Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Recommendations Suggest Women Need Fewer Pap Tests

For the second time this week, medical experts have issued revised guidelines for women’s cancer screenings. On Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised that women wait until age 50 to begin mammography screening, after which they should be checked every other year instead of annually as the previously established guidelines recommended. And on Friday, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued revised guidelines for cervical cancer screening, recommending that women in the U.S. wait until age 21 to have their first Pap test and follow-up testing every two to three years depending on a woman’s age—revisions the ACOG says are based on studies that suggest earlier and more frequent testing causes more harm than good.

The Pap test has been used for more than 50 years to find changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Prior recommendations called for cervical cancer screening to begin three years after a woman became sexually active or by age 21, whichever came first, with annual follow-up testing. But under the new ACOG guidelines, women should get their first Pap test at age 21, regardless of the onset of intercourse, with re-testing once every two years until age 30. Women 30 and older who’ve had three consecutive negative tests and no abnormal history should be re-screened only once every three years. Guidelines for older women remain unchanged. After no abnormal Pap result for 10 years and three or more negative results consecutively, women can stop the test at age 65 or 70.

“We really felt that the downsides of more frequent screening outweighed any benefits,” said Dr. Alan G. Waxman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, who drafted the new guidelines. “More testing is not always more intelligent testing.” Waxman explains that while the rate of infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, is high in sexually active teens, the immune system of younger women typically clears HPV within one or two years. He added that recent research has shown that procedures to remove precancerous tissue weaken the cervix, increasing the risk of preterm birth.

Dr. Jennifer Milosavijevic, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, supports the guideline changes. “Women do not get cervical cancer first. They acquire HPV, the sexually transmitted virus that causes precancerous abnormalities of the cervix and cervical cancer. It takes years to progress from an HPV-infection to full-blown cervical cancer,” Milosavijevic said. “These new guidelines will allow us to avoid doing unnecessary procedures on the sexually active adolescent female.”

Dr. Milosavijevic says changing the screening interval does not mean that more cervical cancers will be missed, adding that most women who die from cervical cancer were either screened infrequently or not at all. In fact, some doctors feel the new screening guidelines do not go far enough. “There is ample evidence that screening earlier than 25 years is only costly with many false positives,” said Dr. Diane Harper of the University of Missouri-Kansas, who specializes in HPV infections. “The rest of the world is going to an every-five-or-six-year screening interval ... and ACOG is now just endorsing the three-year interval for HPV negative and Pap negative (women).”

In the last 30 years, cervical cancer rates in the United States have dropped more than 50 percent, due largely to widespread use of the Pap test. Rates will probably drop even further due to newer vaccines like Gardasil, which are now approved for girls and women ages 9 to 26 for prevention of HPV. But ACOG says since the vaccines won’t affect cervical cancer rates for 15 to 20 years, they did not play a role in the new screening guidelines. And because such vaccines don’t protect against all types of HPV, Pap tests are and will still be necessary.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 11,270 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009, and the disease will cause 4,070 deaths.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

About 100,000 Cancer Cases Each Year Due to Obesity

This year, an estimated 1.47 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 562,000 will die of it. Two major classes of factors influence the incidence of cancer: hereditary and environmental. Hereditary factors, such as inherited genetic mutations, come from our parents and account for about 5 percent of all cancers. Environmental factors, which include tobacco use, certain infectious agents, certain medical treatments, excessive sun exposure, and exposures to cancer-causing agents known as carcinogens that exist as pollutants in our air, food, water and soil, account for an estimated 75-80 percent of cancer cases and deaths. Obesity is also an environmental factor that is clearly associated with increased risk for developing many cancers, causing more than 100,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year, according to a recent study from researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Using findings from an AICR and World Cancer Research Fund report released earlier this year and the latest U.S. cancer incidence data, the researchers were able to calculate the exact percentage of specific cancers that are caused by excess body fat. Specifically, 49 percent of endometrial (uterine) cancers, approximately 20,700 cases, could be prevented if people maintained a healthy weight. That number is followed by 35 percent, or 5,800 cases, of esophageal cancer; 28 percent, or 11,900 cases, of pancreatic cancer; 24 percent, or 13,900 cases, of kidney cancer; 21 percent, or 2,000 cases, of gallbladder cancer; 17 percent, or 33,000 cases, of breast cancer; and 9 percent, or 13,200 cases, of colon cancer. “This is the first time that we’ve put real, quantifiable case numbers on obesity-related cancers,” said Glen Weldon, the American Institute for Cancer Research educational director.

“We now know that carrying excess body fat plays a central role in many of the most common cancers,” said Dr. Laurence Kolonel, Deputy Director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and AICR/WCRF expert panel member. He explains that fatty tissue, also known as adipose tissue, produces hormones that could play a role in promoting cancer cells. For instance, fat cells produce estrogen, which is now known to be a factor in breast and endometrial cancer. Studies have also shown that being overweight reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. And Kolonel says not only does obesity increase the risk of cancer, it also makes treatment more difficult and has an adverse impact on survival.

Dr. Michael Thun, vice president emeritus at the American Cancer Society, said that while the new research “helps to communicate the magnitude of the problem, it does not propose potential solutions.” He says people who are concerned about this issue should try to balance the calories they take in every day with those their body expends.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent nutrition and physical activity guidelines, published in 2006, emphasize the importance of weight control, physical activity, and dietary patterns in reducing cancer risk. Because social environment is clearly a powerful influence on diet and activity habits, the guidelines include an explicit Recommendation for Community Action to promote the availability of healthy food choices and opportunities for physical activity in schools, workplaces, and communities.

Currently, nearly a third of Americans have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, which places them in the overweight category, and more than 26 percent are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. For example, a person who is 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes obese at 180 pounds.


Seniors Can Enjoy Sex Into Their 80s

Yep, you heard it right. Today’s senior citizens are proving that you can enjoy sex well into your 80s. During a survey, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, conducted by the University of Chicago, men and women ranging in the ages of 57 to 85 were asked questions regarding their sexual activity over the past year. Based on the information gathered, it seems some men and women are enjoying their sex lives well into their later years.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted from mid-2005 to March 2006 involving 1,550 women and 1,455 men, in the privacy of their own homes. While around half of those evaluated admitted to having at least one disturbing sexual situation, around 68 percent of the men and 42 percent of the women said they had sex over the past year. During the survey, the researchers considered factors such as age, race, marriage status, and education levels. Participant’s physical and mental health, and their happiness or lack of with their relationship, were all considered risk factors for sex problems.

Participants were asking during the study some of their sexual problems they may have experienced. To help define participant’s sex problems, researchers defined several as a guide. They included lack of or lower sex drive, erection problems, vaginal dryness, problems with early orgasm or never reaching climax, pain during sex, lack of pleasure, and if they were worried about sexual performance. Each participant was asked how much the problems bothered them.

Urinary tract infections seem to be a key player in causing several of the problems both women and men experience with their sex lives, based on the study. Women seem to have more problems than men with sex, because of their tendency to have more urinary tract infections as well as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases. STD’s, lead to women being four times more likely to having sexual pains and three times as likely to have vaginal dryness. Men with STDs had five times the chances of having unpleasant side effects while having sex. Whether you are 18 and at your prime sexual peak or 80 and winding down, medication and illness can affect your desire to have sex, as well as your physical ability. Anxiety also seemed to be a key trouble maker for both groups.

Dr. Virginia Sadock, the director of the program for human sexuality at the New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City said, “It’s definitely whether you’re elderly or 'wellderly' that makes a difference” and “illness and medications make a difference in sex lives.”

Some people may think sex lives will eventually fizzle out, and they may. However, based on the new study, you may be physically and mentally able to enjoy your sex life well into your 80’s. There are some 80 year olds in better health than those at 60. Sex lives can be squed by ones physical and mental well being as well as factors such as weight, habits like smoking or drinking, health issues and medications that may hinder ones ability to enjoy sex. Edward Leumann, the lead author of the survey, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, stated “It’s not age per se; that when you get to 80 it’s all over with.”


