Category Archives: Heart and Vascular Health

Sep 25 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: September 25

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EBOLA UPDATE: Public Health Experts Worried About a ‘New Normal’ For Ebola
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
With the World Health Organization announcing that the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now surpassed 2,900 people, public health experts are increasingly resigning themselves to the very real possibility that the outbreak will go on for a very long time. Previous human outbreaks were either stopped quickly or in no more than a few months. However, this outbreak is taking hold in urban areas—previous outbreaks were found in rural areas with smaller, more spread out populations—making it unlike any of the others. “What’s always worked before—contact tracing, isolation and quarantine—is not going to work, and it’s not working now,” said Daniel Lucey, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center, according to The Washington Post. Read more on Ebola.

Common Painkillers Linked to Increased Risk of Blood Clots
Common painkillers including aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen may be linked to an increased risk of developing dangerous blog clots known as venous thromboembolisms (VTE), according to a new study in the journal Rheumatology. The painkillers are all types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Researchers analyzed the results of six studies that included 21,401 VTE events, finding that patients who used NSAIDs were almost twice as likely to develop the clots. "Our results show a statistically significant increased VTE risk among NSAIDs users. Why NSAIDs may increase the risk of VTE is unclear,” said study lead author Patompong Ungprasert, in a release. “It is possibly related to COX-2 inhibition leading to thromboxane-prostacyclin imbalance. Physicians should be aware of this association and NSAIDs should be prescribed with caution, especially in patients already at a higher risk of VTE." Read more on heart and vascular health.

U.S. Lags Behind Much of Europe in Infant Mortality Rates
The United States continues to lag behind much of Europe and several other developed nations when it comes to infant mortality rates, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 6.1 U.S. infants died per every 1,000 live births in 2010. While that was down from the rate of 6.87 in 2005, it was still double the rates of Finland, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway. "I think we've known for a long time that the U.S. has a higher preterm birth rate, but this higher infant mortality rate for full-term, big babies who should have really good survival prospects is not what we expected," said lead author Marian MacDorman, a senior statistician and researcher in the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, according to HealthDay. Reasons for the United States’ high rate include prenatal care that leads to the birth of more at-risk preemies, as well as disparities in prenatal care. Read more on maternal and infant health.

Aug 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 22

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Planning 6-9 Month Treatment Strategy
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The World Health Organization (WHO) is putting together a draft strategy to combat the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with a spokesperson saying that while the strategy acknowledges the estimate that the Ebola response will continue into 2015, "Frankly no one knows when this outbreak of Ebola will end." "WHO is working on an Ebola road map document, it's really an operational document how to fight Ebola," WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva. "It details the strategy for WHO and partners for six to nine months to come." Read more on Ebola.

HHS Launches ‘Million Hearts’ Challenge to Identify Successful Blood Pressure Reduction Efforts
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has for the third straight year launched a nationwide challenge to identify and celebrate practices, clinicians and health systems working to reduce high blood pressure and improve heart health. Nine public and private practices and health systems were recognized as Hypertension Control Champions in last year’s “Million Hearts Hypertension Control Challenge”; they cared for more than 8.3 million adult patients overall. “Controlling blood pressure prevents heart attacks and strokes and saves lives,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Providers and health care systems that focus on improving hypertension control with their patients get great results. It’s important that we recognize those providers and patients that been successful and learn from them.” Read more on heart and vascular health.

Study: Counseling Has Little Effect on Young People with Drinking Problems
Motivational interviewing, a common counseling technique used to help people with drinking problems, may have little effect on young people who abuse alcohol, according to a new study in The Cochrane Library. Researchers looked at 66 studies covering almost 18,000 people age 25 and younger, finding that people who underwent counseling had only an average of 1.5 fewer drinks per week than those who did not (12.2 vs. 13.7), had only slightly fewer drinking days per week (2.57 vs. 2.74) and their maximum blood alcohol level fell only slightly (0.144 percent vs. 0.129 percent). "The results suggest that for young people who misuse alcohol there is no substantial, meaningful benefit of motivational interviewing," said lead researcher David Foxcroft, from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom, in a release. "There may be certain groups of young adults for whom motivational interviewing is more successful in preventing alcohol-related problems. But we need to see larger trials in these groups to be able to make any firm conclusions.” Read more on alcohol.

