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Showing posts from June, 2013

Feel the Stress? You're More Likely to Have a Heart Attack

Want to double your chances of a heart attack?  Just make sure you feel stressed all the time.

Now, really, who doesn't feel that way?  Between work, family, home, activities -- who can possibly do it all and not feel a smidgin of pressure?

But a new study has found that people who feel they are stressed are far more likely to suffer heart disease than those who simply don't.  (I'd like to know who these people are.)

The findings, by French researchers, showed that "people who believe that they are stressed—and that the stress is affecting their health—have more than twice the risk of heart attack as those who don’t feel that way," according to Beth Greenfield at yahoo.com.

“This indicates that individuals' perception and reality seem to be connected pretty well,” lead author Herman Nabi, of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, toldYahoo! Shinein an email. “In other words, people seem to be aware when stress is affecting their health.”

So,…

Designer Baby or Not, It Could Work

Interesting story today at smartplanet.com.  Designer babies.

It's not what you think.  Or maybe it is.  But British researchers have found a way to make a baby using three people.  It's not to make sure the baby has blond hair and blue eyes, and is a girl, with a 150 IQ, but to provide additional genes to prevent "debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial disease."

According to David Worthington, mitochondria are the parts of cells known as 'power stations' because they provide energy.  "Diseased mitochondria leaves people weak and can cause blindness, heart failure and death," he writes. This disorder affects one in every 6,500 babies in the UK, according to the BBC.

The way it works is through an in-vitro fertilization procedure.  Doctors extract eggs from the mother and sperm from the father, then combine them in the lab with a third person's disease-free mitochrondria.  I remember talk about something like this when I was trying to g…

Stay Away From the Hospital in July

Ever since the famous case where a young woman died allegedly because she lay on a stretcher unattended in July, experts have warned about the "July effect."

That's because, in July, newly graduated medical students begin their residencies, and errors go way up.  According to a study done in 2010 of hospital errors in July from 1979 to 2006, medication errors shot up 10% at teaching hospitals in July, though it could not be confirmed whether that was simply because of new doctors entering the fray.

It’s also when the senior trainees, the residents and fellows, graduate to supervisory, self-managed patient care roles. "In other words, it’s when everyone is most inexperienced," Dr. Zachary F. Meisel and Dr. Jesse M. Pines write at Time Health & Family. Naturally, people worry that this inexperience leads to mistakes.

Some of it is patient load, which may have contributed to the woman's death, with new doctors too overwhelmed to accurately diagnose and t…

Stop Fat? Tax Calories

It worked with cigarettes.  Now some are thinking it may work for food -- tax those who eat too much.

Well, you're not taxing the people, per se, but the calories they eat.

A story today at The Washington Post notes that "an increase in the price of a calorie regardless of its source would improve obesity outcomes,” according to a working paper that three researchers prepared for a private, nonprofit bureau, according to Peter Whoriskey.

The main culprit for one out of three Americans being fat or obese?  Low food prices, Whoriskey reports.  If we raised the taxes on sugary drinks, fast food and junk food, would people stop buying it, as they did cigarettes?

No one quite knows, but could you really tax something people need to live?  I suppose you could say we don't need Big Macs or giant Slurpees but the fear is that raising the prices on some foods probably would raise them on all, like fruits and vegetables, too, making them too expensive for many to buy, kind of defea…

Is That Chocolate Really Chocolate? And Other Fun Food Frauds

We had the horsemeat scandal in Europe.  Then a fake vodka -- high levels of methanol and bleach -- was produced and sold in England.  Even good chocolate and olive oil are adulterated these days.  Are we really eating what we think we are?

A story in today's New York Times points out that investigators "have uncovered thousands of frauds, raising fresh questions about regulatory oversight as criminals offer bargain-hunting shoppers cheap versions of everyday products, including counterfeit chocolate and adulterated olive oil, Jacob’s Creek wine and even Bollinger Champagne."

“Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic — in every single country where food is produced or grown, food fraud is occurring,” Mitchell Weinberg, president and chief executive of Inscatech, a company that advises on food security, told The New York Times. “Just about every single ingredient that has even a moderate economic value is potentially vulnerable to fraud.”

Even scarier, "many proc…

No More Big Macs Before Surgery

Have a hospital trip planned?  Forget about the Big Macs.  A national watchdog group is pressuring hospitals in the Broward County area to kick out all the McDonald's franchises that sit in their lobbies, according to a story at The Enquirer-Herald.

