Ebola fears rise in U.S., but risk remains low

Oct. 21, 2014—Public fears of an impending U.S. Ebola outbreak have grown in the wake of confirmed cases of the disease in this country.

The number of people worried that a family member will get Ebola is also higher today than when the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) first surveyed American attitudes in August.

But the risk of a major outbreak in this country remains very low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite cases of transmission in the U.S., the fact remains that Ebola isn’t that easy to spread.

Ebola: The polls vs. the facts

HSPH followed up its August poll with a similar survey conducted from Oct. 8 through Oct. 12. The second survey involved 1,004 adults.

Here are some of the poll results, followed by facts from CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Poll: Most people (85 percent) believe Ebola can be transmitted by the sneeze or cough of an infected person.

FACT: Ebola spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Bodily fluids include blood, saliva, vomit and feces (diarrhea is a symptom of Ebola). The fluids can come directly from the person or from contaminated items (syringes, clothing or bedding). Direct contact means contact with broken skin or mucous membranes, such as the eyes, mouth or nose. Ebola is not spread by air or water. As such, Ebola infections can spread via cough or sneeze only to someone in direct contact with the ill person—not to someone standing even a few feet away.

Poll: About half (49 percent) believe the virus is “very likely” to spread from an infected person.

FACT: People need to be in very close contact to get Ebola from an infected person. That’s why many of those who have contracted the disease are health care workers. Health care providers and family who have regular, intimate contact with a sick person’s bodily fluids have the highest risk of getting the disease.

Poll: More than half (52 percent) worry the U.S. will see a large Ebola outbreak in the next 12 months.

FACT: The three West African countries that have been the most severely affected recently experienced long periods of conflict and political instability, with very weak health systems and few resources left to them. The U.S. health system bears little resemblance to those of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

You can read a summary of the HSPH’s October poll here.

The take-home message

There’s little risk of a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

You can read the latest updates about Ebola—and learn the history of the virus—at CDC’s Ebola website. To learn how Ebola spreads—and does not spread—check out this infographic.

 

Live near a busy road?

Oct. 19, 2014—There’s no denying that living near a noisy, crowded roadway can be annoying. But that’s not all. If you’re a woman, it could also put your heart health in jeopardy, according to findings of a new American Heart Association study. (Men, you’re not off the hook: The study was limited to women, so more research is needed.)

About the study

For middle-aged and elderly women, living in close proximity to a major road may increase their risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest—that’s when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and stops beating without warning. If not treated promptly, death can be the result.

Researchers studied data from over 100,000 women collected from 1988 to 2012 and calculated participants’ residential distance to roadways. After adjusting for factors like age, race, smoking, diet and physical activity, they found that women who lived within 164 feet (the width of a soccer field) of a major road were 38 percent more likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to those who lived at least 0.3 miles away. Each 328-foot (just less than a football field) increase in proximity to a major road increased risk of sudden cardiac death by 6 percent.

The results suggest that where you live could play as much of a role in your heart health as factors like smoking, diet or obesity. The culprit, experts said, may be air pollution, which is associated with increased inflammation and oxidative stress. Exposure to stressful noise caused by traffic, which is linked to heart rate and cardiac input, could also be a factor.

Still, researchers caution that more work is needed to fully understand how roadway exposure affects heart health. This study was unable to measure every possible risk factor associated with living near a major road. And it didn’t examine traffic’s effects on men and women of different ages and races.

Read the full study here.

The take-home message
Living near a major roadway may increase the risk for sudden cardiac death. The culprit, in part, may have to do with heightened exposure to particle pollution. Particle pollution is made up of tiny, sometimes invisible pieces of things—like dirt, dust, soot or smoke—that are in the air.Breathing in particle pollution may increase your risk for a heart attack (which increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest) if you have heart disease. On poor air quality days when particle pollution is high, consider:

  • Spending more time inside
  • Avoiding busy roads and highways
  • Choosing activities that don’t force you to breathe as hard. For instance, choosing to walk instead of run.

Minimizing exposure to air pollution is just one of the many steps you can take to protect your heart. Regardless of where you live, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and managing stress all play a role in keeping your heart healthy.

 

Improve recovery for younger heart attack patients with social support

Oct. 17, 2014—If you know a young or middle-aged person who’s had a heart attack, make a point of offering your support. Without social support from their family and friends, younger patients are more likely to have depression and other risk factors for ongoing cardiac disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

About the study

In this study, 3,432 male and female heart attack patients, ages 18 to 55, were surveyed at one month after their heart attacks and again at 12 months after. They answered questions about how much social support they had. The researchers defined social support as the perception of having family or friends who do one or more of the following:

  • Provide companionship and act as confidants
  • Offer advice and information
  • Display emotional concern
  • Give financial or material support

The surveys revealed that 728 (21 percent) of the patients had low social support. Compared with patients who had moderate or high social support, these 728 men and women were more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol. They also tended to be single, unemployed and living alone.

