High blood sugar may raise heart disease risk even if you don’t have diabetes

People with elevated blood sugar levels may have a 30–50% higher risk of developing heart disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the diabetes threshold. CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

  • Researchers found that people with elevated blood sugar levels have a 30–50% increased risk of developing heart disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the threshold for diabetes.
  • The findings show that males were more likely to be prescribed preventive antihypertensive and statin therapies than females, revealing a “prescribing gap.”
  • Healthy blood sugar levels are important for health and energy, and certain factors may spike blood sugar, even when a person does not have diabetes.

Every person needs a certain amount of sugar in their blood to stay healthy and energized.

A person’s blood sugar levels will fluctuate throughout the day depending on what they eat and is also impacted by their age and overall health.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London have found both men and women with raised blood sugar levels have a 30–50% increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the threshold for diabetes.

Additionally, researchers reported a potential disparity between the amount of preventive antihypertensive and statin medications prescribed to males and females, suggesting a potential “prescribing gap.”

This study was recently published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

How high blood sugar may be linked to heart disease

Researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank of more than 427,000 UK residents for the study.

About 54% of participants were females and about 46% were males. All participants had different blood sugar levels including:

  • healthy
  • prediabetic
  • diabetic

Dr. Christopher Rentsch, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of this study explained to Medical News Today:

“We were interested to explore which risk factors drive known sex differences in the risk of heart disease between men and women with diabetes, and whether men or women with moderately elevated blood sugar below the threshold for diabetes are also at increased risk of heart disease.”

Upon analysis and after adjusting for age, the research team found both men and women with moderately elevated blood sugar levels below the threshold for diabetes were at increased risk for any type of cardiovascular disease.

“The finding that moderately elevated blood sugar below the diabetes threshold was associated with (an) increased risk of heart disease was not entirely surprising based on prior research in this area. For example, there is a recognized state of ‘prediabetes’ where blood sugar is elevated but not yet meeting the criteria for a diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes is known to increase the risk of progressing to diabetes and potentially developing heart disease. Key novel contributions of our work were quantifying the risk of heart disease across a full range of blood sugar levels for both men and women and demonstrating these associations were largely explained by modifiable factors.”

What is considered high blood sugar? 

Sometimes a person’s blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, can become too high. Certain factors may cause a person’s blood sugar to spike, even if they do not have diabetes. These may include:

  • unhealthy diet
  • lack of exercise
  • insufficient sleep
  • stress from illness

There are a few different tests used to determine a person’s blood sugar levels.

One of those tests is the fasting blood sugar test, where a person’s levels are checked when they have not eaten. A fasting glucose reading of 99 mg/dL or below is considered healthy.

Another commonly used test is the A1C test, which measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over two to three months. An A1C test reading of 5.7% or below is considered healthy.

When a person’s blood sugar levels test in ranges above normal, it is considered high blood sugar, medically known as hyperglycemia. High blood sugar can signal either prediabetes or diabetes.

Symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent need to urinate
  • extreme hunger
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • mood changes

If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can lead to a variety of health issues, including:

  • nerve damage
  • chronic kidney disease
  • vision issues
  • foot ulcers
  • erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • skin problems

Previous research has also linked high blood sugar levels to an increased risk for certain heart conditions, including stroke and high blood pressure.

 Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels and heart disease risk.

Young People Are Having Less Sex Than Their Parents Did at Their Age, and Researchers Are Exploring Why

Young adults aren’t behaving like their parents: They’re not drinking as much, they’re facing more mental health challenges, and they’re living with their parents longer. On top of that, computer games and social media have become a sort of stand-in for physical relationships.

All that means young Californians aren’t having as much sex.

The number of young adults going without sex was rising even before covid made dating harder and riskier. In 2011, about 22% of Californians ages 18 to 30 reported having no sexual partners in the prior 12 months. That crept up to 29% in 2019, and it jumped to 38% in 2021, according to the latest figures from UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey.

Other age groups in California also reported an increase in abstinence, but the trend was not nearly as pronounced.

“Everything happens later,” said San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, author of “Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents—and What They Mean for America’s Future.” She said the numbers reflect how young adults increasingly delay major life events, such as moving out of their parents’ homes and forging long-term romantic relationships.

Singles saw the most dramatic change.

It has long been the case that single people are more likely to report having no sex than married or cohabiting people. But as young adults delay marriage, the gap has widened.

Young adults may be putting off long-term relationships “due to their increasingly economically precarious status or stress related to completing education and looking for jobs,” said Lei Lei, a sociology professor at Rutgers who recently co-authored a paper that examined why fewer young adults are having sex. “They are busy with other domains of life.” Researchers also noted that hundreds of thousands of young adults identify as asexual.

Rising computer use may play a role in the trend. Young adults increasingly form relationships through playing video games with people they do not physically meet, Lei said. These distant relationships sometimes interfere with the formation of sexual relationships.

A Pew Research Center report from 2015 found equal numbers of men and women played video games but that young adult men were more than three times as likely as young adult women to identify as serious “gamers.”