The group wants the hospitals to do it "to help curb the epidemic of diet-related disease and to stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health," as John Dorschner at the Miami Herald reports.  Of the 14,000 McDonald's in the country, only 26 are in hospitals, though.

You know, physician, heal thyself?

McDonald's points out that it offers more than greasy burgers and french fries, including some salads, but the salads sometimes have more calories and fat than the burgers, if you include the croutons, bacon bits, and dressing that douses them.

Corporate Accountability International is asking fast food outlets to lead the way in helping America -- where one out of three people is overweight or obese -…

What's The New Four-Letter Word?

Want to know the new four-letter word?  It's "meat."

As Janet Fang reports at smartplanet.com, that word just doesn't "do it for us anymore." Whether you attribute the new revulsion to "pink slime," "horsemeat" or other disgusting terms recently used for meat, Taco Bell is now disposing of the word in favor of "protein."

Yes, protein.  That's kind of like calling Hershey's, "chocolate."  We're getting all fancy, it seems, with all kinds of food.

Fang notes that the USDA recently allowed recently allowed the pork industry to now call pork butt, "Boston roast."  Huh?

But it's been coming for some time.  She points out in her article that a recent survey found that:
A little under 50 percent of conversations about meat over the last six months were negative, often including words like “bad,” “concerns,” and “problem.”Only 6 percent of conversations about protein were negative, with more associati…

First Calories, Then Portion Size -- Now Menu Wording

OK.  So there are the calories we have to count.  The fat and sodium content.  The portion size.  And now a new study is telling us we have to pay attention to how the menu is worded because that affects our portion size.

Can't we just eat a meal and enjoy it anymore?!

Newswise.com reports that a new study out of Cornell University says that the way restaurants describe a menu item makes us eat more, or less.

Consumers "use such labels to dictate how much food they think is a 'normal' portion, and then adjust their intake accordingly," according to the story.

"People are willing to pay more for a portion that sounds larger, but they also are apt to eat more of an enormous portion if they believe it is ‘regular’ to do so,” newswise.com quotes David R. Just, associate professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics. Just conducted the study with Brian Wansink, professor of marketing at Cornell. Both authors are affiliated with the Cornell Food and Bra…

Fit Parents? Not Necessarily, Their Kids

OK.  You can relax.  It's not your fault if your teen doesn't imitate your fitness routine and is a flabby couch potato.

A new study has found that kids just don't seem to care.  I can use my own home as an example.  My husband and I exercise for at least an hour seven days a week, while our son stays glued to the computer.  Thankfully, he's skinny, but his staying so firmly planted in the family room cannot be good for his health.

True to our experience, the study found "there was little correlation between teens' fitness levels and whether the teens had one or both parents who regularly engaged in physical activity, researchers said," Ann Lukits at The Wall Street Journal reports.

My husband (a former pro) is teaching our son tennis and Phillip does love to kick a soccer ball around the backyard.  But does he swim in the summer like he used to, when he was seven and eight and nine?  No.  Does he ride his bike?  No.  Sadly, the neighborhood friend he use…

Synagogue Makes Jews Happier, Healthier, Too

They've done studies on how going to church can make your life better, but I don't remember any done on synagogues.  And now, we're finding out that going to temple makes Jews feel better, too.

Two new Baylor University studies show that "Israeli Jewish adults who attend synagogue regularly, pray often, and consider themselves religious are significantly healthier and happier than their non-religious counterparts," according to a story at newswise.com. They're also more satisfied with life.

I'm a regular church goer -- I teach Sunday school and also volunteer at an afterschool homework club there -- and I have to admit that going to church just stabilizes my life.  I also have to say that there have been periods in my life when I've been very angry at God, yet I still needed to go to church on Sunday.

Most recently, a young friend with a son my own son's age, died of cancer, and though she had been sick for some time, I was still so mad at God.  She …

Is Our Food Safe YET?

Sadly, our food inspection rules, though somewhat tightened recently, will not prevent you from getting sick if you consume a contaminated food that has somehow slipped through the ropes.

Food-borne illnesses cause about one in six Americans to get very sick every year, with 128,000 hospitalizations, and an estimated 3,000 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as Deborah Kotz reports at The Boston Globe.

My sister, who's never met a vegetable she didn't like, became seriously ill with food poisoning (doctors thought it might have been the arugula) about a week before her first son was due.  Happily, the baby was born healthy, though there was some concern initially that the contamination might have contributed to a neurological problem.

Kotz writes that the introduction of federal laws to regulate food safety, including rules on how produce is grown, harvested, and distributed throughout the country has officials hoping "they will be…

New Public Health Problem: Bullying

First, it was obesity.  Now it's bullying.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just announced that bullying is a public health problem.  I guess it still counts if it happens in your family, too.

