Health, Medicine & Nutrition
NIA/NIH News: Federal report details health, economic status of older Americans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Barbara Cire   
Friday, 17 August 2012 14:39

Federal report details health, economic status of older Americans

Today’s older Americans enjoy longer lives and better physical function than did previous generations, although, for some, an increased burden in housing costs and rising obesity may compromise these gains, according to a comprehensive federal look at aging. The report, Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being, tracks trends at regular intervals to see how older people are faring as the U.S. population grows older.

In 2010, 40 million people age 65 and over accounted for 13 percent of the total population in the United States. In 2030, the number and proportion of older Americans is expected to grow significantly—to 72 million, representing nearly 20 percent of the population said the report, by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

Older Americans 2012, the sixth report prepared by the Forum since 2000, provides an updated and accessible compendium of indicators, drawn from official statistics about the well-being of Americans primarily age 65 and older. The 176-page report provides a broad description of areas of well-being that are improving for older Americans and those that are not. Thirty-seven key indicators are categorized into five broad areas—population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care. This year’s report also includes a special feature on the end of life.

Highlights of Older Americans 2012 include:

  • Increased labor force participation by older women – Participation of older women in the labor force has increased significantly over the past 40 years. In 1963, 29 percent of women aged 62-64 worked outside the home; in 2011, that had increased to 45 percent. In 1963, 17 percent of women aged 65-69 were in the labor force; in 2011, that had increased to 27 percent. For women 70 and older, 6 percent worked in 1963, increasing to 8 percent in 2011. Some older Americans work out of economic necessity. Others may be attracted by the social contact, intellectual challenges or sense of value that work often provides.
  • Declines in poverty, increases in income since 1974 – Older Americans are in better economic shape now than they were in 1974. Between 1974 and 2010, the proportion of older people with income below the poverty thresholds (less than $10,458 in 2010 for a person 65 and older) fell from 15 percent to 9 percent. The percentage with low income (between $10,458 and $20,916 in 2010 for people 65 and older) dropped from 35 percent to 26 percent. There were also notable gains in income over the period, as the proportion of people 65 and older with high income ($41,832 and above in 2010) rose from 18 percent to 31 percent.
  • Increased housing problems –The most significant issue by far is housing cost burden, which has been steadily increasing over time. In 1985, about 30 percent of households with householders or spouses age 65 and over spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities. By 2009, the proportion of older people with high housing cost burden reached 40 percent. For some multigenerational households, crowded housing is also fairly prevalent.
  • Rising rates of obesity – Obesity, a major cause of preventable disease and premature death, is increasing among older people. In 2009-2010, 38 percent of people age 65 and over were obese, compared with 22 percent in 1988-1994. In 2009-2010, 44 percent of people age 65-74 were obese, as were 29 percent of those age 75 and older.
  • More use of hospice –The percentage of older people who received hospice care in the last 30 days of life increased from 19 percent in 1999 to 43 percent in 2009. The percentage of older Americans who died in hospitals dropped from 49 percent in 1999 to 32 percent in 2009. The percentage who died at home increased from 15 percent in 1999 to 24 percent in 2009. In 2009, there were notable differences in the use of hospice services at the end of life among people of different race and ethnicity groups.

Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being is available online at

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics was established in 1986 to improve the quality and utility of federal data on aging. This report assembles data to construct broad indicators of well-being for the older population and to monitor changes in these indicators over time. The effort is designed to inform the public, policy makers, and researchers about important trends in the aging population. The 15 agencies represented in the Forum include the Administration on Aging, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Health Statistics, National Institute on Aging, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (Department of Health and Human Services), Social Security Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being is available online at and in limited quantities in print. Supporting data for each indicator, including complete tables, PowerPoint slides and source descriptions, can be found on the Forum’s website. Single printed copies of Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being are available at no charge through the National Center for Health Statistics while supplies last. Requests may be made by calling 1-866-441-6247 or by sending an e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For multiple print copies, call 301-458-4460 or send an e-mail request to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


President Obama: My Plan Strengthens Medicare, Their Plan Ends It PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Stephanie Palla   
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 14:44

In Dubuque, Iowa, this afternoon, President Obama laid out the clear choice in this election between his plan to strengthen Medicare and the Romney-Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it.





I think they know their plan’s not very popular. You can tell that because they are being pretty dishonest about my plan. Especially, by the way, when it comes to Medicare. Now, this is something I’ve got to point out here because they are just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks. Here is what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare. I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. I’ve proposed reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system - reforms that will not touch your Medicare benefits, not by a dime. Now, Mr. Romney and his running mate have a very different plan. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program. That means seniors would no longer have the guarantee of Medicare, they’d get a voucher to buy private insurance. And because the voucher wouldn’t keep up with costs, the plan offered by Governor Romney’s running mate, Congressman Ryan, would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year, and I assume they don't have it. My plans already extended Medicare by nearly a decade. Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. My plan reduces the cost of Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and subsidies to insurance companies. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. That’s the difference between our plans on Medicare, that’s an example of the choice in this election, and that’s why I am running for a second term as President of the United States of America.

