Shop earlier for Medicare plans this year

By: Tom Murphy

A new deadline for Medicare Advantage plans — privately run versions of the government’s Medicare program — may trip up seniors who typically wait until the holidays to settle on their health insurance coverage for the coming year.Medicare Advantage plans cover more than 11 million people. They offer basic Medicare coverage topped with extras, such as vision or dental... READ MORE

Robotic surgery may not be better choice

By: Dr. Richard A. Hodin

Q. A hospital in the area is advertising robotic surgery. Is it really any better than having a surgeon do the operation?A. A better term might be robotic instrumentation, because ultimately, there’s always a human surgeon with his or her hands on the robot’s controls. The first such surgery was performed in the mid-1980s. Now thousands of operations are being done with the... READ MORE

Don’t just cut sodium, boost potassium

By: Mike Stobbe

The debate about the dangers of eating too much salt has gained a new wrinkle: A federal study suggests that the people most at risk are those who also get too little potassium.The new research is one of the first and largest U.S. studies to look at the relationship of salt, potassium and heart disease deaths.Potassium-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, have long been recommended... READ MORE

Hypnosis can replace general anesthesia

By: Maria Cheng

As the surgeons cut into her neck, Marianne Marquis was thinking of the beach.As she heard the doctors’ voices, she was imagining her toes in the sand, the water lapping.Marquis had been hypnotized before surgery to have her thyroid removed. She’s among a growing number of surgical patients at the Belgian hospital, Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc in Brussels, who choose... READ MORE

Irradiated food is safer, but unpopular

By: Lauran Neergaard

Microwaving salad fixings with just a bit of radiation can kill dangerous E. coli and other bacteria — and U.S. food safety experts say Europe’s massive outbreak shows that wary consumers should give the long-approved step a chance.The U.S. government has OK’d irradiation for a variety of foods — meat, spices, certain imported fruits, the seeds used to grow sprouts.... READ MORE

Cataracts don’t need to ‘ripen’ anymore

By: Dr. Jeffrey S. Heier

Q. I think I may have cataracts. I heard somewhere that they need to be “ripe” before I get surgery. Is that true?A. The lens of the eye is normally clear and has a consistency that is a bit stiffer than Jell-O.A cataract is a clouding of the lens caused by degradation and clumping of various proteins in the tissue. When that happens, the lens also gets stiffer, and in extreme... READ MORE