First monkey clones created in Chinese laboratory

Two monkeys have been cloned using the technique that produced Dolly the sheep.

Identical long-tailed macaques Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born several weeks ago at a laboratory in China.

Scientists say populations of monkeys that are genetically identical will be useful for research into human diseases.

But critics say the work raises ethical concerns by bringing the world closer to human cloning.

Qiang Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience said the cloned monkeys will be useful as a model for studying diseases with a genetic basis, including some cancers, metabolic and immune disorders.

“There are a lot of questions about primate biology that can be studied by having this additional model,” he said.

Zhong Zhong, one of the first two monkeys created by somatic cell nuclear transfer

Zhong Zhong was born eight weeks ago and Hua Hua six weeks ago. They are named after the Mandarin term for the Chinese nation and people.

The researchers say the monkeys are being bottle fed and are currently growing normally. They expect more macaque clones to be born over the coming months.

‘Not a stepping stone’

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge of The Francis Crick Institute, London, said the technique used to clone Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua remains “a very inefficient and hazardous procedure”.

“The work in this paper is not a stepping-stone to establishing methods for obtaining live born human clones,” he said.

WATCH: Dolly – the world’s most famous sheep

Prof Darren Griffin of the University of Kent said the approach may be useful in understanding human diseases, but raised ethical concerns.

“Careful consideration now needs to be given to the ethical framework under which such experiments can, and should, operate,” he said.

Dolly made history 20 years ago after being cloned at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. It was the first time scientists had been able to clone a mammal from an adult cell, taken from the udder.

Dolly the sheep

Since then many other mammals have been cloned using the same somatic cell nuclear transfer technique (SCNT), including cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, mice and rats.

This involves transferring DNA from the nucleus of a cell to a donated egg cell, which has had its own DNA removed. This is then prompted to develop into an embryo and implanted in a surrogate animal.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the first non-human primates cloned through this technique.

In 1999, a rhesus monkey embryo was split in two in order to create two identical twins. One of the baby monkeys born through that technique – called Tetra – has the title of the world’s first cloned monkey, but it did not involve the complex process of DNA transfer.

‘Much failure’

In the study, published in the journal Cell, scientists used DNA from foetal cells.

After the DNA was transferred to donated eggs, genetic reprogramming was used to alter genes that would otherwise have stopped the embryo developing.

Hua Hua, one of the first monkey clones made by somatic cell nuclear transfer

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were the result of 79 attempts. Two other monkeys were initially cloned from a different type of cell, but failed to survive.

Dr Sun said: “We tried several different methods, but only one worked. There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey.”

The scientists say they followed strict international guidelines for animal research, set by the US National Institutes of Health.

Co-researcher Dr Muming Poo, also of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, said: “We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards.”

US flu outbreak is worst since 2009 swine pandemic

An emergency room nurse (R) treats a hospital patient for flu this month in Escondido, California

More Americans are seeking medical care for flu than at any time since the “swine” pandemic of nearly a decade ago, say US health officials.

Thirty-seven children have died and nearly 12,000 patients have been admitted to hospital nationwide.

The outbreak could surpass 2014-15 when 34 million Americans fell ill, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In that season, 710,000 people were admitted to hospital and 56,000 died.

The director of the CDC, Dr Daniel Jernigan, said thousands of people were going to doctor’s offices and emergency rooms to seek treatment for flu-like symptoms.

“This is the highest level of activity recorded since the 2009 pandemic,” he said.

All 50 states excluding Hawaii are reporting “widespread” flu activity.

A 12-year-old boy in Florida, described by his family as a healthy child, became one of the latest to die from the virus.

Dylan Winnick died on Tuesday a day after developing a fever, according to stunned family members.

In 2014-15 the number of child deaths from flu reached 148.

Schools in at least 12 states have closed this year because of the deadly virus.

Also being mourned is Karlie Illg Slaven, 37, who died on Monday in Indiana from a flu-related illness after taking care of her two sick children.

Her distraught father is advising the public to get a flu shot, saying his daughter was the only household member not to have been vaccinated for the virus.

Mother-of-two Tandy Harmon died last week in Oregon after being diagnosed only two days earlier.

