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Roundup: American Heart Association Cites ‘Dangerous Risks’ of E-cigarettes; CDC to Provide Free COVID Vaccines for Uninsured, Underinsured; and More News

American Heart Association: E-cigarettes ‘Pose Dangerous Health Risks’ and More Research Needed

E-cigarettes, also known as vaping devices, contain Ingredients that “may each independently pose dangerous health risks” to the heart and lungs, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) that calls for more research on the long-term impact.

The statement noted that e-cigarette use has “grown exponentially, especially among youth and young adults.” E-cigarette use more than doubled from 2017 to 2019 among middle and high school students, the AHA said.

“E-cigarettes deliver numerous substances into the body that are potentially harmful, including chemicals and other compounds that are likely not known to or understood by the user. There is research indicating that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are associated with acute changes in several hemodynamic measures, including increases in blood pressure and heart rate,” stated the volunteer chair of the AHA scientific statement writing committee, Jason J. Rose, M.D., M.B.A., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The most current survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released in May, found that e-cigarette use rose to nearly 6 percent last year, up from about 4.9 percent the year before. Prior to the AHA’s statement, medical experts had found that e-cigarettes can cause serious health issues and can entice young users to try traditional tobacco products. Both cigarettes and vaping devices contain nicotine, which is the ingredient that makes them highly addictive.

E-cigarettes contain other harmful substances, including certain amounts of metals and chemicals, some of which have unknown, long-term effects that are still being studied. The CDC states that “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, and pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

The AHA writing committee examined the limited research into claims that e-cigarettes can help some stop smoking traditional tobacco products and concluded that “any benefits e-cigarettes may offer to help people stop smoking or stop using tobacco products needs to be clearly balanced alongside the products’ known and unknown potential health risks, including the known risk of long-term dependence on these products.”

Dr. Rose adds: “Because e-cigarettes and other vaping systems have only been in the U.S. for about 15 years, we do not yet have enough information on their long-term health effects, so we must rely on shorter term studies, molecular experiments and research in animals to try to assess the true risk of using e-cigarettes,”

Studies gauging the specific impact e-cigarettes have on heart attacks and strokes are limited, the AHA said.

CDC to Launch Program in Fall 2023 to Provide Free COVID-19 Vaccines to Uninsured, Underinsured Adults

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced a new program, Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 Vaccines, to provide uninsured and underinsured U.S. adults access to no-cost COVID-19 vaccinations for a limited time period.  

The CDC states that it is targeting up to 30 million adults who don’t have health insurance in the U.S., and additional adults whose insurance “will not provide free coverage for COVID-19 vaccines after these products transition to the commercial market for procurement, distribution, and pricing, later this fall.”

Under the CDC’s management, the Bridge Access Program – for a limited time – will allow adults who are uninsured or underinsured to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations. The program is scheduled to end in December 2024.

“CDC will purchase COVID-19 vaccines and allocate them, along with the funding needed to implement this new program, through CDC’s established network of state and local immunization programs,” the agency said in a news release. “These partners will then facilitate distribution of these vaccines to participating community-based providers, including local health departments and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-supported health centers.”

The CDC is also states that it is working closely with “select national pharmacy chains, as well as vaccine manufacturers,” to enable uninsured adults to receive free COVID-19 vaccines at participating retail pharmacy locations.  Through agreements with participating pharmacy chains, the Bridge Access Program will reimburse pharmacies the administration fees for  administering vaccine doses, the CDC said.

“Protecting people from COVID-19 remains a top priority for CDC,” said CDC Director Mandy Cohen , M.D., in a statement. “CDC is partnering with state and local public health agencies, health centers, and pharmacies to ensure that all adults nationwide maintain access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. Ultimately, we know that vaccines save money and lives. Vaccination is especially important as we head into fall and winter, a time when COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases are likely to circulate.”

Visual Impairment in Older Adults Could be Risk Factor for Dementia, New Research Finds

Could vision loss among adults in their 70s indicate a higher risk of dementia, compared to those adults the same age with no vision issues? New research indicates that vision impairment in those over 71 could signal cognitive decline.

Researchers at the University of Michigan reviewed data from nearly 3,000 U.S. adults over the age of 71 who had taken part in a larger study, the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS).

The NHATS had tested participants’ eyesight and noted their vision scores for short distances, long distances, and how well they to discerned objects against different backgrounds. They also found out whether the participants had dementia from the NHATS study data.

As part of the new study, researchers determined that participants with sight loss were more likely to have dementia, compared to those with no vision issues. Sight loss is not considered a major risk factor for dementia at this time. But the new study's authors, whose work is published in JAMA Ophthalmology, suggest that the link between dementia and vision loss should be studied further.

In a statement about the new study, Susan Mitchell, M.D., head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This is a crucial time for dementia research, as evidence builds about how factors such as sight loss are linked to dementia. Studies like this are crucial for identifying possible new dementia risk factors and ultimately working out how to potentially prevent some cases of dementia from happening in the first place."

One potential explanation, Dr. Mitchell pointed out:  “Diabetes is a key risk factor for dementia, and this condition can also cause vision problems. Or it might be that there are shared pathways in the brain that cause both vision loss and a decline in memory and thinking abilities.”

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