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Diabetes Deaths In The US Reach 100,000 For Second Year In A Row 

According to reports from Reuters, more than 100,000 Americans died from diabetes in 2021, marking the second straight year in which deaths exceeded that number. The new figures have been released as an expert panel continues to urge Congress to overhaul diabetes care and prevention. 

The panel is calling for broad policy change such as promoting the consumption of healthier foods, ensuring paid leave from the workplace, increasing taxes on sugary drinks, and expanding access to affordable housing and healthcare. 

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In 2019, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in America, claiming the lives of about 87,000. The past three years alone reflect a long-running failure to address the disease and how the government can make treatment/prevention easy and affordable for those impacted. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made it harder for individuals to access care. 

According to a Reuters analysis of provisional death data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “diabetes-related deaths surged 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021 compared to the pre pandemic level in 2019. That excluded deaths directly attributed to COVID-19. Additional deaths from 2021 are still being tallied.”

“The large number of diabetes deaths for a second year in a row is certainly a cause for alarm. Type 2 diabetes itself is relatively preventable, so it’s even more tragic that so many deaths are occurring,” said Dr. Paul Hsu, an epidemiologist at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. 

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In a new report, the National Clinical Care Commission created by Congress said that the “United States must adopt a more comprehensive approach to prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes, the most common form, and to help people who are already diagnosed avoid life-threatening complications. About 37 million Americans, or 11% of the population, have diabetes, and one in three Americans will develop the chronic disease in their lifetime if current trends persist,” according to the commission.

“Diabetes in the U.S. cannot simply be viewed as a medical or health care problem, but also must be addressed as a societal problem that cuts across many sectors, including food, housing, commerce, transportation and the environment,” the commission wrote in a report to Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The commission said the “United States should better promote the purchase of fruits and vegetables in food assistance programs and ensure mothers have paid family leave to aid breastfeeding, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes in mothers and is associated with a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes in children.Additionally, imposing taxes on sugary drinks that would raise their shelf price by 10% to 20% and using the revenue to expand access to clean drinking water and fund similar programs.

In a statement, the CDC said the “report’s recommendations offer a detailed roadmap to addressing rising health-care costs attributed to diabetes, and reducing racial, ethnic, and income-related disparities in diabetes outcomes.”

Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell Dies From COVID-19 Complications

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has passed away at the age of 84 from COVID-19 complications, his family announced on Facebook Monday morning in a statement. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family stated. The family also confirmed that Powell had been vaccinated.

Powell’s work for his country was polarizing, resulting in high honors and low points. Powell was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to immigrant parents. During college, Powell would join the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which would thrust him into a military career.

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As an advisor sent to Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Powell was injured by a Vietnamese booby-trap in 1963, which earned him a Purple Heart. Powell would return to Vietnam for a second tour of duty in the late 1960s.

Following other tours of duty and promotions to brigadier and major generals, Powell would then serve under numerous presidents — which includes Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

In 1987, Powell was named National Security Advisor for the Reagan administration, and was then appointed to Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs by H. W. Bush two years later. In 2000, W. Bush appointed Powell as Secretary of State, becoming the first African-American to hold the position.

As ABC News notes, Powell saw many historic moments in history during his time in top roles, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the crisis in Bosnia, the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Gulf War, and the 1989 invasion of Panama.

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In 2003, Powell’s role in the invasion of Iraq was one that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Powell testified to the United Nations Security Council that the country was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and possessed an ongoing weapons program, helping to build support for the invasion.

However, Powell admitted in 2004 to the U.S. Congress that his intelligence reports were incorrect and that it was unlikely Iraq was harboring nuclear weapons. This monumental error would permanently hurt the legacy and reputation of Powell, who later resigned. Speaking to Larry King years after, Powell said he “regretted” his U.N. speech because of the wrong information.

George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, released a statement on Powell’s passing, calling him a “great public servant” while remembering the positions he held and the impact he made during his many decades of service in the military and government.

