Moderate Alcohol Use Linked to Heart Chamber Damage

Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a nightcap before bed, but don’t count on their heart benefits. A new study by UC San Francisco researchers found that even moderate alcohol consumption may change the structure of the heart in ways that increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a known risk factor for stroke. The irregular pumping of blood can lead to blood clots, which may travel to the brain and cause stroke. there are various forms of heart disease and not all are related to heart attack.

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Woman Killed by a Superbug

Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

The case involved a woman who had spent considerable time in India, where multi-drug-resistant bacteria are more common than they are in the US. She had broken her right femur — the big bone in the thigh — while in India a couple of years back. She later developed a bone infection in her femur and her hip and was hospitalized a number of times in India in the two years that followed. Her last admission to a hospital in India was in June of last year.

The unnamed woman — described as a resident of Washoe County who was in her 70s — went into hospital in Reno for care in mid-August, where it was discovered she was infected with what is called a CRE — carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae. That’s a general name to describe bacteria that commonly live in the gut that have developed resistance to the class of antibiotics called carbapenems — an important last-line of defense used when other antibiotics fail.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CREs “nightmare bacteria” because of the danger they pose for spreading antibiotic resistance. In the woman’s case, the specific bacteria attacking her was called Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bug that often causes of urinary tract infections.

Testing at the hospital showed resistance to 14 drugs — all the drug options the hospital had, said Lei Chen, a senior epidemiologist with Washoe County Health District. A sample was sent to the CDC in Atlanta for further testing, which revealed that nothing available to US doctors would have cured this infection.

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Survival of newborns, India ranks lower than Somalia

Newborns in India have a lesser chance of survival than babies born in Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the latest Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study published in the medical journal The Lancet. In the GBD rankings for healthcare access and quality (HAQ), India has fallen 11 places, and now ranks 154 out of 195 countries. Further, India’s healthcare index of 44.8 is the lowest among the sub-continental countries, as Sri Lanka (72.8), Bangladesh (51.7), Bhutan (52.7), and Nepal (50.8) all fared better.

India’s downward slide in the rankings indicates that it has failed to achieve health care targets, especially those concerning neonatal disorders, maternal health, tuberculosis, and rheumatic heart disease. Last year, India was ranked 143 among 188 countries.

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Burning more fat and less glucose could lead to diabetes

Making muscles burn more fat and less glucose can increase exercise endurance, but could simultaneously cause diabetes, says a team of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine and other institutions.

Mouse muscles use glucose (carbohydrate) as fuel when the animals are awake and active and switch to fat (lipid) when they are asleep. The team discovered that disrupting this natural cycle may lead to diabetes but, surprisingly, also can enhance exercise endurance.

The switch is controlled by a molecule called histone deacetylase 3, or HDAC3. How the muscle uses glucose is regulated by its internal circadian clock that anticipates the level of its activity during the day and at night,

The circadian clock works by turning certain genes on and off as the 24-hour cycle progresses. HDAC3 is a key connection between the circadian clock and gene expression.

Skeletal muscles, the voluntary muscles, are important in the control of blood glucose in the body. They consume most of the glucose, and if they develop insulin resistance and consequently are not able to use glucose, then diabetes likely will develop.

When normal mice eat, their blood sugar increases and insulin is released, which stimulates muscles to take in and use glucose as fuel.

when the HDAC3-knocked out mice ran on a treadmill, they showed superior endurance, their muscles break down more amino acids. This changed the muscles’ preference from glucose to lipids and allowed them to burn lipid very efficiently. This explains the high endurance, because the body carries a much larger energy reservoir in the form of lipid than carbohydrate.

The finding challenges the widely-used carbohydrate-loading (carbo-loading) strategy for improving endurance performance. “Carbo-loading didn’t make evolutionary sense before the invention of agriculture,”

In normal mice, when the mouse is awake, the clock in the muscle anticipates a feeding cycle and uses HDAC3 to turn off many metabolic genes. This leads the muscles to use more carbohydrate,” said Sun. “When the animal is about to go to sleep and anticipates a fasting cycle, the clock removes HDAC3. This leads the muscles to use more lipid.

The study opens the possibility of promoting body fat burning by increasing exercise activity during the periods in which muscles use lipid, which is at night for people.

“Losing body fat would be easier by exercising lightly and fasting at night,” said Sun. “It’s not a bad idea to take a walk after dinner.”

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Healthcare or Wealthcare?

A startling new report from the Congressional Budget Office is projecting 24 million people will lose health insurance coverage by 2026 under the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Fourteen million people would lose health insurance in the next year alone. While the White House rejected the CBO findings, Politico is reporting the White House’s own analysis predicts 26 million people will lose coverage under the bill over the next decade. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $337 billion, but one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Republican bill will be millionaires. A new study by the Tax Policy Center shows people in the top 0.1 percent would get a tax cut of about $207,000 under the plan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of attempting to push through the biggest transfer of wealth in the nation’s history.

