- Created on 18 November 2013
(CNN) -- Apparent problems with an online calculator, released last week along with new cholesterol guidelines, prompted one expert Monday to suggest implementation of the guidelines be postponed.
The risk calculator, meant to assist doctors in evaluating patients' risk and treatment options for cholesterol, appears to greatly overstate risk, according to a report Sunday in The New York Times.
It could result in millions of people being incorrectly identified as candidates for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the report said.
The calculator, released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, is a tool to evaluate a patient's 10-year risk of a heart attack. According to the new guidelines, if a person's risk is above 7.5%, he or she should be put on a statin.
However, in a hastily called telebriefing Monday morning, members of the committee who developed the calculator and guidelines said that they knew about the risk of overestimation before rolling out the assessment tool and that they welcome more information to help refine it.
The tool, they said, is only one part of evaluating patients' treatment options -- something that can only be done with the help of a doctor.
No one should be "mailed a prescription" based on the results of the assessment tool, said Dr. Neil Stone, committee chairman. "There's got to be a physician-patient discussion. ... We've put the physician back into crucial decision-making."
However, "I can't speak to whether the calculator is valid or not," Dr. Robert Eckel, co-chair of the American Heart Association committee that wrote the new guidelines and the association's past president, told CNN. "That needs to be determined.
"We trusted that the calculator worked," he said. "We trusted that the calculator is valid."
- Created on 18 November 2013
Women who used birth control pills for three years or more have twice the risk of developing glaucoma later in life, according to new research.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye's optic nerve and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
It's been well documented that low-estrogen levels following menopause contribute to glaucoma in women. Scientists don't know exactly why this happens. But years of using birth control pills, which can also lower estrogen levels, may add
- Created on 15 November 2013
(CNN) -- Now that we are in the height of cold and flu season, it's time to defend yourself against the flu virus, starting with your home.
Your home may feel tidy once the carpets and floors are vacuumed and counters dusted, but millions of flu particles can linger in the air and on the surfaces we touch each day.
We have all heard time and time again to wash our hands and cover our mouths when we sneeze -- and that the flu vaccine should always be our first line of defense -- but below are five ways to decrease flu survival on surfaces and in the air that you may not have considered at the home or office.
1. Control humidity
In the winter months, temperatures and humidity levels plummet to as low as 10%, which is as dry as the Sahara Desert. People also spend significantly more time indoors, which contributes to the spread of the flu, but recent scientific literature suggests that the low humidity levels may be contributing to the virus' survival.
A review of nearly 40 peer-reviewed studies conducted over the last decades shows that homes kept at 40-60% relative humidity are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces like sink faucets, door handles, and countertops.
Available at most hardware stores and online retailers, hygrometers provide a digital readout of the relative humidity in your home and are compact and low-cost. Homes can be kept at the optimal 40-60% relative humidity level through the use of a portable humidifier. In this humidity range, the flu virus survival in the air can be decreased by up to 30%.
There's an added benefit too -- the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a cool mist humidifier throughout the winter months to help relieve congestion and coughs.
2. Use UV lights
Many people may ask "how can light kill bacteria?" But if you purchase the germicidal type of UV lights, they are capable of inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.
There's a variety of lightweight disinfection devices that use ultra-violet light on the market. You simply spread the light over the surface you wish to clean for the directed amount of time and the virus and bacteria will decrease substantially.
This type of tool may be handy for keyboards, a computer mouse, and other hand-held devices, but keep in mind the flu virus also lives in the air, so disinfecting large areas is not as feasible.
You can also look for gadgets like humidifiers with a UV light chamber that will kill the flu virus, mold, and other bacteria potentially living in the water. This germ-free technology is an added safeguard for homeowners that may not always remember to change their water or filters.
3. Purchase an air purifier
Regular surface cleaning with a disinfectant labeled as "kills bacteria and viruses" will help remove particles that have landed on your floors, faucets, and countertops, but it is important to consider the air you breathe in your home.
During the winter months, most people keep windows sealed and the heat on full blast, causing stagnant, recycled air that can harbor airborne allergens and bacteria.
Consider using a portable air purifier in the rooms you spend most of your time. Most air purifiers circulate air several times per hour, cleaning the air. Look for a model with a HEPA filter, which is what most allergists and doctors recommend.
Air purifiers can remove the smallest microbes in the air, reducing harmful airborne germs that not only include cold and flu viruses but also dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander and smoke particles. Those can aggravate allergies as well.
4. Disinfect surfaces
This idea is likely one you've heard before, but it is still one of the most effective and easy flu prevention methods. When disinfecting, think beyond the countertop and focus on the objects used most throughout the home, such as the family tablet, TV remote, or doorknobs.
Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. It's important to note that you're not killing germs with this process though -- you're mainly removing them and lowering their numbers.
Use a registered disinfectant that states the EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus. And, finally, always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.
5. Wash linens
The flu virus can live on surfaces for several hours -- and even longer on more porous surfaces like towels, washcloths, blankets and linens. While linens don't need to be washed separately, it's important that they're not shared without being cleaned thoroughly.
Wash bedding, towels and clothes with household detergent in hot water and tumble dry on a hot setting. Don't forget to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling them.
- Created on 14 November 2013
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology have issued the first new guidelines in a decade for preventing heart attacks and strokes. Among other things, they call for twice as many Americans - one-third of all adults - to consider taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
The guidelines take aim at strokes, not just heart attacks. They're personalized for men and women, and blacks and whites. They estimate a person's risk in a novel way and change the goal of treating high cholesterol.
A new formula includes age, sex, race, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. People ages 40 to 79 should get an estimate every four to six years. If risk is still unclear, family history or three other tests can be considered. The best one is a coronary artery calcium test, an X-ray to measure calcium in heart arteries.
High cholesterol leads to hardened arteries, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Most cholesterol is made by the liver, so diet changes have a limited effect, and many people need medicines to lower their risk.
The guidelines don't change the definition of high cholesterol, but they say doctors should no longer aim for a specific number with whatever drugs can get a patient there. The new advice stresses statins such as Lipitor and Zocor; most are generic and cost as little as a dime a day.
WHO NEEDS TREATMENT?
Four groups are targeted:
-People who already have heart disease (clogged arteries).
-Those whose LDL, or "bad cholesterol," is 190 or higher, usually because of genetic risk.
-People ages 40 to 75 with Type 2 diabetes.
-People ages 40 to 75 who have an estimated 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke of 7.5 percent or higher, based on the new formula. (This means that for every 100 people with a similar risk profile, seven to eight would have a heart attack or a stroke within 10 years.)
THE BOTTOM LINE
About one-third of U.S. adults - 44 percent of men and 22 percent of women - would have enough risk to consider a statin. Only 15 percent of adults do now.
THE ROLE OF LIFESTYLE
Guidelines also recommend 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three to four times a week. They call for a "dietary pattern" that is focused on vegetables, fruits and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans and healthy oils and nuts. Limit sweets, sweet drinks, red meat, saturated fat and salt.
To fight obesity, doctors should develop individualized weight-loss plans including a moderately reduced-calorie diet, exercise and behavior strategies. The best plans offer two to three in-person meetings a month for at least six months. Web or phone-based programs are a less-ideal option.