He [Powell] was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Bush’s former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose relationship with Powell turned bitter during the height of the Iraq and MWD conflict, also released a statement on his passing. Cheney said that Powell was a “trailblazer and a role model for so many,” and was someone who “loved his country and served her long and well.”

Following his retirement, Powell would write a memoir titled “It Worked For Me: In Life And Leadership” in 2012 that looked back on his life and the lessons he learned, while also addressing the more tainted parts of his career.

NBC News explained that in recent years, Powell had become highly critical of the Republican party. Powell called Donald Trump a “national disgrace” in leaked emails back in 2016, while also saying he could no longer call himself a Republican following the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

Crown

Duke Of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, Has Died At The Age Of 99

Lifelong companion to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, has died this week, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement. He was 99-years-old. 

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family joins with people around the world in mourning his loss,” the palace said in a statement. 

In mid-February the duke was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London after feeling sick for a few days. The palace later confirmed he was being treated for an infection and would need heart surgery. 

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On March 1st Prince Phillip was transferred to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, also located in London, where he received continuous treatment for his infection before undergoing heart surgery. After a successful surgery, the duke was discharged in min-March. 

Given the UK’s current Covid-19 restrictions, it’s unclear as to what any tribute plans will look like for the prince. The Queen will need to sign off on any plans before they’re confirmed and it’s unknown if those plans were even made yet. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of the duke this week, claiming he’d “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”

The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving British consort. In 1947 he married who was then referred to as Princess Elizabeth in a wedding that helped ease a country’s stress from the damage done by World War II. 

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Throughout his seven decades of service, Philip was often accompanied by the Queen on royal engagements, but also conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He supported a multitude of philanthropic endeavors and was associated with over 800 organizations. He also founded the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, which is a “youth development program that operated in more than 130 countries and territories around the world,” according to the website. 

The duke was originally born the Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921. At just 18-months-old, his family left Greece when King Constantine was forced to abdicate after a military revolt. The family would later move to England in 1928. 

Philip became a decorated naval officer for his service during World War II, and when peace finally returned to Europe, he would go on to have one of the most public romances of the 20th century. 

Tributes for the duke have been appearing all throughout the world from Commonwealth nations, including India and Australia. According to CNN, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had “distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Galaxy

For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Were Able To Watch As A Distant Galaxy ‘Dies’ 

For the first time in history, astronomers were able to witness the previously unknown phenomenon of a galaxy’s life coming to an end. Galaxies die when the stars that live within them stop forming. 

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile scientists were able to watch as a distant galaxy ejected half of the gas it uses to form stars. The galaxy is specifically known as ID 2299, and the light emitted from the stars within this galaxy took about nine billion years to reach Earth.

Based on this timing, astronomers determined that they’re currently witnessing cosmic events that occurred when the universe was only 4.5 billion years old; the universe is thought to be 14 billion years old for context. 

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The galaxy is thought to be losing around 10,000 suns-worth of gas per year. This is significant because that gas is what’s needed for the galaxy to produce new stars. So far astronomers believe ID2299 has lost about 46% of its cold gas, however, the galaxy is still able to quickly form stars at rates greater than what we experience in our own Milky Way galaxy. 

Since ID2299 is still able to successfully produce stars, it’s likely that it won’t die for another few tens of millions of years. Annagrazia Puglisi, lead study researcher and postdoctoral research associate from Durham University in the UK and the Saclay Nuclear Research Center in France, spoke to the press after publishing the study in the journal of Nature Astronomy

“This is the first time we have observed a typical massive star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe about to ‘die’ because of a massive cold gas ejection.” 

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According to Puglisi, it’s also possible that ID2299’s demise is the result of a collision with another galaxy. Astronomers observed a large stream of gas and stars that typically only forms when two galaxies come together in a collision, and normally these streams are too far and faint to be seen, however, the scientists ability to see this tail means that the galaxy was likely formed by some sort of collision. 

