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LIFELINE/ NEWS IN BRIEF

Clouded by cataracts

Does your vision appear cloudy or blurry? Do colors seem faded? Do you see a halo around lights, or have difficulty seeing at night?

If so, you may have cataracts.

Cataracts are caused when protein clumps up on the eye's clear lens and clouds vision. Initially, a cataract may be small and have little impact on vision. But over time they grow and can eventually dull vision. A cataract can develop in either or both eyes, but cannot spread from one eye to the other. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, approximately 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts.

The odds of developing cataracts go up as a person ages. While medications or exercise cannot prevent the onset of cataracts, some key health conditions or lifestyle choices may contribute to cataracts. They include certain diseases such as diabetes; smoking and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight.

Fortunately, medical science can eliminate cataracts and improve the quality of a person's vision. Surgery has become a common option for dealing with cataracts. A physician makes a tiny incision on the eye and replaces the clouded lens with a permanent artificial lens. The procedure is often performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

Of carbs and cancer

The screaming headlines got it wrong. Carbohydrates don't cause cancer, but certain types may raise your risk.

A new Harvard Medical School study, which compared the eating habits and cancer histories of 38,000 women, found that those who ate the most carbohydrates with a high glycemic index -- foods that quickly raise blood-sugar levels -- ran a higher risk of colorectal cancer than did women who ate the fewest.

The bad actor? Refined carbs, the type found in table sugar, white flour, fruit juice and sodas, says lead researcher Dr. Simin Liu. Women at a lower risk ate unrefined carbs -- whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Pain pills threaten kidneys

If you take aspirin or acetaminophen every day for pain, ask your doctor to check your kidneys.

"Habitual consumption of analgesics can cause scarring and lead to a decline in kidney function," says Dr. William L. Henrich, a kidney specialist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In a survey of 222 kidney dialysis patients, he found that 7 percent had a dangerous condition called SICK, or small, indented, calcified kidneys; one-third of those were long-term users of full-strength aspirin or acetaminophen.

Protect your kidneys three ways: Ask your doctor about switching to ibuprofen; use the smallest dose of pain reliever for the shortest time; and get an annual blood or urine test for creatinine, which measures kidney function.

Homer's heart attack

Trust the witty Brits to turn your favorite funny guy into a public service announcement: Homer Simpson's diet is a killer. Two researchers watched six random episodes of "The Simpsons" for the British Heart Foundation and found that 36-year-old, 240-pound Homer's daily diet includes: 3,100 calories (goal should be 2,200); 130 grams fat (goal: 73); two doughnuts; and two beers.

Homer's body mass index (34.4) puts him well into the obese zone (over 30). "We watched Homer eat junk foods such as whole bags of potato chips, which are high in salt and fat, and many doughnuts, which are high in sugar and fat. On one occasion, he ate a whole stick of butter inside a waffle!" says researcher Alison Belgey. "All these things help make him obese and set him up for a heart attack."

Don't lick the spoon

When preparing cakes, muffins and other recipes that include raw eggs, don't allow anyone to lick the spoon or bowl.

As tasty and tempting as the batter may be, raw eggs could contain pathogens that make people sick -- especially young children, said Kathy Walsten of Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Best to wait until the recipe is baked, when it's yummy and safe.

Compiled from News and wire service reports.

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