Health Highlights: Sept. 25, 2006

Universal Health Guarantees Suggested in Report to Bush Judge Okays Lawsuit Over 'Light' Cigarettes Diet Affects Leg Pain in Female Athletes NFL Quarterback Has Spleen Removed Indonesia Reports 51st Bird Flu Fatality Gentle Walking May Not be Enough: Study

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

Universal Health Guarantees Suggested in Report to Bush

Americans want blanket protection from high medical expenses and guaranteed coverage for specific treatments and checkups -- such as annual breast cancer exams, says a citizens' group report delivered Monday to President Bush.

"Americans clearly want a system that guarantees health care for everyone," said the report by the Citizens' Health Care Working Group, which was created by Congress in 2003, the Associated Press reported.

The 15 members of the group represent consumers, healthcare providers, organized labor, businesses, and the disabled.

President Bush is expected to respond to the report's recommendations, and five congressional committees will hold hearings on the report's findings, the AP said.

The group gathered input from 6,650 people at 84 meetings around the United States and from 14,000 people who responded to an Internet poll. Since the group started meeting, the number of uninsured Americans has risen by more than a million, the report noted.


Judge Okays Lawsuit Over 'Light' Cigarettes

A U.S. District Court judge has given the green light to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of smokers of "light" cigarettes, who seek $200 billion in damages from tobacco companies.

In a 1,505-page opinion released Monday, Brooklyn Judge Jack Weinstein ruled that a suit filed by eight light-cigarette smokers may go forward on behalf of all such users in the United States, the Bloomberg news service reported.

The suit alleges that the tobacco companies defrauded smokers by misleading them into believing that light cigarettes are safer than cigarettes with higher levels of tar.

Lawyers for the smokers noted that light cigarettes accounted for 85 percent of industry sales in 2002, Bloomberg reported.

The judge's ruling may be appealed.


Diet Affects Leg Pain in Female Athletes

Women athletes who are watching their weight may be more likely to suffer leg pain and stress fractures than their peers, says a small Saint Louis University study published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study, which included 76 female college athletes playing NCAA Division I sports, concluded that eating disorders and low-calorie eating habits may increase the risk of leg pain and injury, the Associated Press reported.

Women who consumed too few calories due to dieting or abnormal eating habits had decreased estrogen production, the study found. Estrogen plays an important role in bone development.

The study included female cross-country runners and soccer, field hockey, and volleyball players. Three-quarters of study participants had suffered leg pain in the past and 28 percent had leg pain while the study was conducted, the AP reported.

The researchers said that diet -- more so than the amount of running or type of athletic shoe -- appeared to be the single most important factor in leg pain.


Football Player has Emergency Spleen Removal

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms, 26, was reported in stable condition after emergency surgery to remove his spleen Sunday night following a game against the Carolina Panthers.

Simms is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery, said a statement released by team doctor Joe Diaco. He didn't say how long Simms would be sidelined, but the average recovery time after removal of the spleen is four to six weeks, the Bloomberg news service reported.

The spleen, located in the upper left of the abdomen, helps prevent infections.

Simms took several hard hits from Carolina players during Sunday's game, but it's not clear when he may have suffered the spleen injury, Bloomberg reported. He left the game for a short time after a third-quarter touchdown run, but returned to lead a fourth-quarter field goal drive.

After the game, Simms was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He's the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms.


Indonesia Reports 51st Bird Flu Fatality

A 9-year-old boy who died two hours after being admitted to a Jakarta hospital Friday is Indonesia's 51st confirmed victim of bird flu, a government health official said Monday.

The boy had recent contact with chickens infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus, the Associated Press reported. He first started showing symptoms of bird flu nine days before he was admitted to hospital.

"By the time he arrived at hospital, it was too late," Health Ministry official Nyoman Kandun told the AP.

Indonesia has the most confirmed human fatalities from bird flu. The country has been criticized for not dong enough to control the spread of the virus in poultry.

Worldwide, the H5N1 virus has killed at least 144 people, according to the World Health Organization. Most of those deaths have been due to contact with infected birds but some experts fear that the virus could mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between people, sparking a global pandemic.


Gentle Walking May Not be Enough: Study

On its own, low-intensity walking may not be enough to significantly help a person's health, says a Canadian study presented at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The University of Alberta study of 128 people compared a 10,000-step-a-day gentle exercise program to a more moderate-intensity exercise regimen. The researchers found that people who did moderate-intensity exercise had significantly higher fitness levels, BBC News reported.

"Generally, low-intensity activity such as walking alone is not likely to give anybody marked health benefits compared to programs that occasionally elevate the intensity," said lead researcher Dr. Vicki Harber.

She and her colleagues are concerned that there may be too much emphasis on simply getting people to exercise, without also stressing the need for a certain level of intensity, BBC News reported.

However, they did note that the gentle 10,000-step-a-day walking program did help motivate people to exercise and was an excellent way to start being active.

"But to increase the effectiveness, one must add some intensity or "huff and puff" to their exercise," Harber said. "Across your day, while you are achieving those 10,000 steps, take 200 to 400 of them at a brisker pace."

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