One month after having a heart attack, patients with low social support were more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes and depression—known risk factors for heart disease.

On average, both one month and 12 months after a heart attack, patients who claimed low social support also reported lower mental functioning, lower quality of life and more symptoms of depression.

Previous studies have shown that, compared to older adults, younger men and women in general require larger social networks to maintain a sense of well-being. In addition, their support networks tend to have fewer family members but more friends and co-workers. Yet their stage of life—which often includes dealing with work stress and raising kids—can compromise these support networks.

For women, low social support may be, in part, the result of a tendency to put their role as caretaker for others ahead of taking care of their own health , according to background information in the study.

With or without social support, heart attack patients between 18 and 55 have a low mortality rate. But this study suggests that without sufficient social support, younger patients may experience other negative health outcomes and could benefit from more support from friends and family to reduce their risk.

To learn more, read the full study.

The take-home message
Friends can mean a lot to a heart attack patient—especially those who are younger. Your companionship to someone surviving a heart attack could improve the way he or she recovers. To provide concrete support to someone who has had a heart attack, consider:

  • Delivering a heart-healthy home-cooked meal
  • Lending an ear, on the phone or in person
  • Offering to walk together regularly
  • Giving financial support if it is needed
  • Providing transportation to doctors’ appointments
  • Helping your friend find community resources for home care

If you are struggling with social support after surviving a heart attack, you may want to consider joining a support group to meet people and learn more about coping with heart disease.

Depression can raise the risk for future cardiac problems, so it’s important to seek treatment.

 

Schedule a group mammogram today!

Take care of what’s really important – your health.

A yearly mammogram could save your life!

Group Mammogram Events are being offered by ‘Ohana, Memorial’s Mammography center.    We can host groups of ladies from work, clubs/organizations, or family and friends.   Scheduling a group event will allow you to enjoy your annual screening mammogram in a fun, friendly, supportive environment.

Event guidelines:
Screening mammograms only – asymptomatic
Participants must be at least 40 years of age
Participants need to be established with a primary care provider

Door prizes and complimentary healthy snacks are provided for groups of ten (10) or more.

Appointment requirements are:
1 hour for 10 people
1.5 hours for 10-15 people
2.5 hours for 15-30 people

We welcome the opportunity to serve the mammogram needs of your group.

If you are interested in scheduling a group event, please contact Brenda at (509) 574-3874, or you can request additional information by email: brendabishop@yvmh.org.

It’s not too late to participate in the breast cancer campaign – stop by ‘Ohana or visit keepsupportlocal.org throughout the month of October to make a donation. Your donation supports breast cancer screenings for women in need and helps to ensure our community has the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all Yakima Valley women. Donate today!

Are you at risk for Breast Cancer?

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Dr. Vicky Jones, medical oncologist at North Star Lodge Cancer Care Center, and genetic counselor Susie Ball appeared on KIT 1280 on Oct. 14, 2014, to discuss breast cancer risks and genetic screening.

Memorial provides a continuum of cancer care, from screening and diagnosis through treatment and survivorship. Your support for cancer care services in this community stays local, so visit keepsupportlocal.org to make a contribution today.

About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes – more than a quarter million women estimated this year. Roughly 40,000 women die from the disease annually, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Actress Angelina Jolie grabbed headlines last year for her announcement that she had undergone a double mastectomy after testing positive for a genetic mutation that increased her risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

  • Recent studies show that Jolie’s decision, now dubbed the “Angelina Effect,” resulted in a surge in women in the United Kingdom and Canada undergoing genetic tests for breast cancer in the months since. Researchers also found that it was women with a family history of breast cancer who were being appropriately referred for additional screening.

However, most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Only 5-10 percent of those cancers are inherited, and sometimes, the fact that Aunt Betty had cancer doesn’t necessarily mean her niece will develop any cancer, let alone the same cancer.

So when does “a family history” mean you should undergo genetic testing?

The key to genetic testing: genetic counseling. Any woman who believes she may have inherited a gene mutation and be at higher risk could benefit from genetic counseling. Ultimately, a counselor can help to determine whether screening is necessary, which test or tests to perform, and help to ensure it’s paid for by insurance. Most insurance policies will cover genetic testing if it’s documented as worthwhile.

What factors does a genetic counselor consider when reviewing a cancer patient’s case?

Genetic counselors consider several factors, including:

  • the type of cancer (whether it’s the same cancer the family member experienced)
  • unusual cases, such as a male family member with breast cancer
  • bilateral cancer, meaning the cancer is in both breasts or in both ovaries
  • early age of onset

Women who inherit the gene change have a higher chance that they will get cancer than other people, but that doesn’t mean they will get it. There isn’t any one breast cancer gene.

