Alcohol-Related Deaths Have Doubled Since 1999. Here's Why.

  • Alcohol-related deaths are on the rise according to a new study.
  • In 2017, 3 percent of 3 million deaths involved alcohol.
  • Rates were highest among men between the ages of 45 to 74.
  • Study findings indicate women and people over 50 have seen the greatest increases in alcohol use.

A new study finds that the number of alcohol-related deaths per year among people ages 16 and older doubled from 35,914 to 72,558 between 1999 and 2017.

Researchers analyzed U.S. mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics to find almost 1 million alcohol-related deaths were recorded between 1999 and 2017.

The study was published Jan. 7 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Many deaths caused by liver disease or overdose

Researchers found that in 2017 nearly 3 percent of roughly 3 million U.S. deaths involved alcohol. Nearly half of those deaths were caused by liver disease or overdosing on alcohol alone or in addition to other drugs.

Rates were highest among men, people between 45 to 74 years old, and among non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives.

“Given previous reports that death certificates often fail to indicate the contribution of alcohol, the scope of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is likely higher than suggested from death certificates alone. Findings confirm an increasing burden of alcohol on public health and support the need for improving surveillance of alcohol-involved mortality,” wrote the study authors.

Alarming statistics

The study reveals that trends in alcohol use are different for men than for women.

Researchers found while the overall prevalence of drinking and binge drinking didn’t change for men, among women there was about a 10 percent increase in the prevalence of drinking and an almost 25 percent increase in binge drinking.

People 50 and older also increased alcohol consumption more compared to younger age groups.

“I think it’s important to recognize what alcohol is. Alcohol is effectively, in many ways an anesthetic, alcohol makes you feel less, not feel more,” Alex Dimitriu, of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, told Healthline.

“The question then becomes, ‘What is it that we’re trying to anesthetize?’ Because I think that these rising rates of alcohol-related deaths and binge drinking are really evidence of a society that perhaps is trying to mask, hide, or run from something,” he said.

Significant increase in alcohol-related deaths

According to the study findings, rates of emergency department (ED) visits that involve alcohol increased almost 50 percent among people ages 12 and older.

Alcohol-related ED visits and hospitalizations were significantly greater for females than males and even more evident in older age groups.

“Women are continually increasing in their use of alcohol, you know, catching up to men. Alcohol use among women is not only increasing but the openness of it is increasing as well,” said Moe Gelbart, PhD, a psychologist at Gelbart and Associates.

Researchers also found evidence suggesting deaths related to drinking are on the rise.

Between 2000 and 2015, the rate of deaths from alcohol-related liver damage (cirrhosis) in the United States increased 35 percent with the number of deaths about 74 percent higher, according to recently published research.

However, “the full magnitude of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is difficult to determine, in part because the contribution of alcohol is not always apparent at the time that a death certificate is completed,” study authors wrote.

Some research indicates that death certificates can often fail to record the contribution of drinking to cause of death.

One study found fewer than 20 percent of drunk-driving fatalities were recorded as alcohol-related on death certificates.

Alcohol-related deaths in the US

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2014, alcohol-related driving deaths accounted for nearly 10,000 deaths or 31 percent of overall driving fatalities.

“Another factor is that, like with many other diseases, there’s better reporting. Deaths which were not attributed to alcohol-related illness in the past are being recognized more,” Gelbart said.

“We also know that suicide is greatly on the rise, and alcohol is a huge factor in suicide rates,” he added. “I’m not surprised that there’s an increase in deaths and an increase in alcohol use in general.”

Possible reasons why

Dimitriu emphasized that it looks like people are in distress, and he highlighted the increasing popularity of apps like Calm and others intended to improve anxiety or insomnia.

“My theory is that we’re missing out on something we had before. It could range from either the structure of nearby family, or a good social network,” Dimitriu said.

“Maybe that’s been broken down by the presence of social media or other factors like that, or longer work hours. Depression rates have also been increasing, and suicide has as well,” he said.

He explained that conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, while being physical issues, can also result from “a disconnect from essential functions like off-time, friends, family, and love.”

Dimitriu concluded that maybe technology has outpaced biological evolution and many people need relief from that stress — and alcohol is the most easy drug to access.

The bottom line

New research finds that rates of death from alcohol use have doubled from 1999 to 2017.

Experts emphasize that these findings may underestimate the true numbers because even when alcohol is a factor, it isn’t always recorded as a cause of death.

Study findings indicate women and people over age 50 have seen the greatest increases in alcohol use.

Article adapted from: Healthline

Colon Cancer Screening Can Save Your Life

There are simply too many people who are still getting and dying from colon cancer, a preventable disease, because they failed to get screened for it.

