Many Years Young

A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People's Gut Bacteria

(NPR) Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there's a story behind that name), has eluded researchers' radar for decades.
Here's the cool part: The virus doesn't just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report… Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically inside Bacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.
So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.
The new virus doesn't make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine," says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.
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Gut bacteria changes may predict infection and inflammation

(Medical News Today)  One of the most surprising revelations about human biology to emerge in recent years is that the microbes in our gut vastly outnumber our body's own cells. Plus, it seems they play an important role in our health; when they get sick, we get sick. Now, a new study shows how a computer-assisted model can predict gut infection and inflammation before symptoms emerge by tracking changes in gut microbiota signatures over time.
[Researchers] … suggest their findings will eventually help doctors reach a better understanding of how foreign bacteria disrupt our gut microbiota, and from that find better treatments for gastrointestinal (GI) infection and inflammation.
Senior author Lyn Bry … says: "Our gut contains 10 times more bacterial cells than there are human cells in our body. The behavior of these complex bacterial ecosystems when under attack by infection can have a big impact on our health."…
Prof. Bry says that from a clinical perspective, "these new microbial signatures we identified could help clinicians detect early stages of inflammation or subtle persistent disease in patients with gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease."
She adds that several of the time-dependent signatures they identified could also be used to study other types of inflammation and infection.
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Want to Improve Your Gut Bacteria? Start Exercising

(Care2.com) Gut bacteria is critical to our well-being, helping with metabolism and immunity, and it might even play a role in dealing with obesity. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet, full of processed foods and sugars, leads to a less diverse gut, which in turn make us less healthy. Fortunately, gut bacteria can be improved by your diet, for example, consuming more fermented foods. But if you’re after a healthy gut, food isn’t the only thing to pay attention to; exercise may help as well.
While exercise has long been a part of an overall healthy lifestyle, there has been little science to link it to what happens in our digestive system. But a new study published this month shows that there is in fact a link, and if we want a healthy gut, we should certainly think about exercising more.
The study compared the national rugby team in Ireland to two groups of healthy adult men, one with a normal body mass index and who exercised regularly, and the other who lived more sedentary lifestyles…
An interesting component of the study was that the rugby players had large numbers of a particular bacteria, Akkermansiacea, that has been linked with decreased risk for systemic inflammation, and in turn, their blood levels showed low markers of inflammation…
It is important to note that the athletes were also on a much better diet than the control group. They ate more of all of the food groups than the control participants and they also ate more fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks. This dietary difference can also affect the gut microbe, which means that it might not all be thanks to exercise. Yet while the results are preliminary, they “draw attention to the possibility that exercise may have a beneficial effect on the microbiota,” Dr. [Fergus] Shanahan told the New York Times.
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Smartphone Study Shows How Life Hits Us in the Gut

(NBC News) Life's ups and downs affect the trillions of bacteria in our gut in detectable ways, based on a year’s worth of data from two researchers who studied their own poop. They used a smartphone app to log their daily activity, and provided regular saliva and stool samples. The results … suggest that the microbial community in our digestive tract, known as the microbiome, fluctuates depending on our diet and activities. But it usually returns to a happy medium.
"On any given day, the amount of one species could change manyfold, but after a year, that species would still be at the same median level," MIT's Eric Alm said in a news release. He and his colleague, Lawrence David, each went through a major change: Alm suffered a case of Salmonella poisoning, and David took a trip to Southeast Asia (with diarrheal consequences). Their microbiomes reflected those upsets, but both bacterial communities rebounded. Eventually the researchers want to create a personalized monitoring system that would give users an early warning about intestinal flare-ups.
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Fecal Transplants Restore Healthy Bacteria and Gut Functions