Dr Jernigan said baby-boomers – those in the 50 to 64 age bracket – are currently being hit particularly hard.

The 2009 swine flu pandemic was exceptionally widespread because it was a new virus.

However, the H3N2 virus that has swept the nation this year is the most deadly of the so-called “seasonal” strains.

The strain, also known as the “Aussie flu”, has been around for 50 years and was first called the “Hong Kong flu” in 1968.

H3N2 also wreaked havoc during the 1997-98 and 2003-04 seasons, and is known to be particularly harmful for young children and the elderly.

Most boomers infected with liver-damaging hepatitis C virus do not know it

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Few Baby Boomers have been tested for the liver-damaging hepatitis C virus, despite recommendations that all members of that generation have the blood test at least once, new research suggests.

The share of boomers who had the test barely budged in the two years after health authorities first recommended it for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, according to a report published Wednesday in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Just 13.8% had been tested by 2015, up from 12.3% in 2013, when testing was recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), said the report, based on a nationwide survey of 24,000 people.

“That is not a big increase,” and means most infected boomers remained unaware they carried a potentially fatal but curable virus, said report co-author Stacey Fedewa, an American Cancer Society researcher.

Just 10.5 million out of 76.2 million boomers had the test by 2015, the survey found. It is possible testing has increased somewhat since then, Fedewa said.

For reasons that are not fully understood, boomers make up three quarters of the estimated 3 million or so Americans chronically infected with the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Left to smolder for decades, the virus can cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the leading reason for liver transplants; it eventually kills up to 5% of carriers, CDC says.

Boomers grew up and became young adults before the virus was identified in 1989. So it is likely many were infected through medical procedures and transfusions before improved infection control techniques and blood screening nearly eliminated those risks, CDC says. But shared drug needles, the major cause of transmission today, also played a role back then, CDC says. Sexual transmission, which is less common, likely played a smaller role, according to CDC.

“Some boomers engaged in high risk activities in the past that they no longer engage in,” but their risk remains, Fedewa said.

The reason the task force, CDC and other medical groups now recommend widespread testing is that treatment has improved dramatically over the past few years, said Michael Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“Someone who has hepatitis C and gets 12 weeks of treatment, typically one pill a day, has a 95% to 98% cure rate,” he said. Older regimens took much longer, had more side effects and had a 40% success rate, he said.

But the costs of the new drugs may be dampening enthusiasm among doctors and patients for testing and treatment. Current regimens have sticker prices of about $90,000, though those prices usually are negotiated down by drug companies and insurers, Saag said.

Low-income AIDS patients fear coverage gains could slip away

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When Tami Haught was diagnosed with HIV, she was one day shy of her 25th birthday. The diagnosis did not come as a shock since doctors had determined her fiancé was dying of AIDS several weeks earlier.

In the two decades since, Haught, 48, has turned to expensive prescription drugs to keep the deadly infection in check. In 2005, she began receiving help purchasing her medications through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a federally funded network of programs in each state that assist low-income HIV and AIDS patients. Since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, ADAP instead has helped her buy an insurance policy to cover a wide assortment of her health care needs.

Nationally, more than 139,000 clients were served by ADAPs in June 2015, according to the latest report from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), a coalition of state officials responsible for administering HIV and hepatitis programs. About half of those clients were getting help purchasing insurance through the federal health law’s marketplaces or elsewhere, a switch from the program’s historical role of paying primarily for expensive prescriptions.

Advocates fear Republican plans to overhaul the health law could cause such upheaval in the individual insurance market that the program could not afford to continue the premium assistance and would be forced to turn primarily back to subsidizing medication.

“We are at a pivotal point in HIV where people are talking about the end of the epidemic,” said Ann Lefert, senior director of the prevention and care program and policy at NASTAD. “It’s hard to imagine that if the health care coverage changes dramatically, it would be hard to get there in the same speed.”

According to the AIDS directors’ report, in June 2015, about 72,000 got help paying for their insurance, including nearly 4,000 who also received assistance to purchase medication. That’s more than twice as many as got insurance help in 2010, when the health law was passed.