For example, let’s consider Joy Ginsburg. Joy’s experience shows that even some doctors may need to be pushed into encouraging their patients to be tested. Ms. Ginsburg was 48 when her primary care doctor suggested that she have a baseline colonoscopy.

But the gastroenterologist she consulted was reluctant to perform one. “He made fun of me,” she said. “I was not yet 50 and had no symptoms, risk factors or family history of colon cancer.”

Still, Ms. Ginsburg was aware that last year the American Cancer Society had lowered the recommended age to start screening from 50 to 45, so she insisted. And it was lucky that she did. A very large precancerous polyp, the size of a golf ball, was found that required surgical removal along with 40 percent of her colon.

“If I had waited until 50 to get screened, I would have had a very different story to tell,” she said. “Now I’m screaming from the rooftops for everyone to get screened. Having a colonoscopy is a lot easier than getting cancer.”

Five years ago, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable with a goal to get 80 percent of all Americans ages 50 to 75 screened for cancers of the colon and rectum by any medically accepted method by 2018. At the time, only about 65 percent of those in the designated age group were up-to-date with an approved test.

Now, with colorectal cancer being found in an increasing number of younger adults, the pressure is on to screen millions more adults in every community of the United States. The current goal is to test at least 80 percent of residents ages 45 to 75 in each community using an approved method. More than 1,800 community organizations have already lined up to help make this happen.

“We’re not insisting that everyone get a colonoscopy, even though it’s the gold standard for detecting and preventing colon cancer,” said Dr. Richard C. Wender, chief cancer control officer at the cancer society. “A lot of people don’t want it, some can’t afford it, and sometimes it’s not available.”

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in this country, with more than 51,000 people expected to die of the disease this year. Although the overall death rate has been dropping for several decades, thanks largely to increased detection and removal of precancerous polyps, deaths among people younger than 55 have increased by 1 percent a year since 2007. This means it’s all the more important to encourage screening among middle-aged adults.

As important as getting screened for colorectal cancer is the need to avoid risk factors for the disease that individuals can control. These include being overweight or physically inactive, smoking, consuming alcohol immoderately, and eating lots of red meat and processed meat.

Risk factors that are unavoidable include getting older; having an inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), or having close relatives (such as parents or siblings) who had colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps or an inherited cancer syndrome like Lynch syndrome or familial polyposis. Doctors may advise people with these risk factors to get screened for colorectal cancer as often as every year or two.

Article adapted from The New York Times, March 11, 2019, Jane E. Brody

Idaho is seeing an increase in whooping cough cases. Are you immunized?

Article adapted from The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, December 18, 2019

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is starting to see an increase in the number of whooping cough (also called pertussis) cases in Idaho, specifically in the southwest part of the state, near Malheur County, Oregon. So now is a good time to remind everyone to get immunized, especially if you will be meeting a newborn member of your family during your holiday gatherings.

I thought pertussis was dangerous for babies, but not so much for adults?

Adults get pertussis too! While many adults can shake it off, in some cases the cough can last for weeks or months, and it can land you in the hospital with pneumonia or other complications. Plus, babies can’t start getting vaccinated until they’re two months old, and they don’t have high levels of protection until they are 6 months old. If adults are vaccinated, there is less of a risk of passing the highly contagious disease to an infant.

Why is pertussis so dangerous for babies?

Babies are most at risk for getting very sick or dying. About half of infants younger than a year old who get the disease need to be hospitalized. About 1 in 4 infants hospitalized with pertussis get pneumonia, and about two-thirds will have slowed or stopped breathing. In a small number of cases, the disease can even be deadly. Infants are most often infected by family members or members of the same household. In fact, a person with pertussis will infect almost everyone in their household who isn’t immunized.

When do parents need to get their babies immunized?

For best protection, children need five doses of DTaP before they start school. The first dose is recommended when babies are 2 months old. They need two more doses after that, given when they are 4 months old and 6 months old, to build up high levels of protection. Booster shots are recommended to maintain that protection when they are 15-18 months old and again when they are 4-6 years old.

I’ve heard that protection from the vaccination wanes over time.

Vaccine protection for pertussis can decrease with time, but it’s still the best way to protect babies and prevent disease. One way to fight the waning of protection is by getting boosters. Preteens should get a booster vaccine, called Tdap, when they are 11 or 12. Adults need to be immunized as well, even if they were immunized as babies or children. And if you’re getting a routine tetanus booster, which is recommended every 10 years, go ahead and ask about the Tdap vaccine, which vaccinates against tetanus, diphtheria, AND pertussis, all at the same time.

Should pregnant women be immunized?