 If a collision is what is causing this galaxy’s demise, astronomers will need to reconsider existing theories regarding the life cycle of stars and their formation at the end of a galaxy’s “life.” Previous theories claimed that the winds created by star formations would combine with active black holes at the center of a galaxy, which would thus send out materials needed to form stars.

“Our study suggests that gas ejections can be produced by mergers and that winds and tidal tails can appear very similar. This might lead us to revise our understanding of how galaxies ‘die,’” said Emanuele Daddi, study coauthor and astronomer at the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre in France. 

Astronomers were actually working on a survey regarding cold gas in distant galaxies when they noticed the tidal tail of ID2299 and realized just what they were witnessing. Future observations of the galaxy will likely reveal more about the process of gas being ejected from galaxies and how it impacts star formation, but in the meantime, astronomers are celebrating the fact that they witnessed a cosmic event that they’ve only theorized about in the past.

FBI Seal

FBI To Potentially Open Civil Rights Investigation Over Elijah McClain’s Death

Nearly one year later, Elijah McClain’s story has not only begun circulating social media, but gathered enough attention to get the investigation formerly reopened and reviewed. In fact, the FBI and US Justice Department recently made a statement in which they claimed that they’ve been reviewing the circumstances surrounding McClain’s death since 2019. 

The review so far has mainly focused on determining whether or not a federal civil rights investigation is warranted based on the initial evidence. The statement claimed that the matter was “ongoing” as they’re in the process of gathering additional pieces of information such as testimonials and other evidence that could be useful. According to the FBI, the Aurora Police Department and other parties working within the city have been cooperating through it all. 

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McClain’s family reacted to the news recently with their own statement in which they expressed their shock, but relief, that the investigation will continue to be reviewed. 

“I am both surprised and pleased to hear that a civil rights investigation is being considered. The Aurora Police Department has a long and sordid history of both brutality and racism, and a comprehensive civil rights investigation is long overdue.”

Mari Newman went on to invite the federal agencies to reach out to the family whenever needed, as they will “happily provide information to assist in this critically important investigation.” 

McClain’s death is a story that’s become all too familiar in America, and is the reason we’re currently seeing a nationwide demand for social justice and racial equality for black individuals. McClain was 23-years-old when he was walking home from the store late at night. McClain had anemia, which caused his body to become cold very easily, so he walked home in full sweats and a ski mask to remain warm. Someone noticed McClain and reported a “suspicious looking man” to the police. 

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McClain was then stopped by three white police officers and when he resisted initial contact with one officer, an aggressive struggle was brought on by the police and they put him in a carotid hold; more commonly referred to as a choke-hold. They held him in the choke-hold for 15 minutes while he pleaded that he “couldn’t breathe,” vomited, and briefly lost consciousness. When paramedics arrived at the scene they injected him with a dose of ketamine to sedate him. McClain then suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and was declared brain dead three years later. 

As of right now all three officers involved still have their jobs but have been reassigned to “non-enforcement duties.” The main reasoning for this reassignment was to keep the “officers safety as priority,” sparking massive new waves of anger and protests. More than 2 million people have now signed a petition demanding that justice be served for these men who murdered 23-year-old McClain. 

As the investigation got brought into the mainstream, multiple Aurora officers have been placed on administrative leave after new images surfaced of them near the scene where McClain was murdered. The investigation into all parties involved is still pending according to the Aurora police chief. 

“This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion. This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”

The FBI and Justice Department said that they’re aware of all media reports surrounding the case and photographs that have already been made public before the investigation could conclude, however, they claim to not have any further comments until that conclusion is actually met.

Neanderthal

Neanderthals Buried Their Dead With Flowers, According To New Discovery

Scientists are constantly looking into the history of humanity for any details they can gather regarding our culture and what it used to look like as it came into development. We evolved from Neanderthals, who evolved from monkeys, and as our consciousness came more into fruition as our genetics and brain capacities also continued to evolve, our ancestors were able to conceptualize things such as religion, art, and the basis of humanity as we know it today. 

