Nonprescription Antibiotic Use Could Lead to Public Health Issue

July 31st, 2019

Pill bottleSome people in the United States are using antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. That’s a public health problem that can increase drug resistance and make it harder to treat infections, according to a study published in the medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Nonprescription Antibiotic Use

Researchers gathered data on nonprescription antibiotic use in the U.S. from 31 studies conducted between 2000 and 2019. Nonprescription antibiotic use included obtaining, storing, taking or intending to take antibiotics without medical guidance.

Researchers tried to figure out what factors drove people to self-treat and use nonprescription antibiotics. The study cited several factors, including:

  1. Lack of transportation
  2. Long wait times at the doctor’s office
  3. Poor healthcare access

People got these nonprescription antibiotics through a variety of sources, including:

  • Family and friends
  • Flea markets
  • Health food stores
  • Leftover prescriptions
  • Local markets that sell antibiotics over-the-counter
  • Online venues
  • Pet stores

The study was published on July 22.

Consequences of Nonprescription Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics are powerful tools for fighting illnesses and disease, but overuse has helped create bacteria that are outliving the drugs used to treat them.

When people take nonprescription antibiotics, it could lead to resistance. Antibiotic resistance compromises doctors’ ability to treat infections and is a serious threat to public health. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) to resist the effects of drugs.

In the U.S., at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections.

Another problem with nonprescription antibiotic use is the risk of side effects. Antibiotics can cause severe allergic reactions or disruptions of the microbiome when normal bacteria in the body are killed off. 

Use antibiotics safely:

  • Don’t share or take leftover antibiotics: Toss any old ones you have in your medicine cabinet so they don’t get used inappropriately.
  • Don’t take antibiotics if you don’t need them
  • See your doctor if you have an infection you think is bacterial 

It is estimated that more than half of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed, commonly for cough and cold illnesses, most of which are caused by viruses. 

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Healthy Lifestyle Could Help Lower Dementia Risk

July 27th, 2019

Apple sitting next to small weightsA healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing dementia, even if you have genes that raise your risk, a large study has found.

New Study on Lifestyle and Dementia

People with high genetic risk and poor health habits were about three times as likely to develop dementia versus those with low genetic risk and good habits, researchers reported on July 14.

Regardless of how much genetic risk someone had a good diet, adequate exercise, limiting alcohol, and not smoking, made dementia less likely.  There are five simple steps you can take:

  1. Balanced diet
  2. Engage in mentally stimulating activities
  3. Moderate alcohol use
  4. No smoking
  5. Vigorous exercise for at least two and half hours a week

Researchers used the UK Biobank to study nearly 200,000 people 60 or older with no signs or symptoms of dementia at the start. Their genetic risk was classified as high, medium or low based on dozens of mutations known to affect dementia. They were also grouped by lifestyle factors.

After about eight years of study, 1.8 percent of those with high genetic risk and poor lifestyles had developed dementia, versus 0.6 percent of folks with low genetic risk and healthy habits. Among those with the highest genetic risk, just over one percent of those with favorable lifestyles developed dementia compared to nearly two percent of those with poor lifestyles.  

People who adopted four or five healthy lifestyle habits reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 60 percent compared to people who had only one of those healthy behaviors. People who added just one or more of those healthy habits to their lifestyle, regardless of how healthy they were when they started, saw their risk of Alzheimer’s drop by 22 percent.

The limitation is that researchers only had information on mutations affecting people of European ancestry, so it is not known whether the same is true for other racial and ethnic groups. The other limitation is that patients self-reported their own lifestyle.

Results of the study were discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles and published online by the “Journal of the American Medical Association.”

What is Dementia?

Dementia causes problems with thinking, memory and reasoning. It happens when the parts of the brain used for learning, memory, decision making, and language, are damaged or diseased. It is not a disease itself; it is a group of symptoms caused by other conditions.

Dementia can be split into two groups based on which part of the brain is affected:

  1. Cortical dementias: These happen because of problems in the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain. They play a critical role in memory and language. People with these types of dementia usually have severe memory loss and can’t remember words or form language.
  2. Subcortical dementias: These happen because of problems in parts of the brain beneath the cortex. People with subcortical dementias tend to show changes in their speed of thinking and ability to start activities.

