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Acetaminophen May Not Help Against Back Pain, Study Contends

Wed, 2014-07-23 16:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Even though its use is often advised by doctors, the painkiller acetaminophen — best known as Tylenol — does not help treat lower back pain, according to a new Australian study.

The researchers found the drug was no more effective than a dummy pill for more than 1,600 people suffering from acute lower back pain.

Besides showing no effect in easing discomfort, the study also found the drug was no help in improving sleep woes tied to back pain, nor did it improve patients’ overall quality of life.

The research team said the findings call into question the belief that acetaminophen should be the first choice when treating this common form of back pain.

The drug “might not be of primary importance in the management of acute lower back pain,” study lead author Dr. Christopher Williams from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a news release from the journal The Lancet.

The study was published online in the July 23 issue of the journal.

However, one expert said it’s probably too early to abandon acetaminophen for lower back pain.

“While this is a fascinating study, it is only one study and shouldn’t change clinical behavior,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, director of Integrative Pain Management and assistant professor of anesthesiology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

For its part, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes Tylenol, said doctors need to consider “the entire body of scientific evidence when making recommendations or changing guidelines.” The company said that
“the safety and efficacy profile of acetaminophen is supported by more than 150 studies over the past 50 years.”

The new study involved more than 1,650 people averaging 45 years of age. All had suffered lower back pain and were treated at 235 different primary care facilities throughout Sydney. Each person was randomly assigned to take either three doses of acetaminophen daily (a total of 3,990 milligrams) for up to four weeks, or a placebo pill.

The researchers pointed out the maximum daily dose of the drug is 4,000 milligrams (mg).

All of the patients received follow-up “reassurance and advice” from a doctor for three months.

According to the study, there were no differences in the amount of time it took any of the patients involved in the study to feel better. The median time to recovery for those taking acetaminophen was 17 days, compared to 16 days for patients in the placebo group.

The drug also appeared to have no effect on the patients’ level of pain, compared to people who took the dummy pill, the researchers noted. Acetaminophen also did not improve patients’ level of disability, sleep quality or quality of life. About the same number of patients in each group experienced negative health issues, the study found.

The researchers suggested that the medical reassurance the patients received during the study — something many won’t get in a “real world” setting — could have had a more significant effect on their lower back pain than the medication.

“It would be interesting to see whether advice and reassurance [as provided in our trial] might be more effective than pharmacological strategies for acute episodes of low-back pain,” Williams said.

Another expert agreed that encouragement and counseling can be key.

Everyone involved in the study received ongoing ” ‘good-quality advice and reassurance,’ which appears to be a big factor in recovery,” said Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky, a physiatrist and specialist in pain relief at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“In my opinion, positive reinforcement about treatments — including medications and physical therapy — in the management of low back pain is vital to a quicker and successful recovery,” he added.

Both Danesh and Mizhiritsky also took issue with some of the study’s methods.

“The drawback I see is there was no group that did not receive any treatment — meaning there could be a placebo effect” at work, Mizhiritsky said.

And Danesh said people could still get relief from acetaminophen/Tylenol — just not the kind of relief outlined in the study.

“The criteria was to be pain-free for seven continuous days when using Tylenol,” he pointed out. “It does not address if Tylenol will give you a few hours of relief or a few days.”

In the meantime, the prognosis for most people with lower back pain is actually quite good, Danesh stressed.

“Most back pain patients improve in 6-8 weeks,” he said. “It is important to note that the best treatment of back pain involves not only pain medication, but also physical therapy to address muscle imbalances. Acupuncture for back pain has also been researched by the U.S. National Institute of Health, and after reviewing the literature they state that there is evidence to support the use of acupuncture for back pain.”

The study was partially funded by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline Australia. HealthDay reached out for comment to McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the makers of Tylenol, but did not receive a reply.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides more information on lower back pain.


Categories: Health & Fitness

What You Need to Know About Caffeine Powder

Wed, 2014-07-23 15:09

Photo: Getty Images

Everyone knows the caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea can offer a much-needed boost of energy. But one substance is taking that jolt to a scarier level. If you haven’t heard of caffeine powder, it’s made headlines recently after the FDA advised people not to buy it.

The statement came in response to an Ohio teenager’s death from a caffeine powder overdose in May. Eighteen-year-old Logan Stiner was just days shy of graduating high school when he was found unconscious. Investigators said Stiner had toxic levels of the powder in his system which led to irregular heartbeat and seizures, USA Today reports.

