Category Archives: Heart Health
HHS Online Initiative to Protect Patient Information on Mobile Devices
A new initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes online tools with practical tips on how to protect patient health information on mobile devices. Mobile Devices: Know the RISKS. Take the STEPS. PROTECT and SECURE Health Information includes videos, fact sheets and posters. Surveys shows that only about 44 percent of mobiles devices used for clinical purposes are properly encrypted. “It’s important that these tools are used correctly,” said Joy Pritts, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) chief privacy officer, in a release. “Health care providers, administrators and their staffs must create a culture of privacy and security across their organizations to ensure the privacy and security of their patients’ protected health information.” Read more on technology.
Study: Daylight Savings Time Slightly Increases Heart Attack Risk
Sleep deprivation caused by setting the clock ahead for Daylight Savings Time may slightly increase the risk of heart attack the following day, according to a new study in the American Journal of Cardiology. "Nowadays, people are looking for how they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other ailments," said Monica Jiddou, lead author and a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, according to Reuters. "Sleep is something we can potentially control. There are plenty of studies that show sleep can affect a person's health." Researchers said that while the findings could be due to chance, they believe the sleep deprivation increase stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals. Read more on heart health.
Experts: No Link Between Autism, Violence
In the wake of reports that the 20-year-old gunman who killed 27 people—20 of them children—at an elementary school in Newton, Conn. had Asperger's syndrome, health professionals are quickly noting that there is no link between autism (of which Asperger’s is a mild type) and violence. "Research suggests that aggression among people with autism spectrum conditions can occur 20 percent to 30 percent more often than compared to the general population," said Eric Butter, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University, according to HealthDay. "But, we are not talking about the kind of planned and intentional type of violence we have seen at Newtown. The new DSM-5 is set to change the designation "autistic disorder" to "autism spectrum disorder," which will include what is currently known as Asperger's. Read more on mental health.
Studies Linking Cancer, Nutrition Can be Tricky to Analyze
A new report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition casts doubt on many other reports linking certain foods to increases or decreases in cancer risk. When people worry about certain conclusions based on weak or misinterpreted evidence, that can take focus away from foods and actions with more evidence supporting their links—or lack of links—to cancer. The new research demonstrates the need to rethink how to analyze and report the science. "We have seen a very large number of studies, just too many studies, suggesting that they had identified associations with specific food ingredients with cancer risk," said John Ioannidis, MD, from the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California, to Reuters. "People get scared or they think that they should change their lives and make big decisions, and then things get refuted very quickly." Read more on cancer.
Study: Sleep Disorder Linked to Later Heart Problems
Treating the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea may help prevent heart issues such as high blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders, heart attack and stroke, according to new findings presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging in Athens, Greece. Researchers found the sleep disorder causes the same sort of cardiovascular damage as that found in people with diabetes. "Patients should realize that behind snoring there can be a serious cardiac pathology and they should get referred to a sleep specialist," said Raluca Mincu, MD, of Bucharest, Romania, in a European Society of Cardiology news release. "If they are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and need to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce that risk." Read more on heart health.
Study: People Who Think They Ate More Are Less Likely to be Hungry Later
Think you had a big meal? Even if you didn’t, simply thinking so can make you less hungry later, according to a new study in the journal PLoS One. Researchers from the University of Bristol in England secretly altered the amount of soup eaten by volunteers, with those thinking they had larger portions—even when they didn’t—less likely to be hungry several hours later. The findings could have a major impact on how to control portions and calorie intake. Read more on nutrition.
CDC: This could be a Bad Flu Year
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, told reporters yesterday that 2012 is the earliest regular flu season in a decade, “and while flu is always unpredictable, the early nature of the cases as well as the specific strains we're seeing suggest that this could be a bad flu year.” Read more on flu.
“Hiding” Cigarettes in Stores May Reduce Youth Smoking
A new study published in Pediatrics finds, using an interactive, virtual convenience store, that teens were less likely to try to buy tobacco products when they were hidden from view.
In the study, researchers asked more than 1,200 teens ages 13 to 17 to “shop” in a virtual store, using several store scenarios. Compared to teens who shopped in stores with openly visible tobacco products, those who shopped in stores where tobacco products were hidden were less aware that the products were for sale and were significantly less likely to try to purchase tobacco products.
The researchers say the study bolsters support for policies that would ban the display of tobacco products at the point of sale. Read more on tobacco.