Elisabeth Benjamin talking:

it’s simply devastating for low-income people and for working people, that what they’re going to do is rob $880 billion from the Medicaid program. They’re going to rob $673 million in tax care—tax credits and subsidies from middle- and working-income people, and pay for tax cuts to the very wealthy in the order of around $600 billion. So, it’s just—these are extraordinary numbers. I don’t think people understand that 41 percent of the people on Medicaid are children. The remainder are elderly, people with disabilities and very low-income wage earners.

I was helping a woman recently who used to work in a very high-end department store. And now she got a bad knee from standing up so much in her department store work and then now works in a coffee shop, and she makes around $16,000 a year. She’s on Medicaid. Medicaid has saved her life. She’s been able to get the treatment for her knee, and she’s been able to keep working. She’s in her fifties. If she were to—she is going from having free healthcare on Medicaid, that’s helping low-wage workers, to a $16,000 health insurance plan. It’s insane. And you can’t afford, basically, to pay what you earn.

However, wealthy people will be getting an incredible tax cut. So, the Peterson Institute for International Economics just released a statement saying people who make $1 million will be getting a $12,900 tax cut, while the people who are earning $26,000, who are older, will be getting a $12,000 insurance rate hike. This is not fair. It’s not right. And it’s unethical.

what they are doing is robbing money from the Medicaid program, robbing money from the states. They’re incentivizing states to cut people off of Medicaid. Instead of being looked at the eligibility once a year, they’re changing it to every six months. Instead of letting people have retroactive Medicaid if they get into an accident and go into a coma, that goes backwards for a month while you were in a coma, they’re getting rid of that. They’re basically incentivizing the states to cut off Medicaid for low-income and working people. And we will have no more Medicaid program for them. So the fact that Dr. Tom Price doesn’t understand how the numbers were derived by the Congressional Budget Office—by the way, which were rosier than the White House’s own numbers. He’s in the White House. Can’t he read the reports? I find that just a shocking display of ignorance.

unless they’re just simply pretending, I mean, to obscure facts, which seems to be the plan here. But the bottom line is, is real people will get hurt, like my waitress, like children, like seniors, people in nursing homes. It’s really an unconscionable bill.

A 20-year-old—so, now we’re moving from Medicaid for a second to what’s happening in the marketplaces. So we’re talking about people with a little more income, say around $16,000 a year and above. What will happen to a 20-year-old who is earning around $18,000 is they will get a $2,000 tax credit. Now, they’re able to buy a plan that costs $150, so they’re going to be a net winner. So that will incentivize—and this is what they’re trying to do, is incentivize more young people to get into the health insurance market. Not a bad idea on its face to incentivize young people to get into the marketplace. But their means are pernicious and evil.

The 60-year-old will have to pay, right now, who’s making the same amount of money, around $20,000—will be asked to pay five times more, because they’re going to allow age rating, which means they’re going to say, if you’re older, you have to pay five times more than a younger person. They’re not going to base it on income anymore. Before it was like you pay as much as you can, up to set amounts, up to 400 percent of poverty. Now they’re saying, “Forget about your income and how much you can afford. Everybody has to pay the same amount. And, P.S., if you’re older, you have to pay five times more.”

it’s not about choice, because they’re basically going to guarantee that health insurance premiums will be unaffordable for older people. You know, when people were asked what they didn’t like about the of Affordable Care Act, it was they had copays and deductibles. This bill is a guarantee that—it’s a race to the bottom. Deductibles will be even higher. Copays will be larger. And they’re going to allow it. The Affordable Care Act set standards for what health—what good health insurance would be. Now, you could buy lower-quality insurance; you could buy higher-quality insurance. You had choice, but—and you, arguably, you know, had lots of subsidies for people who really needed it. What’s happening here is they’re giving a transfer of wealth to very well-income—very well-off people who don’t need it, and they’re basically robbing it from low-income people, people on Medicaid, seniors, people with disabilities and the working poor and middle-income people. And it’s just not right, and we have to say no.

I think we are at a point as a country where we have to decide who we really are. And if we’re really about enabling the super-rich to be richer at the expense of vulnerable populations, like children, old people, people with disabilities and the working poor—who, by the way, aren’t getting things necessarily for free. They’re having to pay what they can. It’s just—that’s the Affordable Care Act. That is a fair and just system of healthcare. It’s not perfect. We can make it better. But this is making it—it’s throwing it away and offering and substituting it with something much worse that’s going to really hurt real people.

Elisabeth Benjamin
vice president of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York and co-founder of the Health Care for All New York campaign.

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