RELATED: 4 Health Benefits of Coffee

Caffeine powder is sold online as a dietary supplement and should be measured with a micro-scale because the serving sizes are so small—and potent. One serving of caffeine powder is usually about one-sixteenth of a teaspoon, which contains about 250 milligrams of caffeine or the amount in a small cup of coffee, USA Today reports.

RELATED: 11 Ways to Boost Your Energy With Food

But ingesting a little too much caffeine powder isn’t the same as drinking one too many cups of Joe. Since it’s so concentrated (it’s basically pure caffeine), even amounts that look small to you could be lethal. The FDA warns that just a single teaspoon of powder contains roughly the same amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee. That amount can lead to an overdose, causing severe side effects like erratic heartbeat, seizures, and death. Caffeine toxicity can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, stupor, and disorientation.

RELATED: 14 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time

The FDA says it’s considering regulating caffeine powder but in the meantime, check out these 8 tips to boost your energy naturally like working out or getting outdoors.


Categories: Health & Fitness

What NOT To Wear to a CrossFit Class

Wed, 2014-07-23 14:56

Photo: Courtesy of Tina Haupert

As you flick through the channels this weekend, you might stumble upon some strong men and women pushing, pulling, and lifting seriously heavy weights. Friday marks the start of the Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, California, and these athletes might just inspire you to step into a CrossFit gym, a.k.a. a box, for the first time.

RELATED: How to Become an Exercise Addict

If you’re thinking about giving CrossFit a try, you might have some questions about what to expect at your first class. Will the workouts be too hard? Will you fit in with the other members? How will you learn all of that crazy CrossFit lingo?

Starting Crossfit, like any new fitness regimen, can seem overwhelming if you’re not prepared. Take some of the uncertainty out of your first workout by knowing what to wear—or better yet, what NOT to wear. That way, you’ll feel less like a newbie and ready to get after it.

Running shoes

Running shoes are great for running, but they’re not great for CrossFit. The cushy, gel-filled soles of standard running sneakers reduce the impact of pounding the pavement, but they impair good lifting technique. Many CrossFit workouts involve some sort of weight lifting where you need a stable base to perform the movements safely and correctly. The soles of running shoes are squishy and can lift your heels further off the ground, so they make it difficult to balance, especially when it comes to heavier weights. Instead of running sneakers, select a minimalist-type of shoe with a lower profile, like the Reebok Nano 4.0, for better contract with the ground to give you increased stability.

RELATED: 12 Sports Bras for All Body Types

Loose pants and shirts

Baggy pants and shirts could get caught on barbells and other equipment during a workout, so it’s better to wear more fitted gear. Plus, with dynamic and sometimes inverted movements like jumping rope and handstand push-ups, you don’t want your shirt flying up and distracting you from your workout.

White or light-colored clothing

CrossFit tends to be a dirty sport, especially when it comes to movements like Burpees, sit-ups, and hollow rocks, when you’re continuously doing exercises on the ground. Plus activities like running with sandbags over your shoulders and flipping tires (yes, real tires!) will leave your clothing marked-up and dirty. Avoid staining your clothing by not wearing white or light-colored clothing for these types of workouts.

RELATED: 5 Things You Should Never Wear to the Gym

Rings

Performing lots of reps with equipment like barbells, kettlebells, and pull-up bars can really take a toll on your rings–not to mention your fingers! The constant rubbing of metal on metal can wear down and erode them, so leave your rings at home to keep them looking great.

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Good Odds for Those Who Need Bone Marrow Donor, Study Finds

Wed, 2014-07-23 14:37

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Most blood cancer patients in the United States who need a bone marrow transplant can find an acceptable match through the National Marrow Donor Program, a new study has determined.

Depending on a patient’s race or ethnic background, the study found that 66 percent to 97 percent of patients will have a suitably matched and available live donor on the registry.

Even hard-to-match ethnic groups can find a suitable donation thanks to banked stem cells drawn from umbilical cord-blood donations, said senior author Martin Maiers, director of bioinformatics research at the National Marrow Donor Program.

All told, for patients who are candidates for either bone marrow or cord-blood transplants, the likelihood of having a suitable match is as high as 91 to 99 percent, the study found.

“For almost all patients, there is some sort of product available for them,” Maiers said.

The findings, said to represent the first attempt to accurately determine the successful-match rate of the bone marrow registry, are published July 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients suffering from blood-related cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma need a stem cell transplant to help them survive their cancer treatment. The transplant is done after chemotherapy and radiation is complete.

Donation from a relative is the best option, but only about 30 percent of patients have such a donor available, researchers said in background notes. The majority must rely on the National Marrow Donor Program to match them with a live bone marrow donor or banked stem cells gathered from donated umbilical cord blood.

