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Health Highlights: Sept. 8, 2004

Clinton Out of Intensive Care Suicide Tops War, Murder for Deaths: WHO Casinos, Bars Beat Highways for Dangerous Air Most Teens Ignore Sunscreen, Survey Says 3rd Judge Rejects Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

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

Clinton Out of Intensive Care

Former President Bill Clinton was moved from intensive care to a hospital room Wednesday as he continued his recovery from quadruple bypass surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia in New York City.

A statement issued by Clinton's office said the 58-year-old former president walked with assistance, sat up in bed and sat in a chair, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the wire service also reported that experts think Clinton had been within a whisker of a major heart attack before his surgery Monday, having had seven of the nine risk factors. Among those he couldn't control: being male, over age 50, and with a family history of heart disease. In addition, his controllable lifestyle factors included smoking cigars, a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight.

The only two risk factors the former president didn't have was lack of exercise and a diagnosis of diabetes, the AP reported.

The wire service points out that while heart disease normally takes years to develop, it catches most people by surprise. About half the time, a heart attack is the first -- and, for many, the last -- sign of trouble.

Clinton was lucky, his physicians have said. Dr. Allan Schwartz, the hospital's chief of cardiology, told the news conference Tuesday that an angiography had revealed extensive blockage in each of the blood vessels feeding Clinton's heart. The heart itself, however, was "strong with absolutely no damage," Schwartz added.


Suicide Tops War, Murder for Deaths: WHO

Suicide results in more deaths worldwide each year than war or murder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Almost a million people take their own lives each year. A suicide occurs someplace in the world about every 40 seconds, according to WHO figures.

The highest suicide rate is in Europe's Baltic states where about 40 people per 100,000 kill themselves each year, BBC News Online reported. The lowest suicide rates are in Latin America.

Men account for most suicides, but women actually attempt suicide more often. In addition, it's estimated that there 10 to 20 million attempted suicides worldwide each year.


Casinos, Bars Beat Highways for Dangerous Air

Smoke-filled bars and casinos have higher levels of cancer-causing particles in the air than highways and city streets packed with heavy traffic, according to just-published research.

The study, in the latest issue of the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, concluded that ventilation systems do nothing to protect workers in smoke-filled bars and casinos, a finding that contradicts tobacco industry claims.

Researcher James Repace, a former EPA scientist whose research on secondhand smoke led to smoking bans in workplaces, compared indoor air quality in a casino, six bars and a pool hall in Wilmington, Del., before and after the state banned smoking in the workplace.

He found that, before the smoking ban, levels of hazardous particulates in the casino, pool hall and bars were nearly five times higher than those permitted by the EPA. And he found that the amounts of cancer-causing hydrocarbons were greater than those measured at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel tollbooth. The particulates were 2.6 times higher than on I-95 in Delaware and on truck-packed streets in Boston.

Currently, 14 percent of states ban smoking in restaurants, bars and casinos.


Most Teens Ignore Sunscreen, Survey Says

Most American teens don't use sunscreen on a regular basis, says a Gallup Youth Survey.

Only 10 percent of teens always wear sunscreen when they go to the beach or a pool, or when they take part in outdoor summer activities, the online survey of more than 400 teens found. Twenty-six percent of teens wear sunscreen most of the time, 63 percent wear sunscreen only sometimes, and 25 percent never wear sunscreen, according to the Gallup Poll Tuesday briefing.

Girls are more likely than boys to use sunscreen on a regular basis. Ten percent of girls always wear it and 31 percent use it most of the time, while nine percent of boys always use it and 21 percent use sunscreen most of the time.

Seventy percent of boys never or only sometimes use sunscreen, compared with 57 percent of girls.


3rd Judge Rejects Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

A Nebraska federal judge on Wednesday became the third U.S. magistrate to declare the Partial-Birth Abortion ban unconstitutional, echoing a New York judge's ruling last month that the law didn't provide an exception to protect the mother's health.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln called the late-term abortion procedure "gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized," reported CBS News. Nonetheless, he said the U.S. Supreme Court had made it clear that any law restricting abortion must include exceptions when a woman's health is in danger.

The procedure, medically called intact dilation and extraction (D&X), involves partially delivering the fetus then puncturing or crushing its skull. The law banning what critics call "partial-birth" abortion was signed last year by President Bush.

Almost simultaneously, three separate challenges to the law were filed in San Francisco, New York, and Nebraska. On June 1, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco struck the law down as restricting a woman's right to choose. Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey in Manhattan declared the law unconstitutional because it failed to protect the mother's health. All three rulings are likely to be appealed to the nation's highest court.

Of the 1.3 million abortions that take place each year in the United States, an estimated 2,200 to 5,000 involve the procedure at issue, according to the Associated Press.

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