Category Archives: Heart Health

Aug 6 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 6

Self-monitoring Tied to Improved Blood Pressure
Self-monitoring of blood pressure is tied to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study found the strategy was most successful when combined with providing extra resources to patients, such as online materials. Hayden Bosworth, of the Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina, said self-monitoring can provide more accurate results because the patients are not feeling the stress that they would in the doctor’s office. It also provides more in terms of actual data, which helps physicians to better determine treatments, and helps patients take a constant ownership of their health. "If you eat five ham biscuits for breakfast … you can see the implications of that through your blood pressure in monitoring that relatively quickly, as well as if you exercise," said Bosworth to Reuters. "It's no different than tracking your own weight. You need to know, on a daily basis, how you're doing, what sets it off and are you going too high or too low." Read more on heart health.

New Association Represents Accredited Public Health Schools and Programs
The new Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), which represents schools and programs of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), officially launched on August 1. “This is a seminal moment in CEPH-accredited public health education,” says Dr. Harrison Spencer, president and CEO of ASPPH. “Representing both accredited schools and programs of public health gives the association and our members an opportunity to strengthen public health education, research, teaching, and practice.” The U.S. Department of Education has recognized CEPH as the accrediting body for public health schools and programs, which helps ensure the quality education and training necessary to prepare graduates for the future of public health work. Read more on accreditation.

Flu Vaccine for All Four Seasonal Strains Approved for Shipment
The first vaccine to protect against all four strains of seasonal influenza has been approved for shipment for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. GlaxoSmithKline’s Fluarix Quadrivalent vaccine was approved late last year for use in adults and children aged 3 and older, but regulations require flu vaccines to be approved before they are shipped to health care providers each season. The company estimates it will ship approximately 22 to 24 million doses globally, with 10 million doses in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered more than 4 million doses. Read more on influenza.

Jul 29 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 29

FDA Issues New Food Safety Measures for Foreign Imports
As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two new rules regarding the safety of imported foods. The first rule requires that importers verify that suppliers utilize modern, prevention-oriented safety practices. The second rules establishes third-party food safety auditors in the foreign countries that supply food to the United States. Each year the U.S. imports food from about 150 countries, accounting for about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply. “We must work toward global solutions to food safety so that whether you serve your family food grown locally or imported you can be confident that it is safe,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “Today’s announcement of these two new proposed rules will help to meet the challenges of our complex global food supply system. Our success will depend in large part on partnerships across nations, industries, and business sectors.” Read more on food safety.

Study: U.S. Adults with Atrial Fibrillation to Double by 2030
At the current rate, the number of U.S. adults with atrial fibrillation (AF) will more than double to an estimated 12 million cases by 2030, according to a new study in the American Journal of Cardiology. About 5 million Americans suffered from the dangerous irregular heartbeat in 2010, which can lead to severe chest pains, limit the ability to exercise or even cause heart failure. "Even AF patients without symptoms are at five-fold increased risk of stroke, which often leads to major disability or death," said study coauthor Daniel Singer, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The risk for the illness, which is most common in older people, can be reduced through preventive health care that includes the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea, as well as by getting exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. Read more on heart health.

Tips on Preventing Playground Injuries
About 600,000 kids were injured at playgrounds in 2012, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, including about 210,000 on monkey bars/climbing structures, 151,000 on swing sets, 125,000 on slides, 10,000 on seesaws/teeterboards and 56,000 on other playground equipment. However, with proper knowledge and care, it’s possible to prevent injuries, according to the Commission. "Parents and caretakers should steer clear from playgrounds with asphalt or concrete surfaces, metal or wood swing sets, or any apparatus that can trap a child's head,” said Jennifer Weiss, MD, an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons spokeswoman. “Before children start to play, remind them of basic playground rules, such as one person on the slide at a time, and no running in front of moving swings and teeter-totters. Make sure that you can clearly see your child on the playground at all times.”