Young adults also have access to endless amounts of free pornography online, a departure from the porn magazines, videotapes, and DVDs many of their parents bought. Much of the most popular online porn features violence or coercion, which gives some young adults a flawed perspective on sex and turns others off it entirely, said Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health.

“Those kinds of behaviors are really, really normalized among young people,” she said, referring to rough sex.

Sex also has a correlation with income. Young adults who make less money were more likely to go without sex than peers making more.

Much recent discourse about lack of sex among young adults has revolved around so-called incels, young men who contend — often in vile, misogynistic terms — that dating apps like Tinder make it easier for women to find conventionally attractive, wealthy, or otherwise high-status men and ignore everyone else.

Erin Tillman, a certified sex educator and executive director of the nonprofit Sex-Positive Los Angeles, said it makes her sad when she hears men blame women for not wanting to have sex with them. She said those men could likely change their perspective and find intimacy.

“They hold the cards in terms of making themselves better,” she said.

The sexless trend has the potential to lower rates of unplanned pregnancy. And it could also reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, though that has not yet happened.

Herbenick does worry about young adults who want sex but aren’t having it. “It can feel really lonely if you feel like people are rejecting you or wouldn’t be interested in you,” she said.

But Tillman remains optimistic, noting the latest group of young adults, like every new generation, is finding its way and approaching sex differently than their parents.

“I’m not worried, because people are just basically finding different ways to connect with each other,” Tillman said.

Phillip Reese is a data reporting specialist and an assistant professor of journalism at California State University-Sacramento.

Alcohol Kills Men More Often, but Women’s Death Rates Are Catching Up

Women are catching up to men when it comes to dying from alcohol abuse, a new study finds.

Although men are nearly three times more likely to die from alcohol abuse than women, such deaths among women are rising at a faster rate. Between 2018 and 2020, alcohol-related deaths rose 12.5% among men, but jumped nearly 15% among women.

“It’s really concerning,” said lead researcher Dr. Ibraheem Karaye, an assistant professor of population health at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

For the study, he and his colleagues examined data on nearly 606,000 alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2020.

Karaye said he can’t say with certainty why this trend is happening. However, he thinks that the obesity epidemic among women may be tied to alcohol-related deaths because it comes with a higher risk of alcohol concentration.

“You are more likely to observe toxicity and develop complications and die as a result of that,” he said.

Moreover, alcohol-related deaths are also compounded by simultaneous opioid use, Karaye added.

“In some alcohol-related deaths, there is a very high chance that individuals do not only consume alcohol but also opiates,” he said. “Studies increasingly show that alcohol and opioid co-involved mortality absolutely exist.”

The researchers also found that among white, Hispanic and Black women, the use of alcohol is on the rise as are alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol-related deaths among women are higher in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest, Karaye added.

Linda Richter is senior vice president for prevention research and analysis at the Partnership to End Addiction.

“This study highlights the importance of not losing sight of the risks of alcohol, despite the widespread and deeply-ingrained normalization of its use in our society. With all the focus on opioids like fentanyl, we’ve taken our eye off the real dangers associated with excessive alcohol use, which causes significantly more deaths annually than all drugs,” said Richter, who was not part of the new study.

The harms are not limited to the most extreme consequence of death, she noted. “In recent years, we’ve seen increases in risky drinking, with rates of increase higher among females than males. This narrowing of the long-standing sex gap in risky alcohol use and, as this study shows, mortality, underscores the need to drive more resources to raise public awareness and offer effective and early interventions to stem this tide.”

Along with greater acceptance of alcohol use, including binge drinking and excessive use, some of the risk factors for drinking that are more prevalent in females have increased as well, including stress, anxiety and depression, Richter added.

“And due to physiological sex differences in alcohol’s effects, biological females who drink excessively experience alcohol-related harms more quickly and intensely than males — a fact well known to researchers and clinicians, but not widely understood by the general public,” Richter said.

The narrowing of the sex gap in risky alcohol use is most prominent among younger people, although that does not appear in these mortality data, she said.

“But to reduce these increasing mortality rates in the long term, we must invest in prevention efforts that start early and continue throughout the life span in age-appropriate and research-informed ways,” Richter added.

For more on alcohol and your health, see the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

What to know about bone diseases

Certain conditions or diseases can affect bone strength and flexibility and result in health complications.

Bone is a living, growing tissue that mainly consists of collagen and calcium. Bones provide a rigid framework, known as the skeleton, which protects soft organs and supports the body.

There are two types of bone in the body. Cortical bones are compact and dense and form the outer layer of the bones. Trabecular or cancellous bones make up the bones’ inner layer and are spongy with a honeycomb structure. The bones not only protect the organs from injury but also allow the body to move and provide support. Additionally, bones act as a reservoir for minerals such as calcium.

A person may have a condition or diseaseTrusted Source that affects the flexibility and strength of the bones. These conditions may arise from various sources, including genetics, environmental factors, diet, and infections.