Recently, in the Shanidar Cave located in Iraqi Kurdistan, archaeologist’s discovered Neanderthal remains that appeared to be over 70,000 years old; a discovery as monumental as this hasn’t occurred in over 20 years. According to the study posted in regards to this discovery, there’s a significant reason why it’s being labeled as “monumental” as it gave experts a real insight into how our ancestors processed death, and even a look at what could be the first use of cemeteries and other traditional ceremonious elements that one would do in times of death/grieving.

“So much research on how Neanderthals treated their dead has to involve returning to finds from 60 or even a 100 years ago. To have primary evidence of such quality from this famous Neanderthal site will allow us to use modern technologies to explore everything from ancient DNA to long-held questions about Neanderthal ways of death, and whether they were similar to our own,”  said Emma Pomeroy, lead study author at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

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The 60-year-old data that Pomeroy is referring to in this quote regards famous archaeologist Ralph Solecki and his own experience with Shanidar Cave and Neanderthal death culture. In the mid-1950’s, Solecki discovered the remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children in the cave. Before this, there had been little to no discoveries of mass grave sites for Neanderthals, so the fact that Solecki found 10 was quite remarkable. 

Solecki also noted in his initial discoveries that he found ancient clumps of what appeared to be pollen within the bones of the remains. This is where the first theories regarding Neanderthal rituals began to emerge, as Solecki was quick to suggest that our ancestors likely buried their dead and did so with flowers as a part of their “funeral” traditions. At the time, it was hard for him to gain any credibility regarding this theory due to the fact that up until his discovery it was generally understood that all Neanderthal’s were the spitting image of how we stereotype them; brute, dumb, big and aggressive.

Due to a slew of political complications and his health getting the best of him, Solecki never was able to return to the caves before his death last year, however, between 2016 and 2019, the team who wrote the study in the scientific journal Antiquity were able to go back, make some new discoveries of their own, and even help to further prove Solecki’s theory. 

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When the team from Cambridge returned to the Shanidar Cave and discovered even more Neanderthal remains in a “unique assemblage” in regards to one another, they began to think that Solecki was definitely onto something. Their initial conclusion was that the Shanidar Z’s (what the team referred to the deceased Neanderthal group as) likely routinely returned to this specific cave location to bury their dead; creating what could be one of the world’s first ever cemeteries. 

Beyond just the bodies themselves, the team also discovered a large triangular rock prominently placed amongst the remains, which could’ve been used as a grave marker/tombstone. The clumps of pollen that Solecki mentioned in his initial studies were also found yet again, nearly 65 years later, within the rib fragments of the remains. 

Researchers want to move beyond the basic realm of the start of humanity and really dive into where the birth of human culture began. Our ancestors were one species, of one race/ethnicity, so at one point in time, there was a universally accepted way of life that all of our ancestors accepted. The goal is to get to the root of that creation, and discover where it all came from and why. 

“In recent years we have seen increasing evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than previously thought, from cave markings to use of decorative shells and raptor talons. If Neanderthals were using Shanidar cave as a site of memory for the repeated ritual interment of their dead, it would suggest cultural complexity of a high order,” Pomeroy said.

Depressed Man

“Deaths of Despair” Reach Unprecedented Levels in US, Experts Say

Perhaps one of the most objective statistical indicators of the health of a society is the life expectancy of its citizens. In the United States, life expectancy has risen from 69.7 years in 1960 to 78.69 years in 2016, a gradual increase mirroring the success of medical advancements, public health campaigns, and general economic growth over the course of the modern era. However, American life expectancy has been on the decline in recent years, as a result of the epidemic of obesity as well as so-called “deaths of despair,” which include drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide. 

In a certain sense, this problem is unique to the United States, as other developed nations around the world have not seen a similar, concurrent decline in life expectancy. This worrying development persists despite the fact that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation and that the quality of healthcare in the US, for those who are able to receive it, is comparable to that of most advanced countries. As such, experts believe that factors like “income inequality and mental distress” are the root cause of the increase in rates of death across the country, as the experience of despair leads people to make decisions that increase the chances of early death.

