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Almost Half of Older Americans Fear Dementia, Try Untested Ways to Fight It

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 15, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Many Americans believe they are likely to develop dementia — and they often turn to unproven ways to try to better their odds, a new study suggests.

In a survey, researchers found that almost half of Americans in their 50s and 60s believed they were at least “somewhat likely” to develop dementia. Yet few — 5% — said they had talked to their doctor about ways to lower their risk.

Instead, one-third or more were taking fish oil, vitamin E or other supplements to help ward off memory decline — even though none have been proven to have such benefits.

“It certainly seems like people believe that supplements or fish oil help preserve their memory,” said lead researcher Dr. Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

Maust said that might reflect “excitement” over initial research suggesting that certain supplements might ward off memory decline — excitement that wasn’t tempered when later studies failed to show benefits.

The findings, published online Nov. 15 in JAMA Neurology, are based on 1,019 adults aged 50 to 64 who were surveyed in 2018. They were asked whether they thought they were “somewhat likely,” “very likely” or “unlikely” to develop dementia in their lifetime.

Overall, 44% believed they were somewhat likely, while 4% chose the “very likely” option.

How accurate were they? It’s hard to say, since the terms are vague, according to Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association.

But, he added, it would be reasonable for anyone to see themselves as somewhat likely to develop dementia: Around 10% of Americans aged 65 and older have dementia; the rate soars to roughly one-third among people aged 85 and up.

Fargo, who was not involved in the study, said that more can be gleaned by looking at the responses of different groups of participants.

For example, black Americans were much more likely than whites to see themselves as unlikely to develop dementia: 63% endorsed that belief, versus 49% of white respondents.

Continued

In reality, black Americans have a higher rate of dementia.

Maust made the same point. “It’s striking,” he said, “that African American respondents thought their odds of developing dementia were half of non-Hispanic white respondents — when in fact their risk is more than twice as high.”

Fargo called that finding an “unfortunate surprise,” and said it points to a gap in public education efforts.

Respondents were also asked whether they were taking any of several measures to “maintain or improve” their memory. About one-third said they were using fish oil, while 40% said they were taking vitamins or other supplements. Over half said they did crossword puzzles.

None of those strategies are proven. Fargo did, however, note that crossword lovers might be the kind of people who maintain a generally “cognitively stimulating” life — and there is evidence to support benefits from doing so.

It’s thought that people with more education, or who engage in lifelong learning, may have more “cognitive reserve,” Fargo explained. The theory is, those people can withstand more of the brain damage that marks dementia before developing symptoms.

Studies are ongoing to figure out the best strategies for slowing or preventing dementia. Fargo said the Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring a trial, called U.S. Pointer, that is testing a combination of tactics — including diet, exercise, and mental and social stimulation.

For now, Maust said the best bet is to take care of your overall health and control any chronic medical conditions — especially those that affect the heart and blood vessels, like high blood pressure and diabetes. Studies have long noted a connection between heart health and dementia, and a recent clinical trial showed that tight control of high blood pressure curbed older adults’ risk of mild cognitive impairment.

“I think people may not appreciate the extent to which risk of dementia can be reduced by addressing chronic medical conditions,” Maust said.

If you believe your memory or thinking skills are deteriorating, Fargo advised seeing your doctor.

“In some cases,” he said, “there may be a treatable underlying cause, like sleep apnea, vitamin-B12 deficiency or depression.”

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., associate professor/associate director, geriatric psychiatry program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director, scientific programs and outreach, Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago; Nov. 15, 2019,JAMA Neurology, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Survey Shows Americans Feel Stressed

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Mass shootings, health care and the 2020 presidential election are significant causes of stress for American adults, a new survey finds.

The poll of more than 3,600 U.S. adults found that 71% of them said mass shootings are a major source of stress, an increase from 62% in 2018. Hispanics were most likely to say mass shootings are a significant source of stress (84%), followed by blacks (79%), Asians (77%), Native Americans (71%) and whites (66%).

Health care is a significant cause of stress for 69% of the respondents. Among the 47% who experience stress about health care at least sometimes, the cost of health care is the most common source of that stress (64%).

Adults with private insurance (71%) were more likely than those with public insurance (53%) to say the cost of health care causes them stress. Overall, 55% worry that they won’t be able to pay for health care services they may need in the future, according to this year’s Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).

The online survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, also found that 56% of respondents have significant stress about the 2020 presidential election, an increase from 52% in the period before the 2016 election.

