ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Insight on Herbals Eludes Doctors, Patients Alike
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Stem Cells Might Treat Tough Fractures
Osteoporosis May Raise Risk for Vertigo
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
CANCER
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
CAREGIVING
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Pesticides Linked to Parkinson's
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Less Education May Mean Poorer Health
Want Sun Protection? Wear Red or Blue
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Cocoa in Chocolate May Be Good for the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
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Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy

(HealthDay News) -- The overall health of the U.S. population has improved over the past three decades, largely because people have quit smoking in droves, but a new study suggests those gains might soon be wiped out if the rising obesity rates among Americans don't level off or drop.

If current trends in both smoking and obesity continue unchanged, the average life expectancy in America will be reduced by almost nine months, according to the study, which is published in the Dec. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

On the other hand, the researchers calculated what would happen if everyone in America maintained a normal weight and no one smoked. If these two behavior changes were to occur, Americans would gain nearly four years of life.

"Although overall life expectancy is likely to increase, when we look at these two unhealthy behaviors we see the potential that it could have risen this much higher without obesity and smoking," said study author Susan Stewart, a research specialist in aging at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.

"Even small improvements in these risk factors can make a difference," she added.

It's estimated that obesity is responsible for between 5 percent and 15 percent of deaths each year in the United States, according to background information in the study. Smoking still accounts for about 18 percent of deaths each year.

Along with their effect on mortality, obesity and smoking can both have a large impact on quality of life as well.

For the current study, the researchers used data from three nationally representative surveys that included data from as far back as 1971 through 2006.

The researchers projected that past trends in obesity and smoking would continue, which meant that obesity rates would continue to increase, while smoking rates would continue to drop. The researchers estimated that if current trends continue, nearly half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2020.

"If smoking continues to decline at past rates and obesity continues to increase at past rates, obesity will win this horse race, and over time, the increasing effects of obesity will outweigh the declines in smoking," she said.

"Clearly, these are two trends that are important in influencing public health," said Dr. David Meltzer, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "We've known that obesity has big health consequences and smoking definitely matters, and it's important, though perhaps not shocking, to learn that the increase in obesity is more than the decrease in smoking."

But, he pointed out, these findings only hold true if behaviors don't change. "One does need to remember that behaviors can change. There was a time when smoking looked like it would just go up and up, but then it declined," Meltzer noted.

Stewart and her colleagues acknowledged that their analysis is based on past trends continuing unchanged, but noted that the information is useful for showing where medical interventions can have the best value.

"We don't want to be just another alarmist paper," Stewart said. "We don't feel that there's no hope. Even modest weight loss and cutting down on smoking can result in improved health."


SOURCES: Susan Stewart, Ph.D., research specialist in aging, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass.; David Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, medicine, University of Chicago Medical Center, and associated faculty member, department of economics, Harris School, University of Chicago; Dec. 3, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine Published on: December 02, 2009