ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Insight on Herbals Eludes Doctors, Patients Alike
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
CANCER
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
CAREGIVING
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Blueberry Drink Protects Mice From Obesity, Diabetes
The Food Irradiation Story
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure May Damage DNA
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
When Corks Fly, Watch the Eyes
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Working Intensely Early on May Help Autistic Kids
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Any Old Cane Won't Do
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Supportive Weigh-In Program Keeps Pounds Off
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
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Healthy Living Adds Years to Life

Americans who smoke, have high blood pressure, high blood sugar and are overweight may be shortening their life expectancy by an average of four years, a new study finds.

In fact, men may be shortening their lives by 4.9 years while women could be shaving 4.1 years off their lives, the researchers say. However, there is even greater variance in the effects of these factors on life expectancy across the United States based on geography, race and income.

"These risk factors are cutting life expectancy for any average American," said lead researcher Majid Ezzati, an associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

"That number is actually quite larger in some groups than others," he said. "It is getting to six or seven years for some of the disadvantaged groups."

The message: Not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping blood pressure down and keeping blood sugar levels low will help people live longer. This will not only save a lot of lives, but benefit the most disadvantaged the most, Ezzati added.

The report is published in the March edition of the online journal PLoS Medicine.

For the study, Ezzati's team collected data on people who participated in the 2005 studies from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They also looked at epidemiologic studies on the effects of these risk factors.

Based on the data, the researchers were able to estimate the number of deaths that would have been prevented if these risk factors were at optimal levels and how optimal levels would increase life expectancy.

In addition, they estimated these factors for subgroups in the United States known as the "Eight Americas." These are groups defined by race, county location and the socioeconomics of each county. The Eight Americas were defined by the authors in an earlier study as Asians; Northland low-income rural whites; middle America; low-income whites in Appalachia and Mississippi Valley; Western Native Americans; Black middle America; high-risk urban blacks; and Southern low-income rural blacks.

The researchers found that the four risk factors account for a large part of the difference in life expectancy among these groups. For example, among Southern rural blacks these risk factors took the highest toll, reducing life expectancy by 6.7 years among men and 5.7 years among women. Asians saw the lowest reduction in life expectancy, 4.1 years for men and 3.6 years for women.

Ezzati's group found that Asian Americans had the lowest body mass index (or BMI, a measurement that takes into account weight and height), the lowest blood sugar levels and the fewest smokers. Blacks had the highest blood pressure. Whites had the lowest blood pressure, while Western Native American men and Southern low-income rural black women had the highest BMI. In addition, the heaviest smokers were Western Native Americans and low-income whites in the Appalachia and Mississippi Valley.

The patterns of smoking, high blood pressure, high blood glucose and overweight/obesity account for almost 20 percent of differences in life expectancy across the country, Ezzati said. These four risk factors account for 75 percent of differences in cardiovascular deaths and up to 50 percent of differences in cancer deaths in various areas of the United States.

"When we talk about disease prevention and saving lives we shouldn't just talk about the numbers, we should talk about whose lives you are saving," Ezzati said.

Ezzati thinks that public health efforts to reduce these risk factors need to be targeted to the groups that need them most.

According to the report, if these risk factors were at optimal levels, the increased life expectancy would be:

* Blood pressure: 1.5 years for men, 1.6 years for women.
* Obesity: 1.3 years for men, 1.3 years for women.
* Blood sugar: 0.5 years for men, 0.3 years for women.
* Not smoking: 2.5 years for men, 1.8 years for women.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, noted that the fact that there are significant health disparities across the United States, including life expectancy, that relate to ethnicity, socioeconomics and geography is well known.

This study takes it a bit deeper, by showing specific patterns of variation in smoking, blood pressure, blood glucose and body fat, Katz noted. "What is most notable about these four factors, which individually and collectively translate into an enormous and disparate toll of preventable disease and premature death, is that they are all fully controllable," he said.

Smoking and body fat are directly controllable by people themselves, Katz pointed out. Blood pressure and blood sugar can be controlled by lifestyle, but when they are at abnormal levels they need to be treated medically, he added.

"Clearly, neither patients nor doctors are getting this essential job done in the groups and counties most encumbered," Katz said. "We knew about disparate outcomes, and now we know about disparate risk factors. The next thing we need to identify is the various reasons for poor risk factor management, and the requisite steps to address them systematically. Until this job is done, lives will be lost prematurely, and avoidably."

SOURCES: Majid Ezzati, Ph.D., associate professor, international health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; March 23, 2010, PLoS Medicine, online Published on: March 23, 2010