Stress related to climate change rose to 56% this year from 51% last year. Stress associated with widespread sexual harassment rose to 45% this year from 39% last year.

Immigration was cited as a stressor by 48% of respondents in the new poll, which was conducted between Aug. 1 and Sept. 3, 2019. It was most likely to be a source of stress among Hispanics (66%), followed by Asians (52%), Native Americans (48%), blacks (46%) and whites (43%).

Discrimination is a source of stress for 25% of respondents in the new poll, compared with 24% in 2018, 21% in 2017, and 20% in 2016 and 2015.

The majority of people of color (63%) in the 2019 survey said discrimination has hindered them from having a full and productive life, and a similar proportion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) adults (64%) said the same thing. In 2015, 49% of people of color said discrimination prevented them from having a full and productive life.

Continued

The new poll also found that while only 38% of respondents feel the United States is on the path to being stronger than ever, 73% feel hopeful about their future.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now — from mass shootings to climate change. This year’s survey shows us that more Americans are saying these issues are causing them stress,” Arthur Evans Jr., APA’s chief executive officer, said in an APA news release.

“Research shows us that over time, prolonged feelings of anxiety and stress can affect our overall physical and mental health. Psychologists can help people develop the tools that they need to better manage their stress,” he said.

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SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Nov. 5, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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AHA News: Stroke Death Rate Increasing for Middle-Aged Americans

THURSDAY, Nov. 7, 2019 (American Heart Association News) — In more than half of all counties across the country, a growing percentage of middle-aged Americans are dying of strokes, according to a new study.

The study – which examined stroke mortality rates at the county level – reveals a statistical jump previously masked by national data showing a leveling off of stroke mortality rates following years of decline. The study was published Nov. 8 in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

“Everyone needs to pay attention to this,” said Eric Hall, lead author on the study and a Ph.D. student in the department of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

“At the national level, we know that stroke mortality had been steadily declining for a few decades and started to stagnate around 2010. We took a look at those mortality rates at the county level and saw they were increasing in many counties. That this was happening among middle-aged groups was particularly surprising.”

Nationally, stroke mortality rates – the number of stroke deaths per year divided by the number of people in a population – fell slightly, by 0.7%, each year from 2010 to 2016 for people ages 35-64. It fell 3.5% for those 65 and older.

But when researchers looked at the data on the county level, they found stroke death rates went up in 56.6% of counties during that time period for adults 35-64, with 1 in 4 counties actually experiencing a 10% or more increase. That was even as stroke mortality rates fell for adults 65 and older.

Overall, twice as many counties saw an increase in stroke deaths during that period for middle-aged people compared to older adults. Nearly half of middle-aged adults, or 60.2 million Americans, lived in counties for which stroke mortality rates went up.

The county-level increases don’t mean national data are wrong, said Hall.

“National or state-level data show an average,” he explained. “These data are important because they give high-level perspective on trends in disease. But they don’t reflect changes or disparities occurring at the local level.”

Another surprising finding, said Hall, was that increases in mortality rates occurred in counties across the country, including outside the traditional “stroke belt” of the Southeast, so named because of the prevalence of stroke and risk factors in the region.

Although the highest stroke mortality rates remain in the Southeast, most of the greatest increases for middle-aged adults were seen outside that area, the study shows.

The fact that stroke mortality is increasing in many counties outside the stroke belt suggests risk factors that have been typical to that region have broadened nationally, said Dr. Mitchell Elkind, head of the Division of Neurology Clinical Outcomes Research and Population Science at Columbia University in New York.

For example, the nationwide rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes over the past few decades could be having an impact now on the number of people dying from strokes across the country, he said.

“These conditions don’t lead to stroke immediately,” said Elkind, who was not involved in the new research. “What we are seeing now in terms of stroke may reflect what was going on 10 or 12 years ago.”

He and Hall hope the information can give community organizations and health professionals the data they need to help tailor prevention programs.

“This will help them tailor resources and policies to their individual community health needs,” Hall said.

High consumption of carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages combined with high levels of inactivity and “people addicted to their screens” contribute over time to greater obesity levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes, Elkind said.

“We need not just individual behavior changes but changes at the societal level,” he said, “such as better urban design and more physical activity for kids in school, so they grow up with a different attitude towards physical activity.”

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: November 2019

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Almost Half of Americans Admit to Drowsy Driving

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Nearly half of American adults admit that they’ve fought to stay awake while driving, a new survey finds.

