Affiliated with the Rhode Island AFL-CIO “Fighting for the future of our members.” “NOW, more than ever!!!” Publication 2018 Issue 39 Published in house by the RI ARA
September 30, 2018 E-Newsletter
All Rights Reserved RI ARA 2018©
Proposed budget bill would have devastating effects on millions’ Social Security Section 831 of the House’s new budget bill would make radical changes to the way Social Security provides spousal and retirement benefits. Let me list all the benefit cuts and other problems arising from this truly draconian bill. In six months, benefits now being received by spouses, divorced spouses or children on the work record of a spouse, exspouse or parent who has suspended his or her benefits will be eliminated until the worker restarts his/her retirement benefit. I’ve never heard of a change in Social Security law that eliminates benefits for people already collecting, but this is what’s in this bill. This will cost millions of households tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, it will induce those who have suspended their benefits in order to collect higher benefits at 70 to restart their benefits at permanently lower levels in order to maintain their family’s immediate living
standards. For those now under 62, the bill extend s deeming, which now ends at full retirement age (age 66), through age 70. Deeming is the requirement that if a) you take your retirement benefit and are eligible to collect your spousal benefit, you are forced to take both at once and b) if you take your spousal benefit, you are forced to simultaneously take your retirement benefit. Since Social Security effectively only pays the larger of the two benefits, being forced to take both benefits at once means that you lose one of the two benefits. Under the current law, you can wait until full retirement age, take just your spousal benefit if you are eligible for it and then let your own retirement benefit grow. Being eligible requires having your spouse file for his or her retirement benefit. But if your spouse is at full
retirement age or over, he or she can immediately file for and suspend his or her retirement benefit and let it grow through age 70. This strategy is called File and Suspend. Some view this as a loophole, but Social Security is so complex that it’s hard to say what is a loophole and what’s not. We’ve been paying 12.4 percent of our income to Social Security since our first job in exchange for a variety of benefits, including spousal and divorce(e) spousal benefits, in retirement age. Now, with a couple of sentences, our government is reneging on what for many households can amount up to $50,000 in lifetime benefits. But the loss in lifetime benefits can be far greater. Receiving full spousal or full divorce(e) spousal benefits between full retirement age (age 66) and age 70 helped tide
millions of workers over until age 70 when they would start their own retirement benefit at a 32 percent larger (inflationadjusted) value than at age 66. This provided them protection against excessive longevity — that is, outliving their assets and other non-Social Security means of support. As a consequence, this new section 831 of the budget bill, ironically called “Protecting Social Security Benefits,” will make retirement far more precarious for millions of lowand middle-income seniors….Read More “We’ve been paying 12.4 percent of our income to Social Security since our first job in exchange for a variety of benefits … Now, with a couple of sentences, our government is reneging on what for many households can amount up to $50,000 in lifetime benefits.”
Renewed congressional Social Security Caucus expands to 140 members Back home in Vermont – and everywhere else in the U.S. – Bernie Sanders says, voters are talking about the future of Social Security. But in Washington, the independent senator from the Green Mountain State adds, they aren’t – unless it’s Republicans scheming to cut it. The congressional Social Security Caucus and its allies, including the labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans and the Government Employees
(AFGE), who represent the agency’s overworked workers, plan to end that silence in D.C. On September 13, the lawmakers and their backers mobilized together to defend the system, and its benefits to all Americans, and to announce the renamed Expand Social Security Caucus now lists 158 lawmakers, including 18 senators. The solons, all Democrats, are eager to advance
the cause. They hope to pick up some GOP backers. That may be unlikely. One reason Sanders started the prior Social Security Caucus years ago is that then-House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, R-Wis., kept inserting demands into congressional budget blueprints to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Though lawmakers never carried out those threats, Ryan has continued to push cuts during
his tenure as House Speaker. So the lawmakers and their allies will take all this out on the campaign trail this fall. “You hear that Paul Ryan?” the senator said, to cheers. “He says ‘Oh, my God, we increased the deficit by $1 trillion. We have to cut Social ... “And then we have a president who’s a pathological liar who goes to Montana and says the Democrats have to cut Social Security.” That’s wrong, too, speakers said….Read More
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Social Security’s COLA increase probably won’t help retirees much Social Security’s closely watched cost-of-living adjustment may try to align with inflation, but it’s out of step with what retirees are spending. The official adjustment, known as COLA, will be announced next month, but the Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan advocacy group for retirees, said it expects a 2.8% increase for 2019. The organization analyzed the consumer-price index, the government’s measurement for inflation and the basis for COLA. The estimate is a decrease since its June analysis, when it expected COLA to be 3%. Still, if the Senior Citizens League is correct, COLA would see the largest hike since 2012, when the adjustment was 3.6%. In 2018, COLA was 2%, and in 2017, it was 0.3%. There was no increase in 2016. There’s just one problem: retirees’ benefit checks may keep pace with inflation, but pale in comparison to the rising costs of health care and housing, two of the elderly’s most prominent expenses. “You keep up with inflation because of the increase in Social Security, but you are probably