Other safety tips for parents and caregivers include:

  • Use age-appropriate playground equipment
  • Avoid swing sets with metal or wood seats—stick to plastic and rubber
  • Be careful in the sun
  • Make sure there is enough space for play

Read more on safety.

Jul 24 2013
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Delayed at Dallas Fort Worth Airport? Learn to Save a Life

file CPR training kiosk, part of an American Heart Association pilot project

Passengers at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport in Texas can now go from “killing time” to “savings lives” while they wait for their flights.

Since last month, a new, innovative kiosk not much bigger than an ATM machine and installed at the American Airlines terminal, lets travelers stop and learn the basics of CPR in just minutes using a chest model and an audio instructor. The CPR pilot project, which will be tested for six months, is a joint effort of the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Airlines, part of a plan by the AHA to train millions more lay people to perform CPR, and potentially saves tens of thousands of lives.  

Now, a few minutes at the kiosk won’t get most bystanders up to the level of paramedics, but “any chest compression is better than none and can increase survival,” says Ahamed Idris, MD, a spokesman for the AHA and professor of Surgery and Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Idris helped develop the kiosk.

According to AHA, about 360,000 U.S. adults suffer cardiac arrest outside of hospitals each year, but only about 10 percent survive. Vastly increasing the number of citizens who can call for help and then start CPR on a victim could more than double that survival rate, says Dr. Idris.

Watch an AHA video that teaches the "Rules of Hands-Only CPR," with the cast of the sitcom Rules of Engagement

Read More

Jul 23 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 23

FDA Invites Public Comment on Menthol Cigarettes
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a closer look at menthol cigarettes. The health agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to gather more information to guide potential regulatory options, such as setting new tobacco standards. The ANPRM is available for public comment for 60 days. “Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the public health issues raised by menthol cigarettes, and public input will help us make more informed decisions about how best to tackle this important issue moving forward.” About 30 percent of U.S. adult smokers and about 40 percent of youth smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to the FDA. Read more on tobacco.

Skipping Breakfast, Increased Risk for Heart Disease Linked in Men
Skipping breakfast is linked to a dramatic increase in the risk for heart disease in men, according to a new study in the journal Circulation. Researchers found that the men who miss the morning meal are more likely to gain weight, develop diabetes and have hypertension. That all adds up to a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or heart disease. Possible reasons include a likelihood to “feast” on higher calorie meals later in the day or that fact that the breakfast food skipped includes, on average, healthier types of food that lower the risk for heart disease.  "We've focused so much on the quality of food and what kind of diet everyone should be eating, and we don't talk as often on the manner of eating," said Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This study is not even discussing the type of food. It's just talking about behavior and lifestyle choice. Part of heart-healthy living is eating breakfast because that prevents you from doing a lot of other unhealthy things." Read more on heart health.

CDC Investigating Multi-state Intestinal Infection; 200 Sick so Far
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking into a multi-state outbreak of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal infection that can cause watery diarrhea, vomiting and body ache, as well as headache, fever, weight loss and fatigue. CDC has identified more than 200 cases in states including Iowa, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin. The agency has yet to identify a cause. If left untreated it can last for up to a month; most immune systems can handle the infection without treatment, but older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk. Read more on infectious disease.

Jul 17 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 17

Study: The Longer People Are Obese, the Greater Their Risk for Heart Disease
At a time when obesity rates for both U.S. adults and children are rising, new research indicates that the longer someone is obese, the greater their risk for heart disease. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Each year of obesity was associated with about a 2 to 4 percent higher risk of subclinical coronary heart disease," said study lead author Jared Reis, an epidemiologist with the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Those with longest duration of both overall obesity and abdominal obesity tended to have the highest risk [for subclinical disease].” Subclinical heart disease includes arterial damage indicated by markers such as calcium buildup on arterial walls, but which “has not yet developed into symptomatic illness,” according to HealthDay. The study is yet more evidence of the need to focus on the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, according to the researchers. Read more on heart health.