Friday, November 13, 2009

Sexy High-Heeled Shoes Can Be a Pain in the Foot

Ladies may feel and look great in high-heeled shoes, but their feet may not feel quite so happy. Many women forgo comfort for that little extra sexy appeal of high-heeled shoes and, even if you find heals more comfortable than flats, they are rarely the best option for your feet.

A newly released study illustrates that those people who wore or wear high-heeled shoes, or less supportive shoes, were much more likely to experience hind foot pain, a pain found around the heel of a person’s foot. While there have been previous studies that have demonstrated links between the type of shoe a person chose to wear and foot pain, most of the previous studies were very small and honed in on one specific foot problem, according to researchers leading the new study. The new study, recently released in Arthritis Care & Research, illustrated that people who wore or wear unsupportive footwear such as sandals, high heals, or slippers are more likely to suffer from foot pain later in life. The study found that even though a shoe may feel comfortable now, if the shoe is not supportive, there could be consequences later in life.

The study, headed by lead author Alyssa B. Dufour, with the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife, investigated over 3,300 foot examination records of men and women that participated in the Framingham Study, started in 1948. The study found that nearly 64 percent either of women who reportedly had worn high heels, pumps or sandals regularly at some time during their lives, had experienced hind foot pain. While there were 19 percent of the men and 29 percent of the women that experienced some sort of foot pain, researchers were unable to link the men’s issues to a shoe support problem, mainly because only two percent wore shoes deemed bad shoes.

For the study, researchers classified shoes in three groups: a good shoe, such as sneakers; an average shoe, including work boots or rubber-soled shoes; and poor shoes, those that lack support, such as high heels, sandals and slippers. Participants involved in the study answered questions as to where their foot pain was experienced and if the pain was in one or both feet. They were asked questions in regards to the types of shoes that were worn at different stages in their lives. The stages were broken down by ages including 20-29, 30-44, 45-64, 65-74, and over 75. Women who reportedly wore good shoes compared to those that wore average shoes in their pasts, were 67 percent less likely to report heal pain.

According to Dufour, foot and toe symptoms are one of the top 20 reasons adults from 65 to 75 years old see a physician. While we all want to look our best, we need to consider the consequences of what we put on our feet, not only presently, but also in our future. Based on the new research, there is definitely a benefit to wearing more supportive footwear. Ladies, while this study focused on foot pain there are other side affects of high-heels, including causing the toes to taper inward and can lead to calf muscles being smaller. Rethink wearing those unsupportive shoes regularly, and opt for the more comfortable supportive shoes. It just may save you several trips to the doctor down the line and agonizing pain.


WHO Report Identifies Disparities in Women’s Health Treatment

Clearly, women are different than men; not only in anatomy but in the way they think, express emotion, and interact. Men and women are also different in matters of sickness and health. For example, each of the sexes displays different symptoms of heart attack. Chest pain is most common in men, while women’s symptoms are usually subtler, characterized by abdominal pain, nausea, and fatigue. Men and women also absorb and excrete some drugs in different ways and at different rates, and certain drugs are more effective in women while others have more severe side effects in women than in men. But still, the idea of equating women and men’s health persists, simplifying women’s health treatment to the point of triggering dangerous consequences.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that despite the fact that women provide the bulk of health care, whether in the home, the community or the health system, they are being “denied a chance to develop their full human potential” because many of their critical medical needs are ignored. The agency’s latest report entitled “Women and health: today’s evidence tomorrow’s agenda” attempts to emphasize the unequal health treatment women face throughout their lifetime. “What this report has measured is the profound impact that social status has on the health of women and girls,” said Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General. “As the report reveals, the obstacles that stand in the way of better health for women are not primarily technical or medical in nature; they are social and political, and the two go together.”

According to the report, even though women live six to eight years longer than men they tend to “receive poorer quality care throughout their lives, particularly as teenagers and elderly people.” Globally, HIV, pregnancy-related conditions, and tuberculosis continue to be major killers of women aged 15 to 45. In many countries, sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women and ignore the needs of adolescents and unmarried women. Service can also be very difficult to access for other marginalized groups of women such as sex workers, intravenous drug users, ethnic minorities and rural women.

As women age, noncommunicable diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, become the major causes of death and disability, particularly after the age of 45. Women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men, and because they show different symptoms from men, cardiovascular disease is often undiagnosed in women. Other major problems in older age, often untreated, include poor vision, hearing loss, arthritis, depression and dementia.

The report also compares the health of women with different socio-economic status. Lack of access to education, decision-making positions and income may limit women’s ability to protect their own health and that of their families. For example, the risk posed by HIV is compounded in cultures that limit women’s knowledge about the disease and their ability to negotiate safer sex. Another main cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries is pregnancy-related complications, with unsafe abortions accounting for a large number of such deaths. Low-income nations also have minimal screening and treatment services for cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in women. “Women who do not know how to protect themselves from such infections, or who are unable to do so, face increased risks of death or illness,” the report said. “So do those who cannot protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy or control their fertility because of lack of access to contraception.”

The report calls for reform, both within and outside the health sector, to better meet the needs of women. But Dr. Chan says we will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as “second-class citizens” in many parts of the world. “In so many societies, men exercise political, social and economic control,” she said. “The health sector has to be concerned. These unequal power relations translate into unequal access to health care and unequal control over health resources.”


Cancer Patients with Dense Breasts Face Greater Risk of Disease Recurrence

Women who have dense breasts, and undergo lumpectomies for the treatment of breast cancer, are at a greater risk of a recurrence of the disease. In fact, breast cancer patients with more dense breasts are four times as likely to have their cancer return than women with less dense breasts.

The new information comes from research performed by Steven A. Narod, M.D., of the Women's College Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues. According to Dr Narod, “The composition of the breast tissue surrounding the breast cancer is important in predicting whether or not a breast cancer will return after surgery.” The study report can be found in the journal Cancer.

The researchers analyzed data on 335 breast cancer patients having an average age of 63.5 years, who had undergone lumpectomies for the removal of cancerous tumors from their breasts. Findings revealed that for women having more dense breasts, the risk of the cancer recurring over 10 years was more than four times higher at 21 percent than the 5 percent average. In addition, women who did not receive radiation as part of their initial treatment faced an even higher risk (40 percent) of a tumor recurrence that puts them at an 8 times greater likelihood of developing the disease again.

With the use of mammography, about one in three of the women in the study were found to have large amounts of dense tissue in their breasts. Breast density was discovered to be higher among the younger women in the study, and these women were less likely to be postmenopausal than the others. Of the total number of women in the study, 99 had low-density breasts with dense tissue in less than 25 percent of the breast, 107 had intermediate density in 25 percent to 50 percent of the breast, while 129 women had high-density breasts with more than 50 percent density.

Although it is not known why the density of a woman’s breast has an impact on the risk of developing cancer, it is known that high breast density can reduce the sensitivity of a mammogram by causing a masking effect. In addition, it is the belief of the researchers that the hormonal profile of denser breast tissue makes it more susceptible to cancer. Although Dr Narod noted that breast density has been found to be modifiable to some extent by physical activity and hormone therapy, the researchers cautioned that it is not clear whether these measures would impact the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Due to this significant increase in risk for cancer recurrence, the researchers maintain that women having more dense breasts should undergo additional treatment after surgery to decrease the chances of the cancer returning. On the other hand, since radiation therapy appeared to eliminate the increased risk for cancer recurrence, they also acknowledged that the findings are an indication that women with low-density breasts may be able to safely avoid radiation. However, they also cautioned that because the study was small, further research will be necessary determine if this is the case.

