Health Care Issues

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on health care issues.

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Simple ways to feel your best
Answers to 10 Key Health-Care Issues Facing America
10 Men's Health Symptoms Your Guy Shouldn't Ignore

Simple ways to feel your best

Your health plays a role in everything you do, whether you're on the job, at the gym, out with family and friends, or your love life. You want to be fit, sharp, and at the top of your game at every stage of life.

That's why prevention is so important. When you take the time to look after yourself, you can:

What you eat, how you exercise, how you deal with stress, and getting the right preventive screenings and tests are key. This guide is packed with facts, tips from our medical professionals, and simple ways to live healthier.
Source: Kaiser Permanente

Answers to 10 Key Health-Care Issues Facing America

Health care took center stage in the race between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. WebMD Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich talked to top staff members from each campaign to find out how the candidates would address 10 major challenges in today's health care system. The candidates were asked the same questions. The answers have been edited for style and length only, not for content.

Megan Hauck, the deputy policy director for the Bush/Cheney campaign, presented Bush's views.

Please click on the question that concerns you to jump to that answer.

1) What do you consider the biggest health-care challenge today?
2) What are your plans to correct the problem?
3) Do you have any plans to help control the rising costs of prescription drugs?
4) What are your plans to lower the cost of health insurance?
5) What are your plans for helping the uninsured?
6) Do you have a plan to help employers afford employee health plans?
7) What is your plan to protect the solvency of Medicare?
8) What will your plans cost, and how will you pay for them?
9) What is your stance on drug reimportation?
10) What is your stance on stem cells?

1. What do you consider the biggest health-care challenge today?

It is vitally important that health care be accessible and affordable for every American. Rising health-care costs have too often taken patients out of the health-care decision-making process. Today, too many lawsuits without merit are being filed against doctors and hospitals, forcing them to practice defense medicine, driving good doctors out of practice, and increasing health-care costs for everyone.

2. What are your plans to correct the problem?

President Bush supports commonsense reforms to the medical liability system that reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and control excessive jury awards. The president's proposal for reform would ensure that injured persons are fully compensated for their full economic losses, while reasonably limiting non-economic damages to $250,000. It would also reserve punitive damages for cases where there is egregious conduct, ensure that old cases cannot be brought years after an event, and provide that defendants pay judgments in proportion to their fault. While everyone who has a legitimate claim must have their day in court, no patient has ever been healed by frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits and excessive jury awards are a national problem, and the crisis deserves a national solution. The Department of Health and Human Services recently determined that medical liability reforms could extend heath insurance to 2.6 to 5.1 million additional Americans.

In addition to fighting for medical liability reforms, the president's health-care agenda also includes promoting health information technology that will improve health care quickly, save lives, and save money. President Bush has set up an ambitious goal that Americans will have electronic medical records within a decade because he believes that America's health-care system can benefit from an information infrastructure that provides patients and doctors with complete and accurate medical records. This technology will reduce unnecessary treatments and reduce red tape.

3. Do you have any plans to help control the rising costs of prescription drugs?

President Bush was proud to sign the Medicare Modernization Act this year, which for the first time is providing all 40 million Medicare beneficiaries with a voluntary prescription drug benefit. This drug benefit will give seniors their choice of various plans to help them afford the cost of their medicines.

Seniors are seeing immediate relief with Medicare prescription drug cards, which are cutting 16% to 30% off retail prices of most brand-name medicines and 30% to 60% off the price of generics, and providing an annual $600 subsidy to low-income seniors.

Beginning in 2006, for a low monthly premium of about $35, seniors can choose among plans to have Medicare pay 75% of the cost of all prescription drugs up to $2,250 a year and 95% of catastrophic drug costs. Our 12 million low-income seniors will see the greatest benefits, with 100% coverage of prescription drug costs with a $1 to $5 co-pay. For the first time, we are giving seniors the peace of mind that they will not have to face unlimited expenses for their medicine.

