CDC: Opioid Prescription Painkiller Deaths Down

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday found the overall number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 -- from 3,201 deaths to 2,666. The rate of death per 100,000 persons also dropped from 17 to 14.

Even more stark is the drop in death rates caused by prescription drugs, falling 23.2 percent from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 persons to 11.1 deaths per 100,000.

The agency's report was based on prescribing data from retail pharmacies across the country.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden attributed the improved numbers to tougher regulations on pain clinics and health care providers, saying that the higher figures seen just a few years back were caused by "poor prescribing practices."

The CDC also found noticeably higher rates of opioid painkiller prescriptions in southern states like Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia than in most of the rest of the country.

It appears that prescriptions for such painkillers is largely dependant on where you live, as there was a wide gap between the highest prescribing state, Alabama, and the lowest, Hawaii. nearly three times as many such prescriptions were written in Alabama in 2012 as there were in Hawaii.

Despite the drop in painkiller deaths, the CDC says more can be done. Namely, states should consider ways to increase monitoring programs for prescription drugs, potential legislation to reduce risky prescribing practices, state self-evaluation and expansion of first responder access to naloxone, the heroin overdose drug that was made available to emergency personnel in New York City earlier this year.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Serena Williams Blames 'Bug' for Strange Symptoms

Andy Lyons/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Serena Williams said she’s “heartbroken” to leave Wimbledon and blamed a “bug” for the strange symptoms that caused her to forfeit her doubles match on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old tennis star, who won the U.S. Open last fall, was forced to forfeit the match after struggling to bounce, catch and serve the ball.

Wimbledon tweeted that Williams was “suffering from a viral illness” as she left the court hand-in-hand with her sister, Venus.

“I thought I could rally this morning, because I really wanted to compete, but this bug just got the best of me,” Serena Williams said in a statement.

Experts called the behavior “very unusual.”

“I’ve seen her play before,” said Dr. Dr. George Kikano, who practices family medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland and has not treated Williams. “She is a master on the court. She does not miss a ball. She does not miss a beat. She does not miss a serve. This is very unusual for her.”

Kikano said Williams appeared to be confused, which could be a sign of dehydration caused by a virus, bacteria or the environment. She could also have been experiencing side effects from some kind of medication or she might have just been exhausted.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said Williams didn’t appear to be suffering from a neurological virus because she was still able to walk on her own. He echoed Kikano’s theory that dehydration could have been to blame.

“That could be a consequence of any number of viral illnesses,” he said. “It’s still too vague to comment on unless they give us more details.”

Williams had another health scare in 2011 when she suffered a blood clot in her lungs following a foot injury and surgery.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


How Ramadan Fasting Could Affect World Cup Players

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tuesday's World Cup match between the U.S. and Belgium could be particularly grueling for players who are fasting from dawn until dusk for the holy month of Ramadan.

There a four Muslim players on the Belgian team. And while starter Marouane Fellaini has said he's not fasting during the tournament, it's unclear whether his three Muslim teammates will be playing the afternoon game after eight hours with no food or water.

Asma Aloui, a researcher in exercise physiology with the National Center of Medicine and Science in Sport at the Tunisian Research Laboratory, said there are six ways fasting could influence their game:

It Can Impact Sleep

Studies on fasting and sleeping during Ramadan are rare, but Aloui's research suggests eating only after sundown may cause players to toss and turn in bed by disrupting their internal clocks. Although the study didn't make any conclusions about the effect of these sleep changes on sports performance, it did demonstrate that during the holy month, players went to bed later and slept less overall. Naps would help make up any sleep deficits, Aloui said.

It Can Slow Thinking

Aloui's group found that people who fast during Ramadan experience less anxiety and depression. However, the same study found that fasting slows cognitive ability, which means players might have some trouble thinking quickly on their feet. Brain fog tends to increase towards the late afternoon, Aloui's studies found, which does not bode well for the Belgian players on Tuesday.

It Can Cause Dehydration

Aloui's research suggests that Brazil's blazing heat may be a problem for players who aren't able to guzzle water to replace fluids lost from sweat. Parched players are at increased risk of muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sweating off just 2 percent of your body weight leads to decreased blood volume, rapid heart rate and difficulty regulating body temperature, Aloui has found. It can also cause an electrolyte imbalance, further impairing performance.

It Can Affect Overall Performance

The combination of hunger and dehydration could affect multiple aspects of a player's game, Aloui said. Her research has found that some players experienced diminished hand-eye coordination, quicker muscle fatigue and reduced power, speed and agility under the strain of fasting.

Timing Matters

When Ramadan occurs during the summer, it presents a real challenge for players who might be fasting for as long as 18 hours, Aloui said. And the effects of fasting accumulate over the course of the day, so players slotted for evening games could have it tougher than those who play first thing in the morning, she said.

Gradual Adjustment Is Best

The longer a player remains in the tournament, the more his body will adapt, Aloui said. One study of 85 professional Tanzanian soccer players showed that over the course of the month, athletic performance gradually improved to pre-Ramadan levels for athletes who continued training at high levels.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Always Redefines What It Means to Run 'Like a Girl'

Always(NEW YORK) -- If you tell Lauren Greenfield that she runs or fights or talks "like a girl," she'll probably say thank you. After all, she is responsible for the fact that over 13 million people are now reconsidering what that phrase really means.

Commissioned by Always to investigate society's negative connotations with the expression, the director, who brought audiences 2012's Queen of Versailles, produced an ad campaign that has sparked a national conversation on female empowerment and self-esteem.

The result is a social media movement that aims to redefine what it means to do something "like a girl."