Heart Healthy Diet May Help Protect People with Heart Disease
People with cardiovascular disease may get protection against future heart attacks and strokes by eating a heart healthy diet, according to a new study in the journal Circulation.
For the study, 31,546 adults (average age 66.5) with cardiovascular disease or end organ damage were asked how often they consumed milk, vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, meat and poultry in the past 12 months and were also asked about lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and exercise. Total scores were determined by daily fruits, vegetables, grains and milk consumed and the ratio of fish to meats consumed. During a follow-up of nearly five years, participants experienced 5,190 cardiovascular events.
Researchers found those who ate a heart-healthy diet had a:
- 35 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular death;
- 14 percent reduction in risk for new heart attacks;
- 28 percent reduction in risk for congestive heart failure; and
- 19 percent reduction in risk for stroke.
Read more on heart health.
What’s the right age to be an advocate for better health? “It’s never too late but the younger you start the longer you have,” says Irene Pollin, MSW, PhD (Hon), who has done so all her life and runs Sister to Sister, the organization she founded in memory of her daughter, Linda Joy, who died at age 16 of a heart condition. Pollin, who together with her husband, Abe, owned sports teams including the Washington Wizards basketball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team, aims to increase women’s awareness of heart disease, provide free cardiac screenings, and empower women to take charge of their health. As the nation’s largest provider of free heart disease screenings for women, Sister to Sister has traveled to nearly 20 U.S. cities and screened over 100,000 women since its start in 1999.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Irene Pollin recently about her work, heart disease, the success of the foundation, and its message that although heart disease takes the lives of one in three women, it is preventable and even reversible.
NewPublicHealth: Would you tell us about Sister to Sister?
Irene Pollin: We started more than 12 years ago, and at the time, I was working in the area of chronic illness. I’m a psychiatric social worker and had been doing that for 25 years so I really was a specialist in all chronic illnesses. When I was speaking to a health PR firm, I learned that heart disease was the number one killer of women. I didn’t know that, and I couldn’t believe it. So I thought ‘If I don’t know it, who else doesn’t know it?’ The person who informed me of this fact challenged me and asked if I would be interested in doing the work with her to get the word out. So I accepted the challenge and established Sister to Sister.
NPH: How does your training as a psychiatric social worker impact your work?
Study: Graphic Warning Labels on Tobacco Effective on At-risk Populations
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s graphic warning labels on tobacco products may be more effective than written labels at convincing less-educated, lower-income populations of the dangers of tobacco use, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This population is also linked to higher smoking rates and high rates of death and disease related to tobacco. The labels show graphic images of the results of tobacco use—from the effects of cancer to death. "Research on cigarette warnings in the United States and other countries has repeatedly shown that pictures work better than text," said James Thrasher, MD, an associate professor in the department of health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. "Our research supports this finding while also showing what tobacco researchers have assumed for a while—that warnings with pictures work particularly well among smokers with low levels of literacy." Read more on tobacco.
Clinton Foundation to Combat Health Disparities, Preventable Illness
The William J. Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Matters Initiative is partnering with major corporations in an effort to combat health disparities and preventable illness. Beginning with Verizon, General Electric Co., Tenet Healthcare Corp. and NBC/Universal, the program will implement and support workplace and community wellness programs. The efforts will include free exercise classes, walking groups in poor neighborhoods, farmers' markets in underserved areas and smoking-cessation programs, according to Reuters. Read more on health disparities.
Cost a Factor When Doctors Choose Heart Disease Treatments
Doctors are increasingly considering the financial costs when deciding exactly how to treat heart disease, according to attendees at an annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA believes the annual cost of treating heart disease—the number one cause of death in the United States—will rise to $800 billion by 2030. Factors include rising costs of drugs and equipment; to insurance reimbursements; and changes anticipated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. "We have an unsustainable economic model in healthcare delivery in the U.S.," said Elliott Antman, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the AHA Scientific Sessions Committee, according to Reuters. "We all have to be conscious of ways we can be more cost efficient, and that includes understanding what the big breakthroughs mean in terms of cost." Multiple studies presented at the meeting covered the overlap between quality patient care and cost. Read more on heart health.
