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The 1980s will go down in medical history as the decade when Americans began dedicating as much time to staying healthy as to becoming wealthy.

Long accustomed to doing exactly what the doctor ordered, people took the offensive - writing their own prescriptions for good health.Preventive medicine became vogue. Adherence to good health practices - no smoking and moderate, if any, drinking - was coupled with healthy diets rich in low-cholesterol foods. Larger amounts of vegetables, fruits and cereals were consumed, and unsaturated fats and oils were substituted for meat and dairy fats.

The need for Americans to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy, coupled with the entrance of more women into the workplace, resulted in the trend toward in-home exercise equipment. Total body toning was in, but, for many, time to go to the spa was out of the question.

The '80s also witnessed dramatic improvements in medical technology.

Computer imaging - use of X-rays, radioactive isotopes, ultrasound, magnetic resonance - gave physicians almost as much information about the inside of the body as they had obtained through exploratory operations.

Surgery, which usually required an incision large enough for a surgeon to put his hands in the body, became less invasive. Electrocautery and the use of lasers permitted bloodless surgery, and surgeons performing microsurgery used specially designed microscopes, tiny instruments and delicate sutures to operate on small nerves or blood vessels.

More surgical procedures were done on an outpatient basis.

Even when surgery was not a life-saving requisite, many Americans went to plastic surgeons in droves for operations to change their faces, their fannies and - hopefully - their futures.

The advents of "miracle" drugs offered new hope to people suffering from AIDS, as well mental disorders, cancer and heart problems. New medications expanded prospects for successful organ transplants and saved premature babies whose lungs were underdeveloped.

Artificial hearts, pioneered by Utah scientists, bought time for patients awaiting human heart transplants, even though during the 80s, at least, they didn't meet predictions of widespread successful permanent implantations.

Genetic scientists took leaps forward in identifying the genes responsible for certain inherited disorders, and in the next decade will further their fight against cancer-causing genes.

Methods to improve the likelihood of pregnancy among infertile couples progressed. The success rates of in vitro fertilization - conception outside the body with re-implantation of the conceptus in the mother's body - improved. The science extended to freezing embryos produced by the procedure so they could be used at a later date.

But in some instances, the scientific progress in fertility and genetic engineering outstripped resolution of the related ethical questions, including surrogate parenthood, fetal tissue transplantation and the abortion of imperfect fetuses. Some of the decade's most fascinating legal cases revolved around such issues.

Finally, as technology procedures became more sophisticated, the costs of medical care skyrocketed throughout the '80s.


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Drugs that improved, if not saved, the lives of Americans in the 1980s

OKT3, monoclonal antibody used pre-operatively and post-operatively for transplant patients to prevent organ rejection.

Surfacant (Surface Activator), tagged as a "rescue" drug for treatment of newborns suffering from hyaline membrane disease.

Aidovudine (originally called AZT), Introduced for treating AIDS after development by scientists at Burroughs Wellcome Research Laboratories, N.C.

Anistreplase, clot-dissolving agent that can be administered with a physician's direction to heart attack patients over a 5-minute period.

Prozac, popular anti-depressant, that for 90 percent of users has no side effects.

Genetically engineered human insulin for treatment of diabetes.


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What's in:

Preventive medicine, walking, oat bran muffins, fish, chicken, turkey, baby vegetables, cosmetic surgery, liquid diets, health & home spas, sparkling water, in vitro fertilization, monogamy, sports bars, frozen yogurt.

What's out:

Crisis intervention, jogging, smoking, jelly donuts, red meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, grapefruit diets, single bars, alcohol, couch potatoes, house calls.


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Bionic Man

Utah researchers are close to achieving a "bionic man,"--science's ability to replace the defunct body parts with man-made spares that function closely to the original. Parts-replacements developed by researchers include--but are not limited to:

Artificial heart

Artificial ear

Artificial eye Artificial lung

Artificial blood

Artificial blood vessels

Artificial joints

Artificial fallopian tubes

Artificial arm

Artificial kidney

Artificial pancreas

Artificial toe

Artificial bones


Top 10 Health & Fitness Developments of the 1980s

1. Skyrocketing health-care costs

2. Fitness, Healthy diets and lifestyles

3. Cosmetic surgery

4. Non-invasive surgery

5. Miracle drugs

6. Artificial hearts

7. Computer imaging

8. Infertility techniques

9. Transplanted organs

10. Ethical dilemmas