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When viewed as a public health issue, the specific factors that lead to early deaths among Americans become clear, as many Americans, even those who do not suffer from diseases of despair, can recognize the social factors that lead to the development of these illnesses either through their personal lived experiences or through the experiences of people they know. According to Anne Case, a contributing author of the book “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism,”  “the pillars that once helped give life meaning—a good job, a stable home life, a voice in the community—have all eroded.” 

In Case’s account, the nationwide rise in despair has its roots in economic and political factors, as workers without college degrees have been left out of the increasingly-harsh labor market, men’s wages have remained stagnant for half a century, and companies have been eliminating decent-paying jobs with good benefits, instead outsourcing low-skill work to cheaper economies. Despite the changes in the distribution of wealth in the American economy, the government has failed to adjust to changes wrought by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological innovation and globalization, generating an atmosphere of despair among much of the American public, Case argues.

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While the highly-complex relationship between societal factors, despair, unhealthy behaviors, and early death requires more study, experts view the rise of drug abuse, particularly opioid abuse, as symptomatic of larger social pressures that reduce in people a sense of their meaning in life, instilling in them an attitude of nihilism and apathy that drives them to make unhealthy choices in pursuit of relief from their suffering. According to one study, rates of overdoses and suicides have been on the rise since the 1990s, suggesting that the problem is not just related to the current political environment, but also to longstanding social trends as well as substantial increases in the availability of illicit drugs. 

That being said, there are signs of hope that society is beginning to tackle the public health crisis of despair, as the stigma surrounding mental illness has diminished in recent years and an increasing number of businesses are prioritizing the health of their employees, including when it comes to problems like drug addiction and mental illness. If you’re experiencing despair, keep in mind that there exist resources to help with mental health problems, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is available 24 hours a day.

Alzheimers

Breakthrough in Treatment of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as a “cruel” disease, robbing the sufferer of many cherished memories and causing deep sadness to the loved ones they may not remember anymore.

But a new drug primarily used with Parkinson’s may be able to help ease symptoms.

A recent study found that the drug pimavanserin can help people who suffer not only with Alzheimer’s disease but other strains of dementia, resulting in the study finishing early due to how obvious the benefits were.

In a conference in San Diego, California researchers shared their findings and are hoping that pimavanserin will be the latest drug for nearly twenty years that categorically targets dementia-related psychosis. It also seems to help with other symptoms including hallucinations that can cause the caregivers, patients and loved ones emotional stress, due to them often resulting in the patients suffering from anxiety and/or aggression which can often lead to verbal and physical abuse.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation acknowledged the discovery with Chief Science Officer Dr. Howard Fillit suggesting it would be a “very important advance.”

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Science Officer Maria Carrillo commented “there is a huge unmet need for better treatment” which is why the focus is primarily on preventing future cases of dementia as well as aiming to find a cure.

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Pimavanserin is sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc and is provided as a pill to be taken each day. It is believed to work by stopping the chemical in the brain that appears to activate hallucinations and was originally approved in 2016 for Parkinson’s-related psychosis.

It is believed around 8 million Americans suffer from dementia with studies showing psychosis has developed in 30% of patients.

Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas commented, “it’s terrifying. You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs.”

Acadia carried out the study of around 400 sufferers of dementia and psychosis. Each patient received a small dose of pimavanserin for three months with those who appeared to respond separated into two different groups. Half of these were then given “fake” tablets for the next six months although they were taken off the trial if their symptoms got worse or they had a relapse. The remaining 50 percent continued to take to pill. Importantly, none of the patients were aware of which drug they were taking.

However, the study ceased when it was obvious that those on the fake tablets were over twice as likely as those who took the real tablet – a staggering 28% compared to just under 13%.
Another positive aspect of the study showed that there were not very many serious side effects, with only 5% of those taking the drug complaining of problems and 4% on those on fake tablets.
Although urinary tract infections and headaches were seen in both groups the study also suffered two deaths which study leaders confirmed were nothing to do with the drug.

