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Doctor Housecalls Blog

Healthcare related news and updates

There are some new methods of preventing and treating the flu, which could be available in the coming year. A company in Osaka, Japan called Shionogi & Co. Ltd. has announced that an experimental drug called baloxavir marboxil has been able to reduce the virus to undetectable levels, effectively killing it within 24 hours for half of the 414 individuals who were involved in their study.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report this month on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), in which it stated that allowing infants to sleep in the same room as parents for the first year can help reduce infant deaths.

This comes among other SIDS prevention recommendations for parents, including: placing the infant on a firm surface and on their back for sleep, breastfeeding the infant, and offering a pacifier during naptime and bedtime. The report went on to add that infants should not be placed in the same bed as parents.

USA Today, Reuters, and TIME all offered their own coverage of the report.

Although diabetes was thought to have been a problem mainly in wealthier countries, the Washington Post reports that the condition now disproportionately affects poor countries. According to the World Health Organization, diabetes cases have doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014. This means that one in 12 people around the world is diabetic. This increase in diabetes has been attributed to a number of factors such as excess weight gain, obesity and an aging population.

Not only does diabetes significantly shorten lifespans, it is a huge economic burden. Current health spending to treat diabetes and related conditions is over $800 billion every year. The World Health Organization is calling on all governments to draft legislation that will promote healthier lifestyle decisions and limit the consumption of foods that are high in fat and sugar.

According to Bloomberg News, data from federal nutrition surveys revealed that people who have consumed fast food in the last 24 hours may have elevated levels of certain industrial chemicals in their bodies. These chemicals, called phthlates, have been shown to disrupt the male reproductive system in rats, and there is evidence that a similar effect could occur in humans.

The data also showed that fast food was a significant source of phthlates, and that the chemicals may leach into food from machinery used in processing or packaging or from gloves worn by workers.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that consuming too much vegetable oil may increase the risk of heart disease rather than decrease it. The research re-evaluated experiments conducted between 1968 and 1973 that suggested that vegetable oil helped to protect the heart from the damage that animal fats were thought to do. It was discovered that only part of the trial’s results were published, particularly contrary data that suggested that vegetable fats did not protect the heart when they replaced animal fats.

A recent front-page story in the Washington Post reported that researchers have detected the Zika virus in Aedes albopictus, a common mosquito that can be found as far north as New England. This greatly increases the number of U.S. states at risk for transmission of the disease. This discovery was reported by the Pan American Health Organization after the virus was detected in Asian tiger mosquitos in Mexico.

The Hill reports that 18 million Americans have gained access to healthcare coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, known in many circles as ObamaCare. These findings were from a study conducted by the Urban Institute, and they are similar to another recent study that concluded that the A.C.A. allowed about 20 million Americans to have coverage.

The article stated that approximately 16.9 million Americans gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces and the expansion of Medicaid, the law’s two main provisions. The remaining 1.2 million Americans are young adults who are allowed to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26.

It should come as no surpise that it is harder to fall asleep in an unfamiliar location, but a new study published in Current Biology is attempting to learn the science behind the reason why people sleep so poorly after they’ve moved into a new home. 

The reason for this first sleepless night has to do with one hemisphere of the brain staying awake as a way to watch for potential danger. The study showed that the brains of people who were sleeping in an unfamiliar location did not show the slow wave activity that brains typically showed when in deep sleep. One hemisphere always seemed to be awake and was able to induce wakefulness much faster at the first sign of any unusual signals from the environment.

According to a study published in HealthDay, approximately 176 children are sent to hospital emergency departments due to skateboarding mishaps every day. The study examines “data spanning two decades” and found that over 64,500 children and teens were treated for skateboarding injuries in the U.S. every year. The majority of these injuries were fractures and dislocations.

High school students may soon be getting some much-needed rest.  According to a recent Associate Press (12/17, Blankinship) report, more school districts around the country are beginning to heed the advice of experts and adopt later start times.  The Seattle School Board has approved a start time of 8:45 a.m. beginning the next school year for all high school students, adding to 70 other districts across the U.S. who have made similar adjustments in recent years.

The move is in response to mounting evidence that teens aren’t simply lazy, but that their bodies suffer from something known as “phase delay.”  Teenagers inherently have difficulty going to sleep early, which makes them need to sleep longer in the morning and feel fatigued early in the day.  While scientists don’t know the specific reason for this, hormone changes are a strong suspicion.  In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement that recommends a delay of the start of classes to 8:30 a.m. or later.    There are other supporting statements from advocacy groups as well as the National Sleep Foundation.

According to an article in Time (05/11, Sifferlin), those schools that have made start time adjustments have seen promising results.  Schools report noticeable reductions in tardiness, as well as more alert and engaged students earlier in the day.  One study showed that schools with an 8:35 a.m. or later start date produced better academic performance in core subject areas as well as higher scores on national achievement tests.

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Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP has been a Board Certified Emergency Physician in Arizona for the last 37 years, and a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley for the last 37 years. Steve Lipsky on Google Plus[/author_info] [/author]

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