Category: Disease

A Lack of Vacc’s in this “Mild” Flu Season

Every year, our immune systems are exposed to a new strain of the flu. The flu evolves and changes constantly. This is why we have to get a new vaccine or “flu shot” every year. However, as the viruses change, so does the severity of their disease.

The impact of the flu virus is unpredictable, and that is why the CDC (and many other public health professionals) will always advise people to get their flu shot.  However, this year, a majority of adults are refusing to get their shot. A survey from mid-November showed that only 43% of 18+ adults have gotten their flu shots in the US.

From this survey, many of the people who have not been vaccinated claim they do not intend to get vaccinated. People seem to believe this is a “mild” flu season – as the death toll is not comparable to the high burden from the previous year. However, there is no way to know if the flu itself is actually “mild” this early in the season.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

http://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/Pages/41-percent-of-americans-do-not-intend-to-get-a-flu-shot.aspx

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/07/health/flu-season-vaccination-november-30-cdc/index.html

 

 

 

Drug Overdose & Suicide Rates Climb in the US While Life Expectancy Falls

Despite being leaders in medical innovation, the United States is often criticized for healthcare problems that don’t exist in other developed nations. Lately, increasing rates of suicide and drug overdose have taken a toll on our population’s life expectancy. Recent government reports from the CDC have shown a decrease in life expectancy from 2016 to 2017.

 

In 2017, approximately 70,000 yearly deaths were attributed to drug overdosing, which is almost 7,000 more than the year before. In addition to this, suicide rates had increased by nearly 4% from the previous year. Both of these statistics are alarming and disturbing. For while we are constantly advancing science and medicine to create novel disease treatments and cures, we often are ignoring preventable public health crises.

 

These statistics contribute to the evidence that drug overdose is a mishandled and somewhat neglected epidemics in the United States. Other sources suggest that mental health has been on the decline in the United States for years. Taken as a whole, these findings highlight the need for more attention to these preventable morbidities and mortalities.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/29/health/life-expectancy-2017-cdc/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/

https://www.realclearhealth.com/articles/2018/05/17/cdc_neglect_is_killing_americans_110787.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-mental-health-declining-in-the-u-s/

 

December 1st is World AIDS Day

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a global event that takes place each year on December 1st to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, to honor those who have died from AIDS-related illness, and to show support for those living with HIV.

Globally, we have made advances in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. New HIV infections have decreased by 47% since 1996, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses have fallen more than 51% since 2004. We have made advances in HIV testing and prevention as well as antiretroviral treatment. Pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis or “PrEP” has been shown to be an effective form of HIV prevention. PrEP is a pill that, when taken consistently, can reduce HIV infection risk in high-risk individuals by up to 92%. And when used with other HIV prevention methods such as using condoms, can offer even more protection. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended use of pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis or “PrEP” for high-risk individuals to prevent HIV.

However, while we have made tremendous progress in understanding the HIV virus and how to both treat and prevent it, there is still more to be done. About one in four people with HIV do not know they are infected. 1.8 million people are newly infected each year with HIV, any people across the globe lack access to the critical HIV prevention and care that they need to live long, healthy lives.

To learn more about HIV and how you can support people living with the virus, please visit the following resources:

CDC: About HIV/AIDS | https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html

HIV.gov | https://www.hiv.gov/

HIV/AIDS World Health Organization | http://www.who.int/hiv/en/

San Francisco AIDS Foundation | http://www.sfaf.org/hiv-info/

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, November 1). Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2018, July 25). The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic. https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/the-global-hivaids-epidemic/

National AIDS Trust: World AIDS Day. (2018). About World AIDS Day. https://www.worldaidsday.org/about/

UNAIDS. (2018). Global HIV & AIDS statistics  – 2018 fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, November 20). Global Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics

World Health Organization. (2015). Guideline on when to start antiretroviral therapy and on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, web supplement: annex 2: evidence to decision-making tables and supporting evidence (No. WHO/HIV/2015.36). World Health Organization.

World Health Organization. (N.d.). WHO and HIV: 30-Year Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/news/WAD_Timeline.jpg

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

Eggs and Heart Health

Eggs are a staple ingredient in my fridge. I use them in my baking and I sometimes eat them for breakfast. Over the years, however, I would often hear many mixed messages about their health benefits such as that eating too many eggs would raise your cholesterol. Because of this, I would often limit how many I eat. That said, I was interested to read a recent study (1) in which researchers found that eating an egg a day may lower cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers of this study, which included over 400,000 adults in China, found that those participants who consumed up to less than one egg per day had an 18% lower risk of cardiovascular disease death compared to those participants who do not consume eggs.