Of the more than 2,000 respondents, 45% said they’d struggled to remain awake while behind the wheel, while 48% said they’d never driven drowsy, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) survey conducted in September.

Each year in the United States, drowsy driving causes an average of 328,000 crashes, including 6,400 fatal accidents, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is Nov. 3 to 10.

“Driving while drowsy is similar to drunk driving with regards to the delays in reaction time and impairment in decision-making,” AASM president Dr. Kelly Carden said in an academy news release. “Drowsy driving can be deadly, yet it is 100% preventable.”

Warning signs of drowsy driving include: frequent yawning or inability to keep your eyes open; nodding off or having trouble keeping your head up; not remembering driving the last few miles; missing road signs or driving past your turn; following too close to cars in front of you; drifting into the other lane of traffic; driving onto the rumble strip or the shoulder of the road.

To prevent drowsy driving, you should: get enough sleep before driving; avoid driving late at night or while alone, if possible, and share the driving with a passenger on long trips; consume caffeine for a short-term boost in alertness; or pull over at a rest stop and take a nap if you begin to feel drowsy.

“Caffeine can provide a short-term boost, but if you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open, then it’s definitely time to pull over,” Carden said.

“Turning up the music or rolling down the windows will not keep you alert while driving. The best option is to get off the road and take a nap if you feel sleepy behind the wheel,” she advised.

“There is no substitute for healthy sleep,” Carden added. “Regular, healthy sleep is essential for staying awake at the wheel and protecting yourself and others from avoidable, potentially life-threatening accidents on the road.”

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Sources

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, Oct. 22, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Poll: Many Young Americans Think Vaping is Safe

FRIDAY, Sept. 27, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Despite an outbreak of severe lung illnesses and deaths linked to vaping, many young Americans consider e-cigarettes harmless, a new poll shows.

More than 20% of 18- to 38-year-olds called vaping harmless and nonaddictive; nearly 30% said flavored e-cigarettes do less damage to the lungs than unflavored ones.

The nationwide poll of more than 4,000 adults, commissioned by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), was conducted between July 9 and Aug. 10. Reports of vaping-related respiratory illnesses began in July.

More than 800 cases of severe lung illness have been reported and 12 people in 10 states have died, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are so many unanswered questions about e-cigarettes,” Dr. Richard Schilsky, ASCO’s chief medical officer, said in a society news release. “We need more research about these products so we can begin to answer these questions and protect the health and safety of the American public through education and, where necessary, regulation.”

Nationwide, about 1 in 5 adults use e-cigarettes, the pollsters found.

Vaping is far more popular with young adults than their older counterparts. More than 21% of 23- to 38-year-olds (Millennials) said they regularly use e-cigarettes, compared with 15% of 39- to 54-year-olds (Generation X) and 5% of 55- to 72-year-olds (Baby Boomers).

Among Boomers, 10% said vaping is safe; 14% said it not addictive; and 12% thought flavored e-cigarettes are less harmful than unflavored ones.

Despite the growing number of teens who use e-cigarettes, 73% of parents said they have warned their children about the dangers of vaping.

The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that e-cigarettes contain addictive and harmful or potentially harmful ingredients, including nicotine, lead and other heavy metals and flavorants, such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease.

The Trump administration recently announced plans to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. New York and Michigan are also banning flavored vaping products.

Nearly 7 in 10 adults said they support increasing the legal age to buy e-cigarettes from 18 to 21.

Among the 13% of adults who said they vape regularly, 80% were current or former smokers. Many said they use e-cigarettes as a way to use less tobacco (44%) or to stop smoking entirely (41%).

While quitting is a worthwhile goal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

Most Americans (71%) want the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes; 46% favoring banning sale of flavored e-cigarettes; and 41% support a total ban.

— Steven Reinberg

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Sources

 American Society of Clinical Oncology, news release, September 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Americans Are Still Eating Too Many ‘Bad’ Carbs

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Decades into the obesity epidemic, Americans are still eating far too much sugar, starch and saturated fat, a new report claims.

Since 1999, Americans have cut down a bit on “low-quality” carbs, like heavily processed grains and snack foods with added sugar. But that amounts to only a 3% drop overall, the researchers found.

And Americans have made little headway in boosting their intake of “high-quality” carbohydrates — like beans, fiber-rich whole grains, fruit and vegetables other than potatoes: Consumption rose by only 1% between 1999 and 2016.