In this article, we will explore some of the diseases that can affect the bones, as well as potential causes and symptoms.

Some common bone conditions include:


Osteoporosis is a disease that results in a decrease in bone mass and mineral density. The quality and structure of the bone may also change. Osteoporosis can decrease bone strength and increase the risk of fracturing.

The risk of osteoporosis increases with age and affects people of all ethnic groups. It most commonly affects non-Hispanic white females and Asian females.


Osteopenia refers to a decrease in bone mineral density below a normal level but not low enough for a doctor to classify it as osteoporosis.

A T-score is a measure of bone density. A person with a T-score between -1 and -2.5 will receive a diagnosis of osteopenia, whereas a doctor would classify a T-score lower than -2.5 as osteoporosis. The prevalence of osteopenia is 4 times higherTrusted Source in females compared with males.

Paget’s disease

Paget’s disease is a condition that affects the bone remodeling process. This refers to the action by which the body breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone tissue.

In people with this chronic condition, the process of rebuilding bones takes place at a faster rate, resulting in an unusual bone structure. This can either cause the bones to become softer or larger, making them more susceptible to complications such as bending or fractures.

Osteogenesis imperfecta

Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a disorder that causes the bones to fracture easily. Some people may also refer to OI as brittle bone disease. The condition results from a change or mutation in the genes that carry information for making a protein known as type I collagen. This protein is necessary for strong bones.

People with a family history of OI have a higher risk of having the disease as a person can inherit the gene mutation through one or both of their parents. There are different types of OI. The most common and mildest type is type I, while type II is the most severe.


Osteonecrosis, also known as avascular necrosis or aseptic necrosis, occurs when there is a disruption to a bone’s blood flow, leading to bone tissue deathTrusted Source. This can cause the bone to break down and the joint to collapse.

While osteonecrosis may occur in any bone in the body, it commonly affects the shoulders, hips, and knees. The condition occurs most often in people aged 20–50 years. These individuals also often have a history of trauma, corticosteroiduse, or excessive alcohol intake.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This condition affects the body’s joints by degrading cartilage, the tissue that covers the surface of joints. Osteoarthritis can also change the shape of bones. Osteoarthritis most frequentlyTrusted Source affects the hands, hips, and knees.


Osteomyelitis describes an infection or inflammationTrusted Source of the bone, with myelitis referring to inflammation of the fatty tissues within the bone. It typically occurs when a bacterial or fungal infection enters a bone from the bloodstream or surrounding tissue. It can happen at any age but is more common in young children.

Fibrous dysplasia

Fibrous dysplasia occurs when abnormal fibrous tissue replaces healthy bone tissue. The unusual scar-like tissue makes the bone weaker. This can cause the bone to change shape and increase the risk of fractures.

Fibrous dysplasia typically occurs due to a gene mutation that results in bone cells producing an abnormal type of fibrous bone. While it can develop in any bone, it occurs most often in the thigh bone, shin bone, ribs, skull, humerus, and pelvis.

Bone cancer and tumors

Bone cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that begins when cells in a bone start to grow out of control. Any of the cells in the bone can develop into cancer.

Primary bone cancers are cancers that start in the bone. The most commonTrusted Source types of primary bone cancers include osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Cancer cells can also spread to the bone from other areas of the body. Doctors refer to these as bone metastasesTrusted Source. The most common site for bone metastases is the spine.


Osteomalacia, also known as bone softening, refers to a condition where the bone does not harden the way it should after forming. This metabolic bone disease occurs when there is incomplete mineralization of the bone. Mineralization refers to the process where minerals coat the inner layer of the bone, forming a hard outer shell. The incomplete formation of this shell leaves the collagen soft and vulnerable.


Rickets is a childhood bone condition similar to osteomalacia, but it occurs due to imperfect mineralization.

It results in soft, weak bones, typically due to a vitamin D deficiency. Without sufficient vitamin D, the body cannot metabolize calcium and phosphorous, which are essential for proper bone development and growth. Vitamin D deficiency may result from inadequate nutrition, lack of sun exposure, or malabsorption.

Autoimmune conditions

An autoimmune condition occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, tissue, and organs. Bone diseases can develop secondary to some autoimmune diseases, increasing the risk of complications such as bone loss and fractures. These conditions includeTrusted Source:

  • Type I diabetes: People with this condition produce minimal or no insulin, meaning the body cannot absorb sugar from food easily. People with type I diabetes have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): This condition can result in widespread inflammation affecting many parts of the body. Some treatment options for SLE may put people at a higher risk of bone loss and fractures.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This condition causes the body’s immune system to attack the membranes around the joints and causes the cartilage to degrade. There is an increased risk of bone loss and fractures in people with RA.
  • Celiac disease: This condition causes the body to develop an intolerance to gluten, a protein commonly present in food products such as wheat, rye, and barley. The immune system attacks and damages the lining of the small intestine. A person with untreated celiac disease may develop bone disease due to difficulty absorbing calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones.

