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Roundup: Risk of Opioid Overdose Surpasses Car Accidents; Poor Sleep Tied to Heart Disease; Flu Season Mild To-Date

The chance of an adult in the U.S. dying accidentally from an opioid overdose is greater than dying in a car accident, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). This latest of many startling statistics shining light on the country’s opioid crisis was released this week in a NSC report [1] of research conducted in 2017.

The chances of dying from an opioid overdose, the report found, is one in 96. The probability of dying in a vehicle crash is one in 103. It’s the first time that dying in a car crash is surpassed by another preventable injury or fatality as the leading cause of death in the U.S. since the NSC first published its data in the early 1920s.

Most Americans are still most likely to die of natural causes, primarily heart disease (a one in six chance) or cancer (one in seven).

“Preventable injuries are at an all-time high, ranking as the third leading cause of death behind heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease,” says Injury Facts, the NSC’s annual report of preventable injury and fatality statistics. The number of  preventable injury-related deaths in 2017 rose by more than 8,500, representing a 5.3 percent increase from 2016.

The total deaths from opioid overdoses first surpassed the total number of deaths from vehicle accidents several years ago. But the new report found that accidental opioid deaths exceeded the number of accidental vehicle crashes for the first time in 2017.

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Sleeping Less Than 6 Hours a Night Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease

It’s already established that not getting your 7 to 8 hours of solid sleep every night is bad for overall health. A new study finds that less than 6 hours of sleep a night could actually raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Results of the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology [4] found that people who slept fewer than six hours a night were 27 percent more likely to develop atherosclerosis – a buildup of plaque in the body’s arteries – compared to those who got between seven and eight hours of sleep.

“Cardiovascular disease is a major global problem, and we are preventing and treating it using several approaches, including pharmaceuticals, physical activity and diet,” said senior study author José M. Ordovás, director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “But this study emphasizes we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease — a factor we are compromising every day.”

Previous studies have shown that lack of sleep raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing heart disease risk factors such as glucose levels, blood pressure, inflammation and obesity, he said in a statement.

The study participants included 4,000 people with no known history of heart disease. Their average age was 46, and two-thirds of participants were men. They wore an actigraph, a tool that measure’s a person’s activity level, for seven days to study their sleep habits. They also had 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scans performed to look for heart disease.

The quality of sleep matters as much as the number of hours, the study found. Study participants with a poor quality of sleep were 34 percent more likely to develop atherosclerosis than those who had a solid night’s sleep.

This is not the first study to link poor sleep with a high risk of heart disease.

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So Far, This Flu Season is Tracking Milder Than Last Year’s

Although nearly 7 million people have become sick with the flu since the official start of flu season last October, the 2018-2019 season is predicted to be less severe than the previous flu season.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is “widespread” in 30 states – Florida included – and “regional” in 17 states. The remaining states are experiencing “sporadic” influenza levels, according to the report ended Jan. 5, 2018.

Last season, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications — the disease’s highest death count in at least four decades. Flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000 in recent years, according to the CDC.

The CDC has yet to estimate the number of flu-related deaths so far this season, partly because activity doesn’t peak until next month. However, the health agency says that about 6 million to 7 million Americans have become ill since flu season kicked off in the fall. About half were sick enough to go to see a doctor. Moreover, about 70,000 to 80,000 have been hospitalized, the CDC says.

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