4. What are your plans to lower the cost of health insurance?

Health care should be accessible and affordable for all Americans regardless of their ability to pay, and the Bush administration is keeping its commitment to help our most vulnerable populations get the care that they need.

Our working families also need affordable health care, and through a comprehensive approach, we are improving access to services, including for those Americans with limited means. We established new health savings accounts so that Americans under the age of 65 with low-cost health coverage can save for routine out-of-pocket expenses and future medical costs in a tax-free account. President Bush proposed refundable tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families that will make coverage more affordable for millions of low-income Americans without access to employer-sponsored care. To address rising health care costs for small businesses and their workers, the president has proposed association health plans to allow small businesses to join together and negotiate on behalf of employees for more affordable health coverage, like large employers and unions do.

5. What are your plans for helping the uninsured?

The Bush administration has made health insurance more accessible and affordable for more Americans. We passed health savings accounts (HSAs) so that Americans can pay for routine medical expenses and save for future medical expenses in a tax-free account. HSAs have a good track record of expanding coverage to the uninsured: 25% of people who purchased an early version of HSAs in 2001 were previously uninsured for six months or more. Through the expansion of community health centers, we are serving 3 million more patients than in 2001, and the president has committed to a five-year plan to open and expand 1,200 new community and rural health centers to serve an additional 6.1 million people. In a new term, the president will propose to guarantee a new health center in every poor county in need in America.

We have approved Medicaid and SCHIP changes that will extend eligibility to 2.6 million more Americans.

6. Do you have a plan to help employers afford employee health plans?

To reduce the burden of health care costs on small business owners and employees, the president has proposed the creation of Association Health Plans so small businesses can pool together to negotiate lower health care costs and provide health insurance to their employees. These plans will allow small businesses to band together and negotiate on behalf of their workers just like large corporations and unions do. President Bush wants to expand the AHP program so that people purchasing health-care coverage can purchase it from membership groups such as a charitable organization or church as well as their employer.

7. What is your plan to protect the solvency of Medicare?

Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society, and it is a commitment the president intends to keep. He wants our seniors to know that Medicare will always be there for them. He has worked to strengthen this program, improve its benefits, and ensure its stability.

The new Medicare law President Bush signed, in addition to offering more choices and better benefits, includes new safeguards to preserve this program for new retirees. It has created a new fiscal analysis requirement to help us address the future of Medicare's finances. Beginning with the 2005 report, the Medicare trustees will be required to inform both Congress and the president if spending growth becomes excessive so that Congress can act expeditiously on these funding warnings.

8. What will your plans cost, and how will you pay for them?

The president's health care proposals will cost $156.2 billion over 10 years, $105 billion of which is already included in the 2005 budget. Through effective medical liability and the reduction of health-care fraud and waste, we will save millions of dollars in health-care costs, which are burdening the system.

We will pay for these health-care proposals while reducing the deficit. The president's fiscal year 2005 budget proposal will cut the deficit in half over the next five years.

9. What is your stance on drug reimportation?

The president believes that his primary responsibility is to protect the safety and well-being of the American people. As such, the security of our drug supply is a priority. Any drug importation plan must guarantee Americans the safety and effectiveness they currently have under the gold-standard of the Food and Drug Administration. The president appointed the surgeon general to lead a federal taskforce to determine how that importation could be done safely. Since 2001, President Bush has worked to lower the costs of medicines for all Americans by passing a new Medicare drug benefit to cut seniors' drug costs in half. We have also closed loopholes to speed safe and effective generic drugs to market, saving American consumers $35 billion in drug costs over 10 years.

10. What is your stance on stem cells?

President Bush has strongly supported medical research to find new treatments and cures for diseases. As part of this effort he decided to provide federal funding, for the first time, to research using human embryonic stem cells. He determined, however, that federal funds should not encourage the further destruction of human embryos, adhering to the principle adopted by Congress in 1996 that human embryos merit respect as a form of human life and federal dollars should not encourage their destruction.