To qualify for ADAP assistance, prospective clients must meet standards determined by the state. Individuals must prove their residency and recertify every six months. NASTAD reported more than 70 percent of clients served by ADAP in June 2015 reached viral load suppression, or undetectable levels of HIV in the blood. By comparison, only 3 out of 10 people living with HIV in the U.S. reached suppression in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

ADAP is required to choose the most cost-effective way to assist clients. Currently, that option often is financial assistance for purchasing an insurance plan that covers broad health expenses. But before the ACA, when insurance companies could legally exclude customers with preexisting conditions or charge them very high premiums, buying insurance was difficult for HIV patients.

Consequently, the program focused primarily on helping patients buy the pricey drugs they needed. It struggled to meet that demand, however, often using waiting lists to determine which low-income clients could be helped. At its peak, 9,278 individuals waited to access ADAP services, according to NASTAD. The program eventually eliminated the waiting list in 2013.

For many of those low-income patients, it was the only help available, given they weren’t eligible in many states for Medicaid, which generally limited eligibility to children, very-low income families and people with debilitating conditions.

“Most people had to be disabled in order to get access to Medicaid services, even though the treatments that became available in the 1990s prevented you from being disabled,” said Jeffrey Levi, a health management and policy professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

But the ACA’s provisions — principally, the Medicaid expansion undertaken by 31 states and the District of Columbia; subsidies for low-income people buying plans on the insurance marketplace; and consumer insurance protections —enabled ADAP to spend less on purchasing drugs and use its funds more efficiently to help clients buy coverage. They could use the assistance to pay the portion of premiums not covered by federal tax subsidies and expenses not picked up by their plans, such as deductibles and copayments.

The NASTAD report also found that ADAP paid an average of $1,678 per client for medications in June 2015. In contrast, the program contributed an average $444 to health plans for clients. Some insured clients, however, also received help paying for medication.

While Lefert said she doesn’t anticipate waiting lists returning to ADAP if the health law is partially repealed, other experts worry about how far existing funds can be stretched.

“Now you’re going to have a bunch of people rushing back to the [ADAP] pool with not enough dollars to cover them all,” said Matthew Rose, policy and advocacy manager for the National Minority AIDS Council.

Changes to the health law could interrupt treatment and lead to gaps in care, said Erin Loubier, senior director for health and legal integration and payment innovation at the Whitman-Walker Health clinic in Washington, D.C. And without protections from discrimination based on preexisting conditions, she said, people could shirk screening for fear of losing their jobs or health insurance.

Haught, of Nashua, Iowa, now works as a training coordinator for the SERO Project, an advocacy group fighting against HIV criminalization laws around the nation. Haught said she’s surprised that she’s lived 23 years past her diagnosis, which allowed her to see her son graduate and spend time with her grandson, Chase. Taking her medication is critical.

How are the cold and flu different?

Knowing the difference between the common cold and the flu can be crucial to your well-being — and that of your loved ones — this winter.

On Jan. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that during the 2017 to 2018 flu season, there were 30 child deaths.

There have also been reports of adults who had the flu and died from complications.

Read on for a look at the two illnesses and how you can tell them apart.

Getting down to basics

“Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone,” the CDC explains online. “In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense.”

The agency notes that special testing may be performed early on to determine which illness you may have.

There’s also another point: The common cold is mainly caused by rhinoviruses, the Mayo Clinic says. The influenza virus, however, is responsible for causing the flu.

CDC DIRECTOR: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE FLU

Common cold symptoms

Muscle aches, fevers, chills: the flu can be an unpleasant experience during chilly weather.  Here's what you need to know about seasonal influenza and how to prevent it.

Coughing, a runny nose, congestion and a sore throat are just some of the things patients with the common cold may experience, according to the Mayo Clinic. Others include sneezing and a minor headache or body aches.

“It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way,” the Mayo Clinic says of the common cold.

It notes that people usually recuperate within seven to 10 days, but recommends looking for treatment for certain health conditions, like when adults have a fever higher than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

FLU SYMPTOMS AND PREVENTION

Flu symptoms

For one type of the virus, called Influenza A, the “classic” presentation of symptoms is a sudden onset, Dr. Neil Fishman, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at the Hospital for the University of Pennsylvania, told Fox News.

