CHOLESTEROL SCREENINGS for young advised
Barely half of all young men and women are screened for high LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol. Even among those with heart disease, fewer than 70 percent are screened, according to the study, published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine. The study was based on an analysis of data on 2,587 young adults — including men age 20 to 35 and women 20 to 45 — who participated in the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, the study's lead author and a senior fellow with the division for heart disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said young adults should be screened because heart disease is a chronic condition that can begin damaging blood vessels at an early age. "It can be seen even at age 10," Kuklina said. "But we also have evidence that if you start to intervene early, it's much easier to turn around the process than it is at an older age, when you already have plaque and your vessels are blocked." The National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III recommends screening everyone beginning at age 20. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force focuses on men 20 to 35 and women 20 to 45 who have heart disease or risk factors for it.
An alternative to the feeding tube
One of the toughest issues caregivers face is when an Alzheimer's patient starts losing the ability to eat, usually near the end of the disease's course. Often the alternatives are presented as tube feeding, or withholding nourishment. A third choice, careful hand-feeding, got a boost in a recent paper in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, whose authors argue that most patients don't like feeding tubes, and tubes don't necessarily prolong life in those with advanced dementia. "We believe careful hand-feeding is a much more humane way of taking care of these people, and preserves the patient's dignity," said an author of the paper, Dr. Joan Teno, a professor of community health at Brown University's medical school. "Comfort feeding,'' as it's known, is labor-intensive and time-consuming, and many patients can consume only a little food. Still, advocates say it's well worthwhile. "Just imagine someone interacting with the patient, talking to them, cueing them into eating," Teno said, "as opposed to someone walking to the bedside and pouring a bottle of Ensure down the feeding tube."
The emotional tie to an illness
If you've ever wondered why people who are stressed out or suffer an emotional blow tend to get sick, some scientists think they have a clue. UCLA researchers had volunteers give an impromptu speech or perform difficult mental arithmetic in front of a nonresponsive panel of raters. Analyzing the subjects' saliva, researchers found that social rejection caused increases in markers of inflammation, meaning the body triggered a response to fight off a threat. Chronic inflammation is linked to disorders including asthma, arthritis, heart disease, depression and some types of cancer. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.