Suicide has become an urgent issue among American military veterans, with rates increasing by more than 10 times in nearly two decades, a new study reveals. “Suicide rates for post-9/11 veterans have steadily increased over the last 15 years and at a much faster pace than the total U.S. population, and post-9/11 veterans with TBI [traumatic brain injuries] have a significantly higher suicide rate than veterans without TBI,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Howard, from the department of public health at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In fact, the suicide rate for those with a TBI was 56% higher than among veterans who didn’t suffer a TBI, the researchers found. Exposure to TBI, even a mild one, is associated with severe long-term health risks, including suicide, Howard noted. “It used to be believed that once initial symptoms of a mild TBI resolved, the patient was healed and there were no long-term health impacts, but as we are compiling longer-term follow-up data on these patients a different picture is emerging,” Howard said. These data suggest that closer and longer-term monitoring of patients with TBIs may be needed, he explained. “In addition to the clinical implications, the data point to the need for a more holistic approach to ensuring veterans’ health and well-being, which would integrate family and social support networks and other societal factors,” Howard…  read on >  read on >

It’s always a good idea to use caution when having some summer fun — and that includes preventing burns from barbecues and other heat sources. An expert from UT Southwestern Medical Center offers tips for avoiding heat-related pitfalls, including grilling and metal playground equipment during extreme outdoor temperatures. “Concrete, metal and even plastic surfaces sitting in the sun are hot enough to burn, and children are particularly at risk,” said Dr. Samuel Mandell, associate professor of surgery at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. Mandell, who spoke in a hospital news release, specializes in burn care. According to UT Southwestern, contact burns from hot surfaces result in about 70,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States. And concrete is one surprising example, reaching 125 degrees when the air temperature is a far cooler 77 degrees. Barbecue grill or stove accidents are also a common source of burn injuries. More than 10,700 people were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms each year between 2018 and 2022, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. “When grilling food outside, remember that grills — both gas and charcoal — are an open source of flame and a potential danger,” said Mandell, who is also director of the Parkland Regional Burn Center in Dallas. Some ways to be safe are to always wear…  read on >  read on >

Weight-loss drug Wegovy (semaglutide) and its diabetes-focused cousin, Ozempic, have already upended the treatment of both obesity and diabetes, with sales of both drugs skyrocketing. Now, injected Wegovy could prove a boon for many patients battling heart failure, a new study suggests. The trial results were presented Friday in Amsterdam at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Treatment with the drug “produced large improvements in symptoms, physical limitations and exercise function” compare to placebo, explained study lead author Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. In the trial, obese heart failure patients who took Wegovy for a year also showed “greater weight loss and fewer serious adverse events as compared with placebo,” Kosiborod added in an ESC news release. The findings were published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine. The new trial focused on a subset of patients with what’s known as “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” comprising about half of all people with heart failure. Ejection fraction measures the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood out to the body. Having a low ejection fraction means pumping ability is dangerously impaired. But heart failure patients can have a preserved ejection fraction, meaning they retain pumping ability that’s in a healthy range. Heart failure is still an often lethal ailment, however, with patients…  read on >  read on >

Coupons for tobacco products appear to have a big impact on relapse rates for smokers who have recently kicked the habit, researchers report. A study of more than 5,000 former smokers who participated in a national survey found double the relapse rate for those who received cigarette coupons by direct mail or email. “We hypothesized that people who received coupons would be more likely to relapse, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the effect,” said lead author Jidong Huang, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences at Georgia State University School of Public Health. “It really shows that smokers who have quit the past year are the most vulnerable to relapse, and it implies that policies that prohibit the distribution of tobacco coupons could help more people succeed in quitting,” he said in a university news release. Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death for Americans. It claims more than 480,000 lives each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Huang said strong tobacco prevention and control policies, including raising tobacco taxes, adopting comprehensive smoke free policies, conducting hard-hitting anti-tobacco media campaigns and implementing restrictions on tobacco advertising, have reduced cigarette smoking to all-time lows. Yet more regulation is needed. Physicians and smoking cessation counselors should warn people…  read on >  read on >

Stroll past the supplements in any drugstore and you’ll find broad claims about fish oil helping everything from heart and brain health, to joints, eyes and immune systems. But you just might be wasting your money, according to a new study. “We know from recent large, randomized trials that fish oil supplements do not prevent heart disease in the general population, but yet they are one of the most common supplements taken, often by people who still believe they will benefit their heart,” said lead study author Joanna Assadourian, fourth-year medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. The authors researched what these labels actually say, using data from labels of on-market fish oil supplements, to measure the frequency and types of health claims. They included both U.S. Food and Drug Administration-reviewed qualified health claims and those that made assertions about supporting structure or function in various organs. The researchers also assessed the total daily doses of combined EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, found in supplements from 16 leading manufacturers and retailers. They found that 2,082 of the 2,819 analyzed made at least one health claim, which is nearly 74%. And of those, only 19% made an FDA-approved qualified health claim, which helps consumers understand any scientific uncertainty surrounding a claim. The others made general structure or function…  read on >  read on >

