HEALTH

Study: Breast-feeding reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, related illnesses

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH The longer women breast-feed, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, reported University of Pittsburgh researchers in a study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it’s vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves,” stated Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. “We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies’ health; we now know that it is important for mothers’ health as well.”

According to the study, postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all known to cause heart disease. Women who had breastfed their babies for more than a year were 10% less likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or developed heart disease than women who had never breastfed.

Schwarz and colleagues found that the benefits from breastfeeding were long-term ? an average of 35 years had passed since women enrolled in the study had last breastfed an infant.

“The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them,” Schwarz pointed out. “Our study provides another good reason for workplace policies to encourage women to breastfeed their infants.”

The findings are based on 139,681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study of chronic disease, initiated in 1994.

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Poll: Americans lose slumber as economy tumbles

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON One-third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns, according to a new poll released last month by the National Sleep Foundation. The poll suggested that inadequate sleep is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and negatively impacts health and safety.

NSF’s Sleep in America poll reveals striking disparities in the sleep patterns, health habits and quality of life between healthy and unhealthy Americans. Those in good health are two-times more likely than those in poor health to work efficiently, exercise or eat healthy because they are getting enough sleep.

The number of people reporting sleep problems has increased 13% since 2001. In the past eight years, the number of Americans who sleep less than six hours a night jumped from 13% to 20%, and those who reported sleeping eight hours or more dropped from 38% to 28%.

“It’s easy to understand why so many people are concerned over the economy and jobs, but sacrificing sleep is the wrong solution,” stated David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep is essential for productivity and alertness and is a vital sign for one’s overall health.”

About 40% of Americans agree that sleep is as important as diet and exercise to overall health and well-being; yet, only 32% of Americans who report sleep problems discuss them with their doctor.

“Getting enough sleep everyday is as important to your health as eating healthy and being physically active. Physicians should regularly ask all patients about sleep, diet and physical activity habits.” stated Woodie Kessel, Assistant Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Service (ret.), who was a member of the 2009 Sleep in America poll taskforce. “Sleep is as vital as eating right and exercising to our health.”

Lack of sleep is creating a major public safety problem as well — drowsy driving. The 2009 poll finds that more than one-half of adults (54%) – potentially 110 million licensed drivers – have driven when drowsy at least once in the past year. Nearly one-third of drivers polled (28%) say that they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle.

Two-in-every-ten Americans sleep less than six hours a night. People sleeping too few hours report being too tired to work efficiently, to exercise or to eat healthy. Nearly 40% of these Americans sleeping too few hours have driven when drowsy at least once a month in the past year and nearly 90% report symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week in the past month.

“With the economy worsening, we are seeing patients in our clinic who have told us that they would not be returning for treatment because they or a family member have lost their jobs, and they are concerned about costs,” stated Meir Kryger, director of research and education at Gaylord Sleep Services. “These patients may wind up far sicker. Sleep disorders are often associated with other chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, and they can add complexity and even accelerate each other if untreated.”

As experts predict that the U.S. economic situation may get worse in 2009, the National Sleep Foundation encourages Americans to maintain good sleep, exercise and diet routines to help combat anxiety and improve health and productivity. People should speak with their doctor if they are experiencing sleep problems.

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Mobile application Medzio connects consumers to health information, resources

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK A.D.A.M., a provider of health information and benefits technology solutions, has introduced a new free mobile health application for the iPhone that is designed to connect consumers, health information and medical resources.

The mobile health application, known as Medzio, is available as a free download at the iPhone App Store.

“We see Medzio as a next generation extension of the resources that people will access in order to better manage their health,” stated Kevin Noland, president and CEO of A.D.A.M. “As the iPhone has changed the way people use mobile devices, Medzio will change the way people will connect to healthcare services. By integrating world-class consumer health information, resources and the power to connect and collaborate with others, Medzio becomes the vital hub that allows mobile consumers to regularly engage in their personal health management and connect and collaborate with others.”

The Medzio Mobile Health Network inaugural partners include Livestrong.com, Healthcare Blue Book, HelloHealth, Health 2.0, OrganizedWisdom, Norton Healthcare, HealthiNation and DrGreene.com. These companies have teamed up with A.D.A.M. to provide information, tools, resources and services.

Medzio features include:

  • First aid information
  • Interactive health information for users curious about illnesses, symptoms and medical conditions.
  • Local care access, which enables users to search for local medical facilities and healthcare provides, including retail clinics and pharmacies.
  • Mobile Health Network, which provides users access to healthcare pricing information, specialized medical information and advice, online health communities and local healthcare providers.

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