The National Marrow Donor Program has on hand 11 million potential bone marrow donors and 193,000 banked cord-blood donations. The number of transplants facilitated by the program has quadrupled, with nearly 6,000 transplants in 2012 compared with 1,500 a decade earlier.

Researchers from the program assessed match rates using genetic data from the bone marrow registry. Models based on U.S. population genetics allowed them to predict the likelihood that a suitable adult donor or banked cord-blood donation could be identified for patients from 21 racial and ethnic groups.

Perfect genetic matches from adult bone marrow donors are available for 75 percent of white patients, but for a much smaller percentage of black and Hispanic patients, the investigators found.

For example, blacks have a 19 percent chance of finding a perfect match through the registry, while Hispanics have a 34 percent likelihood of a match.

But medical science has made it possible for patients to successfully receive a transplant from a bone marrow donor who is closely but not perfectly matched. Using close matches, the likelihood of finding a live donor increases to 97 percent for white patients, 76 percent for black patients and 80 percent for Hispanic patients, the study found.

“Depending on your ethnicity, if you’re a white European, you have a high likelihood of getting a high-degree match,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “By the same token, for almost everyone, we will be able to find at least a suitable match. We can help almost everyone.”

Stem cells drawn from umbilical cord blood further widen the field of possible donations, the researchers said. Because stem cells are more flexible, they do not require as precise a match for successful transplantation.

Depending on the ethnic group, the study authors found that between 81 percent to 99 percent of patients will have at least one matched cord-blood unit.

Because a less-than-perfect match is available for everyone, physicians should identify the best available donor from the registry and proceed to transplant rather than wait for a perfect match, Maiers said.

“Transplant early, because the likelihood of the ‘miracle match’ coming through the door while the patient is waiting is very low,” he said.

The data also shows the need to recruit more donors from American ethnic populations, to increase the chances of a suitable and available match, Maiers and Lichtenfeld said.

“Those are clearly areas that can be targeted for increased donation, so we can offer for those communities the same opportunities that are available in the white European community,” Lichtenfeld said.

More information

For more about bone marrow and umbilical cord-blood donations, visit the National Marrow Donor Program.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Many U.S. Male Soldiers Had Troubled Childhoods, Study Finds

Wed, 2014-07-23 14:37

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — U.S. servicemen are more likely to have been exposed to some form of childhood trauma than their civilian counterparts, a large, new survey suggests.

The finding seems to apply solely to military men, not women.

The research team suggested that the finding could be a cause for concern, given that early childhood exposure to various forms of physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse among the civilian population has been linked to a higher adult risk for depression, drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.

“At this point, we are not clear what may be driving the higher percentage [of childhood trauma],” said study author John Blosnich, a researcher with the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System. “This first study is only a signal that showed there was difference. [And] as with many initial studies like this, it raises more questions than it answers.”

Blosnich and his colleagues report their findings online July 23 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

To explore the prevalence of childhood trauma among members of the military, the study authors analyzed telephone interviews conducted throughout 2010 among nearly 61,000 men and women by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

One-quarter of the men and 2 percent of the women had a military background.

All were asked to recount negative childhood events experienced before the age of 18, including: living with a person who was depressed, mentally ill or suicidal; living with an alcohol or drug abuser; living with someone who had been in prison; living in a separated or divorced household; witnessing parental violence; and/or being subject to physical, verbal or sexual abuse.

By all measures, men who had voluntarily served in the military after 1973 were more likely to have lived through a negative childhood experience.

For example, those with a post-1973 military background were twice as likely to have experienced various forms of childhood sexual abuse.

In contrast, almost no differences were seen when comparing non-military men with men whose military career unfolded pre-1973, when the draft mandated military service. The exception: drug use in their childhood home was actually significantly less common among pre-1973 military men relative to their non-military peers.

Among women, differences were not so apparent, regardless of whether they served before or after 1973. The exception: volunteer servicewomen were more likely to say they had been touched sexually as a child.

The study authors suggested that the findings might reflect an attraction to the military among men searching for a way out of a difficult situation.

Regardless, Blosnich said it remains to be seen whether the greater propensity of childhood trauma among male service members actually translates into long-term trouble down the road. In fact, he noted that “associations between adverse childhood experiences and adverse outcomes previously observed among the general public have not, as yet, been definitively established in military populations.”

“Traditionally, those who serve in our nation’s military have better health than those without comparable service history,” he added. “[So] it is possible that the education, training, structure and fellowship of the military may help to buffer those negative early life experiences.”

Christopher Wildeman, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, pointed out some caveats in the findings.

“In terms of whether this all implies that somehow the military is staffed with so-called ‘damaged goods,’ I would say it’s critical to drive home the point that even if a quarter of military men have experienced an adverse event during childhood, that still means that fully three in four did not,” he said.

“I’d also say that this study doesn’t suggest exactly how traumatic these events were, or how consistently they were experienced, which is not to minimize the experiences, but just to know that numbers don’t always speak to the nature of what happened,” Wildeman noted.

“And in terms of what could explain this, my sense is that as a rough estimate probably three-quarters of the difference is driven by differences in socioeconomic backgrounds, meaning disadvantaged households,” he said. “And selection into the military on the basis of socioeconomic disadvantage and hardship is broadly well known.”

“And if you perhaps pair that with parenting styles that emphasize toughness and resilience and making it through adversity, it might explain why you’d end up with kids who have a rough childhood but who are also more excited and prepared for military service as a result,” Wildeman continued. “It’s complicated. And we don’t know. But it makes some sense.”

More information

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of mental health services for soldiers.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Painful, Itchy Patches Could Be Sign of Skin Cancer

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Painful or itchy skin lesions could be a warning sign of skin cancer, researchers report.

“Patients sometimes have multiple lesions that are suspicious looking, and those that are itchy or painful should raise high concerns for non-melanoma skin cancers,” study author Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, chairman of dermatology at Temple University School of Medicine, said in a Temple University Health System news release.

Researchers looked at the medical records of 268 patients who were confirmed to have skin cancer lesions between 2010 and 2011. The patients were treated at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and had almost 350 lesions in total.

The patients answered questions about the levels of pain and itchiness in their lesions. More than one-third of the skin cancer lesions itched, according to the study. Just under 30 percent were painful. Many people reported that their lesions were both painful and itchy.

Melanoma lesions were the least likely to be painful or itchy. Other skin cancers, especially basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, were more likely to be itchy or painful, the findings showed. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more dangerous, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The study highlights the importance of a simple bedside evaluation for the presence and intensity of pain or itch as an easily implementable tool for clinicians in evaluating suspicious skin lesions,” the study authors wrote.

Yosipovitch hopes the study will encourage the development of a ranking scale to help doctors use the symptoms of pain or itch — or both — to figure out whether patients have skin cancer.

The study appears in the July 23 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

More information

For more about skin cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Routine Pulse Check May Prevent Second Stroke, Study Says

Wed, 2014-07-23 13:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Regularly checking the pulse of a stroke survivor may help prevent another stroke, researchers report.

“Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking for irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 who have never had a stroke. Our study shows it may be a safe, effective, noninvasive and easy way to identify people who might need more thorough monitoring to prevent a second stroke,” said study author Dr. Bernd Kallmunzer, of Erlangen University in Germany.

The study included more than 250 people who survived an ischemic stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain). Either the patients or their relatives were taught how to monitor the pulse to detect an irregular heartbeat.

Pulse checks taken by patients and relatives were nearly as accurate as those taken by health care workers, according to the study published online July 23 in the journal Neurology.

The pulse readings taken by the participants and health care professionals were compared to readings of electrical activity in the heart, which showed that 57 of the patients had irregular heartbeats.

Pulse measurements taken by relatives had a sensitivity of 77 percent and a specificity of 93 percent, compared with about 97 percent and 94 percent, respectively, for health care workers.

Sensitivity is the percentage of positive findings that are correctly identified. Specificity is the percentage of negative findings that are correctly identified.

Among patients who did their own pulse checks, 89 percent provided reliable results, with a sensitivity of 54 percent and specificity of 96 percent. False positives occurred in six patients and false negatives in 17 patients.

“The low rate of false positives in this study shows that health care professionals, caregivers and patients can be guided to use this simple tool as a first step in helping to prevent a second stroke,” Kallmunzer said in a journal news release.

More information

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


Categories: Health & Fitness

Cystic Fibrosis Drug Combo May Be Less Effective Than Hoped

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:37

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A powerful drug combo may not be as effective against cystic fibrosis as previously thought. New lab research on human cells suggests that one of the medications might stop the other from working properly.

However, this study’s findings aren’t definitive, and there’s still hope for the medications known as ivacaftor (brand name Kalydeco) and lumacaftor, according to the study’s senior author.

“The development of drugs like ivacaftor and lumacaftor is undoubtedly a step forward, but our study suggests that more work will need to be done before we can realize the full potential of these drugs,” said Martina Gentzsch, an assistant professor with the department of cell biology and physiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“Fortunately, we now have a better understanding of some of the potential pitfalls to these drug combinations and a means to test alternative strategies to make these drugs more effective,” said Gentzsch.

