A gym in the Boston area is offering discounted rates because, as its advertising slogan claims, you need to Â“stay strong in tough times.Â” Besides lower gym fees, plentiful parking spaces at the mall, and stock bargains galore, there isnÂ’t much to cheer about during this economic crisis. So letÂ’s take a minute to be thankful for some health advances of the past year:
- Smoking rates for adults in the U.S. have dropped below 20% for the first time since records have been kept.
- Nineteen U.S. states have taken steps to expand health care coverage for childrenÂ—most recently Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Iowa.
- The National Cancer InstituteÂ’s Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, released in October, found that cancer incidence rates have stabilized, and rates of some of the most common forms of cancerÂ—including lung, colorectal, and breast cancerÂ—are dropping.
- Roughly one in three American girls now participates in high school sports (10 times the number of girls that participated in 1972, when Title IX was passed. This law guarantees equal access to government-funded school activities for girls).
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 2% decrease in infant mortality in the U.S. (although the U.S. still ranks 29th in the world, behind poorer countries including Cuba, Portugal, and the Czech Republic).
- An experimental oral medication for multiple sclerosis, Fingolimod, prevented relapses in 60% of people who took the drug for 3 years.
- A cure for Alzheimer's disease may be on the horizon. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have developed a vaccine that clears beta amyloid plaques,Â the main abnormal brain finding in Alzheimer's. So far the experimental vaccine doesn't restore memory function, but is a promising first step toward a cure.
- Health care was, for the first time, a major issue in an American presidential campaign. Polls showed consistently that voters considered health care among their top three concerns.
- Internet use was found to boost brain function in middle-aged and older adults. According to a study from UCLA, Internet surfing activates areas of the brain involved in decision making and complex reasoning even more than reading does.
And, best of allÂ….
- A large European study confirmed that half a bar of dark chocolate daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
What health news are you most thankful for? Share your personal stories, or stories about health care developments.
Dr. Suzanne Koven practices internal medicine with a special interest in weight issues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and teaches at Harvard Medical School.
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