Meanwhile, total fat intake rose by the same amount, but half was from saturated fat — which comes mainly from meat and full-fat dairy products. Americans today typically get 12% of their daily calories from saturated fat, the study found. That’s above the 10% recommended limit.

The study cannot answer any “why” questions, according to senior researcher Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, an associate professor at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in Boston.

But Americans’ reliance on processed foods and take-out is a likely culprit.

“Our study shows that Americans are eating a lot of low-quality carbohydrates from refined grains and added sugars — 42 percent [of daily calories],” Zhang said.

“That’s a lot of calories without many nutrients,” she added. “It’s reasonable to say that’s partially related to convenience foods.”

The findings, reported in the Sept. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a long-running government nutrition survey. Between 1999 and 2016, nearly 44,000 Americans were interviewed about their eating habits.

Over those years, Zhang’s team found, people reduced their total carb intake from an average of 52.5% of daily calories, to 50.5%. At the same time, protein and fat intake inched up.

But there was not much improvement in the national appetite for healthy carbs. And consumption of plant proteins — like nuts and beans — barely budged, from about 5.4% of calories, to 5.8%, the findings showed.

On balance, Americans still seem to love their meat and potatoes.

Continued

Linda Van Horn, who heads the nutrition division at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, co-authored an editorial published with the study.

She agreed that convenience is a powerful force in the national diet, as is advertising.

“Access to snacks, desserts, sugary beverages, pizza, sandwiches and other grab-and-go foods is far greater and more highly marketed than fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, and unsalted nuts and seeds,” Van Horn said.

So the responsibility for eating healthy goes beyond an individual’s “will,” Zhang said — particularly since disadvantaged Americans still have poorer diets than those who are wealthier and more educated.

For example, the study found that people living below the poverty line trimmed their intake of low-quality carbs by around 2%, versus nearly 4% among higher-income people.

That points to a need to make healthier choices more affordable and accessible, according to Zhang.

For now, she pointed to simple changes people can try: “Mind the quality of your carbohydrates. Instead of French fries, go for a piece of fruit. Instead of white bread, go for whole-grain bread with nuts or seeds. Read nutrition labels for added sugars, and select products with more fiber and less sugar.”

Van Horn made another point: Healthy eating is not only about weight control; it can help people avoid chronic disease and disability, and the drugs used to treat those conditions.

Ideally, she noted, everyone should pay attention to diet from the beginning — with pregnant women eating healthfully and parents passing good habits onto their kids.

“Establishing the recommended dietary patterns and lifestyle behaviors early in life is the very best strategy to preserve healthy growth and development in our kids — and reverse the escalating obesity epidemic in our country,” Van Horn said.

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Sources

SOURCES: Fang Fang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston; Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., professor, preventive medicine, and chief, nutrition division, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago; Sept. 24, 2019,Journal of the American Medical Association

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Stress of U.S. Politics Taking Mental, Physical Toll on Americans

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 25, 2019 — U.S. politics has been incredibly divisive in recent years, and will likely only grow worse as President Donald Trump faces possible impeachment over the Ukrainian scandal.

So it’s no wonder the stress of ugly national politics has started to affect the emotional and physical health of some citizens, as a new study suggests.

Nearly two out of every five Americans say politics is stressing them out, and one in five are sleepless or have had friendships damaged over politics, the researchers found.

“A surprisingly large number of American adults perceive their engagement in politics as having negative effects on their social, emotional and even physical health,” said lead researcher Kevin Smith, chair of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House of Representatives will begin impeachment inquiries, accusing Trump of a “betrayal of his oath of office” in asking Ukraine’s newly elected president to investigate a Democratic rival for the U.S. presidency.

Things only intensified Wednesday when the Trump administration released a memorandum of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump pressed his counterpart for an investigation of presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered U.S. assistance for such a probe.

The new survey of 800 people nationwide, conducted prior to these latest revelations, indicated that politics are creating a burgeoning public health crisis in the United States, Smith said.

Many report politics stresses them out in several ways

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • More than one in 10 people felt politics had adversely affected their physical health.
  • Nearly one-third said they’d been driven crazy by media outlets that promote views contrary to their personal beliefs.
  • Three in 10 Americans said they’d lost their temper over politics.
  • A quarter of people said that politics has led them to hate some people, and to think seriously about moving away from their community.
  • About 22% said they care too much about who wins and who loses.
  • About 15% said they wish they would have restrained themselves more in political conversations or have posted things online that they later regretted.

