Review Category : Health

Extreme Weight Loss: How They Lost 100 Pounds or More

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Growing up, Judith Anthony had no boundaries for snacking.

“I would literally go to the store and buy $3 worth of the 25 cent potato chips. And I’d just sit there and eat them,” the 26-year-old from Orange, New Jersey, said.

By the time she was a high school freshman, Anthony weighed 180 pounds. She ballooned to 257 pounds in college. Still, Anthony, who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, never saw herself as being overweight until she visited a doctor two years ago because she wanted a breast reduction.

She recalled the doctor recommending that she get gastric bypass surgery.

“It was very hard to hear,” Anthony, who works as an overnight support counselor, said. “I looked at myself saying, at 257 pounds I have to do something.”

Anthony joined Jenny Craig, started doing Zumba and ate healthy. She’s lost 117 pounds.

Anthony is featured in the latest issue of People magazine that tells the stories of she and four others who each lost 100 pounds or more. The magazine is out on newsstands Friday.

Also featured is Edwin Velez, a 28-year-old teacher from Albertville, Alabama.

“I’m Puerto Rican so that’s rice, beans, and fried meat every day,” he said.

Money was tight when Velez was in college, and fast food was cheap. At 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Velez weight crept up to 320 pounds.

His turning point came when he went on a cruise with some friends in 2011. Looking at a photo of his group from their vacation, he said he was “shocked” to see himself.

“I’d let myself get too far,” he said.

He resolved to lose the weight. He exercised and ate several small meals a day and lost 101 pounds in four months. After that, he started lifting weights to build muscle and last year had skin removal surgery. He continues to eat five small, healthy meals per day.

As a child, Lori Filipiak always found comfort in food, including, she says, “the whole pizza with French onion dip, whole bags of chips, fast food I would get when no one was around.”

At her heaviest, Filipiak weighed 265 pounds. A bad marriage when she was 19 years old set the stage for her to make a change.

“I can remember being out with him and (him) introducing me as his cousin and not his wife,” Filipiak, now 42, said, speaking of her now ex-husband. “That was huge for me. I was done…and that was the day I got my life in order.”

The receptionist from Springfield, Illinois, who stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall, told People that she started out by walking, and then progressed to more demanding workouts, along with cutting out red meat, sugary snacks and fried foods.

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Report Raises Safety Questions on Popular Blood Thinner

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A scientific study released Wednesday suggests the makers of the blood thinner Pradaxa may have held back information that may have prevented serious bleeding complications among some of the million or so Americans using it.

Meanwhile, the maker of Pradaxa, German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim, vehemently denied that it held back important safety data.

Boehringer Ingelheim introduced Pradaxa in 2010 as a replacement for the older drug Coumadin, which had been in use for decades. A major selling point was that Pradaxa offered the benefits of stroke prevention without the hassle of frequent blood monitoring needed with Coumadin.

As with any blood thinner, the concern with Pradaxa was the increased risk of bleeding in patients taking it. Major bleeding with Pradaxa at its currently recommended dose occurs in 3.11 percent of patients taking it each year, according to the major trial that led to FDA approval of the drug. The total incidence of bleeding events with use of the drug, including minor and major bleeding, is 16.42 percent per year.

Research on Pradaxa suggests that it carries a lower risk of bleeding into the brain than Coumadin does, along with a lower risk of life-threatening bleeds and minor bleeding. A large Medicare study published in May confirmed prior knowledge that Pradaxa carries a higher risk of major stomach and intestinal bleeding events.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) wanted to find out whether monitoring the levels of Pradaxa in the blood of patients using it would help doctors avoid bleeding complications. To do this, they looked at Boehringer Ingelheim’s own data exploring the impact of blood level monitoring in conjunction with Pradaxa use.

These researchers said the data show that up to 40 percent of all deaths and serious bleeding events related to Pradaxa could have been avoided by simple blood testing. Checking blood levels periodically, they said, might have allowed doctors to lower the dose of Pradaxa or temporarily stop it in patients with dangerously high levels. This in turn might have prevented some bleeding complications. The paper was published Wednesday in BMJ.

Additionally, the researchers say that Boehringer Ingelheim had this information before Pradaxa was approved in 2010, but that they left it out of the safety information presented to the FDA during the drug’s approval process. Specifically, they said they found internal reports showing that the company’s scientists raised safety concerns about serious bleeding, but that these concerns may have gone unheeded by their superiors

In a statement released Wednesday, Boehringer Ingelheim said that the simulations that served as the basis for these concerns were preliminary and not reliable, and that it would have been inappropriate to report the simulations. They said they did provide the raw data to the FDA.

