Top health stories of 2007

(ARA) – From studies that show your friends may make you fat to the first decline in breast cancer rates in 62 years, 2007 was a year filled with eye-opening health headlines.



‘The past year saw major developments in health care, developments that directly impact the lives of millions of Americans,’ says Dr. Holly G. Atkinson, medical editor-in-chief of, a popular Web site that helps people manage their health online daily.

‘There was good news – such as the reinforcement that vaccines are really working – and bad, like the growing problem of antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs.”

So what were the top health stories of 2007? Dr. Atkinson offers the following run-down:

1. Declining breast cancer rates

For the first time since 1945, breast cancer rates declined in women, according to research by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Researchers say fewer women taking hormones most likely accounts for the decline.

To prevent breast cancer: Carefully consider hormone replacement therapy, get regular exercise and limit alcohol consumption to one drink or less per day.

2. Vaccines are saving lives

The number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths for 13 vaccine-preventable diseases have declined in the United States, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, while vaccination programs have helped to virtually eliminate some diseases – like smallpox – and greatly reduce the occurrence of others.

What to do: Ask your doctor which vaccines are recommended for you given your age and health status, and if you have children, make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date.

3. Risk of early death is falling

Death rates from all causes, including heart disease, dropped among all groups (except women diabetics), according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

They note the good news can be attributed to people reducing the number of risk factors for disease, such as not smoking, lower cholesterol, and increased activity, as well as improved diagnosis and treatment.

To reduce your risk of premature death: Avoid smoking, eat a healthful diet, and exercise daily, and if you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar in good control.

4. New York City restaurants get rid of trans fats
Three years after banning smoking in restaurants, New York City officials banned use of artery-clogging artificial trans fats by restaurants.

This year, restaurants took the first step by dumping trans fats oils, used for frying many foods.

5. New, stronger warning labels on many drugs

In May, the FDA recommended antidepressant makers include on their packaging new warnings about increased risk of suicidal thinking and behaviour in young adults during the first few months of treatment.

The government also proposed that manufacturers of many type 2 diabetes drugs include warnings about the risk of heart failure and heart attack. Finally, in November the FDA approved new labeling changes, warning that drugs for treating certain types of anemia could cause tumor growth and shortened survival in patients with certain cancers and increase the risk for death and stroke, heart attack or heart failure in patients with chronic kidney failure.

Be knowledgeable: Make sure you know the pros and cons of drugs prescribed by your doctor – and learn what the side-effects are, so you can take action early should they occur.

6. ‘Superbugs’ on the march

Antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’ are a growing problem, not only in hospitals but in our communities as well. A CDC study found that one common superbug is causing nearly 100,000 invasive infections a year and about 19,000 deaths.

How to protect yourself: Wash hands well, keep open skin wounds well covered, don’t share personal items, and clean sports clothing often in hot water. (And don’t ask your doctor for antibiotics to treat a lingering cold. They won’t help and only work to create superbugs!)

7. Depression worse for your health than some physical ailments

A global survey, published in The Lancet, indicates that depression can have a bigger impact on your overall health and well-being than some chronic physical diseases. And having a chronic disease, especially diabetes, increases the risk of depression.

Don’t suffer in silence: If you think you or a loved one suffer from depression, talk with your doctor, and get treatment for this potentially devastating disease.

8. Your friends may make you fat

Obesity may be ‘contagious,’ according to research by Harvard and the University of California, San Diego. In a study of more than 12,000 participants, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that when a participant’s friend became obese, the participant’s chance of becoming obese himself or herself rose by nearly 60 percent.

What to do: If you think this dynamic is influencing you, partner with your friend to go on a healthful weight loss plan together.

For more information on these and other health topics, visit