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Americans Who Practice Yoga Report Better Wellness, Health Behaviors

People who practiced yoga or took natural products (dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals) were more likely to do so for wellness reasons than to treat a specific health condition, according to analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Yoga users reported the most positive health benefits, compared to users of natural products and spinal manipulation. The analysis by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health was published in a National Health Statistics Report by the National Center for Health Statistics. The NHIS is an annual study in which thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. The 2012 NHIS asked participants about their use of complementary health approaches and whether they used them to treat a specific health condition or for any of five wellness-related reasons. Participants were also asked whether this use led to any of nine desirable health-related outcomes. The survey results are based on data from 34,525 adults aged 18 and older.

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Specific findings of the analysis included:


* "General wellness or disease prevention" was the most common wellness-related reason for use of each of the three approaches.


* More than two thirds of users of all three health approaches reported that their use improved their overall health and made them feel better.


* Nearly two thirds of yoga users reported that as a result of practicing yoga they were motivated to exercise more regularly, and 4 in 10 reported they were motivated to eat healthier.


* More than 80% of yoga users reported reduced stress as a result of practicing yoga.


* Although dietary supplement users were twice as likely to report wellness rather than treatment as a reason for taking supplements, fewer than one in four reported reduced stress, better sleep, or feeling better emotionally as a result of using dietary supplements.


* More than 60% of those using spinal manipulation reported doing so to treat a specific health condition, and more than 50% did so for general wellness or disease prevention.



Gene Variation Linked to Obesity

A single variation in the gene for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) may influence obesity in children and adults, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study suggests that a less common version of the BDNF gene may predispose people to obesity by producing lower levels of BDNF protein, a regulator of appetite, in the brain. The authors propose that boosting BDNF protein levels may offer a therapeutic strategy for people with the genetic variation, which tends to occur more frequently in African Americans and Hispanics, than in non-Hispanic Caucasians. The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.


AHRQ Analysis: Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduced by 17% From 2010 to 2013

Hospital patient safety substantially improved from 2010 to 2013 with a 17% decline in hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), according to a final data synthesis from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The decline translates to 1.3 million fewer incidents of patient harm, approximately 50,000 fewer patient deaths in hospitals and $12 billion in healthcare cost savings. Gains were particularly strong in 2013 when 800,000 fewer patients experienced harms, 35,000 fewer patients died, and $8 billion in unnecessary costs was saved compared with 2010. HACs include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, and several other types of adverse events. Although precise reasons for the HAC decline cannot be pinpointed, it coincided with concerted efforts among hospitals across the country to reduce adverse events. Efforts were spurred by the Affordable Care Act, which created Medicare payment incentives to improve the quality of care and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Partnership for Patients initiative. Many hospitals have used tools and resources developed by AHRQ-including the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, the Re-Engineered Discharge Toolkit, and TeamSTEPPS(R)-to improve care.

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Healthcare Costs for Dementia Found Greater Than for Any Other Disease

In the last 5 years of life, total healthcare spending for people with dementia was more than a quarter-million dollars per person, some 57% greater than costs associated with death from other diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The new analysis, appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, estimates that total healthcare spending was $287,000 for those with probable dementia and $183,000 for other Medicare beneficiaries in the study. The analysis was funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the NIH. Additional support was provided by the American Federation for Aging Research. Amy S. Kelley, M.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and colleagues analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative longitudinal study supported by the NIA and the Social Security Administration, as well as linked Medicare and Medicaid records and other data. They calculated the "social" costs of all types of care for 1,702 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries age 70 and older who died between 2005 and 2007. Patients were divided into four groups: those with a high probability of dementia; those with either cancer or heart disease; or those with another cause of death.

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Lower Blood Pressure Target Can Reduce Cardiovascular Disease, Deaths

NIH-supported researchers are reporting more details on a landmark study that announced preliminary findings showing a lower blood pressure target can save lives and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in a group of nondiabetic adults 50 years and older with high blood pressure. Results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) appear in the New England Journal of Medicine and were discussed at the American Heart Association 2015 Scientific Sessions in Orlando. The study confirms that, in adults 50 years and older with high blood pressure, targeting a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) reduced rates of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and heart failure, as well as stroke, by 25%. Additionally, this target reduced the risk of death by 27%-as compared to a target systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg. The SPRINT study, which began in the fall of 2009, included more than 9,300 participants age 50 and older, recruited from about 100 medical centers and clinical practices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. About 36% of participants were women, 58% were white, 30% were African-American, and 11% were Hispanic. The SPRINT study did not include patients with diabetes, prior stroke, or polycystic kidney disease, as other NIH trials were studying those particular populations. Approximately 28% were 75 or older and 28% had chronic kidney disease. The study tested a strategy of using blood pressure medications to achieve the targeted goals of less than 120 mm Hg (intensive treatment group) versus 140 mm Hg (standard treatment group). The NIH stopped the blood pressure intervention a year earlier than planned-after it became apparent that this more intensive intervention was beneficial.

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AHRQ Study: Flu Vaccines in Nursing Homes Save Thousands of Lives Each Year

Effective influenza vaccines in U.S. nursing homes save about 2,560 lives and prevent more than 3,200 hospitalizations annually, according to an AHRQ-funded study. Researchers studied more than 1 million Medicare fee-for-service, long-stay nursing home residents between 2000 and 2009. With well-matched vaccines, deaths dropped by an estimated 2%; pneumonia/influenza hospitalizations dropped 4.2%. Authors concluded influenza vaccination is an important strategy for preventing both flu and pneumonia in these elderly adults. The study, "Estimating the Effect of Influenza Vaccination on Nursing Home Residents' Morbidity and Mortality," appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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