falling behind a little bit,” said Mark Wilson, a financial adviser at MILE Wealth Management in Irvine, Calif. COLA’s formula factors in the consumer-price index for urban workers, a measurement that would not reflect typical expenditures of senior citizens. (The consumer-price index represents prices households pay for various typical goods and services). In dollars, the adjustment doesn’t amount to much more than Social Security recipients are already receiving. The average benefit check is $1,400 a month, and with a 2.8% increase, those retirees could expect to see about $39 more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics experimented with various measurements of consumer spending and weighed them differently for various groups of Americans. In the 1980s and 1990s, the government tracked spending for Americans 62 and older and called the index CPI-E. A 2008 BLS report found the CPI for urban workers averaged 3% in the 25 years between 1982 and
2007, compared with 3.3% for the elderly during the same time frame. Though the percentages are not drastically different, it does show elderly expenses outpace those of urban workers. And that was in 2008 — health care and housing, whether renting or mortgages, have climbed since. CPI calculations for COLA also do not include the buying habits of anyone over 62 years old, said Mary Johnson, policy analyst at Senior Citizens League. “Someone between 35 and 55 is going to spend differently than a retiree who is between 65 and 95,” said Carol Fabbri, financial adviser and founder of Fair Advisors Institute in Denver “Disposable income will be very different.” Take medical expenditures. An American couple retiring at 65 years old in 2017 could expect to spend $275,000 in health care costs throughout retirement, a figure that jumped 6% from just the year before. If COLA was based on a measurement like CPI-E, it would be more reflective of elderly consumer spending, the
National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare argued in a 2017 paper. Urban workers spend 7% of their household income on medical costs, but older adults easily spend 15% or more, Johnson said. “That’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest cost they’ll have in retirement.” The Senior Citizen’s League estimate also does not consider any adjustment to Medicare premiums, which could rise this year as well (premiums didn’t rise last year). For retirees receiving a Social Security check and paying their Medicare premiums, COLA would be absorbed by any increase in Medicare premiums higher than the adjustment. Medicare premium hikes can’t reduce Social Security recipients’ benefits, but it can make any adjustment for inflation obsolete, said Howard Pressman, a financial adviser at Egan, Berger & Weiner in Vienna, Va. Medicare Part B premiums may perhaps be the steepest health care expense for Americans over 65 years old, Johnson said. The cost has jumped 195% since 2000, from $45.50 to $134 a month today.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump wrong on judges, 'plummeting' poverty As the midterm elections draw near, President Donald Trump's tendency to declare his campaign promises fulfilled when they aren't has come into starker relief. He insists poverty in the U.S. is "plummeting," even though the number of poor people has barely declined under his watch and income inequality is climbing. Jousting with Democrats in advance of the November midterms, Trump also declares a premature victory from his tariffs by pointing to a manufacturing renaissance that
has yet to be and boasts of promises kept on "full" funding for improvements at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, long-term financing for a key VA health care program remains uncertain. On judges, Trump's comments about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser betrayed a misunderstanding of how FBI investigations work. And his claim to be in the league of George Washington when it comes to placing judges on the
federal bench is refuted by the record. A look at some of the rhetoric over the past week from Trump and members of Congress: POVERTY TRUMP: "Poverty is plummeting." — rally Thursday in Las Vegas. THE FACTS: He's overstating it. TRUMP: "We are delivering the resources needed to fully implement crucial VA reforms ... to deliver for our great veterans." — remarks Friday in North Las Vegas,
Nevada. THE FACTS: He isn't telling the full story. KAVANAUGH TRUMP, on Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the 1980s: "The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?" — tweet Friday. THE FACTS: The FBI would not have been the number to call. ...Read More
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As States Try To Rein In Drug Spending, Feds Slap Down One Bold Medicaid Move States serve as “laboratories of democracy,” as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said. And states are also labs for health policy, launching all kinds of experiments lately to temper spending on pharmaceuticals. No wonder. Drugs are among the fastest-rising health care costs for many consumers and are a key reason health care spending dominates many state budgets — crowding out roads, schools and other priorities. Consider Vermont, California and Oregon, states that are beginning to implement drug price transparency laws.