Since 2001, the Bush administration has provided $35.5 million for research. In 2003 alone, the National Institutes for Health funded 118 separate research projects using human embryonic stem cells. The policy places no limits on private funding of embryonic stem cell research. Last year, the NIH funded $190 million in adult stem cell research.

10 Men's Health Symptoms Your Guy Shouldn't Ignore

Skin Cancer, Chronic Acid Reflux and 8 Other Medical Issues to Check

Men are notorious for ignoring health symptoms and avoiding the doctor's office. Broken pinky? Just use duct tape. But not all medical issues can be fixed so easily. What may be a pesky problem to a man could be erectile dysfunction, sleep apnea, prostate cancer and more. Here are 10 health symptoms your guy – and you – should take seriously...

Even when a man finally admits to feeling crummy, getting him to schedule a doctor’s appointment is like getting a cat to agree to a bath.

“American men make 130 million fewer [doctor] visits each year than women,” says Will Courtenay, Ph.D., California psychotherapist who specializes in treating men.

According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll, 92% of men surveyed wait at least a few days before seeing a doctor when they have a health concern – just in case the problem gets better on its own; 29% wait “as long as possible.”

But your man isn’t invincible.

Delaying check-ups and treatment until he’s seriously ill is a gamble nobody should take, especially because not all ailments have symptoms.

That’s where you come in. Women can help their men spot trouble. Here are 10 danger signs to watch out for:

Danger sign #1: He has a big gut.

If his waist is bigger than his hips, he raises his risk for disease.

“A man should maintain a measurement under 40 inches,” says Walter Gaman, M.D., of Executive Medicine of Texas. “If the waist size exceeds that, the risk for diabetes and heart disease increase.”

A large belly can also contribute to stroke, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis, he says.

Here’s how to check if your man measures up:

1. Measure his waist where the point of his elbow falls when his arms hang at the sides. Have him first breathe out and then take shallow breaths as you measure.

2. Measure his hips at the widest part of his buttocks, as seen from the side. The measuring tape should be snug, but tight.

3. To calculate his waist-to-hip ratio, divide his waist measurement by his hip measurement. Men are considered at risk if the result is 90% or more.

A moderate diet and exercise program can help your guy cut the belly fat and his risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Cutting out sodas (even diet drinks) and alcoholic beverages can be an effortless way to lose 10 pounds over a year, Dr. Gaman says.

Plus, get him off the couch and into workout gear.

Daily exercise – aerobic exercise and strength training – is best, says Isaac Eliaz, M.D., director of research at Amitabha Clinic in Northern California. Encourage him to slowly increase the length and intensity of the workouts – but by no more than a 5% increase in weights every couple weeks.

Danger sign #2: He's frequently constipated.

Tell him to save grunting for the weight room. Too much straining from constipation can lead to painful, itchy and downright uncomfortable hemorrhoids.

After age 50, constipation tends to worsen in men and women, says Cynthia Yoshida, a gastroenterologist in Charlottesville, Va. Blame diet changes, decrease in exercise, medications, certain diseases or prolonged bed rest after an accident or illness.

Occasional constipation can be relieved with an over-the-counter remedy. Yoshida recommends MiraLAX, because it doesn’t have side effects that other remedies do, such as bloating, cramps, gas or a sudden urge to go.

Most important, don't let him shrug off chronic constipation as a nuisance. It can signal a tumor in the lower bowel that’s blocking waste from exiting the body.

In fact, any change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea) that last two or more weeks should be evaluated. Both can signal colorectal cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death in men, Yoshida says.

Other symptoms to watch for: bloody or narrow stools, unexplained weight loss or fatigue, cramping and bloating, Yoshida says.

“Colorectal cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop,” she says. “So it’s important to see a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.”

Danger sign #3: He can't “get it up” or keep it there.

A bruised ego isn't the only problem your fellow has to face if he's having trouble getting or maintaining erections.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a side effect of some medications (for example, high blood pressure drugs and diuretics) or smoking, says Dennis Lin, M.D., sex psychologist and attending physician at the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

But it also may mean he’s twice as likely to die of a heart attack, according to a German study of 1,519 men. ED is also linked to high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, vascular disease and neurologic disease, Dr. Lin says.

