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Research Shows Ways to Speed Stroke Care

Wed, 2014-04-23 09:37

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Every minute counts for stroke victims who need clot-busting medications quickly to restore blood flow to their brain and prevent further damage.

Now, new efforts to hasten treatment in both ambulances and emergency rooms appear to have significantly improved patients’ chances of survival and limited their long-term disability, according to a pair of studies in the April 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A quality improvement initiative in hospital emergency departments significantly reduced the time it took for doctors to begin treatment of stroke patients with a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the first study found.

But a specialized ambulance equipped to start stroke treatment on the way to the hospital cut that time even more, according to another study in the same issue of the journal.

One expert, who wrote an editorial accompanying the findings, said the results were impressive.

“These are completely complementary strategies, and both of them should be implemented,” said Dr. James Grotta, director of Stroke Research, Clinical Innovation & Research Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. “We should be able with both to increase the number of patients completely recovering from their stroke.”

National guidelines recommend that stroke patients eligible for tPA treatment start receiving the drug intravenously within an hour of arriving at the hospital. Unfortunately, fewer than one-third of patients receive it within that timeframe, researchers report in background information.

With that in mind, the American Heart Association launched the Target: Stroke initiative in 2010, arming participating hospitals with a to-do list intended to cut down on “door-to-needle” time for tPA treatment.

The initiative focused on rapid triage, quick turnaround on CT scans and lab tests, and improved ER access to intravenous tPA. Its motto: “Time lost is brain lost.”

A study of 71,169 patients treated with tPA at 1,030 participating hospitals found that the Target: Stroke guidelines:

  • Reduced the numbers of deaths suffered by stroke patients.
  • Improved patients’ ability to return home after treatment, with no time spent in a rehabilitation center.
  • Increased the number of patients able to get around on their own following a stroke.
  • Cut 10 minutes off the average time it took to administer tPA.
  • Increased the number of people receiving tPA within an hour to 41 percent from 26 percent.
  • Boosted by fourfold the annual rate of improvement in door-to-needle times of an hour or less.

“We saw a very clear impact of the program in the speed at which tPA was delivered,” said study author Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, co-director of the UCLA Preventative Cardiology Program and associate chief of the UCLA Division of Cardiology. “It’s rare that you see such a change in results before and after an initiative.”

In the second study, a German research team in Berlin equipped an ambulance with a CT scanner, a laboratory and a telemedicine connection that would allow paramedics to consult with doctors and start tPA treatment on the road.

This ambulance allowed emergency workers to cut by 25 minutes the time it took for them to administer tPA to a patient, researchers report.

“This pre-hospital strategy has the potential to lop a bigger chunk of time off the time-to-treatment,” Grotta said.

It’s also much more expensive. A specialized stroke ambulance can cost about $1.4 million, the researchers reported.

“This is an interesting concept that could work, but the cost seems to be a prohibitive factor,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

But Grotta noted that such costs are relative. The CT scanner in the ambulance cost about $400,000, he said, and the average cost to treat a stroke is about $200,000.

“You only have to reverse two strokes to cover the cost of the CT scanner, and you’re going to save more time than what we can do tweaking the emergency department,” Grotta said.

Glatter said he is concerned that efforts to speed up tPA treatment could wind up giving the “potentially dangerous drug” to people who should not receive it.

“Measures that help cut transport time and get patients to qualified providers is really the most important aspect for taking care of these patients,” he said. “That’s ultimately what’s going to be the most effective targeted approach to getting these patients treated.”

A third study in the same issue of the journal indicates patient support for quick treatment with tPA.

More than three-fourths of seniors said they would want to receive clot-dissolving drugs if they were incapacitated by a stroke. About the same percentage said they would want CPR following a heart attack.

The results support doctors’ use of tPA treatment even if the patient or their family are not able to sign off on it, the researchers argue.

More information

For more information on stroke treatments, visit the American Heart Association.


Categories: Health & Fitness

For Many Men, Impotence Is Treatable Without Drugs

Wed, 2014-04-23 09:37

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A new study reminds men with erectile dysfunction that there’s help out there that doesn’t require a prescription: diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Losing weight, eating better, getting more active, drinking less alcohol and getting better sleep can all help reverse problems that contribute to impotence, according to a new study published recently in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire are often linked to the development of heart disease. The researchers discovered that a large proportion of men were able to naturally overcome erectile dysfunction with heart-healthy changes — no pharmaceutical help necessary.

What’s more, focusing on lifestyle change helps ensure an overall healthier and longer life, the researchers added.

While one of the biggest factors contributing to impotence is advancing age, other factors seem to play an even greater role in the development of the problem, explained study lead author Dr. Gary Wittert. Besides, because a significant number of men maintain erectile function into advanced age, it’s unlikely that getting older, in and of itself, is the cause of sexual dysfunction, he said.

Instead, impotence seems to be typically related to an unhealthy lifestyle.

“It is always worth reducing obesity, improving nutrition and getting more exercise — firstly, because health and well-being improve and overall cardiovascular risk and risk of diabetes will be reduced,” said Wittert, a professor and director of Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health at the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

What’s the connection between impotence and heart health? “An erection is a hydraulic event dependent on the dilation of blood vessels that carry blood to the penis,” explained Wittert. “These blood vessels are similar to those that supply blood to the heart muscle.”

Although other issues such as nerve damage and hormone abnormalities can also lead to erectile dysfunction, the failure of the blood vessels to dilate properly is one of the more common causes, Wittert said. “This is an early abnormality in the pathway to more serious heart disease.”

For the study, data was collected from more than 800 randomly selected Australian men, 35 to 80 years old at the beginning of the study, with follow-up five years later. Sexual desire was assessed using a standard questionnaire that addressed interest in engaging with another person in sexual activity, interest in engaging in sexual behavior by oneself, and no interest in sexual intimacy.

Erectile function was also assessed using a standard scoring system. The researchers took factors such as height, weight, blood pressure, hand grip strength, amount of body fat, age, education, marital status, occupation and smoking behavior into account. Depression, the probability of obstructive sleep apnea, medication usage, diet and alcohol consumption, and physical activity were also assessed, as were blood levels of glucose, triglycerides (an unhealthy blood fat) and cholesterol.