American Lung Association Report Aims to Reduce Tobacco Use in Rural Communities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Dona Wininsky   
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 14:25

Des Moines, IA, (August, 15, 2012) —The American Lung Association’s latest health disparity report, “Cutting Tobacco’s Rural Roots:  Tobacco Use in Rural Communities,” examines tobacco addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke in rural America, particularly among rural youth.

Tobacco use is higher in rural communities than in suburban and urban communities, and smokeless tobacco use is shockingly twice as common.  Rural youth are more likely to use tobacco and to start earlier than urban youth, perpetuating the cycle of tobacco addiction and death and disease.

“Tobacco use is often more socially acceptable in rural areas, especially chewing tobacco, making it more likely that kids living in these communities will also start to use tobacco,” said Janice Jensen, Executive Director with Dallas County Public Health. “Dallas County and other rural community leaders and residents need to take a stand against the culture of tobacco use as part of life and empower our future generations to have healthy, tobacco-free lives.”

There are a number of environmental and social factors that contribute to this generational cycle of tobacco use among youth and adults in rural America.

Increased tobacco use is associated with lower education levels and lower income, which are both common in rural areas where there may be fewer opportunities for educational and economic advancement.  Exposure to secondhand smoke is also higher as rural communities are less likely to have smokefree air laws in place and residents are less likely to refuse to allow smoking in their homes or other indoor places.

For decades, the tobacco industry has used rural imagery, such as the Marlboro Man, to promote its products and appeal to rural audiences.  Over the past several years, the tobacco industry’s marketing of smokeless tobacco products has skyrocketed. Sadly as the tobacco industry spends millions of dollars targeting rural youth, these youth are less likely to be exposed to tobacco counter-marketing campaigns.  Rural tobacco users are also less likely to have access to tobacco cessation programs and services to get the help they need to quit.

Many rural states have low tobacco taxes.  Raising tobacco prices is a proven strategy to reduce tobacco use.  In Iowa, the tobacco tax is $1.36 which is lower than the current average state cigarette tax of $1.46 per pack.  Promotion of the availability of state quit-smoking counseling services by phone and online resources also lags.

The American Lung Association in Iowa is calling on government agencies, the research and funding community, health systems and insurers, community leaders, schools and families to take steps now to cut tobacco’s rural roots.  “The rural community clearly requires special attention if we hope to end the epidemic of tobacco use in this country.  We must all work together as neighbors to overcome this health disparity,” said Kimberly Horn, Ed. D., Associate Dean of Research, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

The American Lung Association offers smoking cessation resources to help people quit smoking for good.

  • Freedom From Smoking® is a program that teaches the skills and techniques that have been proven to help hundreds of thousands of adults quit smoking. Freedom From Smoking is available as a group clinic, an online program and a self-help book.
  • Not-On-Tobacco® (N-O-T) is a group program designed to help 14 to 19 year old smokers end their addiction to nicotine. The curriculum consists of ten 50-minute sessions that typically occur once a week for 10 weeks.
  • The Lung HelpLine, 1-800-LUNG-USA, offers one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists.  Individuals have the opportunity to seek guidance on lung health and find out how to participate in and join the Lung Association smoking cessation programs.

In addition to expanding the Lung Association’s capability to provide its programs and services to the rural community, there are also several other action steps to reduce rural tobacco use.  These steps are detailed in the full report, and include that state and federal tobacco control programs must make a concerted effort and dedicate funding to reach rural communities; the research community should focus attention and resources on identifying effective cessation treatments for smokeless tobacco use; and school, health and employment systems in rural areas must all implement effective tobacco control strategies including smokefree air policies and access to cessation services.

Micki Sandquist, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . To download a copy of the report, visit:


About the American Lung Association: Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit

Use a Gasoline-Powered ATV Wheelchair to go into the Outdoors PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by John Phillips   
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 09:58

When Chet Dyreson crashed his motorcycle in a motocross race and injured his T1 through T5 vertebrae in his spinal cord, he became paralyzed. Once he realized he would have to spend the rest of his life in wheelchair, he was devastated. However, Dyreson was not a man made for self pity. Little did he know then that his accident would enable him to free many outdoor enthusiasts from their wheelchairs and give them the ability to take themselves into the outdoors and participate in outdoor sports.
After his injury, Dyreson began to build gasoline-powered all-terrain vehicle (ATV) wheelchairs that would cross creeks, climb mountains, travel through mud and snow and take a wheelchair outdoor enthusiast into the back country to hunt and fish. Dyreson explains, "Because I'd been riding motocross bikes most of my life, I understood how much power and speed small gasoline engines could deliver. When I built my first ATV wheelchair, I used a 250cc Kawasaki engine designed and built for a John Deere ATV to power it."