Alan Smyth, a professor of child health and division head at the University of Nottingham in England, cautioned that initial research in people, not on cells in the laboratory as was done here, was more promising. The drug combo seems to work, he said, and newer drugs of a similar type may help scientists improve on their performance.

Cystic fibrosis affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It’s an inherited disease that disrupts cells in the lungs and the pancreas, causing mucus to become thick and sticky. The mucus builds up, causing breathing and digestion problems.

“Existing medications target only the symptoms of cystic fibrosis but not the cause of the disease,” Gentzsch said. “As a result, they may lead to improvement but do not prevent the overall slow progression of lung disease over time. In addition, many current therapies are time-consuming and can be more difficult to use in young children.”

A newer drug known by the brand name Kalydeco targets a protein that doesn’t work properly in certain people with cystic fibrosis. Researchers have praised the medication, but it only works in an estimated 5 percent of patients who have a specific genetic variation.

The big question is whether Kalydeco and a drug that’s in development known as lumacaftor might provide a one-two punch to treat the wide majority of cystic fibrosis patients. If the combo worked, as some short-term studies have suggested, “the hope would be that disease progression would be slowed and that patients would live longer, healthier lives,” Gentzsch said.

But the new study raises doubts. The researchers tested the drugs on epithelial cells, which are found in much of the body, and found evidence that Kalydeco actually reverses some of the effects of lumacaftor. “This is consistent with results reported from recent clinical trials that showed meaningful but modest improvements in lung function in patients treated with this drug combination,” Gentzsch said.

Scientists believe Kalydeco helps water escape cells so it can moisten mucus, while lumacaftor paves the way for liquid to get where it’s supposed to go. But the study suggests Kalydeco disables some of lumacaftor’s effects.

Gentzsch said other medications and other combinations of treatments could indeed benefit patients. Future research into how they affect specific types of patients could lead to more insight into whether they’re worthwhile treatments, she said.

The study appears in the July 23 issue of Science Translational Medicine. It was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Else Kroner-Fresenius Foundation.

More information

For more details about cystic fibrosis, visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Gene Study Gives New Insight Into Puberty in Girls

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:37

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The timing of a girl’s first menstrual period may be determined by hundreds, and possibly thousands, of gene variations, a new study suggests.

Researchers have identified over 100 regions of DNA that are connected to the timing of menarche — a woman’s first menstrual period. The researchers hope these findings will shed light on the biology of a number of diseases ranging from type 2 diabetes to breast cancer.

“These findings will provide additional insights into how puberty timing is linked to the risk of disease in later life,” said lead researcher John Perry, a senior scientist at the University of Cambridge MRC epidemiology unit, in the United Kingdom.

“We hope that with the help of future studies, this will in turn lead to better understanding of the underlying biology behind diseases such as type 2 diabetes and breast cancer,” Perry said.

Earlier puberty has been linked to increased risks of some of the most common health problems today, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. Although estrogen levels are thought to be involved, the full reasons for the connection between menarche and health conditions later in life aren’t clear.

The new study found that some of the gene regions linked to menarche overlap with genes tied to hormone production, body weight, weight at birth, adulthood height and bone density — among other things.

Perry and his colleagues report the findings in the July 23 online issue of Nature.

Combing through data on more than 180,000 women, the researchers found that girls vary widely in the age at which they start menstruating. Some start as early as age 8, while others start in high school. Exercise levels, nutrition and body weight are all influences, but there are probably many other factors involved, too, Perry pointed out.

“We identified over 100 regions of the genome that were associated with puberty timing,” he said. “However, our analyses suggest there are likely to be thousands of gene variants — and possibly genes — involved.”

The implication, Perry said, is that “puberty timing is a much more complex process than we might have originally thought.”

Dr. Patricia Vuguin, a pediatric endocrinologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., agreed. “Many of these (genes) are completely novel and have never been associated with puberty before,” said Vuguin, who was not involved in the study.

Right now, she noted, there is a lot of interest in the factors that influence the timing of puberty — in part, because children these days are starting puberty at an earlier age, compared with a few decades ago.

The rising tide of childhood obesity is considered a key reason, but studies have found that it’s not the whole story.

Often, Vuguin said, parents think if they change something in their child’s diet — like feeding them only organic foods — that will ensure a “healthy” age at puberty.

“But this (study) is saying, it’s not that simple,” Vuguin said. “It’s not only about body fat, or about what you eat. It’s much more complicated than that.”

