by Mark A. Kelley

This blog originally appeared on HealthWeb Navigator.

As a lung specialist, I am often asked whether the body can recover from many years of smoking. Based on decades of research, the answer is a resounding “Yes” … but only if you quit smoking — completely.

What Are The Risks of Smoking?

Cigarette smoking kills over 480,000 Americans each year — more than the combined deaths from alcohol, illegal drug use, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS combined.

Cancer – Before cigarette smoking became widespread in the twentieth century, lung cancer was a rare disease. However, as smoking became popular, lung cancer rose to become a leading cause of death. Scientific research demonstrated that the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke are carcinogenic. Smoking is also associated with cancers of the throat and digestive tract.

Heart and Vascular Disease – There is a strong association between smoking and the development of atherosclerosis, the “hardening of the arteries” that causes heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms. These conditions are among the major

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Photo by Katherine Hanlon

This past Mother’s Day launched the 20th annual National Women’s Health Week. Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the goal is to empower women to make their health a priority and raise awareness of the steps one can take to improve their health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends many common measures, such as proper health screenings, staying physically active, eating healthy, and promoting other healthy behaviors. Healthy behaviors include getting enough sleep, being tobacco-free, washing your hands, not texting while driving, and wearing a seatbelt, a bicycle helmet, and sunscreen when appropriate. The Office on Women’s Health website has specific suggestions for women through their 20s to their 90s.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) established Essential Health Benefits that insurers are required to cover, including maternity care. Following the Trump administration’s failed attempts to repeal the ACA in 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a year later that insurers will be

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CONTENT WARNING: This blog discusses rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Since 2001, April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Over the past year and half, the #MeToo movement has grown to bring sexual violence, abuse, and toxic behavior into the forefront of American culture, but there is still much misinformation and stigma to combat to ensure the health and safety of everyone affected. Rape is the most under-reported crime, with 63% of sexual assaults not being reported to police. Despite misconceptions, the prevalence of false reporting is low — between 2-7%. The consequences of sexual assault reach far into the lives of survivors, families, and communities and have a major effect on public health.

Victims of sexual harassment and assault are often thought of as women, but men can also be affected. Statistically, one in five women and one in 67 men are raped at some point in their lives. Nearly 50% of women and 20% of men experience sexual violence other than rape.

Vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by sexual violence:

  • 44% of lesbains and 61% of bisexual women compared to 35% of heterosexual women;
  • 40% of gay men and 47% of bisexual men compared to 21% of heterosexual men;
  • 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

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For over 20 years, the first full week of April is National Public Health Week in the United States. Public health was defined in 1920 as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.” Analyzing the health of a population and the threats it faces is the basis for public health. Public health professionals work to prevent problems from happening or recurring through implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services, and conducting research. Public health also works to limit health disparities by promoting healthcare equity, quality, and accessibility. You can look at public health narrowed down to any population — from a neighborhood, country, or our entire planet.

Many factors affect public health, and people are unlikely to be able to directly control those factors. Social and economic environment,

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The last week of March has been LGBT Health Awareness Week since 2003. We have explored some of the barriers to healthcare for the transgender community in previous blog posts, but it remains important to bring awareness to the unique healthcare needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and the health disparities that continue to affect the lives of so many Americans.

Experts report that LGBT people often avoid seeking out medical care or refrain from “coming out” to their healthcare provider. This compromises an entire community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who are at increased risk for several health threats when compared to heterosexual or cisgender peer groups: Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; lesbians are less likely to get cancer screenings; transgender individuals are among the least likely to have health insurance along with risks from hormone replacement and atypical cancers. Even as youths, LGBT people are at higher risk of violence, depression, substance abuse, homelessness, and other suicide-related behaviors.

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