinnitus, some studies show it’s as high as 30 percent,” said James Henry, a research career scientist at the U.S. National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the VA Medical Center in Portland, Ore.

In addition to noise, tinnitus can be caused by drugs that can damage hearing, such as chemotherapy and certain antibiotics, said Henry, who is also a spokesman for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

“There is no cure,” he said. “There is no proven way to reduce the loudness of tinnitus or eliminate tinnitus.” The only recommended treatments for tinnitus are hearing aids or cognitive behavioral therapy. “That’s it,” he said.

Although many so-called remedies claim to cure tinnitus, there is no evidence that nutritional supplements, vitamins or other medications work, Henry added.

Some people ignore their tinnitus, but about 20 percent of people have severe enough tinnitus to need some help, he said.

“There are ways to learn to live with it,” Henry said. “Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help you cope with tinnitus.”

If you have tinnitus, you should get your hearing tested, because 90 percent of people with tinnitus have hearing loss, he said.

In addition, sound therapy may help. Sound therapy masks the tinnitus by adding sound to your hearing environment, he said.

“A smartphone is an excellent way to provide sound therapy,” Henry said, “You can access all different sounds on the internet, you can download music — anything you want to listen to through your earphones. That’s a very inexpensive way of providing sound therapy.”

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Harrison Lin, M.D., assistant professor, department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, University of California, Irvine; James Henry, Ph.D., research career scientist, U.S. National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, VA Medical Center, Portland, Ore., and spokesman, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; July 21, 2016, JAMA Otolaryngology-Head Neck Surgery, online

Omega-3s in Fish Tied to Better Colon Cancer Outcomes

Omega-3s in Fish Tied to Better Colon Cancer Outcomes


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News Picture: Omega-3s in Fish Tied to Better Colon Cancer Outcomes

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Colon cancer patients who take in higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, mainly from oily fish, may have better odds of survival, a new study finds.

The study of almost 1,700 American adults with colon cancer was observational, meaning that it can’t prove cause-and-effect. But it did seem to find a benefit from the healthy nutrient.

One colon cancer expert who reviewed the new findings wasn’t surprised.

“We have long suspected the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation,” said Dr. Jules Garbus, a colorectal surgeon at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. “This study begins to show a correlation between ‘healthy living‘ and reducing death from colorectal cancer.”

In the study, a team led by Dr. Andrew Chan, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, tracked data on 1,659 people diagnosed with colon cancer. During an average follow-up of about 10 years, 561 of the patients died, the researchers reported.

Colon cancer was the cause of death in 169 cases, while other major causes of death included heart disease (153 cases) and other types of cancer (113 cases), the findings showed.

However, patients who consumed at least 0.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish per day after their colon cancer diagnosis were 41 percent less likely to die of the disease than those who consumed less than 0.1 gram per day, Chan’s team said.

The reduced risk was associated with omega-3 from both food and fish oil supplements, but few of the patients used supplements, the researchers noted.

The link between marine omega-3 and lower risk of death from colon cancer was particularly strong for patients who were taller, relatively thin, and did not take aspirin regularly, according to the report.

The study also found that boosting intake of omega-3 by at least 0.15 grams per day after a colon cancer diagnosis was associated with a 70 percent lower risk of dying from the disease, while a reduction in daily intake was associated with a 10 percent higher risk of death from the disease.

The risk of death from all causes was also 13 percent lower in those who increased their intake of omega-3, but 21 percent higher among those who decreased their intake, the researchers said.

One other colon cancer expert stressed that more data is needed to confirm these results.

Dr. Arun Swaminath explained that the study’s data on omega-3 intake came from “food frequency questionnaires,” and these types of studies “have significant weaknesses to the point that some have questioned whether they should be abandoned altogether.” Swaminath directs the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Similar studies into fish oil and heart health initially spurred enthusiasm about the nutrient until subsequent, more rigorous research “punctured the idea that fish oil was good medicine for heart patients,” he said.

