Health Consumer The news on Lyme disease, sunscreen, weight control and more
(MONEY Magazine) – HELP KIDS FIGHT FAT Obesity isn't just a health threat to the middle-aged anymore; today 11% of American kids are overweight, up from 5% 20 years ago. A new weapon in the fight against fat: the first height/weight chart for kids that gauges their body mass index (BMI), the best indicator of whether they're at risk. When a growing child's BMI is too high, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, don't cut back on food. Instead, ratchet up the athletics and switch from candy and chips to fresh fruits and veggies. Download the new chart at www.cdc.gov/nchs, or call 301-458-4636.
YOU'VE GOT 23 SECONDS That's the average time a person talks to a doctor before the doc interrupts, according to a recent study. Although the interruption is usually meant to help the doctor make a diagnosis, it can prevent you from getting to important details. How to keep a visit on track? Until all doctors become great communicators, Dr. Jeff Susman of the University of Cincinnati's Family Medicine Center suggests preparing a list of concerns in order of priority, just as you would for a business meeting.
TICK TROUBLE LYMErix, SmithKline Beecham's Lyme disease vaccine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December 1998, and it's already attracted a lawsuit. Plaintiffs claim that the vaccine may cause arthritis in up to 30% of the population. An SKB spokesman asserts that "the claim is without merit. The vaccine is safe and well tolerated." Lyme disease, transmitted by ticks, can cause arthritis and neurological damage. Consider the vaccine if you work in a high-risk occupation such as gardening, says Dr. Sam Donta, director of the Lyme Unit at Boston University Medical Center. For Lyme prevention tips, go to www.lyme.org.
STEM-CELL SAFE DEPOSIT The most easily tapped source for a stem-cell transplant--used to battle leukemia and other life-threatening diseases--is the blood from a newborn baby's discarded umbilical cord. The desire to collect, freeze and store cord blood is spawning a new industry: cord-blood banks. Families could use banked cord blood to treat the child or family members (including parents and grandparents) in case of illness. Ethical and technical concerns abound, cautions Dr. Donald Mattison, medical director for the March of Dimes. You may also balk at the price: about $1,300 to collect and process the blood plus $100 a month for storage.
A TYLENOL A DAY? Many of the over-40 set pop an aspirin a day in hopes of preventing a heart attack. Someday they may take acetaminophen too: Three studies found that taking several 1,000mg doses of the painkiller may protect against hardening of the arteries. Acetaminophen appears to inhibit production of myeloperoxidase, an enzyme associated with increased levels of LDL, the "bad cholesterol." Before you try this, talk to your doctor: Excessive use of acetominophen may damage the liver.
Reported by Roberta Kirwan