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ahaessential8-300x267 Get some sleep!

That’s not just a late-night nudge for the kids from their parents.  It is strong new advice patients will hear from their cardiologists and other doctors, as the American Heart Association has added sleep to its list of important ways for folks to avoid cardiovascular conditions, stay healthier, and live longer, the Washington Post reported.

The association has focused on behavioral and other factors for a time now to battle the leading cause of death in this country: heart disease. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that almost 700,000 Americans died of heart disease in 2020. The ailment costs the country $230 billion annually. The heart association experts added sleep to the “Life’s Essential 8” list of safeguards, reporting this in an article published in a medical journal:

suicidehotlineFederal officials have launched a new 988 number for callers with suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies, hoping that the public adopts this three-digit alternative and finds it as familiar and useful as 911 has become for medical and other urgent help needs.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which those in distress could reach by calling 800-273-TALK (8255) or texting HOME to 741741, will keep operating for a time.

But mental health advocates say they hope 988 soon will become embedded in the public consciousness as the line to call 24/7 to tap into resources — many of them which will rely more on individual states — for what have become big needs. Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nationwide grass-roots group, told the Washington Post this about the new hotline:

candidanew-300x150With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew due to the highly infectious Omicron BA.5 variant, federal authorities reported recent data that should give Americans plenty of reason to heed public health warnings and avoid hospitalization if they possibly can.

That’s in part because institutions, overwhelmed by the pandemic, have taken giant steps backward in preventing patients in their care from acquiring nasty bacterial and fungal infections in addition to the coronavirus, and from overusing and misusing lifesaving antibiotics, further fueling the rise of virulent super bugs, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the New York Times reported:

“The spread of drug-resistant infections surged during the coronavirus pandemic, killing nearly 30,000 people in 2020 and upending much of the recent progress made in containing the spread of so-called superbugs, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths caused by infections impervious to antibiotics and antifungal medications rose 15% during the first year of the pandemic compared to 2019, federal health officials found. Much of the increase was tied to the chaos wrought by the coronavirus as doctors and nurses struggled to treat waves of grievously sick patients whose illness they did not fully understand before vaccines and treatments were widely available. About 40% of the deaths were among hospitalized patients, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes and other health care settings, the CDC report found. Early on, many frontline hospital workers mistakenly administered antibiotics for viral lung infections that did not respond to such drugs, according to the study. Many of the sickest patients spent weeks or months in intensive care units, increasing the chances for drug-resistant bugs to enter their bodies through intravenous lines, catheters, and ventilator tubes.”

billpaying-150x150While Congress seems paralyzed or, at best, willing to shrink significantly its efforts to help Americans deal with the punishing costs of care in the U.S. medical system, could federal lawmakers be confronted at the same time with more compelling evidence about the need for aggressive, not timid, action?

Do beleaguered constituents need to barrage members of the House and Senate with copies of an excellent, painful series from NPR and the nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service on the crushing effects of medical debt on regular folks, especially cancer patients? Must voters write, call, and email  representatives to ensure they see the research findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation or the Commonwealth Fund about how nightmarish the U.S. medical system has become?

In detailing the “financial toxicity” that cancer patients experience with bankrupting treatment, KHN reporter Noam Levey mixes poignant human stories with scary economic data to detail how care for a leading killer of Americans may have improved medically but has become a calamity of a different sort. He makes these points among others (quoted liberally but without their sourcing, not fully included in these bullets for brevity’s sake):

agingwell-150x150Although Americans dread the possibility of experiencing dementia and other debilitating cognitive decline as they age, they can do more than let fear rule their lives — or twiddle their thumbs waiting for Big Pharma to drop billions of dollars more to develop magical and, so far, unworkable pills.

Instead, doctors, epidemiologists, and public health officials argue that non-pharmaceutical approaches can be beneficial to patients’ overall health and play a significant role in decreasing the likelihood of individuals suffering severe memory loss and more crucially dementia, notably in its most common condition Alzheimer’s, the New York Times reported.

Dr. Gill Livingston, a psychiatrist at University College London and chair of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, told New York Times columnist Paula Span this:

apachedash-300x177Anyone who has so much as contemplated buying a vehicle in recent times will quickly catch on to what experts fear may be a root cause of the nation’s spiking road toll: Step back and consider just how much importance manufacturers — and consumers — pay to those rolling infotainment systems.

