Health in 2005: What May Come (cont.)

"In the past, we only used implants to treat cataracts, but now we are using them for better focusing," he tells WebMD. "Some people will still be wearing contact lenses," he says. "Just as not everyone gets LASIK eye surgery, not everyone will do this, but it's certainly a lot easier and a lot more convenient than traditional contacts." These lenses are helpful for people who are not good candidates for LASIK because they have extreme nearsightedness or their corneas are too thin.

Many doctors will also begin to further refine vision with LASIK after these lenses are implanted, he says.

Bidding Goodbye to Blindness

In late 2004, the FDA approved Macugen for wet age-related macular degeneration, a disease that affects the central vision. This drug helps preserve vision and limit progression of wet AMD to legal blindness. Another such drug, Retaane, is also up for FDA-approval. Macular degeneration is deterioration or breakdown of the macula, a small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly, read and drive. There are two types of macular degeneration - "dry" and "wet." The condition almost always starts as the dry form, but about 15% of those with dry AMD eventually develop the wet form, which progresses faster and therefore causes more severe vision loss. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for those aged 55 and older in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

Cancer Made Easier

"We will start seeing more targeted and less toxic therapies in 2005," predicts Robert Morgan, MD, a physician in the division of medical oncology & therapeutics research at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. "This has been exploding so much in last five years, and we will see much more in the next 12 months." Unlike standard chemotherapy drugs, which attack good and bad cells alike, targeted therapies attack only specific cancer-causing cells. For example, the already approved leukemia drug Gleevec blocks a protein, called BCR-ABL, which is responsible for the overgrowth of mature and immature white blood cells in the bone marrow and blood of people with a certain type of leukemia. Another approved example is the colon cancer drug Avastin, which shuts down the blood vessels that feed tumors, effectively starving the tumor. "These therapies will continue to be combined with traditional therapies, leading to better outcomes and fewer side effects." And doctors, especially oncologists, will start to embrace some alternative therapies, as they may no longer have a choice. "We are going to have to try to incorporate what patients are doing along with traditional programs," he says.

Fad Diets Fade

Wellness expert Ann Kulze, MD, the author of Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality, is pretty sure that the low-carb craze will wane in 2005, and recent statistics back her up. The percentage of Americans on low-carb diets has dropped by almost half to 4.6% at the end of September 2004 from 9% in January, its peak, according to data from the NPD Group Inc., a Port Washington, N.Y.-based marketing-research company. "Their popularity is dwindling," she says. "There will be sustainers, but without a doubt there will be many less newcomers to the low-carb approach." This doesn't mean that the bankrupt bakers of Twinkies and Wonder Bread or any other starchy snack food who lost their shirts as a result of the low-carb craze will be back in the black, but be on the lookout for detractors who brazenly sport T-shirts that read "I eat carbs."

However, "Part of this trend is here to stay, and that's the avoidance of the great white hazard -- white potatoes, sugar, white flour products, and white rice," Kulze says. "There is just so much rock-solid data to tell us that they increase appetite, promote weight gain, and are not good for health." So what is? "More and more the public is on board with the fact that the same strategies that embody healthy eating also help with long-term weight loss - namely increased fruit and vegetable intake," she says. "We are moving away from fad diets, and the public is recognizing that weight and health are inextricably linked and that the best way to do this is to make permanent dietary and lifestyle changes that improve health as well as decrease waistlines."

Fitness Forecast

Eric von Frohlich, a group exercise instructor at Equinox in New York City and the chief exercise officer of roadfit.com, an outdoor training group fitness organization, says this year, "People will be getting away from gadgets and getting back to basics including boot camps, squats with shoulder presses, push-ups, jumping jacks, and calisthenics." In 2005, he says, "it will not be not about classes that are trying to be super-creative. There will be no step or music-oriented, dancey stuff anymore," he says.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) agrees. In their 2005 predictions, this group also forecasts a "back to the basics" approach including time-efficient workouts and core strengthening.

Looking into his crystal ball for WebMD, von Frohlich says, "People are turning away from big gyms and going back to smaller studios and outdoor training." Specifically, "swimming, biking, and running triathlons are exploding and will continue to do so in the new year," he says, crediting Lance Armstrong for the marked increase in cycling. This famous cancer survivor won a record sixth Tour de France tournament in July 2004. So is it the end of the yoga movement? "Yoga and Pilates will always have a place," he says. "It is still at a peak, but it won't be as feverish in 2005 as it was for the last couple of years."

And "there will be a fitness upswing in kids aged 11-17 year old," he predicts. ACE also portends an increase in family participation in outdoor fitness activities.



STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!