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Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2016

John Glenn, Legendary Astronaut and Later Senator, Has Died Americans' Life Expectancy Falls for 1st Time in Decades Discrimination, Violence Common for Transgender Americans: Survey Trump Appoints Fossil Fuel Industry Ally to Lead EPA

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

John Glenn, Legendary Astronaut and Later Senator, Has Died

John Glenn, a famed astronaut who was the first American to orbit the Earth, died Thursday. He was 95.

Glenn, who went on to a distinguished career as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, had heart valve replacement surgery in 2014, CNN reported.

Ohio State University President Michael Drake confirmed the death, releasing a statement Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The Ohio State University community deeply mourns the loss of John Glenn, Ohio's consummate public servant and a true American hero. He leaves an undiminished legacy as one of the great people of our time," Drake wrote.

Glenn made his historic space flight in 1962, before serving as a Senator for 24 years.

Americans' Life Expectancy Falls for 1st Time in Decades

Life expectancy for Americans declined last year, the first time that's happened in more than two decades, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report released Thursday.

It said the decrease was due to rising rates of death for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, and accidents, the Washington Post reported.

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015. The last decline was in 1993, when it decreased from 75.6 to 75.4.

The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent last year, the first increase since 1999. In 2015, more than 2.7 million people died, and about 45 percent of those deaths were due to heart disease or cancer, the Post reported.

"This is unusual, and we don't know what happened," report lead author and epidemiologist Jiaquan Xu said. "So many leading causes of death increased."

Some experts say the findings are cause for concern.

The report shows increases in "virtually every cause of death. It's all ages," David Weir, director of the health and retirement study, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, told the Post.

He pointed out that over the past five years, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. "There's this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States," Weir said.

However, other experts advised against interpreting too much from one year of data, saying there could be a reversal next year, the Post reported.


Discrimination, Violence Common for Transgender Americans

Many transgender Americans suffer so much discrimination and harassment that they attempt suicide, a new survey reveals.

The largest-ever such survey included more than 27,700 respondents nationwide and found that 40 percent said they had attempted suicide at some point. The overall attempted suicide rate in the U.S. is less than 5 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Another significant finding from the National Center for Transgender Equality survey released Thursday was that 59 percent of respondents avoided using a public restroom in the past year due to concerns about confrontations or other problems.

Forty-six percent of respondents said they were verbally harassed in the previous year, and 9 percent said they were physically attacked because they were transgender. Forty-seven percent said they had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

"Discrimination and violence threaten transgender people's ability to have even the basics: food, a place to sleep, or a job," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the national center, the AP reported.

"This survey demonstrates that there is a lot of work ahead to achieve simple parity and full equality for transgender people," Keisling added.

There are about 1.4 million transgender adults in the U.S., according to a recent estimate by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, the AP reported.


Trump Appoints Fossil Fuel Industry Ally to Lead EPA

A fossil fuel industry ally and opponent of policies to fight climate change has been appointed to run the Environmental Protection Agency in Donald Trump's administration.

Republican Scott Pruitt is the Oklahoma attorney general and has been a leader of legal challenges against President Barack Obama's programs to combat climate change, The New York Times reported.

In the presidential campaign, Trump claimed that the established science of human-caused climate change is a hoax and said he would cancel that Paris accord in which most nations pledged action against climate change.

In the U.S., a cornerstone of President Obama's efforts against climate change are EPA rules forcing power plants to significantly lower emissions of carbon dioxide air pollution.

While the Trump administration would not be able to unilaterally cancel those regulations, an EPA chief with legal experience could weaken, delay or gradually dismantle them, The Times reported.

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