Their screens have grown and dominate the dash. They no longer just control a tinny AM radio. They’re the gateway to powerful and all-encompassing entertainment systems. These can deliver high-fidelity music of all varieties, sports contests, news, and political commentary, as well as digital visual content viewable by passengers. The touchpad systems regulate the heat, air conditioning, and interior lighting. They also display ever-more sophisticated navigation, with dizzying maps, road and traffic conditions and warnings, as well as audio narratives of directions and even route highlights.

And what motorist now doesn’t have her cellphone linked into the “smart” vehicle system. This means dozens of contacts can be reached via conversation with a digital assistant, who then can hook a motorist up with the office, boss, spouse or partner, kids — and who knows who else? Combine this all, of course, with other driver displays — including speed, RPM, fuel consumption and conservation, engine temperature, and more.

kneeinjectionSince the 1970s, some doctors have treated arthritic knees by injecting them with hyaluronic acid, a substance originally derived from the combs of roosters. Specialists have zealously promoted this therapy, costing patients a few hundred dollars a pop and repeated so widely that Medicare alone pays $300 million annually for it. Doctors argue it reduces pain and increases joint mobility.

It hardly lives up to this billing, though, offering patients scant more relief than a placebo (saline, or salt water), researchers found after scrutinizing a half century’s worth of data from 169 clinical trials involving more than 20,000 patients.

The highly popular viscosupplementation procedure, as reported by Stat, a medical and scientific news site, showed an average effect “about 2 points beyond placebo effect on a pain scale that runs from 1 to 100.” The researchers from Canada, Britain, and China concluded this from their study, as published in BMJ, a respected medical journal of the British Medical Association:

MLSlogo-150x150In 2015, public attention galvanized around the significant risks of head trauma and the sport of football with the disclosure that Andre Waters, 44, a hard-hitting, onetime Philadelphia Eagles player, had been diagnosed after his suicide with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Has soccer — one of the most popular pastimes on the planet and a dominant game of U.S. suburban life — also hit its day of reckoning for head injuries? The issue has been brought to the fore with the revelations that Scott Vermillion, 44, a onetime soccer pro, has been posthumously diagnosed with CTE, the degenerative brain disease “linked to symptoms like memory loss, depression and aggressive or impulsive behavior,” the New York Times reported, adding:

“The diagnosis gave Vermillion the grave distinction of being the first American professional soccer player with a public case of CTE. It was a solemn milestone, too, for MLS, a league that has, even in its young history, seen the consequences of the type of brain injuries more commonly associated with collision sports like football, boxing and hockey. For soccer as a whole, the finding will add another note to a small but growing chorus of concern about the health risks of playing the world’s most popular game. ‘Soccer is clearly a risk for CTE — not as much as football, but clearly a risk,’ said Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University.”

bag-150x150If patients can benefit from price transparency by hospitals, shouldn’t employers and health insurers post online what they are paying for medical services? Yes, say federal regulators, who started requiring this effective July 1.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has ordered parties that act as health payers to make public a wealth of economic information that previously had been closely held, NPR and the Kaiser Health News service reported:

“[H]ealth insurers and self-insured employers must post on websites just about every price they’ve negotiated with providers for health care services, item by item. About the only exclusion is the prices paid for prescription drugs, except those administered in hospitals or doctors’ offices. The federally required data release could affect future prices or even how employers contract for health care. Many will see for the first time how well their insurers are doing compared with others. The new rules are far broader than those that went into effect last year requiring hospitals to post their negotiated rates for the public to see. Now insurers must post the amounts paid for ‘every physician in network, every hospital, every surgery center, every nursing facility,’ said Jeffrey Leibach, a partner at the consulting firm Guidehouse.

fireworkspm-196x300This great country will celebrate its 246th birthday on July 4, 2022 — a national holiday marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress.

Here’s hoping one and all have a glorious, fun, and safe Fourth!

Wouldn’t the holiday be all the finer if folks, especially those fortunate to be in the area of the nation’s capital, enjoyed the flashy public festivities. And if the annual bunch of knuckleheads didn’t partake of illegal fireworks, or the even more dangerous practice of firing guns into the air?

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