According to The American Cancer Society an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2009, and of these 40,170 lives will be lost. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death among women, after lung cancer. About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some time during life, and about 1 in 35 will lose the battle against the disease.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Staying Healthy: Healthy Habits for Men

Juggling jobs, relationships, social obligations, bills, and staying on top of a healthy gym routine is a lot to handle. As a woman, trying to find the time to eat better seems to be the last thing on my list and it can’t be much easier for men. Here are a few tips for making men’s lives a little bit better from morning to night:

Eat Breakfast
Eating breakfast everyday keeps your metabolism in check, your weight down, and your cravings at bay. Filling up on fiber early on keeps you satisfied throughout the day. Dr. Oz recommends oatmeal with dried fruits, nuts, and his own personal touch…flaxseed oil.

Work through Pain
Sometimes taking the load off of a sore back, neck, or legs is worse for you than if you work through the pain. Experts suggest that nursing your pain isn’t always the best course of action because resting can weaken your muscles and you may lose strength over time. If you haven’t pulled any muscles or slipped any discs, take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever and stay on your feet.

Snack like a Squirrel
You don’t have to hoard nuts for the winter, but grabbing a handful during the middle of the day can actually keep you healthier than eating a bag of chips or waiting until dinner to satisfy your food cravings. Full of omega-3 fatty acids, these are the type of proteins we look for in our diets from fish, also known as good fats.

Sweat is Your Friend
While walking to the office or public transit is eco-friendly and cost efficient, chances are you don’t get the full cardio effect until you do your time on the treadmill. Sweat away your toxins and reduce your blood pressure and risk of heart attack by switching up your routine; the wetter the better. Tacking on weight training makes your body work harder to bulk up and lose any extra pounds that may be damaging to your frame. Aside from looking better to your partner, you may feel better and be able to get more sleep, more on that later. For more stamina, find a workout buddy!

Be Friendly
When men get stressed, they often clam up and don’t tend to talk about their problems. Women, on the other hand, can usually tell a story until their lips bleed. With more stress in the world than ever, it’s no wonder your body may not be feeling up to par. Grab a beer—or your partner—and tell them what’s on your mind, sharing may just save your life or keep the stress away.

Save for a Rainy Day
Like the harmful stressors everyone puts upon themselves at any moment, a lot of these have to deal with financial woes. If you are able, sock away some of your paycheck every month to save for a rainy day or an emergency by investing some of that worth in a separate savings account you can run to if you need to, but put your own limits on how you are allowed to spend it. Down the road, merely thinking about how to spend that extra cushion you set aside can make even the gloomiest day perk up a bit.

Go Between
We have all been conditioned to learn that brushing your teeth two times a day is the normal but in order to keep your oral health at its best, go deeper with floss. Your best bet is to floss before bedtime to clean the bacteria from the hard to reach spots in your mouth so it doesn’t grow into a problem overnight.

Sleep like a Baby
If you are a parent, you understand the importance of getting a child to go to bed at a certain time every night in order to keep their mind and body stable and free from grouchiness. You should treat your sleeping patterns the same way. Set a bed time and keep it—at least during the work week—and get at least seven hours of sleep. Professionals advise that sleeping regularly can stave off calories and stress because being groggy can incur bad decisions like eating greasy food or sucking down your usual morning coffee in half the time.

Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol Levels May Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

Men who keep their cholesterol levels in check may decrease their chances of developing prostate cancer, in addition to keeping their heart healthy, as science has already shown. In fact, two recent studies indicate that maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol may be a good form of cancer prevention.

In one study, results showed that men who retained healthy levels of cholesterol in the range below 200 actually cut their risk of developing high-risk prostate tumors by more than 50 percent in comparison to men with high ranging cholesterol levels. In the second study, findings showed that men with high levels of good (HDL) cholesterol were slightly less likely to develop prostate cancer in any form, compared to men with very low HDL cholesterol levels.

The studies were recently published in the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research called Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Both studies support prior research indicating that by limiting fats in the bloodstream, the risk of cancer can be lowered.

According to Elizabeth Platz of Johns Hopkins University who led the first study, “There might be this added benefit to keeping cholesterol low.” For the study, Platz’s team analyzed data of 5,586 men aged 55 and older that came from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial conducted back in the 1990s. All of these men had been a part of the placebo group during the trial.

Among the group, a total of 60 of the men developed high-risk, aggressive tumors that are known to grow and spread quickly. By comparing cholesterol levels of all the men in the group, it was revealed that those men with cholesterol levels under 200 had a 59 percent less chance of developing one of these high-risk tumors than those men having high levels of cholesterol.

Platz acknowledged that cholesterol levels had no significant effect on the overall incidence of prostate cancer in the study. However, she pointed out that the association between low cholesterol levels and a reduced incidence of aggressive disease “is a notable reduction which is not often seen for prostate cancer.”

Although the decrease in risk is highly significant, it must be noted that the researchers could not account for the number of men in the study who were taking cholesterol-lowering medications such as statin drugs, which include such name brands as Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor. Therefore, some of the reduction in risk may have been due to the use of such drugs rather than from generally having low cholesterol levels.

The results of the second study are based on data gathered over 18 years from following more than 29,000 Finnish men who were taking various vitamins and nutrients to test whether or not they could lower their risk for cancer. All of the participants in the study were smokers. According to study leader Dr. Demetrius Albanes of the National Cancer Institute, findings showed that those men having the highest levels of HDL cholesterol were 11 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those with lowest levels.

In a statement, Albanes said, “Our study affirms that lower total cholesterol may be caused by undiagnosed cancer.” He then added, “In terms of a public health message, we found that higher levels of good cholesterol seem to be protective for all cancers.”

Researchers from both studies agree that further research is necessary to confirm findings, as well as to identify the molecular mechanisms behind the association.

In the United States, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. It is estimated that over 192,000 new cases will develop this year alone, and of those, the disease will claim 27,360 lives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hosiery for Health

A pantyhose has been known to enhance the legs and overall appearance of a woman. However, a pantyhose can also be of use for women who are not after the improved look and feel of leg wear, but for the health benefits they can get from wearing a pantyhose. Control top pantyhose and bodyshapers are made to enhance a woman’s silhouette. There are also stockings made of a blend of nylon and spandex to make the legs seem more toned. A medical support pantyhose operates on the same principle, for reasons that are much more than just aesthetics.

Using a medical support pantyhose for varicose veins
Varicose veins have been a long-standing problem for women across all body types. Though an opaque pantyhose can hide this leg problem, varicose veins are much more than just unsightly blemishes.

Varicose veins may occur in people who have vascular or circulatory problems that are either genetic or congenital in nature. Varicose veins may also appear in people who have acquired vascular problems through time and even through pregnancy. People in jobs that require them to stand up for long periods of time are often the most susceptible to develop varicose veins. Varicose veins develop when blood flow towards the heart has been impeded by blockages and gravity. Blood is being pulled downward, towards the ankles. Often, varicose veins may just be unsightly problems, but in extreme cases may cause pain, discomfort, and even skin ulcers around the areas of the swollen veins.

Benefits of wearing a medical support pantyhose
Doctors prescribe supports stocking and hosiery to people afflicted with varicose veins caused by congenital vascular diseases such as thrombophlebitis to help lessen the pain and improve circulation.
A medical support pantyhose works through compression that improves blood circulation in the legs. Most medical support pantyhose are tight around the ankle areas, same with areas that blood pools down to. By ensuring that there is a tight fit in the ankle area, blood is stimulated to flow upwards in the right direction. Blood flow is further regulated as the fit or compression decreases as it goes up to the whole leg of the hose.

Wearing medical support pantyhose is not only beneficial for older women who have developed varicose veins and circulatory problems, but also for pregnant women. Due to the added weight of the baby, most pregnant women develop swollen lower limbs as blood also pools downwards. A medical support pantyhose not only aids in regulating the blood circulation in the legs. The added control top found in most maternity pantyhose also help lift up the tummy portion.

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Brief shocks may deliver AIDS vaccines better

By Tan Ee Lyn

PARIS (Reuters) - Brief electric shocks may help the body better respond to certain kinds of experimental AIDS vaccines, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

They used a device that looks like a handgun to inject vaccine along with three brief electrical pulses to open up cell membranes so that the vaccine can get inside.