And although the study was small, the positive outcome was huge, yet Carrillo is not sure whether the federal Food and Drug Administration will order more studies before approving the different use of the drug.

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At the moment anti-psychotic medication can be a negative experience for users and therefore are not approved for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia with Fillit admitting “they’re often used off label because we have very few other options.”

However as with all medication, there have to be warnings that the drugs could increase the risk of fatalities, specifically in elderly sufferers.

The other issue that patients and their families will have to deal with is the cost with each course of medication costing around $3,000 each month, however the actual cost to the patient will depend on their insurance coverage.

Alongside the medication there are other ways in which you can help people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease such as making sure you keep in touch with them. Many family members stop visiting as they find it too distressing however a card, a telephone call or even a letter can still show that you care about your family member even if you cannot face the visit.

You should also educate yourself about the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia so as your loved one continues to suffer you can hopefully help them and yourself to deal with it.

If the patient you know is not a family member but a good friend or neighbor, offering to sit with them while their family takes a break will always be welcome. It can be tough living with a sufferer so a reprieve will always be welcome.

Happy Woman

Life Expectancy in America Declining According to Latest Study

A study published in the journal JAMA has highlighted some reasons behind the latest news that life expectancy in the United States has started decreasing, despite having been on the increase for several years.

The study discovered that Americans between the ages of 25 and 64, or “working age,” are dying younger due to a combination of suicide, hypertension, and drug abuse as well as over 30 more different causes.

It has also been discovered that other wealthy countries around the world have a longer life expectancy to those in the US, which appears to be declining at a dramatic rate. And with working age adults seeing the biggest increase in deaths Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine believes it is a “distinctly American phenomenon.”

Woolf, who is co-author of the study alongside Heidi Schoomaker, explained that “death rates among working age adults are on the rise. We have known for years that the health of Americans is inferior to that of other wealthy nations, but our research shows that the decline in US health relative to other countries began as early as the 1980s.”

Both Woolf and Schoomaker looked at over 50 years worth of US life expectancy data with the results appearing to show that although life expectancy began to rise annually between 1959 and 2014, these figures stabilized around 2011 before declining again.

And America’s relationship with opioid abuse seems to be one of the main reasons, along with suicide and alcohol abuse, especially among young and middle aged adults. The figures increased amongst those who did not finish high school.

Strangely, the decline in life expectancy was higher in areas including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – all in New England, while those living in the “Ohio Valley” – Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana – were also affected.

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The rise of the opioid epidemic appears to be one of the main reasons in these areas, especially since the collapse of the manufacturing industries that were a strong source of income in the regions. In fact, since 2010 over one third of “excess deaths” were reported from the Ohio Valley states since.

However those living along the Pacific coast – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – saw their life expectancy increase during 2010 and 2017.

The authors of the report claims that data from previous years shows that Americans began to slip behind those in other countries as far back as the early 1980s.

“Historically this [period] was the beginning of the opioid epidemic, the shrinking of the middle class and the widening of income inequality,” Woolf said.

And although there were economic shifts around the world as a whole during this time, Woolf believes the lack of support experienced by struggling families contributed to the drop in America stating that “in other countries, families that fall on hard times have programs and services available to cushion the blow. In America, people often have to fend for themselves.”

With few social services to help families it may help us to understand why there was a larger increase in death among females as they “have even fewer support systems, and more childcare responsibilities.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Howard Koh commented on the study, saying that although the “most exhaustive and detailed analysis of this topic to date” has helped us find the main causes of death the citizens of America should start “embracing the leading causes of life.”

For instance, by looking at how social connections alongside strong communities are affecting our wellbeing.

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“Other countries spend relatively more in terms of social services. Health is much more than what happens in a doctor’s office. It starts where people live, learn, labor and pray.”

So what can we do to improve our life expectancy? Harvard Medical School has a few suggestions and while most of them are both obvious and easier to do, some may have you asking why!