People whose health habits and lifestyle improved during the study period tended to see an improvement in sexual function, Wittert’s team reported. And the reverse was true: those whose health habits and lifestyle deteriorated during the five years were more likely to experience impotence.

One expert said the study carries valuable lessons for men worried about their sexual health.

“As we get older, there are some natural things we just can’t change. The message from this study is, don’t get a prescription, but get exercise. Get rid of the fat. Work on the depression,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of the department of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York.

Samadi, who was not involved in the research, warned that a prescription is not as good as a fundamental lifestyle change. “Long-term, medication is not the answer unless you take care of the high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes,” he said. “Medication works well for those who cannot make the necessary changes, but drugs should not be the first line of treatment.”

Yet Wittert, the researcher, isn’t against using medication to treat sexual dysfunction. However, he said he tries to encourage men to tackle their lifestyle issues at the same time. He recommends using drugs to initially solve the problem, and then begin to modify lifestyle and risk factors. Healthier living can make impotence drugs more effective or make them less necessary, and a better lifestyle also tends to increase sexual desire, Wittert said.

Both experts agree that there are many indirect causes of sexual dysfunction and low sex drive. The best bet is to prevent or treat the underlying disease, they said.

More information

There’s more on sexuality in later life at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Categories: Health & Fitness

People With Kidney Disease Show Higher Cancer Risk in Study

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:37

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Older adults with moderate kidney dysfunction may face a higher risk of developing cancer than those with healthy kidneys, a large study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 32,000 older U.S. adults, those with stage 3 kidney disease were more than 40 percent likelier to be diagnosed with cancer over five years, versus people with normal kidney function.

Experts stressed that the findings do not necessarily mean that kidney disease itself leads to cancer.

“There is no way for a study like this to prove cause-and-effect,” said senior researcher Dr. Mahboob Rahman, of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

He said the findings, scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the National Kidney Foundation’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, “should be considered preliminary.”

Still, the results are “important,” and warrant more study, said Dr. Beth Piraino, president of the National Kidney Foundation.

“We’re not trying to scare people. But this is something they should be aware of,” said Piraino, who was not involved in the study.

She added that people with kidney disease may want to be especially vigilant about curbing their cancer risks — by, for example, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and having recommended cancer screenings.

In the United States, about 11 percent of adults — or over 23 million people — have chronic kidney disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost half of them have stage 3 disease — a moderate amount of kidney damage that may cause no obvious signs or symptoms.

In fact, many people with kidney disease do not know it, Piraino said.

Key risk factors for chronic kidney disease include diabetes and high blood pressure. Some medical groups say individuals with those conditions should be screened for kidney problems. Screening involves a blood test to see how well the kidneys are filtering waste products from the body.

For the new study, Rahman’s team looked at data on 31,896 older adults with high blood pressure. Over five years, over 2,500 people — or about 8 percent — were diagnosed with cancer.

Overall, the odds were elevated for people with stage 3b kidney disease, which is the more advanced end of stage 3. Compared with older adults with healthy kidneys, their cancer risk was 43 percent higher, the study found.

Rahman’s team accounted for factors such as age, race and diabetes, and the higher cancer risk persisted. But, he said, it’s impossible to say why.

A buildup of minerals and waste products could be one possibility.

“We can only speculate,” Rahman said. “But since the kidneys clear toxins from the body, it’s possible that decreased kidney function could increase the risk of cancer.”

“We need a lot more research to understand what is going on,” he added. “This is very preliminary information.”

One question is whether people with kidney disease have elevated rates of only certain types of cancer.

For now, Rahman and Piraino said older adults should keep seeing their doctor and working on getting risk factors for kidney disease under control. Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure levels, eating right, and not smoking are some of the ways to protect your kidneys from damage as you age. Avoiding excessive use of pain medications is also important.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more on chronic kidney disease.


Categories: Health & Fitness

People Seek Out Health Info When Famous Person Dies

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:37

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The deaths of well-known people offer an opportunity to educate the general public about disease detection and prevention, a new study suggests.

Researchers surveyed 1,400 American men and women after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 and learned that more than one-third of them sought information about his cause of death or information about cancer in general soon after his death was reported.

About 7 percent of the respondents said they looked specifically for information about pancreatic cancer. That may seem low, but applied to the U.S. population as a whole it would work out to more than 2 million people, the Indiana University team said.

“In the medical community, there has been a big push to try to educate the public about the nuances of cancer,” lead author Jessica Gall Myrick, an assistant professor in the university’s school of journalism, said in a university news release.

Cancer is “not just one disease; it’s a lot of different diseases that happen to share the same label,” she explained. “Celebrity announcements or deaths related to cancer are a rare opportunity for public health advocates to explain the differences between cancers, and how to prevent or detect them, to a public that is otherwise not paying much attention to these details.”

The study authors were surprised to discover that racial minorities and people with lower levels of education were more likely to identify with Jobs and to seek information about pancreatic cancer after his death.

“Because there are large racial disparities in the incidence of many cancers, much focus is on such populations. Unfortunately, the population of individuals who may need cancer education the most often seek out cancer information the least — especially particular low-income and racial minority populations for whom cancer is more prevalent,” the researchers wrote.

“This makes our results fairly surprising, and it suggests that in certain contexts, cancer prevention, detection and communication efforts directed toward disparity populations may find an approach that uses relevant public figures and celebrities as useful,” the study authors concluded.

More than 50 percent of the study participants learned about Jobs’ death through the Internet or social media, which suggests that health educators could use these avenues to provide accurate information about diseases, the researchers said.

They added that reports in popular media about the health problems of famous people offer opportunities to inform the public about disease risk and prevention.

“More people will see a story about Steve Jobs’ or Patrick Swayze’s battles with pancreatic cancer in People magazine than will read a long, scientific piece on the disease in The New York Times,” Gall Myrick said. “Health communicators need to act quickly to educate the public when interest and motivation are at their peak so that more lives can be saved.”

The study was published online April 9 in the Journal of Health Communication.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians explains how to maintain your health.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Athletic Trainers First Line of Treatment for Young Basketballers: Study

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:37

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — High school basketball players in the United States suffered 2.5 million injuries over six seasons and athletic trainers dealt with many of them, a new study finds.

