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Health Highlights: Jan. 17, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. National Alzheimer's Plan Under Development

The first National Alzheimer's Plan to improve prevention and treatment of the disease by 2025 is being developed by the Obama administration.

At a two-day meeting that begins Tuesday, a committee of Alzheimer's experts will help advise the federal government on how to finalize a newly released draft of the overall goals of the plan, the Associated Press reported.

The plan is meant to deal with both the medical and social issues of Alzheimer's.

About 5.4 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's or similar dementias, and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. By 2050, Alzheimer's could affect 13 million to 16 million Americans, the AP reported.

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Drug Companies Will Have to Report Payments to Doctors

The Obama administration plans to require drug companies to disclose payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment.

The new standards, being issued under the new health care reform law, are meant to prevent medical conflicts of interest, reduce medical costs and improve patient care, The New York Times reported.

The disclosures will likely increase the chances that instead of making decisions based on their own financial interests, doctors will make decisions in the best interests of patients, the newspaper said.

Previous research has found that drug company payments to doctors can influence treatment decisions and contribute to higher health care costs by promoting the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices, the Times reported.

Many doctors receive payments from drug and medical device companies each year -- sometimes totaling hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars -- in exchange for giving lectures and providing advice to the companies, the newspaper reported.

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'Exergames' Benefit Older Adults' Brains: Study

A new study says that computer exercise games may help older adults' brains as well as their bodies.

The team at Union College in New York found that participants over age 50 who used an "exergame" while riding an exercise bike had faster brain response times than those who used exercise bikes alone, reported the Daily Mail in the U.K.

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers said regular use of such exergames could help protect older adults from cognitive decline and ward off age-related conditions such as dementia, the Daily Mail reported.

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Cooking Show Star Paula Deen Has Type 2 Diabetes

A cooking show celebrity known for her calorie-rich foods says she's going public about the fact that she has type 2 diabetes.

Paula Deen, 64, hosts Paula's Best Dishes on the Food Network and built her career on recipes that can contribute to obesity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, USA Today reported.

Deen was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 3 years ago. She claims her delay in talking about her disease had nothing to do with worries about damaging her reputation.

"That was not why. My knowledge about the disease was very limited. But now I'm coming with good information, something that can help and bring hope to other people," she told USA Today.

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American Red Cross Hit With Large Fine

The American Red Cross has been fined nearly $9.6 million for sloppy and unsafe blood management practices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

It's the second time in two years that the Red Cross has been slapped with a multi-million dollar penalty, msnbc.com reported.

The latest fine is the result of FDA inspections at 16 Red Cross blood centers between April and October 2010 that found ongoing problems that posed a potential threat to blood donors and may have allowed potentially contaminated blood into the nation's blood supply.

In a statement, a Red Cross spokeswoman said the problems noted by the FDA primarily centered on an inspection at a Philadelphia site conducted 15 months ago and many of the issues have since been addressed by the Red Cross, msnbc.com reported.

Posted: January 2012


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