One of the big discoveries, according to Perry, was that a “special set” of genes, known as imprinted genes, may help govern puberty timing. With most genes, we inherit one copy from each parent, and both of those copies are active. Imprinted genes are different; only the copy from one parent is active, while the other is “silent.”

Researchers have thought that imprinted genes were important only before birth, for fetal growth and development.

“Our study supports the idea that these genes continue to play a role in later-life health and disease,” Perry said.

Both he and Vuguin described this study as a first step toward understanding the biology that links puberty timing and health later in life.

One of the limitations of the work is that all of the women were of European descent. But, Perry said he would expect the genes and underlying biology to be “very similar” in women of all races and ethnicities — and his team is currently studying that question.

More information

Read more about puberty in girls from girlshealth.gov.


Categories: Health & Fitness

HIV Meds May Also Help Control Hepatitis C, Study Finds

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — For patients infected with both HIV and hepatitis C, HIV antiretroviral therapy may help control both viruses, a small study suggests.

Researchers said doctors could use their findings to improve treatment strategies for people with the two diseases.

“The findings suggest that HIV suppression with antiretroviral medications plays an important role in the management of individuals with [hepatitis C] and HIV infection,” said study leader Dr. Kenneth Sherman, a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “It supports the concept that in those with HCV/HIV infection, early and uninterrupted HIV therapy is a critical part of preventing liver disease.”

The researchers conducted the study to address concerns that treating patients who have HIV — the AIDS-causing virus — and hepatitis C with HIV antiretroviral therapy would damage the liver and cause more harm than good.

To put this theory to the test, they closely examined 17 patients infected with both viruses for two years. The patients received approved HIV antiretroviral drugs. They were also examined frequently, and their blood was routinely tested to track any changes in the viruses and their immune response.

The findings were published July 23 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Some patients experienced an initial increase in a blood test that shows changes in liver injury, hepatitis C or both in the first 16 weeks of the study.

Over 18 months, however, the study revealed that “viral loads” for hepatitis C dropped back down to levels expected for a patient infected with only hepatitis C and not HIV.

“The drop in [hepatitis C] viral levels was a big surprise, and not what we necessarily expected,” said Sherman in a university news release. “There is a complex interaction of biological effects when patients are infected with both HIV and the hepatitis C virus.” He explained that initially HIV treatment results in a transient increase in hepatitis C viral replication and evidence of liver injury. However, over time, HIV suppression leads to reduced hepatitis C viral replication.

In the United States, up to 300,000 people are infected with both hepatitis C and HIV. Globally, that number increases to between 4 million and 8 million, the researchers said.

Drug makers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences supplied the antiretroviral medications used in the study at no charge. One of the scientists involved in the research, Dr. Judith Feinberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati, is a Bristol-Myers Squibb investigator and speaker.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more information on antiretroviral therapy.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Dogs Can Get Jealous, Too

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) –
Jealousy may not be the sole domain of humans, with new research showing dogs can get downright possessive when it comes to the love of their master.

When their owners showed affection toward what was actually a stuffed dog, the real puppies in the study responded by snapping or pushing the stuffed dog aside, report researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

This jealous streak only surfaced when owners were attending to the stuffed dog and not when they were occupied with random objects. However, this was no ordinary stuffed dog: It was engineered to bark, whine and wag its tail convincingly.

Since jealously is generally believed to be an emotion that requires more complex thinking, the researchers suggested there could be a more basic form of jealousy specific to dogs and some other social animals that helps protect their bonds and ward off outsiders.

“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings — or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” study co-author Christine Harris, a psychology professor at UCSD, said in a university news release. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

As for whether the puppies in the study viewed the stuffed dog as an actual rival, the researchers pointed to this result as evidence that they did: 86 percent of the puppies sniffed the stuffed dog’s rear end.

The study, published July 23 in the journal PLOS ONE, involved 36 puppies. Each dog was just 6 months old. All of the puppies were tested separately and videotaped.

During the test, owners were told to ignore their dog and turn their attention to three different objects. First, the owners attended to the realistic-looking stuffed dog. Then they focused on a pail. The third object in the test was a book.

In observing the dogs’ behavior, the researchers looked for signs of aggression, attention-seeking and interest in their owner or the objects. The test was designed to help the researchers determine if the dogs felt an emotion similar to jealousy, or if they were just generally annoyed when they lost their owners’ attention.