Researchers examined data from basketball players aged 13 to 19 who were treated in hospital emergency departments between 2005 and 2010 and those who were treated by high school athletic trainers. There were about 1.5 million in the first group and about 1 million in the second group.

In general, more easily diagnosed and treated injuries such as sprains and strains were treated by athletic trainers. More serious injuries such as fractures were treated in an emergency department, according to the study published online April 23 in the Journal of Athletic Training.

The findings show the importance of athletic trainers and the need to make them available to more high school athletes, the researchers said.

“Athletic trainers play a really important role in helping to assess those more mild or moderate injuries, and that helps alleviate a burden on the health care system and on families,” lead author Lara McKenzie, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said in a hospital news release.

“They are right there on the sidelines. They are there when some of these things happen. And they can be a great resource for families to evaluate that injury immediately,” she explained.

The American Medical Association recommended in 1998 that all high school sports programs have an athletic medicine team that includes a physician director and athletic trainer, the news release noted. As of 2009, only 42 percent of high school sports teams had met this recommendation, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

“We are there to prevent injuries, evaluate them quickly, treat them immediately and try our best to make sure that as we return them to play we do it in the most safe and efficient way possible,” Kerry Waple, a certified athletic trainer in sports medicine at Nationwide Children’s, said in the news release.

“There are a lot of injuries that happen that are winding up in urgent cares [centers] and emergency departments that don’t need to be there,” Waple added.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about high school sports injuries.


Categories: Health & Fitness

A Little Wine Might Help Kidneys Stay Healthy

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:37

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — An occasional glass of wine might help keep your kidneys healthy, new research suggests.

And for those who already have kidney disease, which puts one at higher risk for cardiovascular problems, moderate wine drinking might help the heart, the researchers added.

“Those [with healthy kidneys] who drank less than one glass of wine a day had a 37 percent lower risk of having chronic kidney disease than those who drank no wine,” said study author Dr. Tapan Mehta, a renal fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, in Aurora.

“Those with chronic kidney disease who drank less than one glass a day had a 29 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events [than those who drank no wine],” he added.

Mehta is due to present the findings Wednesday at a National Kidney Foundation meeting in Las Vegas. Studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Mehta and his colleagues looked at data from the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination that included nearly 6,000 people. Of those, about 1,000 had chronic kidney disease.

Having chronic kidney disease increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. About 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, often caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Previous research has found that moderate drinking is linked to heart benefits.

That is why Mehta decided to look at both questions: whether moderate drinking could help those with chronic kidney disease lower their risk of cardiovascular problems, and whether it can help those with healthy kidneys keep them that way.

Exactly why wine might do that is not known for sure, Mehta said. Drinking moderate amounts is linked with lower levels of protein in the urine. In those who have kidney disease, higher protein levels in the urine are linked with an increased risk of progression of kidney disease.

The polyphenols found in wine have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help explain the protective heart effects, he said.

Mehta couldn’t say from the study if red wine is better than white, as those who responded did not say which type they drank, just if they drank wine and how much they drank.

He suspects, however, that red would most likely be better, as it has been linked previously to being heart-protective.

The study suggests wine is protective against kidney disease and, in those with kidney disease, heart disease, ”but we cannot make any firm cause and effect conclusion,” Mehta said. While the study found an association, it was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The new findings are consistent with previous research, said Dr. Gary Curhan, a professor of medicine at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.

Curhan’s team has found there may be an inverse association between moderate drinking and kidney problems. While the new study is a cross-sectional one, looking at a snapshot in time, Curhan’s research looked at how drinking affected kidney function over time.

Both Mehta and Curhan emphasized that moderate alcohol consumption is key. Mehta said they didn’t have enough people in his study who regularly drank two glasses of wine a day to determine the effects of drinking more wine.

For those who don’t drink alcohol, Curhan noted, the new research is no reason to start.

More information

To learn more about chronic kidney disease, visit the National Kidney Foundation.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Early Sign of Kidney Disease Often Ignored, Study Says

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:37

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Too much protein in your urine — an early sign of kidney disease and a risk factor for heart disease — often goes undetected and untreated, a new study finds.

Researchers also found that many people with this problem, called proteinuria, reported taking common over-the-counter pain medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can harm kidney function.

Researchers tested nearly 300 patients who were admitted to a hospital in Albany, N.Y., and one in Chicago. Forty percent were found to have proteinuria, but just 37 percent of those with the condition were being treated for it.

One third of patients with proteinuria had high blood pressure, but only 43 percent of them were being treated with an anti-proteinuric high blood pressure drug. Another important finding was that 41 percent of patients with proteinuria said they took NSAIDs, according to the study presented at a National Kidney Foundation meeting.

Several medications can be used to treat proteinuria, including angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), the researchers noted.

“We were very surprised by the findings,” study leader Dr. Vishesh Kumar, a resident at Albany Medical College, said in a kidney foundation news release.

Proteinuria is very common and it’s easy to fix,” he said. “And it’s being ignored.”

The findings are scheduled for presentation this week at the annual meeting of the National Kidney Foundation in Las Vegas.

“We’ve known for years that ACE inhibitors and ARBs slow the progression of kidney damage. But we were surprised by the fact that over 60 percent of the patients we looked at with confirmed proteinuria were not taking any of these drugs. We can have a major impact on reducing proteinuria in these patients,” Kumar said.

He added that the finding that many patients with proteinuria were taking NSAIDs offers a “huge opportunity” for intervention.

Urine testing for proteinuria is simple and should be done in people at highest risk, including those who are older than 60 and anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about proteinuria.


Categories: Health & Fitness

How Eating Avocado Can Help You Slim Down

Tue, 2014-04-22 16:50

If you weren’t already in love with avocados, here’s another reason to jump on the bandwagon: A new study says that eating half an avocado with lunch helps reduce cravings in the late afternoon, a.k.a. the time of day you’re so hungry you’ll eat the sad-looking cupcake that’s been sitting in the office kitchen since 10 am. Oops!

