ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Breast-feeding Might Shield Women From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
CANCER
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Papaya Could Be a Cancer Fighter
Smokeout '08: The Perfect Time to Quit
CAREGIVING
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Health Tip: After Liposuction
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
DIET, NUTRITION
'Organic' May Not Mean Healthier
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Gene Explains How High-Fructose Diets Lead to Insulin Resistance
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
EYE CARE, VISION
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Vision Test for Young Children Called Unreliable
FITNESS
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Have Fun But Put Play It Safe on the 4th
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Hoping for a Happy Family Holiday? Here's How
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
The Unmedicated Mind
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
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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