These results mirror a 2017 “Stress in America” survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), said Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate executive director for practice, research and policy.

In that earlier study, she said, two-thirds of Americans said the future of the nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, even more so than usual stressors like money or work. More than half said they consider this the lowest point in U.S. history they can remember.

Political stress appears to be taking a greater toll on people from the left side of the political spectrum, potentially tied to the controversial 2016 election cycle and Trump’s confrontational style of governing, Smith said.

However, it is possible that this politically driven stress has been around since before Trump, but no one asked the question, Smith and Bufka said.

“We don’t know what people would have reported with previous presidents,” Bufka said, noting that other researchers have cited former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as “very polarizing presidents themselves.”

“It could be there has been a fair amount of polarization and stress associated with politics that’s been increasing over the past decades, but it’s hard to say,” Bufka said.

Political concerns coming up in therapy sessions

Dr. Michelle Riba, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, said that anecdotally at least it appears people are coming to therapy more often with political concerns on their mind.

Prior to the Trump administration, patients troubled by current events usually wanted to talk about recent tragic events like the 9/11 attacks or the Columbine shootings, said Riba, a professor of psychology with the University of Michigan.

Now, people tend to bring the day’s political concerns to their therapist’s couch.

“It depends on what’s going on that day, but people are bringing in some of the issues into sessions more than I can remember in a long time,” Riba said.

What can be done? One option is disengaging yourself from politics, but Smith is reluctant to endorse that.

“The people who seem to be least affected by this are the people who are not politically interested or engaged,” Smith said. “As a political scientist, it runs against my grain to even hint that people should back off from civic engagement.”

But a bit of civility might help reduce stress levels related to politics, Smith offered.

“If people were willing to engage in political disagreements a little more civilly, be a little less quick to attribute malevolent intent to people who have different political views from you, I think that would certainly cool the temperature a bit,” Smith said.

Ways to counter stress of highly charged political climates

People driven to distraction by politics can undertake some proven methods of stress relief like exercise, eating right, getting good sleep, and enjoying time with family and friends, Riba suggested.

And if it all gets to be too much, it is OK to take a break from the constant news feed, Bufka added.

“It’s important for individuals to give themselves an opportunity to take a break from social media and the news, from where they’re getting information that they find stressful,” Bufka said. “We live in an era where you can get information all the time, so you have to be fairly intentional to give yourself a space to get away from that.”

In any case, people feeling stressed by politics should absolutely take steps to lower their anxiety, Bufka said.

“Ignoring it is not going to make it better, so being more active and thoughtful about how to manage what is causing us stress will lead us to better health in the long term,” Bufka said.

The new study was published Sept. 25 in the journal PLOS ONE.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about coping with stress.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

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Fewer Americans Have Health Insurance: Report

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 11, 2019 — The percentage of Americans living in poverty declined in 2018, but the rate of those without health insurance increased, according to a Census Bureau report.

It found that 11.8% of people lived in poverty last year, the lowest level since 2001. Median household income in 2018 was $ 63,200, essentially the same as 2017 after adjusting for inflation, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, about 27.5 million people (8.5% of the population) lacked health insurance for all of 2018, up from 7.9% in 2017, which was the first increase since the Affordable Care Act took full effect in 2014.

That increase was at least partly due to the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine that law, according to experts.

“In a period of continued economic growth, continued job growth, you would certainly hope that you wouldn’t be going backwards when it comes to insurance coverage,” Sharon Parrott, senior vice president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Times.

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Many Older Americans Aren’t Equipped to Weather Hurricanes Like Dorian

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 4, 2019 — As Hurricane Dorian continues to churn up the east coast of Florida, a new poll shows that many older Americans aren’t fully prepared to cope with natural disasters or severe storms.

The poll of more than 2,200 adults, ages 50 to 80, found that less than one-third have an emergency kit with essential supplies and medicines that can sustain them at home or that they can take with them in an evacuation, and only one-quarter who rely on electrical power to run health-related equipment have a backup power supply.

Less than half have signed up for emergency warning systems offered by their community, which can provide crucial information in a crisis, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging by the Institute Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan.

“Whether it’s as straightforward as a power outage that lasts a day, or as severe as a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, preparing can make a huge difference,” said poll director Dr. Preeti Malani, a professor in the university’s medical school.

“A bit of time spent now can protect your health, and spare you worry and expense, when something like this does happen,” Malani added in a university news release.

