Heart-healthy diet doesn't have to be costly

"Increased spending on nuts, soy and beans, and whole grains, and less spending on red and processed meats and high-fat dairy, may be the bestinvestment for dietary health," Dr. Adam M. Bernstein and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues conclude.

The trick, according to the researchers, is to spend more on plant-based foods.

Several studies suggest that living on junk food can be cheaper than eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, the researchers note in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Research from the UK, France, Spain, and the Netherlands has also found that eating a healthy diet costs more. However, there is some evidence that "healthy diets can be obtained at different levels of spending," the authors write.

To compare the relationship between food spending and diet healthfulness, the team assessed diet and spending data for 78,191 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. They rated the women's eating habits and multivitamin intake according to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), a tool they developed, with points awarded for consuming healthier items.

Those with the healthiest diets, whose average AHEI score was 59, spent about $4.60 per day on food, compared to about $3.70 per day for the women with the least healthy diets, who had an average AHEI score of 30.
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For a healthy brain, work it out -- and challenge it mentally and physically

"They all gobble?" said a 67-year-old man, grinning.

Welcome to The Brain Fitness Club. It's a window into a growing population in America: adults who are beginning to forget names, telephone numbers and how to drive home, but are aware enough to do something about it whether that's playing word-association games or bowling on a Nintendo Wii.

While there's no magic pill for dementia, or even "senior moments," scientists are converging on what makes a brain-healthy lifestyle. And it looks a lot like the Winter Park class and the dozen other brain clubs that have popped up in Central Florida.

"There's no universal prescription that will solve everyone's brain problems," said Alvaro Fernandez, CEO of SharpBrains, a brain-fitness think tank. "But the good news is, there is a lot we can do."

Good for your body? Good for your brain

Not too long ago, scientists believed we all start with roughly 3 trillion brain cells that, through careless decisions such as drinking alcohol and playing tackle football, we gradually kill off. Once a brain cell was lost, the brain was one man down, forever.

That's a myth, we now know.

The brain is a tangled web of cells that is constantly rewiring itself, like acrobats unlinking arms and swapping partners. The brain can grow new cells to link into its intricate network, tossing a new gymnast into the act.

Health care costs to rise 12.4 percent in Chicago

Chicago workers can expect to pay 12.4 percent more in health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs next year, according to a report from Lincolnshire-based Hewitt Associates.

The average employee cost, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays and co-insurance, will rise to $4,520 from $4,022 last year, the company said. That includes $2,286 in premiums and $2,234 for out-of-pocket costs.

For Chicago employers, the average cost per worker will rise 8.7 percent to $9,791, including employee contributions to premiums. That’s the highest increase since a 9.7 percent rise in 2006. Nationally, costs are expected to rise 8.8 percent next year.

Among factors driving the higher costs, employers are seeing an increase in the amount of charges and frequency of catastrophic claims as slower hiring has left employers with older workforces more prone to costly medical conditions, the human resources consulting and outsourcing company said.

Hewitt also estimates that health care reform requirements that dependents be covered to age 26 and the elimination of certain lifetime and annual limits contributed 1 percent to 2 percent of the increase. Most of the positive effects of the reform law won’t be felt for a few years, according to Ken Sperling, Hewitt’s health care practice leader.

Employers are responding to rising costs with plans to continue passing more of those costs along to workers over the next three to five years. Workers may see employers shifting plan designs from fixed dollar co-payments to co-insurance models, where employees pay a percentage of the out-of-pocket costs for each health care service, Hewitt said. Workers may also see higher deductibles, out-of-pocket-limits and cost sharing for use of non-network providers, Hewitt said.

A fatter future: 3 of 4 Americans to be overweight by 2020, new report warns of health costs

Citizens of the world's richest countries are getting fatter and fatter and the United States is leading the charge, an organization of leading economies said Thursday in its first ever obesity forecast.

Three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, and disease rates and health care spending will balloon, unless governments, individuals and industry cooperate on a comprehensive strategy to combat the epidemic, the study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Paris-based organization, which brings together 33 of the world's leading economies, is better known for forecasting deficit and employment levels than for measuring waistlines. But the economic cost of excess weight — in health care, and in lives cut short and resources wasted — is a growing concern for many governments.

Milk does a body good

Got milk?
A new study from Israeli researchers found that dieters who drink a lot of milk lost more weight than people who consumed little to no calcium regardless of the rest of their diet.

Participants lost about 12 pounds at the end of the two-year study. Those who drank the least amount of milk and milk products lost about seven pounds.

More than 300 overweight middle-aged adults participated in a study that evaluated a variety of diets. Vitamin D serum levels were found to increase as participants lost weight.

Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium in the bloodstream, and can be obtained from sunlight, milk, fatty fish, and eggs.

Overweight people tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, but researchers said this was the first study to show that vitamin increases in the body as people lose weight.

$42. 5 Million Allotted For U.S. Public Health Investments

Atlanta, GA, United States (AHN) - At least 94 projects totaling $42.5 million have been awarded to state, tribal, local and territorial health departments around the country to improve their ability to provide public health services by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted the funding was made possible through the new Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act.

“These funds will help departments around the country to improve quality and effectiveness of critical health services that millions of Americans rely on every day,” Sebelius said in a statement.

The funds are a down payment on improving public health services across the nation, said Dr. Judith A. Monroe, CDC’s deputy director for state, tribal, local and territorial support.

This new 5-year program dubbed “Strengthening Public Health Infrastructure for Improved Health Outcomes” will provide departments with needed resources to make fundamental changes in their organizations and practice so that they can improve the delivery of public health services.

The plan includes expansion and training of public health staff and community leaders to conduct policy activities in key areas and facilitate improvements in system efficiency. The project also seeks to build a national network of performance improvement managers that share best practices for improving the public health system.

CDC received last July more than 140 applications from departments seeking funds through cooperative agreement following original funding announcement entitled Public Health Systems and Infrastructure Projects.

Obesity Hurts Your Wallet and Your Health

Researchers are putting a tag on obesity. Doctors have known that medical bills are higher for the obese, but a report from George Washington University finds that's only a portion of the real-life costs.

The researchers added in factors such as employee sick days, lost productivity, even the need for extra gasoline-- and found the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for a woman and $2,646 for a man.

That's far more than the cost of being merely overweight -- $524 for women and $434 for men.

The study's co-author Christine Ferguson says the difference found between the sexes suggests that larger women earn less than skinnier women, while wages don't differ when men pack on the pounds.

Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has tripled in the past three decades.