People may first have a headache “more in the front of your head or behind your eyes,” with other symptoms being a fever of at least 103 degrees, chills, sweats and body aches.

Influenza B often is less severe and resembles the common cold, but there can be more serious cases, he noted.

People worried about the flu or who think they may have it should consult their physicians.

Fighting the opioid epidemic will require more court battles

Rate falls for second straight year; correspondent Ellison Barber looks at the numbers

New York City’s decision to file a lawsuit this week against eight big pharmaceutical corporations and distributors that ignited the nation’s raging opioid epidemic cannot bring back the hundreds of thousands of loved ones who have perished during this crisis.

But for families like my own that have suffered, it raises some hope that Big Pharma companies may yet be held responsible for their actions.

Unfortunately, accountability has been quite elusive since pill makers began flooding the market with prescription painkillers more than two decades ago.

As far back as 2001, Connecticut’s then-Attorney General (and now U.S. Senator) Richard Blumenthal sounded the warning cry about Oxycontin abuse, publicly urging manufacturer Purdue Pharma to take action to warn about the potential for addiction connected to the drug, which it aggressively marketed as “non-addictive.”

Three years later West Virginia became the first state to sue Purdue in a case that never went to trial and resulted in a $10 million settlement.

In 2007, Purdue finally pleaded guilty to misleading doctors and the public about Oxycontin’s potential for addiction and abuse, paying $600 million in fines and payments to settle the Justice Department case against the company.

By this time addictive pain pills, often snagged from unused bottles in family medicine cabinets, were as readily available as candy in the halls of the high school where my 16-year-old son Tommy, like many teens, was wrestling with his identity.

By 2010, pharmacies in Florida, where we were living, were selling more than 650 million oxycodone pills per year, with 93 of the top opioid-dispensing doctors in the U.S. operating in the state. (Oxycodone is the active ingredient in Oxycontin and is also an ingredient of other pain pills).

Then completely unaware of the word “opioid” or the deadly dagger Tommy was flirting with, my wife and I proceeded through our normal routine one Friday until our son didn’t come home after school.

When Tommy’s cellphone went straight to voicemail, we began a frantic and agonizing four-day search for him. We finally found him in a decrepit, abandoned building on the brink of overdose death. His drug of choice? Oxycontin.

Some 13 overdoses and nine years later, we’ve learned far more about the opioid crisis that we ever could have fathomed. About how easy it is to become addicted even after short-term use. How opioids rewire a person’s brain chemistry in ways that make overcoming the drug nearly impossible.

We also learned about how the stigma carried by the word “heroin” kept this growing problem in the shadows for so long, causing families to suffer in silence for fear of what their neighbors might think, and causing many Americans to mistakenly brush off opioid addiction as a skid row problem and not something that would affect them.

As our son continued to struggle through the vicious cycle of relapse, detox, recovery and repeat, we began to understand the scope of the problem. We count ourselves among the lucky ones, because Tommy has survived and is now doing well.

But we have no illusions that this will ever be over, because as any person who has overcome addiction can attest, it is a lifelong “one day at a time” challenge.

Today’s opioid epidemic can reach any family. It is an equal opportunity destroyer that strikes rural, suburban and urban communities, poor, middle-class and wealthy families – with no regard for race, age or gender.

Last year alone the opioid epidemic claimed more American lives than we lost during the Vietnam War. Nearly 100 people die every single day from either heroin or prescription pill overdose. And that’s just the statistics that are reported. The real toll is certainly higher.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to profit from this national tragedy. Since its record settlement in 2007, Purdue has continued to rake in billions of dollars from the sale of its homerun drug Oxycontin, vaulting the company’s family owners onto the Forbes Wealthiest Families in America list.

For those of us who are battle weary from the front lines of the crisis, it is small solace that some prominent Big Pharma actors might once again be found liable.

New York City joins a growing list of cities, counties and states that are suing to bring drug companies to justice in a move reminiscent of Big Tobacco lawsuits years ago. But the politics of greed that have allowed this infection to fester for so many years already make us skeptical that this time will be different.