“It’s not clear if [Chan’s study] falls into the same trap as previous studies that found similar associations, but didn’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny,” Swaminath said.

However, “if this association does turn out to be true, then it will be great for patients,” he said. “And I see little downside [other than out-of-pocket costs] to adopting this strategy.”

The study was published online July 19 in the journal Gut.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Jules Garbus, M.D., colorectal surgeon, Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.; Arun Swaminath, M.D., director, inflammatory bowel disease program, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Gut, news release, July 19, 2016

Health Tip: Help Your Underweight Child Gain Safely

Health Tip: Help Your Underweight Child Gain Safely


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(HealthDay News) — If your kids are underweight, it doesn’t mean you should fill them with junk food to put on extra pounds.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends:

  • Serving guacamole made with fresh avocados, tomato and onions. Or add avocados to a sweet fruit smoothie made with nut butters, seeds, fruit and full-fat yogurt.
  • Making trail mix or granola with dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds and full-fat yogurt.
  • Creating a dip made with beans or hummus from chickpeas.

Don’t let your child fill up on drinks before mealtime, so the child will be hungry enough to eat nutritious food.

— Diana Kohnle

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Cancer Experts Criticize Report on Rising Prostate Cancer Numbers

Cancer Experts Criticize Report on Rising Prostate Cancer Numbers


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News Picture: Cancer Experts Criticize Report on Rising Prostate Cancer NumbersBy Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A headline-grabbing report earlier this week claimed that new cases of advanced prostate cancer in the United States had skyrocketed 72 percent in the past decade.

And the study authors from Northwestern University suggested the increase might be tied to a 2012 recommendation that men not be screened for prostate cancer by using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA, a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland, is often elevated in men with prostate cancer. However, the validity and usefulness of the PSA test has been debated for years.

But on Wednesday, the American Cancer Society challenged the validity of the Northwestern researchers’ findings.

Dr. Otis Brawley, the society’s chief medical officer, said the methodology used by the Northwestern researchers was flawed, thereby making the study’s conclusions flawed.

“This study makes a dramatic claim about an issue all of us have been watching eagerly: namely, whether less PSA screening might lead to more advanced cancers. But the current analysis is far from adequate to answer that question sufficiently,” Brawley said in a news release.

According to Brawley, the usual way such studies are done is to look at the rate of cases. “But this study, done by a group of urologists, didn’t do that. Rather than measure rates of metastatic disease, they looked at the number of cases. That is far from the same thing,” he explained.

Brawley added that “you can’t simply look at raw numbers. A rising number of cases can be due simply to a growing and aging population among other factors.”

In addition, the increase in advanced prostate cancer cases began before the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force 2012 recommendation that men not be screened using the PSA test.

“There may or may not be a rise in the rates of metastatic disease; but because of a flawed analysis, this study does not answer that important question,” Brawley said.

The study in question was published July 19 in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases. It said the biggest increase in prostate cancer diagnoses was among men aged 55 to 69, with a 92 percent jump seen over 10 years.

“The increase could be because the disease is becoming more aggressive, or it could be because there is less screening being done, but we don’t know why,” lead researcher Dr. Edward Schaeffer said earlier this week. He is chair of urology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

It’s possible that prostate cancer may be getting more aggressive, Schaeffer said, but statistics also show that fewer men are being screened. That’s the probable consequence of the 2012 recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the study authors suggested.

“My major issue with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation was it completely excluded the patient from the decision-making process,” Schaeffer said. “PSA screening saves lives, period.”

However, since advanced cancer cases began increasing before the 2012 change in the screening recommendation, the Northwestern researchers couldn’t definitively link the increase in cases to reduced screening alone, Schaeffer said.

Dr. Anthony D’Amico is chief of radiation oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He said it’s too early to tell whether less PSA screening has increased the rate of advanced prostate cancer.

“We won’t have the answer to that question until at least 2019,” he said.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men “make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. The decision should be made after getting information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening.” The discussion about screening should take place at:

  • Age 50 for men at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).