Researchers at Loma Linda University say that the fiber and monounsaturated fat in avocado helped study participants feel fuller. Try these 3 ways to include avocado in your lunch.

Related:
8 Avocado Recipes Besides Guacamole
20 Best Foods For Fiber
27 Superfoods for Weight Loss


Categories: Health & Fitness

For Many Older Men, Impotence Is Treatable Without Drugs

Tue, 2014-04-22 16:37

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A new study reminds men with erectile dysfunction that there’s help out there that doesn’t require a prescription: diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Losing weight, eating better, getting more active, drinking less alcohol and getting better sleep can all help reverse problems that contribute to impotence, according to a new study published recently in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire is often linked to the development of heart disease. The researchers discovered that a large proportion of men were able to naturally overcome erectile dysfunction with heart-healthy changes — no pharmaceutical help necessary.

What’s more, focusing on lifestyle change helps ensure an overall healthier and longer life, the researchers added.

While one of the biggest factors contributing to impotence is advancing age, other factors seem to play an even greater role in the development of the problem, explained study lead author Dr. Gary Wittert. Besides, because a significant number of men maintain erectile function into advanced age, it’s unlikely that getting older, in and of itself, is the cause of sexual dysfunction, he said.

Instead, impotence seems to be typically related to an unhealthy lifestyle.

“It is always worth reducing obesity, improving nutrition and getting more exercise — firstly, because health and well-being improve and overall cardiovascular risk and risk of diabetes will be reduced,” said Wittert, a professor and director of Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health at the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

What’s the connection between impotence and heart health? “An erection is a hydraulic event dependent on the dilation of blood vessels that carry blood to the penis,” explained Wittert. “These blood vessels are similar to those that supply blood to the heart muscle.”

Although other issues such as nerve damage and hormone abnormalities can also lead to erectile dysfunction, the failure of the blood vessels to dilate properly is one of the more common causes, Wittert said. “This is an early abnormality in the pathway to more serious heart disease.”

For the study, data was collected from more than 800 randomly selected Australian men, 35 to 80 years old at the beginning of the study, with follow-up five years later. Sexual desire was assessed using a standard questionnaire that addressed interest in engaging with another person in sexual activity, interest in engaging in sexual behavior by oneself, and no interest in sexual intimacy.

Erectile function was also assessed using a standard scoring system. The researchers took factors such as height, weight, blood pressure, hand grip strength, amount of body fat, age, education, marital status, occupation and smoking behavior into account. Depression, the probability of obstructive sleep apnea, medication usage, diet and alcohol consumption, and physical activity were also assessed, as were blood levels of glucose, triglycerides (an unhealthy blood fat) and cholesterol.

People whose health habits and lifestyle improved during the study period tended to see an improvement in sexual function, Wittert’s team reported. And the reverse was true: those whose health habits and lifestyle deteriorated during the five years were more likely to experience impotence.

One expert said the study carries valuable lessons for men worried about their sexual health.

“As we get older, there are some natural things we just can’t change. The message from this study is, don’t get a prescription, but get exercise. Get rid of the fat. Work on the depression,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of the department of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York.

Samadi, who was not involved in the research, warned that a prescription is not as good as a fundamental lifestyle change. “Long-term, medication is not the answer unless you take care of the high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes,” he said. “Medication works well for those who cannot make the necessary changes, but drugs should not be the first line of treatment.”

Yet Wittert, the researcher, isn’t against using medication to treat sexual dysfunction. However, he said he tries to encourage men to tackle their lifestyle issues at the same time. He recommends using drugs to initially solve the problem, and then begin to modify lifestyle and risk factors. Healthier living can make impotence drugs more effective or make them less necessary, and a better lifestyle also tends to increase sexual desire, Wittert said.

Both experts agree that there are many indirect causes of sexual dysfunction and low sex drive. The best bet is to prevent or treat the underlying disease, they said.

More information

There’s more on sexuality in later life at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Yes, You CAN Touch Your Toes

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:52

As a yoga teacher, I constantly hear from students, “I can’t touch my toes.” But the truth is, anyone can—just bend your knees. Most people think touching your toes is about stretching your hamstrings, but really hamstrings stretch only so far. The goal is actually to get more length in the spine by arching your lower back.

If you want to eventually straighten your legs, practice this forward bend daily: Start standing, bend your knees, and fold forward to touch your toes. Once you find this position, keep your back long and your abs engaged. Breathe deeply as you slowly lift your hips while continuing to touch your toes. When you can’t lift your hips any more, hold for at least five to eight breaths, then slowly round up to stand.

With practice, you may experience improvements in back pain and less tension in your shoulders and neck. And remember: There is no end goal in yoga. You might never have straight legs, and that’s perfectly fine. Do the pose with bent knees and you’ll still reap the benefits.

The mind perk: Folding all the way forward calms the brain and allows you to reflect inward—partly because you’re looking right at yourself.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Do False-Positives Scare Women Away from Mammograms?

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:34

 

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — False-positive mammograms do increase anxiety, but the feeling is short-lived and most women go on to have breast screening in the future, new research suggests.

“Our study showed that anxiety from false-positive mammograms was temporary and did not affect a woman’s overall well-being,” said Anna Tosteson, a distinguished professor at Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, part of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

The researchers learned that the false-positive results had another effect. “We found that the false-positive experience made women more likely to say they would undergo screening [in the future],” she said.

The study was published online April 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Before the new study, “the consensus was that false-positive exams are common and may cause anxiety for women and have an impact on their health-related quality of life,” Tosteson said. “What was at issue was, how big an impact these [false-positives] have on general health and well-being in the long run.”

Annual screenings beginning at age 40 are recommended by the American Cancer Society and many other organizations, but critics of annual screenings often cite anxiety due to false-positive results as a harm, and a reason to expand the screening interval recommendations.

The researchers evaluated data from a larger study on digital mammogram screening. They analyzed responses from more than 1,000 women, about half with false-positives, from interviews done right after the screening and again a year later.

The women answered questions about anxiety, their health-related quality of life and how likely they were to have a mammogram in the future.

Among those with a false-positive result, more than half said their anxiety was moderate or higher than moderate, and about 5 percent said their anxiety was extreme right after the screening result. “At one year, there was no measurable increase in anxiety for anyone,” Tosteson said.