Bone disease symptoms can vary depending on the condition, and some may present no symptoms at all. For example, osteoporosis is known as a “silent” disease because there are usually no symptoms until a broken bone occurs.

General symptoms of bone disease may include:

A person may also have symptoms specific to a type of bone disease. For example, someone with osteomyelitis may experienceTrusted Source redness, swelling, and warmth at the infection site.

A person with bone cancer may also experience other symptoms, including weight loss and fatigue, or may have a lump in the area of the tumor.

A number of factors can cause bone disease. Some may be specific to a certain type of bone disease. Causes include:

  • Genetics: A person may have a higher riskTrusted Source of developing a type of bone disease due to a mutation or change in a gene or a history of bone disease in their family. A person may inherit a gene mutation from one or both parents.
  • Aging: As people age, the mineral content of their bones begins to decrease, resulting in the bones becoming less dense and more fragile.
  • Nutrition: A balanced diet is essential for healthy, strong bones. In particular, people need to consume sufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Problems with bone remodeling: After age 20, a person may experience an imbalance where the body breaks down old bone tissue quicker than it can replace it. This can result in a loss of bone strength and quality.
  • Hormonal changes: Imbalances of certain hormones may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. For example, low estrogen levels during menopause or low levels of testosterone can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis.
  • Medications: Certain medications can increase the risk of bone disease development. For example, corticosteroids, thyroid medicines, and drugs that reduce levels of sex hormones can harm bone health.
  • Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle factors including low physical activity levels, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can predispose a person to osteoporosis.

A person will need to contact a doctor to receive a diagnosis of a bone condition. The doctor will normally start by taking a person’s medical history. This may include questions about how long they have been experiencing any symptoms and whether they have a family history of bone disease.

The doctor may also carry out a physical examination to check for:

  • loss of height or weight
  • change in posture
  • changes in balance or the way a person walks
  • changes in muscle strength
  • any redness or swelling, such as occurs with osteomyelitis

The doctor may also order tests to diagnose the type of bone disease a person has, including:

  • X-ray imaging: The most common type of X-ray imaging a doctor may use is a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan. This uses a low amount of X-rays to measure the body’s bone mineral density.
  • MRI scans: This test uses a magnet to create an image of the body and provides detailed images of bones and other tissues, including cartilage and ligaments.
  • Blood tests: A doctor may orderTrusted Source blood tests to help confirm a bone cancer diagnosis and provide information on the stage of cancer.
  • Biopsy: A doctor may take a small amount of bone tissue from the affected area to examine it under a microscope for an accurate diagnosis.

The most appropriate treatment option will depend on the type of bone disease and how serious the condition is.

For example, with osteoporosis and osteopenia, the goal of treatment is to stop further bone loss and prevent fractures from occurring. Therefore, treatment may include:

  • recommending nutritional guidance
  • making lifestyle changes such as performing more physical activity and quitting smoking
  • putting measures in place to reduce the risk of falls to prevent fractures
  • prescribing medication

Some conditions, such as OI, do not currently have effective treatments. Therefore, the goal of treatment is to prevent or control symptoms and improve muscle strength and bone mass. In addition to taking medication, a person with OI may have physical therapy to improve muscle strength and mobility.

Certain conditions may require surgical options. For example, a person with osteonecrosis will generally requireTrusted Source surgery to preserve the joints. A person with a bone tumorTrusted Source may require surgery for its removal.

People with bone cancer may also need additional therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, depending on how advanced the bone cancer is.

It is advisable for a person to contact a doctor if they fracture a bone or experience symptoms such as bone pain. They should also contact a doctor if they notice a change in their posture, height, weight, or movement when walking.

This is important as early detection can prevent the disease from progressing further.

Bone diseases refer to conditions that alter the strength or flexibility of bones. They can result in symptoms such as bone pain, difficulty moving, and a higher risk of bone fractures. These conditions can have many potential causes, including aging, genetics, hormonal changes, and nutritional deficiencies. Lifestyle factors such as low levels of physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of bone disease.

A doctor can perform tests to identify bone diseases. After diagnosis, a doctor can suggest a suitable treatment plan, which may include medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

Stretch Your Brain as You Age, Lower Your Dementia Risk?

Researchers in Australia found that journaling, using a computer, taking education classes and other “literacy enrichment” activities might lessen the risk of developing dementia by 11%. Playing games, cards or chess and doing crosswords or other puzzles could slash the risk by 9%.
“These findings highlight the types of activities which may be most beneficial to preserve cognitive health with aging,” said lead researcher Joanne Ryan, head of the biological neuropsychiatry and dementia unit at Monash University, in Melbourne.