According to an article (2) in the Harvard Health Letter, Dr. Anthony Komaroff, MD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, asserts that an egg a day does not increase your risk for a heart attack. Dr. Komaroff believes it is wise for individuals with diabetes or at high risk for (or already have) heart disease to consume no more than 3 eggs per week. Further, he describes that while eggs were known for having lots of cholesterol which can increase cardiovascular disease risk, research has shown that most of our body’s cholesterol comes from our liver and not what we eat. Research has also found eggs to have many healthy nutrients that are good for the body. Finally, Dr. Komaroff describes the importance of considering the other foods one eats with their eggs, such as foods with saturated fat like butter, bacon, or muffins that can raise blood cholesterol more than eggs themselves.

References:

(1) Qin c, et al. Heart2018;104:1756–1763. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312651

(2) Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, January). Are eggs risky for heart health?: Ask the doctor. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/are-eggs-risky-for-heart-health

meet the new, self-lubricating condom

It’s no secret that the U.S. still has a long way to go in the field of contraceptives and STI prevention. According to the CDC in 2017, only about one-third of sexually active Americans use condoms, and it has been a long-term public health issue. Abstaining from condom use (or other forms of protection) during sex can lead to a myriad of health concerns, including unwanted pregnancies, bacterial and viral infections. These new troubling statistics beg questions as to why condom use is so low, especially amongst those who aren’t opting for other birth control or protective options.

Scientists at Boston University have acknowledged this issue, and have responded with a new, friction-lowering self-lubricating condom that may up condom usage. Some of the reasons people abstain from use is due to complaints that condoms are uncomfortable, painful and detract from sensation and sexual pleasure. The team at BU has found a way to eliminate some of these negative qualities with their new technology. This new condom has the ability to self-lubricate when it comes into contact with moisture – such as bodily fluids – making sexual experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.

Their study showed that 73% individuals surveyed preferred the texture of their new condom, and also noted that they would be more inclined to use condoms such as this one. The condom still has to be tested during sex, but if introduced to the market, it could increase the prevalence of safe-sex behaviors and contraceptive use.

 

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr105.pdf

https://consumer.healthday.com/sexual-health-information-32/condom-health-news-154/only-about-one-third-of-americans-use-condoms-cdc-725436.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/health/condoms-self-lubricating-prevent-stds-intl/index.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1258/ijsa.2008.008120?journalCode=stda

http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/10/180291

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Issues Rise Alongside Global Temperatures

It’s no secret that the impacts of climate change extend far beyond our surrounding environment. Numerous sources have shown that our changing climate is associated with a variety of health issues: infectious disease, heatstroke, hyperthermia, respiratory problems, and natural disaster-related injury. However, new literature is beginning to dive deeper on these issues, and how they can affect more complicated outcomes, such as mental health.

Recently, a study conducted by MIT’s Nick Obradovich examined how rising temperatures may be responsible for both direct and indirect causes of mental health issues. The report evaluated 2 million randomly-sampled individuals in the U.S. for mental health issues, which included anything falling in the range of stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. Obradovich roughly defined these issues as “basically means things that are less extreme than hospitalization and suicide but more significant than like grumpiness or day-to-day emotional [agitation]”.

Following this, his team linked these reports with weather data from their respective cities. The team examined how different climate-change weather events (rising temperatures, excessive precipitation, lack of precipitation, extreme temperature changes, and hurricanes) might be associated with the mental health reports for that region. The team found that most of these weather or climate characteristics were linked to a higher likelihood of mental health cases.

Despite this critical new findings, there’s still much to be understood regarding the mechanisms underlying these outcomes. Most of the current hypotheses consider stress a huge mediator. Not only do these events cause stress, but they often disproportionately affect people living in poverty. Researchers are trying to understand these relationships, so that better preventative measures and interventions can be made going forward.

 

https://health2016.globalchange.gov/

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1801528115

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/08/health/climate-change-mental-health-study/index.html

 

Student Develops Jelly Drops to Support Dementia Patients Like his Grandmother

As we age, we naturally lose our sense of thirst, increasing our risk of dehydration. This risk is even greater among older individuals living with dementia. Individuals with dementia may experience trouble swallowing thin liquids as well as memory loss. This was true for Lewis Hornsby’s grandmother, Pat, who struggled with dehydration. After an unexpected rush to the hospital, Lewis found his grandmother had been severely dehydrated, and it took 24 hours on IV fluids for her to return to her normal state.