Aug 19 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: August 19

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EBOLA UPDATE: Death Toll Passes 1,200; Improvement Seen in Three African Doctors Who Received Experimental Treatment
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The death toll in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa has passed 1,200, according to the World Health Organization, with infection rates continuing to outpace containment efforts. Concerns over the disease also continue to spread, with a 30-year-old woman in Germany isolated and then taken to a specialist medical unit after being found with a high fever. However, the Liberian information minister was also recently quoted as saying that three African doctors treated with the experimental ZMapp treatment are showing “remarkable signs of improvement.” The drug was used to treat two Americans who are now also showing signs of improvement. Read more on Ebola.

Study: Older Americans Receiving Cancer Screenings Against Recommendations
As many as half of older Americans continue to receive cancer screenings despite the recommendation by several professional societies that certain cancers not be screening for in people who aren’t expected to live for another 10 years, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. “There is general agreement that routine cancer screening has little likelihood to result in a net benefit for individuals with limited life expectancy,” wrote Trevor Royce, MD, in the study. Keith Bellizzi of the University of Connecticut‘s Center for Public Health and Health Policy in Storrs added that "Each screening test carries different risks and benefits ... Individuals should be counseled about these risks in order to make an informed decision (sometimes involving caregivers or family members)." Read more on cancer.

Study: Dramatic Drop in Deaths, Hospitalization for Heart Disease and Stroke
Lifestyle changes, better treatment and effective preventive measures have caused a dramatic drop in deaths and hospitalizations for heart disease over the past decade, according to a new study in the journal Circulation. In a review of data on nearly 34 million Americans covered by Medicare, researchers found that from 1999 to 2011 hospitalizations rates for heart attacks dropped by 38 percent; rates of unstable angina dropped by almost 85 percent; and hospitalizations for both heart failure and stroke dropped by approximately one-third. "The findings are jaw-dropping," said lead researcher Harlan Krumholz, MD, a professor of cardiology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn, according to HealthDay. "They really show that we have begun to reverse this epidemic of heart disease and stroke." Read more on heart and vascular health.

Jul 23 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 23

New EPA Tool Helps Communities Become More Flood Resilient
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new tool, the Flood Resilience Checklist, to help communities prepare for, deal with and recover from floods. The checklist includes strategies that communities can consider, such as conserving land in flood-prone areas; directing new development to safer areas; and using green infrastructure approaches, such as installing rain gardens, to manage storm water. “Flooding from major storms has cost lives and caused billions of dollars in damage,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With climate change, storms are likely to become even more powerful in many regions of the country. Where and how communities build will have long-term impacts on their flood resilience, and on air and water quality and health and safety. This checklist will help flood-prone communities think through these issues and come up with the solutions that work best for them.” Find more resources on EPA’s Disaster Recovery and Resilience page.

Home Blood Pressure-Monitoring Devices Lower Health Care Costs 
A new study in the journal Hypertension finds that home blood pressure monitors can improve health care quality and save money. In the United States, more than 76 million adults have been diagnosed with hypertension and many more are undiagnosed. The researchers analyzed 2008-11 data from two health insurance plans—a private employer plan and a Medicare Advantage plan where 60 percent of members had high blood pressure. Net savings associated with home blood pressure monitoring ranged from $33 to $166 per member in the first year, and $415 to $1,364 over 10 years. Researchers found reasons for the savings differed by age groups and whether the monitors were used for treatment or diagnosis. In people 65 and older, home monitoring saved more when used to track high blood pressure treatment, by helping them avoid future adverse cardiovascular events. In people younger than 65, savings were higher in diagnostic use of the monitors, with fewer false positive diagnoses and fewer people starting unnecessary treatment. Read more on prevention.