Sadly, the CDC has proposed this because of its link to suicide, according to Howard Mandel.

Mandel writes that the suggestion has been made that "educators and health care professionals should consider broadening their focus beyond just providing services for those who are already involved in bullying or suicide-related behaviors, but also towards developing strategies to prevent bullying and suicidal behavior from happening in the first place."

Makes sense to me.  I remember when I was in school back in the '60s and '70s, bullying went on and no one pretty much talked about it.  Kids being shaken down for their lunch money.  Being ridiculed because their teeth stuck out, or wore glasses (me).  I even had a friend with cerebral palsy who had a slight limp and a h…

Assaulter vs. Swim Victim -- What It Is to Be 12

I know that twelve is no longer a child.  But I haven’t felt it in my gut until two things happened in Stamford in recent weeks.
One, a sixth grader, violently beat a Hispanic man so badly he almost lost his eye. Then, sadly, a sixth grader drowned at CoveIsland.
I guess that, more than anything, shows the betwixt and between of this strange age.  How a child, yes, a child, could so assault a man – could want to assault a man – that the victim could almost be blinded, made me I realize how far I have to go, to truly understand this age.
Allegedly, this child was in a gang but he was still in sixth grade, my son’s grade.  I’ll admit I hurriedly tried to find out what middle school he went to. But, as a friend said, he probably didn’t go to school.
Then I thought about the young man who thought he could beat the current at Holly Pond where it flows down over the rocks into Long Island Sound.  I could see him, laughing and happy with his friends, and maybe underestimating, just a little…

Teens: Don't Sleep? Expect to Be Fat

It's probably not such a surprise but a new study has found that teens who don't get enough sleep also don't get enough of the right things to eat.

"Well-rested teenagers tend to make more healthful food choices than their sleep-deprived peers," according to a study led by Lauren Hale, PhD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, as reported by newswise.com.

The real value of this insight?  Doctors may now be able to figure out why sleep deprivation can lead to obesity.

To me, it's pretty obvious.  When at the end of the day, I'm tired and stressed, and starving, I don't reach for an apple, I go straight for the M&Ms.

Not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that’s bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them,” said Dr. Hale, speaking about the study results, according to the story at newswise.com .

In the study those teens who said they slept fewer than seven hours per …

Obese? Now Teens May Go Deaf, Too

Now, this will astonish you.  And break your heart.  But a new study has found that obesity in teens can lead to hearing loss.

Growing up with a deaf mother and grandmother, I know how debilitating this is.  My mother wasn't able to have a conversation with her mother until she was 16 years old.

A story in today's New York Times reports that "the definition of obesity in teenagers — was independently associated with poorer hearing over all frequencies, and with almost double the risk of low-frequency hearing loss in one ear."   Even worse, researchers suggest that this may be the early signs of losing your hearing in both ears, as happens in adults.

That bad boy, inflammation, is at work here, too. It's thought that, when it's induced by obesity, it "may be a factor in organ damage," Nicholas Bakalar writes. (Inflammation is also a player in cancer and heart disease.)

Losing weight, of course, would help, but so would early intervention, doctors be…

Sorry, But Not Smelling Doesn't Make You Lost Weight

"The Doctors," that smug-Dr.-Phil show, was on in the background this morning and one of their segments caught my eye.

Some woman asked if she plugged her nose while she was eating, would she eat less.  In other words, does your sense of smell affect how much you eat?

They did a cute little demo of blindfolding her and clipping her nose, then fed her bits of food and tried to get her to identify them.  She only guessed potato right, but even with her sense of smell cut off, she still knew when the taste was a muffin.   "That's go-ooo-od," she said.

So, here's the deal.  Our sense of smell is very important to our eating habits, but probably not in the way you think.  A friend recently lost his sense of smell from using too much nasal spray and now he eats everything he can get his hands on, hoping desperately to get a taste of something.

But those of us who have noses who work can be thankful that they allow us to savor our food, to pick out the sweet from …

Don't Laugh -- Laughing Gas Does NOT Cause Heart Attacks

I had to read this news story twice to be sure it wasn't a joke.  But it's the truth.  There's been some concern that nitrous oxide -- or what the dentist gives you to put you out, laughing gas -- might be responsible for causing heart attacks during surgery or soon afterward.

Well, sometimes they combine it with anesthesia during surgery, too, because by itself, the drug isn't strong enough to keep patients unconscious.  And previous studies had found that patients with certain genetic abnormalities had a much higher risk of heart attack during or after surgery.