After these discussions have taken place, men who still want to be screened should get the PSA blood test. The digital rectal exam may also be used as a part of the screening, the cancer society says.

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: July 20, 2016, news release, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; American Cancer Society website; Edward Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., chair, urology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Anthony D’Amico, M.D., Ph.D., chief, radiation oncology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; July 19, 2016, Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases

Coming to a Brew Near You: Calorie Counts, Carbs Info

Coming to a Brew Near You: Calorie Counts, Carbs Info


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THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Calorie counts and carbs might be the last thing on your mind as you tip back a cold beer on a steamy summer evening. But that information and more will soon be easy to find, thanks to a new coalition of U.S. beer makers and importers.

The coalition has developed a voluntary labeling program to detail what’s in its beers, a Beer Institute news release said.

Beer labels will provide calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol-by-volume or alcohol-by-weight information. All ingredients will be disclosed on the label, either on a list of ingredients, a smartphone QR code, or on a website. Beer labels or containers will also clearly display a freshness date or date of production.

All of the major breweries have agreed to be a part of the coalition. These companies include: Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken USA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries and Craft Brew Alliance. These brands account for more than 81 percent of volume of beer sold in the United States, the Beer Institute said.

Consumers will likely start seeing these labels in the near future. Participating companies are urged to have their product lines in compliance with the new guidelines by the end of 2020.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Beer Institute, news release

Did Your Gut Bacteria Evolve Over Millions of Years?

Did Your Gut Bacteria Evolve Over Millions of Years?


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News Picture: Did Your Gut Bacteria Evolve Over Millions of Years?

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Some human gut bacteria may have existed for millions of years — since before the evolution of people, scientists report.

Their findings suggest evolution has had a greater impact on human gut bacteria than previously known, said study co-leader Howard Ochman, a professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s surprising that our gut microbes, which we could get from many sources in the environment, have actually been co-evolving inside us for such a long time,” Ochman said in a university news release.

The researchers analyzed the genes of three groups of gut bacteria. These bacteria play a role in intestinal development, train the immune system to fight dangerous germs, and may also affect mood and behavior, the study authors said.

The three groups of gut bacteria reportedly account for more than 20 percent of the gut microbiome.

The study revealed that these types of gut bacteria were present in a common ancestor of humans and African great apes that lived more than 10 million years ago. The bacteria evolved into distinct strains as humans and great apes went their separate evolutionary ways, the researchers said.

The bacteria examined were in fecal samples from wild African great apes — chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas — and from Connecticut residents.

“We’ve known for a long time that humans and our closest relatives, the great apes, harbor these bacteria in our guts, and the biggest question we wanted to answer is, where did these bacteria come from?” said study co-leader Andrew Moeller. “Did we get them from our environment or from our evolutionary history? And how long have they persisted in host lineages?”

Moeller, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, said what’s most exciting to him is the possibility that this link could extend much further back in time.

“Maybe we can trace our gut microbes back to our common ancestors with all mammals, all reptiles, all amphibians, maybe even all vertebrates,” he said. “If that’s true, it’s amazing.”

The study results were published July 21 in the journal Science.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Texas at Austin, news release, July 21, 2016

FAQ: What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

FAQ: What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?


Quick Guide to Dementia

By Matt Smith
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

July 7, 2016 — A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is devastating enough. A diagnosis at a relatively young age adds another dimension to the illness.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s strikes less than 5% of all people with the degenerative brain disease. But the death of legendary college basketball coach Pat Summitt, who was diagnosed at age 59, has turned a new spotlight on the issue.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about early-onset Alzheimer’s.

How common is it?

