Health Highlights: Aug. 26, 2014

By on August 27, 2014

Health Highlights: Aug. 26, 2014

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

Blood Pressure Controlled Best by Patient: Study

Patients with hypertension who monitored their own blood pressure at home, and adjusted their medications accordingly, had better blood pressure readings after a year than those who were under the care of their doctor, a new study shows.

Although the patients who cared for themselves weren’t completely on their own, they did not have to consult their doctor every time they increased the dosage on their blood pressure drugs if it fell within the doctor’s general treatment plan, the Associated Press reported.

Why this was so wasn’t clear, but the researchers suggested that these patients might have been more vigilant in their own care than their doctor would have been, the AP reported. The findings were published Aug. 27 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Study author Richard McManus, a professor at the University of Oxford in England, said doctors may sometimes exercise what is called “clinical inertia,” or a tendency to not increase medication dosages even when blood pressure readings are high, the AP reported.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one in three Americans have high blood pressure but only about half of them have it under control.

In the study, 450 adults in England who had heart problems, stroke, diabetes or kidney disease were followed for a year, the wire service reported. Their average age was 70.

Average blood pressure measurements that were taken initially were about 143/80. That dropped to about 128/74 among the self-care patients and 138/76 in the group that received a doctor’s care, the AP reported.

If those levels stayed steady, the researchers estimated that those in the self-care group might eventually see a 30 percent reduction in stroke risk, compared with those in the standard care group, according to the AP.


New Anti-Tobacco Ad Targets Celebrity Smokers

A new anti-tobacco television ad that premiered during MTV’s Video Music Awards show Sunday night features unglamorous images of celebrities with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths.

The ad, which will be airing nationally, includes Kiefer Sutherland, Orlando Bloom, Lady Gaga and other famous people who were photographed smoking in their off time. The label “Unpaid tobacco spokesperson” appears repeatedly in the ad, which urges celebrities to stop helping promote the idea that smoking is cool, USA Today reported.

“Every time one of these photos gets posted, big tobacco gets tons of free marketing,” the ad declares.

It’s one in a series of ads that form the centerpiece of a new $50 million stop-smoking campaign by the anti-tobacco group Legacy, which is using money from a $206 billion settlement paid by tobacco companies in 1998, USA Today reported.


Ebola has ‘Upper Hand’ in Outbreak: CDC Director

While officials and health experts have the means to prevent Ebola from spreading, the deadly virus currently has the “upper hand” in an outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa, according to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Thomas Frieden made the comments Monday during a visit this week to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

“Lots of hard work is happening, lots of good things are happening,” Frieden said during a meeting in Liberia. “But the virus still has the upper hand.”

The outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever. The health care systems in the three countries have been overwhelmed and the virus continues to spread. However, Frieden believes the outbreak can be contained, the AP reported.

“Ebola doesn’t spread by mysterious means, we know how it spreads,” he said. “So we have the means to stop it from spreading, but it requires tremendous attention to every detail.”

Liberia — which has the most Ebola cases and deaths — has taken some of the most severe actions to contain the virus, including declaring a state of emergency, sealing off an entire slum neighborhood in the capital Monrovia, and requiring all top government officials to remain in the country or return home from trips, the AP reported.

Nigeria has also reported Ebola cases, but authorities there are confident that they can halt the spread of the virus.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has sickened 2,615 people and killed 1,427 of them, according to the World Health Organization. The 240 health care workers who have become infected — half of whom have died — is an unprecedented number, according to the agency.

WHO has said the high rate of Ebola infections among health care workers is due to an inadequate number of staff to treat the large number of patients, as well as a shortage, and improper use, of protective gear, the AP reported.

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