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by Robert Preidt

Depression Linked to Death of Many Heart Failure Patients

Researcher recommends counseling as first step
SATURDAY, May 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Depression significantly increases the risk of death in heart failure patients, a new study finds.
Heart failure patients with moderate to severe depression had a five times higher risk of death than those with no or mild depression, researchers found.
"We know that depression is common in heart failure and affects 20 to 40 percent of patients," said study author John Cleland, a professor of cardiology at Imperial College London and the University of Hull in England.
Of the 154 patients studied, 27 had mild depression and 24 had moderate to severe depression. Over an average follow-up of 302 days, 27 patients died.
The increased risk of death associated with moderate to severe depression was independent of other health problems and the severity of heart failure, the researchers said.
The study was to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology in Seville, Spain. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Heart failure means the heart can't pump blood as well as it should.
About one-quarter of patients hospitalized with heart failure are readmitted for a variety of reasons within one month, Cleland said. "Within one year, most patients will have had one or more readmissions and almost half will have died," he added in a society news release.
"Our results show that depression is strongly associated with death during the year following discharge from hospital after an admission for the exacerbation of heart failure; we expect that the link persists beyond one year," Cleland added.
However, the study did not prove definitively that depression causes an increase in death risk among heart failure patients.
Depression is often related to loss of motivation, loss of interest in everyday activities, sleep disturbances and change in appetite with corresponding weight change, Cleland noted. "This could explain the association we found between depression and mortality," he said.
Despite the findings, Cleland is not in favor of immediately prescribing antidepressants to heart failure patients with depression.
"Studies suggest that they are not effective in reducing depression in patients with heart failure. Clinicians should, however, screen patients with heart failure for depression and consider referring those affected for counseling," he recommended.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart failure ( ).
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, May 23, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Do You Need a Doctor for Bug Bites and Bee Stings?

Most can be treated at home, but learn signs of emergency, expert advises
SUNDAY, May 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Summer is fast approaching, along with its usual bonanza of bugs. Fortunately, most of those inevitable bites and stings aren't serious.
But, experts from the American Academy of Dermatology advise going to the emergency room right away if you notice any of the following symptoms soon after a bug bite or sting:
Difficulty breathing, The feeling that your throat is closing, Swelling of lips, tongue or face, Chest pain, A racing heartbeat for more than a few minutes, Dizziness or headache, Vomiting.
Also beware of a red rash that looks like a donut or bullseye target after a tick bite, or a fever with a spreading red or black spotty rash. These can be signs of serious tick-related illness.
"Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it's important to pay attention to your symptoms," Dr. Margaret Parsons, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, said in an academy news release.
Parsons added that if you feel tired all the time, have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see your doctor.
However, home care is fine for most bites and stings, according to Parsons.
In general, bites and stings "can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch," said Parsons.
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more on preventing bites and stings ( ).
SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, press release, May 12, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Go Take a Hike -- Safely

Proper footwear, first-aid kit and extra food are must-haves, experts say
SATURDAY, May 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Before setting out on a hike, make sure you're prepared for the unexpected.
The American Hiking Society outlines 10 things needed on every hike, starting with appropriate footwear.
Trail shoes are fine for a short day hike that doesn't involve carrying a heavy pack or negotiating difficult terrain. But hiking boots, which offer more support, are a better choice for longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or traveling on more challenging terrain, the society says.
Even if you have a GPS unit, you need a map and compass as a backup. It's also important to carry enough water and have a way to purify water from sources along the trail, experts advise.
Take extra food in case you're out longer than you planned because of getting lost, suffering an injury or traversing more difficult terrain than you expected.
Even if the weather forecast is good, bring rain gear and extra clothing in case the prediction is wrong. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Do not wear cotton clothes -- which trap moisture close to the skin -- and always carry a hat.
Sunscreen and sunglasses are other necessities, especially above the tree line where sun and snow combined can cause snow blindness and sunburn.
Even on a day hike, you need a whistle, flashlight/headlamp and matches or lighter in case of an emergency. Three short bursts on a whistle is a signal for help.
Always carry a first-aid kit -- and better yet, take a first-aid class. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters. Another important item is a knife or multi-purpose tool, for cutting strips of cloth into bandages, removing splinters and fixing broken eyeglasses.
Your daypack or backpack should be comfortable and have a rain cover to keep your belongings dry.
More information
The U.S. National Park Service has more about hiking safety ( ).
SOURCE: American Hiking Society, news release, April 24, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Raw Tuna Suspected as Source of Salmonella Outbreak: CDC