When asked if they planned to have another mammogram within the next two years, about 25 percent of the women with false-positives said they did, but just 14 percent of those who had negative results did.

The researchers also posed a hypothetical example, asking all the women if they would be willing to travel and stay overnight if a distant facility offered a screening method with fewer false-positives. The women who had gotten a false-positive were not more likely to agree to this, but women who said they anticipated being very anxious if they ever got a false-positive reading were about twice as likely to agree to the travel to avoid a false-positive.

“Women who had been through the experience didn’t think it was such a bad thing,” Tosteson said.

That finding didn’t surprise an expert on screening results.

Overall, the study finding of transient anxiety “is actually very consistent with evidence we’ve seen over the years,” said Robert Smith, the American Cancer Society’s senior director of cancer screening, who commented on the study.

“It’s not surprising that a false-positive causes anxiety and worry,” he said, as breast cancer is rightfully one of women’s greatest health concerns.

It’s important to recognize that false-positives are inevitable, Smith said. What is needed is to reduce the frequency as much as possible, as technology improves, and “when they do occur ensure they are resolved as quickly as possible,” he said. “That way we can reduce what is commonly referred to as the harms of false-positives, going forward.”

The willingness of the women with false-positive results to undergo regular screening in the future, he said, simply reflects how committed women are to detecting any breast cancer in early stages.

Another expert said there’s a possible benefit to such screening results.

“Maybe the false-positives make women more aware that breast cancer is a possibility,” said Dr. Carol Lee, chair of the communications committee of the breast imaging commission of the American College of Radiology, who also reviewed the findings. “It makes it more real to them,” said Lee, an attending radiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York City.

Lee often sees patients who are called back for further testing on what turns out to be a false-positive mammogram result. “When it turns out what we call the person back for is nothing significant, the woman will invariably say, ‘Thank you for being careful.’”

One of Tosteson’s co-researchers reports grants received or pending from companies involved with diagnostic imaging technology, and is a co-founder and board member of NextRay, Inc. The study was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

More information

To learn more about mammograms, visit the American Cancer Society.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Nearly 70% of Americans Support Birth Control Coverage Under Obamacare

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:15

 

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Nearly 70 percent of Americans support the new health care law’s mandated coverage of birth control, a nationwide study finds.

University of Michigan researchers surveyed adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia about universal coverage for birth control, which is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There is an ongoing national debate about contraceptive coverage requirements in private health plans in the U.S.,” study author Dr. Michelle Moniz, an obstetrician/gynecologist and researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a university news release.

“Our study found that 69 percent of U.S. adults support requiring coverage of birth control in health plans. This indicates that the majority view in the United States is that coverage for contraceptives should be required,” she added.

The greatest support for this provision of the Affordable Care Act comes from women, blacks, Hispanics, adults with private or public insurance, and parents with children younger than 18 at home, according to the study, published April 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers also asked survey participants their feelings about mandated coverage of other medical services. There were high levels of support for mandated coverage for mammograms and colonoscopies (85 percent), vaccinations (84 percent), screening tests for diabetes and high cholesterol (82 percent), mental health care (77 percent) and dental care (75 percent).

Less than 10 percent of respondents supported mandated coverage for all services except birth control. This group included a high percentage of men, people older than 60, and those without children in the home.

“In this study, women, blacks, and Hispanics were more likely to support coverage of birth control medications than were men, older individuals and adults without children in the home. In other words, support is higher among individuals who may be more likely to directly benefit from affordable birth control,” said Moniz, a member of the university’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“This isn’t only a women’s health issue. It’s an issue that is just as important to families and communities,” she added. “Our findings suggest that a policy requiring all health insurance plans to cover birth control medications is consistent with the beliefs of the majority of Americans.”

The Supreme Court is considering the arguments of business owners who say their religious beliefs protect them from a requirement in the new health care law that health insurance plans cover all forms of contraceptives.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about birth control.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Size of Fetus May Affect Stillbirth Risk

Tue, 2014-04-22 14:37

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Fetuses that are either too small or too large are at increased risk for stillbirth, a large new study says.

Researchers analyzed all the stillbirths that occurred over 2.5 years at 59 hospitals in five regions of the United States. They found that abnormal fetal growth was associated with between 25 percent and 50 percent of the stillbirths.

Stillbirth refers to a fetal death that occurs during pregnancy at 20 weeks’ gestation or later, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The news study found that fetuses that were small for gestational age had a threefold to fourfold higher risk of stillbirth compared to those with normal weight. Being large for gestational weight was also associated with a greater likelihood of stillbirth.

The study appeared online April 22 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

The findings suggest that strategies to prevent stillbirth should focus on identifying fetuses that are small or large for gestational age, according to a journal news release.

This is not part of current practice, noted study author Radek Bukowski and colleagues from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network.

They said that classifying the 10 percent of fetuses at the extreme ends of being too large or small as being abnormal could identify as many as 46 percent of future stillbirths.

While the study found an association between abnormal fetal size and risk of stillbirth, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Some aspects of the study’s design could affect accuracy, the news release noted.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about stillbirth.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Two Drugs Work Equally Well for Epileptic Seizures in Kids: Study

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:37

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Researchers comparing two drugs used to treat epileptic seizures in children — lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) — found no difference between them in safety or effectiveness.

Although previous studies gave the edge to Ativan, Dr. James Chamberlain, lead researcher for the new study, gave several reasons why Valium might be as good or better.

“Unexpectedly, Ativan is not superior to Valium for treating pediatric seizures. It’s been dogma in medicine that Ativan is better than Valium, but this study shows that they are just about equal,” said Chamberlain, division chief of emergency medicine and trauma services at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Since Valium does not have to be refrigerated, it might be a better choice for paramedics who treat seizure patients before they arrive at a hospital, he said. “They can start Valium without having a refrigerator and feel comfortable that they are giving good medicine,” Chamberlain explained.

“Also, parents have a form of rectal Valium they can use rapidly at home,” he added.

Because both drugs have been around for decades they are not expensive, Chamberlain noted.