Does a gene mutation change how cancer is treated?

If a gene is found to be abnormal, it doesn’t change how breast cancer is managed. It changes how frequently medical providers monitor for cancer in patients who are currently cancer-free, or how they monitor for new cancers in patients already diagnosed, she says.

What should women do in the meantime?

The most common risk factors for breast cancer are things that can’t be changed: being a woman, age and ethnicity. Women should continue their own due-diligence with self exams and mammograms to catch cancers early. And live a healthy lifestyle – maintain a healthy weight, get proper nutrition and exercise and limit alcohol.

For more information, visit northstarlodge.org or yakimamemorial.org. To contribute to local cancer care services, visit keepsupportlocal.org.

Heart attack: Calling 911 can improve time to treatment

Oct. 14, 2014—If you thought you were having a heart attack, would you call 911 for help? Or would you find some other way to get to the hospital?

You should call 911. You’re likely to initiate faster treatment by having an ambulance called to the scene than if you were to wait until arriving at the emergency room by other means.

That wisdom has been reaffirmed by a study published in the journal Cardiovascular Revascularization Medicine. It found that how you get to the hospital during a heart attack could determine how quickly can begin to receive life-saving treatment.

Differences measured in hours

Researchers reviewed the emergency department records at a Washington, District of Columbia, hospital from 2007 through 2012. They looked at those who came to the emergency department because of a heart attack—specifically, a severe heart attack caused by a fully blocked heart artery. The study involved 309 people total.

Of those, 83 arrived by ambulance and 226 came by self-transport, including driving themselves, being brought in by a friend or relative, or arriving by taxi or public transportation.

The researchers looked at how much time elapsed for each patient from the start of symptoms until artery-opening treatment. They further broke down symptom-to-treatment time into five midpoints—for example, the time from having symptoms to arriving at the emergency department and the time spent in being assessed (triaged) at the hospital.

The researchers then compared the timelines of ambulance riders to self-transporters.

Some of the most significant findings:

  • Symptoms to arrival. It took nearly twice as long for self-transporters to arrive at the hospital than for ambulance riders.
  • Time in emergency department. Self-transporters spent twice as much time in triage as ambulance riders.
  • Arrival to treatment. While more than 80 percent of ambulance riders received treatment within the recommended time of less than 90 minutes, only approximately 54 percent of self-transporters were treated within the recommended time.

You can read the full study here.

Why calling 911 makes such a difference

The hospital didn’t give special treatment to people who arrived by ambulance. Both ambulance riders and self-transporters had to be processed through the emergency department. Once patients made it through triage, the timelines for the two groups became similar.

But the people who called 911 arrived with a number of advantages:

  • The ambulance’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs) immediately provided aid that continued until they arrived at the hospital.
  • The EMTs called the hospital in advance, allowing staff to prepare for a patient having a heart attack.
  • Triage was shortened because the EMTs had already supplied much of the information needed.

 

The take-home message
Call 911 if you suspect a heart attack. You can learn about the symptoms using this infographic.

A heart attack isn’t a static event. The damage to your heart worsens with each passing minute. The quicker you get help, the better your chances of survival.

 

300 pink bras donated to YWCA

Remember those 300 pink bras Memorial displayed to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Nancy  Roehr (left), director of ‘Ohana Mammography Center, donated the bras today to the YWCA of Yakima on behalf of Memorial Family of Services and The Memorial Foundation. Many thanks to Amy Flynn, Erin Black and everyone at the YWCA of Yakima for providing much-needed resources to women in our community!

ywcadonation

And it’s not too late to participate in the breast cancer campaign – stop by ‘Ohana or visit keepsupportlocal.org throughout the month of October to make a donation. Your donations support breast cancer screenings for women in need and help to ensure our community has the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all Yakima Valley women. Donate today >>

Happy feet: Group nature walks may lower stress

Oct. 13, 2014—Take a walk on the wild side with a few friends, and chances are you’ll come out of the green in a happier mood. That’s because group walks in nature don’t just improve cardiovascular health; they also appear to relieve depression and perceived stress according to a large-scale study published in the journal Ecopsychology.

The wisdom of walking with others

The research was based on online questionnaires completed by 1,991 men and women who participated in the Walking for Health program based in England. This program facilitates nearly 3,000 walks each week, bringing together more than 70,000 regular walkers a year.

Of the 1,516 men and women whose questionnaires were deemed valid for the researchers’ final analysis, 1,081 had participated in group walks in nature while 435 had walked, but not in groups.