Since Purdue’s huge settlement, Big Pharma has fought back in a big way, significantly increasing their lobbying efforts at the federal and state levels. According to The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity, Purdue, other pain pill producers, and their related nonprofit associations spent nearly $900 million on lobbying and political contributions between 2006 and 20015.

The amount spent by the industry’s influence machine is eight times more than the powerful gun lobby spent during the same time period. If anyone wonders how the opioid train rolled down the tracks for so long while politicians or regulatory officials looked the other way, the answers can be found in political spending records.

Similar to the speeches and press conferences that promise to end the opioid crisis, the pledges to make “Big Pharma pay for what they’ve done” will do little to change realities on the ground, at least for years to come. Even if settlements or further restrictions are achieved, it will be too little and too late for most American families coping with opioid addiction.

At least awareness has been heightened by the spate of new lawsuits. Anything we can do to further drag the problem out of the shadows and into the light is an important first step toward education and prevention. It’s hard to battle something that so many don’t even understand.

Sadly, the talk continues to far outpace the walk on the issue of opioid addiction. Most of our public leaders and government officials simply continue to scratch their heads about what to do next.

Until we can go move beyond the headline-grabbing promises to fight this epidemic and pursue the legitimate actions and resources needed to make a dent in it, don’t expect much to change.

Philadelphia aims to be first US city to host safe injection sites

Discarded syringes are seen in an open-air heroin market that has thrived for decades outside the heart of Philadelphia, July 31, 2017.

Philadelphia wants to become the first U.S. city to permit medically supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic, officials said Tuesday.

The city is seeking outside operators to establish at least one such site in the city, in a move met with both support and criticism.

Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any large U.S. city. That mortality rate has been increasing, as more than 1,200 people fatally overdosed in Philadelphia in 2017 — one-third more than in 2016.

President Donald Trump declared the U.S. opioid crisis a public health emergency nearly three months ago.

In safe injection sites, people can shoot up under supervision of a doctor or nurse who can administer an overdose antidote if necessary.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called the city’s plan the “most radical step yet” against the opioid crisis.

Dr. Thomas Farley, public health commissioner, told the Inquirer that “we are facing an epidemic of historic proportions.” He said the sites could be “a life-saving strategy and a pathway to treatment.”

“No one here condones or supports illegal drug use in any way,” Farley said. “We want people saddled with drug addiction to get help.”

No U.S. city has established such a site, though Seattle has set aside $1.3 million to create a safe injection site there. Injection sites are operating in Canada and Europe.

Philadelphia officials visited Seattle and safe injection sites in Vancouver, where Farley said they have reduced overdose deaths, the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, and created safer neighborhoods that are free of used-needle litter.

The city officials concluded that a single site in the city would save 25 to 75 lives a year and millions of dollars in hospital costs and public funds, at the same reduce public injection of drugs, the Inquirer reported.

Rate falls for second straight year; correspondent Ellison Barber looks at the numbers

Councilwoman Helen Gym said the decision was “bold, brave, and lifesaving.”

Mayor Jim Kenney wasn’t at the news conference, but Farley said the Democrat supports the recommendation.

In contrast, critics have argued the sites may undermine prevention and treatment and cause safety concerns.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, called Philadelphia’s safe injection plan misguided and a violation of federal law.

It’s unclear how the federal government would respond if Philadelphia gets a safe-injection site. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the plan.

Meanwhile, the city hopes to hear from operators interested in setting up the injection sites, as locations are to be determined, the Inquirer reported.

Do e-cigarettes help or harm? Report says not clear yet

Vaping with e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can be addictive according to a new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Electronic cigarettes could be a boon to public health or a major liability, depending on whether they help Americans quit smoking or encourage more young people to try traditional cigarettes, a new report concludes.

The report issued Tuesday wrestles with the potential benefits and harms of the vapor-emitting devices which have been sold in the U.S. for more than a decade. But those effects may not be known for decades, in part, because of how slowly illnesses caused by smoking emerge.

“In some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern,” said David Eaton, of the University of Washington, who headed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that studied the issue. “In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”

There are no long-term studies on the health consequences of e-cigarettes and little consensus on whether they are effective in helping smokers quit, according to the report requested by the Food and Drug Administration.