(Science Daily) Fecal microbiota transplantation -- the process of delivering stool bacteria from a healthy donor to a patient suffering from intestinal infection with the bacterium Clostridium difficile -- works by restoring healthy bacteria and functioning to the recipient's gut, according to a study…
The study provides insight into the structural and potential metabolic changes that occur following fecal transplant, says senior author Vincent B. Young, MD, PhD… The transplants, which have been successful at curing more than 90 percent of recipients, have been used successfully since the 1950s, he says, though it hasn't been clear how they work to recover gut function.
"The bottom line is fecal transplants work, and not by just supplying a missing bug but a missing function being carried out by multiple organisms in the transplanted feces," Young says. "By restoring this function, C. difficile isn't allowed to grow unchecked, and the whole ecosystem is able to recover."
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Recipes

MyRecipes.com:
Grilled Scallop Salad
Speed up prep on this chicken main dish by marinating only 30 minutes. Serve with cabbage-carrot slaw.
EatingWell:
Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
Known as Tuna-Pea Wiggle to some, this family-friendly tuna noodle casserole tends to be made with canned soup and whole milk, which means high fat and sodium. We remedy this by making our own creamy mushroom sauce with nonfat milk thickened with a bit of flour. Look for whole-wheat egg noodles—they have more fiber than regular egg noodles (but this dish will work well and taste great with either).
Eat East Indian:
Lachha Paratha Recipe (Multi Layered Indian Flatbread)
Lachha Paratha is a round and flaky, multi layered Indian flatbread best enjoyed with curries or Indian vegetables. All you need for this recipe is whole wheat flour, water, oil for cooking (or butter/ghee), pinch of sugar and salt.
Washington Post:
Andrew Weil, M.D.:
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Nothing tastes better on a sizzling day than ice-cold fresh vegetables in a chilled bowl. Paradoxically, adding a little hot spice helps your body cool itself as well. This dish is a good base for experimenting with different chiles, as their flavors emerge cleanly. -Chef Michael Stebner
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Food News

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) Tomatoes are: 1. Low in calories. 2. Excellent sources of vitamin C, and provide vitamins A and K, potassium, manganese and fiber. 3. A source of lycopene - researchers have linked the lycopene (a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color) with a lowered risk of heart disease and cancers, including those of the prostate, breast, colon and lung, as well as being helpful in lowering high cholesterol… To get the full health benefit of tomatoes, including their anti-cancer potential, remember that carotenoids are fat-soluble and are better absorbed when eaten lightly cooked and paired with healthy, monounsaturated fats such as extra-virgin olive oil.
(Seven Days) What if, instead of meds, doctors prescribed peas and carrots? That's the idea behind a growing partnership between the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and two Vermont hospitals… Part community-supported agriculture, part doctor's orders, the program is free for patients who have been recommended by their physicians… Vermont is not alone in treating food as medicine. Hospitals and health insurers in other parts of the country have already started to experiment with nutrition-based healing.
(Appetite for Health) A new study … followed more than 8,500 adults and found that those who eat 7 or more servings of yogurt per week of yogurt (including full fat) were 20 percent less likely to become overweight and 38% less likely to become obese during the six-year study, compared to those eating fewer than two servings of yogurt per week. This study also noted yogurt eaters followed a more Mediterranean style diet and generally ate yogurt as dessert. Those who ate the most yogurt and fruit were the least likely to gain weight.
(Nature World News) A new study suggests that caffeine might worsen hot flashes and night sweat in menopausal women. The study also found that women transitioning into menopause - the perimenopausal women - reacted differently to caffeine. Caffeine improved mood, memory and concentration in these women.
(Sharecare.com) According to one lab study, extracts in white tea exert an anti-inflammatory effect that slows the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers -- those super-supportive intracellular structures that skin needs to stay firm and wrinkle-free.
(Science News) Westerners’ carb-rich diets have long been linked to high levels of cancer, and scientists have begun to work out why. In an experiment with mice, gut bacteria bridged the gap, explaining why sugar-heavy diets can cause cancer, researchers report… If the mouse experiments mimic human cancers, then shunning high-carbohydrate, Western diets could allay or prevent the disease for many people, says [geneticist Scott] Bultman. “Following a well-balanced diet, with fewer refined sugars and more fiber, is good for the microbiome and likely has an effect on cancer predisposition.”
(Fox News) Experimenting is the best approach, experts say… Here are some foods you can try to help alleviate your symptoms. High-fiber foods… Lean protein and lamb… Yogurt… Grass-fed butter… Salmon… Spices… Fermented foods… Nut and seed butters… Zinc-rich foods… Gluten-free foods.
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How listeria gets in your food, and how to prevent it

