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Health Highlights: July 31, 2017

Fast Heart Attack Care Now the Norm in U.S. Hospitals: Study Sam Shepard Dead at 73 Back-Seat Car Alarms Would Save Children's Lives: Advocates

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

Fast Heart Attack Care Now the Norm in U.S. Hospitals: Study

The speed of heart attack care at U.S. hospitals is faster than ever, researchers report.

More than 93 percent of heart attack patients had blocked arteries opened within the recommended 90 minutes of arrival at a hospital in 2014, and the average time was 59 minutes, the Associated Press reported.

In 2005, less than half of patients underwent the procedure, called angioplasty, within the recommended time and the average time was 96 minutes.

"Things have definitely improved," study leader Dr. Fred Masoudi, a University of Colorado cardiologist, told the AP.

The sooner blood flow to the heart is restored, the lower the risk of permanent damage.

A heart attack patient's risk of death rises 42 percent if angioplasty is delayed even half an hour beyond the recommended 90 minutes after arrival at a hospital, the researchers said.

In angioplasty, a tiny tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin or arm and guided to the blockage causing the heart attack. Doctors then inflate a balloon to open the artery and place a stent to keep the artery open.


Sam Shepard Dead at 73

Award-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73.

A family spokesman said Shepard died last Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), The New York Times reported Monday.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rare neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movements such as chewing, walking, breathing and talking. The disease is progressive and always fatal, and there is no cure or treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease.

Shepard won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979 and was nominated for two other Pulitzers for his Broadway plays. He also won an Academy Award for his supporting role in the movie "The Right Stuff."

Shepard is survived by three children and two sisters, according to The Times.


Back-Seat Car Alarms Would Save Children's Lives: Advocates

The recent deaths of two Arizona children in hot cars show the need for a proposed federal law that would require carmakers to install alarms for back seats, child advocates say.

A 7-month-old boy died Friday after being left in the car in the driveway at home, and a 1-year-old boy died Saturday after being left in a car for hours, the Associated Press reported.

A U.S. Senate bill introduced last week is supported by more than two dozen child and road safety groups. It would require cars to have technology that can alert the driver if a child is left in the back seat after the car's engine is turned off.

"A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and our bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States," bill sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement, the AP reported. "It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child."

The bill would also improve the criminal process against caregivers involved in the deaths of children left in cars.

"The technology would help because if you're in a vehicle, your child is in the back seat, and you ignore that alarm: Go jail. Do not pass go. You had a chance," Janette Fennell of the advocacy group Kids and Cars, told the AP. "You talk to any of the judges, they'll tell you, they're beyond the hardest things they have to deal with."

The group has examined more than 800 children who have died after being left in cars since 1990 and found that criminal cases vary greatly, even when the circumstances are identical. Ninety percent of cases are accidents, most likely a child forgotten by an adult, according to Fennell.

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