Here’s a quick look at three health issues currently in the news.
HEALTH NEWS BRIEFS: 1/23/17
CAN A SINGLE WEEKLY WORKOUT REDUCE MORTALITY?
The standard exercise program recommended for the average person is 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. It is also recommended that these exercise periods be broken down into shorter time periods that occur over four to five days. Meeting these guidelines has been associated with lowering the risk of premature death from a wide range of diseases.
A recent British study covered the exercise patterns of 63,591 middle aged women and men over a 15-year period. Researchers divided the subjects by frequency of exercise, and learned that a significant number exercised only one or two days a week. These more infrequent exercisers, or “weekend warriors,” were expected not to fare as well as those who exercised five days a week.
As it turned out, exercise in any amount, substantially lessened the risk that the person would die early from any cause, including heart disease and cancer. Meeting the recommended amount lowered the risk by 30%. Those who exercised less than the recommended amount lowered their mortality risk by 29%. This advantage remained the same whether people worked out four or five days a week, or got it done in one or two long sessions.
DOWNSIDE OF MAMMOGRAMS
A new, 17-year Danish study has concluded that routine mammograms not only don’t reduce the occurrence of advanced tumors, but increase the diagnosis of lesions that never would have caused any health problems. A double-whammy, so to speak.
The cancer screening was done in different regions at different times, so researchers were able to compare groups of women who were screened with those who weren’t. Not only didn’t the screening prevent advanced cancers, it also didn’t lower breast cancer mortality. They also found that, depending on various factors, between a fifth and a third of tumors that were discovered were over-diagnosed—leading to serious psychological consequences and the physical harm that can come from unnecessary treatment.
DEATH WITH DIGNITY
In 1997, Oregon adopted the Death With Dignity Act, a law that allowed physicians to write prescriptions for lethal drugs for patients who qualified. The rather complicated procedure to obtain permission includes two oral requests and a written one, extensive discussions, and approval by two physicians. Patients must demonstrate the mental capacity to make medical decisions.
Since then, aid in dying has also become legal in Washington, Vermont, Montana, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and California. Almost 20% of Americans now live in jurisdictions where adults can legally end their lives if they are terminally ill and meet eligibility requirements. New York and at least two other states are also considering adopting their own Death With Dignity laws.
Although various groups—the Catholic Church, state medical societies, some disability-rights activists, and more—have generated considerable opposition to assisted dying, the general population has always supported the death-with-dignity concept. Recently, even the professional climate of opinion has become more positive. The American Medical Association—a staunch and fiery opponent since 1993—is now considering taking a neutral position.
To learn more about a variety of resources that can help people make end of life plans in collaboration with their healthcare providers and loved ones, check out Compassion and Choices, an organization dedicated to the care and rights of terminally ill patients.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
• nytimes.com - Source for this article
• jamanetwork.com - JAMA Internal Medicine: Source of Weekend Warrior study article
• annals.org - Annals of Internal Medicine: Source of article on over-diagnosis in breast cancer screening in Denmark
• nytimes.com - mammogram guidelines
• nytimes.com - physician aid in dying