Health Highlights: June 7, 2017

Running, Brisk Walking Good for Spine: Study Dr. Francis Collins to Remain as NIH Director Anthem Leaving Ohio Health Insurance Exchange Unknown Street Drug Linked to Four Deaths in Georgia

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

Running, Brisk Walking Good for Spine: Study

Regular running or brisk walking may benefit your spine, according to a new study.

Researchers assessed the spines of 79 adults. Of those, two-thirds were runners who covered between 12 to more than 30 miles a week and had been running for at least five years, The New York Times reported.

The other participants in the study did not exercise.

In general, the runners' spinal discs were larger and contained more fluid than the discs of the inactive people, an indication that the runners' spines were healthier, according to the authors of the study in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers also found that the spinal benefits of running did not depend on distance, suggesting that while logging higher mileage does not lead to greater disc health, it also does not do any harm, The Times reported.

The findings challenge the common belief that running might harm the spine.

Further investigation showed the brisk walking -- about four miles an hour -- also benefits spinal discs, The Times reported.


Dr. Francis Collins to Remain as NIH Director

Dr. Francis Collins will continue as director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the White House says.

Collins is a physician-geneticist who has served as NIH director since 2009.

Before that, he led the international Human Genome Project, which mapped all the genes of the human genome, and was director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH from 1993-2008.

Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 and received the National Medal of Science in 2009.


Anthem Leaving Ohio Health Insurance Exchange

Anthem will stop offering policies in the Ohio health insurance marketplace next year, the company announced Tuesday.

The move would leave about 10,500 people in the state without an insurance carrier. Anthem also operates for-profit Blue Cross plans in more than a dozen other states, but the company said it had not yet made a decision about its participation in those exchanges, The New York Times reported.

The announcement by one of the nation's largest insurers was used by Republicans to claim that markets are "collapsing" under the Affordable Care Act.

But Democrats said the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are to blame, The Times reported.

"They own this health care system now," Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said. "Because they fiddled for the last five months and injected more uncertainty into the insurance market, premiums have gone up and insurance companies have pulled out."


Unknown Street Drug Linked to Four Deaths in Georgia

Overdoses from an unknown street drug have caused at least four deaths and harmed dozens in the central part of Georgia, according to state officials.

They said it's the largest cluster of opioid overdoses in the state's history, CBS News reported.

At least seven of the overdose patients are on ventilators, one state health official said.

Authorities are awaiting test results to confirm the cause of the outbreak, but officials said a number of patients told medical staff that they became ill after consuming yellow pills bought on the street, CBS News reported.

"This is something we have been fearing would happen over a period of time," said Dr. Patrick O'Neal, director of health protection for the state Department of Public Health. "This is a national issue."

The street drug, being sold as the pain medication Percocet, can cause loss of consciousness and severe respiratory failure, said Chris Hendry, chief medical officer at Navicent Health in Macon, CBS News reported.

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