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Health Highlights: Dec. 12, 2007

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U.S. Cholesterol Average Drops to New Low

For the first time since it began in 1960, a national survey has found that the average total cholesterol level among American adults is in the ideal range. The average level in 2005-2006 was 199, according to the survey of about 4,500 people 20 and older. A level of 200 or less is desirable.

The National Center for Health Statistics conducts the blood test survey in two-year intervals. The average total cholesterol level was 204 in 1999-2000 and 222 in 1960, theAssociated Pressreported.

The new survey also found that the percentage of adults with high cholesterol (240 or higher) was 16 percent, compared to 20 percent in the early 1990s. Among survey respondents, 65 percent of men and 75 percent of women had been screened for high cholesterol in the previous five years.

A primary reason for the positive news may be rising use of cholesterol-lowering drugs in people 60 and older, said report author Susan Schober, a senior epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, theAPreported.

"These age groups are the ones most likely to be treated with medication," she said.

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Annual U.S. Hospital Bill May Hit $1 Trillion in 2008: Report

In 2005, U.S. hospitals charged a combined $873 billion for patient treatment, nearly 90 percent more than the $462 billion cumulative hospital bill in 1997, according to the latestNews and Numbersfrom the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Over the past several years, the average annual rate of increase in the national hospital bill was 4.5 percent. At that rate, the annual tally may hit $1 trillion by 2008, the report said.

Medicare paid the majority of the 2005 national hospital bill ($411 billion), followed by private insurers ($272 billion) and Medicaid ($124 billion). Uninsured patients accounted for $38 billion in charges. The remaining $28 billion was paid for by other insurers, including Workers' Compensation, TRICARE, Title V, and other government programs.


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