The experts found “substantial” evidence that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes. On the other hand, experts found only “limited evidence” that cigarettes are effective tools to help adult smokers quit.

The committee’s review of more than 800 studies yielded many findings that were largely in line with prior assessments by other researchers. For instance, the panel found “conclusive evidence” that most e-cigarettes contain numerous chemicals that can be toxic. However, there was equally strong evidence that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxicants and at lower levels than regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. since at least 2007. Most devices heat a liquid nicotine solution into vapor and have been promoted to smokers as a less dangerous alternative since they don’t have all the chemicals, tar or smoke of regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes and similar vaping devices have grown into a $4 billion-dollar U.S. industry with thousands of varieties of flavors and customizable products available in specialty shops and online.

The FDA gained authority to regulate the devices in 2016 after years of pushback from the industry. But last year the agency said it would delay the deadline for manufacturers to submit their devices for review until 2022. The decision was blasted by anti-smoking advocates who say some e-cigarette manufacturers target kids with candy and fruit flavors.

The FDA has signaled its intention to begin pushing U.S. consumers away from traditional cigarettes toward alternative products, such as e-cigarettes. The regulatory delay was intended, in part, to give companies more time to research their products.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the link between e-cigarette use and trying smoking in young people “troubling.”

“We need to put novel products like e-cigarettes through an appropriate series of regulatory gates to fully evaluate their risks and maximize their potential benefits,” he said in a statement.

Some other key takeaways and questions from the report:

— Chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, such as formaldehyde, are capable of damaging DNA in humans. However, it’s unclear if the chemicals exist at levels high enough to cause cancer.

— Switching completely from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes significantly reduces exposure to numerous cancer-causing chemicals.

— E-cigarettes can sometimes explode causing burns and injuries. The risk of such accidents is higher with devices that are stored improperly or contain low-quality batteries.

— There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette vapor contains traces of metal, possibly due to the metallic coils used to heat liquid that the devices vaporize.

Dr. Marc Siegel: Trump had his Physical — Now it’s Your Turn

Regardless of your political preferences or whether your views align with those of President Trump, there’s one action he took last week that can set an important example for all of us to follow: he got a thorough physical exam and advice from his doctor on staying healthy and living longer.

How many of you have given up trying to improve your health? Maybe you don’t exercise right, don’t eat right, and have gained more weight than you would like to admit.

Maybe you were even cringing when you heard that our 71-year-old overweight president who likes fast food was about to undergo the same type of extensive physical that you have been avoiding yourself for years.

Maybe you didn’t realize that the physical could give you enough good news to motivate you to overcome the bad.

But now, in the wake of the most extensive release of information about the health of any president in American history – thanks to Navy Rear Adm.  Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president’s personal physician – there is no longer any excuse left for you.

Now that we’ve put President Trump under the medical microscope, it’s your turn. Let a primary care physician like me or Dr. Jackson assess your current health and help you to make even better choices.

Heart health is a prime example. At Dr. Jackson’s news conference this week about President Trump’s health, we were reminded about how important our bad cholesterol level is – it should be low for all of us.

I try to make sure all my patients have an LDL – low density lipoprotein level (also known as bad cholesterol) – below 100. Find out your number. If it is too high, change your diet to one with less animal proteins – the way President Trump was advised to do.

Also follow the advice the president received to try to lose weight (if you are overweight) and exercise more. Start by walking or biking whenever you are able. When driving, park your car further than you need to from your destination in order to get in some extra steps.

Find a good primary care doctor and become his or her friend, as President Trump has clearly done. Unlike Dr. Jackson, not many primary care docs have emergency medicine and hyperbaric training, have treated dying members of the military in combat, or have served three presidents and the entire White House staff. But you can get by without someone with such incredible experience or training.

What you need to do – and what I bet you can do – is find a good doctor who will meet your medical needs and help you stay healthy. If you have troubles or worries you need that doc to listen to you all the better. He or she can return that confidence you have by advising you and reassuring you that you are mentally healthy.

I can’t overestimate the importance of screening colonoscopies every five to 10 years over the age of 50. It was reassuring to find that the president had his last one in 2013. Colon cancer can easily become a killer if not diagnosed until its later stages. But if spotted early, polyps – small growths of cells that form on the lining of the colon – can be removed before they have the chance to turn cancerous.