Sandhya Vasan of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York said the technique, called electroporation, may be particularly useful in delivering DNA vaccines, which use an infectious agent's own genetic material to elicit an immune response.

"With a brief pulse of electricity, our cell membrane temporarily opens up and allows a lot more of the DNA to get inside. The reason why DNA vaccines by themselves don't trigger A powerful immune response is because most of it (DNA) does not get inside our cells," Vasan told Reuters in an interview.

In their study, Vasan and her colleagues used a relatively weak experimental DNA vaccine designed in 2001 using four genes from an AIDS virus circulating in China.

When the vaccine was given by injection alone, only 25 percent of participants developed any immune response. But in its latest trial in 2007-2009 when the same vaccine was delivered using electroporation, the immune response appeared far stronger, Vasan told a meeting of AIDS vaccine researchers in Paris.

"We improved the response rate, improved the duration of the response and it also improved the breadth of the response. There were four different genes of the virus, for the highest dose, people were responding to 3 or even 4 of the genes," Vasan said.

The study involved 40 people divided into five groups of eight. Three groups were given the vaccine in varying doses with the electric pulse. The fourth group was given placebos with electricity while the fifth was given the highest dose with a conventional injection.

Results later showed that those who got conventional injections had no immune response, while three out of the eight people given the lowest dose plus electrical pulse formed a response and everyone given the highest dose electroporally had immune response.

"This is the first clinical trial of electroporation in healthy volunteers for a preventative vaccine. It can be applied to many diseases, many vaccines, not just for HIV," Vasan said.

Her group plans to go into Phase 2 trial delivering another, stronger DNA vaccine through electroporation.

Researchers are struggling to develop an AIDS vaccine that can protect people from being infected with the fatal and incurable virus. While dozens are in the works, only one vaccine has shown any efficacy at all and researchers are not sure how strong the effect actually is.

People often develop some kind of immune response to HIV vaccines but this does not correlate into being protected, and scientists do not fully understand why not.

(Editing by Maggie Fox)

Gene therapy experiment restores sight in a few

By Phil Furey

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Nine-year-old Corey Haas can ride his bike alone now, thanks to an experimental gene therapy that has boosted his fading vision with a single treatment.

The gene therapy helped improve worsening eyesight caused by a rare inherited disease called Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA, which makes most patients blind by age 40.

Twelve treated patients, including Corey, now have better vision, their doctors told a joint meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology in San Francisco on Saturday.

"All 12 patients given gene therapy in one eye showed improvement in retinal function," Dr Katherine High of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and colleagues wrote in a report to be released at the same time by the Lancet medical journal.

LCA causes the retina to degenerate and the researchers found that the younger the patient treated with the therapy, the better the effects.

"Before, I used to ride my bike just in front of the house and now I just ride around the neighborhood with no one watching," Corey told a news conference.

While the experiment was meant mostly to show the treatment was safe, it showed remarkably strong effects, High and Dr Jean Bennett of the University of Pennsylvania found.

"This study reports dramatic results in restoring vision to patients who previously had no options for treatment," said High. "These findings may expedite development of gene therapy for more common retinal diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration."


They could also help restore the tarnished image of gene therapy, battered by the death of an 18-year-old volunteer in a clinical trial in 1999 and cases of leukemia in a few young children treated in France.

"The study by Bennett and co-workers will further boost gene therapy trials and provide hope for patients with inherited blindness and other genetic disorders," Dr Frans Cremers and Dr Rob Collin of Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands wrote in a commentary.

A faulty gene means patients with LCA start to lose their vision in childhood. There is no treatment.

High, Bennett and colleagues worked with 12 volunteers, aged 8 to 44. They reported on three of the adult patients in April of 2008.

They designed a harmless virus, called an adeno-associated virus, to carry corrective DNA directly into the eyes. The gene they used, called RPE65, is mutated in up to about 16 percent of LCA patients and the normal gene restored light-sensitive pigments in the retina at the back of the eye.

The treatment did not restore normal eyesight to any of the patients but half are no longer legally blind. "The clinical benefits have persisted for nearly two years since the first subjects were treated with injections of therapeutic genes into their retinas," Bennett said.

Four children aged 8, 9, 10, and 11 can now walk unaided.

Corey's father, Ethan Haas, from Hadley, New York, said they embraced the experiment.

"You start to think of what could happen -- he could go completely blind. And then it's like, well, he may go blind in the future anyway because it's degenerative, so I decided to try it now and see if we could stop it and correct it," Haas said.

Corey's mother, Nancy Haas, said it was worth the risk.

"It's hard to see a child not be able to play like he should with his other friends, and then to have shortly after surgery, he's out there with his friends, playing, being able to see things coming from his peripheral vision, noticing other kids," she said, beginning to cry.

"It's all worth it."

(Writing and reporting by Maggie Fox in Washington; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Swine Flu Declared a National Emergency

Saturday President Obama declared the H1N1 flu, also known as the swine flu, a national emergency. The move allows Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary to quicken the regulatory process for health providers if they are besieged with cases of the swine flu, by waiving certain regulations.

The declaring of a federal emergency, according to White House officials, was not because there has been a major increase in the number of H1N1 cases, even though the numbers have been increasing gradually. The move was to help health care facilities when they become inundated with cases of H1N1. This will allow them the ability to make quick moves to contain H1N1 flu cases, including moving patients diagnosed with the virus to a designated area of their facility or moving them to another treatment facility, such as a nearby armory. Declaring a national emergency can also allow some of the restrictions placed on Medicare and Medicaid patients to be removed.

According to the president’s declaration of a national emergency, cases of the swine flu do continue to grow across the country, and “the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities.” The waiver could remove the chances of a hospital being overwhelmed by cases of the swine flu and allow hospitals to set up off-site locations where anyone with symptoms of the swine flu would go for treatment. Public health experts said the move by the president is a relief, even though health services are not strained yet, the cases have continued to increase significantly during the month of October.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention between August 30th and October 17th there have been 2,416 deaths attributed to the swine flu, and the virus has already led to at least 21,823 Americans being hospitalized. Prior to that time, from April through August, there were 593 deaths and 9,079 hospitalizations. The virus is now considered active and spreading in 46 states,

While the more seasonal flu virus mostly affects the elderly, the swine flu tends to affect children. The number of children the U.S. has already lost to the swine flu is more than usually die during the entire flu season. Pregnant women, young adults and children seem to be more at risk.

Officials initially had hoped to have at least 120 million doses of swine flu vaccines available by mid-October, but there have been some production problems and only 16 million doses have been made available.

The government is taking some rather large measures to help when treating H1N1, including the now-established emergency. Do not panic, because the declaration was not because of a huge surge in cases of the flu. The move was a proactive step to help hospitals if they are inundated with a large number of flu cases due the virus continuing to grow across the U.S. While the number of H1N1 flu vaccines available is less than what had been expected, there are some available and more are due for arrival. Call your doctor or health department to schedule a vaccine today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pregnancy Weight Harder to Lose for Obese Women

We all know how important it is to be healthy while you are pregnant, but even more so for women who are obese. Given the high rate of obesity, new guidelines have been issued recommending that the heavier a woman is, the less weight she should gain during pregnancy.

In research that was made public today, Kaiser Permanente confirmed that women who are obese and gain more weight than they should during pregnancy are much more likely to keep the weight on after giving birth. Nearly three out of four women that participated in the study gained more than 15 pounds during pregnancy and, on average, these women retained 40 percent of the extra weight a full year after they gave birth.

Dr. Kimberly K. Vesco, M.D., said, “Younger women and first-time mothers were the most likely to gain too much weight. The extra weight increased the risk for complications like hypertension, diabetes, preeclampsia, C-sections, and birth injuries.”