In their head-to-head comparison of the two drugs, the researchers randomly assigned 273 patients, ages ranging from 3 months to less than 18 years, who were seen in 11 pediatric emergency rooms for epileptic seizures, to receive either Valium or Ativan intravenously.

The investigators found that 72.1 percent of the patients who received Valium saw their seizure stop within 10 minutes of getting the drug and not recur within 30 minutes. This was also the case for 72.9 percent of those who received Ativan.

In each group, 26 patients needed assistance breathing, which was the researchers’ measure of safety.

The researchers reported that the only significant difference between the drugs was that patients who received Ativan were more likely to be sedated and to stay sedated longer (67 percent) than those given Valium (50 percent).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Valium, but not Ativan, for treating these seizures in children, the study authors noted.

Dr. Steven Pacia, director of the Epilepsy Center and the division of neurology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, “This confirms what a lot of physicians have known — that the drugs are pretty similar and effective.”

Pacia added that these seizures are an emergency, so when using either drug, whether in the hospital or in the field, it is essential that treatment start as soon as possible. “The importance is giving it early and quickly and enough,” he said.

The report was published in the April 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Michael Duchowny, a pediatric neurologist and director of the Epilepsy Center at Miami Children’s Hospital, said, “This paper is important because Valium is much more widely available, so that it is equal to Ativan is important.”

Duchowny added, “These drugs are used in emergency situations, so if you can get either of them they are both effective, but you don’t have to feel that Valium is less effective.”

Another expert, Dr. Cynthia Harden, director of the North Shore-LIJ Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in Great Neck, N.Y., said she doesn’t think this study will change clinical practice.

Another drug, midazolam, also used to treat epileptic seizures in children, is becoming the drug of choice possibly replacing both Valium and Ativan, she said.

Midazolam has an advantage because it can be given as a liquid into the nose, making it ideal for paramedics and parents alike, Harden said.

“I think that midazolam is probably going to supersede everything, including rectal Valium,” she said.

Prolonged epileptic seizure, called “status epilepticus,” occurs about 10,000 times a year in children in the United States, according to study background information.

It is important to control these seizures to prevent permanent injury and life-threatening complications such as respiratory failure, the researchers pointed out.

More information

To learn more about epilepsy, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


Categories: Health & Fitness

New Drugs May Help Prevent Migraines

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:37

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Two experimental drugs may help prevent migraines in people who suffer multiple attacks a month, according to preliminary findings from a pair of clinical trials.

The drugs, one given by IV and one by injection, are part of a new approach to preventing migraine headaches. They are “monoclonal antibodies” that target a tiny protein called the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) — which recent research has implicated in triggering migraine pain.

In one study, patients saw a 66 percent reduction in their migraine attacks five to eight weeks after a single dose of the IV drug — known for now as ALD403. That compared with a 52 percent decrease among patients who were given a placebo, or inactive, infusion.

In the other trial, patients receiving the injection drug saw a similar benefit from three months’ worth of biweekly treatments.

The findings, scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, are preliminary. And experts stressed that many questions remain.

Still, migraine sufferers can “take heart” that new drugs, specific to the pain condition, are under development, said Dr. Peter Goadsby, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who worked on both studies.

Right now, he said, the drugs used to prevent migraines are all older medications that were originally developed to treat other conditions. They include certain antidepressants, high blood pressure medications and anti-seizure drugs.

In contrast, the experimental medications aimed at CGRP are the first “designer drugs” for preventing migraine, said Dr. Richard Lipton, a headache expert who was not involved in the studies.

These early findings are “very encouraging,” said Lipton, who directs the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City. “To me, this proves the concept that targeting CGRP can be effective,” he said.

However, larger, longer-term studies are still needed to confirm the drugs’ effectiveness and safety, Lipton and Goadsby said.

The trial testing ALD403, the IV drug, included 163 patients who were randomly assigned to receive either a single dose of the drug or a placebo infusion. Before treatment, all of the patients were suffering migraines five to 14 days out of every month.

Five to eight weeks later, patients given the drug were having 5.6 fewer “migraine days” per month on average — a 66 percent drop. The placebo group also saw an improvement, of 4.6 fewer migraine days. Still, the benefit of the drug was significant in statistical terms, Lipton pointed out.

In the other trial, 217 patients received either the injection drug — by the name of LY2951742 — or a placebo, biweekly for 12 weeks.

Again, both groups got some migraine relief, but the benefit was bigger for patients on the real drug. They had 4.2 fewer migraine days a month, or a 63 percent decline. The placebo patients had three fewer migraine days, or a 42 percent decrease.

Some big questions remain, however. Researchers have to figure out how long the effects of the medications last, and how often they would need to be given, Goadsby said.

In the short term, the drugs seemed “well tolerated,” Lipton said. People in the injection-drug trial had higher rates of abdominal pain and respiratory infections than the placebo group. And in the IV-drug study, people on the real drug had no more side effects than the placebo group.

Still, Lipton said, “a lot more people need to be followed to prove [the drugs'] safety.”

He acknowledged that some patients might balk at the idea of an IV drug, which would have to be given by a doctor. An injection drug might be more acceptable, he said.

About 12 percent of Americans suffer migraine headaches, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Many of them can manage with pain relievers, but about one-third need preventive medication, Lipton said.

However, he added, only around 10 percent take preventive drugs, often because they don’t work or the side effects are intolerable. “There’s a huge need for new preventive medications,” Lipton said.

The current studies were funded by Alder Biopharmaceuticals, which is developing ALD403, and Arteaus Therapeutics, the developer of LY2951742.

Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on migraines.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Low Blood Sugar May Affect Heartbeat in People With Diabetes

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:37

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Low blood sugar levels — known as hypoglycemia — in people with diabetes may cause potentially dangerous changes in heart rate, according to a small new study.

This study’s findings may help explain why a large-scale study found that very tight control of blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes led to higher-than-expected death rates. It may also help explain why some otherwise healthy people with type 1 diabetes die during their sleep — sometimes called “dead-in-bed syndrome” — without an apparent cause, researchers say.

“We found that hypoglycemia was fairly common and that nocturnal episodes in particular were generally marked by a pattern whereby glucose levels dropped to low levels for some hours during which patients slept,” said Dr. Simon Heller, senior study author and a professor of clinical diabetes and honorary consultant physician at the University of Sheffield, in England.

