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Health Highlights: Nov. 22, 2010

Baby Boomers Least Satisfied With Sex Life: U.S. Survey Health Problems Push Millions into Poverty: WHO Eye Disease Patients Receiving Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment Cholesterol Drug May Benefit Kidney Disease Patients: Study Restrict or Ban Flavored Cigarettes: Public Health Officials

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

Baby Boomers Least Satisfied With Sex Life: U.S. Survey

Americans aged 45 to 65 are the least satisfied with their sex lives, according to a new survey.

About 24 percent of people in the baby boomer age group say they're not happy with their sex lives, compared with 20 percent of 30-44 year olds, 17 percent of those over 65, and 12 percent of 18-29 year olds, found the Associated poll.

Among the other findings:

  • About 56 percent of female boomers say their sex drive has decreased with age, compared with 46 percent of male boomers.
  • Seventy-two percent of boomer men and 48 percent of boomer women have fantasized about having sex without someone other than their sexual partner at the time.
  • While 48 percent of men aged 45-55 said their partners don't want to have sex as often as they do, only 13 percent of women in that age group said the same.
  • Among Americans aged 55 and 65, 69 percent of women and 59 percent of men said couples can have a strong relationship without sexual activity.


Health Problems Push Millions into Poverty: WHO

Each year, illness or "catastrophic" medical bills force more than 100 million people worldwide into poverty, says the World Health Organization.

But universal health coverage could protect many of those people, the agency said in its annual report released Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

"This year's WHO report is designed to encourage every country in the world to adopt policies that will extend policies to more people and reduce the number of people who risk financial ruin," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said when the report was presented in Berlin.

The document said the need for universal health coverage "has never been greater" due to aging populations, global spread of diseases and the economic slowdown, AFP reported.

"If health systems do not find the right answers now, the bill further down the line is going to keep getting higher and bigger," Chan said.


Eye Disease Patients Receiving Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment

The second U.S. study using embryonic stem cells to treat humans has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The study will include 12 patients with a rare genetic disorder called Stargardt disease, which causes severe vision loss and blindness. The study's primary goal is to assess the safety of various doses of healthy scavenger cells created from human embryonic stem cells, the Associated Press reported.

The trial should begin early next year, according to California-based biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology. Stargardt disease affects only about 30,000 Americans, but company officials hope the same stem cell treatment will also prove effective in more common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.

Last month, biotech company Geron Corp. announced it had started preliminary testing of embryonic stem cell-derived cells to treat people with spinal cord injuries, the AP reported.


Cholesterol Drug May Benefit Kidney Disease Patients: Study

The cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin reduced heart attacks, strokes and operations to open blocked arteries in chronic kidney disease patients, says a new study.

Compared with patients who received a placebo, those who took the drug had one-sixth fewer cardiovascular events or surgeries, The New York Times reported.

But the five-year study involving more than 9,000 patients found that Vytorin had no significant impact in slowing kidney disease progression, specifically in reducing the need to start dialysis or have a kidney transplant, said the researchers.

The study was presented on the weekend at a meeting of kidney specialists in Denver.

Merck's Vytorin combines two treatments, a statin called simvastatin and a newer drug called exetimibe (brand name Zetia), The Times reported.


Restrict or Ban Flavored Cigarettes: Public Health Officials

Depsite intense tobacco industry opposition, public health officials from 172 countries agreed on the weekend to recommend restrictions or bans on flavor additives meant to make cigarettes more appealing to new smokers.

In addition, tobacco producers should be required to reveal the ingredients of their products to health authorities, recommended the delegates from nations that have signed on to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Associated Press reported.

The tobacco industry threatened that million of jobs would be lost and some nation's economies ruined if countries heed the recommendations.

"There was a lot of campaigning against these guidelines. It's a major achievement because countries really showed unity and showed they are putting public health policies as a priority before the interests of the industry," convention spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told the AP. "If these guidelines are implemented, this could lead to a certain decrease of new smokers -- fewer young people getting hooked."

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