In Nevada, the push for transparency includes the markup charged by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). In May, Louisiana joined a growing list of states banning “gag rules” that prevent pharmacists from discussing drug prices with patients. State-based experiments may carry even greater weight for Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that covers roughly 75 million low-income or disabled Americans. Ohio is targeting the fees charged to its Medicaid program by PBMs. New York has
established a Medicaid spending drug cap. In late June, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program was approved by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to begin “value-based purchasing” for some newer, more expensive drugs: When drugs don’t work, the state would pay less for them. But around the same time, CMS denied a proposal from Massachusetts that was seen as the boldest attempt yet to control Medicaid drug spending.
Massachusetts planned to exclude expensive drugs that weren’t proven to work better than existing alternatives. The state said Medicaid drug spending had doubled in five years. Massachusetts wanted to negotiate prices for about 1 percent of the highest-priced drugs and stop covering some of them. CMS rejected the proposal without much explanation, beyond saying Massachusetts couldn’t do what it wanted and continue to receive the deep discounts drugmakers are required by law to give state Medicaid programs….Read More
Lawmakers consider easing costs on drug companies as part of opioids deal Lawmakers are considering adding a provision easing costs on drug companies to an opioid package currently being negotiated. The powerful pharmaceutical industry has been pushing for months to roll back a provision from February’s budget deal that shifted more costs onto drug companies, and they sense they have a chance to attach the change to the bipartisan opioid package currently moving through Congress. Democratic aides said Republicans are pushing to add
the change at the behest of drug companies. Senate Democrats have not taken a clear position. Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Thursday evening, though, that Pelosi opposes the move. "The way Republicans are writing this, Big Pharma will get two or three times more money than the opioids crisis,” Connelly said. “Leader Pelosi opposes this Republican attempt to hijack a bipartisan effort on
opioids funding to ram through a multi-billion dollar handout to Big Pharma." One Democratic staffer involved in the negotiations, however, said members of the party have concerns. "The proposal is being pushed by Republicans. We have a lot of concerns about adding a PhRMA bailout that will force seniors to pay more for their health care onto a bill that’s intended to help people fight the opioid epidemic,” the staffer
said. Drug pricing advocates are up in arms at the possibility of a change favorable to pharmaceutical companies making it into a package aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic. “ALERT: Big Pharma trying to use the opioids bill as a vehicle to give themselves $4 billion windfall -- many of the same companies that contributed to the opioids crisis to begin with,” Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, tweeted on Thursday….Read More
The right way to cancel a credit card Decided that you need a divorce -- from one of your credit cards? Closing out a card is not something to be done r ashly or sloppily. The r ight way involves asking the r ight questions, getting pertinent answers, and making sure that you minimize any damage to your credit score. Take these steps to cancel a card cleanly, so you won't regret it. 1. Make sure you're canceling for a good reason 2. Don't let rewards die with the card 3. Pay off your balance 4. Turn off automatic payments 5. Make a goodbye phone call ……...Read More
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Center for Medicare Advocacy Releases Analysis of Various Medicare Advantage Changes This week, the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) released an issue briefthat examines the details and legal underpinnings of several proposed and upcoming changes to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. Designed to be a resource for advocates and attorneys, CMA’s analysis combines several disparate sources of MA changes, including recently signed legislation, regulatory rulemaking, and sub-regulatory guidance. It also predicts some of the consequences of these changes on, among other things, beneficiary decision-making and informed choice. The brief outlines the changes to MA made in the Balanced
Budget Act of 2018 (BBA), in the Part C and D final rule issued earlier this year, and in the Final Call Letter for 2019. These changes increase flexibility for MA plans in several ways, including: expanding what supplemental benefits plans may choose to offer (effective in 2019 for changes from the C & D final rule and effective in 2020 for changes from the BBA ), allowing plans to treat beneficiaries differently based on health status, allowing companies to offer more plan choices, streamlining the process for a