(Los Angeles Times) The CDC says older adults, people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions and pregnant woman as the most at risk for listeriosis…
To prevent contamination, the FDA and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service suggest that people at risk should reheat hot dogs and lunch meats until steaming hot and avoid dairy products made with unpasteurized milk. 
All fruits and vegetables should be washed under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you intend to peel it. The FDA and FSIS also suggest scrubbing produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush. 
Other ways to prevent contamination include thoroughly washing food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water and sanitizing them, keeping your refrigerator clean and at 40 degrees or colder and your freezer at 0 degrees or colder, wrapping and covering food before storing, and using precooked or ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. 
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The Latest from The People’s Pharmacy

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Quick Takes

(New York Daily News) Rats taking tamoxifen who were exposed to dim lighting at night didn’t produce normal amounts of melatonin, and their tumors grew quickly as a result. But when they were given a melatonin supplement, their tumors shrank.
Community: I take melatonin to help me sleep. It’s available a food supplement, and is found in various foods. I also wear a sleep mask, to make sure no light hits my eyes at night, not even the nightlight!
(Science Daily) A false positive screen result -- a screening test in which initial findings of concern for cancer are later found not to be worrisome -- did not cause participants undue anxiety or reduced quality of life, a new study shows. Researchers hypothesize that clear and accurate consent forms prepared patients for these false positive diagnoses.
Community: So the “experts” trying to reduce healthcare spending by reducing screening are wrong? They tell us that only a few lives will be saved, and positive results can lead to overtreatment and distress. As to overtreatment, just don’t do it! And as to the supposed distress factor, this research shows that it’s made-up stuff. It’s similar to those who say we harm the poor by giving them a helping hand. Really, folks, are we human or not?
(LiveScience) Monkeys living in the forests around the city of Fukushima in Japan show lower blood cell counts than monkeys from northern Japan, and have detectable levels of cesium in their bodies, a new study reports.
(Reuters) A second psychiatric examination of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, who says he was insane when he shot dead 12 moviegoers two years ago, can be recorded on video, a judge overseeing the case ruled on Thursday. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a cinema in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight viewing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012.
(Science Daily) Only 8.2 percent of human DNA is likely to be doing something important -- is 'functional' -- say researchers. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.
(The JAMA Network Journals) Utilization of catheter-directed thrombolysis (CDT, where imaging is used to guide treatment to the site of a blood clot in order to dissolve it) has increased in patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and there appeared to be no difference in in-hospital mortality rates for patients treated with CDT compared with anticoagulation alone, although patients treated with CDT had more adverse events.
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Google wants to know how the human body works

(Washington Post) Google is exploring the human body, hoping to develop a definition for a “healthy” person by cells and molecules.
This ambitious project, which the company claims “has never been done before” and known as the Baseline Study, is being led by the Google X secret laboratory, Google said in a statement Thursday.
The study is now in its pilot phase as researchers enroll 175 anonymous healthy individuals over the course of the summer. Study participants will go through exams similar to what they would receive from a primary care physician, including the collection of body fluids like urine, blood and saliva.
“It may sound counter-intuitive, but by studying health, we might someday be better able to understand disease,” said Andrew Conrad, molecular biologist who is leading the study at Google X. “This research could give us clues about how the human body stays healthy or becomes sick, which could in turn unlock insights into how diseases could be better detected or treated.”
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Cause Found For Large Chemical Spill In West Virginia

