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MONDAY, March 12, 2018A trip to the barbershop could hold the key to not only looking good, but also feeling good. A new study finds that having pharmacists deliver blood pressure care in neighborhood barbershops resulted in lower blood pressure readings for many black men. The study included 319 black men with high blood pressure who frequented 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area. Barbers encouraged some men to meet once a month with specially trained pharmacists in the barbershop. The pharmacists prescribed blood pressure medication, monitored blood tests and sent progress notes to each man’s primary care provider. Other men in the study did not see a barbershop pharmacist. Instead, barbers encouraged them to see their primary care provider for treatment and to make lifestyle changes, such as using less salt and exercising more. After six months, 64 percent of the men who saw a pharmacist achieved healthy blood pressure, compared with just under 12 percent of those who did not see a pharmacist, the investigators found. The study was published March 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando, Fla. High blood pressure is a top cause of early disability and death among black American men. “When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African-American men by coming to them —…  read on >

MONDAY, March 12, 2018A brutal flu season has had people reaching for relief in their medicine cabinet, but a new study warns that overdosing on acetaminophen (Tylenol) is more common when bugs and viruses are circulating. It turns out that the odds of taking more than the recommended 4 grams a day jumps 24 percent during these months, said lead researcher Saul Shiffman. He is senior scientific advisor at the research firm Pinney Associates in Pittsburgh. Why the jump? People battling the flu often take more than one medication for their symptoms — one remedy for headache, another for sniffles, another for backache — not realizing that all of them may contain acetaminophen, Shiffman explained. “If you don’t realize each contains acetaminophen, you might end up exceeding the daily limit inadvertently,” he said. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage, Shiffman said, although he noted that most people in this study who took too much did not hit the high levels that would overload the liver. “The daily limit is set pretty conservatively. There’s no indication that if you go a little over 4 grams, that puts you at risk. The idea is we want people to follow the label directions,” Shiffman added. On the other hand, people at risk for liver damage might be harmed by taking even lower amounts of acetaminophen, and…  read on >

WEDNESDAY, March 7, 2018While football is frequently blamed for concussions, a new study shows that it’s also the sport in which athletes are most likely to suffer neck injuries. A neck fracture, commonly referred to as a broken neck, is a break in one or more vertebrae in the upper part of the spine. Neck sprains involve injury to the soft tissue surrounding those bones. The neck is referred to medically as the cervical spine. “We expected that American football was the leading cause of cervical spine injury, and it was for overall injuries [fractures and sprains],” said study author Dr. J. Mason DePasse. He’s a trauma fellow in the department of orthopaedics at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I. “Most neck fractures during sports don’t involve paralysis,” DePasse added. “Certainly that can happen, but most people … can have arm weakness.” DePasse and his colleagues combed through data collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2000 to 2015. More than 27,000 patients with neck injuries sustained from sports were identified, including 26,380 neck sprains and 1,166 fractures. Compared to women, men’s injury rates were 1.7 times higher for neck sprains and 3.6 times higher for fractures. Trailing football as the most common cause of neck sprains in men were cycling and weightlifting/aerobics. Women suffered the most neck sprains in…  read on >

WEDNESDAY, March 7, 2018Stem cell clinics are charging big money for knee arthritis “cures” and making extravagant claims about their therapies, a new study contends. A same-day injection for one knee costs thousands of dollars at these centers, according to a consumer survey taken of clinics across the United States. People are paying that kind of cash because two-thirds of stem cell clinics promise that their treatments work 80 to 100 percent of the time, researchers report. But there’s no medical evidence suggesting that any stem cell therapy can provide a lasting cure for knee arthritis, said study lead researcher Dr. George Muschler, an orthopedic surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic. “There are claims made about efficacy [effectiveness] that aren’t supported by the literature,” Muschler said. “There’s a risk of charlatanism, and patients should be aware.” Stem cells have gained a reputation as a miracle treatment and potential cure for many ailments. The cells have the potential to provide replacement cells for any part of the body — blood, brain, bones or organs. As a result, a wave of stem cell centers have opened up around the country, offering cures for a variety of diseases, Muschler said. “It’s very sexy to market yourself as a stem cell center, so there’s been a boom of centers, probably close to 600 now in the United States offering this…  read on >

FRIDAY, March 2, 2018People’s chances of living longer have been increasing dramatically for decades. But, that seems to have slowed recently, a new worldwide study has found. The sharpest decline has come in countries that already had the shortest life expectancy, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. They said the slowdown in life expectancy gains does not mean that humans have simply reached their maximum biological life span. Rather, the researchers argue that their findings could mean that recent medical advances have not sustained historic increases in average life expectancy. “This is not about us hitting the ceiling,” researcher David Bishai said in a Hopkins news release. “The slowdown has been sharpest in countries that have the most life expectancy to gain.” Bishai is a professor in the school’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. “It’s a rebuke to the idea that you can fix global health just by inventing more stuff,” he said. “New health technology has been essential to making strides in life expectancy, of course, but our predecessors in the 1950s were making faster progress with the basics of soap, sanitation and public health.” In the 1950s, the study found, life expectancy worldwide increased, on average, by 9.7 years in a decade. Since 2000, however, the increase in a decade has been just…  read on >