The dogs demonstrated more jealous behaviors when their owner focused on the stuffed dog than when their owner paid attention to the other objects, the study found. These behaviors included trying to come between their owner and the stuffed dog, pushing their owner and snapping when the owners displayed affection toward the stuffed dog.

The researchers concluded a form of primitive jealousy that exists in babies may also exist in at least one other social animal: dogs. This emotion, the study’s authors suggested, may have evolved to help infants compete for resources from their parents, including food, attention, love and care.

More information

The ASPCA provides more information on dog behavior.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Dangerous Use of Growth Hormone Surges Among U.S. Teens

Wed, 2014-07-23 09:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A growing number of U.S. teens are using synthetic human growth hormone (hGH) to boost their muscles and athletic ability, a new study finds.

The percentage of teens who admit to using hGH jumped to 11 percent in 2013 — more than double the 5 percent figure in 2012, the new survey from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids revealed.

The worrisome trend highlights a need for tighter regulation and oversight of performance-enhancing substances and other “fitness” products, the group said.

“These new data point to a troubling development among today’s teens,” Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership said in a group news release. “Young people are seeking out and using performance-enhancing substances like synthetic hGH — and supplements purporting to contain hGH — hoping to improve athletic performance or body appearance without really knowing what substances they are putting into their bodies.”

Another expert agreed the new data is troubling.

“The marked increase in teens’ reported use of performance-enhancing substances such as steroids or synthetic growth hormones over just the last few years cries out for a massive public health campaign to educate them about the catastrophic — and even fatal — potential risks of misusing such products,” said Dr. Patricia Vuguin, a pediatric endocrinologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The body produces human growth hormone naturally, and experts have long known that the hormone is essential for growth and cell production in young people. It also helps regulate body composition, muscle and bone growth.

A synthetic form of this hormone, known as hGH, has been available since 1985, the Partnership noted. Congress has approved certain uses of synthetic hGH, such as for muscle-wasting disease associated with HIV/AIDS, adult deficiency due to rare pituitary tumors and the long-term treatment of short stature in children.

Any off-label use of hGH for other medical conditions is strictly prohibited, however.

People hoping to boost their athletic abilities or enhance their appearance have abused synthetic growth hormone in the past. In order to track the use of hGH and other performance-enhancing substances, the researchers surveyed more than 3,700 high school students. They also questioned 750 parents during in-home interviews.

Although gender did not significantly affect use of synthetic hGH, the study found race and ethnicity did play a role. Black and Hispanic young people reported using synthetic hGH at higher rates than white teens. The researchers found that 15 percent of black teens and 13 percent of Hispanics said they used the substance at least once, compared to 9 percent of white teens.

There was also a strong link between use of hGH and steroids, the study showed. Steroid use among teens also rose from 5 percent in 2009 to 7 percent in 2013.

Using synthetic hGH and other performance-enhancing substances and products poses serious health risks, the study authors warned. There is a largely unregulated marketplace, they noted, involving a variety of products promising to boost muscle mass, athletic performance and physical appearance.

“These are not products that assure safety and efficacy,” Pasierb said. “Prescription and over-the-counter medicines must go through rigorous testing to be proven safe before being sold to the public, but supplement products appear on store shelves without regulation from the Food and Drug Administration and must actually be proven unsafe before being removed from sale,” noted Pasierb.

He said that this “creates a false perception of safety, driving impressionable teens to risk their health with potentially dangerous products that are untested. And while it’s doubtful that all of the teens who reported having used synthetic hGH actually obtained prescribed synthetic human growth hormone, the proliferation of commercially available products that are marketed saying they contain synthetic hGH, or promote the natural production of hGH within the body, is staggering.”

Teens are also more aware of the online marketing of steroids and synthetic hGH than they were two years ago, and less likely to believe their health is at significant risk by using performance-enhancing drugs, the research revealed.

“Given the current regulatory framework of the supplement industry, and the amount of products being marketed and sold online, it is difficult if not impossible to know what exactly is contained in these products teens are consuming,” Pasierb added.

“So the implication for parents, health care professionals, policy makers and regulators is that this is an area of apparently growing interest, involvement and potential danger to teens that calls for serious evaluation of the areas in which current controls on manufacturing and marketing are failing to prevent the use of these products by teens,” he explained.

Young people who do not see these substances as risky are more likely to use them, the study authors cautioned.

The new survey highlights “the need to protect young people from those who would prey on them as easy marketing targets,” Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in the Partnership news release.

Although 58 percent of parents said they’ve talked to their kids about steroids or other performance-enhancing substances, the study revealed that only 3 percent believe their teens have ever used the products. Meanwhile, just 12 percent of teens reported having a discussion with their parents about drugs that included synthetic hGH.