Yet only 40% of respondents have spoken with loved ones about what to do in different types of emergency situations.

The poll did find that 82% of respondents said they have a week’s supply of their medications and 72% said they have a week’s worth of other health supplies. A week’s supply is the minimum recommend by experts.

Just over half said they had the recommended week’s worth of food and water, while fewer had cellphone chargers and radios that didn’t require electricity.

Nearly all the respondents said they had transportation if they needed to evacuate their homes, but 1 in 4 said it would be difficult for them to pay for a place to stay for a week.

“The results of this poll can be used to target efforts to better support older adults to prepare for an emergency,” said Sue Anne Bell, a University of Michigan School of Nursing researcher who studies the health implications of major emergencies and disasters.

“By knowing areas where older adults are well-prepared, and where they are not, programs can work alongside older adults to become fully prepared and ready,” Bell explained.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on disaster preparedness and recovery.

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Posted: September 2019

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Americans’ Trust in Scientists Follows a Sharp Political Divide

FRIDAY, Aug. 9, 2019 — Americans’ confidence in scientists is on the rise, but deep political divisions persist, a new nationwide poll reveals.

The Pew Research Center poll of more than 4,400 adults found that 86% have at least “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists to act in the public interest. That includes 35% who said they have “a great deal” of confidence, up from 21% in 2016.

Sixty percent of respondents also said scientists should play an active role in policy debates about scientific issues.

The results suggest Americans’ confidence in scientists is similar to confidence in the military but higher than for the media, business leaders and elected officials, according to Pew.

The findings exposed significant political fault lines surrounding the role of scientists in policy debates.

Democrats (43%) were more likely than Republicans (27%) to have a great deal of confidence in scientists. Seventy-three percent of Democrats said scientists should play an active role in policy debates, while 56% of Republicans said scientists should establish solid facts and then stay out of the wrangling.

While 54% of Democrats said scientists are generally better than others at making decisions about scientific policy, 66% of Republicans said scientists’ decisions are the same as or worse than other people’s.

Perception of bias also differed. Sixty-two percent of Democrats said scientists base their judgments solely on facts, while 55% of Republicans said scientists are just as likely to be biased as other people.

The poll focused on scientists in three fields (medicine, nutrition and the environment) and six specialties. Those specialties included medical research, medical doctors, nutrition researchers, dietitians, environmental research scientists and environmental health specialists.

The more familiar respondents were with scientists’ work, the more positive and trusting they were toward it, the poll found.

But many are skeptical about scientists’ integrity. Less than 20% said they think specialists are usually or always transparent about potential conflicts of interest.

And the poll found that blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to say research misconduct is a “very big” or “moderately big” problem.

The nationwide poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

More information

The Pew Research Center has more on public trust in scientists.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: August 2019

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Dangerous Sesame Allergy Affects Many Americans

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 , 2019 — More than 1.5 million children and adults in the United States have sesame allergy — more than previously believed, a new study finds.

And even though sesame allergy can cause severe reactions, sesame is often not declared on food product labels, the Northwestern University researchers said.

In the United States, sesame labeling is not required by law as it is with eight other allergens: peanut, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, wheat, soy and finfish, along with proteins derived from them.

Also, sesame labeling is often confusing. For example, it may be labeled as tahini, a sesame seed paste. This increases the risk of accidental consumption.

“It is important to advocate for labeling sesame in packaged food. Sesame is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients. It is very hard to avoid,” study lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta said in a university news release. She is director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

The study comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether to add sesame to the list of food allergens requiring mandatory product labeling. This is something that’s done in the European Union and Australia.

The researchers conducted a telephone and online survey of more than 80,000 children and adults in 50,000 U.S. households. They asked about any suspected food allergies, including specific reaction symptoms and diagnosis of food allergies.

Based on the survey results, the researchers concluded that more than 1.5 million children and adults have a sesame allergy, and more than 1.1 million have either a physician-diagnosed sesame allergy or a history of sesame-allergic reaction symptoms.

The researchers also concluded that many people who report sesame allergies and have potentially severe allergic reactions do not have their allergy diagnosed.

“Clinical confirmation of suspected food allergies is essential to reduce the risk of unnecessary allergen avoidance as well as ensure patients receive essential counseling and prescription of emergency epinephrine,” said study first author Christopher Warren. He’s an investigator with the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research.

