Health Highlights: Nov. 12, 2019

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

EPA Proposal Would Limit Use of Science in Public Health Rules

Scientists and doctors are sounding the alarm about a Trump administration proposal to significantly limit the use of scientific and medical research in setting public health regulations.

They warn that the new Environmental Protection Agency rule would weaken the scientific basis of government policymaking, The New York Times reported.

The proposal would require scientists to disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the EPA could consider an academic study's conclusions.

The disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently and would improve transparency, according to EPA officials.

Critics say the proposal would impede new clean air and water rules because many studies showing an association between pollution and health risks use personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements, The Times reported.

"This means the EPA can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths," warned Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.

When existing regulations come up for renewal, studies used for decades to support them might be inadmissible, according to public health experts. Examples of such studies include research showing that mercury from power plants harms brain development, or that lead in paint dust is linked with behavioral disorders in children, The Times reported.

A hearing on the proposed rule change is to be held Wednesday by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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Americans' Cholesterol Levels Decline: Study

Americans' overall cholesterol levels fell between 2005 and 2016, researchers report.

They also found that among people taking cholesterol medications, there was a 21-point decline in "bad" LDL cholesterol, according to the Associated Press.

The study, which tracked cholesterol information from more than 32,000 adults, was published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

During the study period, the use of cholesterol-lowering statins by people with diabetes -- who are at increased risk for heart attack -- rose from less than half to more than 60%, the AP reported.

The findings are "very heartening," said study leader Dr. Pankaj Arora, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "But there is more to do."

"These are surprisingly impressive results" that together predict a 15% to 20% reduction in risk of heart attacks and strokes, Dr. Michael Miller, preventive cardiology chief at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told the AP. He wasn't involved with the study.

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First Double Lung Transplant Performed for Patient With Vaping-Related Illness

What's believed to be the first double lung transplant in the United States for a patient whose lungs were irreparably damaged after vaping was performed by doctors at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Doctors will discuss the case and provide an update on the male patient's condition at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, CNN reported.

The patient, who will not be at the press conference, asked the hospital to inform the public about his lung damage and to see pictures, to "warn others," according to the hospital.

As of Nov. 5, there had been at least 2,051 vaping-related injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 40 deaths linked with vaping-related lung damage have been reported by state health departments, CNN reported.

Health officials are trying to determine the exact cause of this lung damage. Most of the patients said they had used THC products in the past.

Vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes used in THC and other vaping products, is a likely culprit, a new CDC report released Friday said, but other factors may also play a role.

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Jimmy Carter to Have Surgery to Relieve Pressure on Brain

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was scheduled to undergo a procedure Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding from recent falls.

Carter, 95, was admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Monday night, according to a Carter Center statement posted to Twitter.

"President Carter is resting comfortably, and his wife, Rosalynn, is with him," the statement said.

The former president was hospitalized twice last month for two falls in his house in Plains, Ga. He received 14 stitches above his brow after the first fall and was treated for a minor pelvic fracture after the second fall, CNN reported.

Carter previously survived brain and liver cancer.

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