Researchers found that men and women who had recently experienced stressful life events—such as a serious illness, the death of a loved one, unemployment or a marital separation—felt a mood boost after walking outdoors with other people. On average, those who attended group walks in nature reported:

  • Significantly lower depression
  • Less perceived stress
  • Greater mental well-being

Before this study, little formal research had been done to evaluate positive mental well-being as a potential outcome of group exercise. You can read the study here.

 

The take-home message
Walking can be moderate-intensity exercise that’s inexpensive and safe for many*. All you need to get started is a pair of sturdy walking shoes. And hoofing it for at least half an hour on five days every week has more benefits than you can shake a walking stick at, including:

  • Strengthening your heart and reducing your risk for coronary artery disease.
  • Improving your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Helping you maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Reducing your risk for breast and colon cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
  • Easing your mind.
  • Getting your creative juices flowing—especially if you do it outdoors.

People who walk in groups are more likely to stick with the exercise. So for regular physical activity that busts stress, sparks new ideas and gets your heart pumping, grab a friend or two and find a safe place to walk and enjoy nature.

Don’t have a sole-mate? Check for local walking groups at www.mywalkingclub.org, or meet people at a charity walking event.

To help you on your journey, here are some more tips and info on how to start walking toward better health.

If walking doesn’t chase away a particularly bad case of the blues—or if you’re concerned about other mental health issues—discuss treatment options with your primary care provider. You can also explore your symptoms with Mental Health America’s screening tool.

 

*Men over age 40 and women over age 50 should consider talking to their doctors before embarking on a new exercise program.

Changes in skirt size linked to breast cancer risk

Oct. 10, 2014—Going up a skirt size might mean something worse than going shopping for new clothes—it could mean a greater risk of breast cancer.

A recent study found that going up a full skirt size every decade between age 25 and menopause increased a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer after menopause by 33 percent, compared to women whose skirt sizes didn’t change.

The study

Researchers studied almost 93,000 women in the United Kingdom between 2005 and 2010. Participants were all over 50, postmenopausal and not known to have breast cancer when they entered the study.

The women completed detailed questionnaires about their health, habits and family histories. In particular, the researchers looked at data relating to known risk factors for breast cancer, including height, weight, body mass index (BMI), use of hormone replacement therapy, treatment for infertility and a family history of breast cancer. The women also recorded their current skirt sizes and what they were in their 20s.

After three to four years, the researchers followed up with the participants and found that 1,090 women had developed breast cancer during the study period. That means the absolute risk of breast cancer for all women in the study was just over 1 percent. As expected, the researchers found increased breast cancer risk among women who had known risk factors, including infertility treatment, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and use of hormone replacement therapy.

Eyes on the size

After accounting for known breast cancer risk factors, researchers identified skirt size increase as an additional risk factor.

At age 25, women in the study had an average skirt size of a U.K. 12 (equivalent to an 8 in the U.S.). When they entered the study, the average skirt size was U.K. 14, or U.S. 10. Skirt size increased over adulthood for 3 out of 4 participants.

Researchers found that going up one full skirt size every 10 years increased a woman’s breast cancer risk by 33 percent. They also found that an increase of two full skirt sizes within 10 years was associated with a 77 percent increase in relative risk. There are no odd-numbered sizes in the U.K., so a jump from 12 to 14 was one full size.

The researchers found that the association of skirt size increase with breast cancer risk was independent of known risk factors such as weight or BMI. They noted that comparing current and previous skirt sizes in postmenopausal women appeared to be a better predictor of breast cancer risk than BMI.

Learn more about the study in the online journal BMJ Open.

The take-home message
Risk factors are just that—factors. They don’t mean that you’ll definitely get a disease, and many women who develop breast cancer have no apparent risk factors.

However, this study suggests that the link between weight gain around the waist and breast cancer risk is real. According to the American Cancer Society, extra weight in the abdomen may affect breast cancer risk more than fat on the thighs or hips.

Keeping an eye on your skirt size can be a simple way to monitor weight gain around your waist. This information can help you make informed decisions about diet and exercise too.

Work with your physician to monitor your health, your weight and your risk factors. To learn more about what health factors may put you at greater risk for developing breast cancer, take this breast cancer risk assessment.

Memorial’s “Can We Talk?” speaker series focuses on Medicare

(Yakima) – Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital wants to help you navigate Medicare.

Memorial’s “Can We Talk?” speaker series this month features Rick MacDermid of Solomon Financial Group, who focuses on the 50 and older health and insurance marketplace. As open enrollment begins this month, learn pointers for navigating this complex but crucial program.

The talk will be at 11 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Harman Senior Center, located at 101 N. 65th Ave.

“Can We Talk?” is a monthly speaker series offering tips to start the difficult conversation about preparing for end of life. Topics to be covered each month include hospice and palliative care, availability of community resources, opportunity for volunteering, veterans programs and more.