Health Highlights: July 21, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Fewer Americans See Smoking as Risky: Survey

Fewer Americans perceived a serious risk from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day in 2008-2009 than they did in 2007-2008, a nationwide survey by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released Thursday found.

The percentage of people who perceived a serious smoking risk dropped from 73.7 percent to 72.3 percent among all survey participants. Teens showed an even greater drop in perceived smoking risk during the span, from 69.3 percent in 2007-2008 to 67.7 percent in 2008-2009, the survey found. No state posted in an increase in the perceived risk of smoking, an agency news release said.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health interviewed more than 137,000 people during 2008-2009. Among the report's additional findings:

  • No state reported an increase in illicit drug use between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009. Among people aged 12 to 17, illicit drug use fell in 17 states during the period.
  • The 10 states and the District of Columbia that had the highest rates of illicit drug use during the prior month among people 12 and older also led the nation in marijuana use during the same period. In alphabetical order, those locales were: Alaska, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
  • Between 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, 11 states showed declines in cocaine use among people 12 and older.
  • Rhode Island led the United States in terms of the number of people age 18 and older with serious mental illness (7.2 percent), while Hawaii and South Dakota shared the lowest rate (3.5 percent).

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Heart Disease Tops Most Costly Conditions for Women

Heart disease leads the list of the costliest diseases and medical conditions among women in the United States, with expenses topping $43.6 billion, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Published in the agency's regular News and Numbers report, the findings covered 2008, the most recent year for which statistics were available.

Rounding out the list of the top 10 most-costly conditions among women were:

  • Cancer
  • Mental disorders
  • Trauma-related disorders
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Back problems
  • High cholesterol

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Sales Resume of Frogs Linked to Salmonella

Sales have resumed of African dwarf frogs linked to a salmonella outbreak that made more than 240 people sick, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

Blue Lobster Farms, based in Madera County, Calif., voluntarily suspended sales of the frogs after the illnesses. Most of those sickened were children, some younger than age 5, the Associated Press reported. No one died, although some victims were hospitalized.

The CDC said it wasn't happy about the resumption of sales of the frogs, which could still pose a serious health risk.

The agency warned that young children, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems should avoid contact with water frogs and their tanks.

The wire service reported it could not reach the company for comment.

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Missing Sperm Protein May Lead to Infertility

A protein that normally coats sperm that swim to an egg may contribute to infertility if the protein is missing, California researchers said Wednesday.

About 20 percent of men may have a gene mutation that leads to an absence of the key protein, University of California, Davis, researchers said. Of 500 Chinese couples they interviewed who were attempting to bear a child, birth rates were 30 percent lower among couples in which the male had the gene mutation, the Associated Press reported.

The finding could lead to a test that screens for the problem, which could be resolved by methods such as having sperm implanted directly into the uterus, the wire service said.

Posted: July 2011


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