sponsor to enroll a newly-eligible Medicare beneficiary who was previously enrolled in that company’s non-MA plan, and creating expanded enrollment opportunities. With so many significantly overlapping changes, this report provides a comprehensive and thorough analysis – listing together the various flexibilities and freedoms MA plans will have in the coming years. Medicare Rights continues to monitor and analyze how these regulatory trends and practical changes will affect people with Medicare and those who help them navigate coverage
decisions. As part of this process, we will be releasing consumerfriendly education tools and policy analysis in the coming weeks on the anticipated changes to MA plans, beneficiary tools and resources, Medicare and the opioid crisis, and Medicare enrollment periods. We also remain actively engaged in the implementation of these regulatory developments, to ensure the beneficiary perspective is considered and embedded in any changes to the program. We recognize that some of the new policies may not ultimately benefit people with Medicare, and we will continue to monitor the use and potential abuse of these new rules. Read the CMA issue brief.
Medicare Rights Asks CMS to Ensure Important Relief Opportunity Is Available to Those Who Need It, Now and in the Future Today, the Medicare Rights Center and a diverse coalition of 80 state and national organizations representing health plans, consumers, and advocates urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to retain a policy that helps some Medicare beneficiaries correct problems with their Part B enrollment resulting from confusion or misinformation with Medicare and the Affordable Care Act Marketplaces. Under this relief, Medicare-eligible individuals with Marketplace coverage can apply to enroll in Part B without penalty, and those who have already transitioned to Medicare can request that any Part B late enrollment penalties be reduced or eliminated. In establishing this timelimited equitable relief policy in 2016, CMS was responding appropriately to the needs of Marketplace enrollees who became newly eligible for Medicare as the Marketplaces were being established and heavily promoted. Many of these enrollees inadvertently delayed or declined Part B because they were unaware of the financial
penalties and coverage gaps that could result from choosing and/or keeping their Marketplace coverage. CMS subsequently extended this policy by one year, and recently expanded it to people with Marketplace coverage who did not enroll in Medicare during a qualifying Special Enrollment Period (SEP). For both populations, this important relief is set to expire on September 30, 2018. Medicare Rights is extremely concerned that ending the policy this month would have serious consequences for people with Medicare. Although CMS has endeavored to improve the transitions between the Marketplace and Medicare, the confusion, misinformation, and resulting enrollment mistakes that led the agency to create this equitable relief pathway remain. On our National Helpline, we continue to hear from people who are experiencing significant problems with the time-limited equitable relief application process, and we remain troubled
that current federal outreach and education strategies are preventing some who are eligible from learning about and accessing this relief. In extending and expanding this policy in the past, CMS correctly recognized that barriers to understanding and navigating these coverage interactions endure. We agree with the agency’s assessments to date, and believe maintaining the policy as written for at least one year and developing of a more permanent solution is both warranted and appropriate. “Fortunately, CMS recognized the critical need to provide relief to older adults and people with disabilities who mistakenly enroll in Marketplace plans instead of Medicare, but we know from calls to our helpline that we are not out of the woods yet,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “The relief policy must be extended until we are certain that no one is shut out from this opportunity because they didn’t know about it or received
misinformation when they tried to obtain it.” Medicare Rights urges people who may be eligible for this relief to apply by the current September 30, 2018 deadline and to contact our National Helpline with any questions or concerns that may arise. For more information on time-limited equitable relief and how to apply: Visit Medicare Interactive, the Medicare Rights’ free online counseling tool Read the Fact Sheet made available by CMS Call the Medicare Rights’ free national helpline at 1-800-3334114 Find your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at 1-877-839-2675 or by going to www.shiptacenter.org Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-7721213, or go to socialsecurity.gov, or visit your local Social Security office .......Read the letter.