But the good news is, there now doesn't seem to be a connection, according to newswise.com

Participants in the study reported at newswise.com received nitrous oxide anesthesia during heart surgery and were divided into two groups -- those who received a vitamin and folic acid to prevent homocystine levels from rising, and those who did not.

Homocystines are an amino acid found in the blood suspected of cau…

Obesity a Disease? Not

So it was just decided by the American Medical Association (AMA) that obesity is a disease.

Say what?

The New York Times reported today that this move "could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments," not just make fat people feel better.

To me a disease is breast cancer, or anemia or diabetes, not something that you can control.  But then I suppose that's part of the argument (and I certainly know as well as anyone), that weight isn't always a matter of making it move up or down.

But if we classify it as a disease, doesn't that give people who need to lose weight more of an excuse not to?  "I have a disease, so I can't help it," is the first thing that came to my mind.

Now maybe that's just me.  But I know when I was really overweight, I tried to blame it on my under-active thyroid, my genetics, even my breast cancer, just so I'd have a reason to feel better about not cutting bac…

Move Over, Europe, Asia-Pacific is Outdrinking You

Bet you thought you knew who the world's biggest drinkers are.  I don't mean, among your neighbors, but in the world.  Used to be, any time you saw an outdoor cafe in a movie in Paris, or Rome, or Madrid, or Berlin, the actors would be quaffing down drink after drink, or always holding a wineglass in one hand.

And yes, Europeans used to be the biggest drinkers.  But consumption there has slowed, according to a story at smartplanet.com.  However, liquor companies, don't despair.  The Asia-Pacific region is taking up where they left off.

Who's doing a lot of the imbibing?  Would you believe China?  "China alone now accounts for 38 percent of global spirits consumption, according to data released this month by International Wine & Spirits Research (IWSR), courtesy of The Economist." Kirstin Korosec reports.  She adds that the IWSR data shows seven of the top 10 growth markets are in the Asia-Pacific region.

People in China love "a heady liquor known as ba…

Amazing Cancer Fighter. Aspirin?

Yes, indeed.  We've known for a while that for some reason, taking aspirin daily may help prevent heart disease and certain cancers. But no one knew why until now.

A new study has found that "aspirin slows the accumulation of DNA mutations in abnormal cells in at least one pre-cancerous condition," according to a story at newswise.com.  Aspirin apparently lowers "mutation rates."

Cancer is caused by the mutating of genes, and up till now, no one has been able to figure out why some genes do, and some don't.  That's the answer to the hundred-million-dollar question.  What turns these cell changes on and off?  There's the cure for cancer.

Something I found interesting recently was that inflammation damages DNA and often, particularly with chronic diseases, that's what leads to cancer.  Inflammation, a response of the immune system, in recent years has been recognized as a hallmark of cancer.

Medicalnewstoday.com puts it better than I can.  "…

One More Downer About Red Meat

OK, so too much definitely causes heart disease, and may even result in cancer, especially of the colon and rectum. webmd.com reports that a survey of more than a half-million Americans found that those who ate the most red meat and processed meat for 10 years died sooner than those who didn't.

"The association between consumption of red and processed meats and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, is very consistent,” Marji McCullough, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, told webmd.com.

But now they're finding that red meat is implicated in diabetes, too.   The more red meat you eat, the higher your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.

Even upping your consumption of red meat by as little as a half a serving a day (about 1.5 ounces) increased  people's risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a four-year period by 48%, "compared with people who did not change their red-meat intake," according to a s…

Fat Pregnant Mom? Fat Baby? Maybe

Now I know I must take responsibility for this.  Even though I tried not to, I took being pregnant as license to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  As a result, I gained 50 pounds (that took nine months to gain and over two years to lose).

A new study just out says that women who eat high-fat foods while pregnant may not only produce big babies, but actually change their offsprings' brains in the way they think about food.

I'm in the stats for the first part -- my son, who was delivered at 39 weeks because of his size, weighed in at nine pounds (though the doctors, who actually set up a betting pool, were thinking a 10- or 11-pounder), but not the second.  This kid, at 12, doesn't even tip the scales at 80 pounds.

The study, done by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, found that "exposure to a high-fat diet in the womb and after birth can permanently change the cells in the brain that control …

Kids Who See Violence Young Grow Up to Be Aggressive

And now for another word about violence.  Know the toddler who keeps biting yours?  Or the one who kicks the teacher when he can't get what he wants?

