Category Archives: Heart Health
NIH: Cardiovascular Benefits Outweigh Small Weight Gain for Former Smokers
When it comes to health, the small amount of weight someone can gain after quitting smoking is inconsequential compared to the improvement in cardiovascular health, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that current smokers were at twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as were former smokers without diabetes. “Our findings suggest that a modest weight gain, around 5-10 pounds, has a negligible effect on the net benefit of quitting smoking,” said study co-author Caroline Fox, MD, MPH, senior investigator in the Laboratory for Metabolic and Population Health at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “Being able to quantify to some degree the relationship between the benefits and side effects of smoking cessation can help in counseling those who have quit or are thinking about quitting.” Read more on tobacco.
FDA: Antibiotic Azithromycin Can Cause Fatal Irregular Heart Rhythm
The antibiotic azithromycin, also known as Zithromax, can lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm by changing the heart’s electrical activity, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned. The FDA is cautioning physicians to be wary of certain risk factors when prescribing the antibiotic, including low levels of potassium or magnesium, a slower-than-normal heart rate and the presence or other drugs to treat abnormal heart rhythms. Read more on heart health.
Study: Breast-feeding has No Effect on Weight Later in Life
Despite previous studies suggesting a possible link, breast-feeding does not reduce the chances that a child will grow up to be overweight or obese, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Still, breast-feeding does bring several health benefits, including a reduced risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections; a higher IQ; and lower incidence of eczema. It also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in the mother. "Although breast-feeding is unlikely to stem the current obesity epidemic, its other advantages are amply sufficient to justify continued public health efforts to promote, protect and support it," said the study's lead author, Richard Martin, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England. Read more on infant and maternal health.
AAP: Out-of-school Suspensions, Expulsions Harmful to Kids
Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions are generally counterproductive and can have profound long-term negative effects, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Data shows the youth are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system and will earn $400,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate. Such discipline also does not address potential underlying issues, such as drug abuse, racial tension, violence and bullying, according to AAP. AAP recommends early intervention programs to recognize and address behavioral and other problems. Recommendations also include a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program to teach proper behavior at both the individual and school-wide levels. Read more on violence.
Study: 1 in 4 Admit to Bizarre Late-night Snacking
Approximately one in four students admit to creating and eating late-night crazy food concoctions, according to a new report in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Researchers defined the relevant snacks as “strange food mixtures that you would be too embarrassed or ashamed to share with others” (e.g. sugar-covered scrambled eggs or mayo-smothered vegetables). While there is no inherent health danger in such mixing, health professionals recommend that people try to make healthy choices when selecting late-night snacks. About one-third of U.S. adults and nearly one in five youth ages 2-19 are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on nutrition.
Study: Mediterranean Diet Good for Heart Health
A Mediterranean diet—rich in olive oil, nuts, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and even red wine—is more effective than a low-fat diet at helping at helping people at high risk for cardiovascular disease to ward off health problems, according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found a 30 percent greater reduction in relative risk of a heart attack, stroke or death, according to lead author Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, MD, MPH, PhD, chairman of preventive medicine and public health at the Universidad de Navarra in Spain. He said the findings are likely to due to the good-quality fats and wide array of nutrients. The findings give further support to the effectiveness of a Mediterranean diet at preventing heart disease. Read more on heart health.
Public health departments and schools of public health across the country are showing the love this Valentine’s Day. Many have loaded great ideas for healthy hearts and happy lives on their home pages, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages:
- The Massachusetts Department of Health offers (somewhat) healthy Valentine’s Day chocolate ideas.
- The Lexington-Fayette County (Kentucky) Health Department wants to salute American Heart Month (February) by having people wear red for Valentine’s Day and share photos through the department’s Twitter feed or Facebook page.
- A community health clinic in Yolo County, Calif., is holding its annual Valentine’s Day diaper drive.
- Our Favorite: A Valentine’s Day infographic from the Ohio State University College of Public Health gives healthy AND romantic tips for the day. Best idea—take romantic walks! [See full infographic below.]
>>Bonus Link: Whether you mailed a card or not, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a virtual rack full of Valentine’s Day health-e (get it?) cards, with all the gush, and plenty of heart-healthy ideas.
Study: No Link Between Hospital Deaths, Readmission Rates
Hospital readmission rates—which Medicare can use to penalize health care providers—and death rates are not linked, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers, who looked at rates for heart attack and pneumonia patients, say this means hospitals can still keep the number of returning patients down without increasing the number who die. "The concern was that their performance in one area is going to compromise their performance in another," said Harlan Krumholz, MD, lead author from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reduces payments to hospitals with high readmission rates. Read more on access to health care.
HUD, HHS Grants to Provide Housing for Low-income People with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is granting approximately $98 million in funding to help prevent homelessness and unnecessary institutionalization of extremely low-income people with disabilities. Thirteen state housing agencies will use the grants to provide rental assistance. “By working together, HUD and HHS are helping states to offer permanent housing and critically needed supportive services to offer real and lasting assistance to persons who might otherwise be institutionalized or living on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “We’re helping states reduce health care costs, improving quality of life for persons with disabilities, and ending homelessness as we know it.” Read more on housing and disability.