Approximately half of the pregnant women in the United States today are either overweight or obese, which is up from about 25 percent four decades ago. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) that is 30 or more, and for most women that means carrying at least 30 extra pounds for their size. Normal weight is considered to be a BMI of 18.5-24.9, and overweight is considered to be 25-29.9. For example, a woman that is 5-foot, 2-inches tall who weighs approximately 135 pounds would be considered at the upper limit of the normal range (BMI = 25), and at 165 pounds she would be considered overweight (BMI = 30). A woman that is 5-foot 7-inches tall would be considered normal weight up to 160 pounds (BMI = 25) and considered obese at 195 (BMI = 30).

A total of 1,656 women that had a BMI of 30 or over at the beginning of their pregnancies were enrolled in this newly published study. The women were then followed for up to 18 months after their delivery.

Some previous studies suggest that infants that are born to obese women, who don’t gain much weight during their pregnancy, will have fewer delivery complications and better outcomes than the infants that were born to women who gained more weight than is recommended. The Kaiser research team began recruitment for a study to examine whether very obese women and their infants fare better when they gain no weight at all during pregnancy.

Victor Stevens, Ph.D. and the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research senior investigator, said that the “Healthy Moms” study, which was funded by a $2.2 million dollar grant from the federal government, will include women that are between 50 to 100 pounds above their normal weight at the start of their pregnancy. He stated, “These are not women with just a few pounds to lose. These are women who are carrying so much extra weight that it is a risk to themselves and their baby.”

Half of the women who were recruited for the study will receive standard care, which includes a single counseling session that will discuss nutrition and diet. The other half of the women will receive more intensive counseling to help teach them strategies for healthy eating and they will be able to attend weekly support sessions designed to reinforce positive behaviors. Those women will also be give personalized eating plans that will restrict their calorie intake to about 2,000 a day. The main goal is for these women to be within 30 percent of their pre-pregnancy weight after they deliver.

Stevens said, “The new IOM guidelines call for gaining no more than 20 pounds, but for women who are very obese this may not be the best advice. We want to see if outcomes are better if these women gain no weight or even lose some weight.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Male Immunization with Gardasil Not Deemed Cost Effective

Although Gardasil has been proven to protect against two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer, as well as two additional strains that cause genital warts, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has voted against its use as a routine immunization for boys and men. However, the committee did vote, almost unanimously, to allow doctors to recommend the vaccine be given to males to reduce their likelihood of acquiring genital warts.

HPV is a sexually transmitted pathogen that is believed to cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers. In addition, HPV has been associated with more rare forms of cancer of the throat, genitals and anus, as well as genital warts. Studies have found Gardasil not only to be safe, but also to be nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pre-cancerous cervical lesions from the four HPV strains that it targets. In addition, findings have shown that Gardasil is far more effective in females when given before they become sexually active.

Since first being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for use in females, the issue of whether or not to use Gardasil for males has been strongly debated. Advocates for use of Gardasil as a routine immunization among males believe that widespread use of the vaccine may reduce cervical cancer rates, since males commonly transmit HPV to females.

Although in early October the FDA approved the Gardasil vaccine for use among males aged 9 through 26, results of a study conducted in the same month revealed that immunization among males was not cost effective, as costs would outweigh the health benefit of the vaccine. Now, the results of the final vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has apparently put this issue to rest. The vaccine will not be approved for boys as part of the childhood immunization schedule.

The pivotal study published in the British Medical Journal made a comparison between a female-only vaccination program and a co-ed vaccination program. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health performed the analysis. According to lead researcher Jane Kim, an assistant professor of health decision science, “This study found that while vaccine coverage and efficacy are high in girls, including boys in an HPV vaccination program generally exceeds what the U.S. typically considers good value for money.”

The basis of a good value was deemed as having cost-effectiveness ratios ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 per quality-adjusted life year, or the cost of the vaccine versus the number of added years someone would gain by getting the vaccine. By assuming lifelong protection among 75 percent coverage, the routine vaccination of girls who were 12 years of age was found to be a good value at less than $50,000 per quality adjusted life year. However, by adding boys of the same age, the cost-effectiveness ratio was increased to over $100,000 per quality adjusted life year.

Currently, the CDC recommends Gardasil for girls ages 11 and 12, and for women ages 13 to 26, who have not been vaccinated for the prevention cervical cancer. The disease claims 4,000 female lives annually in the United State alone.

Declining Money Management Skills May Be Sign of Impending Alzheimer’s

If you’re 30 years old and having trouble managing your finances, it could be a sign you need to rethink your budget and perhaps seek professional guidance to get back on track and strengthen your financial skills. On the other hand, if you’re 65 and suffer from mild memory problems, a decline in your money management skills could signal progression toward Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Birmingham arrived at the conclusion after comparing the money management skills of 87 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to 76 people with no memory problems. They measured the participant’s skills at the beginning of the study and again a year later using a tool called the Financial Capacity Instrument (FCI), which looks at preparing and paying bills, understanding a bank statement and balancing a checkbook, identifying fraud situations, counting coins and currency, and buying groceries.

During the study period, 25 participants progressed to Alzheimer’s disease. Their FCI scores showed a 6 percent decline from the start of the study, and their skills in managing a checkbook dropped by 9 percent. The 62 people with MCI who did not progress to Alzheimer’s and the control group maintained their FCI scores throughout the year. “Our findings show that declining financial skills are detectable in patients with mild cognitive impairment in the year before their conversion to Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead study author Professor Daniel Marson, of the neurology department and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University. “Doctors should proactively monitor people with MCI for declining financial skills and advise them and their caregivers about steps they can take to watch for signs of poor money management.”

Marson also had advice for caregivers to avoid negative financial events. “Caregivers should consider overseeing a person’s checking transactions, contacting the person’s bank to find money issues, such as bills being paid twice, or become co-signers on the checking account so that both signatures are required for checks written above a certain amount,” he said. “Online Banking and bill payment services are also good options,” he added.

Dr. Susanne Sorenson, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, agreed that this could be a useful indicator for doctors supporting people with memory problems. “Everyone struggles now and then to divide a restaurant bill or total up a checkbook,” she said. “However, this study suggests that if you already experience significant memory problems and start to notice a decline in your financial skills it could be a sign of developing dementia.”

Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s. There are 10 classic warning signs of the disease: memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking, misplacing things, changes in mood or behavior, changes in personality, and loss of initiative. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the development of symptoms. These treatments work best when started early on in the course of the disease, and have less of an effect later on.

The study appears in the September 22 issue of Neurology.

Learning to Surf the Internet Gives Brain a Boost

In recent years, new technologies have allowed scientists to gain a greater understanding of how the human brain ages and why, to pinpoint the parts of the brain that function or fail as a person ages, to predict when an older person is in the early stages of cognitive decline, and to find effective ways to prevent this decline. Previous studies have shown that mental exercise, especially learning new things or pursuing intellectually stimulating activities can increase the efficiency of cognitive processing and preserve mental functions. And scientists say learning to surf the Internet may be the latest way to exercise the mind and keep it strong.

A new study shows older adults who learn to search for information online experience a surge of activity in key decision-making and reasoning centers of the brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles compared brain activity in different regions of the brain in 24 healthy adults aged 55 to 78. Prior to the study, half the participants used the Internet daily, while the other half had very little experience.

An initial brain scan of those with little Internet experience showed brain activity in the regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities. After the first scan, participants went home where they conducted Internet searches for one hour a day for a total of seven days over a two-week period. These searches involved using the web to answer questions about various topics by visiting different websites and obtaining information.

A second brain scan conducted on participants with minimal online experience after the home Internet searches demonstrated activity of the same regions of the brain as the first scan, but there was also activity in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus, areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision making—activity patterns very similar to those seen in the group of experienced Internet users.

The results suggest Internet training and searching online could potentially enhance brain function and cognition in older adults. “We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function,” Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said in a news release. Previous research by the UCLA team found that searching online resulted in a more than twofold increase in brain activation in older adults with prior experience, compared with those with little Internet experience.

Most experts now embrace the “use-it-or-lose-it” approach to brain functioning. “We found a number of years ago that people who engaged in cognitive activities had better functioning and perspective than those who did not,” said Dr. Richard Lipton, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and director of the Einstein Aging Study. “Our study is often referenced as the crossword-puzzle study —that doing puzzles, writing for pleasure, playing chess and engaging in a broader array of cognitive activities seem to protect against age-related decline in cognitive function and also dementia.”

