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Health Beat

• According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, half of all Americans with high blood pressure now have the condition under control. These results show significant improvement over the past decade, with one-quarter of “hypertensives” having the condition under control in 2000 and one-third in ’04. In another positive health trend, fewer Americans are having heart attacks, according the New England Journal of Medicine. Over the nearly-decade observational period, since 1999, cases of hospitalization for myocardial infarction decreased 24 percent.

• Local hospitals are implementing mobile phone technology to provide patients immediate access to emergency room wait times. Ochsner Hospital offers a free mobile application through the iPhone store (or at www.ochsner.org/er for other smart phones) that updates ER wait times every 30 seconds. Lakeview Regional Medical Center, along with other HCA hospitals, has released a texting application that also provides accurate ER wait times. By texting “ER” to 23000, users will be prompted to enter a zip code. The HCA network will respond with the addresses of nearby hospitals and the average wait time for each.

• Scientists in Edinburgh, Scotland have identified a gene that is thought to trigger a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. HER2 positive breast cancer, which spreads more quickly than other forms, comprises 20 percent of all breast cancer cases. While the disease is currently treated by herceptin, scientists hope that the discovery of this gene will lead to the development of new treatments.

• According to a recent large-scale Gallup poll, the majority of Americans become significantly happier as they age, and researchers aren’t sure why. The 2008 survey questioned 850,000 people ages 18 to 25 about issues such as finances, health, sex and current events. Overall, results showed a steady decline in happiness until age 50, when a sharp reversal occurs and happiness increases from then on. Levels of stress declined markedly and consistently after age 22, and levels of worry dropped off after age 50.

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