At least 53 people in nine states have fallen ill, while 10 have been hospitalized, agency reports
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Raw tuna is suspected as the source of a salmonella outbreak that has now sickened 53 people in nine states, according to U.S. health officials.
No deaths have been reported. But 10 people have been sick enough to be hospitalized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a statement. The majority of those who fell ill said they had recently eaten sushi that included raw tuna.
However, "a common brand or supplier of raw tuna has not been identified," the CDC said in its statement.
While the bulk of cases, 31, are in California, eight other states are affected: Arizona (10), Illinois (1), Mississippi (1), New Mexico (6), South Dakota (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (1), the agency said.
Most of the cases have involved people who live in the southwestern United States, or who traveled to that part of the country in the week before they became sick, the CDC said. The first case was reported on March 5, and state and federal health officials have found five clusters where ill people ate sushi at the same establishments.
"This outbreak reinforces the ever-present risks associated with eating fish, meat or poultry that have not been properly cooked and prepared," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"This outbreak begs the question as to whether the sushi was prepackaged from a distributor, based on the size and number of states involved, along with the potential issue of improper food handling and storage," Glatter added.
Another expert agreed that eating raw or undercooked food will always carry some risk of food poisoning.
"The outbreak reaffirms the importance of the consumer being cautious and informed when dining on raw or undercooked (i.e. "seared" beef, pork, seafood, fish etc.)," said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
"There is always a small inherent risk of bacterial contamination," Selinger explained. "There is no way to mitigate this risk down to zero. Thoroughly rinsing the item is not sufficient."
Salmonella causes more than one million cases of food poisoning in the United States every year, according to the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping and fever. In this latest outbreak, a variant known as salmonella paratyphi B has been identified as the source of illness.
"This is a good reminder to Californians that there are sometimes risks when eating raw or undercooked meats, fish or poultry," Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. "This is particularly true for young children, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems who may be at an increased risk of severe illness."
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on salmonella ( ).
SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Howard Selinger, M.D., chair, family medicine, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn.; May 21, 2015, statement, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 21, 2015, statement, California Department of Public Health
by Robert Preidt

Animals May Ease Social Anxiety in Children With Autism

Playing with guinea pig in stressful situation was calming, study finds
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being around animals may help reduce social anxiety in children with autism, new research suggests.
The findings could lead to new treatment approaches that use pets such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs to help children with autism improve their social skills and interactions with other people, the researchers said.
The study included 38 children with autism and 76 children without the disorder. All of the children wore special wrist devices designed to detect anxiety and other responses to social situations.
The children first read a book by themselves. Then, they read a book to two other children and then had 10 minutes of group play. After that, the children were given 10 minutes of supervised play with guinea pigs. Researchers chose guinea pigs because of their small size and gentle nature.
Compared to other children, those with autism had higher levels of anxiety when reading silently, reading aloud and during group play. However, the youngsters with autism had a significant drop in anxiety levels during the session with the guinea pig.
This could be because pets offer unqualified acceptance and make children with autism feel more secure, according to Marguerite O'Haire, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and colleagues.
The study was published online recently in the journal Developmental Psychobiology. The research was partly funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
"Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially," James Griffin, of the NICHD's Child Development and Behavior Branch, said in an agency news release. "This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations."
However, the findings do not mean that parents of children with autism should get a pet for their children, O'Haire said. Further research is needed to learn how animals might be used in programs to help children with autism develop social skills, she said.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism ( ).
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, news release, May 20, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Can Asthma Protect Men From Prostate Cancer?