For instance, we all know that smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse will seriously damage our health but did you know that people who have quit smoking could repair some of the damage caused by cigarettes, cigars and even marijuana?

Once you stop smoking your risk of heart disease starts to reduce after only a few months, matching that of a non-smoker after around 5 years. Likewise with strokes. Giving up tobacco can see a reduction in the risk of having a stroke within two to four years while the mortality rate from colorectal cancer also reduces each year.

And while these statistics apply to most people, quitting smoking before you reach 50 will make the health benefits stronger, sooner.

There have also been discussions on the dangers of vaping, with many calling for the fruit flavored options to be banned.

A healthy diet, keeping fit and building a good network around you are also key to keeping you healthy and strong and therefore living longer.

By doing these things we can hopefully turn the trend on the average American’s life span before we are in “a future in which declining life expectancy may be the new norm.”

Protest Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protests Escalate, Threatening Society

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have only grown more intense as time has progressed, despite the introduction of measures designed to curb frequent and massive demonstrations such as the withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed extradition of political dissidents to China and the instatement of a face-mask ban and curfews designed to discourage dissent. While the loosely-organized but nonetheless formidable protestors remained non-violent for several months, recent escalations by both demonstrators and police have led to the development of a more dangerous and confrontational relationship between the two, with no signs of de-escalation anytime soon. In fact, the situation has become so precarious that Hong Kong police worry about the impending collapse of the rule of law, particularly in the aftermath of the shooting of one protestor and the setting on fire of a supporter of Beijing on Monday.

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After five months of intense protests and the ongoing failure of the Hong Kong government to satisfy most of the protestors’ demands, demonstrators remain unrelenting despite growing increasingly frustrated with government inaction, creating an environment more hospitable to violence and other anti-social behavior. As the protests went on, police resorted to increasingly-violent counter-protest strategies, deploying tear gas and using water cannons and rubber bullets against demonstrators who threw bricks and molotov cocktails, destroying property. October 1st of this year marked a turning point in the use of violence against protestors in Hong Kong, as police shot an 18-year old protestor in the chest at point-blank range, leaving him in critical condition. 

As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.

Yesterday, police again used live rounds against a protestor, firing at point-blank range in an area where demonstrators were blocking traffic, after which police deployed pepper spray to disperse protestors as onlookers accused them of murder. In a separate, unrelated incident yesterday, protesters doused a man who was criticizing the protests with gasoline and lit him on fire. Both individuals survived the attacks and are being treated in hospitals, in serious condition. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has been ramping up her rhetoric against the protests, warning that they could “take Hong Kong to the road of ruin” and placing blame squarely on pro-democracy advocates, calling them “the enemy of the people” and accusing them of selfishly paralyzing the city. She added that she thought it was extremely unlikely that more protests would lead to further concessions from the government. In addition to physical violence, the unrest has included property destruction, as protestors have swarmed universities, destroying windows and fixtures by throwing bricks and setting things on fire. Throughout Hong Kong, classes at many universities were canceled as officials grappled with repairing the damage and preparing for future unrest.

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Nine people have committed suicide in connection with the protests, as political frustration and the erosion of democratic norms have caused mental health issues among Hong Kong’s youth, many of whom are deeply politically engaged. In addition, a man died after sustaining serious injuries during a fall in a car park where police were using tear gas to break up protests. Though no one has yet been directly killed by police or protestors, further deaths are all but inevitable as long as protests continue. Police say that in the last week they have arrested 266 people in connection with the protests, and as the number of active protesters is estimated to be in the millions, the number of arrests is sure to climb. Furthermore, months of protests have had a destructive effect on Hong Kong’s tourism industry and economy more broadly, as the once-safe city is now subject to frequent, violent interruptions to everyday life, and critical city infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair. 

Hong Kong is scheduled to hold local elections this month. Due to Hong Kong’s political structure, however, the outcome of these elections are unlikely to have a strong impact on the government, and are especially unlikely to appease protestors. As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.