High-calcium Diets, Supplements May Increase Death from Heart Disease for Women
High-calcium diets and supplements may increase the risk of death by heart disease for women, according to a new study in BMJ. Another recent study found a similar link among men. Calcium supplements are taken to prevent bone loss and had been speculated to also improve cardiovascular health. Instead, researchers found diets very low or very high in calcium can causes changes in blood level. Most adults should intake 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements. Read more on heart health.
New Report Widens Information on Veteran Suicide
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released a comprehensive report on Veterans who die by suicide—include veterans who had not sought VA health care services. Previous reports included information only on those who had sought those services. The VA has recently implemented broader suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line; placement of suicide prevention coordinators at all VA medical centers and large outpatient facilities; and improvements in case management and reporting. Immediate help for veterans is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255. Read more on military.
FDA Approves Generic Version for Cancer Drug Doxil in Short Supply
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first generic version of widely used cancer drug Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection). This approval is critical because the drug is currently on the FDA’s drug shortage list. The agency is using a priority review system to expedite the review of generic applications to help stem shortages. Doxil is used for several cancers, including ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma and AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. Read more on prescription drugs.
Stroke Victims Need Therapy Within 60 Minutes of Hospital Arrival
People having an ischemic stroke should receive clot-dissolving therapy within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital, according to new American Stroke Association guidelines published in the journal Stroke. Ischemic stroke, which accounts for nine in 10 strokes, is caused by a blood clot in the arteries leading to the brain. According to the American Heart Association, calling 9-1-1 immediately after recognizing any of the warning signs of stroke—and getting to a stroke center as fast as possible—are critical steps for optimal stroke care. That’s because during an acute stroke, physicians must quickly evaluate and diagnose patients to determine whether they are eligible to receive the clot-dissolving drug recombinant tissue plasminogen activator which has to be given within hours of symptom starting.
Other new changes to stroke guidelines include:
- If feasible, transfer patients to the closest available certified primary care stroke center or comprehensive stroke center, which might involve air medical transport, though telemedicine with a stroke center may also be appropriate.
- Create multidisciplinary quality improvement committees within hospitals to review and monitor stroke care.
Read more on heart health.
During American Heart Month in February 2013, the Heart Truth campaign of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) will share stories of women taking action to protect their heart.
Today is National Wear Red Day, an observance established in 2003 by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute [of the National Institutes of Health], to encourage women to take preventive actions against heart disease, the number one killer of women in the U.S. Why the focus on women? Until then, and still today, the myth persists than heart disease is a problem strictly for older men.
Successes since the first National Wear Red Day include:
- 21% fewer women dying from heart disease
- 23% more women aware that it's their No. 1 health threat
- Education on gender-specific differences in symptoms and responses to medications and guidelines for prevention and treatment
- Legislation to help end gender disparities
New CT Device Offers Improved Imaging, Substantially Reduced Radiation
A new type of CT scanner from National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers and engineers at Toshiba Medical Systems offers improved image quality while reducing the amount of potentially harmful radiation to patients by as much as 95 percent. This device will enable doctors to better diagnose conditions such as heart disease, according to coauthor Andrew Arai, MD, chief of the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Branch at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Author Marcus Chen, MD, a clinician in the NHLBI’s Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging Laboratory, said the “improvements could help clinicians identify problems in even the smallest blood vessels or enable them to conduct complicated tests like measuring blood flow in the heart while limiting radiation exposure.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the CT scanner, which still requires additional study. Read more on heart health.
Study: Black Patients Less Likely to Receive Kidney Transplants before Needing Dialysis
Patients who are black or do not have private insurance are less likely than others to receive a kidney transplant before having to go on dialysis, according to a new study in Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, including lead author Morgan Grams, MD, who told Reuters it shows "just another disparity" for African American patients. Douglas Scott Keith, MD, head of the kidney transplant program at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville and not part of the study, said studies "over the last 10 to 15 years have consistently shown that minorities have poorer access to transplantation. This article basically shows that it's persisting, it hasn't gotten much better.” African American patients are about 56 percent less likely than white patients to receive a kidney transplant before needing dialysis. Read more on health disparities.
Medical School Conflict of Interest Policies May Affect New Doctors’ Prescription Habits
Doctors who graduate from medical schools with policies restricting gifts from pharmaceutical companies may be less likely to prescribe new medications over current options, according to a new study in the BMJ. "Our findings suggest that conflict of interest policies, which have been increasingly adopted by medical schools since 2002, may have the potential to substantially impact clinical practice and reduce prescribing of newly marketed pharmaceuticals," wrote Marissa King, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale University School of Management, and colleagues. The researchers say further study is needed to determine whether the measures affect the prescription of all new medications, or if the effect is more selective. Read more on prescription drugs.
