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Health Capsules: June 21

Men of all ages are encouraged to live healthier during National Men’s Health Month.

For men only

Past research has shown that men are 25 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor over the past year, and almost 40 percent more likely to skip recommended age-appropriate health screenings. During National Men’s Health Month in June, men of all ages are encouraged to make their health a priority. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered the following simple steps men can take to improve their overall health and solve small problems before they become big ones.

Get enough sleep. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough has been linked with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and obesity.

Eliminate tobacco. Even for longtime smokers, quitting has many benefits including a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses. Avoiding secondhand smoke is also a must, because it causes serious health problems as well – especially for babies and children, who should be kept away from smokers at all times.

• Make time for exercise. All adults should get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, and should do some type of strengthening activity on two or more days a week to exercise major muscle groups. Dividing exercise into smaller amounts of time during the day doesn’t diminish its benefits.

• Eat a variety of healthy foods. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily is important for their nutritional and disease-fighting benefits, along with lean protein and whole grains. Limit intake of foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt and fat. As far as alcohol is concerned, limit intake to no more than two drinks per day.

• Keep stress in check. Everyday stress is unavoidable; however, excessive stress has been linked in studies to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and other serious problems.

• Get regular checkups. Certain diseases and health conditions have no symptoms until they are serious, so visiting a doctor every year helps identify those issues before it’s too late. Know your important health numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol level and body mass index. Between checkups, symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath should prompt an immediate medical visit.


U.S. life expectancy statistics vary widely by area 

Babies born today in the U.S. may have shorter expected lifespans than their parents did decades ago, depending on where they live. A new study comparing mortality data by county from 1980 and 2014 found that the gap between counties with the highest and lowest life expectancies has widened significantly over that period, by more than 20 years in some areas.

Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, had the lowest life expectancy in America in 2014 at 66.8 years, while Summit County, Colorado, had the highest at 86.8 years. For the U.S. as a whole, life expectancy has increased by about five years since 1980, from 74.07 to 79.08 years.

Missourians’ life expectancy increased by exactly four years over the 35-year period, from 73.73 to 77.73, while St. Louis County residents in 2014 had a higher-than-average 79.49-year expected lifespan, compared to 75 years in 1981. Although much of the U.S. saw increases in life expectancy since 1980, areas of Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama and several states located along the Mississippi River had a lower life expectancy in 2014 than 30 years earlier.

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation [IHME], located at the University of Washington in Seattle, conducted the comparison study. They also examined the risk of dying among five age groups, as well as the extent to which health risk factors, socioeconomics and race, and healthcare access contributed to the growing inequality in expected lifespan by area.

“Looking at life expectancy on a national level masks the massive differences that exist at the local level, especially in a country as diverse as the United States,” said lead author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, a researcher at IHME. “Risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and smoking explain a large portion of the variation in lifespans, but so do socioeconomic factors like race, education, and income.”

The authors claimed that those health risks, and resulting illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, explained 74 percent of the variation in lifespans by county. They proposed that a combination of socioeconomic factors – poverty, income, education, unemployment and race – were independently related to 60 percent of the inequality, and access to quality healthcare contributed to 27 percent.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Life expectancy data for every U.S. county can be viewed online, using IHME’s Health Map interactive tool, by visiting https://vizhub.healthdata.org/subnational/usa.

“Extreme” binge drinking becoming common among adults

Almost 32 million American adults, or 13 percent of the population over age 18, have consumed more than double the number of drinks considered binge-level drinking at least once over a one-year period, according to a recent survey analysis. This “extreme” level of drinking is associated with increased health and safety risks, and is especially significant considering that more than 50,000 Americans die every year from injuries and overdoses associated with high blood alcohol levels. Compared to past surveys, the number of adults who binge drink at an extreme level also appears to be rising. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], part of the National Institutes of Health.

Binge drinking, defined as having four or more drinks on one occasion for women and five or more drinks on one occasion for men, often produces blood alcohol levels above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving in the U.S. However, the survey found that many adults drink far beyond that level, defined as extreme binge drinking.

The NIAAA study analyzed three levels of past-year binge drinking by sex. These levels were defined as four to seven drinks, eight to 11 drinks, and 12 or more drinks on a single occasion for women; and five to nine drinks, 10 to 14 drinks, and 15 or more drinks on one occasion for men.

After controlling for factors including age, race, sex, marital status, education, drug use and smoking, people who drank at the three extreme binge levels, compared to those who did not binge drink, were far more likely to be injured or require an alcohol-related emergency department visit; have an alcohol use disorder; be arrested or have legal problems because of alcohol use; or be the driver in an alcohol-related traffic crash. For example, “level three” binge drinkers were 93 times more likely than non-binge drinkers to have an alcohol-related emergency room visit.

“As a society, we are justifiably concerned about extreme binge drinking among underage individuals and college students. This study indicates that other groups in the U.S. population also engage in this harmful behavior and are at increased risk for adverse consequences,” said Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., director of the NIAAA Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. The study appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Cookbooks found lacking in food safety guidance

Although popular cookbooks provide step-by-step instructions for preparing delicious recipes, the vast majority of them give little to no guidance on preparing foods safely – and even when they do, their advice is inaccurate, a recent study found.

“Cookbooks tell people how to cook, so we wanted to see if cookbooks were providing any food-safety information related to cooking meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, and whether they were telling people to cook in a way that could affect the risk of contracting foodborne illness,” said Ben Chapman, an associate professor of agricultural and human sciences at North Carolina State University. Chapman’s research team evaluated a total of 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for food and diet books. All of the recipes made reference to handling raw animal ingredients: meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. They evaluated each recipe according to three specific questions:

• Does the recipe tell readers to cook the dish to a specific internal temperature?

• For recipes that do include a temperature, is it one that has been shown to be safe [for example, cooking chicken to 165°F]?

• Does the recipe perpetuate food-safety myths – such as telling readers to cook poultry until the juices “run clear” – that are unreliable ways to determine if the dish has reached a safe temperature?

Their analysis found that only 123 recipes, or 8 percent of those reviewed, indicated a specific internal temperature for the dish, and about a third of those mentioned a temperature not high enough to be safe. Nearly all [99.7 percent] of the recipes they analyzed provided subjective information such as cooking time, which can vary widely based on differences in pan size, cooking equipment and other variables.

Quick reference information about safe cooking temperatures can be found online at www.fsis.usda.gov or at www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.


On the calendar

St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors Babysitting 101 on Saturday, June 24 from 1-5 p.m. at Kisker Road Branch Library, 1000 Kisker Road in St. Charles. Topics covered in the class provide an introduction for babysitters of all ages and include child development, safety and first aid, the business of babysitting, and fun and games. A workbook and light snack are provided; cost is $30 per person. To register, call (314) 344-5437.

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An American Red Cross Community Blood Drive is held on Friday, June 30 from 1-5 p.m. at two locations: Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Medical Office Building I; and Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Appointments are not required, but may speed the donation process. Use sponsor codes BJSTPETERS or PROGRESS WEST when signing up online at www.redcrossblood.org or by phone at (800) 733-2767.

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Free health screenings are available on Wednesday, July 12 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Screening tests include lung function and blood pressure checks, cholesterol lipid panel, glucose panel, body composition analysis and body mass index [BMI] calculation.  Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. Preregistration is required and is available online at www.bjcstcharlescounty.org or by calling (636) 928-9355.

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