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Health Highlights: Feb. 28, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Researchers Analyze Heart of King Richard 'The Lionheart'

Researchers who analyzed the heart of England's King Richard I say they were able to rule out the theory that he was killed by a poisoned arrow.

The king, nicknamed Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 after being hit by a crossbow bolt. His heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen. Most historians believe Richard I died from gangrene or septicemia caused by his wound, BBC News reported.

The heart, locked in a small lead box, was discovered in the 19th Century during an excavation. Until now, the heart has not been studied in detail. The remains of the heart are a gray-brown powder and in too poor condition to reveal the exact cause of death.

Along with ruling out a poisoned arrow as the cause of death, the researchers were able to learn more about the methods used to preserve the organ, BBC News reported.

The research appears in the journal Scientific Report.

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Medicare Pays Billions for Poor Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes that failed to meet quality of care standards received $5.1 billion in payments from Medicare in 2009, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general.

In some cases, the failure to meet those standards resulted in dangerous and neglectful conditions for patients, the Associated Press reported.

The investigators estimated that for every one in three times a patient was admitted to a nursing home that year, they ended up in facilities that did not meet the basic care requirements stipulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In one out of five nursing home stays, patients' health issues weren't addressed in their care plans. In other cases, patients received therapy they didn't require. The investigators said this benefited the nursing homes financially because they were reimbursed at a higher rate by Medicare, the AP said.

"These findings raise concerns about what Medicare is paying for," according to the Office of Inspector General's report.

It was based on medical records from 190 patient stays at nursing homes in 42 states. The stays lasted at least three weeks. That sample represents about 1.1 million patient stays at nursing homes nationwide in 2009, the most recent year for which data was available, the AP reported.

The investigators recommended that CMS tie Medicare payments to nursing homes' abilities to meet basic care requirements, and also said the agency needs to tighten its regulations and improve its oversight.

CMS agreed that it should consider linking payments to the quality of care provided at nursing homes, and also said that it is reviewing its regulations to improve enforcement at the facilities.

"Medicare has made significant changes to the way we pay providers thanks to the health care law, to reward better quality care," Medicare spokesman Brian Cook said in a statement to AP. "We are taking steps to make sure these facilities have the resources to improve the quality of their care, and make sure Medicare is paying for the quality of care that beneficiaries are entitled to."

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Slightly Increased Cancer Risk From Fukushima Disaster: WHO

The slightly increased risk of cancer among people exposed to the highest doses of radiation during the 2011 nuclear plant meltdown in Japan is so small that it likely won't be detectable, a World Health Organization report says.

The agency asked a group of experts to assess the heightened risk of various cancers among people at the epicenter of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, the Associated Press reported.

There were meltdowns in three reactors at the plant after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Radiation was released into the surrounding air, soil and water.

The experts estimated that people in regions most affected by radiation from the plant had a 4 to 7 percent increased risk of developing cancers, including leukemia and breast cancer. Those most hit by radiation would have about a 1 percent increased risk, the AP reported.

"These are pretty small proportional increases," said Richard Wakeford, of the University of Manchester in the U.K., one of the report authors.

"The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people's lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations," he told the AP. "It's more important not to start smoking than having been in Fukushima."

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New Program Helps Students Get Exercise

A new partnership to encourage schools to get more creative in helping students get their recommended amounts of daily exercise will be announced Thursday by Michelle Obama.

The initiative begins with a new website (letsmoveschools.org), where school officials can sign up to get started, the Associated Press reported.

The program is the latest addition to the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity, which she launched three years ago.

Some schools are already using unique ways to help students get more exercise, including learning their ABCs while dancing, or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks, the AP reported.

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