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Reports Warn of Growing Opioid Crisis Among Seniors Against the backdrop of an unrelenting opioid crisis, two new government reports warn that America's seniors are succumbing to the pitfalls of prescription painkillers. Issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the reports reveal that millions of older Americans are now filling prescriptions for many different opioid medications at the same time, while hundreds of thousands are winding up in the hospital with opioid-related complications. "These reports underscore the growing and under-recognized concerns with opioid use disorder in older populations, including those who suffer from chronic pain and are at risk for adverse events from opioids," said Dr. Arlene Bierman. She is the director of AHRQ's Center for Evidence and Practice. Bierman was part of a team that focused on trends regarding opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among U.S. seniors. The agency's second report analyzed opioid prescription patterns among older Americans. Bierman and her colleagues pointed out that chronic pain is common among seniors, as eight in 10 struggle with multiple health conditions, including heart
disease, diabetes, arthritis and depression. To cope, many seniors take opioids, which inevitably raises the risk for side effects and negative drug interactions. And in fact, the team found, opioid-driven complications were the cause for nearly 125,000 hospitalizations -- and more than 36,000 emergency department visits -- among seniors in 2015. The report also uncovered other alarming trends. Between 2010 and 2015, there was a 34 percent jump in the number of opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions among seniors, even as non-opioid-related inpatient hospitalizations dropped by 17 percent. Similarly, AHRQ investigators found that opioid-related emergency department visits among seniors shot up by 74 percent, while non-opioid related emergency department visits only increased 17 percent. At the same time, AHRQ's second report found that nearly 20 percent of seniors filled at least one opioid prescription between 2015 and 2016, equal to about 10 million seniors. And more than 7 percent -- or about 4 million seniors -- filled prescriptions for four or more
opioids, which was characterized as "frequent" use. Frequent use was found to be notably more common among seniors who were either poor or low-income, insured through Medicare or another form of public insurance, and/or residents of rural areas. Opioid use also went up dramatically depending on a person's perceived health status. For example, only 9 percent of seniors in "excellent" health filled out opioid prescriptions, compared with nearly 30 percent in "fair" health and 40 percent in "poor" health. The challenge, said Bierman, "is safe-prescribing for those who need opioids for pain, while avoiding overuse or misuse." Clinicians, she advised, could address that concern "by using non-opioid pain medications and non-pharmacologic treatments before considering the use of opioids." And she suggested that if and when opioids are needed, "the lowest possible dose should be used." Dr. Anita Everett is chief medical officer for the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She said that the findings shouldn't come as a
surprise. "As a society, we don't typically think of persons in the grandparent generation as having opioid use disorder," she said. But when common chronic pain is paired with "the generation of physicians that were taught that opioid medication, when used for pain, was not likely to become addictive," the result is a senior citizen opioid problem. And, Everett said, the problem is likely more acute among the rural and the poor, who "often are in situations wherein they have fewer resources, less alternative treatments and may not know about the chances of becoming addicted to a prescription medication." Shame, stigma and social isolation among older people may also complicate efforts to prevent addiction or tackle it when it occurs, she added. The solution? Everett suggested that caregivers have to be educated about the risk. "SAMHSA supports early training for all health professionals so that addiction can be avoided, identified and treatment offered as early as possible," she said. There's more on opioid treatment among seniors at SAMHSA.
Heart valve 'clip' shows promise for heart failure patients A tiny new device is offering hope of a better life for people with severe heart failure, reducing hospitalization rates and improving mortality risk within two years of treatment, a new study finds. Heart failure affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans and more than 26 million people globally, causing shortness of breath and tiredness among those affected as their heart struggles to pump blood around the body.