New Mobile App Helps Parents Discuss Underage Drinking with their Kids
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched a new mobile app that features a simulated video game-like tool to help parents practice having conversations about underage drinking. SAMHSA experts say the timing of the release is intentional, as the rate of youth alcohol use rises during the summer. The mobile app is the newest component of “Talk. They Hear You,” SAMHSA’s underage drinking prevention campaign that launched last year to provide parents and caregivers with information and tools to start talking to youth early—as early as nine years old—about the dangers of alcohol. The new app uses avatars to engage in interactive conversations and each virtual role-play conversation is structured as a 10- to 15-minute interactive, video game-like experience. Users engage in a conversation with an intelligent, fully animated, emotionally responsive avatar that models human behavior and adapts its responses and behaviors to the user’s conversation decisions. Read more on substance abuse.

Jul 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 22

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Study: Low-income Teens in Better High Schools Engage in Fewer Risky Behaviors
Low-income teenagers attending “high-performing” high schools are less likely than their peers in lower-performing schools to engage in risky behaviors such as carrying a weapon, binge drinking, using drugs other than marijuana and having multiple sex partners, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed 521 students who were accepted into a high-performing charter school; when compared to 409 students who also applied to top charter schools but were not selected in a random lottery, the kids in the high-performing schools were less likely to engage in at least one of the identified “very risky” behaviors—36 percent, compared to 42 percent. There was no statistical difference for more common risky behaviors, such as lighter drinking and smoking cigarettes. Read more on education.

Too Few People At Risk for Heart Disease are Receiving Recommendations for Aspirin Therapy
Despite the important role it can play in preventing heart disease, only 40 percent of the people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease reported receiving a doctor’s recommendation for aspirin therapy, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Approximately one-quarter of people at low risk received the recommendation. “Cardiovascular disease is a significant problem in the United States and the appropriate use of prevention strategies is particularly important,” said Arch G. Mainous III, PhD, the study’s lead investigator and chairman of the department of health services research, management and policy at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, in a release. “Aspirin has been advocated as a prevention strategy but only for certain patients. There are health risks associated with the treatment. It is important that doctors are directing the right patients to get aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention.” The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends aspirin use to prevent heart attack and stroke in men ages 45-79 and women ages 55-79. Read more on heart health.

Study: Coping Skills Programs for Mothers of Children With Autism Helps All Involved
Mothers of children with autism who participated in coping skills programs saw reduced stress, illness and psychiatric problems—all of which they are at higher risk for—while also improving their connections with their children, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Such programs also benefit their children, as these risk factors are associated with poorer health outcomes for the children. Researchers entered 243 mothers of children with disabilities (two-thirds of which were autism) into six weeks of either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (mindfulness practice) or Positive Adult Development (positive psychology practice), finding that both reduced stress and other negative impacts. Read more on mental health.

Jul 15 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 15

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RWJF Analysis of ACA Effects Finds No Increase in New Patient Visits
A new report, ACAView, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and athenahealth, finds that in the first five months of 2014 there was no increase in new patient visits, when compared to the same time last year. The ACAView initiative was created to measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on providers, patients and physicians from 2014 through 2016. The report focuses on the provider perspective, showcasing how the ACA affects the practice patterns and economics of physicians and other care team members around the country. Potential reasons for the lack of an increase in visits include the newly insured being unfamiliar with the health care system, or even the winter weather. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.

Study: Nickel in an iPad Linked to Boy’s Allergic Skin Reaction
An ever-increasing reliance on consumer electronics may also mean rarer allergies are becoming more common, according to researchers who linked an 11-year-old boy’s allergic skin reaction to the nickel found in a first-generation Apple iPad. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. Previous studies have linked the nickel in computers, smartphones and other electronics to allergic reactions; other common sources of nickel include ear piercings, clothing fasteners and dental work. “With the increasing prevalence of nickel allergy in the pediatric population, it is important for clinicians to continue to consider metallic-appearing electronics and personal effects as potential sources of nickel exposure,” according to the study. Read more on pediatrics.

Study: Changing Generic Pill Color, Shape Can Decrease Prescription Adherence
In addition to known considerations such as side effects and cost, the change in the appearance of prescription medications may also lead some people to stop taking their prescriptions, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In a study of more than 11,000 patients, researchers determined that a change in pill color would increase the odds that a patient would stop taking their heart medication by 34 percent, while a change in pill shape would increase the chances by 66 percent. This adds another wrinkle to the series problem of medication adherence; the American Heart Association estimates that three out of four Americans do not take their medication as directed. Read more on prescription drugs.