Other activities linked to a lower risk of dementia included artistic activities, such as craftwork, woodwork or metalwork, and painting or drawing. Even passive activities, such as reading, watching television, and listening to music or the radio helped thwart mental decline, but to a lesser degree.
Interpersonal networks, social activities and outings, however, did not affect dementia risk, the researchers noted.
This study can’t prove that these mental activities actually prevent or delay dementia, only that there seems to be a correlation, Ryan said.
“We can’t show a cause-and-effect relationship,” she said. “But these activities likely help maintain and build neural networks in the brain, and through these activities, we can develop new knowledge and new ways of thinking about things, which we refer to as building cognitive reserve.”
These activities could help people maintain good cognitive function, even if they have some degree of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia, she said. “They can develop compensatory mechanisms and, thus, don’t develop dementia until later,” Ryan explained.
It is possible there are other reasons for the findings, Ryan said. “Although we accounted for things like differences in education and socioeconomic status, as well as health status, it is possible that people who engage regularly in these mental activities are different in other ways that we haven’t been able to account for, which explains why they have reduced dementia risk,” she said.
It’s unlikely that mentally stimulating activities can completely prevent dementia but they might delay its onset, Ryan added.
“Continued learning and engagement in new activities which challenge and stimulate the mind may be the best way to help promote good cognitive function with age,” she suggested.
One expert agreed that keeping your brain active can help keep it healthy.
“Music, art, other activities, crossword puzzles, things like that absolutely help reduce the transitioning into dementia,” said Dr. Theodore Strange, chairman of medicine and a gerontologist at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.
“Even plaque buildup may slow over time if you continue to do these cognitive activities that use the brain,” he said.
The brain isn’t a muscle, Strange said, but like a muscle, it can atrophy if not used. It’s not clear, however, how mental activity protects the brain, he noted.
Still, “a healthy lifestyle, an active lifestyle, a lifestyle filled with activities that utilize the brain are important to keep the brain functioning for as long a period of time as you can,” Strange added.
For the study, Ryan and her colleagues collected data on more than 10,300 men and women with a median age of 74 (half younger, half older), who took part in the ASPREE Longitudinal Study of Older Persons. All were in relatively good health. From March 2010 through November 2020, the researchers looked at the participants’ lifestyles and who developed dementia.
The report was published online July 14 in JAMA Network Open.
For more on keeping your brain healthy, head to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Medical Myths: All about stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, over 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and around 610,000 are first strokes.

In 2019, stroke was the leading cause of mortality globally, accounting for 11% of deaths.

There are three main types of stroke. The first and most common, accounting for 87% of cases, is an ischemic stroke. It occurs when blood flow through the artery that supplies oxygen to the brain becomes blocked.

The second is a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a rupture in an artery in the brain, which in turn damages surrounding tissues.

The third type of stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA, which is sometimes called a “ministroke.” It happens when blood flow is temporarily blocked to the brain, usually for no more than 5 minutes.

While stroke is very common, it is often misunderstood. To help us dispel myths on the topic and improve our understanding, we got in touch with Dr. Rafael Alexander Ortiz, chief of Neuro-Endovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuro-Radiology at Lenox Hill Hospital.

1. Stroke is a problem of the heart

Although stroke risk is linked to cardiovascular risk factors, strokes happen in the brain, not the heart.

“Some people think that stroke is a problem of the heart,” Dr. Ortiz told MNT. “That is incorrect. A stroke is a problem of the brain, caused by the blockage or rupture of arteries or veins in the brain, and not the heart.”

Some people confuse stroke with a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the heart, and not the brain.

2. Stroke is not preventable 

“The most common risk factors [for stroke] include hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, trauma to the head or neck, and cardiac arrhythmias,” said Dr. Ortiz.

Many of these risk factors can be modified by lifestyle. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can reduce risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.

Other risk factors include alcohol consumption and stress. Working to reduce or remove these lifestyle factors may also reduce a person’s risk of stroke.

3. Stroke does not run in families 

Single-gene disorders such as sickle cell disease increase a person’s risk for stroke.

Genetic factors including a higher risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors may also indirectly increase stroke risk.

As families are likely to share environments and lifestyles, unhealthy lifestyle factors are likely to increase stroke risk among family members, especially when coupled with genetic risk factors.

4. Stroke symptoms are hard to recognize 

The most common symptoms for stroke form the acronym “F.A.S.T.“:

  • F: face dropping, when one side of the face becomes numb and produces an uneven “smile”
  • A: arm weakness, when one arm becomes weak or numb and, when raised, drifts slowly downward
  • S: speech difficulty, or slurred speech
  • T: time to call 911

Other symptoms of stroke include:

  • numbness or weakness in the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body
  • confusion and trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking, including dizziness, loss of balance and coordination
  • severe headaches without a known cause

5. Stroke cannot be treated 

“There is an incorrect belief that strokes are irreversible and can’t be treated,” explained Dr. Ortiz.

“Emergency treatment of a stroke with injection of a clot busting drug, minimally invasive mechanical thrombectomy for clot removal, or surgery can reverse the symptoms of a stroke in many patients, especially if they arrive to the hospital early enough for the therapy (within minutes or hours since the onset of the symptoms),” he noted.

“The longer the symptoms last, the lower the likelihood of a good outcome. Therefore, it is critical that at the onset of stroke symptoms — ie. trouble speaking, double vision, paralysis or numbness, etc — an ambulance should be called (911) for transport to the nearest hospital,” he continued.