The UCLA team says additional studies are needed to help identify aspects of online searching that generate the greatest levels of brain activation, as well as the impact of the Internet on younger individuals.

The findings were presented October 19 at the meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, Illinois.

Carmen Electra Diet Secrets - Learn Hollywood Weight Loss Tips!

Carmen Electra uses cardio strip tease to stay in amazing shape. "I have been dancing since I was five-years-old so I wanted to incorporate things that I have learned over the years through my experience and Pussycat Dolls being one of them, which is kinda fun because it's the type of workout that isn't boring, you learn dance moves, how to strip-tease and how to give a lap dance. So you never get bored doing it", says Carmen. She also says, "I try to workout whenever I can but sometimes I can't so I have to try to eat healthy just to balance it out."

Carmen has some advice for girls who break their resolutions. Carmen says, "Don't ever be too hard on yourself. Even if you have slipped and haven't really gotten on schedule just take it easy but slowly get yourself back into the pace, get yourself used to working out start and eat healthy."

Although Carmen tries to stay on top of her workouts and diet plan, she also admits to sometime hating her body and claims she can't make her stomach flat enough. The former 'Baywatch' babe says, although she eats healthily and exercises three times a week, she sometimes feels so disgusted with her body she won't let her husband touch her.

The sexy model - who is renowned for her curves - said: "When anything bad happens, my insecurities come flooding out. "I look in the mirror and pick at my flaws. I hate my stomach. It's impossible to get it flat, and the area around my belly button drives me crazy. I hate it if my husband touches my stomach when I'm in that sort of mood."
from http://www.shapefit.com

Health Insurance: Understanding What It Covers

What are "covered services"?

Your health insurance policy is an agreement between you and your insurance company. The policy lists a package of medical benefits such as tests, drugs and treatment services. The insurance company agrees to cover the cost of certain benefits listed in your policy. These are called "covered services."

Your policy also lists the kinds of services that are not covered by your insurance company. You have to pay for any uncovered medical care that you receive.

What is a medical necessity? Is that different from a covered service?

Keep in mind that a medical necessity is not the same as a medical benefit. A medical necessity is something that your doctor has decided is necessary. A medical benefit is something that your insurance plan has agreed to cover. In some cases, your doctor might decide that you need medical care that is not covered by your insurance policy.

Insurance companies determine what tests, drugs and services they will cover. These choices are based on their understanding of the kinds of medical care that most patients need. Your insurance company's choices may mean that the test, drug or service you need isn't covered by your policy.

What should I do?

Your doctor will try to be familiar with your insurance coverage so he or she can provide you with covered care. However, there are so many different insurance plans that it's not possible for your doctor to know the specific details of each plan. By understanding your insurance coverage, you can help your doctor recommend medical care that is covered in your plan.
Take the time to read your insurance policy. It's better to know what your insurance company will pay for before you receive a service, get tested or fill a prescription. Some kinds of care may have to be approved by your insurance company before your doctor can provide them.
If you still have questions about your coverage, call your insurance company and ask a representative to explain it.
Remember that your insurance company, not your doctor, makes decisions about what will be paid for and what will not.

What happens if my doctor recommends care that isn't covered by my insurance?

Most of the things your doctor recommends will be covered by your plan, but some may not. When you have a test or treatment that isn't covered, or you get a prescription filled for a drug that isn't covered, your insurance company won't pay the bill. This is often called "denying the claim." You can still obtain the treatment your doctor recommended, but you will have to pay for it yourself.

If your insurance company denies your claim, you have the right to appeal (challenge) the decision. Before you decide to appeal, know your insurance company's appeal process. This should be discussed in your plan handbook. Also, ask your doctor for his or her opinion. If your doctor thinks it's right to make an appeal, he or she may be able to help you through the process.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.
American Academy of Family Physicians
Reviewed/Updated: 12/06
Created: 09/00

Smoking During Pregnancy Linked to Psychotic Symptoms in Children

As if women need yet another reason to avoid smoking during pregnancy, it has been found that mothers who do so put their children at a greater risk of developing psychotic symptoms when they become teenagers. This link was 84 percent more pronounced if the mother smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day on a regular basis.

Researchers from four British universities studied approximately 6,356 twelve year olds and interviewed them for any psychotic-like symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. Approximately 19 percent of the children had mothers who smoked during their pregnancy. Just over 11 percent of the children, or 734 of the study group, had suspected or definite symptoms of psychosis.

Many of the previous studies have shown that cigarettes can harm the fetuses of mothers who smoke during their pregnancy. The risks include causing infants to be born with lower birth weight or heart defects, and expire due to sudden infant death syndrome.

Stanley Zammit, who is a psychiatrist at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and also led the study, said that the more the mothers smoked, the more likely their children were to have psychotic symptoms. “We can estimate that about 20 percent of adolescents in this cohort would not have developed psychotic symptoms if their mothers had not smoked,” he stated.

Despite the countless number or studies that flag the risks to infants, it is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of women in Britain still smoke during their pregnancy. The researchers also found that drinking while pregnant was associated with increased psychotic symptoms, but only in children whose mothers consumed more than 21 units of alcohol weekly during early pregnancy.

The reasons for the link between smoking during pregnancy and psychotic symptoms are not clear, but Zammit and his colleagues suggested that the exposure to tobacco in the womb could affect a child’s impulsivity, cognition, or attention. They said that more research would be needed to investigate how the exposure to tobacco in the womb affected children’s brains.

Only a few mothers in the new study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said they had smoked cannabis during their pregnancy, and this was not found to have any significant link with the psychotic symptoms in children.

Trying to quit smoking is one of the hardest things to do, but quitting has never been more important when you are pregnant. Even if you have tried before and failed, you can do it this time. Approximately 40 percent of all pregnant smokers manage to quit, which is a success rate that is far better than that of other smokers. This can lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and a healthier life for your baby.

Flu Virus Can Raise Risk of Heart Attack Among Heart Patients

The common flu virus may raise the risk of dying from heart disease by increasing the likelihood for heart patients to suffer a heart attack. Those who have diabetes or other risk factors may also be at greater risk.

Results of an analysis conducted by a group of British researchers of 39 previous studies of heart patients conducted between 1932 and 2008 showed an increase in the number of deaths from heart disease, as well as the occurrence of more heart attacks during flu season. In fact, the increased death rate averaged from 35 percent to 50 percent. The report was recently published in the journal Lancet.

Although currently only about one-third of Americans who suffer from heart disease receive flu vaccines, experts are urging all heart patients to get vaccinated against regular flu as well as swine flu. With more flu virus expected to be circulating this flu season, the possibility of experiencing flu-related medical issues is greater among those having heart-related problems. Dr. Ralph Brindis, vice president of the American College of Cardiology, says, “If we can convince cardiac patients to get a flu vaccine, that could ultimately save lives.”

Because flu viruses cause inflammation in the body, and most commonly in the lungs, heart patients who contract the flu become more vulnerable to complications including pneumonia and other types of infection. In addition, flu viruses can cause swelling in the heart or coronary arteries, potentially triggering the breaking off of dangerous clots that lead to a heart attack.

According to study author Andrew Hayward, a senior lecturer in infectious disease epidemiology at the University College London Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology, “We know influenza vaccine is effective in preventing influenza and therefore in theory, ought to be effective in preventing the complications of influenza.” Hayward pointed out that two of the studies in the analysis indicated that heart patients who received a flu vaccine suffered fewer heart attacks than those who did not. He also acknowledged that “Influenza may be bringing forward an event that might have happened anyway,” and further explained that some evidence suggests that heart attacks peak when the flu virus does.

It remains unclear as to whether the new study results can be applied to people who are otherwise healthy, with no history of heart disease. However, the researchers noted that flu viruses could potentially trigger heart attacks among people having risk factors such as high blood pressure or those who are overweight. Diabetes is another condition that may put individuals at greater risk.