Jul 11 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 11

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CDC: 60 Percent of Diners Will Use Menu Calorie Counts When Available
Approximately 6 in 10 U.S. adults will choose their restaurant meals in part because of menu label information when it’s available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Morbidity and Mortality Report. Researchers analyzed the self-reported usage of 118,013 adults in 17 states in 2012 to determine that about 57 percent will look to the provided calorie information. New York had the highest rate, with 61.3 percent, while Montana had the lowest, at 48.7 percent. Federal law requires calorie information be provided by any restaurant with 20 or more locations; while the regulations are not yet final, many establishments already voluntarily provide menu labeling, according to the CDC. Read more on nutrition.

Depression, Stress, Hostility Tied to Higher Stroke Risk
Depression, stress and hostility may be linked to a higher risk for stroke, according to a new study in the journal Stroke. Using information provided by approximately 7,000 adults who did not have heart disease or a history of stroke at the beginning of the study, researchers followed up nearly nine years later and determined that depression was associated with an 86 percent increased chance of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack, stress was associated with a 59 percent increase and hostility doubled the risk. “[C]hronic stress and negative emotions are important psychological factors that affect one's health, and findings from this study link these factors to brain health in particular," said the study's lead author, Susan Everson-Rose, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, according to HealthDay. "Patients and their health care providers should be aware that experiences of chronic stress and negative emotional states can increase risk for stroke.” Read more on heart health.

Washington State Sees Most Measles Cases Since 1996
A slight decline in Washington State’s mumps and rubella vaccination rate has coincided with the state’s highest number of measles case in 18 years, according to officials. Washington has reported 27 cases so far this year and is currently in the midst of its third outbreak. While homegrown measles was declared officially eliminated from the United States in 2000, infections from people who have travelled overseas remain a threat. There were 554 total cases of measles and 17 outbreaks reported in the United States between Jan. 1 and July 3 of this year. Read more on infectious diseases.

Jun 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 30

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AHA to Fund Research Network for the Prevention of Heart Disease, Stroke
With a $15 million grant from the American Heart Association (AHA), four major medical institutions are coming together to form a research network with the goal of preventing heart disease and stroke. The Strategically Focused Prevention Research Network Centers will include investigators at Northwestern University in Chicago, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Heart attack and stroke can strike suddenly, and frequently without warning. The best way to reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases and stroke is to prevent the development of the risk factors that lead to these conditions,” said AHA President Elliott Antman, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the cardiovascular division of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in a release. “Scientists working in these research centers are helping to discover the mechanisms that will allow all Americans to live healthier lives, helping lead us to a culture of health.” Read more on heart health.

Study: One-Third of U.S. Total Knee Replacements ‘Inappropriate’
Approximately one-third of all total knee replacements in the United States are unnecessary and “inappropriate” under a patient classification system used in Spain, according to a new study in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology. Researchers said the findings demonstrate a need for the United States to develop similar patient selection criteria so as to limit the unneeded surgeries. There are more than 600,000 total U.S. knee replacements annually—meaning that approximately 200,000 are unnecessary, according to the study—and from 1991 to 2010 the number of Medicare-covered replacements climbed by approximately 162 percent annually. Read more on aging.

Kids’ ADHD Medications Not Linked to Increase Risk of Substance Abuse
While children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are twice as likely to abuse drugs, the medications prescribed to treat ADHD do not play a role in the increased risk, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, researchers determined that the combination of behavioral techniques and ADHD medications actually lowers the risk of substance abuse. "Obviously, the medications that are used to treat ADHD have the potential for abuse, but the vast majority of children with ADHD do not develop a substance abuse problem," said Michael Duchowny, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Miami Children's Hospital. "More research has to be done to find out why some children are more susceptible than others." Common ADHD medications include amphetamines such as Adderall or Dexedrine, and methylphenidates such as Concerta, Metadate CD or Ritalin. Read more on substance abuse.

