Fewer than 14 percent of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2017, the lowest level seen since data collection started in 1965, government health officials reported Tuesday. “Certainly, it is fantastic that the U.S. smoking rates continue to drop,” said Dr. Adam Lackey, chief of thoracic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital. “I suspect education is a large part of why the rates are dropping.” “Unfortunately, I suspect part of the drop is also related to more and more people switching to the various other methods of consuming nicotine,” he noted. “Vaping seems to be taking off, and I am always dismayed to have patients proudly tell me that they don’t smoke, and thank goodness for all those vaping products that they use now.” “Yes, vaping doesn’t have the high levels of tar and soot that are the major contributors to the cigarette lung cancer risk,” Lackey said. “But you are still inhaling heated chemicals into your body. And you are still getting nicotine, which in and of itself is not particularly healthy, aside from the addiction standpoint.” Meanwhile, the report unearthed some bad news along with the good. Twice as many of those who smoked lived in rural areas and smaller cities than in cities of 1 million or more — about 22 percent versus 11 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control…  read on >

Liver cancer cases in several developed countries have doubled in the past 25 years, due to the continuing obesity epidemic and a spike in hepatitis infections, new research suggests. Even worse, the sharp rise in liver cancer cases is starting to swamp the limited number of liver specialists in those nations, the researchers added. In the four countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada — liver cancer is the only major cancer for which death rates are rising. “While the individual rates in these countries differ, the trends are the same,” said lead researcher Dr. Morris Sherman, from the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. “The prospects for surviving liver cancer are bleak, so our only hope is to intervene early and prevent the cancer happening in the first place or to find early curable cancers,” he added in a health network news release. Liver cancer incidence is highest in the United Kingdom (9.6 per 100,000 people), followed by 9.2 in the United States, 7.4 in Australia and 6.0 in Canada. The rankings are the same for liver cancer deaths. Cancer Research UK predicts a further 40 percent increase in liver cancer cases by 2035. “While the obesity epidemic is showing no signs of abating, we could make a huge impact on future liver cancer rates by investing more…  read on >

As Americans, we’re making some headway in our efforts to improve the quality of our diet, but we’re far from ideal levels. Research shows that healthier eating prevented over a million premature deaths in the 13-year period from 1999 to 2012, along with 8.6 percent fewer heart disease cases, 1.3 percent fewer cancer cases, and 12.6 percent fewer type 2 diabetes cases. An index that measures diet quality increased from 40 to over 48, but that’s still a long way from the perfect score of 110. Also, most of the improvement came from just two steps — reducing consumption of trans fat (largely because of government action to ban it) and sugar-sweetened beverages. Little progress was made in most of the key components of a healthy diet. An analysis of data from the USDA Economic Research Service by the Pew Research Center found that while we’re eating more chicken and less beef, we’re also each consuming 36 pounds of cooking oil a year — three times the amount Americans ate 50 years ago. We’re also each eating on average 23 percent more calories than we were back then. It’s no wonder obesity rates are so high. And yet it only takes small changes to make a difference. For instance, one report found that what’s needed to turn the average diet into one that can reduce…  read on >

A growing number of American men are having cosmetic surgery to improve their looks and increase their confidence, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports. More than 1.3 million cosmetic procedures were performed on U.S. men in 2017, according to the group. “For a lot of men, just having a procedure on an area of their body that they’re self-conscious about can really make a positive impact on how they see themselves,” Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt, a plastic surgeon in Pittsburgh, said in a society news release. Over the past five years, there was a 23 percent increase in liposuction and a 12 percent increase in tummy tucks among men, and a 30 percent increase in male breast reductions, according to the society. Young men tend to focus more on enhancing their bodies, while older men have more minimally invasive facial procedures to look younger. In 2017, nearly 100,000 men had filler injections, a 99 percent increase since 2000, with a fourfold increase in Botox injections, the group said. Dr. Jeffrey Janis, president of the society, noted that it is important to have cosmetic procedures done by a board-certified surgeon. “The extensive training that these doctors go through gives them the versatility to offer their patients more choices so that each person receives the right procedures to meet their goals,” he said. More information The U.S.…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Wearing athletic shoes that don’t fit can lead to injury, pain and poor performance. The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society suggests how to select the right shoes: Buy footwear from a specialty store, where the staff can offer advice and fit you for the right shoes. Try on shoes later in the day or after a workout, when your feet are larger. Try on shoes with the socks that you will wear during athletics. Make sure you can wiggle all of your toes inside the shoes. The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. Walk or run a few steps in the shoes to see if they are comfortable. The shoes should grip your heels firmly, preventing the heels from slipping while you run or walk. Replace shoes after 500 miles of running or 300 hours of aerobic activity.

If more Americans ate healthier diets, the nation could save tens of billions of dollars in health care costs for major problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, hip fractures and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers assessed different scenarios and determined that boosting the number of Americans with healthy eating habits could save between $21 billion and $135 billion a year in health care costs. The amounts varied depending on how many more people improved their eating patterns and the type of diet they followed, according to the researchers. The researchers suggested foods such as fish, nuts, fruits and olive oil as components of a healthful diet. The study is scheduled for presentation Sunday at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, in Boston. “We found that increasing adherence to healthy dietary patterns by even 20 percent at a population level has the potential to save more than $20 billion in both direct and indirect costs associated with 10 major health outcomes,” said study lead author Carolyn Scrafford, senior managing scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. “That’s a significant saving from what we believe is a realistic shift in diet quality,” she said in a society news release. “Our results suggest that it’s worthwhile to educate Americans on these dietary patterns and their components,…  read on >