While most people are purchasing over-the-counter pain relief, a new U.S. government report shows that 1 in 10 people are using some type of prescription painkiller. But use of prescription opioid painkillers leveled off from 2015 to 2018, while prescriptions for nonopioid pain medicine rose, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This survey and other research is showing that pain management is becoming safer, reported the president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Between 2015 and 2018, nearly 11 percent of American adults aged 20 and over used at least one prescription opioid like oxycodone or a nonopioid like Celebrex, investigators found. Breaking that down, they found that nearly 6 percent of American adults used one or more prescription opioid painkillers, while 5 percent used a nonopioid prescription pain medication to quell their aches and pains. For the study, researchers used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Other findings:
- More women than men used prescription opioids in the past 30 days, and use increased with age.
- Use of any prescription pain medication was highest among whites (nearly 12 percent), compared to Blacks (about 10 percent) and Hispanics (8.5 percent). Use was lowest among Asians (4.5 percent).
- Between 2009 and 2010 and between 2017 and 2018, there was no significant change in the use of prescription opioids, while the use of prescription nonopioids rose.
Men seem especially prone to accidents, or unintentional injuries. This is the third leading cause of death among men. It's an issue for men that encompasses a variety of factors, including car accidents, falls, drug overdoses, safety problems at home and at the workplace and violence. Problems with the prostate, a gland located below the bladder in men that makes semen, can also occur. Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer are the three main problems that men can experience related to the prostate gland. Men can also experience sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction or low testosterone. Both men and women can become infected with HIV and develop AIDS, but gay men and black men have the highest rates of the disease. Let’s take a look at prostate problems as it related to diet. The prostate gland helps make semen, the fluid that contains sperm. Problems like an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer and prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, are common health problems for men as they grow older. One way that diet can affect the risk of prostate problems is through obesity. Several studies have shown that being obese increases the risk of prostate cancer and other prostate problems. Other studies have shown specific types of food to influence the overall risk for prostate cancer and other problems. For example, some research has shown that men who eat a lot of red meat and fatty dairy products, and not a lot of fruits and vegetables, increase their risk of getting prostate cancer. High calcium intake may also enhance risk, though it’s important to note that calcium has other health benefits for the body.
What to Eat and What to Avoid Eating for a healthy prostate is like maintaining a healthy diet overall. The focus should be on a variety of healthy foods, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Some studies have shown that lycopene, a carotenoid found in fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, apricots and watermelon, may help lower the risk of several cancers, including prostate cancer. Lycopene is easiest for the body to process when consumed through processed tomato products like tomato paste and puree. Unsaturated fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, olives and vegetable oils, should be emphasized over red meat. And it may also help to load up on spices that fight inflammation, like ginger, cinnamon and garlic.
Eating right may not be at the top of every young man's to-do list. But the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says by starting healthy eating habits in their 20s, young men can set themselves up for healthier adult lives. The academy offers this advice: Eat a nutritious breakfast each day. Have a healthy snack in the midmorning and midafternoon, which will boost energy and help avoid overeating at mealtimes. Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables daily. Opt for lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, pork and fish, over red meat. Include plant-based foods -- such as tofu, beans and lentils -- in your diet. Eat healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, walnuts, almonds and canola oil. Eat three servings of low-fat dairy each day to promote healthier bones. Get enough vitamin D by taking a supplement or by drinking fortified milk. Get enough iron by eating lots of leafy greens or by eating fortified cereal.
When the weather warms, we tend to spend more time outside with six-legged creatures that feast on our blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests how to prevent bug bites by applying insect repellent: Use only repellent that contains ingredients registered with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Spray repellent on clothes or skin, but not directly on the face. Don't use repellent on babies. On children, only use repellent that contains no more than 10 percent DEET. You can use oil-of-eucalyptus products on children over age 3. Don't use repellent that's meant for people on your pets. Always follow the label's instructions. Avoid applying repellant to children's hands, around the eyes, or on a cut or irritated skin. Store repellent out of children's reach. Wash repellent off with soap and water. Contact a Poison Control Center if anyone has a reaction to repellent.
Avoiding pesky mosquitoes Mosquito bites may be more than just an itchy annoyance -- they also can transmit deadly germs that cause diseases such as Zika, West Nile or dengue, the U.S. National Institutes of Health warns. Mosquito-borne illnesses kill about 725,000 people worldwide each year, the agency says. Here are the NIH's suggestions for avoiding mosquito bites: Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535 on the skin or thin clothing. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks. Install or repair screens to keep insects out. Use air conditioning, if available, and keep windows and doors shut. Get rid of bug breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet dishes and birdbaths.