Expectant mothers should get one dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at some time during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy. By doing this, the mother will develop protective antibodies against pertussis and pass them to the baby before birth. These antibodies will provide the baby some short-term protection against pertussis before the baby is old enough to get immunized. Tdap also will protect the mother before she delivers, making her less likely to get it and transmit it to her baby.

Call the Malheur County Health Department to schedule your immunization appointment at 541-889-7279.

Resources

Protecting kids from adverse experiences can boost lifelong health

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are an important public health issue. Learn how everyone can help prevent ACEs by using strategies to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.

Preventing adverse experiences in childhood can help people stay healthy throughout their lives, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Protecting kids from adverse childhood experiences — such as violence, abuse or growing up around people with mental health or substance use problems — can help reduce chronic diseases, risky health behaviors and socio-economic challenges later in life, according to a Nov. 8 study in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

Nearly 16% of U.S. adults have experienced four or more ACEs their lifetimes, the study said, with women, blacks and American Indian and Alaska Natives at highest risk. 

ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. This can lead to chronic health problems, mental illness, substance misuse and reduced educational and occupational achievement in adulthood. At least five of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with adverse childhood experiences.

Creating “safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments” can help prevent ACEs and help children and adults thrive, according to the study, which was published as a CDC Vital Signs Report. Preventing ACES can reduce risky behaviors like smoking and heavy drinking, improve education and employment potential and stop ACEs from being passed from one generation to the next.  

To address ACEs, the report recommended that: 

• health care providers refer patients affected by ACEs for services and support and link adults at risk to parenting interventions and substance abuse treatment;
• employers support family-friendly policies, such as paid family leave and flexible work schedules; 
• states and communities improve access to high-quality child care, address financial hardships and foster skills that manage emotion and conflicts; and that
• everyone “support community programs and policies that provide safe and healthy conditions for all children and families.”

For more insights on ACEs, read this recent column from APHA past-president Pam Aaltonen in The Nation’s Health. 

Article by Louise Dettman on Public Health Newswire

Create safe Thanksgiving meals!

The holidays are here, which means you’re probably getting ready to share meals and merriment with families and friends.

This can be a fantastic and yummy time of the year. But if you don’t take care while preparing all that delicious holiday food, you can put people at risk for food poisoning.

Anyone can get sick from food poisoning, but some folks are at higher risk. Kids under age 5, seniors and women who are pregnant are all more likely to get sick from food and have a serious illness.

Luckily, preventing food poisoning can be easy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture  has these tips to help home chefs create safe Thanksgiving meals:

• Wash your hands often while cooking. Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands on a clean paper towel, not a dirty apron or towel.
• Prevent cross-contamination. Clean surfaces as you go, including sinks and counters. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and other food. That way, you won’t end up with raw turkey juice in your salad. (Blech!)
• Cook the turkey to 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check it’s done, and never rely on those cheap pop-up ones that come with the turkey.
• Follow the two-hour rule. If all your food hasn’t been gobbled up two hours after you’ve set it out on the table, it’s time to wrap it up and stick it in the fridge. Any leftovers that are perishable should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.

For more seasonal food prep tips, check out FoodSafety.gov

If you have questions while cooking your turkey, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.
Have a happy, healthy holiday!

By USDA FoodSafety.gov

Many Hispanic immigrants forgoing care due to fear, language barriers

Immigrant woman sitting in an exam room with a provider taking her pulse

Important note: Malheur County Health Department proudly serves Spanish speaking clients and offers interpreting services for any language available on the interpreting assistance line. Immigrant status should not be a barrier to care and all are welcome. Services are available at reduced cost or free for many programs. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule a confidential appointment.

To get a better handle on the health care access barriers Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. often face, researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center surveyed Hispanic immigrants about their experiences with the health care system.

“The Affordable Care Act has helped many Latinos, but it has systematically excluded the undocumented,” said Mariana Ramírez, a bilingual research counselor at the Kansas medical center who spoke on “Emerging Issues in Refugee and Immigrant Health” at the American Public Health Association 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo in Philadelphia.

Even those who have ACA plans sometimes struggle with high deductibles and premiums and limited coverage. Ramírez and her fellow researchers found that many times, people would change plans every year, which can make coverage inconsistent and confusing.

Researchers found that while a majority of people surveyed were employed, only 11% had employee-sponsored health insurance. In comparison, about two-thirds of adults in the region overall had insurance through their employer.

And it’s not a simple problem of access to insurance or paying for coverage. There’s a real fear in the Hispanic community that trying to get medical care could have negative consequences, Ramírez reported. For example, a vast majority of those surveyed — 86% — were worried that either they, a family member or a close friend could be deported. And about 60% said they were concerned that health care practitioners would share their information with immigration officials or were worried that using publicly funded health care services would negatively impact their immigration status.