And don’t forget about possible psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem, and fear of sexual failure cause 10%-20% of ED cases. So when is it time to get a doctor’s help?

“When erection problems prevent you from having a healthy sex life,” Dr. Lin says. “There should be a low threshold to see a doctor.”

Danger sign #4: He loves to bake in the sun.

When it comes to men and cancer, you hear a lot about prostates and colons. But skin cancer is the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in men and women.

“Skin cancer rates are skyrocketing – it’s the most rapidly increasing cancer in the U.S.,” Courtenay says. “And the death rate from melanoma – the deadliest form – is twice as high for men as it is for women.”

The majority of skin cancers occur in Caucasian men over age 50, says D.J. Verret, M.D., a head and neck surgeon in Dallas.

Other risk factors include:

Being older than 40
Fair skin, red hair or blue eyes
An inability to tan
Increased UR exposure (outdoor activities or work)
Sunbathing or use of tanning beds
A history of radiation therapy
Personal or family history of skin cancer
An impaired immune system

Protect your man – plus yourself and the kids – by applying broad-spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both ultraviolet A and B rays) every 2-3 hours.

Select an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30, she says, and look for these active ingredients on the label: zinc, titanium and avobenzone.

Skin cancer can develop any place that’s exposed to UV radiation, so don’t overlook his ears, nose, lips, scalp, forehead, neck and shoulders. Check out more sun slip-ups.

Stash a facial moisturizer with sunscreen in your man’s toiletry bag, and tuck a sunscreen stick in his workout bag and glove box for last-minute applications.

Danger sign #5: Antacids are his best friend.

Unfortunately, indigestion, or acid reflux, is a frequent unwanted guest at game-night parties with pepperoni pizza, spicy chili, onion rings and beer.

Occasional heartburn is nothing to worry about, but chronic acid reflux – two or more times a week, especially at night – suggests he has gastro-esophogeal reflux disease (GERD), Dr. Eliaz says.

Left untreated, GERD can lead to inflammation, bleeding and ulcers of the esophagus and even esophageal cancer.

Most cases of heartburn are easily treated.

“Changes in eating habits and daily routines can [reduce] the number of future episodes,” Dr. Eliaz says.

Start by avoiding these:

Trans fats
Processed meats
Highly processed foods
Carbonated beverages
Acidic fruits and juices
Caffeinated food and beverages
Oily foods

Raising the head of the bed 4-6 inches – not with pillows but by putting blocks under its legs – also may help ease discomfort, Dr. Eliaz says. Plus, nag him to lose weight, stop smoking and eat smaller meals. For more remedies, check out 15 Dos and Don’ts of Heartburn.

If those steps don’t help, over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) often can relieve frequent heartburn, says Michael Rahmin, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Ridgewood, N.J. He suggests Zegerid OTC. It offers 24-hour relief with one dose a day as part of a 14-day treatment.

If the burn still persists, your man needs to see a doctor. If the esophageal lining is constantly aggravated by leaking stomach acids, inflammation can occur and develop into a precancerous disease called Barrett’s esophagus, Dr. Eliaz says. One in 50 of those with Barrett’s develops esophageal cancer.

Danger sign #6: He's always thirsty.

An unquenchable thirst is a symptom of diabetes, an incurable metabolic disease that raises blood sugar levels. So are frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, nausea, blurred vision, sores that are slow to heal, frequent infections, ED, and tingling in the hands and feet, Dr. Eliaz says.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Risk factors include:

Being older than 45 years of age
Having a parent or sibling with diabetes
Being overweight
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
History of vascular disease
Habitual physical inactivity

A simple yearly blood test at his doctor’s office can measure glucose levels and diagnose diabetes, Dr. Gaman says.

If he’s having symptoms, he may need a more advanced blood test called a hemoglobin A1C that tracks glucose levels over a longer period.