Well, guess what?  A new study has found that "aggression in school-age children may have its origins in children 3 years old and younger who witnessed violence between their mothers and partners," according to a study by Case Western Reserve University, as reported yesterday by newswise.com.

“People may think children that young are passive and unaware, but they pay attention to what’s happening around them,” newswise.com quotes Megan Holmes, assistant professor of social work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

The numbing fact is that between three million and 10 million children each year witness violence in their homes.

While it's long been known that recent exposure to violence has a huge impact, what hasn't been so visible is  the …

New Form of Bullying? Sibling Violence

I found this shocking.  But a new study has found that bullying by a sibling is every bit as bad -- maybe even worse -- than by a schoolmate.

And it's linked to increased depression, anxiety and anger among victimized kids and teens, according to Michelle Healy at USA Today.

She writes, "Although peer bullying has increasingly become a recognized problem and the focus of preventive efforts, sibling bullying has historically been viewed as 'benign and normal and even beneficial' for a child's social development and ability 'to learn to handle aggression in other relationships,' according to the study," which was featured in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, published online today.

I came from a family where the siblings banded together against our dysfunctional family so this is something not that well-known to me. But I've seen it in other families and what's been most disturbing is that the child being bullied very often idolizes the…

Organic vs. Non-Organic Food: Does It Really Matter, in the End?

OK.  Here's the question.  Would we be better off eating all organic foods?

We're certainly buying -- and paying for -- it.  Sales of organic food have soared over the past decade, up to   $30 billion in 2011, or 4.2% of all U.S. food and beverage sales, according to the Organic Trade Association, as The Wall Street Journal reports today.

Probably like you, I don't mind paying a little bit more for organic milk and meat (though I've stopped buying organic produce because if you wash the regular stuff, you get most of the chemicals off, and I worry about fecal matter).

But guess what?  No expert has yet been able to prove eating all organic food is better for us.

Now, eating food grown without the help of synthetic chemicals" is probably safer and healthier to consume than food containing those substances, even in trace amounts," The WSJ says. And many experts say they believe Americans "should try to substitute organic products for conventional ones wh…

Facebook, My New Lover

So now I get it.  It's that electric jolt I get when my views top 75 (OK, only once, but come on, people, tell your friends about this blog!).  Facebook is our high.

An op-ed in The Sunday Review put it the best:  we love the instant approval we get when we post something and our friends immediately respond.  

The essay was mostly about the bad things Facebook encourages us to do, like pose in a thong, when  mommy panties make more sense, or post how much you hate your boss, or, to me, the worst, deface places like the Grand Canyon or saguaros in the desert just so you can post it online.  But as Jenna Wortham puts it, "That feedback loop of positive reinforcement is the most addictive element of social media."

Whether you're a mom posting your son's championship baseball win, or your latest cedar-planked salmon, let's face it.  It feels good when friends come back with praise and accolades.

“For people who get a lot of motivation out of knowing that other pe…

The Dangers Our Kids Face

I remember worrying every minute my son was in preschool and out of my sight.  It got a little better in kindergarden, after the first terrifying time he went on the bus (don't ask about the time he missed the bus, when it came and he wasn't on it). 

In first and second grades, the worrying grew a little less.  I began to trust the teachers and that he would survive.  Then middle school came and even though I knew he could take care of himself now, I still worried

But the worst is yet to come, according to Charles Blow of The New York Times.

Charles Blow, who I adore, wrote an op-ed today about the dangers ahead -- and right in front of us -- for our teenagers.

He writes that, in a hypothetical class of 100 high school seniors:

71 will have experienced physical assault28 will have been "victimized" sexually (and 10, raped) 32 have experienced "child maltreatment"27 were in a physical fight, and 16 carried a weapon in the last year If this isn't overwhel…

Are Ads Killing Our Kids?

We knew it all along.  Ads do lead people to do things and now a new study has proved that cigarette ads do, indeed, lead teens to smoke.

Movies feature fewer people smoking these days than in the past, and while you still don't see an actor walk into a party or restaurant and the first thing they do is light up a cigarette, but the cigarettes are still there, and they're still considered cool.

My own mom began smoking when she was 11 (and this was back in the 1930s) because her best friend did, and while my mom was able to quit in her 70s, her friend went on smoking -- and hacking, even through emphysema -- until she died in her mid-80's.

I was lucky.  The smell of smoke always filled our house and I couldn't stand it, or the sight of all those ashtrays (though my mom was a clean smoker, and emptied them almost as quickly as they were filled).  As a result, I've chosen never to smoke and am probably the only living person the planet who has never held a cigarette …