(Scientific American) The lack of a rigorous inspection program at Freedom Industries is at least partly to blame for the massive leak of (4-methylcyclohexyl) methanol (MCHM) from a tank at a the company’s storage site in West Virginia in January, according to the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
The board found no record of a formal, industry-approved inspection performed on any of the speciality chemical company’s storage tanks prior to the incident on 9 January.  
The CSB – an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents – concluded that the chemical spill resulted specifically from two small corrosion holes in the bottom of the 48,000-gallon tank.
Community: We don’t need no stinkin’ gummint regulation!
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Infectious Disease News

(Science Daily) Hospital germs can be fatal, since they are resistant to antibiotics. As a result, alternative methods of defense against bacteria are in demand. A research team has been able to develop bone implants that keep the germs at bay. At first glance, the fine-grained implant looks like flour. Only under the microscope can one see what is inside: The individual grains of the granules consist of apatite crystals.
(AFP) A campaign to promote male circumcision to prevent AIDS infection also indirectly benefits women by reducing their risk of contracting the HIV virus, according to a study presented at the world AIDS forum Friday.
(Voice of America) A new series in the medical journal The Lancet says achieving an AIDS-free generation will not be possible unless the human rights of sex workers are recognized. Researchers say sex workers face violence and discrimination and are not able to access the care, treatment and prevention measures they need. The Lancet articles say people who sell sex - whether in high or low income countries -- "face a disproportionate risk and burden of HIV." These include women, men and transgenders. Much of the problem, the authors said, has to do with "repressive and discriminatory law, policy and practice."
(MedPage Today) Nearly all people living with HIV could be rendered noninfectious by a suite of "biomedical interventions," according to new recommendations for HIV prevention. Similarly, people at risk for HIV now have biomedical options that can reduce their risk of acquiring the disease, according to the International Antiviral Society-USA (IAS-USA).
(Reuters) More U.S. adolescents are receiving vaccines against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical and other types of cancer but vaccination rates for the infection remain too low, federal health officials said on Thursday.
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Pharma News

(Reuters) U.S. regulators have accepted an application by Sandoz - the generics arm of Novartis - seeking approval for a copycat version of Amgen's drug Neupogen, or filgrastim, for patients with low white blood cell counts. The Food and Drug Administration's decision to accept the filing under a new pathway for so-called biosimilar drugs marks a milestone in the rollout of cheaper copies of injectable biotech medicines in the United States.
(Reuters) U.S. rules that ensure prescription medicines are not misused have been manipulated by brand-name drug companies to fight off generic competitors, costing consumers billions of dollars, according to a report released on Wednesday. Called "risk evaluation and mitigation strategies" (REMS), these U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules are meant to secure the safe distribution of dangerous medicines.
(Businessweek) Gilead's expensive, breakthrough hepatitis drug gives a huge boost to profits and revenues. Also: Facebook stock moves to record highs after earnings.
(Businessweek) Sandra Cabrera and Ted Tabor both suffered devastating damage from hepatitis C. After just weeks of taking Gilead’s Sovaldi, they feel much better and tests suggest the lethal virus is disappearing from their blood… Priced at $1,000 a pill, the drug is drawing comparisons with the HIV treatment cocktails that turned AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic disease… Like with AIDS almost two decades ago, patients’ tales may help broaden access to treatment, said Ryan Clary, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization. For now, worry about the drug’s high cost prevents some people from getting it, he said.
(MedPage Today) The Alzheimer's disease drug memantine (Namenda) might be worth a look for improving recovery from stroke, a mouse-model study suggested. The drug, started orally 2 hours after stroke and continued for 28 days, didn't reduce the size of infarcts or improve behavior in the first week, Kevin C. Brennan, MD…, and colleagues reported.. But longer-term measures suggested better recovery  in the memantine-treated mice compared with those in a control group, with significantly greater improvements in motor control on cylinder and grid-walking tests and improved forepaw sensory maps in the brain on optical intrinsic signal measurements at 28 days after stroke.
(Reuters) A Novo Nordisk drug combining its long-acting insulin degludec with its type 2 diabetes treatment Victoza has been recommended for approval in Europe, in an important boost for the Danish company.
More . . .

