Health Buzz: Biden's Health and Other News

Suicide rates up, early alcohol use, vaccinating the kids against flu.


Democratic VP Candidate Biden in Good Health

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, 65, recently released his medical records, which show that he's healthy despite some issues that go along with aging, the Associated Press reports. He has had no symptoms of another aneurysm, like one he experienced 20 years ago that required emergency surgery, though his records don't indicate that he's had a brain scan to totally rule one out. His blood pressure is also at a healthy level—120 over 78—and his heart arteries seem healthy. Biden takes medication to treat an enlarged prostate, but a biopsy ruled out prostate cancer. He also takes Zocor, a statin, to control his cholesterol.

In May, U.S. News's Bernadine Healy reported on the health of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Whites Driving Increase in Suicide Rates

Suicide rates in the United States are increasing for the first time in a decade, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy. Whites ages 40 to 64 drove the increase in suicide rates between 1999 and 2005; white women had the largest annual increase. Suicide rates in African-Americans fell significantly during this time period, and rates were stable among Native Americans and Asian-Americans, reports the study, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

HealthDay previously explained that older patients with cancer and older problem gamblers are at higher risk for suicide.

Early Alcohol Use Can Cause Problems

The earlier a teenager starts drinking and using drugs, the more likely he or she will struggle in adulthood with substance abuse, job performance, and personal relationships, Nancy Shute reports. A new study published in the October Psychological Science found that even "good kids" are more likely to end up in trouble if they start using drugs or alcohol early in life. By looking at a group of nearly 1,000 people in New Zealand who have been studied from age 3 to age 32, a group of researchers in the United States, New Zealand, and England were able to see that those who started drinking or using marijuana regularly before age 15 were far more likely to fail in school, be convicted of a crime, have trouble with drugs or alcohol, or get pregnant in their teens.

Earlier, Shute reported that alcohol use in teens can lead to adult woes. And Sarah Baldauf listed six questions kids have about alcohol.

Deciding Whether to Vaccinate Your Child Against the Flu

Vaccines have saved countless lives, but they're not without their risks. This more complex message often gets lost in the push to get kids vaccinated because public-health officials are justifiably fearful that any talk of risks will turn parents off to vaccinations. But the risks of a child dying from the flu aren't all that great when you consider the estimated number of children in the United States is 73 million to 80 million. In other words, a child's individual risk of dying is about 1 in a million. Compare that with the risk of suffering anaphylactic shock from an allergy to the vaccine or total paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome, and suddenly the benefits don't seem to add up to much, Deborah Kotz reports. What's more, several of the children who died from the flu last year had been vaccinated against it. Parents may also want to opt out if their child has an egg allergy because the vaccine contains traces of eggs.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute explained the recommendation that those ages 18 and younger get vaccinated against the flu.

—January W. Payne