Research also shows that those who arrive within 3 hours of first experiencing symptoms typically have less disability 3 months afterward than those who arrived later.

6. Stroke occurs only in the elderly 

Age is a significant risk factor for stroke. Stroke risk doubles every 10 years after age 55. However, strokes can occur at any age.

One study examining healthcare data found that 34% of stroke hospitalizations in 2009 were under age 65.

A review in 2013 points out that “approximately 15% of all ischemic strokes occur in young adults and adolescents.”

The researchers noted that stroke risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, lipid disorders, and tobacco use were among the most common co-existing conditions among this age group.

7. All strokes have symptoms 

Not all strokes have symptoms, and some research suggests that symptom-free strokes are far more common than those with symptoms.

One study found that out of the over 11 million strokes in 1998, 770,000 presented symptoms, whereas close to 11 million were silent.

Evidence of these so-called silent strokes appears on MRI scans as white spots from scarred tissue following a blockage or ruptured blood vessel.

Often, silent strokes are identified when patients receive MRI scans for symptoms including headaches, cognitive issues, and dizziness.

Although they occur without symptoms, they should be treated similarly to strokes with symptoms. Silent strokes put people at risk of future symptomatic strokes, cognitive decline, and dementia.

8. A ministroke is not so risky

“The term ministroke has been used incorrectly as some think that it is related to small strokes that carry low risk,” said Dr. Ortiz. “That statement is incorrect, as a ministroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA).”

“It is not a small stroke, but a premonition that a large stroke can occur. Any symptom of acute stroke, transient or persistent, needs emergency workup and management to prevent a devastating large stroke,” he added.

9. Stroke always causes paralysis 

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability, but not everyone who has a stroke will experience paralysis or weakness. Research shows that stroke leads to reduced mobility in over half of stroke survivors aged 65 and over.

However, the long-term impacts of stroke vary on many factors, such as the amount of brain tissue affected and the area affected. Damage to the left brain, for example, will affect the right side of the body and vice versa.

If the stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, effects may include:

  • paralysis on the right side of the body
  • speech and language problems
  • slow and cautious behavior
  • memory loss.

If it affects the right side of the brain, paralysis may also occur, this time on the left side of the body. Other effects may include:

  • vision problems
  • quick and inquisitive behavior
  • memory loss.

10. Stroke recovery happens fast

Recovery from stroke can take months, if not years. However, many may not fully recover. The American Stroke Association says that among stroke survivors:

  • 10% will make an almost complete recovery
  • another 10% will require care in a nursing home or another long-term facility
  • 25% will recover with minor impairments
  • 40% will experience moderate to severe impairments

Research suggests there is a critical time window between 2–3 months after stroke onset, during which intensive motor rehabilitation is more likely to lead to recovery. Some may also be able to spontaneously recover during this period.

Beyond this window, and beyond the 6-month mark, improvements are still possible although are likely to be significantly slower.



Cancer is one of our nation’s most feared diseases, with more than 1.6 million new cases diagnosed each year. But thanks to National Institute of Health (NIH) research, this number is now falling. Between 1991 and 2014, #cancer death rates went down 25 percent.

NIH research has transformed the way we think about cancer from affecting specific parts of the #body to a much more precise understanding of the molecular cause. For example, the drug pembrolizumab is one of a new class of cancer drugs that works by engaging a patient’s immune system to attack his or her tumors. Doctors already use this drug to treat some patients with several specific cancer types, including lung cancer and head and neck cancer. And, very recently, it became the first cancer therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any type of tumor, regardless of its location in the body, as long as the tumor has specific genetic features that make it much more likely to shrink after treatment with the drug. This is just one example of how genomics has revolutionized our understanding of cancer (see Precision Oncology, p.18).

Despite gains, there is much work to do. Many clinical trials are testing new targeted treatments, as well as combinations of different cancer therapies. With other federal agencies, NIH is participating in the Cancer MoonshotSM, a bold initiative to accelerate cancer research that aims to make more therapies available to more patients while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.

Good Health for All

Many people in America are more likely to get certain #diseases and to die from them, compared to the general population. One of NIH’s greatest challenges is to understand and eliminate profound disparities in health outcomes for these individuals. We know the causes of health disparities are many. They include biological factors that affect disease risk; but most of the causes turn out to be non-biological factors such as socioeconomics, culture, and environment. Teasing apart health outcomes that differ among racial/ethnic groups is providing clues. For example, NIH research shows that among cigarette smokers, African Americans and Native Hawaiians are more susceptible to lung cancer than Whites, Japanese Americans, and Hispanics. Scientists are also intrigued by the “Hispanic paradox,” in which U.S. Hispanics often experience similar or better health outcomes across a range of diseases compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Understanding this advantage may help us identify contributing factors and effective interventions.

5 Public Health Crises Facing America

Public Health Crises: Five Big Ones Facing America Right Now

  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Addiction/Substance Abuse
  • Dementia
  • Food Safety

Obesity, dementia, and heart disease – these are among some of the most concerning public health crises faced by the US today. Why are we facing some of these issues, and what are the known facts at this point? Follow along for the scoop on five of today’s most pressing public health crises in the US.