THURSDAY, March 1, 2018For people who have both type 2 diabetes and heart failure, new research offers a mixed message on taking a daily low-dose aspirin. The study found the daily pill can reduce the risk for heart failure-related hospitalization and death in people who have both conditions. However, it also found that a daily aspirin raises their risk for nonfatal heart attack and stroke. The findings came from the analysis of data from more than 12,000 residents of the United Kingdom, 55 and older. They all had heart failure and type 2 diabetes, but no history of heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease or the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation. During a five-year span, those who took a low-dose aspirin a day were 10 percent less likely to have been hospitalized or to have died because of heart failure than those who did not. But they were 50 percent more likely to have had a nonfatal heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is a blood thinner that reduces the risk for blood clots. Both heart failure and diabetes increase the risk for blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke. About 27 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, and about 6.5 million U.S. adults have heart failure, the researchers said. Though a low-dose daily aspirin is recommended for people…  read on >

An electronic health record, or EHR, is the digital version of the paper records documenting your health care. These online records are an advance in health management in many ways. These records mean fewer and shorter forms to fill out at appointments. Your information gets to all of your providers so they can coordinate your care and prevent problems like harmful drugs interactions. You won’t need to repeat tests for different doctors because they all have access to all of your results. And you can more easily access your records to better track your care. Electronic health records can improve: Your care and care coordination. Your role in your care. The accuracy of your diagnoses. Health care costs. But what about the safety of your records? HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules were enacted to keep your health information secure, requiring health care providers and health plans to safeguard both paper and electronic records. Providers must assess the security of their EHR systems, follow technical safeguards, and have risk-management policies and procedures in place to evaluate, address and prevent risks. They must also notify you and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of any breach, plus notify the media and the general public if the breach affects more than 500 people. Portal security safeguards should include: Instituting controls, including passwords. Encrypting your information. Doing…  read on >

Single dads have been played for laughs in countless TV sitcoms, from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “My Three Sons” up to modern takes such as “Arrested Development” and “Louie.” But in real life, being a single dad is tough — so much so that it can lead to an early grave, Canadian researchers report. “We found that single fathers had a threefold higher mortality compared to single moms and partnered dads, and a fivefold higher mortality compared to partnered moms,” said lead researcher Maria Chiu. She is a scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services at the University of Toronto. Over the course of a decade, you can expect six single dads to die versus two single moms, two partnered fathers and one partnered mother out of every 100 parents from each group, Chiu said. Single-parent families headed by fathers are becoming more commonplace around the world, largely due to increasing rates of divorce, separation and children born out of wedlock, the researchers said. More than 2.6 million households in the United States are headed by single dads, a ninefold increase since the 1960s, the study authors noted. Despite this, most research on single parents has focused on single mothers, Chiu said. No study to date has compared the life expectancy of single dads, single moms and partnered couples. To investigate, Chiu and…  read on >

Driver fatigue causes many more car accidents in the United States than previously estimated, a new report suggests. The finding comes from an analysis of several months’ worth of video recordings taken of nearly 3,600 Americans while they were driving. During that time, participating drivers were involved in 700 accidents. All participants’ vehicles had been outfitted with a dash-cam video recorder. That allowed researchers to analyze each driver’s face in the minutes right before crashing. The researchers also had video of the road scene in front of the drivers. Together, the footage suggested that the percentage of accidents involving sleepy drivers was about eight times higher than current federal estimates. The finding was highlighted in a report released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation describes the investigation into drowsy driving as the most in-depth of its kind to date. “Driver drowsiness is a notoriously difficult problem to quantify because it typically doesn’t leave behind evidence that a police officer can observe after the fact when investigating a crash — in contrast to alcohol, for example,” said Brian Tefft, a senior research associate with the foundation in Washington, D.C. “Thus, we expected that our study would find that the problem was substantially bigger than the official statistics from the U.S. DOT [Department of Transportation] suggest,” he said. “But we were still surprised…  read on >

Fruits and veggies are great ways to get important nutrients, try new tastes, and add low-calorie sides to your meals. When fresh isn’t available or affordable, frozen is a healthy option. Look for fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables that have been properly stored, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends. Packages should feel firm. They shouldn’t be limp, wet or sweating, which are signs of thawing. However, when choosing vegetables and fruits sold in bags, you should be able to feel individual pieces, not large solid blocks of food, which could signal that the contents thawed and re-froze. Avoid stained packages or any with visible ice crystals, other signs of defrosting and re-freezing. Choose plain frozen vegetables without any butter, sauce or added salt. Choose plain frozen fruit without any added sugar. These are also the best options when adding the food to a recipe. Look for U.S. grade standards that measure quality. These are optional, so they’re not always printed on the package. But when they are, Grade A fancy vegetables have the most color and tenderness. Grade B aren’t quite as perfect and have a more mature, slightly different taste. Grade C are less uniform in color and flavor but are fine for soups and stews. Grade A fruits are near picture-perfect. Grade B, the most common fruit grade, signals very good quality. Grade C…  read on >