Beyond Ebola: 7 Health Headlines You Can’t Ignore
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Beyond Ebola: 7 Health Headlines You Can’t Ignore

A deadly virus captured our attention, but these stories are just as crucial.

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There’s no doubt that the Ebola virus was the biggest health story of 2014. So big, in fact, that Time magazine chose The Ebola Fighters as its Person of the Year. According to the CDC, the virus has so far claimed the lives of approximately 6,300 adults and children, primarily in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the epidemic continues unabated. Only four cases have been diagnosed in the U.S.

Yet there were plenty of other notable health headlines and advances this year. None are nearly as attention-grabbing as Ebola, but the reality is that many of these issues are even more relevant for the average American.

Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

2 / 8 Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

The details: The World Health Organization issued a report earlier this year calling antibiotic resistance a global threat to public health. “A post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can kill … is a very real possibility for the 21st Century," the report warns. 

Our expert says: “This new report is horrifying,” says integrative medicine expert Robin Miller, MD. “We’ve watched as TB and gonorrhea have become more resistant to treatment. It appears that common infections are becoming resistant as well.” Now more than ever, she says, “It’s crucial for the public to be educated about the importance of vaccination … and to take antibiotics only when necessary.”

Eating Too Much Meat is as Bad as Smoking

3 / 8 Eating Too Much Meat is as Bad as Smoking

The details: A recent study revealed that people who eat a lot of meat are more likely to die earlier than those who eat less animal protein. The researchers examined the health and diet records of 6,300 Americans and found that people between 50 and 65 who got more than 20 percent of their calories from animal protein were 75 percent more likely to die during the study’s 18 years of follow-up, compared with people who ate low amounts.

Our expert says: There’s no need to swear off meat forever, says Sharecare’s Chief Medical Officer Keith Roach, MD. “I think it supports recommendations to eat less,” he says. “Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and when you do eat meat, choose lean cuts.”

Needle-Free Meds for Allergy Sufferers

4 / 8 Needle-Free Meds for Allergy Sufferers

The details: If springtime is sniffle and sneeze season for you, there’s a new way to combat symptoms: Prescription under-the-tongue tablets that you start three to four months before allergy season, depending on the medication. The medications Oralair, Grastek and Ragwitek, all approved by the FDA last spring, work the same way as allergy shots in that they boost your tolerance of allergy triggers.

Our expert says: “These medications are good for people with single type allergies who don’t want to get allergy shots regularly,” says Dr. Miller. “But they aren’t helpful for those with multiple allergies and because they’re new, there’s no evidence of long-term protection for allergies.”

Autism May Start in the Womb

5 / 8 Autism May Start in the Womb

The details: A study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that autism may begin before a child is born. Researchers examined brain tissue from 22 children who died, half of whom had autism. They found abnormalities in a region of the brain that controls comprehension, reasoning and language, all of which develop during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Our expert says: Brain health expert Daniel Amen, MD, says the findings build on earlier research that suggests autism is “the result of a gene-environmental interaction.” Researchers don't yet know how to control the genes that may predispose an unborn child to autism. Dr. Amen says practicing healthy habits may help.

Routine Pelvic Exams May Do More Harm Than Good

6 / 8 Routine Pelvic Exams May Do More Harm Than Good

The details: The American College of Physicians (ACP) issued new guidelines advising against routine pelvic exams for women who aren’t pregnant and don’t have symptoms of pelvic disease. According to the ACP, pelvic exams can sometimes lead to false-positive findings, causing needless worry and follow-up.

Our expert says: Darria Long Gillespie, MD, an ER doctor at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, says it’s important to note that the new guidelines don’t apply to Pap smears. “Current guidelines on Pap smears are to have them every two to three in your twenties,” she says. “From ages 30 to 65, you can get them every three years if you have a history of normal Paps and don’t have HPV.”

New Relief for Migraine Sufferers

7 / 8 New Relief for Migraine Sufferers

The details: The estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from migraines now have two new treatment options: the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator and the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device. Both are prescription devices that meant to be worn or placed against the head to either prevent a migraine from occurring or treat it before it becomes severe.

Our expert says: “These devices are thought to work by stimulating nerves or blood vessels outside the brain,” says Michael Roizen, MD, Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Roizen says the devices are worth trying, but adds that they won’t work on all migraines since external triggers don’t cause some.

Long-Term Effect of Head Injuries

8 / 8 Long-Term Effect of Head Injuries

The details: A recent study by Dr. Amen highlights the long-term dangers of repeated head injuries. His study of retired NFL football players revealed that ex-players scored lower on cognitive tests than non-players. Their brain scans also showed reduced blood flow in certain areas of the brain, which may be predictive of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Our expert says: “Brain injuries are more serious than most people thought,” says Amen. His advice? Be vigilant about wearing a helmet when you’re bicycling or doing other activities that have high risk of head injury. It’s also vital to be sure your children have adequate protection, especially when playing contact sports such as football.

Ebola

Ebola

Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is caused by a family of viruses that originate in central and west Africa. The disease is rare and occurs in sporadic outbreaks. Ebola is spread through direct co...

ntact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals or objects, such as needles or bedsheets, that have been contaminated with the virus. Your risk of contracting Ebola is very low unless you visit an area where it is widespread. There are no approved treatments for the disease, but some experimental treatments have shown promise. Vaccines are currently under development.
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