The campaign finds Greenfield on set and asking men, women and boys to act out running, fighting and hitting "like a girl." The caricatured responses reinforce a stereotype that says girls are weaker and less determined than boys are.

When Greenfield prompts young girls to demonstrate the same actions, reactions are breathtaking.

Greenfield told ABC News that she was "really proud to be part of" the project.

"One of the things that Always was interested in looking into is how girls deal with the confidence crisis that happens around puberty. Everyone knows that 'crying like a girl' or 'running like a girl' isn't a compliment, but no one takes the off-the-cuff remark too seriously or considers its damage," she said.

Reflecting on the emotional impact the video has had on men and women across the country, Greenfield emphasized her own reaction to the video.

"We had no idea what people would do when asked these questions," Greenfield said. "It was amazing and moving and surprising to hear their responses. ...It made us realize how deep and ingrained the stereotypes were, but also people's desire to change them. Consciousness about what we take for granted is the first step to change and I hope this spotlight on what is thought of as a trivial remark will create a more empowering conversation for the next generation."

Always hopes to keep the conversation going and reclaim the maligned expression in the process. The Proctor and Gamble brand is inviting girls and women around the world to share what they do #LikeaGirl.

"'Like a Girl' should never be used as an insult," Greenfield said. "It means being strong, talented and downright amazing."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Migraine Headaches Are Painful for All Family Members

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Migraine headaches are not just debilitating to sufferers but to the people around them as well, according to research from New York City’s Montefiore Headache Center.

Study author Dawn Buse was already familiar with the toll migraines take within a family through first-hand accounts but decided to quantify just how devastating the effects can be.

With help from a survey company, Buse and her team did research on 1,000 people, about 80 percent of them women, who complained of chronic migraines that last at least 15 days a month.

After migraine sufferers, their spouses and children filled out a questionnaire, three quarters of those with headaches said they would be better spouses and six in ten believe they’d be better parents if they were migraine-free in both instances.

Another major finding: people with chronic migraines admit they are more easily annoyed and miss out on families activities, including vacations, because of the condition.

Buse says the study shows that migraines, “are burdensome and difficult, not only for the people who live with it but also for the people they love.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Possible Signs of Autism Show Up in Fetus

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- In what appears to be a major breakthrough in the early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have found certain fetal defects in ultrasound scans that may help lead to better education about ASD.

Specifically, children with brains and bodies that seemed to be growing more rapidly than their peers during the start of the second trimester went on to develop autism at about the 20th week.

Lead researcher Lois Salter says that typically symptoms turn up at age three or four, although newer studies show it can be detected during infancy.

However, Salter and her colleagues have been searching for fetal defects since late 2008 in an attempt to link larger brains and bodies with the likelihood of developing ASD.

More research will be necessary since the study has only 160 children, about a fourth of whom were later diagnosed with autism.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Heart Monitors May Prevent Future Strokes

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Strokes are both frightening and frustrating, often resulting in problems with speech and cognition and sometimes, paralysis.

Adding to the frustration is that about 40 percent of stroke victims never find out what exactly caused the stroke and after leaving the hospital, they’re often unsure about what therapy to pursue.

However, Dr. Rod Passman, a cardiologist at Northwestern University, says more physicians have been equipping stroke patients with heart monitors that can detect one potential cause, that is, atrial fibrillation, which is a fast and irregular heartbeat.

If a monitor discovers that atrial fibrillation is occurring, doctors can change prescriptions to put stroke victims on a better blood thinning medication in order to prevent blockages.

This is especially important since those who’ve suffered strokes have a 500 percent chance of having another one if diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Dancing Can Help Seniors with Bad Knees and Hips

Photodisc/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- To paraphrase an old Bee Gees song, “You should be dancing, yeah, if you’re a senior citizen.”

Hitting the dance floor, albeit gently and slowly, will help to alleviate chronic knee and hip pain, according to a Saint Louis University study.

What’s more, lead author Jean Krampe says that dancing also improves everyday walking of the elderly.

Krampe conducted her study with three dozen seniors, average age of 80. who danced in two 45-minutes sessions weekly for 12 weeks. Virtually all the seniors were women and complained about arthritis that made their knees and hips stiff.

Compared to a control group that did not participate, the dancers said they felt less pain in their knees and hips after the 12 weeks and found they were walking better as well.

Perhaps even more significantly is that the control group increased their pain medications by 21 percent while those who took part in dance-based therapy reduced their meds by 39 percent.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Study Confirms Childhood Vaccines Are Safe

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The latest study on the subject found, once again, that childhood vaccines are safe for children and are not linked to autism or other major health issues.

According to the study, published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, was part of a federally commissioned report which looked at previous research to determine that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) was not associated with onset of autism and that the vaccines for MMR, diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP), Tetanus diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type b and hepatitis B were not associated with childhood leukemia.

The study also went one step further than the 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine by filtering data for children under the age of six and adding findings related to additional vaccinations.

In some cases, the latest study found that vaccination could result in non-serious side effects.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


HIV Prevention Drug May Also Decrease Risk of Contracting Genital Herpes

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A medication used to decrease transmission of HIV may also be effective in minimizing the risk of developing genital herpes, researchers said.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 131 participants in Kenya and Uganda to determine whether the use of tenofovir, an HIV medication, may also help to prevent the acquisition of the herpes simplex virus type 2.

Researchers looked at a specific set of heterosexual men and women who were at risk of contracting HIV from their partners. Those participants were approximately 30 percent less likely to contract herpes if they took the HIV medication tenofovir either alone or with emtricitabine.

Still, due to expense and the risk of side effects, researchers did not, based on this study, indicate that tenofovir should be used as a method to prevent genital herpes in those not at risk of HIV infection.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio