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The Takeaway: Too Many Stent Patients End Up Back In Hospital; Nutritional Needs Change With Age

Readmissions Disturbingly High: One in six patients who has a stent inserted to open up blocked arteries ends up back in the hospital within a month of the procedure, according to a new study. That's a troubling number. The majority of these readmissions-mostly due to subsequent heart problems and chest pain-are unplanned, and one in three readmitted patients must have the stent procedure redone. Rehospitalizations are risky-and expensive, for both patients and the health care system in general. But can they be prevented?

In the study, which looked at data from over 40,000 stent patients in New York State, factors linked with a higher chance of readmission included being older, being a woman, or having underlying diseases, such as diabetes or kidney failure. These are things that can't really be changed by better hospital care. But these risk factors can be mitigated, researchers say. If cardiologists are aware of what makes patients a high risk for readmission, they can take extra precautions to keep these patients out of future trouble.

You could keep them a little longer (or) depending on the circumstances you could have more aggressive care coordination or home care," said cardiologist Joseph Cacchione of the Cleveland Clinic, who wrote a commentary published along with the study.

Keeping a patient in the hospital for an extra day the first time around is much cheaper than readmitting them, Cacchione told Reuters Health. Patients also do better when they go home with all of their meds, know the warning signs of trouble, talk to the doctor on the phone a few days after the procedure, and come in for a check-up about a week later. "Not all readmissions are evil," Cacchione said. But "the majority of patients, when we send them home, shouldn't come back." I'm sure the majority of patients agree! 

Time To Update Your Diet? Nutritional needs change with age, the Los Angeles Times notes, and failing to adjust your eating habits as you get older can be risky.

Older people may need fewer calories if they're not as active as they used to be, and they may have a tough time absorbing some types of vitamins and nutrients. They're also at higher risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, which diet can affect.

Dietary problems can stem not just from changing bodies but changing wisdom, too. When dietitian Ruth Frechman began working with Susan and Herb Eckerling, ages 64 and 74, she found that although they ate relatively healthy, "some of what guides the couple's dietary habits is dubious information, including bromides that date back decades." Frechman taught the California couple how to 'modernize' their diet and adjust their eating habits to their health conditions (including pre-diabetes and anemia) and age. "It doesn't matter how old you are," she said, "it's never too late to change."

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