One cause of severe heart failure that currently has a poor prognosis is a leaky valve, particularly the leakage of the mitral valve, which control's blood flow in the left part of the heart. When leakage is severe, the heart can enlarge. Estimated to affect more than two million people in the US, failure of the mitral valve causes blood to flow backwards when pumped out, meaning it
can't reach the rest of the body efficiently. But a new device -called a MitraClip -clips the faulty valve back together, helping it work properly and pump blood out of the heart. It has now shown promising results in the study published Sunday. Drugs are available to ease symptoms of a leaky mitral valve, but the long-term effects are unknown, the authors write. Surgery is also an option, and
can be curative, but brings significant risk of complications, as patients are often older and more frail. Implanting the MitraClip is minimally invasive, with the device transferred up through a small incision in the groin, and has now been shown to reduce recovery time and hospitalization, according to the study….Read More
Does Smoking Cause Dementia? From heart disease to cancer, smoking comes with a range of health risks. And researchers have warned dementia shouldn’t be left off that list. Scientists based in South Korea made the link between smoking and dementia by studying 46,140 men aged at least 60, who were registered to a population-based screening program from 2002 to 2013. Participants detailed their smoking habits on a questionnaire completed between 2002 and 2003, and again in 2004 and 2005.
Researchers assessed the men for eight years from 2006 to check if they developed dementia; and Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia (among the most common forms of dementia, respectively). Women were not included in the study due to extremely low rates of smoking among this demographic in South Korea, the authors said. The men were categorized as continual smokers, short-term quitters who had kicked the
habit in the previous four years or less, long-term quitters at four years or more and those who had never smoked. The findings published in the journal the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurologyshowed former smokers who had quit long-term and those who had never smoked had a 14 percent and 19 percent lower risk of developing dementia from the baseline compared with those who lit up regularly. When Alzheimer’s was
considered, non-smokers had an 18 percent lower risk than those who used cigarettes. Meanwhile, the vascular dementia risk for long-term quitters and those who had never smoked was 32 percent and 29 percent lower, respectively. The authors concluded smoking was associated with an increased risk of dementia. But ex-smokers who kicked the habit for a long period could reverse the risk to some extent….Read More
CDC: Alzheimer's disease, dementia cases to double by 2060 The number of people projected to have Alzheimer's disease or dementia in the United States is expected to double by 2060, says a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, there were 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's or dementia. The CDC estimates by 2060, that number will grow to 13.9 million. "Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future," said CDC
Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in a statement. The study, which the CDC said is the first to forecast estimates of Alzheimer's by race and ethnicity, found non-Hispanic whites will have the most total cases of Alzheimer's and dementia. However, because of population growth, Hispanic Americans will see the largest projected increase in cases. Among people who are 65 and older, African-Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementias at
13.8 percent, followed by Hispanics (12.2 percent), and nonHispanic whites (10.3 percent). By 2060, researchers project 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African-Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The CDC said as more people survive other diseases and grow older, the odds of being diagnosed with dementia go up. The study was published Thursday in the journal Alzheimer’s &
Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Kevin Matthews, a health geographer and lead author of the study with the CDC’s Division of Population Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement early diagnosis is key not just for patients, but for caregivers who need support. "It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider," he said.