About 5.3 million people were estimated to have Alzheimer’s in 2015, and it’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. But only 200,000 of those people were diagnosed with the disease before age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

What are the warning signs?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and irreversible disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain, causing memory loss and damaging thinking skills. It can develop in people as young as their 40s. When it does, “symptoms may not start with typical memory loss,” say Jagan Pillai, MD, PhD, a cognitive neurologist who works with Alzheimer’s patients at the Cleveland Clinic. Pillai says it’s sometimes mistaken for depression or other psychiatric disorders at first.

“It may be changes in mood or behavior, or changes in judgment or organizing skills,” he says.

Although early-onset Alzheimer’s is rare, people under age 65 shouldn’t dismiss memory problems, says James Hendrix, PhD, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It could be there is some other reason people might be having memory issues at that stage of life,” he says. “Some of those could be treated, so they shouldn’t be afraid to address it with their physicians. They should seek out health-care professionals who really understand memory issues and cognitive issues and get those addressed.”

How is it treated?

All Alzheimer’s care focuses largely on managing the increasing toll of the disease and the effects it has on a patient’s life. There are five FDA-approved drugs on the market that can slow down Alzheimer’s symptoms, but nothing yet can roll back the effects of the disease, Hendrix says.

What causes it?

While researchers don’t fully understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, the biggest risk of the early-onset type is found in people with a strong family history of the disease. Researchers have identified gene mutations that cause the disease in a small number of people, and others that indicate an increased risk, Hendrix says.

Several studies are underway in hopes of learning more about those genetic links and applying that knowledge to new treatments, he says.

How else does early-onset differ?

It often gets worse more quickly than the disease does in older people. Sometimes, other family members have to quit their own jobs to become full-time caretakers, Hendrix says. And younger, more active patients who find themselves diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s also may be more likely to feel depressed, frustrated, or powerless as a result of their condition.

When it strikes people young, Alzheimer’s can upend jobs, retirement plans, and savings. Families find themselves reorganizing their lives, applying for disability payments, and making arrangements for long-term care, Pillai says.

“People under 65 are often still working, and the nature of the disease causes significant changes in their lifestyle,” he says. Because of that, “it becomes very important and at the same time challenging to get the diagnosis right,” he says.

Many of those diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s are at the peak of their careers. Summitt, for instance, was the most successful Division I basketball coach in the history of college basketball, with a career record of 1,098-208. She led the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team to eight NCAA championships before announcing her diagnosis in 2011.

“It is not easy for anyone to stand up and admit that they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, especially someone who is known for their strong mental capacity, as Pat Summitt was,” Hendrix says. “So we at the Alzheimer’s Association really respect the courage that it took for her to stand up and make this public admission, and we also know that has likely helped a lot of people.”

What are the prospects for future treatments?

The most promising research focuses on how to detect the disease earlier and stall its effects, Hendrix says. Brain scans can detect the buildup of protein fragments and tangles suspected of killing the brain’s nerve cells, which may allow doctors to start treatment early.

But current drugs work only on healthy cells. Once large numbers of neurons are damaged or destroyed, the drugs are less effective in slowing down the symptoms, Hendrix says.

“What we need are drugs that will prevent the decline, prevent the loss of those neurons,” he says. “That’s where the field is heading now.”

SOURCS:National Institute on Aging: “About Alzheimer’s Disease.”Alzheimer’s Association: “2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.”Alzheimer’s Association: “Under the Microscope.”University of Tennessee Department of Athletics: “Coach Pat Summitt: 1952-2016.”Jagan Pillai, MD, cognitive neurologist, Cleveland Clinic.James Hendrix, PhD, director, of global science initiatives, Alzheimer’s Association.

©2016 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Let Burns Spoil Your Summer Fun

Don’t Let Burns Spoil Your Summer Fun


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FRIDAY, July 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) — As summer kicks into high gear, be sure your fun isn’t marred by fires or burns, an expert says.

“Before using your grill, make sure all of the parts — including the gas tank — are in good condition. If you notice any leaks, cracks or breaks, replace the parts before using,” said Dr. James Gallagher. He’s director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

Barbecue grills should only be used outdoors and should be at least 10 feet away from buildings, deck railings and overhanging branches, Gallagher said in a hospital news release. Use utensils with long handles, wear short or tight-fitting sleeves and have a garden hose or bucket of sand available to put out small flare-ups.