Millions of Americans sweat their way through the work week. Ask anyone from welders to road construction crews to factory workers during a sweltering summer: Extremely hot and humid working conditions are not confined to tropical countries. If you're one of those getting hot under the collar at work, you should be aware of the many health problems associated with laboring in extreme heat. Extreme heat can lead to on-the-job accidents. It can cause less serious ills like heat cramps, prickly heat, and heat exhaustion. In rare cases, heat can even be deadly. Heat stroke occurs when the body's regulatory system fails and body temperature rises too high and can cause brain damage or death. As summer weather heats up, it is important to recognize symptoms of heat stroke. Normally, you regulate your body temperature by sweating. But in some cases, the body's temperature-control system is overtaxed and your temperature rises too quickly. Very high body temperature can cause damage to the brain and to other organs. People at highest risk of heat-related illness include infants and children up to 4 years old, people over 65, those who are overweight and those on certain medications. The CDC says symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Body temperature above 103 degrees F.
- Red, hot and dry skin, and little or no sweating.
- Rapid, strong pulse.
- Throbbing headache.
- Loss of consciousness.
The U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35 percent in the past two decades, health officials reported recently. From 1999 to 2018, the suicide rate rose from 10.5 to 14 per 100,000, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found the rate of suicide rose by about 1 percent a year from 1999 to 2006, then increased to 2 percent a year from 2006 through 2018. The report also shows that men are more likely to die by suicide than women, and people in rural areas are at greater risk than their urban counterparts. While the suicide rate rose for both men and women, it soared 55 percent among females compared with a 28 percent climb among males. Still, men are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives, researchers reported. In 2018, the male suicide rate was nearly 23 per 100,000, and for females it was slightly more than 6 per 100,000. The highest suicide rate among women was among those 45 to 64 years old. Among males, the rate was highest for those 75 and over. Researchers believe some of these suicides are what have been called deaths of despair -- including deaths due to drug and alcohol abuse. Many of these deaths of despair occur in rural areas where there are fewer economic opportunities. Poverty breeds hopelessness, loneliness and depression, all emotions that increase the risk for suicide, Singer said. The report noted some good news in the last few years of the study period. "After years of increase, the suicide rates for several demographic groups, including females aged 45 and over and males aged 45 to 64, have stabilized," researchers said. But suicide rates continued to increase for males and females aged 10 to 44, and men 65 and over, she said. In 2018, men and women in rural areas were more likely to die by suicide than city dwellers, the researchers found. Among males, for example, the rates ranged from 18 in cities to 31 in the most rural counties (per 100,000). For the study, CDC researchers used data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System. The numbers beg the question, "Why?" There's no easy answer, researchers echoed. There is concern that job losses and isolation related to current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders might result in a spike in suicides. On the other hand, being in lockdown with family might also be protective, researchers said. It's important to recognize signs of impending suicide. For more on suicide, see the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
Many doctors encourage seniors to use brain fitness games to help deal with dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases, says SeniorLiving.org. While research remains inconclusive, there appears to be a correlation between brain games and brain health. The website says brain games that may help seniors include: Memory games, such as Match and Simon. Word games, such as word searches and Scrabble. Electronic games, such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. Board games, such as Chess and Checkers. Interactive Wii and X-Box games. Trivia games, such as Trivial Pursuit.
Best Exercises for Brain Health There's a lot you can learn from your elders, starting with the results of a multi-year study of exercise and brain health in seniors. Researchers from Columbia University and the University of Miami compared results of two sets of brain scans and tests measuring memory and thinking skills in 876 seniors. The tests were done five years apart. The researchers found a greater mental decline for those who reported low-activity exercises, such as light walking and yoga, compared to those with high-activity levels and exercises like running and cardio workouts. The difference was equal to 10 years of brain aging, and that was after considering other factors that can influence brain health, such as excess weight, high blood pressure, smoking and drinking, according to the findings published in the journal Neurology. Researchers are also learning about the brain benefits of cardio exercise from lab studies -- those done on animals. One study found that sustained aerobic activity -- such as daily jogging for several miles at a moderate pace -- can encourage the growth of new brain cells, even later in life. Research into which specific cardio activities are best for each of the sexes is ongoing, so there's still more to learn. In the future, the goal is to learn more about how to individualize exercise for brain health. This isn't to say that other types of exercise aren't important parts of an overall fitness regimen. Strength training helps you stay independent, while yoga, other flexibility exercises and balance work help prevent dangerous falls and keep you limber. It may be hard to begin an exercise program if you've never been active, but it starts with your mindset: Don't think of exercise as a necessary evil, but rather as something positive you do for yourself because of all the things it gives back.
