2020 Health Recap Dominated by COVID-19
It doesn’t take a genius to name the number one health problem of 2020. No matter where one lives, the answer is the coronavirus. The pandemic has affected everyone’s life.
Looking back over the last 10 months, it’s remarkable how many things we’ve learned about COVID-19. And how many things we’ve had to “re-learn” after initial information proved inaccurate.
The constants have included how easily the virus spreads. And how older people are more vulnerable. Due to having weaker immune systems.
For the most part, symptoms have remained the same. Fever, cough and fatigue. Muscle or body aches and chest pressure. Sore throat, loss of taste or smell, and others.
Changing Guidelines Were Confusing
But a number of things have changed since January. That’s when the first American was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
We were told at first to wear masks. And then that only N-95 masks were effective. Next we heard masks were unnecessary. More recently, that masks should always be worn in public.
Another change in direction from the CDC has been quarantine times. From the start, people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 were supposed to quarantine for 14 days. Recently the CDC shortened that time.
Now, people can leave quarantine without taking a test within 10 days of being exposed to the virus. Assuming they haven’t developed symptoms. Or after seven days with a negative test result and no symptoms.
Something else that has changed dramatically is now causing panic. And taxing healthcare workers like never before.
That’s the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations. They’ve increased by 40 percent in the past few weeks. Emergency rooms are filling up again.
With new cases mounting almost every day, hospitalizations will continue to rise. Healthcare workers say coronavirus patients are the sickest people they’ve ever seen.
That means those patients require more attention. But there aren’t enough hospital beds or doctors and nurses to handle the strain.
Non-COVID Deaths Increasing
Worldwide, the number of deaths unrelated to COVID-19 has risen in 2020. Especially among men 15 to 54 years of age. And among women 25 to 44.
It’s not difficult to figure out why. With all eyes on the coronavirus, less attention is paid to other life-threatening problems.
Also, some people are avoiding doctor’s offices and hospitals. Due to the fear of becoming infected while there. In some of those cases, serious problems might have been uncovered. Even in routine exams.
One researcher wrote this. “The combination of fewer patients presenting with medical emergencies and an increased number of non-COVID-19-related, at-home deaths is concerning.
“Fear of exposure to patients with COVID-19 may lead individuals to defer care for acute conditions.”
Appointments, Surgeries Postponed
Some folks are canceling doctor’s appointments for financial reasons. Due to job losses or having their hours cut. Others because they lost their health insurance.
Surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions have been postponed by some hospitals. Or put off by patients.
Some of the consequences will not be seen for several years. For example, cancer research has slowed. Due to more emphasis being placed on finding an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, fewer hospital beds are available. And many healthcare workers have become ill. Or at the very least are working for departments that are stretched thin.
Medical Foods on the Rise
A vast majority of the health-related news in 2020 pertained to COVID-19. But believe it or not, there were a few other health stories. For example, the rise of medical foods.
More than 60 percent of Americans have a chronic condition. And more than 42 percent have more than one such condition. That’s according to data published by “Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.”
Medical foods is among the ways people try to keep these conditions from worsening. This market was estimated at $18.4 billion in 2019.
Traditional medical foods are in the form of liquids or powdered drink mixes. They vary significantly based on the patient’s chronic condition.
Blood Pressure Monitoring
In addition, more people are taking their own blood pressure readings at home. Especially if high or low blood pressure is an issue for them.
Some patients have higher blood pressure readings while at the doctor’s office than when at home. This is called “white-coat hypertension.”
Doctors see that those patients’ regular readings are lower than what they personally observe. They are then less likely to prescribe higher doses of blood pressure medications.
And if one’s regular blood pressure readings taken at home are higher or lower than normal, a doctor can be alerted. Reliable blood pressure monitors are widely available and relatively inexpensive.
Drug Doing Double Duty?
Here’s another non-COVID-related story from 2020. Research is showing a drug used to prevent heart failure may also help prevent diabetes.
The drug is Farxiga. It’s used mainly to prevent heart failure. But tests are showing it might also decrease the incidence of diabetes by 27 percent.
In other recent news, there’s concern about people becoming addicted to opiates following artery bypass surgery.
Ten percent of those taking opiates for pain control after that surgery were still taking them more than three months after their operations. That’s according to a recent study.
What will be the top health-related story of 2021? By taking precautions to stay healthy, maybe we can make the pandemic’s defeat the story of the year.