Articles Posted in Heart Disease

friesandsalt-300x200Americans of all ages adore fast food and prepared meals, but one of the lures is these tasty items are loaded with salt. Now federal regulators have proposed new guidelines that they say could save millions of lives by reducing the salt content of commercially prepared and packaged foods.

The Food and Drug Administration’s standards, directed at food that flies out of restaurants, as well as from grocery freezers and shelves, seeks to get manufacturers, restaurants, and food services to help people cut their sodium intake by 12% in the next 2.5 years.

That may seem like a slight amount, but it could have significant effects, the New York Times reported:

aspirinme-225x300Aspirin may not be the easy, cheap, daily wonder drug that doctors once thought it might be: New research has led medical experts to rethink and caution against the low-dose regimen followed by tens of millions of patients in hopes of preventing heart and colon conditions.

Those popping aspirin as a safeguard should talk to their doctors, pronto, about continuing to do so — and they should not suddenly quit, on their own. For the middle-aged and mostly healthy, who once might have been routinely advised to do so, doctors should refrain from recommending they take regular low doses, an elite expert advisory panel says.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), independent and respect advisors on medical tests and protective procedures, says that evidence has built that aspirin’s risks of causing problematic internal bleeding (in the brain and gastric tract) exceeds its benefits in thinning the blood and reducing heart and colon conditions. As the New York Times reported:

vaper9112021-220x300The federal Food and Drug Administration punted on a scheduled showdown over e-cigarettes, delaying decisions on whether to allow Juul and other market-dominating firms to keep selling trendy “smokeless” devices while also banning millions of vaping products from other, mostly smaller manufacturers.

The agency argued with a defensive and defiant tone that it had acted on 6.5 million filings and 93% of the requests for approval to market e-cigarette and vaping-related products, rejecting most (including millions of flawed  applications from a single applicant).

But the FDA said it needed more time — how much it didn’t say — to weigh evidence from big e-cigarette makers who hold sway over 40% of the market. They claim their products’ benefits in helping adults stop smoking tobacco, especially killer cigarettes, outweighs the harms they cause to young people, likely addicting new generations to health-damaging nicotine and opening a gateway to tobacco and marijuana consumption.

fdahvad-230x300The federal Food and Drug Administration too often fails to protect patients from defective and dangerous medical devices because it lets manufacturers self-police themselves, cozies up to companies rather than trying to compel safety fixes, and inadequately informs the public and medical community about problem products.

If that sounds like too broad and harsh an indictment of poor performance by a purported watchdog agency, just read the deep dig by ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism site, into the FDA’s record with the HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device, or HVAD.

ProPublica details the unacceptable actions that put thousands of patients at risk with a heart pump that cost $80,000, required major surgery, and that the FDA knew had significant problems but still allowed highly vulnerable people to have implanted. As reporter Neil Bedi found:

UM-Cap-Region-Medical-Center-300x225Poorer communities of color in the region around the nation’s capital are inching toward getting more equitable hospital care — with new facilities slowly coming online to replace decrepit and risky institutions.

Politicians and public leaders in Maryland celebrated a decade-long fight to see the opening in Largo of a new hospital,  a “620,000-square-foot, glass-paneled facility [that] will replace the 75-year-old Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly,” the Washington Post reported.

The new University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, near the Largo Town Center Metro station, had been stalled for years in political and regulatory battles over its size and funding. It will be part of the University of Maryland Medical System’s network of 13 hospitals, and officials hope it will anchor major development in Largo.

cigsmenthols-300x227The Biden Administration will ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars with new regulations to be issued within the next year — actions that Big Tobacco is expected to battle but which proponents say could have big health benefits for those who have been targeted to buy and use these products.

Smoking is a leading cause of death in this country, and especially among African Americans, with critics saying cigarette makers have exploited communities of color, the poor, and LGBTQ people with flavorings to popularize damaging goods. As the Washington Post reported of the announced plans of the federal Food and Drug Administration:

“[Its] menthol ban would reduce health disparities between white and black smokers. About 85% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, three times the rate of white smokers, and their rate of quitting smoking has not declined as quickly as it has for whites. As a result, black smokers suffer disproportionate rates of disease and death. Similarly … the effort to remove menthol and flavorings from small cigars [is] a way to prevent young people from starting the smoking habit and helping them quit. The small cigars are increasingly popular with young smokers; more high school smokers now use small cigars than cigarettes.”

demeter-300x261It’s not an invitation to pile on the ice cream, cake, and candy. But older adults may get to say pshaw to the finger-wagging they may have endured from doctors and loved ones about their raised blood sugar levels and the condition that specialists ginned up to caution them about it: prediabetes.

As the New York Times reported, a newly published study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere looked at data over six years on almost 3,500 older patients with elevated blood sugar measurements and found they “were far more likely to have their blood sugar levels return to normal than to progress to diabetes. And they were no more likely to die during the follow-up period than their peers with normal blood sugar.”

This is an important finding, the newspaper reported, quoting Elizabeth Selvin, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and the senior author on the study:

covidcasesus4july-300x154The nation shudders into the second half of 2020, months deep into an unchecked Covid-19 pandemic that has infected 2.8 million Americans and killed roughly 130,000 of us.

America has become the coronavirus’s outbreak epicenter, its would-be travelers shunned by leading nations around the world as too risky to allow without quarantines or outright bans.

Five states set new infection records, and 40 of the 50 states report worrisome spikes in detected coronavirus cases (see New York Times graphic, above, of newly reported U.S. Covid-19 cases).

covidkids2-charlesdeluvio-300x200Federal officials have launched what may be an aptly named, important, and reassuring study for kids, parents, families, and communities — the large-scale “Heros” investigation on Covid-19 and youngsters.

As the National Institutes of Health explains the “Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2” work:

“[It will] help determine the rate of novel coronavirus infection in children and their family members in the United States [and] will help determine what percentage of children infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, develop symptoms of the disease. In addition, the HEROS study will examine whether rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection differ between children who have asthma or other allergic conditions and children who do not.”

drscope-300x200The public health restrictions put on much of the nation to battle the Covid-19 pandemic also have created complications for patients’ receiving other kinds of health care — a reality that the nation will need to deal with in the weeks ahead.

Doctors and hospitals will need to see whether their coronavirus case loads are such that they can begin to reconsider providing what were deemed nonessential medical services, including often performed procedures like shoulder, knee, and hip surgeries.

Most hospitals, responding to federal and state requests, put off elective procedures, notably because they did not want to put patients and heightened risk and because medical facilities nationwide have experienced desperate shortages of personal protective equipment and drugs. Some institutions have pressed ahead with operations they have deemed needed, despite questions from critics.

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