But, what Dyreson didn't know was how-much gas mileage he could get out of the engine, how reliable these small engines could be, and how fast they could push a wheelchair. "Reliability is the first priority a person in a wheelchair needs to consider if they're planning to go off-road," Dyreson says. "We can't just hop out of our wheelchairs and walk back to camp.

To test the dependability of the ATV wheelchair with all-terrain tires, Dyreson decided to take a road trip from Perris, California, to Washington D.C. and learned:

  • his ATV wheelchair would get 100 miles per gallon with a range of 350 miles;
  • his ATV wheelchair could run-up to 55-miles per hour on the highway. "That's the speed a highway patrolman clocked me at, before he pulled me over," Dyreson says.
  • a gasoline-powered wheelchair running on major interstates and highways was not illegal; and
  • he could make a 4,000-mile trip in his ATV wheelchair without a single breakdown.



To learn more about this amazing man and the ATV wheelchairs he creates for adventures in the outdoors, go to Chet Dyreson's website at

To read more stories about amazing people who have overcome their injuries, get the new Kindle eBooks, "Moving Forward: The Stories of Hometown Heroes" and "Courage: The Stories of Hometown Heroes," both by John E. Phillips. Go to, type in the names of these books, and download them to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, Smartphone or computer.


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Hijacking the Brain How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks Our Brains PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 10 August 2012 13:57

When Bill W. and Dr. Bob created Alcoholics Anonymous 77 years ago, they borrowed principles learned from a Christian fellowship called the Oxford Group to create their 12-step recovery program.

“They knew that their spiritual program was effective where other ‘cures’ had failed, and over the years, there have been many theories as to why,” says Dr. Harry Haroutunian, physician director of the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, and collaborator with Dr. Louis Teresi on the book, Hijacking the Brain: How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks our Brains – The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery (

“Now we know that stress is the fuel that feeds addiction, and that stress and drug and alcohol use cause neurological and physiological changes,” Haroutunian says. “The changes are primarily in the deep brain reward centers, the limbic brain, responsible for decisions, memory and emotion. These centers are ‘hijacked’ by substance abuse, so that the addicted person wants the booze or drug over anything else. ”

As a scientist and physician applying the 12-step program to his own life, Teresi studied the physiological changes triggered by this seemingly non-scientific treatment.

“One response is that elements of 12-step programs reduce stress and increase feelings of comfort and reward through chemical changes in the brain and body. These changes allow for neuronogenesis – the birth of neurons in the brain,” Teresi says.

“As substances of abuse affect the limbic brain, so do 12-step recovery practices."

Teresi says the 11th step in the program, which emphasizes spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, works for the following reasons:

Chilling out: Addiction is a cycle of bad habits. When something bad happens, an alcoholic drinks to feel better. When something good occurs, he drinks to celebrate. After years of this behavior, a person needs a way to step outside of himself to maintain sobriety. Regular prayer or meditation achieves that and becomes “that other habitual option” for responding to emotions, he says.

• “Mindfulness” meditation: While certain forms of prayer are effective, meditation may be a more direct way to achieve the kind of beneficial self-regulation that makes the 11th step so crucial, Teresi says. Mindfulness meditation incorporates active Focused Attention and the more passive Open Monitoring to raise a person’s awareness of his impulses, leading to better self-control.

The three-fold manner: A successful 11th step tends to have the following benefits: First, stress is relieved in both cognitive and emotional reactivity, as evidenced by reduced cortisol (stress hormone) levels and other biological indicators. Second, some forms of meditation are shown to stimulate the brain’s reward centers, releasing dopamine – a mood elevator -- while improving attention and memory. Third, an increased sense of connectivity and empathy to others is achieved, satisfying our natural need for social connection and reducing stress.

Sobriety is not so much about not drinking or drugging, Teresi says.

“It’s about developing an attitude and lifestyle that brings sufficient serenity and personal reward that drinking, or taking any mood-altering drug, is simply unnecessary.”

About Dr. Teresi & Dr. Haroutunian

Louis Teresi earned his medical degree from Harvard, where he completed honors concentration courses in neuroscience. In more than 24 years of practice, Teresi has authored numerous peer-reviewed papers, winning 14 national and international awards for his research, and is a senior member of the American Society of Neuroradiology. He is a grateful recovering alcoholic.

Dr. Harry L. Haroutunian, known as "Dr. Harry," is an internationally known speaker on addiction who has created the "Recovery 101" lecture series. As physician director of the Betty Ford Center, Dr. Haroutunian has contributed to the development of a variety of programs. He is the author of the soon-to-be-published book "Staying Sober When Nothing Goes Right" and collaborated with Dr. Louis Teresi, author of "Hijacking the Brain: How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks our Brains – The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery."

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