Today's teens are better at using birth control when they first become sexually active, but many unexpected pregnancies still occur, new research finds. Teens who didn't use birth control during their first month of sexual activity faced nearly a fourfold increase in the risk of an unwanted pregnancy within three months, the study found. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 see the highest rates of unintended pregnancy, according to background information in the study. Unintended pregnancies are also more common in Hispanic and black women, as well as in women in lower-income groups, the researchers said. Unplanned pregnancies are associated with delayed pregnancy care, premature birth and low birth weight. Lowering the rates of unintended pregnancy rates is a national public health priority, the researchers added. The average age at which female teens began having sex -- 17 -- didn't really change over the years. But the use of birth control did improve. The initiation of contraception before the first sexual experience rose from less than 10 percent in the 1970s to more than 25 percent in the 2000s. The rate of birth control initiation during the first sexual experience was about 40 percent. The most common method used was the male condom, the study said. Rates of timely birth control use (within the first month of sexual activity) were highest in white women, at around 85 percent. Hispanic women saw the most dramatic increase in early contraceptive use -- from 38 percent in the 1970s to 72 percent in 2010-2014. White women were the only racial group to see an increase in the use of what the researchers called "effective" contraception -- from 21 percent to a peak of 40 percent in the 2000s. Effective birth control methods were those with lower rates of pregnancy, including the IUD, hormonal implants, sterilization, and birth control pills and patches. Income also mattered. Those in the two highest groups were more likely to have timely use of effective methods of birth control. But women in the lowest income group saw a drop in the use of effective methods from 24 to 20 percent during the survey period. While the study wasn't designed to tease out the reasons for improved used of contraception around sexual debut, she suspects that increased access to birth control methods, such as condoms, as well as more education and awareness, likely played a role. She said pediatricians and parents can help by making sure teens are educated and have access to birth control methods. The study was published online Jan. 15 in Pediatrics.
Nearly half of U.S. workplaces now offer wellness programs, a new study finds. The larger the workplace, the more likely it was to have a wellness program, the survey revealed. Health promotion programs were offered by 39 percent of workplaces with 10 to 24 employees, 60% of workplaces with 50 to 99 employees, and 92 percent of workplaces with 500 or more employees, the report said. But the survey also found that many workplace programs focused only on certain areas of health and wellness, rather than taking a comprehensive approach. Nearly one-third of workplaces offered some type of program to address physical activity, fitness or inactivity. About one-fifth offered programs to help employees quit tobacco use, and about 17 percent had weight management/obesity programs, according to the study published April 22 in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Three factors were independent predictors of having a comprehensive health promotion program: having at least one person assigned to be responsible for the program; a budget; and several years of experience with health promotion programming. The survey is the most recent national poll of workplace health promotion programs, and the first of its kind in 13 years, the researchers said.
Starting in the late 1980s, stroke rates among older Americans began to fall -- and the decline shows no signs of stopping, a new study finds. The researchers found that between 1987 and 2017, the rate of stroke incidence among Americans aged 65 and older dropped by one-third per decade. The pattern has been steady, with no leveling off in recent years. It's not completely clear why, according to researchers. Over time, fewer older adults in the study were smokers, which is a major risk factor for stroke. On the other hand, some other risk factors -- such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes -- became more common. The findings are based on data from a long-running heart health study that began in 1987. At the outset, it recruited almost 15,800 adults aged 45 to 64 from communities in four U.S. states. A previous study found that the stroke rate among the participants fell between 1987 and 2011 -- a decline seen only among people aged 65 and older. The new analysis, published online Sept. 30 in JAMA Neurology, shows that the trend continued between 2011 and 2017. Over 30 years, researchers found, there were 1,028 strokes among participants aged 65 and older. The incidence dropped by 32 percent over time. In more recent years, many more older adults were on medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, versus the late 1980s. But risk factor control did not fully explain why the stroke rate dropped so much. Other factors not measured in the study -- including exercise, salt intake and overall diet -- might be involved. But while the latest findings are good news, there are also more sobering stroke statistics, Goldstein said. Although strokes are most common among people aged 65 and older, they strike younger adults, too, and the incidence of stroke among younger people has been inching up in recent years. Some of the warning signs include a drooping or numbness on one side of the face; arm weakness or numbness; slurred speech; sudden confusion or difficulty seeing or walking; or, as researchers described it, "the worst headache of your life." Their advice: "Don't delay getting help. Time saved is brain saved."