EHRs Would Help Doctors’ Offices Cut Costs Slightly
Doctors’ offices that utilize electronic health records (EHRs) will spend less per patient than offices that use traditional paper records, according to a new study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. While the savings is expected to be small—about $5 per patient per month—they will add up over time. With a government commitment of about $30 billion for the widespread adoption of EHRs, the hope is the decrease in inefficiencies, incorrect care and errors will lead to better, cheaper health care. Previous studies have shown conflicting results. Rainu Kaushal, MD, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, said that while she does not expected the EHRs to contribute significantly to cost savings, their adoption is still vital. "EHRs may or may not directly contribute to those savings… but without investing in them you cannot achieve new models of healthcare delivery," said Kaushal, director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.  Read more on technology.

No Evidence of Benefits of Community-wide Dementia Screening
New research has found no proof that there are any clinical, economic or emotional benefits to programs that use community-wide screening to identify people with dementia. "We found no evidence that population screening would lead to better clinical or psychosocial outcomes, no evidence furthering our understanding of the risks it entails and no indication of its added value compared to current practice," said author Carol Brayne, a professor of public health medicine from Cambridge Institute of Public Health, in the United Kingdom. The debate over the strategy’s efficacy has been going on for quite some time, with one side noting that there isn’t even a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the other noting that as many as half of the people with dementia remain undiagnosed. The researchers, however, did emphasize that family and friends should be aware of the warning signs of dementia so they can help loved ones get treatment. Read more on community health.

Jul 3 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 3

Employer Mandate to Provide Health Insurance for Workers Delayed One Year
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced yesterday that implementation of the rule under the Affordable Care Act requiring employers with more than fifty workers to provide health insurance or pay penalties beginning January 1, 2014, will be delayed by one year. Read more on access to health care.

Pharmacist-guided Home Hypertension Monitoring Shows Significant Results
Home blood pressure monitoring augmented by partnering with a pharmacist can lead to greater improvements in hypertension than the traditional treatments, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. People in the study intervention group received a home blood pressure monitor, training and lifestyle advice. The monitor automatically sent updates to the pharmacists, who could adjust treatment accordingly. About 72 percent of the study participants who underwent the new care combination had their hypertension under control after six months, compared to 45 percent for the participants who underwent the usual care. This control also persisted months after the interventions. “The reason that only about half of people with [high] blood pressure have it under control is that usual care isn't working. We combined two interventions that we thought would be very powerful together—home monitoring and pharmacist managements—and this is one system that we've shown works very well for blood pressure control," said senior investigator Karen Margolis, MD, from the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis. About 30 percent of U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure. Read more on heart health.

HHS Issues Final Plan on Improving Patient Care Utilizing Health IT
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued its final “Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan” to utilize health information technology (IT) to better protect patients and improve the quality of care. “When implemented and used properly, health IT is an important tool in finding and avoiding medical errors and protecting patients,” said National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD. “This Plan will help us make sure that these new technologies are used to make health care safer.” The Office of National Coordinator for Health IT plan outlines the responsibilities of both HHS and the private sector. It includes making it easier to report health IT-related incidents and hazards using certified electronic health record technology; encouraging reports to Patient Safety Organizations and updating standardized reporting forms; encouraging the use of standardized reporting forms in hospital incident reporting systems; and training on how to use the forms to identify safe and unsafe health IT practices. Read more on technology.

Jul 2 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 2

Hospital Inpatient Discharge Data Can Help Prepare for Future Patient ‘Safety Events’
Hospital administration data—specifically inpatient discharge data—can be used to track the incidence of patient “safety events” now so that physicians and other health care providers are better able to treat them in the future, according to a new study in the Journal of Healthcare Risk Management. The study found that an average of 9 percent of inpatient discharges in the sample experienced a safety event, which increased the cost of a hospital stay by about $35,000. “While this figure may be a bit startling, it is not a cause for alarm, in that many of the events that we found are adverse events for which there are no known prevention strategies,” said Jennifer Taylor, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in Drexel University’s School of Public Health. “While such events may not be deemed to be preventable now, we need to start tracking them so our research and development colleagues know what’s next in the prevention pipeline.” Read more on research.