Jun 20 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 20

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Depression Linked to Higher Heart Disease Death Risk in Younger Women
Women age 55 and younger are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, die or require artery-opening procedures if they’re moderately or severely depressed, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Investigators assessed depression symptoms in 3,237 women with known or suspected heart disease who were scheduled for coronary angiography, an X-ray that diagnoses disease in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. After nearly three years of follow-up, researchers found:

  • In women 55 and younger, after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors, each 1-point increase in symptoms of depression was associated with a 7 percent increase in the presence of heart disease.
  • In men and older women, symptoms of depression didn’t predict the presence of heart disease.
  • Women 55 and younger were 2.17 times as likely to suffer a heart attack, die of heart disease or require an artery-opening procedure during the follow-up period if they had moderate or severe depression.
  • Women 55 and younger were 2.45 times as likely to die from any cause during the follow-up period if they had moderate or severe depression.

Read more on heart health.

HUD Provides Additional Funds for Hundreds of U.S. Programs for the Homeless
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a second round of grants totaling $140 million to nearly 900 local homeless assistance programs for both permanent and transitional housing programs. The grants will fund programs including 436 new local projects aimed at providing permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness. Read more on housing.

NIH Launches Public Website on 3D Printing
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange, a public website that lets users share, download and edit 3D print files related to health and science. Among other uses, the files can be used to print custom laboratory equipment, as well as models of bacteria and human anatomy. NIH uses 3D printing—or the creation of a physical object from a digital model—to study viruses; repair and enhance lab apparatus; and help plan medical procedures. The 3D Print Exchange also includes video tutorials; a discussion forum; and tools that convert scientific and clinical data into ready-to-print 3D files. Read more on research.

Jun 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 17

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NIH Releases Tools to Help Older Adults Quit Smoking
While overall U.S. smoking rates are dropping, approximately 10 percent of adults over the age of 65 still smoke. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a new online resource with videos, worksheets, interactive tools, strategies, quizzes and more to help older smokers who are thinking about quitting. “Most older adults know that smoking is harmful, and many have tried unsuccessfully to quit, often a number of times. But stopping smoking is a difficult goal that still eludes many older smokers,” said Erik Augustson, program director of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which developed the topic for NIHSeniorHealth. “This new topic, which offers a mix of tips and tools geared to the needs and experiences of older smokers, is an important, easy-to-use resource that can benefit those trying to quit for the first time as well as those who have tried before.” Read more on tobacco.

AHA: Only One-third of Cancer Patients with Heart Problems Seek Proper Treatment
Approximately 12 percent of older breast cancer patients go on to develop heart failure within three years—often as a result of their cancer treatment—but only one-third of those patients sought the help of a cardiologist within 90 days of experiencing heart problems, according to the American Heart Association. Patients who do not see a cardiologist are less likely to receive the standard therapy for heart failure, putting them at risk of lower quality of care and demonstrating an important area where oncologists and cardiologists can collaborate, according to Jersey Chen, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and a research scientist and cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente. “The bottom line is, if you have breast cancer and you’re treated with anthracyclines or trastuzumab, you should know they have side effects,” said Chen in a release. “And if you have symptoms of heart problems like shortness of breath or swelling in the feet or legs, seek attention quickly, preferably with doctors familiar and comfortable with treating heart failure after cancer therapy.” Read more on heart health.

Long Hours Spent Sitting Linked to Higher Risk for Colon, Endometrial Cancers
Previous studies have linked extended time spent sitting to health problems such as heart disease, blood clots, higher blood sugar and even early death. According to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, you can now add increased risk for colon and endometrial cancers to the list. Researchers analyzed the findings of 43 studies covering 70,000 cases of cancer, determining that:

  • People who spent the most time sitting during the day had a 24 percent increased risk of getting colon cancer
  • People who spent the most time sitting in front of a television has a 54 percent increased risk for colon cancer
  • There was a 32 percent increased risk for endometrial—or uterine—cancer for women who spent the most time seated and a 66 percent increased risk for those who watched the most television
  • Every two-hour increase in sitting time was linked to an 8 percent increased risk of colon cancer and a 10 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer

Read more on cancer.