By the same token, it is important for men to have their prostates screened over the age of 40 and for women of the same age and older to have regular mammograms. All sexually active women should have regular Pap tests. Both sexes need to have screens for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Everyone should have their skin checked regularly.

When it comes to immunizations, it was good to hear that for all the talk about his supposed anti-vaccine stance, it turns out that President Trump is up to date on all his vaccines, the greatest public health discovery from the 20th century.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a vaccine pioneer, explained to me this week in an interview that the current flu shot is expected to have a 30 percent effectiveness this year, which still makes it well worth having. The president had one.

In terms of mental function, it was inspirational to see President Trump volunteer to undergo a cognitive test in order to respond to his detractors. He scored 30 out of a possible 30 on the test. This is not to say that we all need cognitive tests or that he did, but we can all face down concerns by testing areas that our family and friends – or even critics – are concerned about, just as President Trump has.

Heart disease remains the top killer in the U.S. for both men and women, which makes it well worth paying attention to. The president lacks several cardiac risk factors because he doesn’t drink or smoke, and has a low blood pressure. But he does suffer from high cholesterol, he is mainly sedentary and overweight, and he is male – all risk factors.

What about you? Are you having chest pain, or shortness of breath? Have you had an EKG lately? Dr. Jackson was informative in explaining the role of various heart screening tests. President Trump did very well on a stress test and echocardiogram of the heart and doesn’t have any evidence of active heart disease.

But, how about you? Have you had a stress test or do you need one? Ask your physician. Most of us are building up plaque in the coronary arteries that supply our heart but don’t know it.

Did you know that these plaques can calcify and that you can follow this calcification over time with a calcium scoring CT scan of the chest – just as the president has? Doctors can use this result to determine your risk of developing clinical heart disease, and advise you on lifestyle changes.

Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush were followed closely by White House physicians throughout their presidencies. Bush was a poster president for exercise, and inspired many Americans (including me), to resume daily exercise routines (biking in my case) that had been put aside.

Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton developed active heart disease after they left office – an important reminder that regular physicals must continue after retirement. President Obama brought the joys of basketball (one of my favorite sports) to the White House. And all of the last three presidents, including President Trump, are prodigious golfers. Golf can involve walking and relaxation, both important tools for better health.

Now that we’ve put President Trump under the medical microscope, it’s your turn. Let a primary care physician like me or Dr. Jackson assess your current health and help you to make even better choices.

Louis Tomlinson gives $10G to sick girl confined to wheelchair

Louis Tomlinson contributed $10,000 toward the medical care for 9-year old fan with a message ‘Sending you all the love!’

Louis Tomlinson donated $10,000 to help one of his fans with cerebral palsy pay for her medical care. The former One Direction singer-songwriter gave the generous gift to 9-year-old Rylee Sanford, who suffers from bilateral close-lipped schizencephaly, a condition that leaves her confined to a special type of wheelchair.

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9-year old Rylee Sanford suffers from bilateral close-lipped schizencephaly, a condition that leaves her confined to a special type of wheelchair.  (Courtesy: YouCaring)

Rylee’s family, who is from Chatsworth, Georgia set up a YouCaring page to help raise money to modify their home for her special needs and provide her with medical treatment.

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Money raised will go toward her medical care and to making the house more handicapped-accessible.  (Courtesy: YouCaring)

Her page read: “She loves Zayn, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. She is a true warrior and always has a smile on her face….Thank you for any amount you are able to give”

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Earlier this week, Tomlinson went on the site and donated $10,000 with a sweet message that read “Sending you all the love!’”

Former One Direction band-member Zayn Malik also shared a link to Rylee’s page with his 26.4 million Twitter followers, which led to even more donations.

According to the fundraising page, money will go toward medical care and to making the house more accessible to the handicapped child.

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The rest of the post on Rylee’s YouCaring page reads:

“Our next goal would be stem cell treatments as there have been a lot of great results. However, insurance will not cover most of this, and it is pretty expensive. Please help Rylee reach her full potential and achieve her dreams!!! Any donations will help!!!”