“These periods of hypoglycemia were associated with a high risk of marked slow heart rates [bradycardia] accompanied by [abnormal] beats. We have therefore identified a mechanism which might contribute to increased mortality in individuals with type 2 diabetes and high cardiovascular risk during intensive insulin therapy,” Heller said.

Low blood sugar levels are not uncommon in people with diabetes, a disease that can produce dangerously high blood sugar levels. That’s because the very treatments that can help prevent high blood sugar levels — and the serious complications that accompany long-term high blood sugar levels — can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low.

Although some oral diabetes medications can cause low blood sugar levels, the most common treatment to drop blood sugar levels too low is insulin. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps usher sugar into cells to be used as fuel.

“Your body needs fuel to survive and run properly,” said Dr. Simon Fisher, an associate professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology at Washington University in St. Louis. “During hypoglycemia, the body is low on energy. When hypoglycemia is more severe, the brain [which runs on sugar] can get confused and stop functioning. If the blood sugar gets low enough, hypoglycemia can be fatal.”

Fisher is also a co-author of an editorial accompanying the study in the May issue of Diabetes.

Low blood sugar is a well-recognized problem for people with type 1 diabetes, who must take multiple daily injections of insulin because their bodies no longer produce the hormone, according to study author Heller. But, low blood sugar generally isn’t considered to be as significant a problem in type 2 diabetes, noted Heller, who added that the researchers were somewhat surprised to see that people with type 2 diabetes had low blood sugar levels about 10 percent of the time.

The study included 25 people with type 2 diabetes who had a known risk of heart disease. Their average age was 64 years. They were all being treated with insulin, and had been on insulin therapy for at least four years.

All of the study volunteers were monitored with a continuous glucose monitor for five days, as well as a 12-lead Holter monitor that captured heart activity. Both of these devices are portable, which allowed the study volunteers to carry on with normal daily activities.

Overall, the researchers recorded 1,258 hours of time with normal blood sugar levels, 65 hours with high blood sugar levels and 134 hours of low blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar was defined as a blood sugar of less than 63 milligrams per deciliter. These low blood sugar levels often went unrecognized, according to the study.

The risk of a slow heart rate was eight times higher when blood sugar was low at night compared to when it was normal. Slow heart rates didn’t occur during the day, according to the study. Other types of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) were also significantly higher at night when blood sugar was low compared to when blood sugar was normal. No irregular heartbeats occurred when low blood sugar symptoms were felt by the study participants.

“This study noted that spontaneous insulin-induced episodes of hypoglycemia were associated with asymptomatic mild heart arrhythmias. We have performed similar studies in animals, and noted similar arrhythmias during insulin-induced hypoglycemia,” Fisher said.

“However, in animal studies, when blood sugar became severely low, more severe abnormal cardiac rhythms — in other words, fatal heart rhythms — were noted. So, based on existing animal and human data, we speculate that severe hypoglycemia-induced arrhythmias may contribute to sudden death in patients with insulin-treated diabetes,” Fisher said.

He continued, “Nocturnal hypoglycemia is a major problem. People are less likely to wake up and treat their hypoglycemia at night. They’re less likely to appreciate the normal warning symptoms of hypoglycemia because the entire sympathetic response is relatively blunted at night.”

While the study found an association between low blood sugar levels and abnormal heart rhythms in people with type 2 diabetes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Another expert said the new findings highlight the dangers of hypoglycemia.

“This study suggests that the deeper the hypoglycemia, the more abnormal the heart rhythms. There seems to be some real scientific plausibility that recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia can cause abnormal disturbances of the heart. Each episode of hypoglycemia may have some element of risk,” said Dr. John Anderson, the immediate past president of the American Diabetes Association.

“It may be that tight control of blood sugar might not be as important as safe control of blood sugar. Avoiding severe hypoglycemia should be a primary goal of therapy, especially for those who have a lot of risk for heart disease. That’s why the American Diabetes Association said in 2012 that glycemic goals should be individualized. And, if you have to use insulin, avoiding those 3 a.m. hypoglycemias may be even more important,” Anderson said.

In addition to changing target blood sugar goals, Anderson and Fisher both said that the use of a continuous glucose monitor with alarms could also help people avoid low blood sugar levels in the middle of the night. “[Continuous glucose monitoring] isn’t thought of as much for the type 2 population. But, there are a lot of people with type 2 diabetes on insulin who have cardiovascular disease. This might be a prudent use of [continuous glucose monitoring],” Anderson said.

Fisher agreed, noting, “Technology — like [continuous glucose monitors] and insulin pumps — may be able to decrease the number of hypoglycemic episodes while still allowing patients to maintain tight glycemic control.”

More information

Learn more about hypoglycemia from the American Diabetes Association.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Glaucoma Drug May Help Reverse Obesity-Related Vision Loss

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:37

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A drug used to treat glaucoma eye disease can also help people with vision loss linked to obesity, a new study reveals.

Researchers examined the effectiveness of the inexpensive drug, called acetazolamide (Diamox), in women and men with the condition known as “idiopathic intracranial hypertension.” According to the researchers, the disorder primarily affects overweight women of reproductive age, and 5 percent to 10 percent of women with it suffer disabling vision loss.

This study included 161 women and four men with idiopathic intracranial hypertension and mild vision loss. The investigators found that adding acetazolamide to a weight-loss plan featuring calorie reduction, lowered salt intake and exercise boosted vision improvement in these patients.

Specifically, the vision of those who took the drug improved twice as much after six months compared to those who took an inactive placebo, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute-funded study published April 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Our results show that acetazolamide can help preserve and actually restore vision for women with [idiopathic intracranial hypertension] when combined with a moderate but comprehensive dietary and lifestyle modification plan,” Dr. Michael Wall, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, said in a National Eye Institute (NEI) news release.

Doctors need more guidance in treating this condition, another expert noted.

“The vision problems associated with this condition can be extremely debilitating, at significant cost to patients and the health care system. Yet there are no established treatment guidelines. We made it a priority to develop an evidence-based treatment for helping patients keep their vision,” Eleanor Schron, director of clinical applications at NEI, said in the news release.