West Nile Virus May Be Mutating Into More Aggressive Form
The West Nile virus circulating in 2012 may be causing more severe cases than in years past, as some reported cases include more aggressive attacks on the patients' brains, according to the Washington Post. Some neurologists are speculating that the virus may have mutated into a more virulent form. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting no evidence of mutation. One CDC scientist said the appearance of more serious cases may just be a function of there being more West Nile infections overall this year, as 2012 has seen the most cases in the past decade. State and local health departments have reported more than 5,000 cases of West Nile illness and 228 deaths in 48 states, according to the Post. More data is needed to determine whether there is truly a more virulent mutation of the virus. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Gap Between What Patients Want, What Doctors Think Patients Want
A new study in the BMJ shows a large distance between what patients want and what doctors believe patients want, which can lead to unnecessary and expensive treatments. Specific examples called out by the researchers involved how people with breast cancer rated the importance of keeping their breasts and how people with dementia felt about staying alive with declining mental health. More-informed patients often choose less-invasive and fewer procedures, according to the study. The study’s researchers recommended three steps to ensure doctors were following their patients’ wishes: 1) a mindset of scientific detachment; 2) the use of data to arrive at a provisional diagnosis; and 3) including the patient in all phases of decision making. "It is tantalizing to consider that budget-challenged health systems around the world could simultaneously give patients what they want and cut costs," said researchers in a release. Read more on access to health care.
Exercise Doesn’t Reduce Fat around the Heart Due to Excessive Sitting
Fat buildup around the heart as a result of excessive sitting—at home or in the office—stays even when a person exercises regularly, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles, Calif. While exercise helped reduce fat over all, it did not reduce pericardial fat. “[Pericardial fat] is strongly related to cardiovascular disease,” said Britta Larsen, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego. “It gets in the way of heart function, it clogs up your arteries—you don't want it there." According to Larsen, this emphasizes the importance of being less sedentary overall and of workplaces becoming more standing-friendly. Read more on heart health.
Study: Hypertension in Young Adults Often Goes Undiagnosed
Younger adults are less likely than older adults to have their high blood pressure identified and treated, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Los Angeles. Researchers found that after four years of doctor visits, 67 percent of people ages 18 to 24 were undiagnosed and 65 percent of those ages 25 to 31 were undiagnosed; only 54 percent of people 60 and older were undiagnosed. Treating hypertension early can help major medical problems such as heart attacks and strokes. "We know that once high blood pressure is diagnosed and young adults receive the treatment they need, they can achieve pretty high control rates," said Heather Johnson, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the cardiology division at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Read more on heart health.
Simple Exercise Can Add Years to Your Life
Staying physically active after the age of 40 can increase a person’s lifespan two to seven years, according to a new study in the journal PLoS Medicine. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute analyzed studies covering approximately 650,000 people, concluding that exercise as simple as walking consistently every week can help prevent issues such as heart disease. "There is dose-response relationship between physical activity and life expectancy," said Steven Moore, a National Cancer Institute research fellow. "If you don't currently do any physical activity, doing just a few minutes of physical activity a day can result in a notable increase in life expectancy.” Read more on physical activity.
Eating At Restaurants Means Larger Portions, More Calories for Kids
Eating at fast food and other restaurants, rather than at home, increases children’s calorie intakes and contributes to U.S. obesity rates, according to a new study in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers found that about 40 percent of U.S. children eat at these kinds of restaurants every day. Contributing factors include large portion sizes and free soda refills. "It's no wonder kids are gaining weight and suffering from adult diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes,” said Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn. “We need to encourage people to cook at home more often and dispel the myth that eating at home is more expensive than eating out." Read more on nutrition.
‘Frankenstorm’ Likely Coming to U.S. East Coast
Forecasters are warning the east coast that Hurricane Sandy coming from the south could intersect with a wintry storm coming from the west to create a “Frankenstorm.” This combination of extreme rain, wind and tides could do as much as $1 billion in damage to the region, according to The Associated Press. Estimates are the storm will start Saturday and last through Halloween. Local governments are already marshaling their post-storm responses, as well as recommending people stock up as best they can on supplies and be prepared to sustain themselves for one to five days. Read more on preparedness.
Don’t Let Flu Myths Keep You from Being Vaccinated
As we move into flu season, health care providers and public health officials across the country are reminding people not to let myths stop them from being vaccinated. Common misconceptions include the belief the vaccine will actually give them the flu or that the current vaccine won’t protect against the current flu strain, according to Health Day. "The vaccine can give you some mild symptoms; you may feel a bit achy and your arm may be a little tender where you first get the shot," said Dennis Cunningham, MD, an infectious diseases doctor at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "But that's actually a good thing and shows that the vaccine is working. It tells us your body is responding appropriately to the vaccine." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention especially recommends that young children and older adults receive the flu vaccine. Read more on the flu.
