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Roundup: Florida’s Health Ranking; Opioid vs. Placebo Study; and Depression-Anxiety Health Risks

Report: Florida’s Overall Health Ranking is Up, But Obesity Rate Also Climbs

The good news: Florida jumped three places, from No. 32 to No. 29, in the latest annual ranking of healthiest states. The bad news: Florida’s obesity rate increased by 13 percent.

The yearly report shows how states fare with a variety of challenges, including rates of infectious diseases, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and infant mortality. The data is compiled by United Health Foundation [1], a nonprofit division of United Health Group, which also owns the insurance companies United Healthcare and Optum.

Hawaii now ranks as the healthiest state in America, beating out Massachusetts to return to the top spot. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah are the five healthiest states of 2018, according to the report. The five least healthy states are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and, coming in last, Louisiana. The report has been conducted annually for the past 29 years.

The highlights pertaining to Florida, which now ranks 29th, include:

The data for 2018 concerning trends, chiefly a rising obesity rate across the nation.

“Starting with the thing that concerned us the most, obesity has hit an all-time high. The obesity rate in America for the adult population, for the first time in the history of producing this report, is up 5% in the past year. It hit 31.3% for 2018,” Rhonda Randall, M.D., chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare National Markets, and a senior adviser to the America’s Health Rankings report, told CNN.

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Opioids Only Nominally Better Than Placebos for Noncancer Pain, Study Finds

New research that examined more than 26,000 people with chronic pain found that opioids were only marginally better than placebos at treating pain and improving overall functionality.

It’s estimated that at least 2 million Americans are grappling with opioid problems, contributing to the national epidemic of opioid misuse. The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the rate of drug overdoses involving the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl skyrocketed by about 113 percent each year from 2013 through 2016.

Placebos refer to pills that have no therapeutic effect but are used as a control in testing the effects of certain medications. The opioid-placebo study analyzed information from 96 previous clinical trials of prescription opioids that included more than 26,000 people dealing with chronic, noncancer pain.

Those who took opioids reported “statistically significant but small improvements in pain and physical functioning, and increased risk of vomiting compared with placebo,” researchers said. The study’s authors added that other treatments, such as ice, taking over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), or physical therapy, might be better options for people suffering from chronic pain that is not caused by cancer.

“The effects of opioids on chronic pain are uncertain, whereas the harms found to be associated with prescription opioids include diversion, addiction, overdose and death,” researchers reported in the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) [4]. “Compared with placebos, opioids were associated with increased vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, nausea, dry mouth and pruritus (itching).”

The study also looked at information from nine clinical trials involving more than 1,400 people that compared opioid drugs with NSAIDs. Results found that people who received opioid drugs reported about the same degree of pain relief as those who received NSAIDS.

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Anxiety, Depression Could Put You at Higher Risk for Heart Disease, Other Conditions

A study that analyzed health data for more than 15,000 adults over a four-year period concluded that people suffering from anxiety and depression may be at higher risk for developing other major health conditions, such as heart disease.

The data reviewed came from the Health and Retirement study [7], a large-scale U.S. population-based study of older adults. Among the group studied, 16 percent suffered from high levels of anxiety and depression, 31 percent were obese and 14 percent were smokers.

Those who suffered from anxiety and depression were found to have a 65 percent increased risk of a heart condition, 64 percent higher risk for stroke and 50 percent greater risk for high blood pressure. This group’s increased risk was highest for arthritis at 87 percent. The study did not find a link between depression and anxiety and a higher risk of cancer.

“These increased odds are similar to those of participants who are smokers or are obese,” said Aoife O’Donovan, Ph.D., senior study author at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. “However, for arthritis, high anxiety and depression seem to confer higher risks than smoking and obesity.”

Researchers did find strong links between depression and anxiety sufferers and more common conditions such as headache, back pain, upset stomach and shortness of breath.

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