This is the first week of my new feature: The Friday Five! Each Friday, I’ll use fewer than five sentences to summarize and comment on five important, interesting, or just plain amusing health stories from the week. Here we go!
Angelina Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy
The lovely actor-turned-humanitarian published an op-ed explaining her decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy (and probably an oophorectomy in the future). Angelina even allowed—encouraged? Demanded?—her doctor to publish her pre- and post-op treatment plan. The Internet unsurprisingly buzzes with commentary: some support her, some worry her privilege sets an unattainable standard of care, and some are concerned she lopped off two of her most attractive assets. I’m impressed with her openness. While most of us do our best to keep medical information offline, Angelina willingly shared hers, hoping her candor would help other women.
Swimming pools teem with E. Coli
A study conducted last summer in Atlanta area pools showed swimmers were cooling off in more than just water. E. coli was found in 59% of the pools, and as the CDC says, E. coli is a “fecal indicator.” Uh oh, seems like we need a refresher course in pool hygiene. The CDC gives a good finger wagging, reminding us all to take a soapy shower before swimming and to avoid the pool altogether if we’ve been suffering from diarrhea. Pool staff also should remain vigilant about chemical levels and health departments must enforce regulations.
Newborn tetanus mortality declines dramatically thanks to UNICEF
When women give birth in less than ideal conditions, and non-sterile instruments are used during delivery and to cut the umbilical cord, both the mother and child are at risk of contracting Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus if the mother has not been vaccinated. In the early 1990s, tetanus was identified as one of the most common causes of death for infants. In response, UNICEF partnered with national governments, The Gates Foundation, and many others in order to vaccinate 118 million women. The problem has been eliminated in 31 countries, but the programs in 28 countries are still vulnerable to financial cuts and shifts in political support.
Human embryonic stem cells successfully cloned
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University implanted donated eggs with a baby’s skin cells and for the first time, the resulting embryos lived long enough that researchers were able to extract usable stem cells. This development inspires hope that we are on the path toward creating genetically matched replacement organs for those in need and treating patients with rare diseases of the mitochondria. However, the usual suspects (mostly Catholic leaders) have moral objections and call for the elimination of all stem cell research, even though researchers are not creating viable embryos. The promise of healthy lives for children and adults will outweigh these concerns. To paraphrase Jurassic Park: science will find a way.
Questions surface about healthy sodium levels
Federal healthy eating guidelines and the American Heart Association have long encouraged us to keep sodium consumption under 2,300 mg/day and under 1,500 mg/day for anyone who is over 51, African American, or has diabetes, heart, or kidney disease. A new report questions this claim. The link between sodium, blood pressure, and heart disease may be more tenuous than most of us thought. A low sodium diet may have unintended health consequences and may not, in fact, reduce risk of heart attack or stroke. This challenge to nutritional orthodoxy shows that investing in nutrition research is vital to population health and reducing illness and death linked to diet.
I leave you with the song that plays in my head every Friday at 6:00 pm. Have a great weekend!