New research finds an association, but doesn't prove cause and effect
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests, but does not prove, that men with asthma may be less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer or to die from the disease.
Researchers found that men with asthma were 29 percent less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. And they were 36 percent less likely to die from the disease, according to the study.
However, the findings do not show that asthma protects men from prostate cancer, according to Elizabeth Platz, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.
"We don't know yet whether the association we see in this observational study is a case of cause and effect," Platz said in a Hopkins news release.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 48,000 American men between the ages of 40 and 75. None had been diagnosed with cancer prior to 1986. Their health was followed from 1986 through 2012.
The link between asthma and reduced risk of deadly prostate cancer remained even after the researchers accounted for factors such as whether men took asthma medications or whether their asthma was diagnosed early or later in life.
The findings are surprising because some studies have suggested that prostate cancer is linked to the kind of inflammation associated with asthma, according to Platz.
She and her colleagues also found a reverse association involving hay fever and prostate cancer. Men with hay fever were 10 to 12 percent more likely to have aggressive or fatal prostate cancer.
The study was published online in the International Journal of Cancer.
The researchers looked at the connection between asthma and prostate cancer based on work in mice showing the immune cell response to prostate cancer, which they called Th2 inflammation.
"Asthma is often considered to be a disease of chronic inflammation, particularly Th2 inflammation. And cancer is often thought of as mediated by Th2 inflammation. So what we expected was that asthmatics would have a higher incidence of prostate cancer," said Dr. Charles Drake, co-director of the Prostate Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
"It's possible that the Th2 inflammation that drives asthma is not the same as the Th2 inflammation that drives cancer," he said in the news release.
Or it may be that people with asthma have higher levels of other immune cells that attack tumor cells, Drake added.
More information
The American Cancer Society has more about prostate cancer ( ).
SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, May 13, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Depression May Intensify Anger in Veterans With PTSD: Study

Aggressive outbursts can unleash harm to others or to soldiers themselves, researchers say
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Anger often escalates quickly in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they're depressed, a new study reveals.
"Our study findings should draw attention to anger as a major treatment need when military service members screen positive for PTSD or for depression, and especially when they screen positive for both," lead researcher Raymond Novaco said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after living through or witnessing a dangerous event. People with the disorder may feel intense stress, suffer from flashbacks or experience a "fight or flight" response when there's no apparent danger.
In the study, Novaco's team examined the mental-health records of almost 2,100 soldiers -- mostly men -- who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and later sought treatment.
Those who showed signs of depression and PTSD had higher levels of anger and believed they were more likely to hurt themselves, the researchers said. Almost three-quarters of those with signs of PTSD also appeared to suffer from depression.
"PTSD and depression dominate the landscape, but these, of course, are formal psychiatric disorders," said Novaco, who is professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine.
"There is no diagnostic category for anger, nor do I think there should be, so anger slips from research attention," he added.
Why worry about anger?
It's not uncommon among veterans in general and can often be violent, according to Novaco. His team pointed to prior studies, including one of 18,000 soldiers returning from Iraq that found that 40 percent experienced anger outbursts, more than 30 percent uttered violent threats to others, and 15 percent engaged in physical fighting.
However, while anger "is a driver of violent behavior," it is also amenable to focused psychological treatment, Novaco said.
The study was published this month in Psychological Trauma: Theory Research, Practice and Policy.
More information
To find out more about PTSD, head to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ( ).
SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, May 11, 2015
by Robert Preidt

Health Highlights: May 22, 2015

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
FDA: Inadequate Testing, Cleaning at Jeni's Ice Cream Plant
There was inadequate cleaning and testing at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams plant in Columbus, Ohio before listeria was detected in some of its ice cream, a Food and Drug Administration investigation found.
Jeni's recalled all of its products last month and conducted intensive cleaning before starting to make ice cream again and re-opening its shops last Friday, the Associated Press reported.
No illnesses have been reported in connection with the recall.
After a Freedom of Information request, the AP obtained the results of the FDA investigation. It found that Jeni's did not have an adequate sampling and testing program and was not sufficiently sanitizing some surfaces, including floors.
DEA Arrests 48 in Raids Targeting Illegal Sales of Prescription Painkillers
Forty-eight people, including seven doctors, were arrested in four Southern states as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's largest operation against illegal trafficking of prescription drugs.
Wednesday's raids came after a 15-month investigation that focused on the illicit sale and distribution of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and the tranquilizer Xanax, The New York Times reported.
The 48 arrests in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi were in addition to 230 other arrests made during the investigation of pharmacists, doctors, street-level dealers and others, DEA officials said.
Among those arrested and charged Wednesday were two doctors in Mobile, Ala. who ran two pain clinics and also owned a pharmacy, and an Arkansas pharmacist who used fake prescriptions to sell 93,000 hydrocodone pills for about $500,000 in 2013, The Times reported.
Climate Change a National Security Threat: Obama
Climate change is a threat to national security, President Barack Obama says.
On Wednesday, he told cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut that people who deny climate change are putting at risk the nation and its military, and that failure to take action on climate change would be "dereliction of duty," the Associated Press reported.
Climate change and rising sea levels would hamper the readiness of U.S. forces and could increase social tensions and political instability worldwide, the president warned.
"Denying (climate change) or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security," Obama said, the AP reported.
"Make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country," he added. "We need to act and we need to act now."
by Robert Preidt