Smokers More Likely to Experience a Second Stroke
Smokers who have a stroke are at higher risk than non-smokers of experiencing another stroke, according to a new study in the journal Stroke. Ex-smokers who had a stroke were also at less risk than smokers. Researchers studied approximately 1,500 stroke patients, comparing data from 1996-1999 to data from a 10-year follow-up. They found that smokers were at 30 percent greater risk of a second stroke or heart attack. Smoking hardens arteries and increases the chance of stroke, according to Rafael Ortiz, MD, director of the Center for Stroke and Neuro-Endovascular Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not a part of the study. "If you're a current smoker, stop, because it predisposes you to having a stroke and if you have a stroke it will have a worse outcome and it predisposes you to have a stroke at an earlier age." Read more on tobacco.
Medical-Legal Partnerships Identify, Help At-risk Communities
Sometimes medical problems have legal solutions. A new study in the journal Pediatrics used pattern recognition, in conjunction with medical and legal expertise, to identify children and communities in need of legal assistance to address inadequate housing and other issues that negatively impact health. By addressing social and environmental factors, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can improve both individual and public health, while also identifying additional areas where people did not realize they could be helped legally. “The government has enacted laws and regulations to address the negative health impact of hunger, insufficient income, unsafe housing, and disability,” wrote Barry Zuckerman, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, in a commentary. “When families do not receive the benefits or protections of these laws, health is undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed by using legal strategies.” Read more on medical-legal partnerships.
Substance Abuse Up Significantly Since 2001
The number of substance abuse diagnoses climbed approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Study lead author Joseph W. Frank, MD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, identified a number of possible explanations for the increase, including a rise in prescription drug use and increasingly effective treatments, such as methadone and talk therapy. "This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation's community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues," according to the study. Nearly 15,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on substance abuse.
Blood Pressure Improving for U.S. Adults with Hypertension
More and more U.S. adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, according to new research in the journal Circulation. About 47 percent of patients said their blood pressure was under control in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2001. Study authors cited an increasing use in multiple drugs as a reason for the improvement, as well as lower medication costs and greater awareness. The study also identified at-risk groups prone to higher blood pressure, including older Americans, blacks, people with chronic kidney issues and people with diabetes. The study also found that only 34 percent of Mexican-Americans had their blood pressure under control and recommend further research into the reasons. Read more on heart health.
3-D Mammogram Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses
A new type of 3-D mammogram produces sharper images than traditional CT scans that will allow physicians to identify and treat cancer earlier, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Approximately 210,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and almost 41,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new technique combines X-ray imaging and equally sloped tomography to produce an image. It also uses a lower radiation dose than current CT scans. However, researchers noted that the technology to use the technique in a clinical setting does not yet exist. Read more on cancer.
CDC: U.S. Cholesterol Levels Improved Since the 1980s
The total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels of an average U.S. adult have been steadily improving over the past two decades, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. High cholesterol is often a precursor to heart disease. Probable explanations for the overall improvement in public health include improvements in diet since the late 1980s, according to Reuters. "It's important and significant, the reduction that we see here, but it's not unbelievable," said Goodarz Danaei, MD, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who was not a part of the study carried out by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I don't think we needed a huge change in diet... to produce this change." Read more on heart health.
Older Heart Attack Survivors Often Fail to Take Prescription Meds
Older heart attack survivors often do not follow through with their prescription medications meant to decrease the likelihood of another attack, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed the long-term use of medications most often given to people post-heart attacks: statins, ACE inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers and the blood thinner clopidogrel. Ilene Zuckerman, professor and chair of the department of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said proper use of the drugs can result in a “long-term beneficial effect” on patient health. Read more on older adults.
Study: Alcohol a Bigger Cause of Early Death than Smoking
Alcohol abuse decreases life spans even more than smoking, according to a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Researchers followed the health of approximately 4,000 people over a 14-year period. Alcohol-dependent women were nearly 5 times as likely as those who were not to die prematurely; the rates was almost double for men. "This paper confirms the well-known association between alcoholism and premature death," said James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. "It also supports the evidence that women are more likely to have more severe health problems from alcohol than men—'sicker quicker.'" Garbutt was not a part of the study. Read more on alcohol.