Health Highlights: May 14, 2008

O'Connor retired from the bench in 2005, when she and her spouse moved to an assisted care center in Phoenix, the Associated Press reported. "My beloved husband John suffers Alzheimer's," she told the Senate Special Committee on Aging. "He is not in very good shape at present."

O'Connor welcomed recently approved legislation to ban discrimination based on genetic testing results. "My own sons I have not wanted to go be tested ... out of fear they would be ineligible for insurance," she told the panel on Wednesday.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, the AP reported, a number that's forecast to rise to 16 million by 2050. Some 10 million people are already caring for loved ones with the disease, the Alzheimer's Association estimates.

"I suspect that you will not hear from many of my fellow caregivers directly ... simply because they do not have the resources to take time away from their loves ones in order to come before you," O'Connor said in her prepared testimony.

"Our nation certainly is ready to get deadly serious about this deadly disease," she said.

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More Americans Taking Drugs for Chronic Health Problems

A new study suggests that more than half of all insured Americans regularly take prescription drugs to treat chronic health problems, with drugs to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol the most widely used, the Associated Press reported.

The Medco Health Solutions Inc. analysis of prescription records from 2001 to 2007 revealed that 51 percent of American adults and children were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition in 2007, compared to 50 percent in 2006, and 47 percent in 2001.

Regular use of medications to treat chronic health problems occurred in all demographic groups:

  • Three out of four people 65 or older.
  • Almost two-thirds of women 20 or older.
  • 52 percent of adult men.
  • One in four children and teenagers.

The study found that among older Americans, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines on a regular basis, the AP reported.

Medco manages prescription benefits for about one in five Americans.

Experts said the study findings reflect both worsening public health and better medicines for chronic conditions and more aggressive treatment by doctors, the AP reported.

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Americans Overconfident About Their Food-Safety Abilities: Survey

While 82 percent of Americans say they're confident in their ability to safely prepare food, many don't follow simple steps to reduce the spread of bacteria in the kitchen or ensure safe cooking temperatures, according to a new survey.

For example, only 48 percent of respondents said they used separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry and produce, and only 29 percent said they use a meat thermometer.

The third annual Food and Health Survey, conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, included 1,000 American adults.

Among the findings:

  • 92 percent said they wash their hands with soap and water when preparing food.
  • 79 percent said they store leftovers within two hours of serving a meal.
  • 67 percent said they cook food to the required temperature, but only 29 percent use a food thermometer to check the "doneness" of meat and poulty.
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