Danger sign #7: He snores.

If a chainsaw or Mack truck can’t compete with your sweetheart’s nightly noises, don’t run for cover in another room. Get help: Chronic snoring can be serious.

Severe snoring accompanied by breathing lapses are signs of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), Dr. Verret says. If untreated, it increases the risk of high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and sudden death.

A poor night's sleep can also contribute to daytime drowsiness, which boosts his risk of accidents. Unintentional injuries are the third-leading cause of death in men, according to the CDC.

If you're lucky enough to sleep through the snoring, watch for other sleep apnea signs, such as feeling tired during the day, thrashing arms and legs while sleeping, decreased libido, mood swings and sometimes depression, Dr. Verret says.

Changing sleep positions, losing weight (as little as 10 pounds) and avoiding alcohol, sedatives and large meals before bedtime may help stop the noise.

If they don't, schedule a doctor's visit and consider other treatments, such as surgery, the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – a device that blows air into the nose while he’s asleep – or a dental appliance to pull the jaw and tongue forward at night, Dr. Verret says.

It could save his life – or at the least your relationship.

Danger sign #8: He's short of breath, wheezes or coughs up mucus.

Shortness of breath, wheezing and a persistent cough can stem from several health conditions, such as asthma, obesity and heart disease. But it also signals chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fifth leading cause of death in men, according to the CDC.

“COPD is almost always caused by smoking,” says Edward T. Bope, M.D., family medicine residency director at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Second-hand smoke, chemical fumes, air pollution and dust can also cause the disease.

Its symptoms shouldn’t be ignored because COPD gets worse as time goes by, Dr. Bope says.

Danger sign #9: He feels pain while peeing.

In women, “it hurts when I pee” usually means an annoying bladder infection. In men, it signals an enlarged prostate gland or prostate cancer.

“If they live long enough, most men are going to have to deal with the symptoms of an enlarged prostate,” says Janet Farrar Worthington, co-author of The Prostate: A Guide for Men and the Women Who Love Them (Grand Central Publishing).

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate, may be caused by hormone changes in aging men, Dr. Eliaz says.

“Fifty percent of men in their 60s and as many as 90% in their 70s have it,” he says.

But painful urination is a sign of a more serious problem: prostate cancer, which 1 in 6 men will develop, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Your man’s risk increases if he's over age 50, overweight, doesn't exercise or African-American and has one or more first-degree relative (father, brother, son) with a history of prostate cancer.

Another risk factor: a vasectomy, Dr. Eliaz says. Some studies have shown a link between the surgical birth control method and prostate cancer, but the increase in risk is relatively small, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The earliest stages of prostate cancer often have no symptoms, so routine screening for prostate specific antigen levels is important. Plus, get your man to a doctor immediately if he has any sign of prostate trouble.

Common symptoms of prostate cancer and BPH include trouble urinating, a weak urine stream, blood in urine or semen, pelvic pain or discomfort and frequent urinary tract infections.

Danger sign #10: He's depressed or has thoughts of suicide.

We all deal with work stress, money worries and other anxieties, but not all men can cope well. Suicide ranks eighth among the CDC's top 10 causes of death in men.

Here are some signs that your mate may be suicidal, Dr. Lin says:

Suddenly visits friends or family (one last time)
Sudden, significant decline or improvement in mood
Gets affairs in order, including making a will
Buys items that could be used to carry out suicide, such as a gun, rope or medications
Talks about suicide
Writes a note threatening suicide

“Depression is a serious medical illness like diabetes or asthma,” Dr. Lin says. “If he feels depressed, have him see a doctor right away. Waiting for too long can be deadly.”

How Much Do You Know About Depression?

Many people still are in the dark when it comes to the facts surrounding depression. How much do you really know? Take this depression quiz with information from Dr. Lawson Wulsin's book, Treating the Aching Heart, and see how well you know fact from fiction.

Also See

Prostate Cancer
Surgical Procedures for Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence) Undescended Testes

Source: Jennifer Gruenemay,

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