Recognizing his grandmother’s struggle with dehydration, Lewis, an innovative engineering student at the Imperial College of London, developed “Jelly Drops.” These colorful, jelly-like treats contain over 90% water as well as other ingredients that give it its solid state. This solid state allows the body to slowly break down the Jelly Drop, maximizing hydration. But Lewis’  innovation does not end with the Jelly Drop alone. The Jelly Drops are stored in a clear box so that you can see the colorful treats. The box also contains a booklet with talking points to encourage social interaction between care home residents and their caretakers. Lewis’ innovative Jelly Drops is a result of thoughtful research. Some of this research involved living in his grandmother’s care home and observing the behaviors of residents as well as meeting with dementia psychologists and doctors.

Lewis has already received two awards for his Jelly Drops invention: the Helen Hamlyn Design Award – Snowdon Award for Disability as well as the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact. According to his Facebook page, Jelly Drops are not available for purchase at this time as he is conducting further research and trials using the product.

What an exciting, real-life example of public health innovation! – To read more about Lewis’ Jelly Drops project, visit his project page on The James Dyson Award website.

References

Nelson, Elizabeth. (N.d.). Young Man Invents “Water You Can Eat” to Help Dementia Patients Like His Grandma Stay Hydrated. Retrieved from https://blog.thealzheimerssite.com/jelly-drops/

Royal College of Art. (N.d.). Lewis Hornsby. Retrieved from https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/lewis-hornby/

The James Dyson Foundation. (2018). Jelly Drops. Retrieved from https://www.jamesdysonaward.org/2018/project/jelly-drops/

Tuchtan, Vicki. (2016). Dehydration: how it affects the elderly and what to do about it. Retrieved from http://www.sageagedcare.edu.au/blog/dehydration-how-it-affects-the-elderly-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Soot Happens

A new study released from the Queen Mary University of London has shown for the first time that air pollution exposure can affect a pregnant woman’s placenta. The placenta is a vital organ which develops during a woman’s pregnancy. It is responsible for providing nutrients and oxygen to a developing baby. In addition, it also serves as an immune system barrier for the baby, which is vulnerable during pregnancy. Any injuries inflicted on the placenta can have serious health effects on the unborn child.

The Queen Mary study examined placenta cells of five women who were exposed to air pollution. Within the samples, researchers found evidence of the presence of soot. Soot is a common air pollutant classified as particulate matter. This type of pollution is made of large damaging particles, and can often be found coming from power plants, manufacturing sites, and motor vehicles. Soot exposure is dangerous, and it is the cause of thousands of premature deaths annually. The findings of this study are novel and alarming – it demonstrates that inhaled particulate matter can travel from the lungs to the placenta.

Placental immune cells are necessary to keep an unborn baby healthy. If the placental immune system is compromised, so is that of the growing baby. It is still unclear what this study’s findings mean for fetal-placental health in the long term. However, researchers on this study are particularly concerned about how soot exposure may disrupt this system.

One thing is clear – this news is disturbing. The study demonstrated that air pollution damage does not stop at the lungs. The conversation about air pollution is not always an environmental one; many pollutants like soot affect human health dramatically. Going forward, it is important to consider how these findings should influence policy. Regulating air pollution is a necessary step to take in order to protect the health of people worldwide.

 

 

https://www.momscleanairforce.org/soot-facts/

https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2018/smd/first-evidence-that-soot-from-polluted-air-may-be-reaching-placenta.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/placenta/art-20044425

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/HPP/default

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025805/

 

 

Hurricanes & Our Health

As Hurricane Florence approaches, there are many worries on the minds of those who live in its path. Residents in the South Eastern United States are anxious about the wellbeing of their property, belongings, surrounding environment and loved ones. Along with these concerns, it’s important to be weary of how a destructive hurricane can also have serious implications on medicine and public health. Considering these risks before the onset of the storm could eliminate smaller preventable problems and render larger issues easier to address.

Before the hurricane arrives, it’s advised that any medical prescriptions be refilled and retrieved promptly. Resultant power outages and infrastructural damages may limit a pharmacy’s ability to operate and supply their patients’ needs. If you know you are at risk of power outages, it’s important to stock up on non-perishable foods, water, and anything else necessary for your individual health. Along with this, following proper safety precautions to protect your home from water and wind damage can also prevent a number of storm-related injuries.

In North Carolina, the magnitude of rain expected to come with Hurricane Florence is especially worrisome. Excessive rainfall could cause flooding in farmland which contain animal manure lagoons. Such lagoons could overflow, spreading waste and increasing risk of disease transmission. Additionally, North Carolina is home to a number of dangerous coal-ash ponds. If these sites flood, it could unleash this waste into the surrounding environment. Coal-ash is toxic, and if released from ponds could contaminate people’s public drinking water.

 

https://www.wltx.com/article/news/local/make-preparations-for-your-health-ahead-of-hurricane-florence/101-592900265

 

http://time.com/5392478/hurricane-florence-risks-sludge-manure/

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/hurricane-safety-tips/