When asked by ABC News, the FDA declined to comment on the BMJ report. It also did not say how often pharmaceutical companies choose not to report the results of simulations like these to regulators.

This May, Boehringer Ingelheim reached a settlement worth $650 million with about 4,000 people related to alleged bleeding problems with Pradaxa. In a statement released in connection with the settlement, Boehringer Ingelheim’s counsel said the company stands behind that drug and believes the claims lacked merit, but decided to settle to avoid protracted litigation.

The study authors, Drs. Thomas Moore, Donald Mattison and Michael Cohen, have extensive backgrounds in drug safety, representing the senior leadership of ISMP. Moore and Mattison have testified against pharmaceutical companies in prior litigations and Mattison also works for a risk management firm.

Moore, the lead scientist behind the ISMP study, said the problem is that blood levels of Pradaxa can vary significantly from patient to patient. Even if both take the same dose, one person’s blood level could be more than 400 times higher than another’s.

Moore said he turned his attention to Pradaxa in early 2011, the first few months after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In those three months, there were 505 cases of significant bleeding linked to Pradaxa, according to ISMP data, compared to 176 cases of bleeding related to Coumadin during the same period. “The biggest surprise to me was that the FDA, which is overall an excellent safety regulator, chose to almost entirely ignore opportunities to reduce the bleeding risk of this treatment.”

According to the report, the information allegedly withheld by Boehringer Ingelheim at the time may have affected the drug’s chances of approval. As evidence, the report offers a 2011 draft of the company’s study on the drug. In it, the investigators note, “Monitoring of plasma concentrations or antithrombotic activity… would be required to identify these patients,” referring to those who would potentially have dangerously high blood levels of the drug even under normal dosing situations.

According to the new report, this information was omitted from the formal presentation to the FDA. The authors of the new report say emails sent between Boehringer Ingelheim employees show that the company knew that advertising the need for blood monitoring with Pradaxa would drastically reduce the number of people who used the drug instead of Coumadin.

In a statement released in response, Boehringer Ingelheim called the BMJ article biased and misleading. The company said the drug is safe , and that the report could lead to patients going off of their medications and potentially putting their lives at risk. The company further noted that the “FDA reaffirmed Pradaxa’s positive benefit-risk profile” following a study of 134,000 Medicare patients with atrial fibrillation.

“Boehringer Ingelheim made a robust effort to find ways to utilize plasma levels to further improve the risk/benefit profile of Pradaxa and it is irrational to suggest otherwise,” said Dr. Sabine Luik, Boehringer Ingelheim’s senior vice president of Medicine & Regulatory Affairs, in the release. “The truth is the totality of scientific evidence does not support dosing decisions for Pradaxa based on blood levels.”

The FDA stands by its communication from May of this year stating that Pradaxa has a favorable benefit-to-risk profile and there are no plans to change the labeling of the drug to require or recommend blood monitoring.

Dr. Sonal Singh, a Johns Hopkins cardiologist who was not involved with the BMJ report, said that though it raises important questions, it is too early for a final verdict on Pradaxa or the actions of Boehringer Ingelheim.

“We still don’t understand who bleeds,” he said. “Is it older people, are they younger people…the specificity questions have not been answered.”

Doctor’s Take:

Regardless of what this new report tells us, Pradaxa is a useful — and often life-saving — drug for those who take it. Importantly, this report should not cause people to stop taking their needed medications.

What the report does offer is an opportunity for patients to discuss their treatment and their concerns with their doctors. As with most conditions, there are options for treatment. Only through a one-on-one discussion with a medical professional can you determine the best treatment choice for you.

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Life’s Rude Awakening Happens at 36

iStock/Thinkstock(BRISTOL, England) — Life can seem like a party when you’re young, but eventually, most come to the realization that they can’t keep ignoring their mortality.

A new study out of the United Kingdom suggests that the magic age when people decide to reflect where the rest of their life is going is 36.

What does it take for this happen? Rob Anderson, director at Spire Bristol, says that it has to do with an event that shocks them into reality, such as a death in the family.

According to a study of 2,000 people, Anderson says, “By our mid-30s, health and well-being become a much bigger priority.” Fifty-six percent in the survey admitted that until the time they turned 36, they were more interested in living in the moment.