Woman almost loses eye after swimming in contacts: 'It can happen to you' The next time you’re tempted to go swimming or take a shower while wearing contact lenses, Stacey Peoples wants you to remember her ordeal. The veteran educator in suburban Denver, Colorado, went blind in one eye and suffered pain so excruciating that she considered killing herself after she was exposed to a parasite while swimming in her contacts. The infection from the microscopic organism, called Acanthamoeba, is rare, but any kind of water exposure
when you’re wearing soft contact lenses puts you at risk, doctors say. “People want to say, ‘Not me, it won’t happen to me.’ But I’m here to tell you, it can happen to you,” Peoples, 49, told TODAY. “Our warning is: Contact lenses and water don’t mix,” said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. That includes tap water and
chlorinated pool water, which might be treated and safe to drink or swim in, but which is still not sterile, Steinemann noted. Like many contact lens wearers, Peoples wasn’t aware of the risk. She’d been wearing contacts for over 20 years and wore her daily disposable pair when she went swimming with her son over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. The problems began about a week later. When her left eye
became itchy, red and painful, her doctor told her it was pink eye. But things just kept getting worse and the diagnosis kept changing: Peoples was told at various points she was allergic to antibiotic drops, had a scratch on her cornea and had herpes in the eye. In July, she lost vision in her eye. A cornea specialist finally diagnosed her with Acanthamoeba keratitis, a serious infection of the cornea caused by the parasite…Read More
A Dietitian Reveals the 2 Things You Should Avoid Eating If You Want to Lose Belly Fat It seems like there's always a new fad diet or supplement that promises to blast away belly fat: Atkins, Whole30, gr een tea, keto, cinnamon, intermittent fasting, to name a few. And while many people have found varying success on many of these programs, the promises that they can immediately transform your body are overblown. "There is still no miracle diet, food, nutrient, or bioactive component that will target abdominal fat," Kari D. Pilolla, PhD, RDN, of the California Polytechnic State University in
San Luis Obispo, wrote in an article for ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. She continued that this belly fat increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But while targeting belly fat is important, there is no miracle cure or specific diet that can do the trick. There are, however, some dietary patterns that have been found to help reduce belly fat. For example, a diet low in trans and saturated fat and higher in fiber has been found to help
reduce belly fat. "These recommendations are consistent with hearthealthy diets like the NIH-developed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterraneanstyle diet," she wrote. She also urged health and fitness professionals to stay up to date and critical of peerreviewed and published research evidence. "A single study, even if well designed, does not support changing diet or exercise recommendations," she
wrote. Since belly fat is such a persistent issue for people, both for aesthetics and health purposes, there's no shortage of belly-fat-related content and recommendations on the internet. But it's important to be discerning with the information and stay up to date with the latest research. If you're looking to lose weight and target belly fat, it's best to talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find the best diet for you.
Can Vitamin D Decrease Your Breast Cancer Risk? The benefits of vitamin D are well-known: It keeps our bones and teeth strong, it helps to regulate our insulin levels (and thus aids in diabetes management) and it supports brain, lung and cardiovascular functions. But there's one way in which vitamin D may be more important than we thought. According to a study conducted by The North American Menopause Society and published in Menopause, the journal of NAMS, women with low levels of vitamin D after menopause may have a
higher risk of developing breast cancer. That means those lovely doses of seaside sunshine (with SPF, please!) may actually protect you from breast cancer. Talk a bout a win-win. In fact, the study, which involved more than 600 Brazilian women — 209 with breast cancer and 418 without — found even more encouraging news: "Vitamin D may play a role in controlling breast cancer cells or stopping
them from growing," Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, the executive director of NAMS, tells Menopause. Of course, the study's findings about vitamin D deficiencies are troubling since these deficiencies are currently at an all-time high according to a studypublished in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Still, Pinkerton was quick to point out that additional research is necessary, largely because "published literature is
inconsistent about the benefits of vitamin D levels [in] breast cancer," she wrote in Menopause. "This study and others suggest that higher levels of vitamin D in the body are associated with lowered breast cancer risk," Pinkerton says. But regardless of their cancerfighting properties, taking that long sunny walk outside (again, with SPF) and chowing down on vitamin-D-rich foods like salmon, tuna, mushrooms and eggs will only make you healthier, so go to town.
Alzheimer's burden will double by 2060, warn CDC Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia in the United States will double by the year 2060. About 5.7 million individuals in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. This neurodegenerative disease is one of the leading causes of disability and the sixth-leading cause of mortality in the U.S. With annual healthcare costs of more than $250 billion, the disease also puts a significant
strain on the nation's healthcare system. Additionally, unpaid caregivers spend over 18 billion hours tending to those living with Alzheimer's. Age is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Thus, as the population of the United States — along with that of the world — increases, it is important to ask: how many people will develop this form of dementia in the coming decades? Researchers from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set out to investigate, and they published their findings in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. Researcher Kevin Matthews, who currently works at the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta, GA, is the first author of the paper. He and his colleagues also
looked at race and ethnicity, which are two "important demographic risk factors" for Alzheimer's. This made the study the first one to predict Alzheimer's prevalence based on race and ethnicity. U.S. Alzheimer's burden will double by 2060 Matthews and his colleagues used population projections obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate the projected number of seniors with Alzheimer's in the year 2060….Read More