Psychiatrists With Guns Likely More 'Harmful Than Helpful'

(NBC News) The recent shootout between a patient and a psychiatrist in a Philadelphia-area hospital surprised not only the average American, but also psychiatrists around the country…
Psychiatrists and mental health experts interviewed by NBC News didn’t see gun-toting doctors as a new trend. In fact, they said, guns really aren’t the best protection against a violent patient with severe mental illness.
“My guess is that arming psychiatrists is more likely to be harmful than helpful,” said DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, a nonpartisan science-based think tank focused on serious mental illness.
The weapon mental health professionals would like to have is legislation that makes it easier to commit dangerous patients before a tragedy occurs.
“Violence by the mentally ill is always due to them being untreated,” Jaffe said. “We need to change commitment laws. We can’t wait to commit someone until after they become a danger to others.”
Community: But in Florida, doctors aren’t allowed to ask patients if they own guns. No, it’s not a safety issue. Not at all. Oh, no.
(Reuters) A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday in favor of a Florida law that bars doctors from asking patients about gun ownership, overturning a decision in the so-called "Docs v. Glocks" case by a lower court that had struck it down. Florida's Republican-led legislature passed the law after a north Florida couple complained that a doctor asked them if they had guns, and refused to see them after they declined to answer.
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For Better Treatment, Doctors And Patients Share The Decisions

(The Salt, NPR) [Leigh] Simmons and her colleagues are working on ways to involve their patients in shared decision-making. The initiative at Mass General gives patients online, written and visual information to help them. One of the goals is to make risk understandable — bridging the gap between percent probabilities and words.
Simmons tried it with her patient Joe Bianco, 60, when talking over his risk for heart disease a few weeks ago. Rather than just using a number to tell him his risk for a heart attack, she made it visual with this statin/aspirin decision aid calculator, developed by the Mayo Clinic.
The calculator displays 100 green dots arranged in a 10-by-10 grid. Each has a little smile on it and symbolizes a person. Once a patient's information is entered, some of the green dots turn yellow and some smiles may turn upside down into frowns, indicating in the next 10 years, how many people are expected to have a heart attack.
When Bianco's profile is submitted, 12 dots turn yellow and 88 remain green — meaning 12 percent of men like him will have a heart attack within 10 years. "It looks like my chances are slim," he says.
Bianco had decided earlier not to take a cholesterol-lowering statin medicine to lower his risk of a heart attack. The dozen frowning yellow dots don't change his mind.
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How to escape the medical care debt trap

(Steve Trumble, American Consumer Credit Counseling) It is important to keep track of balances and communicate regularly with health providers and insurers, particularly if a payment is going to be late or if you want to try to negotiate a payment schedule.
Consumers should also always ask for an itemized bill and report any potential errors or inconsistencies promptly. They should ask about financial assistance programs offered by the health provider and develop realistic payment plans. Whenever possible, consumers should avoid using credit cards to pay for healthcare, and they should be aware that many of the credit cards issued specifically for healthcare come with higher fees and interest. Finally, if a medical bill has been sent to collection, consumers should ask to attach a statement to their credit files explaining the debt.
A lot of attention is paid to helping people cope with the physical limitations and emotional turmoil that accompany a serious illness. But the long-term financial chaos and stress from medical troubles can be just as devastating. Congress should act on the Medical Debt Responsibility Act so that the economic toll of illness doesn't continue to plague patients long after they have recovered. And in the meantime, consumers should do everything they can to protect themselves.
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Health Insurance News

