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bike-300x300As more Americans try to stay healthier and to beat the pains of commuting by car, bus, or light rail systems, many (including yours truly) have turned to bicycling. But as a result, non-fatal bike injuries have skyrocketed—especially for men and for riders older than 45—and two-wheel collision treatment has become expensive: The annual cost of medical care for bike crashes in 2013 alone exceeded $24.4 billion, double the amount for all occupational illnesses.

Those are findings of a multi-year study (1997-2013) of electronic records on 3.8 million non-fatal and 9,839 bike-related deaths, research published in Injury Prevention, an online specialty journal.

A key reason why the cost of cycling wrecks—including for emergency transport, hospital charges, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, and lost work and quality of life—has raced upwards: Bikers more than ever are mixing it up with cars on streets.  Road collisions accounted for just under half of biking injuries in 1997. They’re almost two-thirds of such wrecks now.

pthiel-200x300Although attention has focused on the GOP-promised repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, other big changes also are afoot in the federal government that will have significant effects on health care in this country.

There are appointments pending from President Trump at the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sonny Perdue, the administration’s pick for Agriculture secretary, also will play a big public health role, as will the personnel decisions that may be made at the troubled National Institutes of Health, where, for now, Francis Collins will continue to lead.

Will the FDA be run by a venture capitalist?

Cupping_resultsWith fans around the world fixated on  the U.S. gold medal-winning Olympic swimming team, curious minds wanted to know: Just what were those circular, purple marks covering the much-bared bodies of athletes like Michael Phelps?

To anyone who has spent time in East Asia or who lives in a metropolis (like Washington, D.C.) with sizable populations of people of Asian descent, the answer was easy: the Olympians had undergone “cupping.” It’s a treatment for muscle soreness or pain from over-exertion.

Practitioners put special cups on their patients, then use heat (sometimes from burning candles or mug wort or “moxa”) or pumps to extract the air from them, pulling up the skin, and providing drug-free benefit. The treatment, akin to a teen-aged “hickey,” leaves a superficial bruise or discoloration.

British experts predict the exit from the EU will be bad for Britons’ health.

Brexit advocates, in fact, celebrated their win by immediately conceding a giant campaign falsehood: They suddenly denied claiming that almost a half-billion dollars wrongly was going to the EU, and that these sums would, post Brexit, help to support the embattled British National Health Service. That claim, analysts said, had been crucial in persuading many voters to back Brexit. But a leader of the exit movement said in a televised interview that the assertion “was a mistake,” adding, “No, I can’t, and I would never, make that claim. And it was one of the mistakes I believe that the Leave campaign made.”

cdcswimKids and parents may want to think twice before jumping into that cool looking public pool or local watering hole. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just issued its new study on public swimming pools, hot tubs, and other bathing facilities in the states with the most of these, including Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona, and California. After looking at health inspection reports on more than 48,000 such venues, there’s more than a casual ick factor at play.

As ABC News reports, 80 percent of public aquatic venues had at least one health violation and one in eight were closed after the inspection due to serious health and safety violations. The most common violations included issues with safety equipment and disinfectant concentration. The CDC offered sobering statistics on water safety and public facilities, saying that they are associated with illness and injury including “disease outbreaks of infectious or chemical [cause], drowning, and pool chemical–associated health events (e.g., respiratory distress or burns).” Further:

These conditions affect persons of all ages, particularly young children, and can lead to disability or even death. A total of 650 aquatic facility–associated outbreaks have been reported to CDC for 1978–2012. During 1999–2010, drownings resulted in approximately 4,000 deaths each year in the United States. Drowning is the leading cause of injury deaths in children aged 1–4 years, and approximately half of fatal drownings in this age group occur in swimming pools. During 2003–2012, pool chemical–associated health events resulted in an estimated 3,000–5,000 visits to U.S. emergency departments each year, and approximately half of the patients were aged [younger than] 18 years.

How is it that February is almost gone? For those who made New Year’s resolutions about health, fitness, and diet, it might be time for a check in: Is that exercise regimen producing both the physical and mental health results desired? Is it time to toss at least one long-time, favorite exercise that was supposed to carve up the abs? And might some of the weight-loss challenges that dieters experience be more a matter of the gut or more greatly influenced by upbringing than previously believed?

Best exercise for the brain?

ratNew research has shed some intriguing light on which type of exercise produces the most optimal mental as well as physical results.

It’s fun stuff that has serious scientific purpose. New research is delving into our genetic past for insights about our health today. But before anyone drags their knuckles across the cave floor with the mistaken notion that genes dictate behavior, let’s be clear: Individual bad decisions, not prehistoric propensities, can be detrimental to good health, especially when it comes to two destructive and potentially deadly acts: smoking and bad driving.

Neanderthal-Genes-infographic_Final_Brewington1-585x390Neanderthal genes

If any mystery surrounds why humans keep taking plants, drying them, then setting fire to them, and inhaling the byproduct, new research offers a primal clue. It turns out that those of Eurasian descent may have significantly increased risk for nicotine addiction due to genes inherited from Neanderthal ancestors. Over millennia, these distant forebears adapted to stressful conditions or “borrowed” adaptations, with their genes encoding valuable mutations to protect and preserve the species.

An elderly couple wait to cross the road
With the United States getting grayer by the day and a national crisis looming in dementia- and senior-care, new information from one of the larger, longer running, and more significant health studies has offered a glimmer of optimism. Experts say dementia risks are showing a  decline─by as much as 20 percent. They’re uncertain exactly why. But increased education and individuals’ improved overall health, especially their cardiovascular wellness, may be helping.

An elderly couple wait to cross the road (Photo by Garry Knight/ Creative Commons)

The surprising dementia trend emerges from the legendary Framingham Heart Study, which has monitored and detailed the health of thousands of Americans for decades. Framingham research led to greatly improved heart and lung care with information on such issues as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

valentines_day_games_0Let’s give a Valentine’s hug to the high schoolers of today for their improved health behaviors. Federal researchers, who survey 10,000 of them every other year, report that kids are, as one report describes it, are getting into a lot less trouble than ever before. The U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds, as one news report puts it:

Today’s teens are among the best-behaved generation of teens we know of: 15.7 percent of teens today smoke cigarettes. Twenty years ago, 30.5 percent of high school students did. Teenagers today are 31 percent less likely to binge drink than teenagers 20 years ago. In fact, they’re 18 percent less likely to have ever tried alcohol at all. In 1996, 5.9 percent of teen girls had babies. Now, that number is 2.7.

The report adds some key caveats:

A major health maintenance organization says it wants to start its own medical school.  Will this change the culture of medical education for the better? The need is definitely there, as young doctors increasingly report burnout from the medieval training practices they experience. Whether the HMO’s approach is the cure, though, remains to be seen.

Kaiser Permanente, an organization many know for its huge, nationwide footprint in delivering HMO-style care, has raised eyebrows in Southern California by pledging to open its own medical school to provide more and more diverse physicians who also are more adept at adopting the latest technologies and practicing a more evidence-based kind of medicine. Kaiser hopes to launch its first class in 2019, although it has yet to finalize exactly where students would be schooled and at what cost, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The paper says that the medical school is part of the ambitions of Kaiser’s CEO, who sees his company’s approach to coordinated care as beneficial to what ails the huge, expensive U.S. health system. But critics worry that Kaiser’s cost-consciousness will unduly influence doctors who study in the HMO’s medical school, lessening the quality of future patients’ care.

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