Sesame allergy affects children and adults at similar rates, unlike milk or egg allergies, which often appear early in life and are no longer present by the teens, the researchers noted.

Also, 4 in 5 people with sesame allergy have at least one other food allergy. More than half have a peanut allergy; a third have tree nut allergy; a quarter have egg allergy, and 1 in 5 have cow’s milk allergy, according to the researchers.

The study was published Aug. 2 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

Food Allergy Research & Education has more on sesame allergy.

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Posted: August 2019

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Americans Are Spending Even More Time Sitting, Study Shows

FRIDAY, July 26, 2019 — The United States has grown a bumper crop of couch potatoes in recent years, a new study reports.

The amount of time people spend sitting around actually increased after the initial release of the federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2008, researchers have found.

“Over the past 10 years, there was no significant change in physical activity levels, but there was a significant increase in the time we sit around,” said senior researcher Dr. Wei Bao. He’s an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

As a result, the proportion of people who didn’t get enough aerobic exercise and also sat around for more than 6 hours a day rose from 16% to nearly 19% between 2007 and 2016, according to the study published online July 26 in JAMA Network Open.

An inactive lifestyle has been linked to many chronic diseases.

Sitting around too much increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and even certain cancers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Because of this, federal health officials released the activity guidelines, which recommend adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity exercise.

Moderate-intensity activity can include mowing the lawn, playing tennis, enjoying a leisurely bike ride, engaging in a brisk walk, or doing heavy housework like vacuuming, mopping or washing windows.

Vigorous exercise includes jogging, bicycling fast, playing basketball or soccer, shoveling dirt or carrying heavy loads.

To see how many Americans meet these recommendations, Bao’s team reviewed data from a series of federal studies that track health trends among U.S. adults and children.

The investigators found that time spent sitting increased from 5.7 hours a day in 2007-2008 to 6.4 hours a day in 2015-2016.

The increase in sedentary behavior was seen in nearly every major subgroup of the U.S. population, the study authors said.

At the same time, there was no real change in Americans’ physical activity. About 65% of people met guidelines for aerobic activity in 2015-2016, compared with 63% in 2007-2008, the study found.

American life is designed to be cushy, so it’s natural that folks settle in and relax rather than get up and go, Bao said.

“This will be a natural phenomenon for a convenience society, for a modern society like the United States,” he said. “I think sitting down is a natural desire for humans. When people are tired at work and go home, the first thing is to lie down on the sofa and watch TV for another two hours.”

American jobs have also gotten less physically demanding, said Donna Arnett, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, in Lexington.

“If you look at physical activity from occupational energy expenditure, that has been going down dramatically over the past three to four decades,” she said. “Our jobs are getting more automated. There’s much less physical activity at work.”

The proliferation of screens at work and home hasn’t helped, she added.

“The automation in our lives — at home and at work — is also likely related to the increased use of screen time. People are spending more time looking at their phones and working on their computers, even after hours,” Arnett said.

So why haven’t the Physical Activity Guidelines been more inspiring?

It could be that folks simply don’t know about them.

Only about one in three Americans said they were aware of the guidelines in a 2009 survey, and fewer than 1% could say what the guidelines recommend, researchers said in background notes.

Bao suggested that “there should be more effort to communicate this information and to have people fight against sitting down.”

Smart technology also might help, Arnett said. Devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches can be programmed to regularly remind wearers to get up and move around.

Clever outreach could be key, too. Arnett said someone told her that while binge-watching Netflix, an ad from the American Heart Association appeared urging the viewer to take a break, get up and move around.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about the health risks of inactivity.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: July 2019

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Most Americans Have Never Had an HIV Test: CDC

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans have ever heeded federal government recommendations to be tested for HIV, health officials reported Thursday.

“Getting tested for HIV is quicker and easier than ever before — and when you take the test, you take control,” said Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency encourages everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 to get an HIV test at least once as part of their routine health care.

Instead, the latest CDC survey found that:

  • Less than 40% of Americans have ever had an HIV test.
  • Less than 30% of those most at risk for HIV were tested in the last year.
  • In 50 places where more than 50% of HIV diagnoses occur, less than 35% of those who should be tested annually were tested in the past year.
  • Only 26% of those in rural areas where annual HIV testing is recommended were tested in the past year.

Those who should get an HIV test each year include:

  • Sexually active gay and bisexual men
  • Drug abusers
  • People with multiple sex partners since their last test
  • People who have other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis or tuberculosis.

