On Your Feet
: Ever wonder exactly how wearing high heels affects your body? This Washington Post graphic shows the effect on feet, ankles, knees and posture.

Included are links to a number of related stories; don’t miss this overview and advice on how to be kind to your feet.

The Business of Bacteria: The L.A. Times reports on the popularity of probioitics, live “friendly” bacteria that is showing up in more foods, including Dannon’s Activia yogurt. Brendan Borrell writes:

Companies claim that the daily consumption of probiotics can provide consumers with benefits such as a boost to the immune system and relief from intestinal distress — and researchers think that certain probiotic strains hold promise in a number of areas.

But how significant these benefits are is a matter of debate. And it can be tough to decipher which products offer verifiable health claims and which are piggybacking on the hype of the booming industry.

A recent lawsuit filed in Los Angeles has questioned Dannon’s probiotic health claims made for Activia and DanActive and charged that the company used scientific-sounding language to deceive customers. And studies have reported that some companies misidentify the probiotic strain they contain or deliver inadequate amounts of bacteria.

How Well Will Your Bones Hold Up?: “Are the bones of America about to crumble? Given the money Americans spend on bone-protecting drugs, you might think so,” writes Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times, adding that spending on these drugs is now at $5 billion annually, a 50 percent increase compared with five years ago.

“While osteoporosis and hip fractures are major health concerns for some people, the challenge is finding out who is at risk and who is not. Most of us have normal aging bones that are not going to break — about 85 percent of women will never fracture a hip,”she adds.

Parker-Pope goes on to note that bone density tests are not the most reliable risk indicator. The story asks several simple questions — the answers to which might give you a better sense of your bone health.

Plus: Physicians and dentists should collaborate to improve early detection and treatment of patients who have or may develop osteoporosis, say researchers in the May issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Breast Cancer: “Women who had a vitamin D deficiency when they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 94% more likely to have their cancer metastasize and 73% more likely to die within 10 years, Canadian researchers reported Thursday,” reports the L.A. Times. “The team also found that only 24% of the women in its study had what are normally considered adequate levels of vitamin D at the time of the diagnosis.”

The study represents “the first time that vitamin D has been linked to breast cancer progression,” said Dr. Pamela Goodwin of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, who led the study. But it’s too soon to recommend vitamin D supplements as a breast cancer treatment, said some experts.

“We have no idea whether correcting a vitamin D deficiency will in any way alter these outcomes,” said Dr. Julie Gralow of the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study.

Hope for Cervical Cancer Screening Alternative: “A test for the common sex infection human papillomavirus (HPV) may be better at screening for cervical cancer than smear tests,” according to a new study by London’s Hammersmith Hospital that was reported on by the BBC.

The study found “testing for HPV was so sensitive it only needed to be done every six years — compared to three years for smears. The study of 3,000 women also showed that HPV testing was more accurate, the International Journal of Cancer said.”

More Americans Taking Prescription Medicines: “For the first time, it appears that more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems, a study shows,” reports the Associated Press. “The most widely used drugs are those to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol — problems often linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”

Among seniors, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines regularly.

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