The researchers concluded, “We believe influenza vaccination should be encouraged wherever indicated, especially in those people with existing cardiovascular disease. Further evidence is needed on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines to reduce the risk of cardiac events in people without established vascular disease.”

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), selected by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends annual flu vaccines for all people who are at high risk of having serious seasonal flu-related complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious seasonal flu-related complications. According to the American Heart Association, about 36,000 people die each year from flu, while over 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications arising from it including bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

Smoking Bans Cut Heart Attack Risk

Every year, more than 400,000 Americans die of illnesses related to their smoking, and so do thousands of non-smokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke—a combination of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Non-smokers who breathe in secondhand smoke take in the same toxic chemicals that smokers do, including more than 50 substances that are known to cause cancer in humans or animals. The more secondhand smoke a person is exposed to, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals in their body. For adults, the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke include respiratory tract infections, lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer and heart disease.

In 1971, the Surgeon General proposed a federal smoking ban in public places and released a report the next year declaring secondhand smoke a health risk. In 1973, Arizona became the first state to restrict smoking in public places and today, 24 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants. And experts say these bans are really paying off.

After analyzing a number of recent studies on the effects of smoking bans, investigators at the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that smoke-free policies can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 47 percent and significantly reduce the likelihood of other heart problems. They also found evidence that even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack. “We did conclude a cause-and-effect relationship exists between heart disease and secondhand smoke exposure,” said Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and chairwoman of the IOM committee. She noted that sufficient evidence also exists to support a cause-and-effect relationship “between exposure to secondhand smoke and heart attacks or acute coronary events.”

The committee’s findings echo those of the Surgeon General in 2006. His report also concluded that secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults and declared that the only way to fully protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke indoors is to prevent all smoking in that indoor space or building. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot keep non-smokers from being exposed to secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, as of June 2009, 27 states still did not have comprehensive smoking bans in place; meaning that one in four U.S. indoor workers is still not protected by a complete smoke-free workplace policy and nearly three in five Americans do not live under comprehensive state or local laws that make workplaces, restaurants, and bars smoke-free, according to the CDC.

Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, hopes this new report will help get more states and localities to pass smoke-free legislation. “If policy makers are paying attention to the science, and this is one more piece of evidence that says ‘you can actually save people’s lives, save health-care costs,’ then those states that have yet to act should do so,” he said. “How many dramatic findings do you need before you are finally going to act to protect everybody’s right to breathe clean air?”

Until the time everyone is protected against secondhand smoke, there are important steps you can take to lower your risk and protect your family from exposure. The CDC suggests the following:

Don’t smoke or allow smoking indoors or in a vehicle, at anytime.
Visit only those restaurants and businesses that are 100 percent smoke-free. Separate “no smoking” sections DO NOT completely protect you from secondhand smoke. Neither does filtering the air or opening a window.
Take special precautions to ensure that family members who have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
Encourage your community leaders to implement policies that make all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars, and casinos, smoke-free.

High Protein Diet May Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

High protein diets have been popular off and on since the 1960s, and are once again grabbing the attention of millions of people desperate to lose weight. But before you jump on the bandwagon, there are some things you might want to consider. High protein diets can produce a rapid initial weight loss, but most of this loss can be water rather than fat. Additionally, many high protein diets are high in saturated fat and low in fiber, a combination that can increase cholesterol levels and raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. High protein diets have also been shown to cause higher than normal calcium excretion through the urine, which over a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones. And a recent study suggests that a high protein diet may actually cause brain shrinkage and an increased “susceptibility to or progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The discovery was an unexpected one, found while studying the effects of different diets on mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The mice were fed either a regular diet, high fat/low carb custom diet, high protein/low carb version or a high carb/low fat option. When the researchers looked at the brain and body weight of the mice, as well as plaque build-up and differences in the structure of several brain regions involved in the memory defect underlying AD, they were surprised to find that the brains of the mice fed a high protein/low carb diet were 5 percent lighter than all the others and the regions of their hippocampus were less developed.

The researchers theorize that the high protein diet may leave neurons more vulnerable to AD plaque. “High protein diets are used for weight control, and those diets sometimes combine high fat and high protein, which may be doubly damaging, if the high fat increases the accumulation of plaques and the high protein sensitizes nerve cells to the poison released by plaques,” said lead author Sam Gandy, a professor at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a neurologist at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York. “Given the previously reported association of high-protein diet with aging-related neurotoxicity, one wonders whether particular diets, if ingested at particular ages, might increase susceptibility to incidence or progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Gandy believes the only way to know for sure if these findings have implications for the human brain is to perform prospective randomized double blind clinical diet trials. “This would be a challenging undertaking but potentially worthwhile. If there is a real chance that the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease might be slowed or avoided through healthy eating,” he said. “Such trials will be required if scientists are ever to make specific recommendations about dietary risks for Alzheimer’s disease.” Previous research has shown a Mediterranean-style low-calorie, low-fat diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fish might delay the onset or slow the progression of AD.

AD is the most common type of dementia, affecting as many as 5.3 million Americans. Brain lesions, called amyloid plaques and tangles, accumulate, destroying brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, social life and even the ability to cope with everyday life. Over time, AD gets worse and is fatal. Currently, there is no cure for AD, but researchers around the world continue to search for better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, or prevent it from developing.

The study is published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.

Second Wave of H1N1 Flu Underway

It’s a subject you’ve already heard a great deal about, and one that won’t be going away anytime soon—the H1N1 flu virus. Widespread flu activity is already being reported in 37 states, virtually all due to H1N1. Across the nation, flu-related doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing and are higher than expected for this time of year. From August 30 to October 3, there were 3,874 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated hospitalizations, 240 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated deaths, 12,384 pneumonia and influenza syndrome-based hospitalizations and 1,544 pneumonia and influenza syndrome deaths reported to the CDC. The agency is also reporting 19 influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the past week; 16 of which were associated with H1N1 virus infection and three with influenza A virus for which subtype was undetermined.

As the number of H1N1 flu cases continues to rise, government health officials continue to urge the public to consider getting vaccinated against both swine flu and seasonal flu. “Unfortunately we are seeing more illness, more hospitalizations, and more deaths,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a recent H1N1 briefing. “We are now up to 76 children having died” from swine flu this year; many more already, she said, than the typical toll from influenza in years past.

At the briefing, Schuchat also addressed concerns she knows exist about the new vaccine. “Some people have reservations, they aren’t really sure about this vaccine,” she said. But a recent Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that a large majority of Americans have concerns about the vaccine. The AP poll, conducted October 1-5, found 72 percent of those surveyed are worried about side effects, although more than half say that wouldn’t stop them from getting the vaccine to protect their kids from the new flu. And 38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school.

“I would say there is moderate concern about the safety of it (H1N1 vaccine),” says Wally Ghurabi, DO, chief of emergency services at Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopedic Hospital in California and a member of the H1N1 Steering Committee for the University of California Los Angeles. He says “someone always brings up Guillain-Barre,” a neurological condition that was linked with a previous swine flu vaccine manufactured in 1976. However, experts argue that the link was not clear and point out that vaccine production has greatly improved since then, as has testing for contaminants, which may have explained the link. Ghurabi’s advice is for patients to weigh the pros and cons, taking their risk into account. For instance, “if you are caring for a two-month old baby or are pregnant, you are in a high risk group,” he says.

But federal officials say the H1N1 vaccine is made the same way as seasonal flu vaccines that have been used for years. “This isn’t a new vaccine,” Schuchat said. “The vaccine is being manufactured exactly the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine. It is basically a vaccine made against the H1N1 instead of the seasonal viruses (expected to circulate in the upcoming season). Based on everything we know now, we are expecting a good safety record for H1N1.”

