Top 5 Health Topics of 2015

Over the span of hundreds of articles in 2015, the Resource and Salud blogs have covered health topics that touch upon the latest healthcare advances, trends, clinical trials and the most up-to-date guidelines for preventing or managing most diseases and conditions. Here are the top five health topics of 2015 as compiled by the Baptist Health South Florida News Team:

5. Updated guidelines to manage heart disease risk factors.

Managing risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes is crucial in preventing or managing heart disease. This year, the U.S. task force that focuses on wellness and prevention urged follow-up blood pressure monitoring for Americans whose true BP readings may not be accurately reflected at their doctor’s office. The task force recommends follow-up screenings as a way to overcome the widespread problem of “white coat hypertension,” which is when a patient’s blood pressure measurement is significantly different in a clinical office, compared to actual readings in day-to-day normal living.

Separately, a U.S. government panel is recommending that Americans further lower their consumption of added sugars. They should also eat less processed foods and more “plant-based foods” such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, the panel urged. “Most people don’t realize how harmful processed foods and added sugars can be, especially when it comes to controlling weight and chronic diseases as you get older,” said Natalie Castro, R.D., chief wellness dietitian for corporate wellness at Baptist Health South Florida. The panel of health and nutrition experts reviewed the most recent medical studies to come up with updated national dietary guidelines, which the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) revise every five years.

Read more on this topic:
New Guidelines Urge Follow-Up Blood Pressure Monitoring
New Dietary Guidelines: More Plant-Based Foods, Less Added Sugars
Pace of New Diabetes Cases Shows Improvement
Have You Taken the ‘Diabetes Risk Test’?


4. The dangers of obesity.

Although obesity rates may be leveling off among some age groups – and Florida has the eighth-lowest obesity rate in the nation – it is still considered a rising health concern that contributes to a higher risk for heart disease and other chronic or dangerous conditions. Between 2011 and 2012, 35 percent of U.S. adults were obese, a percentage that had been deemed a plateau. However, in the 2013-to-2014 period the obesity rate jumped to 38 percent, the CDC reported recently.

While Florida has the eighth-lowest adult obesity rate in the nation at 26.2 percent, the state’s adult obesity rate has been steadily rising since 1990. Obesity raises the risk of a range of health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, high blood pressure, stroke and osteoarthritis.

“Losing as little as 10 percent of excess body weight seems to have health benefits,” says Cathy Clark-Reyes, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health Primary Care. “That’s a realistic start.”

Read more on this topic:
Obesity Rates Still Rising
Watch Now: The Dangers of Obesity & 5 Ways to Lose Belly Fat
Florida’s Obesity Rate Is 8th Lowest
Gallup: U.S. Obesity Rate Surges to 28%


3. Rise of e-cigarette use.

In a strongly worded policy statement issued recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that popularity of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, is “threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine.” The AAP is urging U.S. health officials to raise the minimum legal age for purchasing any nicotine product, e-cigarettes included, from 18 to 21. The group of pediatricians is also calling for e-cigarettes to be tightly regulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering such regulations. “Heated vapors are an irritant to the lungs and can be just as harmful to the lungs as traditional cigarettes,” says Raul Valor, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician and section chief of pulmonary care at Baptist Hospital.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Florida Department Health found that e-cigarette use among high school students has increased from 5.4 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2015. “This alarming increase in e-cigarette use among teens has the potential to normalize smoking again after decades of hard work in Florida and across the country to reverse that norm,” said Shannon Hughes, director of the Community Health Promotion Division for the Florida Department of Health.

Read more on this topic:
Pediatricians Call for Raising Smoking Age to 21, Regulation of e-Cigs
E-Cigarette Use Rises to 16% of High School Students
Electronic Cigarettes Banned in National Parks
E-Cigs Lead Teens to Traditional Smoking?


2. Health risks of sugary drinks, processed foods.

Concerns over too much sugar in the American diet intensified further in 2015, with more studies pointing to a link between serious health conditions and sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks. Too many sugary drinks in the diet are directly attributed to weight gain and obesity. Similarly, consumption of too much “added sugars” in the diet can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay and even cancer. A new study found that diets rich in these sugary drinks cause 184,000 deaths worldwide annually, including 25,000 deaths in the United States.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization caused a global stir in October with a new report that says bacon, hot dogs, sausages and other processed meat contribute to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Dietitians mostly praise the findings for putting the spotlight on potentially unhealthy foods and the need for a balanced-diet approach. The American Cancer Society promotes a diet rich in plant-based foods and a limited consumption of red meat.

“You don’t have to be a vegetarian to experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Just make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day,” says Lucette Talamas, registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida.

Read more on this topic:

Worried About Processed Meat-Cancer Link? Consider Greener, Safer Choices
Diets Rich in Sugary Drinks Linked to 184,000 Adult Deaths Annually
Sugary Drinks Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Failure
Watch Now: ‘Sweet Revenge: Turning the Tables on Processed Food’


1. Medical advances.

From a new drug-coated “balloon catheter” used to open blocked arteries to South Florida’s first single-incision robotic hysterectomy, it has been a year filled with medical advances in the treatment of a range of conditions. Additionally, some groundbreaking articles have been published by noted Baptist Health physicians related to the treatment of heart disease and its risk factors.

Khurram Nasir, M.D., and medical director of the Center for Healthcare Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida, is the senior author of a major study — Implications of Coronary Artery Calcium Testing Among Statin Candidates — published in October in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study is part of the medical debate sparked by the new American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association cholesterol management guidelines.

Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute became one of the first entities nationwide to use the drug-coated “balloon catheter” in a procedure on a PAD (peripheral arterial disease) patient after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More recently, the device was found to yield better results than standard angioplasty treatment, according to the findings of a new trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine. One of the authors of the article is James Benenati, M.D., medical director of the Peripheral Vascular Laboratory at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

In May at South Miami Hospital, Miami gynecologic oncologist Ricardo Estape, M.D., performed a single-incision robotic hysterectomy on Rosa Pazos of Miramar. In this video, Ms. Pazos and Dr. Estape, medical director of Baptist Health’s Center for Robotic Surgery, describe how this procedure differs from hysterectomies of the past.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., a certified lipidologist and a medical director at the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, has been a principal investigator in seven clinical trials with PCSK9 inhibitors, a new class of medications in the ongoing fight against high cholesterol. In July, the FDA approved the new cholesterol-lowering drug alirocumab, which goes by the brand name Praluent. The injectable drug is the first of the PCSK9 inhibitors to hit the market.

Read more on this topic:

First Scarless Robotic Hysterectomy Patient Talks
Watch Now: Robotic Weight Loss Procedure on Display at Obesity Week 2015
Results Encouraging for New PAD Treatment
CT Screenings for Lung Cancer are Saving More Lives
A Promising New Class of Cholesterol-Fighting Drugs
Watch Now: Study Shows Value of Heart Scans for Detecting Heart Attack Risk, Avoiding Extra Medication

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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