Health Highlights: Feb. 19, 2008

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

Health Care Costs Threaten Retirement Lifestyle: U.S. Study

Skyrocketing health care costs are a major reason why many American baby boomers and Generation Xers won't be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Currently, the U.S. government estimates costs for Medicare premiums, co-payments and other cost-sharing to be about $3,800 a year for a single person and $7,600 for a couple. Another $500 per person is needed to pay for dental care, eye glasses, hearing aids and other items that aren't covered by Medicare, the Associated Press reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Health Care Costs Threaten Retirement Lifestyle: U.S. Study
    • Drug Prevents Contrast Agent-Related Kidney Damage
    • Cinderella Cars, Spider-Man Water Bottles Recalled
    • Nexavar Lung Cancer Trial Halted
    • Sperm Defects Pass to Offspring
    • Recalled Beef Poses Minimal Health Risk: Experts

Based on those costs, most baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1974) would have to have about $102,000 per person ($206,000 per couple) set aside just for health care expenses when they retire.

Currently, the median total retirement savings balance for American households approaching retirement is about $60,000, said the center's report. When all costs, including health expenses, are factored in, about 61 percent of baby boomers and Gen Xers are "at risk" of being unable to maintain their standard of living when they retire, the AP reported.

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Drug Prevents Contrast Agent-Related Kidney Damage

Taking the drug N-acetylcysteine can prevent kidney damage that can be caused by contrast dyes used in medical imaging tests such as CT scans and angiograms, say University of Michigan Health System researchers who reviewed 41 studies that ranked drugs on their ability to protect the kidneys, CBC News reported.

About one in four high-risk patients (those with diabetes or heart failure) and as many as one in 10 people with normal kidney function can suffer kidney damage when they receive an iodine-containing contrast agent while undergoing CT scans, according to background information in the article.

The review authors found that N-acetylcysteine was the only drug able to prevent kidney damage caused by contrast agents, CBC News reported.

The findings were published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Our goal is to improve the safety and quality of these common tests by studying drugs that reduce the risk of kidney failure," senior author Ruth Carlos, associate professor of radiology, said in a prepared statement.

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Cinderella Cars, Spider-Man Water Bottles Recalled

A burn hazard has prompted the recall of about 64,000 Cinderella 12-volt electric, ride-on toy cars made in China by Dumar International USA, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Wires under the hood and in the battery compartment under the seat can short-circuit and pose a burn hazard to a child riding in the car. So far, the company has received 40 reports of overheating incidents, including several where smoke leaked from under the seat where the battery is located, and one report of flames shooting out from under the toy car's hood. There have been no reports of injuries.

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