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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

A healthy lifestyle could cut dementia risk, large study says

This year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is underway in Los Angeles and already there are some interesting findings to note: 

  • Healthy lifestyle and dementia: A good diet, adequate exercise, and other healthy lifestyle factors could help offset a genetic predisposition for dementia, one study found. Those with poor health habits and high genetic risk were three times more likely to develop dementia. Read more here

  • LGBTQ Americans and memory loss: A large survey of more than 44,000 adults found that LGBTQ Americans report more memory loss and cognitive decline than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. STAT’s Diana Cai has more here

And, if you're a STAT Plus subscriber, don’t forget to register for a live chat with STAT’s Sharon Begley and Matthew Herper on Thursday as they discuss the past and future landscape of Alzheimer’s drugs.

Universities and medical organizations oppose fetal tissue research ban

More than 90 groups — including universities, medical organizations, and social service organizations — penned a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar late last week to oppose the new ban on fetal tissue research. Last month, the Trump administration said it will end research by government scientists using fetal tissue, which is obtained from elective abortions. And although external groups that receive government funding can continue their work, the move raised concerns among the broader scientific community over access to fetal tissue. In the new letter, the groups iterated how fetal tissue research has helped advance vaccine science and provided insights into early human development. “We all rely on biomedical research to develop new treatments for the world’s most devastating diseases,” the letter said, adding, “Now is not the time to stifle progress.” 

Stricter gun laws mean lower rates of gun-related deaths in children

States with stricter gun laws had lower rates of gun-related deaths in children, according to new research. Scientists looked at more than 21,000 gun deaths in children between 2011 and 2015 in states that implemented stricter gun laws — such as universal background checks for ammunition and gun purchases — and found that these states had a 4% lower rate of gun-related deaths in children than states without such laws. States that had universal background checks for firearm purchases had an 11% lower rate of children dying from firearms — and if the law was in place for five or more years, that rate was 35%. The study’s findings are associative, but the authors say they point to the need for more research into how tougher gun laws could lead to fewer deaths among children. 

Inside STAT: To make better therapy apps, developers take a page from Pixar


(Alex Hogan/STAT)

When it comes to mental health apps, having one that can back up the claims it touts may only be half the battle. Developers also need to get patients to stick with the app — and that’s where design comes in. Take Daylight, a therapy app for those with anxiety. Its creator, Big Health, hired the usual suspects like psychologists, product managers, and software engineers. But in what may be a shift from the norm, the team also included podcasters, animators, and screenwriters, some from Pixar and “Radiolab.” “A lot of what we’re doing from, from scripting to the animation, is really about trying to show that we really understand what you’re going through,” said Kelvin Kwong, VP of product at Big Health. Read more from STAT’s Megan Thielking.

ICYMI: Employers cannot discriminate against obese workers in Washington state

Something of note from the end of last week: Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot refuse to hire obese workers who are otherwise qualified for a job. In recent years, courts have often debated whether obesity counts as a disability because the federal Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t explicitly cover the condition under its list of protections. The case was brought by Casey Taylor, who was not hired by BNSF Railway after being told it was against company policy to hire anyone with a BMI of over 35 — Taylor’s BMI was 41.3, or in the severely obese category. Taylor sued, although his case was initially dismissed. In the ruling, judges said that obesity is a disability because it is considered to be a physiological condition or disorder by the medical community.

New documentary on e-cigarettes premieres tonight

CNBC will be airing a new documentary tonight on the growing e-cigarette epidemic in the U.S. Titled “Vaporized: America’s E-Cigarette Addiction,” the documentary includes a visit to the e-cigarette maker Juul’s facilities, interviews with teen e-cig users, as well as commentary from experts on whether such products are doing more harm than good. Because e-cigarettes and other vaping products don’t contain tobacco, many — including the U.K. government — are promoting them as an alternative for smokers to quit traditional cigarettes. But e-cigs are being sold in a range of flavors, and ads for these products are being targeted at a younger population. So, teens and young adults — who may not otherwise smoke regular cigarettes — are increasingly using e-cigs. The documentary airs at 10 p.m. ET tonight. 

Correction: The item on the childhood trauma hearing in Friday's newsletter misspelled the name of the William Kellibrew Foundation. 

What to read around the web today

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Monday, July 15, 2019

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