Many ‘Facts’ About Weight Loss Not Supported by Science
Many pieces of common weight-loss advice have in fact little-to-no supporting evidence, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. These include the “facts” that small dietary and exercise changes lead to steady and sustained weight loss, as well as that slow, gradual weight loss is better than large, rapid weight loss. Study author David Allison, director of the nutrition obesity research center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said that while these ideas makes sense, researchers and physicians still need to make sure that health advice is backed up by data so that patients receive the best care possible. "It's an ethical obligation to be honest,” he said. “It's great to be enthusiastic, as long as you're promoting something you know is true.” Read more on obesity.
Study: Pairing Yoga with Meds Could Improve Irregular Heartbeat
Pairing yoga with traditional medications could help people with atrial fibrillation (AF) better manage the problem while also feeling better in general, according to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. AF causes an irregular heartbeat that disrupts the flow of blood, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that the addition of yoga cut down heart quivering, lowered the heart rate and reduced anxiety. "People feel more empowered, they feel better, they feel stronger," said W. Todd Cade, a physical therapy researcher from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers noted that people with AF should consult with their physicians before starting yoga. Read more on heart health.
New IRS Affordable Care Act Regulations Makes Health Insurance Too Costly for Some Families
Under final rules released by the Internal Revenue Service yesterday, some families who have access to employer-based health insurance may not be eligible for federal subsidies to help them buy less expensive coverage through the new insurance exchanges to be set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That’s because the new rules base the eligibility on the cost of health insurance for the employee only, not on the generally higher cost of covering a spouse and/or children. Penalties set to kick in for families and individuals who don’t buy health insurance under the ACA may not apply to people who find themselves ineligible for the subsidies, but unable to afford employer-based coverage. Read more on access to health care.
Health Highlights of 2012
On this last day of the year, the news site HealthDay ticks off some significant health events of the last twelve months:
- The June Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act.
- The outbreak of deadly fungal meningitis linked to tainted steroid injections that began during the summer. As of December 17, the outbreak had infected 620 people and killed 39 people across 19 states. On Dec. 20, health officials from all fifty states met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration representatives to discuss proposed regulation to help prevent such events in the future.
- Autism incidence keeps rising. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the prevalence of the disorder at one in every 88 children, up from one in 110 in 2010. Cases were also five times more common in boys than girls, the agency found. While changes in how autism is spotted and reported may have played a role in the new numbers, other factors behind the increase are unclear.
- This year saw two major milestones in HIV testing and treatment. In July, the FDA approved OraQuick, the first at-home HIV test, which enables people to privately assess their infection status within 20 minutes. The same month the FDA approved Truvada, the first HIV drug aimed at preventing transmission of the virus to uninfected people who are at high risk.
- Two new diet drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time in thirteen years. Belviq was approved in July for obese adults with high blood pressure, Osymia, approved for the patient group, got the FDA’s nod a month later.
Read NewPublicHealth News Roundups.
IOM Committee to Explore Sports-related Concussions
Youth sports concussions will be a focus of an Institute of Medicine Committee next year. The committee will conduct a study on youth, from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents. The committee will also review concussion risk factors; screening and diagnosis; treatment and management; and long-term consequences. Read more on injury prevention.
Scheduling Cardiac Rehab Soon After a Heart Attack Improves Compliance
A new study in Circulation found that scheduling cardiac rehabilitation to begin sooner rather than later following a heart attack increased the chance that patients show up for the first and subsequent sessions. Cardiac rehab, which includes supervised exercise and nutrition counseling, has been linked to a reduction in second heart attacks in patients who complete the multi-week programs. In the new study, patients whose first rehab session was scheduled within ten days of hospital discharge were more likely to come to the first session than were patients whose appointments were scheduled for within 35 days of discharge, which is a standard time frame in the United States. Read more on heart health.
Regular Marijuana Use by Teens Continues to be a Concern
The annual survey of teen drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds continued high use of marijuana by 8th, 10th and 12th graders, as well as a drop in how dangerous students think the drug is. The survey found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. The survey found that use escalates after eighth grade. “We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood." Volkow says that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to the drug. Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Greg Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
HIV Infections Among African-American Women Drop, But Rise in Young Gay, Bisexual Men
New HIV infections among African-American women dropped for the first time, by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, African-American women still account for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections among American women. Overall, the number of new infections among Americans was stable at about 50,000 per year over the last decade, but new infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 continue to rise, increasing 22 percent between 2008 and 2010. Read more on HIV.
Heart Association: Heart Health Varies from State to State
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that heart health varies among the fifty states. Researchers used 2009 data on seven heart health factors from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.
- The percentage of the population reporting optimal levels of all seven factors was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi, and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
- About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
- About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
- In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
- Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health, while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
- Women said they were faring better than men.
- Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health, while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported the worst results.
- Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.