“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an agency news release.

“As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow,” he added.

Regardless of whether the test is positive or negative, it will help you take control of your health, the CDC said.

People whose test is negative can help prevent getting HIV by taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), in a single daily pill.

A positive test can lead to treatment that can reduce the amount of the virus in your body, extending your life and lowering the risk of passing HIV to others, the CDC said.

The report was published June 28 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Sources

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, June 27, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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AHA News: Director John Singleton’s Fatal Stroke Spotlights Black Americans’ Hypertension Risk

WEDNESDAY, May 1, 2019 (American Heart Association News) — Filmmaker John Singleton was hailed for his ability to portray black Americans’ lives on screen. His death drew attention to one of the biggest threats posed to those lives.

Singleton, who was nominated for an Oscar for directing “Boyz N the Hood,” suffered a stroke April 17 and died Monday after being taken off life support. He was 51. In a statement, his family said he had “quietly struggled with hypertension.”

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called the “silent killer” because it has no obvious symptoms. It’s the top risk factor for stroke — the No. 5 cause of death in the U.S. and an especially dangerous problem for black people.

Black men are twice as likely to have a stroke as their white adult counterparts and are nearly 60 percent more likely to die from a stroke than their white peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond being a leading cause of death, stroke is a leading cause of adult disability.

“And the part that is not mentioned as much is that it’s a leading cause of cognitive dysfunction as well. And depression,” said Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, professor of neurology and associate dean at the University of California, San Francisco.

Although stroke mortality has fallen by 80 percent over the past 60 years, there has been no significant decrease in the disparity between white and black people.

High blood pressure might help explain some of that gap. The prevalence of high blood pressure among African Americans is among the highest in the world. More than half of black adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure.

Other risk factors for stroke include diabetes and obesity, which affect African Americans at higher rates, as well as smoking, which researchers say doubles the risk of stroke in African Americans. Sickle cell anemia is also a factor; it’s the most common genetic disorder among African Americans.

A 2017 report in the journal Circulation spelled out many additional possible influences, ranging from cultural attitudes toward exercise; the unhealthy parts of the traditional Southern diet, which is high in added fats, sugars and sodium; and the health issues that come from stress and perceived discrimination.

Black Americans are also more likely to live in poverty, statistics show. And that’s another factor, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University.

“In the diet that people eat, which is all they can afford — one especially represented by fast foods and high sodium intake — the risk of high blood pressure is exaggerated and the onset is much earlier in life,” Yancy said.

But scientists do not fully understand the risk gap, Ovbiagele said. Up to 30 percent of the reasons behind the increased risk for black Americans is a mystery, he estimated.

“Is it genetic? Is it an interaction between the genes and the environment?” Some research suggests lingering psychosocial effects from slavery could be factors, he said.

“There’s perceived discrimination, there’s the salt hypothesis, there’s genetics, there’s so many things,” he said, adding that many of them have not been explored thoroughly.

But that should not deter people from focusing on the many things they can control, Ovbiagele said.

“We know that stroke is eminently preventable,” he said. “So while we don’t have the entire truth, we have some of the truth, and we know that truth can be addressed.”

Yancy echoed that point emphatically.

“I want this message to be explicitly clear: Check your blood pressure. That’s a hard stop. That’s the takeaway; and especially if you’re an African American man, check it today.”

It’s urgent because high blood pressure is so pervasive and so deadly, Yancy said.

“Don’t think that these events aren’t happening every day, in every city and every state across the country,” he said. “Except it’s happening quietly — with families losing fathers and grandfathers and uncles and brothers and husbands on a daily basis.”

Yancy knows this all too well.

“I lost all nine of my uncles, aunts and father to heart disease,” he said. “And not a single one had any condition other than high blood pressure to drive their early demise.

“It’s just unacceptable. We can live life a different way.”

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019

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Americans Sit Way Too Much, But Exercise May Help

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Sitting Time, Physical Activity, and Risk of Mortality in Adults.”

Journal of the American Medical Association: “Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016.”

Yin Cao, ScD, assistant professor of surgery, Division of Public Health Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health, University of Sydney, Australia.

Nieca Goldberg, MD, American Heart Association volunteer expert; medical director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health, NYU Langone Health, New York City.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd edition,” Nov. 12, 2018.

American Heart Association: Scientific statement on sedentary behavior, Aug. 15, 2016.

Sarah Williams, spokesperson, American Heart Association.

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