1. Obesity

The advantages of living in a modernized society include more luxury and more ready access to consumables of all sorts. This becomes a problem when the end result is obesity in a significant portion of the population. According to most research, the 1980s marked the beginning of the obesity epidemic in America today.

So, what does this particular health crisis look like? U.S. News shares that around 40 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are said to be obese. These numbers and the numbers of obese children are steadily on the rise. At the end of the day, what makes this such a critical issue overall is the fact that obesity is directly linked to early death and the onset and even further complication of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and many other ailments.

2. Heart Disease

As discussed above, heart disease itself is often a derivative of obesity. In other cases, it can be brought on by unhealthy lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and sometimes, genetics. At the end of the day, this condition is a major problem plaguing Americans’ health at present.

Heart disease, often called by several other names, is essentially stress and damage taken on by the heart that can worsen and lead to heart attacks, strokes, and even fatal events, ultimately in some cases. Factors that help to remediate the various forms of heart disease include healthy dietary choices, regular exercise, and avoidance of illicit drug and alcohol use. These remediating factors are many of those very same ones that Americans struggle to healthily maintain so often in today’s times.

3. Addiction/Substance Abuse

Addiction and substance abuse represent some of the most notable public health crises happening right now in the US. The reasons for this current epidemic are many and complex, but the effects of it are crippling to the individual sufferer and entire communities alike. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an average of more than 130 people die each day in the US from opioid overdose alone. The economic burden placed on the country as a whole, just from prescription opioid abuse itself, is estimated by officials to be around $78.5 billion each year. With these kinds of figures, it’s easy to begin to see how detrimental this particular crisis has become in recent times.

4. Dementia

Dementia, the detrimental mental degradation associated with many cognitive diseases, is yet another looming and major public health crisis faced by the US right now. According to a group of top U.S. Surgeons General in a pivotal op-ed featured in the Orlando Sentinel recently, the public was made aware of the impending weight of the crisis at hand. It was therein estimated by experts that dementia numbers in the public double every five years and the numbers of those affected are unequivocally unprecedented and a potentially system-overwhelming problem.


5. Food Safety

Food safety is rated by a number of government and research organizations as another, top crisis concern for the US right now. This is because of the mass number of food producers, production associations, and even weak points in the continuum of the food markets. Food-born illness spread en-mass can quickly affect thousands of people, while cases of intentional endangerment to the food supply, such as through tampering or deceitful production practices, also can have major implications. For these many, compounding reasons, food safety in the US is a major concern today.

Public health crises can certainly be a great cause for concern. However, with the application of science and subsequent public awareness, many “worst-case scenarios” can be avoided altogether. As of now, the five above-mentioned public health crises are widely regarded as being among the most important and foreshadowing to address.

Men’s Mental Health: Warning Signs & Where to Go for Help

Men typically don’t want to discuss mental health issues, much less get treatment for one.

That’s a problem, given how many males struggle with mental health problems: Six million American men suffer from depression every year, while 3 million struggle with anxiety disorder, according to Mental Health America. Beyond that, 90% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia by age 30 are men, and 25% of those with binge eating disorder are males. Unfortunately, men are less likely to seek professional help for their problems.

When it comes to suicide, the picture is also troubling. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, it is the 7th leading cause of death among males, and white men over the age of 85 are the most likely to die by suicide.

Here, experts describe the most common mental health conditions men experience, the symptoms that may differ in men versus women, and what resources are available for those seeking help and treatment options.

Common mental health conditions in men

According to Mental Health America, the most common men’s mental health conditions are:

  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse

“It’s a sign of strength to talk about these issues with your health care provider, counselor or a supportive family member or friend,” Piedmont Healthcare family medicine physician Dr. Siraj Abdullah said in a recent article. “As men, we tend to let stress build up until it affects our mental and physical health. Talking about your mental health is a way to take care of your body.”

How men’s mental health symptoms may show up differently than in women

The reasons that mental health symptoms can be different for men and women are complex, according to McLean Hospital chief of psychology Kathryn McHugh.

She noted in a hospital article that “biology is not the only piece of the puzzle. There are also many social and cultural factors that play a role in mental health and wellness, such as social role expectations, discrimination and violence.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that the main mental health symptoms in men that may be different from those found in women are:

  • Abuse or misuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Noticeable changes in mood, appetite or energy levels
  • Violent, controlling or abusive behavior
  • Digestive issues, headaches and pain
  • Escaping into work, sports or other distracting behavior
  • Risk-taking

Men with depression are also more likely than women to report symptoms of fatigue and loss of interest in work or hobbies, according to Mental Health America.