(Kaiser Health News) KHN consumer columnist Michelle Andrews points out various options through Medicaid, CHIP and the online insurance marketplaces. 
(AP) Government officials say Close — and other consumers who have received different subsidy amounts — probably made some mistake entering personal details such as income, age and even ZIP codes. The Associated Press interviewed insurance agents, health counselors and attorneys around the country who said they received varying subsidy amounts for the same consumers. As consumers wait for a resolution, some have decided to go without health insurance because of the uncertainty while others who went ahead with policies purchased through the exchanges worry they are going to owe the government money next tax season.
(The Hill) The Internal Revenue Service said Thursday individuals who fail to get health insurance this year will be fined a maximum of $2,448 and families with five or more members can be fined up to $12,240. Under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, people are either required to obtain health insurance or risk a tax penalty from the IRS.
(Politico) The Obama administration signaled Thursday it’s not backing down from the controversial health law employer mandate that has been delayed twice and is the centerpiece of the House’s lawsuit against the president. The IRS posted drafts of the forms that employers will have to fill out to comply with the Obamacare requirement that employers provide health insurance to workers.
(Politico) The lawsuit has deepened the tension and mistrust between House Republicans and the White House. Republicans say they’re simply holding the president accountable for circumventing Congress on a major policy change related to the implementation of Obamacare. Obama and congressional Democrats have dismissed the suit as little more than election year theater.
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Life Expectancy Gains Threatened

(Science Daily) With nearly four in five older Americans living with multiple chronic medical conditions, a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that the more ailments you have after retirement age, the shorter your life expectancy. The analysis, one of the first to examine the burden of multiple chronic conditions on life expectancy among the elderly, may help explain why increases in life expectancy among older Americans are slowing.
A report on the findings [is] based on an analysis of 1.4 million Medicare enrollees…
"Living with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure is now the norm and not the exception in the United States," says Eva H. DuGoff, a recent PhD recipient at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the report. "The medical advances that have allowed sick people to live longer may not be able to keep up with the growing burden of chronic disease. It is becoming very clear that preventing the development of additional chronic conditions in the elderly could be the only way to continue to improve life expectancy."…
On average, life expectancy is reduced by 1.8 years with each additional chronic condition, the researchers found. But while the first disease shaves off just a fraction of a year off life expectancy for older people, the impact grows as the diseases add up…
"We already knew that living with multiple chronic conditions affects an individual's quality of life, now we know the impact on quantity of life," DuGoff says. "The growing burden of chronic disease could erase decades of progress. We don't want to turn around and see that life expectancy gains have stopped or reversed."
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Strategy Proposed for Preventing Diseases of Aging

(Science Daily) Medicine focuses almost entirely on fighting chronic diseases in a piecemeal fashion as symptoms develop. Instead, more efforts should be directed to promoting interventions that have the potential to prevent multiple chronic diseases and extend healthy lifespans.
Researchers … say that by treating the metabolic and molecular causes of human aging, it may be possible to help people stay healthy into their 70s and 80s…
[A] trio of aging experts calls for moving forward with preclinical and clinical strategies that have been shown to delay aging in animals. In addition to promoting a healthy diet and regular exercise, these strategies include slowing the metabolic and molecular causes of human aging, such as the incremental accumulation of cellular damage that occurs over time. The researchers … write that economic incentives in biomedical research and health care reward treating disease more than promoting good health…
[Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD,] and his co-authors also point out that several molecular pathways shown to increase longevity in animals also are affected by approved and experimental drugs, including rapamycin, an anticancer and organ-rejection drug, and metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes…
But challenges abound. The most important change, they argue, is in mindset. Economic incentives in biomedical research and health care reward treating diseases more than promoting good health, [the authors] note.
"But public money must be invested in extending healthy lifespan by slowing aging. Otherwise, we will founder in a demographic crisis of increased disability and escalating health care costs," they write.
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