The problems didn’t stop there. Even if an Hispanic immigrant is able to access needed health care, significant challenges such as language barriers can persist. And, unfortunately, translation services are often inconsistent and insufficient. Indeed, study participants reported lower quality of care because they were unable to effectively communicate with health care providers.

“(When) everything is in English, you just kind of have to hope that everything goes well and cross your fingers,” Ramírez said.

As a result, some Hispanic immigrants end up calling a doctor back in their home countries for consults or ask family or friends to bring them medications from abroad. They may even turn to self-medication, home remedies or unlicensed practitioners — such as someone who studied dentistry in another country and now operates in the U.S. without a license.

Article adapted from Public Health Newswire

Wash Your Hands in the Kitchen and the Bathroom

The most dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli are transmitted not through food but through contact with human feces.

While it’s important to wash your hands carefully after handling raw chicken, it may be even more important to wash them after going to the bathroom. The most dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli, called ESBLs, are transmitted not through food, according to new research, but through contact of human feces with human mouths.

British researchers examined many strains of ESBL-E. coli in human blood and feces, sewage, farm slurry, live animals, and raw meat, fruits and vegetables.

They found that one multidrug-resistant strain, ST131, responsible for a mortality rate as high as 35 percent in humans, was found in more than 60 percent of human bloodstream infections, but was extremely rare in live animals and nonexistent in foods.

The study, in Lancet Infectious Diseases, concludes that many of the E. coli strains that make people seriously ill come from other humans, not food or animals (though foods can also contain dangerous strains).

The senior author, David M. Livermore, a professor of microbiology at the University of East Anglia, explained that there are some strains of are E. coli that are harmless and just live in your gut. Others cause mild food poisoning. And finally there are the E. coli that are antibiotic resistant and often lead to serious illness and death.

“Good kitchen hygiene remains important,” he said, “but with these antibiotic-resistant E. coli, toilet hygiene becomes vitally important.” For many of the strains that are causing major disease, “food is not the source. It’s humans.”

But how best to protect yourself from E coli? Wash your hands properly. “When you wash your hands with soap, what the soap does is to detach the microbes from your hands, but the microbes remain alive,” says Prof Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The important part of washing your hands is rinsing them. That’s what takes the microbes off your hands.”

How to wash your hands properly

Use plenty of soap and be vigorous. “Rub them for at least 15 seconds, making sure that you rub them properly, from palm to palm, as well as rubbing the back of your hands. Interlace your fingers and rub them together. Rub around the backs of each of your fingers and thumbs,” Bloomfield says. “That’s the way to mechanically detach all of the organisms from your hands.”

After rinsing, dry your hands thoroughly to remove any microbes left lurking behind. (Be sure to change your hand towels regularly – every few days, or every day if you have children – on a hot wash of 60C or more to kill bacteria.)

If you’re not able to wash your hands using soap and running water, Bloomfield recommends using antibacterial hand gel to kill any microbes on your hands. Keep one in your bag and use it when you’re not able to get to a bathroom.

Article adapted from The New York Times and The Guardian.

Halloween the Healthy Way

Halloween image with the wording Creatures of Habit
Make choices to stay healthy and strong!

Have a safe and healthy Halloween

Make Halloween festivities fun, safe, and healthy for trick-or-treaters and party guests.

Take steps to prevent the flu and other illness

It’s Halloween and the flu season is here! Keeping hands clean by washing them with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year for the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.

Keep your bite healthy

Brush with fluoride toothpaste. Floss every day. Don’t go batty for sugary treats.

Sleep tight

Don’t look a fright this Halloween! Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of long-lasting diseases and conditions. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

Treat yourself to fruits and veggies

Don’t fill up on junk this Halloween. Treat yourself to yummy fruits and vegetables. They make a great healthy snack to serve for Halloween parties.

Be a smoke-free creature of habit

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Make your Halloween activities smoke- and tobacco-free events. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.

Prevent injuries

Make sure costumes fit well to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls. Check out a fun coloring book. Color Me Safe! from CDC tells the rhyming story of the “Safe Family,” who take steps to protect themselves from injury at home, on the road, and at play.

Article from the CDC.

It’s Flu Shot Week!

  • Tuesday, October 22, 2019: Come to TVCC to get your flu shot!
  • TVCC Cafeteria/Weese 110
  • 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • 650 College Blvd, Ontario, OR 97914
  • Wednesday – Friday, October 23-25, 2019: Come to the Malheur County Health Department Walk – In Clinic to get your flu shot!
  • Extended Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. (not closed during lunch)
  • 1108 SW 4th Street, Ontario, OR 97914
  • Please bring insurance card, if available
  • No cost vaccine available for those without health insurance
  • For more information, call 541-889-7279