The federal government has purchased 250 million doses of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine at a cost of $2 billion, and as of Friday 3.7 million doses have been ordered by states and the District of Columbia, according to Schuchat. She says in all, 6.8 million doses are now available and production is continuing, but exactly when the H1N1 vaccine will be available in a given community is hard to predict. The CDC has recommended that certain at-risk populations, including pregnant women, health care providers and individuals with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, receive the new H1N1 vaccine as a priority before the general population.
from http://www.healthnews.com

Angelina Jolie Diet Secrets - Learn Hollywood Weight Loss Tips!

To get ready for her new movie Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie had spent a few months on a special diet. Jolie's been forced to swap cigarettes and coffee for steamed meat, vegetables and soya milk. 'It's an interesting test because I used to smoke and drink and I used to not eat breakfast but have a cigarette and coffee", Jolie said.

Although Jolie admits that Croft is the role closest to herself, playing her was one of the hardest things she has ever done. "It was such a challenge physically,” tells Angelina, who prepared for the role by following a training regime that included kickboxing, canoeing, street fighting and yoga. “A special diet also helped me shape my body. I ate steamed sea bass or steamed beef and vegetables, and I had no sugar and only drank soy milk.” Angelina had lost weight from overwork and was glad the training and healthy diet helped her put back on a few pounds of curves.

"I’m all for curves on a woman, and feeling sexy," she says, "and I never felt healthier or stronger than during the filming of this movie." Jolie performed almost all of her own stunts in “Tomb Raider,” which include sword fighting, spear throwing, dog sledding and bungee jumping. For the bungee-jumping sequence, she went through three months’ training. “The most difficult thing was learning how to do bungee ballet,” she recalls. “It took a while to learn how to work with the harness.”

When Angelina Jolie was married to husband Billy Bob Thornton, they were really focused on cleaning up their acts. Angelina said, "No more smoking or drinking, and a sugar-free diet. They want to be really healthy before they embark on having children".
from http://www.shapefit.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Link Uncovered Between Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors

Since the introduction of cell phones in the 1980s, there has been speculation that the radiation from these electronic marvels might pose an increased risk of cancer. There have been a number of studies, but none provided conclusive evidence one way or the other. Even a recent review of previously published findings on the subject turned up no overall link. But when the researchers reanalyzed the most scientific of the studies, they found “there is reason for concern.”

For the study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and a consortium of Korean institutions examined 465 articles published in major journals, focusing on 23 case-controlled studies involving a total of 37,916 patients for their final analysis. Some of the patients (controls) had no history of brain tumors, while the others had been diagnosed with brain tumors.

Considered as a group, the studies showed no link between cell phone use and brain tumors. But separated into subgroups and reanalyzed, eight of the “higher quality” studies, most conducted by the same research team in Sweden, found cell phone users to have a 10 to 30 percent increased risk for developing a brain tumor, compared with people who rarely or never use them. The risk was highest among those who had used cell phones for a decade or longer.

The other subgroup of 15 studies that were not as high-quality and which were supported with mobile phone industry funding, found either no association, a negative association, or a protective effect.

“Clearly, there is a risk,” said study coauthor Joel M. Moskowitz, director of the UC Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health, noting that more research is needed to arrive at a more definitive conclusion. “It seems fairly derelict of us as a society or as a planet to just disseminate this technology to the extent that we have without doing a whole lot more research of the potential harms and how to protect against those harms,” he said. “The stakes are really high and there seems to be suggestive evidence that you better be careful about this, especially in children, who have developing tissue and smaller brain and skull sizes.” Moskowitz also believes there is a potential for harm to other areas of the body; the genitals, for instance, when the phone is carried in the pocket.

Other experts share Moskowitz’s concern. In March 2008, Dr. Vini Khurana http://www.healthnews.com/family-health/new-study-finds-mobile-phone-usa..., a neurosurgeon who has published more than 30 scientific papers and reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of cell phones, expressed little doubt of the risk saying “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumors.” He warned that “mobile phones could have health consequences far greater than asbestos and smoking,” pointing out that three billion people around the world now use a cell phone, which is three times the number of people who smoke—and smoking amounts to five million deaths worldwide each year.

But the mobile communications industry argues that cell phones have been shown to be safe, and should be considered so until they are shown conclusively to be unsafe. “The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk,” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association. “In addition, there is no known mechanism for microwave energy within the limits established by the (U.S. Federal Communications Commission) to cause any adverse health effects,” he said. “That is why the leading global health organizations such as the American Cancer Society, (U.S.) National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all have concurred that wireless devices are not a public health risk.”

However, last month at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the potential cancer risks of cellular phones, National Health Institutes of Health associate director, John Bucher, told the Senators the nation faces a “potentially significant health problem” but said that so far, studies have been inconclusive. Bucher suggests that, as a precautionary measure, regular cell phone users might want to use a headset instead of holding the phone next to their head.

Superfoods Fight Swine Flu

As fall approaches and the weather gets colder flu season is expected to be at an all-time high and swine flu is still a danger, although not quite the pandemic as it was originally introduced as at the beginning of the summer. Swine flu—like the regular form of the flu which kills thousands of people per year if left untreated—needs to latch on to a body with a lowered immune system, so stay on top of it with these foods:

Yogurt – You have long heard that probioticsl help assemble the good bacteria in your stomach to keep diseases away and the flu is no different. Full of “live active cultures,” yogurt helps keep your internal systems running on track and make sure the stomach and intestines are free of germs that cause harmful bacteria to grow. A recent study from Europe showed that consuming just 7 ounces of yogurt a day contains just as much nutrition as swallowing the daily amount of probiotic supplements. The recommended dosage is two 6 ounce servings. Yogurt that contains the strain Lactobacillus reuteri, has proved to be most effective, and is currently only found in Stonyfield Farms yogurt sold in the United States.

Garlic – These delightful little power cloves are the perfect compliment to almost any type of food and can be enjoyed raw, baked, sautéed, or thrown into any combination of plates. Garlic has also been known for ages to cure many ailments but is now mostly used to fight bad bacteria as well as infection. Notorious for giving you bad breath, professionals still encourage eating two cloves a day or slice up a few in your meals a couple times a week in order to get their full effect.

Oats and Barley – A farmer’s delight, oats and barley contain a fiber that holds a lot of antimicrobial and antioxidant properties more akin to taking Echinacea. Animals that consume a lot of barley or oats in their diet are less likely to get diseases like the flu and the same goes for humans but these super grains also help speed up the healing process and boost immunity which is needed to prevent a virus like the flu from spreading. Eat one serving per day of oats or barley to attain the daily recommended dosage to keep bugs out of your system.

Chicken Soup – Mom always made chicken soup for you when you were sick…or at least you know television moms did for your two-dimensional companions. Chicken soup is not only chock full of delicious veggies, broth, and tender slow-cooked chicken that makes you feel instantly better, you may think that the “healing” is mainly psychological. In a study of 12 nationwide brands of pre-packaged chicken soups, researchers at the University of Nebraska found that all held the amino acids necessary for blocking the inflamed immunity cells that travel your body and build up in your trachea causing cold and flu symptoms associated with the throat. Salt from the broth helps to thin any mucus membranes that may have accumulated throughout the season and besides being whole meal when you add oyster or saltine crackers, chicken soup is a hearty and scrumptious way to celebrate cold weather. Eat chicken soup whenever you want.

Sweet Potatoes – The sweet and colorful cousin to the popular potato is often overlooked with the exception of adding to the rainbow that is a festive Thanksgiving table. Many people either love or hate sweet potatoes making it harder to incorporate these into more family dinners. Sweet potatoes are the mascots of vitamin A helping to keep your skin soft and healthy, keeping your connective tissue thick and useful. Foods containing beta-carotene help your body turn them into vitamin A which helps protect your body overall. If you detest the sweet potato, other sources of beta-carotene that carry vitamin A are found in other orange tinted foods like carrots and squash.

In order to keep both types of flu at bay, you should be nourishing your body with as much immune support as necessary to keep you healthy throughout the season. Follow these simple food tips to keep your insides in tip top fighting shape.