Men are particularly susceptible to suicide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and gay and bisexual men under the age of 25 are at a higher risk for attempting suicide than the general male population, according to Mental Health America.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center notes that one of the reasons for higher male suicide rates is that men are less likely to get mental health care than women. The center suggests getting help before a mental health crisis occurs. This can include:

  • Seeking behavioral health care, such as seeing a therapist
  • Connecting to family, friends, community and social organizations
  • Learning life skills like problem-solving and strategies for adapting to change
  • Engaging with spiritual, religious or other belief practices that discourage suicide

If you’d like to begin or continue a behavioral health care plan, you can reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline for a treatment referral.

Men’s mental health resources: How to get help

APA Psychologist Locator Tool

The American Psychological Association offers a database of thousands of therapists. Just put in your ZIP code, provider name or practice area. Once the results show up, you can sort the psychologists by a variety of categories, such as gender and treatment methods.

If you’re looking for a men’s mental health hotline to discuss your issues confidentially at no charge, the Mental Health Hotline provides a toll-free number with counselors on stand-by 24/7. The organization also lists several condition-specific hotlines for health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and more — plus links to helpful resources on these conditions.

Fictional Dr. Rich Mahogany “runs” this site, which is actually administered by multiple agencies, including the Colorado Department of Public Health. It combines helpful mental health techniques and quizzes with humor and a uniquely human touch. There’s an online peer chat, 20-point head inspection and a worried-about-someone page to help loved ones of men who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Multicultural care meets mutual aid at Therapy for Black Men, where the coaches and counselors strive to offer free or discounted services to Black men with mental health issues. You can meet in person or online for a session, and there’s also a host of articles and social resources, including community organizations aimed at helping your mental health thrive.

Mental health medications

Several medications may be prescribed by your doctor to help you improve your mental health. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, these include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antipsychotics
  • Stimulants
  • Mood stabilizers

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal ideation and need to talk to someone, call 988, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline offers free, confidential emotional support across the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

US Mayors Cite ‘Unprecedented’ Mental Health Crisis as Top Concern

Substance abuse, homelessness and access to health services are among the issues that city officials say demand more resources in a new US Conference of Mayors survey.

An “unprecedented” mental health crisis is overwhelming US cities, which lack adequate resources to address growing challenges, according to a new report released today by the US Conference of Mayors. In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health issues, particularly involving substance abuse, said a survey of mayors of 117 cities in 39 states.

“Addressing this surging mental health crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing America’s cities,” said Tom Cochran, executive director of the US Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. The report also cited “staggering increases in stress, depression, isolation, loneliness, and accompanying mental health hurdles faced by Americans of all ages.”

In a survey conducted this spring, 97% of mayors said requests for mental health services increased in their city in the past two years, but 88% lack resources to address the crisis. Participating cities spanned the US, and included Chicago; Seattle; Montgomery, Alabama; and Atlanta.

Substance abuse was the main cause for increasing mental health problems, 85% of cities reported. That was followed by Covid-19, homelessness and economic concerns.

Substance use disorders topped the list of mental and behavioral health problems in 65% of cities, followed by homelessness stemming from mental illness in 56%. Other challenges included shortages of mental and behavioral health workers, including school counselors, as well as a lack of access to behavioral health services.

Among youth, depression is the leading primary mental health problem, according to 89% of cities. More than 43% said teen suicide is a significant problem.

Nineteen cities called for more funding for services, but several noted that most funding goes to county — not city — governments.

Although the vast majority of cities reported inadequate mental health resources, 82% have developed new initiatives and/or increased funding to mental health programs. Ninety-three percent reported they have improved their emergency response to behavioral health crises. Meanwhile, 94% of cities said their police department provides mental health programs to officers.

Examples of initiatives cited in the survey include Mesa, Arizona, where its police department is coordinating with a nonprofit crisis line and system. Since 2018, the city has increased the types of emergency calls transferred, including children with behavioral issues, second-hand suicide reports, as well as dementia, psychosis, anxiety, PTSD, and basic problem-solving help. In 2022 alone, more than 3,500 911 calls were sent directly to its crisis hotline, away from Mesa’s police and fire departments, according to the city’s survey response.

In Las Vegas, an outreach team provides services to unhoused people to divert them from emergency rooms and into appropriate treatment. A crisis response team also works with the fire department to deescalate non-emergency mental health issues.

Long Beach, California, has established mobile homeless and behavioral health services, and teams of mental health clinicians to do homeless outreach. In 2022, Hartford, Connecticut, launched a non-law enforcement crisis intervention program in response to emergency 911 calls for people in mental health crises.

City leaders from Orlando, Florida, expressed their support for the “Housing First” model as a means of addressing homelessness, and said mental health challenges are easier to address when people are housed. But respondents from the city of Fontana, California commented, “Hiding someone away in an apartment or hotel room does not cure them from mental illness. Housing first without mental health support DOES NOT WORK.” [SIC]

Officials from Issaquah, Washington, observed: “Stable housing must be coupled with other intensive support services. Housing alone does not improve mental health outcomes.” They added that for chronically unhoused people, “adjusting to living indoors is often underestimated and if housing is not accompanied by extra supports to help with the transition, people are more likely to fall back into homelessness.”