Health Tip: Why Is My Nose Bleeding?

Here are some common triggers
(HealthDay News) -- Nosebleeds can be frightening and uncomfortable, but are rarely serious.
The Cleveland Clinic says possible nosebleed triggers include:
Warm or hot, non-humid air that dries membranes inside the nasal passages. Sinusitis, a cold or allergy that triggers lots of sneezing and blowing of the nose. A facial injury. Sticking a foreign object in the nose, or picking the nose. High blood pressure, or taking a medication that thins the blood. Exposure to an irritating chemical. A deviated septum. Surgery involving the nose or face.
by Robert Preidt

Low-Income Southerners at Highest Risk for Vision Loss

Restricted access to eye and health care likely to blame, study authors suggest
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- New U.S. government research connects eyesight problems with poverty, and reveals that people in the southern part of the country have the highest prevalence of both poverty and severe vision loss.
In fact, most of the counties that rank in the top 25 percent for severe vision loss and poverty are in the South, according to Dr. Jinan Saaddine, team leader of the Vision Health Initiative in the Division of Diabetes Translation at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Severe vision loss is listed in the top 10 disabilities -- it affects activities of daily living, leads to depression and social isolation," Saaddine said. "Regular eye examinations and awareness of risk factors associated with vision loss need to be promoted, especially among local communities in the South."
Interventions are available for many eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, according to the researchers. But poverty can restrict access to health care and proper vision care. And eye exams often aren't covered by insurance, the study authors pointed out.
"Further investigations are needed to better understand the social and geographic disparities in vision loss, how to minimize risk factors associated with vision loss, and how to improve access and use of eye care services at the county and local levels, especially in the South," Saaddine said.
About 4 million Americans 40 and older are blind or have vision loss, the researchers said. The most common causes of vision loss include cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, according to background information in the study. All of these disorders can cause vision loss that develops gradually without warning signs.
The new report used responses from the 2009 through 2013 American Community Survey, which included about 250,000 American households. Findings were published in the CDC's May 22 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Overall, 3 percent of those surveyed said they had vision problems. Of the nearly 450 counties that had the highest rates of severe vision loss and poverty, 83 percent were in the South, followed by 9 percent in the West and 8 percent in the Midwest. None of the counties was in the Northeast, the researchers found.
In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, at least 6 percent of the counties were in the top 25 percent group for both severe vision loss and poverty, the study revealed.
Rebecca Sheffield, a senior policy researcher at the American Foundation for the Blind, said, "It's not surprising that vision problems show up in the South, where there is poverty and access to care is an issue."
People with limited access to regular health care are more likely to develop diabetes, which can lead to blindness if not properly treated, she said.
"Often, diabetes is diagnosed in the ophthalmologist's office," Sheffield said. If found early, treating diabetes can help prevent vision loss, she said.
She said the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends regular eye exams. But, she added, that may not be possible for people with limited access to care or no insurance.
"Everybody, regardless of income, regardless of disability, needs access to preventive care that we know will save their vision," Sheffield said.
More information
For more on protecting your vision, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( ).
SOURCES: Jinan Saaddine, M.D., M.P.H., team leader, Vision Health Initiative, Division of Diabetes Translation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Rebecca Sheffield, Ph.D., senior policy researcher, American Foundation for the Blind; May 22, 2015, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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