Over-Testing of Cholesterol Levels Wastes Time, Money
One-third of people with heart disease have their cholesterol levels checked too often, which can waste time, cost unneeded money and not actually improve their health, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Possible reasons for the over-testing include the desired to reach or exceed American Heart Association performance measures, as well as the additional payment that comes with running a cholesterol panel. "I think a lot of it is because of the habit of (ordering) labs on patients…without really thinking about, ‘What am I going to do with this information with someone who is at target for cholesterol?'" said Salim Virani, MD, of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. Michael Johansen, MD, of The Ohio State University in Columbus, said physicians might be better off placing patients with heart disease on a statin, while ensuring they eat properly and get the right amount of exercise. Read more on heart health.

‘Active’ Video Gaming Boosts Kids’ Physical Activity
While playing most video games is not more physically stimulating than watching television, newer-generation “active” games may in fact boost a kid’s physical activity in the home, according to a new study in the journal BMJ Open. The study first removed all games from the home for eight weeks, then had eight weeks of passive gaming followed by eight weeks of active gaming. While the positive findings were only minor, the researchers said they could prove significant because of kids’ increased exposure to technology. "Therefore small changes across a variety of these platforms could result in a more substantial clinical impact. While our study focused on the home setting, school offers another opportunity for more active technologies such as sit-stand desks or active-input electronic media as part of lessons.” Read more on technology.

Jun 27 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 27

CPR Quality Varies Among EMS Personnel
The quality of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) given to victims may vary depending on the EMS department or hospital administering it, according to the American Heart Association.  “There have been huge advances in CPR and there’s no question that high-quality CPR saves lives,” said Peter Meaney, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of anesthesia and critical care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of a new statement on quality CPR for the AHA. “Right now,” said Meaney, “there is wide variability in the quality of CPR—and we can do better.”  Each year in the United States, more than a half-million children and adults suffer cardiac arrest, but survival rates vary significantly: 3 percent to 16 percent for arrests outside of hospitals and 12 percent to 22 percent in hospitals, according to the study authors.

In its statement the AHA offered some recommendations to improve CPR quality:

  • Minimize interruptions to chest compressions.
  • Provide the right rate of compressions—100 to 120 per minute are optimal for survival.
  • Give deep enough compressions—at least 2 inches for adults and at least 1/3 the depth of the chest in infants and children.
  • Give no more than 12 rescue breaths a minute, with the chest just visibly rising, so pressure from the breath doesn’t slow blood flow.

The AHA recommends that to ensure quality improvement, providers, managers, institutions and systems of care should do debriefings, follow CPR delivery checklists, measure patient response measurements, provide frequent refresher courses and participate in CPR data registries. Read more on heart health.

Minority Children Less Likely to Receive ADHD Diagnosis
Minority children are less likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Compared to white children, Hispanic children were 50 percent less likely, black children were 69 percent less likely and minority children overall were 46 less likely. The health care disparities start as early as kindergarten and last at least through the eighth grade, and the lack of access to medications and specialized learning programs puts them at a disadvantage in terms of learning and behavior. Researchers say the findings demonstrate the need for improved ADHD awareness and questioning by health care providers, school psychologists and teachers. Read more on health disparities.

NCI Issues Guidelines to Speed Up Clinical Trials
Opening a clinical trial can sometimes take years, which can slow down introduction of new or improved therapies. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has issued new recommendations to help get trials underway. Under the new guidelines, the target time to open a trial should be should be 210 days from the start date for the first two phases of clinical trials which assess safety and  effectiveness in a small number of patients,  and 300 days for phase III trials which include a much larger number of participants. According to NCI incorporating the new guidelines in some recent trials has sped up the start date for those trials. Read more on cancer.

