Weekly Health Watch on salting your driveway and sidewalks, Lipitor's campaign against generics, meditation and more.

Most homeowners reach for rock salt to clear their driveways and sidewalks of snow during the winter.


It's economical and reliable, and it easily melts ice in temperatures as low as 5 degrees to pathways clear and safe for family and passersby. But when the temperature dips lower, salt alternatives such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride offer increased melting power, according to Jerry Poe, technical director for North American Salt Company.


"Both magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are fast-acting and melt ice and snow at extremely low temperatures compared with rock salt and other salt alternatives and blends," says Poe. "But because magnesium chloride is nontoxic, it is safer for homeowners, their pets and their property, so it ultimately provides a better value for the dollar. It's tough on ice and snow, but safe on everything else."


Concrete maintenance can also be an issue for homeowners who live in colder climates.


"Many people think that ice melt products cause damage to concrete, but the real culprit is the freeze/thaw cycle," says Poe. "When ice melts, the resulting liquid works its way into cracks in the concrete. When the liquid refreezes, it expands and causes further cracking or spalling."


The solution? After using an ice melt product, Poe recommends removing the resulting slush and brine before it has a chance to refreeze.


When evaluating different ice melt products, check the packaging to see if magnesium chloride is part of the product formula and whether the product is labeled as safe for people, plants and pets.


-- ARA


New Research: Malaria mortality rates dip


Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 percent globally since 2000, according to the World Health Organization. This is the result of a significant scaling-up of malaria prevention and control measures in the last decade, including the widespread use of bed nets, better diagnostics and a wider availability of effective medicines to treat malaria.


Did You Know?


Bagged produce labeled “ready-to-eat” or “pre-washed” are OK to eat without further washing. Refrigerate immediately, and keep separate from raw meat, seafood and poultry. – FoodSafety.gov


Health Tip: Use meditation to reduce stress


In our busy world, meditation is a great tool for temporarily escaping the madness. This ancient technique has helped many people gain mental clarity and overall balance. There are no rules to meditation –– you can meditate for any amount of time, eyes open or closed, lights on or off. A main aspect of meditation is breathing and freeing the mind of judgmental thoughts.


-- Life Fitness


Number to Know


2 million: Americans suffer more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes each year, and every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is responsible for 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States.


Children’s Health: Brain injury in girls and boys


More than half a million children in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury every year. A recent study reveals that after the TBI, the risk of headache was highest in adolescents and in girls. Study authors conclude that the response to and recovery from TBI is different for children, adolescents and adults, and that boys and girls are likely to have different symptoms and recovery.


-- American Academy of Pediatrics


Boomer Health: Where are the Lipitor generics?


Now that Pfizer’s patent on the cholesterol-lowering Lipitor has run its course, cheaper generics like atorvastatin were expected to emerge, bringing prices down for all. But, according to Patricia Barry with AARP.org, the drug manufacturer has launched a uniquely aggressive campaign to keep people from switching to the generic, which includes “making deals to block coverage (of the generic) … in some health plans.”


GateHouse News Service