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Health Highlights: July 19, 2012

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

'Polypill' Could Slash Heart Attack, Stroke Rates: Study

A "polypill" that combines a cholesterol-lowering statin drug and three blood pressure drugs reduced patients' "bad" LDL cholesterol by 39 percent and their blood pressure by 12 percent, according to a new study.

The U.K. researchers said the pill could prevent a huge number of heart attacks and strokes each year and called for regulators to make the pill available to patients "as a matter of urgency," BBC New reported.

"The health implications of our results are large," Dr. David Wald of Queen Mary, University of London, said."If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28 percent would benefit by avoiding or delaying a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime."

If half of the people over age 50 in the U.K. took the polypill daily, there would be 94,000 fewer heart attacks and strokes each year, according to the researchers.

The results from the study of 84 people over the age of 50 were published in the journal PLoS One.

While the pill's potential is interesting, medicines are not a substitute for healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, good nutrition and not smoking, Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.


Oregon Man Upbeat After Surviving Black Plague

An Oregon man infected with the black plague will have his fingers and toes amputated next week but knows he is lucky to be alive, his niece says.

Paul Gaylord, 59, contracted the deadly disease from the family cat in early June. He is recovering at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., ABC News reported.

While he won't be able to continue his work as a welder, Gaylord is upbeat and understands that he was lucky to survive the infectious disease that was prevalent in medieval times.

"He is so positive. He's very positive, eating and exercising his hands and fingers, trying to move them. He's just happy to be alive," his niece Andrea Gibb told ABC News.

Only five to 10 cases of the black plague occur each year in the United States, mostly in the southwestern part of the country, according to Sue Straley, a professor and plague expert at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

The disease is carried by fleas and can infect humans and animals, she told ABC News.


8 Million People Worldwide Have Access to HIV Drugs

More than eight million HIV-positive people worldwide are now receiving antiretroviral drugs to treat the infection, UNAIDS said Wednesday. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The agency said that 54 percent of the estimated 14.8 million people worldwide who require antiretroviral drugs now have access to them, Agence France-Presse reported.

In 2010, 6.6 million people had access to the drugs.

UNAIDS said this success "puts the international community on track to reach the goal of 15 million people with HIV receiving treatment by 2015," a goal unanimously agreed by UN member states.

The figures were released in Washington in advance of the International AIDS Conference next week, AFP reported.


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Posted: July 2012