Jun 25 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 25

HHS Launches HealthCare.gov to Help Americans Prepare for New Coverage Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the new HealthCare.gov to help Americans prepare for new coverage opportunities through the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins in just a few months, on October 1. The website (also available in Spanish) includes social media integration, sharable content and engagement destinations, and will later incorporate web chat functionality. “The new website and toll-free number have a simple mission: to make sure every American who needs health coverage has the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves and their families—or their businesses,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Read more on access to health care.

USPSTF Recommends Hep C Screenings for All ‘Baby Boomers’
All “Baby Boomers”—Americans born between 1945 and 1965—should be screened for hepatitis C, according to new final recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Earlier recommendations in November had only suggested that doctors consider screening. The new recommendations appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers concluded that even the “moderate” net benefit made screening worthwhile; they also recommended screening for people at higher risk, such as injection drug users. "New evidence came out since the draft recommendation, which gave us greater confidence in the linkage between a sustained viral response and important outcomes," said Albert Siu, MD, co-vice chair of the task force, to Reuters. The majority of the 3 million Americans who have hepatitis C are Baby Boomers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on aging.

Study: Diet, Exercise Don’t Decrease Heart Health Risk for People with Diabetes
While the weight loss associated with diet and exercise does not necessarily improve heart health for people with type 2 diabetes, the positive lifestyle changes can decrease the chances of kidney failure and eye damage, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Intensive lifestyle intervention reduced the risk of chronic kidney disease by 31 percent," said study author Rena Wing. "So we had a very, very marked effect on the development of high-risk chronic kidney disease. We also showed a benefit in terms of self-reported eye disease." Researchers said one possibility for the lack of heart health improvement was the relatively small weight losses of both of the study groups—the one that incorporated exercise, and the one that did not. Frank Sacks, MD a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health who saw the study but did not participate, said he believed it was “stopped too soon,” which affected the results. Read more on diabetes and heart health.

Jun 17 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 17

APHA, National Center for Healthy Housing Release Housing Standards to Improve Health
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have released a National Healthy Housing Standard aimed at improving the health of Americans by addressing serious health and safety hazards in U.S. homes. About 30 million families live in unsafe and unhealthy housing with broken heating and plumbing; holes in walls and windows; roach and rodent infestation; falling plaster; crumbling foundations; and leaking roofs. Millions more live in housing with serious health and safety hazards that can cause allergies, asthma, injuries, cancer and lead poisoning, which add billions of dollars to health care costs and harm children’s health, development and wellbeing, according to the APHA. The new standard would not apply to new construction or housing renovation, but will be used by government agencies to ensure that the existing housing stock—with more than 100 million units across the country—is maintained to protect the health and safety of Americans. The housing standard would be implemented through adoption by federal state and local agencies. NCHH is requesting comments from health and housing practitioners, advocates and other stakeholders in healthy housing on the standard through July 31, 2013 at NCHH.orgRead more on housing.

Black, Hispanic Kids With Autism Less Likely to See Specialists
Black and Hispanic children with autism are less likely than their white counterparts to access specialists such as gastroenterologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Study author Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, a fellow in the department of pediatrics at MassGeneral and Harvard Medical School, said that while she expected to see differences, she was surprised by the extent of the disparity. Diagnosing and treating the disorders that often accompany is critical so that they do not lead to further health complications. "I do worry because autism is such a complicated disorder," she said. "The children have some sort of communication difficulty, so if they have stomach problems or sleep problems they may have difficulty expressing that. I always worry these kids are not getting all the care they need in general, and minority kids are more at [risk] of not getting the care they need." The study indicated that doctors need to be more aware of when to refer patients to specialists. About one in 50 school-age children have autism in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on health disparities.

Volunteer Time Reduces High Blood Pressure Risk in Older Adults
Time spent volunteering can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure in older U.S. adults, according to a new study in the journal Psychology and Aging. Researchers analyzed data on more than 1,100 adults, finding that those who volunteered at least 200 hours per year saw a 40 percent saw a 40 percent cut in high blood pressure risk four years down the line. Approximately 65 million American suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension. "As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interactions,” said lead author Rodlescia Sneed, a PhD candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes." Read more on heart health.