Health Highlights: July 31, 2007
U.S. Chief Justice Roberts Leaves Hospital FDA Program Aims to Improve Food Safety U.S. Blood Donor Pool Smaller Than Thought: Study Health Care Costs Top Worry for Older Americans U.S. Company Recalls Chinese Ginger Contaminated With Pesticide Few Americans Concerned About Age-Related Eye Disease
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Chief Justice Roberts Leaves Hospital
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts was released from a hospital on Tuesday, one day after suffering a seizure at his summer home on a Maine island, the Associated Press reported.
Roberts walked out of the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, wearing a blue sport coat, open collar shirt and slacks. He waved to onlookers before getting into a sports utility vehicle, the news service said.
He plans to continue his summer vacation in Maine, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said, adding that doctors found no cause for concern after evaluating Roberts.
The chief justice, 52, had been hospitalized overnight for observation after falling on a dock near his home, according to spokespersons for the U.S. Supreme Court and the Penobscot Bay Medical Center.
In a phone call with President Bush Tuesday morning, the AP reported, Roberts said he was doing well.
Roberts "sounded like he was in great spirits," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.
On Monday, a Supreme Court statement said the chief justice was "fully recovered" from the 2 p.m. seizure and had undergone "a thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern." He was kept overnight as "a precaution," The New York Times reported.
The newspaper noted that this was the second recorded seizure suffered by Roberts; the first occurred in 1993. This one was described as a benign idiopathic seizure, the newspaper reported, which means that the cause is unknown. A U.S. Supreme Court press release said the 1993 seizure was similar to the one that occurred Monday.
According to the AP, the court press release said Roberts "experienced minor scrapes" when he fell after the seizure.
Roberts was "conscious and alert" when he was taken off the boat from his island home at Port Clyde and put in an ambulance, St. George Fire Chief Tim Polky told the AP.
The wire service and the Times interviewed a number of medical experts who concluded that the diagnostic equipment at Penobscot Bay Medical Center was sufficient for initial testing, but that, after having gone through two seizures, the chief justice probably would need to be evaluated to determine whether further treatment was necessary.
Dr. David J. Langer, director of cerebrovascular neurosurgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt, Beth Israel and Long Island College Hospital in New York, told the Times that if Roberts began taking medication to control future seizures, it could "have significant side effects."
And Dr. Edward Mkrdichian, a neurosurgeon at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, told the AP that anyone who has had two unexplained seizures was at high risk for a third. Mkrdichian said he prescribes anti-seizure medications for those patients.
FDA Program Aims to Improve Food Safety
A national program to strengthen state food safety programs was announced today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Current state-to-state variations in regulations can lead to inconsistencies in food safety supervision, the agency said.
The new program is designed to introduce "more uniform, equivalent, and high quality regulatory programs by state agencies responsible for regulating facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food under FDA's jurisdiction," said a news release from the FDA.
The Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards will be pilot-tested in New York, Oregon, and Missouri before Sept. 30, 2007.
"This risk-based program represents a significant step in further integrating our food safety system. We realize it will be several years before it's fully implemented, but we're confident this program will bring great benefits to the public health," Margaret Glavin, FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a prepared statement.
The FDA regulates about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply for humans and animals. Meat, poultry and egg products are regulated by the Department of Agriculture.
U.S. Blood Donor Pool Smaller Than Thought: Study
The number of people in the United States eligible to donate blood may be much smaller than previously thought, according to a study in the journal Transfusion that found that only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood -- about 60 million fewer than previous estimates.
"The conventional method of calculating eligible donors indicates that there are approximately 177 million eligible donors in the U.S. population. This study indicates that only 111 million individuals in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood," Jeffrey McCullough, an expert in transfusion medicine and blood banking, said in a prepared statement.
Currently, age is used to determine eligibility for donating blood, according to a news release. The estimate in this study is based on a more stringent model that excludes people from donating blood due to factors such as age, disease exposure, high-risk behavior, and the presence of chronic diseases.
"As additional donor restrictions are implemented and the population ages, the country could lose more and more willing donors, which could pose an even greater threat to our national blood supply," Karen Shoos Lipton, chief executive officer of the American Association of Blood Banks, said in a prepared statement.
Health Care Costs Top Worry for Older Americans
The cost of health care is the leading concern for Americans over age 65, suggests a new survey released by Erickson Health.
The survey of 2,007 older adults in Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix found that: 49 percent said they were worried about health care costs; 41 percent were worried about losing their independence; 38 percent were concerned about future changes in Medicare: 36 percent were worried about their wellness; and 33 percent were worried about having to go to a nursing home.
In addition, the survey found that many respondents said being independent was important to them (92 percent), along with being financially stable (91 percent), keeping active (90 percent), staying physically fit (85 percent), being with family (83 percent), and having easy access to health care (83 percent).
Many of the respondents (83 percent) said they had generally good overall health and 80 percent said their health remained about the same over the previous six months. Of the 15 percent who said they were in fair to poor health, most were over age 75. They were also most likely to say their health had declined over the previous six months.
U.S. Company Recalls Chinese Ginger Contaminated With Pesticide
About 18,900 pounds of Chinese fresh ginger contaminated with a toxic pesticide have been recalled by the Christopher Ranch food company of Gilroy, Calif. The ginger was shipped to more than a dozen wholesale and retail clients in California, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon and Washington state between July 10 and July 26.
California officials said the ginger may contain potentially harmful levels of the pesticide aldicarb sulfoxide, the San Jose Mercury News reported. As of Monday, there had been no reported cases of illness linked to the imported ginger.
The pesticide contamination was discovered in samples of ginger randomly collected by California's Department of Pesticide Regulation from an Albertsons grocery store in Roseville, near Sacramento.
Christopher Ranch owner Bill Christopher said he relied on his importer, Modern Trading Inc. of Los Angeles County, to make sure the ginger was safe, the Mercury News reported. The importer bought the ginger from Juxian Modern Organic Ginger Co. of China.
Last year, nearly half of the 32,000 tons of ginger imported into the United States came from China.
Few Americans Concerned About Age-Related Eye Disease
Even though eye disease is on the rise among older Americans, few of them recognize the risk, says a survey released Tuesday by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
It's estimated that between now and 2020, there will be a 65 percent increase in age-related eye disease cases, from 28 million to 43 million, the AAO said. But the national survey of 1,200 adults found that only 11 percent believe they are at high risk for eye disease. Only 10 percent of Americans age 65 and older (those most at risk for eye disease) believe they are at risk and more than one-third of them do not get annual eye exams.
Left untreated, age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and dry eye can cause serious vision loss and blindness.
The survey also found that only 23 percent of respondents said they were very concerned about losing their vision.
In response to the looming threat of age-related eye disease, the AAO issued a new eye disease screening recommendation. The AAO now recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40, when early signs of disease and changes in vision may begin. Based on the results of that initial screening, an ophthalmologist will decide when to conduct follow-up exams.
People with a family history of eye disease or with medical conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes) that increase the risk of eye disease should consult an ophthalmologist to determine eye screening frequency, the AAO said.
The academy said it's also launching a new program -- EyeSmart -- to educate Americans about age-related eye diseases.