Catching up.

July 30, 2015

More lymes.

Lyme disease is gradually spreading from the Northeast and becoming more common farther south. The CDC found that it’s in four times as many counties now as in 1993. The cause of the increase is unknown, though climate change and the spread of deer are possible factors.

What is Lyme disease? Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by blacklegged ticks. It was first recognized in the Lyme, Connecticut area in 1975. Infection causes fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If untreated, it can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.

Avril Lavigne recently went public about her battle with Lyme disease. I know this because I spent a fair amount of time at the dentist this month. They carry People magazine.

 Campus suicide.

Six students at the University of Pennsylvania committed suicide in a 13-month stretch, and the school is not the only one to experience what is called a “suicide cluster.” Nationally, the suicide rate among 15 to 24 year-olds has increased from 9.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 11.1 per 100,000 in 2013. Anxiety and depression are now the most common mental health diagnoses among college students.

The events have led to a discussion about the “pressure of perfection” with one Penn student saying “everyone around me was so spectacular and so amazing and I wanted to be just as amazing as they are.”

In food news.

We’re full. The typical American adult’s daily calorie intake is in the midst of its first sustained decline since we began tracking, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child consumes fell by 9 percent. Additionally, the amount of full-calorie soda consumed dropped by 25 percent since the late 1990s.

Maybe not too full. Last month, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, announced that he would remove statewide restrictions on deep fryers and soda sales in the state’s public schools. Miller said school districts should decide for themselves how to manage these sales. In the same announcement, he also announced his plans to curb childhood obesity.

How sweet. Last week, the FDA proposed a rule to require that food labels not only say how much sugar is in a product, but also what percentage the sugar adds to the daily recommended intake. Packages already tell us the percentage of sodium, fat, cholesterol and fiber. But sugar is provided in grams, not in terms of recommended intake. What is the recommended daily intake? No more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 200 calories, or about 50 grams.

The high cost of cancer treatment.

Cancer drugs can easily cost $120,000 a year with out-of-pocket expenses at about $30,000. To put this in perspective, the average U.S. family makes $52,000 annually. According to a 2013 study, these prices cause 10 to 20 percent of cancer patients “to skip or compromise the prescribed treatment.” To address this issue, over 100 U.S. doctors came together and agreed on recommendations for the federal government to make cancer drugs affordable. Leonard Saltz, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, says he has “a deep concern that this is a serious problem that’s interfering with access to care.”

Counting sheep.

A recent NY Times Q&A shares the following: “There’s no doubt that sleeping just four hours a night catches up to people within a few nights, leading to impairments of attention, learning and memory and worse performance in school and at work.” Another scary fact? People who sleep less than five hours a night for five years have a “300 percent increased risk of hardened arteries.” That should help you sleep tonight.

 Obamacare, Explained.

What is an ACO? One of the ways Obamacare seeks to reduce health care costs. An Accountable Care Organization is a group of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together to give coordinated care to their Medicare patients. The goal is to ensure that patients receive appropriate care, avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors. When an ACO succeeds in delivering quality care and spending less, it shares in the savings it achieves.

The dad bod.

A new study looked at over 10,000 men and found that young, first-time dads gained an average of 4.4 pounds, while childless males actually lost 1.4 pounds. Researchers are calling this the “fatherhood effect,” and they suspect that that despite good intentions, new fathers end up with less time and energy to exercise, sleep and relax. Also, there are more plates to clean.

Note. Popular culture calls it the “dad bod,” and even Urban Dictionary has a definition.

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