As for what made people change their minds about starting to take better care of themselves, here are the list of the ten “shocking moments” that became the tipping point in their lives:

  1. Getting older
  2. I had a health scare
  3. A close relative died
  4. A warning from my doctor
  5. Seeing a shocking photo of myself
  6. A close relative fell ill
  7. A TV program about bad eating habits
  8. Negative comments about my health that hit a nerve
  9. I had a serious accident
  10. A public health message

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Multiple Chronic Illnesses Plague the Elderly

Purestock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Even with all the advances in medicine that occur with greater frequency than ever before in history, increases in life expectancy among older Americans is slowing.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say it has to do with the fact that close to 80 percent of people 67 and over are afflicted with more than one serious medical condition and, as a result, live shorter lives.

The study’s lead author, Eva H. DuGoff, goes as far as to say that, “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.”

Naturally, the severity of the disease affects life expectancy, according to DuGoff. For instance, someone with heart disease at age 67 is still expected to live 21 more years on average, while a 67-year-old person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will only live 12 more years.

Meanwhile, when multiple chronic diseases are involved, the study finds that each one shaves off an additional 1.8 years.

If there’s any one reason as to why the U.S. life expectancy is slowing down more than other developed nations, it’s most likely the obesity epidemic and all the diseases caused by it.

The Johns Hopkins study also conceded that the current system set up to deal with people’s medical problems isn’t equipped to handle those with so many different illnesses.

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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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Health Officials: Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccines

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The number of teens receiving vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) remains “unacceptably low,” officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 17 are not being vaccinated for HPV, despite a slight increase in vaccination coverage since 2012, according to data from the CDC’s 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

While it prevents various forms of cancer, the vaccine remains “underutilized,” according to the agency. Experts cite a “substantial gap” between the number of adolescents receiving tetanus, diphteria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and those for HPV.

An estimated 57 pecent of teen girls and 35 percent of ten boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, while nearly 86 percent received a dose of the agent for Tdap.

“It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”

The study also showed that clinician recommendations played a large role in whether or not parents chose to get their children vaccinated. For those that decided to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV, 74 percent received a tip from a health care professional, compared to 52 percent who did not. For boys, 72 percent of parents who chose to vaccinate their sons received a recommendation, compared to 26 percent of parents who did not.

Not receiving information from a clinician on for HPV was one of the five main reasons parents listed for not choosing the vaccine.

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Health Officials: Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccines

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The number of teens receiving vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) remains “unacceptably low,” officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 17 are not being vaccinated for HPV, despite a slight increase in vaccination coverage since 2012, according to data from the CDC’s 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

While it prevents various forms of cancer, the vaccine remains “underutilized,” according to the agency. Experts cite a “substantial gap” between the number of adolescents receiving tetanus, diphteria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and those for HPV.

An estimated 57 pecent of teen girls and 35 percent of ten boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, while nearly 86 percent received a dose of the agent for Tdap.

“It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”

The study also showed that clinician recommendations played a large role in whether or not parents chose to get their children vaccinated. For those that decided to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV, 74 percent received a tip from a health care professional, compared to 52 percent who did not. For boys, 72 percent of parents who chose to vaccinate their sons received a recommendation, compared to 26 percent of parents who did not.

Not receiving information from a clinician on for HPV was one of the five main reasons parents listed for not choosing the vaccine.

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CDC Lifts Moratorium on Shipment of Tuberculosis Samples

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is resuming shipments of biological samples including tuberculosis bacteria, the agency announced Thursday.

The CDC lifted the moratorium on a specific type of material transfer for its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory, but is still keeping it in place for other high-containment facilities.

The decision follows a review from the agency’s internal working group to make improvements to lab safety. Initially, such transfers of TB samples were prohibited after safety issues with anthrax and bird flu.

In addition to the lifting of the temporary ban, the CDC announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup to provide advice and guidance to the agency’s director and the CDC’s new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The group will work to identify potential weaknesses in labs, oversee training needs, and suggest ways to provide stronger safeguards for facilities, among other tasks. Members are scheduled to meet for the first time in early August.

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CDC Lifts Moratorium on Shipment of Tuberculosis Samples

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is resuming shipments of biological samples including tuberculosis bacteria, the agency announced Thursday.

The CDC lifted the moratorium on a specific type of material transfer for its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory, but is still keeping it in place for other high-containment facilities.

The decision follows a review from the agency’s internal working group to make improvements to lab safety. Initially, such transfers of TB samples were prohibited after safety issues with anthrax and bird flu.

In addition to the lifting of the temporary ban, the CDC announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup to provide advice and guidance to the agency’s director and the CDC’s new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The group will work to identify potential weaknesses in labs, oversee training needs, and suggest ways to provide stronger safeguards for facilities, among other tasks. Members are scheduled to meet for the first time in early August.

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