Tainted eye drops are back in the news, with federal regulators warning consumers not to use certain eye drops because of contamination concerns. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday advised people to avoid purchasing and immediately stop using Dr. Berne’s MSM Drops 5% Solution and LightEyez MSM Eye Drops—Eye Repair because the drops may be contaminated with bacteria, fungus or both. Specific microbes isolated from FDA testing include Bacillus (a bacterium) and fungal Exophiala in the Dr. Berne’s MSM Drops 5% Solution. In the LightEyez MSM Eye Drops—Eye Repair, FDA testing detected bacteria including Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium, Mycolicibacterium and Methylorubrum. The Dr. Berne’s products are distributed by Dr. Berne’s Whole Health Products. That company agreed on Monday to a voluntary recall of those particular eye drops. The LightEyez products are distributed by LightEyez Limited. LightEyez has not responded to an FDA email seeking to discuss the FDA’s concerns, the agency said. So far no one has reported adverse events from using the drops, the FDA said, but the products should be thrown out because using them could lead to minor or serious vision-threatening infections. That could even progress to a life-threatening infection, the agency warned. Patients who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should talk to their health care professional or seek immediate medical care. The two eye drops included in the…  read on >  read on >

Eye tests are an important way to catch potential eye-related issues in children, but more than two-thirds of kids in the United States are not receiving them at their checkups. Those with Medicaid and other public health insurance were far less likely to receive these vision checks in the past year at their primary care doctor’s office, according to researchers at University of Michigan and Duke University. Children with private insurance had only slightly higher rates of screening, at 34%, the study found. The lowest rates of eye screening were among uninsured children, at 18%, and those with safety net insurance provided for those with low incomes, were at a 28% screening rate. “Well-child visits, and other annual checkups such as school or camp physicals, are critical opportunities for catching eye-related issues in children that can have lasting consequences for their education and lives, and these data clearly show room for improvement,” said Dr. Olivia Killeen. She is a clinical fellow in pediatric ophthalmology at Duke Health in Durham, N.C. Killeen and colleagues conducted the study while she was a National Clinician Scholar at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and Kellogg Eye Center, both in Ann Arbor. Children aged 3 to 5 had the highest screening rates, but these were still low, the study authors said in a Michigan Medicine…  read on >  read on >

One source of lead exposure in children may surprise you. It’s secondhand smoke, according to a Texas A&M University study. “Further research will likely paint a clearer picture of this exposure route, especially in younger children, but the findings here can inform current efforts to eliminate low-level lead exposure in children,” said co-author Dr. Genny Carrillo, an associate professor of public health. “For example, education of parents about secondhand smoke as a source of lead exposure could help decrease lead exposure in children and further build on the successes of past lead removal initiatives,” she said in a university news release. Lead exposure is a long-known health risk, especially for young children. Even at low levels, chronic exposure can damage the brain and other organs. It can also cause problems with thinking and motor skills. There is no safe exposure level, which is why great efforts have been made to eliminate lead-based paint and lead pipes in homes and phase out use of leaded gasoline. To study the impact of secondhand smoke, doctoral student Alexander Obeng analyzed data on blood lead levels and secondhand smoke exposure in 6- to 19-year-olds. The data included more than 2,800 children. The researchers looked at levels of lead and a metabolite of nicotine known as cotinine. Levels of cotinine are an indicator of exposure to tobacco smoke. The team…  read on >  read on >

British researchers may have found a way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease several years sooner. Researchers at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital say that eye scans may be able to detect signs of Parkinson’s up to seven years before diagnosis. “I continue to be amazed by what we can discover through eye scans. While we are not yet ready to predict whether an individual will develop Parkinson’s, we hope that this method could soon become a pre-screening tool for people at risk of disease,” said lead author Dr. Siegfried Wagner, of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital. “Finding signs of a number of diseases before symptoms emerge means that, in the future, people could have the time to make lifestyle changes to prevent some conditions arising, and clinicians could delay the onset and impact of life-changing neurodegenerative disorders,” Wagner said in a university news release. Artificial intelligence (AI) was used in the analysis of the AlzEye dataset and the wider U.K. Biobank. AlzEye is believed to be the world’s largest single-institution retinal imaging information database. Even though Parkinson’s has a relatively low prevalence in the population — about 0.1% to 0.2% — these data sets helped identify these subtle markers. Eye scan data — a field called “oculomics” — have previously revealed signs of other neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis…  read on >  read on >

People may assume that a COVID-19 infection protects them the next time they encounter the virus, but that’s not necessarily true. A new study of 750 vaccinated seniors living in retirement homes and long-term care facilities found that those infected during the first omicron wave were actually more vulnerable to reinfection with a later wave. “This research highlights the need for continued vigilance and underscores the importance of ongoing preventive measures against COVID-19,” said study co-author Dawn Bowdish, an immunologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. “We must remain cautious and proactive in our approach to protecting public health,” she said in a university news release. Bowdish and her colleagues said the findings underscore the need to consider COVID vaccine boosters this fall. This should serve as a warning that there are still unknowns about how previous infections will affect susceptibility to the variants now in circulation, said co-author Andrew Costa, an epidemiologist and associate professor in McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact. “These findings strongly suggest broader research is required to understand whether the wider population shares the same susceptibility as the seniors our group studied,” Costa said in the release. “Until we know more, we think it’s smart for everyone to protect themselves.” Bowdish said long-term care residents are easier to study because COVID-19 infections…  read on >  read on >