Health Highlights: Oct. 28, 2007

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

Large Percentage of Cancer Patients Not Getting Flu and Pneumonia Vaccine

More than 25 percent of people who need flu and pneumonia vaccines the most aren't getting them, a new study finds.

The subjects in question are cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy whose immune systems have been weakened. That makes them very susceptible to the worst effects of influenza and pneumonia, says research presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in Los Angeles.

According to a society news release, 25 percent of cancer patients over 50-years-old reported having never received the flu vaccine and 36 percent of patients over age 65 said they never received the pneumonia (pneumococcus) vaccine. Both vaccines had been recommended in those age groups by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were three reasons so many older cancer patients hadnt been vaccinated, the study found:

Patients believed they didn't need the vaccines; they weren't aware of the vaccine guidelines; or their doctors didn't recommend they get vaccinated.

Better communication is obviously needed, the researchers concluded, and they urged oncologists to make it a priority to inform their patients about the need for getting vaccinated.

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Bad Air Quality Threatens Southern Californians in Wake of Wildfires

The latest threat from the wildfires that ravaged much of Southern California during the past week is the soot and dust in the air that makes it difficult to breathe.

The Associated Press reports that as the fierce Santa Ana winds died down, the normal offshore breeze from the Pacific returned, and with it came all the pollutants that had been blown out to sea during the fires.

The air quality was especially bad in San Diego County, where most of the fires were still not under control Saturday, the wire service reported. Representatives of both the American Lung Association and Breathe L.A. advised residents to stay in indoors and use their air conditioning to filter out the dangerous particulates in the air.

The pro football team San Diego Chargers was planning to play a home game Sunday, the A.P. reported, but Ross Porter, a spokesman for the American Lung Association of California is quoted as saying that it might not be a good idea to attend the game. "Sometimes it's better to sit quietly at home and watch it on TV," he said.

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New Football Helmet Design May Bring Dramatic Decline in Concussions

It has taken a former football player to develop a helmet that finally may reduce the number of concussions grid iron athletes suffer, from high school through pro ball.

The New York Times reports that the innovative helmet containing 18 thermoplastic shock absorbers instead of the more conventional foam and urethane was developed by former Harvard quarterback Vin Ferrara.

Ferarra got the idea, the Times says, when he happened to notice the construction of a ribbed, plastic bottle that squirted a saline solution into the sinuses. He started pounding the bottle and found it absorbed blows from all directions and different forces with equal effectiveness.

Laboratory impact tests have proved Ferraras theory, with the new helmet absorbing hundreds of impacts without any degradation.

This design breakthrough has real medical significance, the newspaper says, because studies found that as many as 50 percent of high school players suffer from concussions during the football season.

And for Dr. Robert Cantu of Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston who advised Ferarra during the development of the helmet, the result is "the greatest advance in helmet design in at least 30 years," the Times quotes him as saying.

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Here's a Healthy Recipe Thats Not So 'Nutty' As It First Seems

OK, class, ready for today's quiz?

Which is the healthiest way to eat peanuts?

  • A) Salted and roasted
  • B) Roasted only
  • C) Raw
  • D) Boiled

If you're from the South, you may not be surprised that the correct answer is "boiled." But for the rest of America, the idea of eating boiled peanuts as a healthful snack may take some getting used to.

The Birmingham News reports that the latest research from Alabama A&M University scientists in Huntsville shows that boiling peanuts increases the amount of healthy phytochemicals fourfold.

Phytochemicals are high in antioxidants, which fight cancer-causing cells and heart disease. "These things [phytochemicals] are not nutrients; at the same time they have health benefits to humans," co-author Lloyd Walker told the newspaper.

Boiled nuts turn into a mushy mixture that is well-known in many southern communities. Walker told the newspaper it was important not to overcook the nuts, because the phytochemicals would lose their effectiveness.

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CDC Offers Spanish-Language Wildfire Health and Safety Web Site

A Spanish-language Web site that provides information about wildfire-related health issues has been developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The site, which will be updated on a regular basis, includes:

  • A link to a Spanish-language fact sheet about wildfires
  • Instructions on coping with loss of electricity, including food and water safety tips and information about dealing with heat
  • Information on worker safety during fire cleanup
  • Mental health resources to help people cope with a disaster or traumatic event
  • Audio and video public service announcements about disaster-related health and safety issues
  • Links to other Spanish-language wildfire information resources.

The new CDC Web site can be found at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/espanol/

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Posted: October 2007


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