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Health Highlights: April 29, 2010

Many Obese Adults Don't Get Food Advice From Doctors No Known Way to Prevent Alzheimer's: Experts Huge Recall of Simplicity, Graco Cribs Change Way Family Doctors Get Paid: Study Health Insurers Won't Drop Sick Policyholders

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

Many Obese Adults Don't Get Food Advice From Doctors

In 2006, only about half of obese adults in the United States were told by a doctor to reduce their consumption of fatty foods, according to an analysis of national data. That's about the same as in 2002.

The latest News and Numbers from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also found that only 43 percent of poor obese adults were advised to cut back on high-fat, high-calories foods, compared with 57 percent of obese adults with higher-incomes.

That advice was given to 46 percent of obese adults who didn't finish high school and 53 percent of those with a college education. Obese whites (52 percent) were more likely than obese blacks (45 percent) or Hispanics (42 percent) to receive a doctor's advice on food consumption.

Fatty foods contribute to weight gain and can lead to clogged arteries. Obesity rates are highest among poor adults, those with limited education, and blacks and Hispanics.

The AHRQ summary is based on data from the 2009 National Healthcare Disparities Report.


No Known Way to Prevent Alzheimer's: Experts

There is no proven way to prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease, says a U.S. National Institutes of Health panel that reviewed the science.

They found no evidence that physical activity, diet changes, dietary supplements or brain exercises have any effect, CBS News reported.

"There really isn't a lot that we have to offer right now for therapies that can prevent this disease," said Dr. Evelyn Granieri, chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Aging in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. "We think that other people need to know this."

She and her colleagues were highly critical of supplements such as fish oil or ginkgo biloba. One panelist called them garbage, CBS News reported.

Some groups said the panel's message is too negative. For example, research shows a link between hypertension and heart disease and increased risk of Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. So eating a heart-healthy diet may help protect your brain, it says.

"Reduction of your risk of heart disease in middle life, even in late life, can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline," Maria Carrillo, director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, told CBS News.


Huge Recall of Simplicity, Graco Cribs

Hundreds of thousands of recalled Simplicity and Graco cribs pose a suffocation or strangulation hazard to infants, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

One recall is for all Simplicity full-sized cribs with tubular mattress-support frames. The frames can bend or detach, causing the mattress to collapse. This creates a space that can trap a baby and lead to suffocation. The CPSC said one infant died this way, the Associated Press reported.

"CPSC urges all parents and caregivers to not attempt to resell any Simplicity crib to a thrift store, at a yard sale or online," said agency spokesman Scott Wolfson. "These recalled cribs have killed far too many babies and need to be kept out of homes and daycare centers."

The other recall is for Graco drop-side wood cribs made by LaJobi. The dropped side on these cribs can break or detach, causing a gap between the mattress and dropped side. A baby can become trapped in this gap and suffocate or strangle. No serious injuries have been reported, the AP reported.


Change Way Family Doctors Get Paid: Study

Family doctors do a lot of unpaid work, and changes need to be made in how they're paid, says a new study.

It looked at a five-physician family practice in Philadelphia and found that each doctor had an average of 18 patient visits a day and was paid about $70 per visit, The New York Times reported.

However, the study also found that each physician made 24 phone calls a day to patients, specialists and others; wrote 12 drug prescriptions; read 20 laboratory reports; reviewed 11 X-ray and other imaging reports; wrote and sent 17 e-mail messages interpreting test results; examined 14 consultation reports from specialists, and consulted with other doctors or advised patients.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, "really quantifies the huge amount of invisible work in primary care," Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, a professor of family medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Times.

He added that the burden on family doctors will get worse under the new health care law, which will increase the number of Americans with health insurance by 30 million.


Health Insurers Won't Drop Sick Policyholders

Facing harsh criticism and government action, two of the United States' largest health insurers said they will stop dropping sick policyholders, a practice known as rescission.

The announcements were made this week by Blue Shield of California and WellPoint, Inc., the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross of California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The decisions by the two companies will benefit consumers, said Cindy Ehnes, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care. She was the first regulator to challenge the insurers on rescission.

"People can have more confidence in their coverage, and that's very exciting," she told the Times.

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