Daily Rounds: Balance Belts; Age Of Anxiety? Lucrative Sleep Apnea; Get-To-The-Gym App

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Learning to restore balance (The Boston Globe) - "The looming numbers of balance-challenged elders have inspired researchers in Massachusetts and Oregon to develop two different styles of belts that will either vibrate or beep and alert the wearer that he or she is tilting to one side and may potentially fall. The belts are expected to be marketed next year, initially to physical therapists who work with people with balance problems." (The Boston Globe)

It's still the age of anxiety — or is it? (The New York Times) - "That makes anxiety the most common psychiatric complaint by a wide margin, and one for which we are increasingly well-medicated. Last spring, the drug research firm IMS Health released its annual report on pharmaceutical use in the United States. The anti-anxiety drug alprazolam — better known by its brand name, Xanax — was the top psychiatric drug on the list, clocking in at 46.3 million prescriptions in 2010. Just because our anxiety is heavily diagnosed and medicated, however, doesn’t mean that we are more anxious than our forebears. It might simply mean that we are better treated — that we are, as individuals and a culture, more cognizant of the mind’s tendency to spin out of control." (The New York Times)

The sleep apnea business is booming, and insurers aren't happy (NPR) - "Critics, however, worry that overnight tests to diagnose apnea, particularly those done in sleep labs, may be over-prescribed, at great cost to the health care system. Testing can be a lucrative business, and labs have popped up in free-standing clinics and hospitals across the country. Over the past decade, the number of accredited sleep labs that test for the disorder has quadrupled, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. At the same time, insurer spending on the procedure has skyrocketed. Medicare payments for sleep testing increased from $62 million in 2001 to $235 million in 2009, according to the Office of the Inspector General." (NPR)

New app adds incentives to go to the gym (Reuters) - "If a bulging waistline isn't enough of a motivator to go to the gym, a new iPhone app adds a financial incentive to provide that extra nudge. The app called GymPact charges users a fee for every gym commitment they skip. The fee can range from $5 to $50 dollars. "We decided to motivate people by having money on the line, rather than giving them money, which is a very radical departure from other motivational apps and programs," explained Yifan Zhang, GymPact's co-founder and CEO." (Reuters)

This program aired on January 16, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.