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension occurs when increased pressure within the fluid-filled spaces inside and around the brain causes swelling and damage to the optic nerve, according to the news release. Common symptoms include headache and eye problems such as blind spots, poor side vision, double vision and temporary spells of blindness.

Acetazolamide reduces fluid production in the brain and is often used as an additional treatment — along with weight loss — for people with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. However, there has been little evidence that the drug is effective in such cases.

About 100,000 Americans have idiopathic intracranial hypertension, according to the news release, and that number is rising due to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more about idiopathic intracranial hypertension.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Stress May Make Your Allergy Symptoms Worse

Tue, 2014-04-22 10:56

 

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Stress may trigger symptom flare-ups in people with seasonal allergies, a new study suggests.

Researchers followed 179 people with hay fever for 12 weeks, and found that 39 percent of them had more than one flare-up. Those patients had higher levels of stress than those who didn’t have allergy symptoms during the study period.

Sixty-four percent of the participants with higher stress levels had more than four flare-ups over two 14-day periods, according to the findings in the April issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

There was no significant link between stress and flare-ups on the same day, but a number of people had flare-ups within days of experiencing increased daily stress, the researchers said.

“Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers,” study author Dr. Amber Patterson, of Ohio State University, said in a journal news release. “Our study also found those with more frequent allergy flares also have a greater negative mood, which may be leading to these flares,” she added.

“Symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes can cause added stress for allergy sufferers, and may even be the root of stress for some,” Patterson said. “While alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms.”

Although the study found an association between stress levels and severity of allergy symptoms, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Ways to reduce and control stress include: meditation and deep breathing; making time for fun and relaxation; eating right, getting sufficient sleep and taking care of health issues; asking for help from a family member, co-worker or social worker; and eliminating things that cause stress and learning how to cope with it better.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about seasonal allergies.


Categories: Health & Fitness

More People Worldwide Eating ‘Healthy’ Fats, Study Finds

Tue, 2014-04-22 10:46

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Levels of healthy fats in people’s diets worldwide increased over the past two decades, while their intake of harmful fats stayed about the same, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data on consumption of fats and oils in 266 countries between 1990 and 2010. During that time, overall intake of omega-6, seafood omega-3 and plant omega-3 rose, while consumption of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and trans fat remained stable.

The Harvard School of Public Health-led study was written on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group. It was published online April 15 in the BMJ and appears in the April 19 print issue.

Saturated fats can be found in foods such as high-fat cheeses, high-fat meat cuts, cream and whole-fat milk, ice cream products, and palm and coconut oils, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends cutting back on saturated fats.

Global saturated fat intake averaged 9.4 percent in 2010, but there were wide variations between countries, ranging from 2.3 percent to 27.5 percent, the new study found.

The highest levels of saturated fat consumption were in Samoa, Kiribati and other palm-oil producing island nations, along with Sri Lanka, Romania and Malaysia. The lowest intake was in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bolivia, Bhutan and Pakistan, according to a Harvard news release.

Naturally occurring trans fats are found in smaller amounts in dairy products and fatty parts of meat. Americans continue to consume high levels of artificial trans fat in fried foods, savory snacks, frozen pizzas, cake, cookies, pie, margarine and spreads, frosting and coffee creamers, according to the CDC, which also recommends reducing trans fat intake.

Global trans fat intake was 1.4 percent and ranged from 0.2 percent to 6.5 percent among countries, the new study found. Worldwide cholesterol intake was 228 milligrams (mg) per day, but ranged from 97 mg to 440 mg per day.

The CDC recommends that people get most of their dietary fat, including omega-6s and omega-3s, from sources such as nuts, vegetable oils and fish.

In the study, intake of seafood omega-3s was 163 mg per day worldwide, but varied from 5 mg to 3,886 mg per day among countries, researchers found. Higher levels of intake were in Maldives, Barbados, the Seychelles, Iceland, Malaysia, Thailand, Denmark, South Korea and Japan.

Very low levels of seafood-omega-3s intake were found in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, some Asian regions and the Middle East. These regions have 3 billion adults and account for nearly 67 percent of the world’s adult population, the news release noted.

In most nations and regions, men and women had similar intake levels of fats and oils. Women generally consumed slightly more saturated fat and plant omega-3s than men. Younger people generally consumed more trans fats, while older people typically consumed more dietary cholesterol and seafood omega-3 fats, the study found.

It’s believed that poor diet is the leading modifiable cause of poor health worldwide. By 2020, poor diet will likely play a role in about 75 percent of all deaths from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about dietary fats.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Fear Won’t Boost Exam Scores: Study

Tue, 2014-04-22 09:37

TUESDAY, April 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Students can’t be scared into doing well on final exams, a new study shows.

In fact, reminding them of the consequences of doing poorly on an exam could result in lower scores, the British researchers added.

The study included 347 students, average age 15, in the U.K. who were in an 18-month study program for an exam they had to take to achieve a certificate that is the equivalent of a high school diploma in the United States.

They received both negative and encouraging messages from their teachers before the exam. An example of a fear-based message was: “If you fail the exam, you will never be able to get a good job or go to college. You need to work hard in order to avoid failure.”

An example of a success-focused message was: “The exam is really important as most jobs that pay well require that you pass and if you want to go to college you will also need to pass the exam,” according to the study published online April 15 in the journal School Psychology Quarterly.

“Both messages highlight to students the importance of effort and provide a reason for striving. Where these messages differ is some focus on the possibility of success while others stress the need to avoid failure,” study author David Putwain, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England, said in a journal news release.

In the study, students who felt threatened by teachers’ failure-focused messages felt less motivated to do well and had lower exam scores than those whose teachers used fewer fear tactics.

“Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways,” Putwain said.

“Psychologists who work in or with schools can help teachers consider the types of messages they use in the classroom by emphasizing how their messages influence students in both positive and negative ways and by recommending they consider the messages they currently use and their possible consequences,” he suggested.

“Teachers should plan what types of messages would be the most effective and how they could be incorporated into the lesson plans,” Putwain added.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for school success.


Categories: Health & Fitness