Usually dementia goes through stages. The stages may vary depending on the area of the brain that is affected:

  1. No impairment: Someone at this stage will show no symptoms, but tests may reveal a problem.
  2. Very mild decline: You may notice slight changes in behavior, but the patient will still be independent.
  3. Mild decline: You’ll notice more changes in thinking and reasoning. The patient may have trouble making plans and repeat themselves a lot. He/she may also have a hard time remembering recent events.
  4. Moderate decline: The patient will have more problems with making plans and remembering recent events. He/she may have a hard time with traveling and handling money.
  5. Moderately severe decline: The patient may not remember his/her phone number. He/she may be confused about the time of day or day of the week. At this point, assistance with some basic day to day functions is needed.
  6. Severe decline: The patient will begin to forget names. He/she will need help going to the restroom and eating. There will also be changes in personality and emotions.
  7. Very severe decline: The patient can no longer speak his/her thoughts. He/she can no longer walk and spends most of the time in bed.

About five to eight percent of adults over age 65 have some form of dementia.

What IAA has to Say

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Trump Administration Sets Goals on Kidney Disease Treatment

July 17th, 2019

Kidney looking sick with thermomater in mouthOn July 10, the Trump Administration created goals to move more kidney disease treatment into patients’ homes and increase transplants, while reducing the United State’s reliance on dialysis.

Executive Order Regarding Kidney Disease

President Trump signed an executive order on goals for kidney disease treatment. The U.S. health agency said it would test new payment structures, including one that rewards end-stage renal disease facilities and doctors who meet targets in these areas.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said the government aims to reduce the number of Americans developing end-stage renal disease by 25 percent by 2030, to have 80 percent of new patients either receive dialysis at home or undergo kidney transplants by 2025 and to double the number of kidneys available for transplant by 2030.

Among the initiatives that take effect first:

1. Medicare payment changes that would provide a financial incentive for doctors and clinics to help kidney patients stave off end-stage renal disease.

2. Bonuses to kidney specialists who help prepare patients for early transplant, with steps that can begin before they need dialysis.

3. Additional Medicare changes so that dialysis providers can earn as much by helping patients get dialysis at home as in the large centers that predominate today.

Other initiatives will require new regulations expected to be proposed later this year. Among them:

  • Allowing reimbursement of lost wages and other expenses for living donors who can give one of their kidneys. The transplant recipient’s insurance pays the donor’s medical bills, but donors are out of work for weeks recuperating. One study found more than one-third of living kidney donors reported lost wages, an average of $2,712 in the year following the donation.
  • Clearer ways to measure how well the nation’s 58 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) collect donations from deceased donors. Today’s performance standards are self-reported, varying around the country, making it difficult for government regulators or the OPOs themselves, to take steps to improve. 

The U.S. government spends $114 billion each year to treat chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease describes the gradual loss of kidney function.  It occurs when a disease or condition impairs kidney function, causing kidney damage to worsen over several months or years.

Your kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and waste can build up in your body.

In the early stages of kidney disease, you may have few signs or symptoms. Chronic kidney disease may not become apparent until your kidney function is significantly impaired.

Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop over time if kidney damage progresses slowly. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Changes in how much you urinate
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • High blood pressure that’s difficult to control
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Persistent itching
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sleep problems
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Vomiting

More than 94,000 of the 113,000 people on the national organ waiting list need a kidney. In 2018, there were 21,167 kidney transplants. Of those, 6,442 were from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation’s transplant system.

What IAA has to Say

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Adults Should be Monitoring Their Blood Pressure at Home

July 10th, 2019

Blood pressure cuffA new study by the American Heart Association says adults should monitor blood pressure at home, in addition to being checked at the doctor’s office.

Your Real Blood Pressure

Nearly 93 percent of adults in the United States who have high blood pressure when measured in their doctor’s office and don’t take blood pressure medicine, meet the criteria for “white coat hypertension.” This is because their blood pressure is in an acceptable range when re-measured outside a medical setting. Meanwhile, about a third of adults in the U.S. experience “masked hypertension” because their blood pressure levels measured outside of the doctor’s office are more problematic than measurements at the doctor’s office. 