Keep a fire extinguisher close by, and never leave the grill unattended, Gallagher advised.

To prevent sunburn, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every one to two hours and after swimming, sweating or exercising, even on cloudy days, Gallagher said.

— Robert Preidt

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, news release, June 2016

Beware Whole Body Cryotherapy Claims, FDA Warns

Beware Whole Body Cryotherapy Claims, FDA Warns


Quick Guide to Dementia

News Picture: Beware Whole Body Cryotherapy Claims, FDA Warns

FRIDAY, July 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Whole body cryotherapy — a trendy treatment that has been used for everything from arthritis pain to Alzheimer’s — may pose serious health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

“Based on purported health benefits seen in many promotions for cryotherapy spas, consumers may incorrectly believe that the FDA has cleared or approved [these] devices as safe and effective to treat medical conditions,” Dr. Aron Yustein, a medical officer in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an agency news release. “That is not the case.”

Cryotherapy involves freezing abnormal tissue; it is often used to kill early skin cancers, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

During whole body cryotherapy, the entire body is enclosed in a chamber and exposed to cold vapors for several minutes. The vapors are generated by liquid nitrogen and can reach ultra-low temperatures, the FDA said.

The benefits of whole body cryotherapy are still under investigation, although proponents claim it can ease symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stress, anxiety or chronic pain.

But the FDA says there are many risks associated with the treatment.

“Potential hazards include asphyxiation, especially when liquid nitrogen is used for cooling,” said FDA scientific reviewer Dr. Anna Ghambaryan.

Being exposed to nitrogen vapors in an enclosed space can deprive people of oxygen and cause them to lose consciousness. Other risks associated with these extreme temperatures include frostbite, burns and eye injuries, the FDA said.

The treatment could also worsen existing medical conditions, the agency added.

The FDA advises people considering whole body cryotherapy to check with their doctor first.

Some whole body cryotherapy operators also claim the treatment improves circulation, boosts metabolism, speeds recovery and soreness following workouts and eases joint pain, the agency said.

It remains unclear how whole body cryotherapy affects people’s blood pressure, heart rate or metabolism, the FDA said.

— Mary Elizabeth Dallas

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, July 5, 2016

Obese Preschoolers More Likely to Be Hospitalized

Obese Preschoolers More Likely to Be Hospitalized


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News Picture: Obese Preschoolers More Likely to Be Hospitalized

FRIDAY, July 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Obese preschoolers are two to three times more likely to end up in the hospital than their healthy weight peers are, new research suggests.

The Australian study also found that health care costs are about 60 percent higher for obese kids.

Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under 5 years old,” said study lead author Alison Hayes. She is an associate professor of health economics at the University of Sydney.

“In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought,” she said in a university news release.

Obesity and overweight rates for kids under age 5 are about 7 percent worldwide, the researchers said. But in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the rate rises as high as 23 percent.

The new study looked at health care usage patterns among 350 children aged 2 to 5 years. This included visits to specialists, hospital admissions, visits to the ER, and the use of diagnostic services, medical testing and drugs.

The researchers found that obese children were more likely to be admitted to a hospital for respiratory difficulties, as well as for diseases of the ear, nose, mouth and/or throat.

“Early prevention of obesity is important to improve children’s health, but there are also likely to be immediate savings in health care costs,” said Hayes.

Preventing childhood obesity also could have a long-term impact on health systems. That’s because children who are obese tend to stay obese into adulthood. And, lasting obesity can lead to serious chronic diseases, she pointed out.

“Our results are important for health care funders and policy makers because preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation’s health and reduce the economic burden of obesity,” Hayes said.

The study was published in the July 6 issue of the journal Obesity.

— Alan Mozes

MedicalNews
Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Sydney, news release, July 6, 2016