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  • Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of women who use marijuana while pregnant is increasing, especially among teenage and young pregnant mothers, a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested."Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy," the research letter published in JAMA on Tuesday stated. "And its use is increasing."Researchers examined data from 279,457 pregnant women who were patients at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system from 2009 to 2016, and participated in a self-administered questionnaire on marijuana use since pregnancy, as well as a cannabis toxicology test during their standard prenatal care visits.Among pregnant mothers who were younger than 18, researchers said the prevalence of prenatal marijuana use based on the self-report or toxicology test increased from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent from 2009 to 2016.For pregnant mothers between the ages of 18 and 24, the prevalence of prenatal marijuana use increased from 9.8 percent to 19 percent from 2009 to 2016, researchers found.In addition, for women aged 25 to 34, the increase was from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent, and for women older than 34, the increase was from 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent from 2009 to 2016.The JAMA research letter added that while medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 in California, "prenatal use may further escalate in 2018 when recreational marijuana is available legally."The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on its website that some pregnant women may have "turned to using marijuana to ease nausea or other pregnancy symptoms," as an increasing number of states legalize its medical and recreational use."However, researchers don’t know a lot about what the effects might be, and while the research is in progress, most experts advise pregnant women not to use marijuana," the CDC said.Some research suggests that using marijuana while pregnant can be linked to low birth weight and may increase a baby's risk of development problems, according to the CDC."Any woman who is pregnant or could become pregnant should avoid consuming marijuana," the health organization said. "Mothers may put their babies at risk of health problems when they expose them to marijuana during pregnancy."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may not actually lower fracture risks for elder adults living independently, according to a new analysis of past studies published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.The researchers looked at 51,145 participants from 33 clinical trials and found that there was not a significant difference in the risk of hip fractures for those who used calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements or both, compared to those who took a placebo or no supplements at all.The participants were all adults who were over 50 years old, not living in a nursing home, not on anti-osteoporosis medications and had no history of steroid-induced bone breakdown."No significant associations were found between calcium, vitamin D, or combined calcium and vitamin D supplements, and the incidence of nonvertebral, vertebral or total fractures," researchers added as part of their secondary outcomes.In addition, further analyses found these results to be "generally consistent" regardless of the calcium or vitamin D dose, sex, fracture history and dietary calcium intake.Researchers only looked at supplement studies and did not assess studies that looked at dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D.The chances of breaking a hip increase with age, and approximately 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling sideways, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).To prevent hip fractures, the CDC recommends talking to your doctor, getting screened for osteoporosis, doing strength and balance exercises, and having your eyes checked. In addition, the CDC recommends taking simple steps to make your home safer, including getting rid of things you could trip over, putting railings on both sides of any set of stairs and making sure your home has lots of light.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a year largely dominated by headlines on politics, natural disasters and international events, a handful of topics on health and medicine nevertheless managed to capture the attention of the country. From health insurance to hurricane response efforts, 2017 was a year that showcased some of the most crucial issues affecting Americans today from a health perspective.Below, in no particular order, are just a few of the topics that had us talking about health and medicine this year.1) The Affordable Care ActWith the entrance of the new presidential administration came repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. And while an all-out repeal of the landmark health insurance legislation met a narrow and dramatic defeat in the Senate in July, the Republican-led revamp of the tax code succeeded in removing the individual mandate -- a key component of the law that required all Americans to purchase health insurance or face a fine. While the elimination of the individual mandate falls short of a full ACA repeal, analysts suggest that it could have big implications for the way the law works -- as well as for the 13 million fewer Americans that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will have health insurance in the decade to come as a result of the move.2) The opioid crisisAmerica is coming to grips with its epidemic of opioid painkiller addiction. In 2017, the most sobering numbers yet from the opioid epidemic hit the headlines. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current statistics suggest that 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses. And the agency just this month released a report revealing that opioid misuse may well be driving an overall dip in American life expectancy -- a decrease that experts first saw last year and again this year. The nation’s problem with painkillers is so severe that President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis to be a “national public health emergency” in October.3) Updated blood pressure guidelinesIf health insurance and the opioid crisis aren’t enough to get your blood pressure up, know this: Your hypertension status may have changed this year, even if your blood pressure didn’t inch even a point higher. This past November, the American Heart Association changed the definition of hypertension for the first time in 14 years. While past guidelines defined hypertension at 140/90, the new definition puts this critical ratio at 130/80. The change means that an estimated 46 percent of American adults -- nearly half -- will now be defined as having hypertension. Meanwhile, with the announcement of these new guidelines, the number of American men under 45 with hypertension has tripled, while the number of American women under 45 with hypertension has doubled. So, for 103 million Americans, the change could mean that we should be watching our weight, cutting back on salt, exercising more and maybe even taking medicine to keep our blood pressure in check.4) CAR-T and cancer immunotherapyFor decades, fighting cancer in the medical setting revolved largely around three key pillars of treatment: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But in recent years, with the advent of new and powerful ways to use the body’s own immune system to battle the disease, this is changing. And this year, with the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of the first-ever chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy for a particular form of leukemia, doctors treating this and other cancers may soon have another entire arsenal of weapons against other forms of cancer as well. In this treatment, doctors extract a particular type of white blood cell, known as T-cells, from the patient. They genetically tweak these cells to better recognize a certain type of cancer and create many more of them before re-introducing them into the patient. CAR-T is just one of several immunotherapies
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wherever you’ll be on New Year’s Eve, there’s a good chance you’ll have a glass of bubbly in hand to ring in 2018. Champagne and sparkling wines -- there is a difference -- are no longer relegated to holidays, anniversaries and weddings; Americans are increasing their consumption of bubbles year-round. That said, 20 percent of all sales of sparkling wine and champagne occur in the last four weeks of the year, according to Nielsen. If you’re headed out to buy a bottle and are dumbstruck by all the options, here’s a guide to help you navigate the world of bubbly.Champagne vs. sparkling wineChampagne comes from the Champagne region in France, famous for its cold, wet and harsh climate. The land’s chalky, mineral soil contributes to the flavor profiles of the wine produced in the region, according to Vanessa Kay, head of champagne strategy and chief marketing officer at Moet Hennessy, part of the French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. (Champagne brands under Moet Hennessy include Krug, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Mercier.)The climate in the Champagne region affects the acidity in the grapes, which in turn affects the taste.Champagne is composed of three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed immediately; the juice from the three grapes are blended together and put in cellars. Then comes the most important part: the second fermentation in the bottle, a process known as the traditional method. This labor-intensive process gives champagne its yeasty character, crisp acidity and biscuit aromas, according to David Glancy, founder and CEO of San Francisco Wine School. By comparison, sparkling wines from California, though produced by the traditional method, tend to be fruitier than champagne because the grapes are allowed to ripen longer in the warmer climate, according to Ray Isle, executive wine editor at Food & Wine magazine.Of course, the biggest distinction between champagne and other sparkling wines may simply be in name. Only wine produced in the Champagne region can be conferred the prestigious champagne moniker. Kay also pointed out that these wines are the most regulated in the world. Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) controls production of champagne, limiting the yields champagne houses can produce; excess harvest is held for future years. Moreover, half of all champagne produced never leaves France. French consumers on average drink a bottle and a half of champagne each year, Kay said. Americans drink less than half a flute per year on average.California sparkling wineGlancy said two famous U.S. diplomatic events helped change how the wine industry viewed California sparkling wines. The first took place in 1972, when President Richard Nixon met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and California’s Schramsberg was served. The other was in 1980, when Iron Horse’s 1983 sparkling vintage was the drink of choice for the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in Switzerland. In fact, Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been poured at official state functions by every U.S. presidential administration since 1972, according to the winemaker’s website.“These were watershed moments that created a perception shift” for California sparklers, Glancy said, adding that sommeliers and wine collectors see the state’s wines as serious competitors to champagne.There are “really good” California sparkling wines, according to Isle, but champagne has a certain notoriety that its peers do not.“Champagne from France has a cache that everyone wants,” he said. “If you’re getting a gift for your boss, choose the champagne.”Prosecco and cavaAccording to Danny Brager, senior vice president of beverage alcohol at Nielsen, prosecco, or Italian sparkling wine, is "so big now” and has
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