The study used the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines to determine that as many as 104 million Americans should use a blood pressure machine at home to provide backup for, or contrast with, the results from their visit to the doctor’s office. 

The study concedes there are barriers to widespread blood pressure monitoring at home: patient compliance, accuracy of the results, out-of-pocket costs of the device, and the time needed to instruct patients on how to take their blood pressure.

The study was published in the American Heart Association journal “Hypertension.”

Home Monitoring

People are considered to have high blood pressure if their systolic (top number) is 130 or higher and their diastolic (bottom number) is 80 or higher.

There are certain factors that can cause blood pressure to temporarily rise. Blood pressure normally rises as a result of:

  • Caffeine
  • Certain medicines
  • Cold temperatures
  • Exercise 
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Try to avoid as many of these factors as you can when taking your blood pressure. Before checking your blood pressure:

  1. Find a quiet place to check your blood pressure.
  2. Make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed with a recently emptied bladder (a full bladder may affect your reading).
  3. Roll up the sleeve of your arm or remove any tight sleeve clothing.
  4. Rest in a chair next to a table for five to 10 minutes. Your arm should rest comfortably at heart level. Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed. Rest your forearm on the table with the palm of your hand facing up.

It is important to measure at the same time every day.

What IAA has to Say

Monitoring your blood pressure at home or the doctor’s office is an important factor in leading a healthy life. Insurance Administrator of America knows you can keep your numbers within a heart healthy range! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Cosmetics are Sending Children to the ER

June 27th, 2019

Young children are being rushed to the emergency room because they’re ingesting their parents’ cosmetic products.

Cosmetics Poison Children

More than 64,000 kids in the United States younger than five years old had a cosmetic-related injury between 2002 and 2015, according to a study published on June 17 in the journal, “Clinical Pediatrics.”

Researchers looked at the type of product, route of exposure, location of the injury and other factors in children younger than five who were treated in United States emergency departments.

The authors defined cosmetic products as those that “cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness, or alter appearance.” These include:

  • Deodorants
  • Hair relaxers
  • Makeup
  • Moisturizers
  • Nail polish
  • Skin oils

The products were categorized into five groups, based on how they’re used: nail care, skin care, fragrance, and other, which included deodorants and makeup. 

The most common injuries came from nail care products (28.3%), followed by hair care products (27%), skin care products (25%), and fragrance (12.7%).

The study noted that from 1999 through 2015, cosmetics were the cause of seven deaths among children, according to the National Poison Data System.

The study also found that younger children had a higher risk for injury and hospitalization with the average rate of injury in children less than two years old being two times higher than children between the ages of two and four.

The findings came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that reports on injuries and poisonings involving consumer products.  The data came from about 100 U.S. hospitals, including eight children’s hospitals.

Stages of childhood development could account for these injury risks, the study’s authors wrote. By six months of age, many kids can crawl and grab things to put into their mouths. They can pull themselves upright and walk by the time they’re a year old, which allows them to close doors and reach across counters.

The study had limitations, including the fact that the data came only from U.S. emergency departments and didn’t include cases that were treated at home, urgent cares or pediatric offices.

Keep Your Children Safe

Unintentional injury is one of the top killers of children in the U.S. Prevention can eliminate almost all of these injuries. Take proper safety measures and childproofing steps to keep your family safe at home:

  • Install safety latches on cabinets and drawers to keep children from potentially poisonous household products
  • Keep potential food and potential poison separate; store them in different cabinets. Children can mistake the identity of products that look alike to them.
  • Make sure medication is in child-resistant containers
  • Return all products to storage immediately after use. Keep the products and your children in sight during use.
  • Safely discard into sealed, outdoor trash receptacle
  • Store medicines and other products in their original containers
  • Use doorknob covers to keep children away from rooms and other areas with hazards

The signs of poisoning in children are:

  • Cramps
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness
  • Foaming or burning of the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting

Each year on average, doctors in ERs across the country treat about 4,300 young children with cosmetic related injuries. Don’t let your child become a statistic.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to remember that safety is key. Keep your makeup and other cosmetics in a place your children cannot access. IAA knows you want to keep your children safe.

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