“What I encounter when talking to teens is the significant pressure they feel to excel,” Tyler Hamilton, former professional cyclist and anti-doping advocate, said in the news release.

“Whether it’s in sports, school, social status or appearance, teens feel they need to be better. The study provides a good opportunity for parents and other influential figures in their lives to realize what teens are facing and reinforce a message of unconditional love and acceptance,” added Hamilton, who gave back his Olympic Gold medal after admitting to performance-enhancing drug use throughout his career.

Vuguin had her own theories as to the uptick in use of hGH among teens.

“Steroid use among young males, particularly those who lift weights, has been on the radar for years,” she said. “But it’s surprising and disturbing to see that teenagers of both genders are increasingly using synthetic versions of human growth hormone, ostensibly to maximize muscle mass and minimize body-fat composition,” she added.

“While it’s difficult to pinpoint why more teens may be using these substances, I strongly suspect that the rising ‘selfie culture’ among young people — who increasingly rely on social media to project their body image — is influencing these disturbing new statistics,” Vuguin said.

In addition to tracking the use of performance-enhancing substances, the study found other trends in teen drug abuse, including:

  • Nearly half, or 44 percent, of teens said they’ve used marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Of these teens, 41 percent started before they reached 15 years of age.
  • Roughly one in four teens, or 23 percent, admitted to abusing or misusing a prescription drug at least once.
  • The percentage of teens who ever tried using over-the-counter cough medicine to get high jumped from 12 percent in 2012 to 15 percent in 2013.

More information

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has more on the effects of performance-enhancing drugs.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Parent’s Death May Raise Risk of Early Death for Grown Children, Study Suggests

Wed, 2014-07-23 09:37

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Children and teens who lose a parent might face an increased risk of an early death in adulthood, a new study suggests.

People who were children or teens when a parent died had a 50 percent greater risk of death during the study period than those who had not experienced the death of a parent, according to the report.

Although the study found an association between a parent’s death and a child’s later risk of premature death, it wasn’t designed to prove cause-and-effect.

Also, the increased risk of premature death among these people may be due to both genetic factors and the long-term effects of a parent’s death on the health and social well-being of a child, researcher Jiong Li and colleagues at Aarhus University in Denmark theorized.

The study findings were published in the July 22 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

The team analyzed data on children born in Denmark, Finland and Sweden between 1968 and 2008. Nearly 190,000 children were between 6 months and 18 years when one of their parents died. During a follow-up period ranging from one to 40 years, almost 40,000 of those people died.

The increased risk of early death persisted into early adulthood, no matter how old a child was when a parent died. The researchers also found that the increased risk of death was higher among children whose parents died from unnatural causes rather than natural causes (84 percent vs. 33 percent). The risk of death was highest among children of parents who committed suicide, according to a journal news release.

The researchers said their findings show the need for health and social support for children and teens who have lost a parent, and added that this support may be necessary for a long time.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how to help children cope with death.


Categories: Health & Fitness

The Weird Link Between Weight Loss and Incontinence

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:30

Photo: Getty Images

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Weight-loss surgery appears to have an additional side benefit — it may improve urinary incontinence symptoms in women, according to a new study.

The study found that nearly half of women in a weight-loss surgery program reported having incontinence prior to the procedure. After surgery, most of those women said their urinary symptoms either improved or disappeared, said study researcher Dr. Leslee Subak, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

The women “lost almost 30 percent of their body weight, and about two-thirds who had incontinence at the start were cured at one year with that amount of weight loss. Among those who continued to have incontinence, their incontinence frequency improved a lot,” Subak said.

Subak’s team is due to present the findings this week at the American Urogynecologic Society and the International Urogynecological Association 2014 scientific meeting in Washington, D.C. Studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The women included in the study were severely obese, with a median BMI of 46. A women who is 5 feet 4 inches tall who weighs 268 pounds has a BMI of 46.

Health experts refer to obesity and incontinence as the “twin epidemics.” That’s because 25 to 50 percent of women have urinary incontinence, according to Subak. Of those, 70 percent are obese, she said.

There are several types of weight loss surgery — also known as bariatric surgery. Most of the women in the study had procedures known as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or gastric banding.

The improvement in incontinence symptoms continued during the study follow-up, Subak said.

“Both the weight loss and the improvement in incontinence lasted through three years. At year three, [about] 60 percent had remission,” she said. Remissions were defined as less than weekly episodes of incontinence. “A quarter were completely dry,” she noted.

The amount of weight loss was the strongest predictor of whether incontinence would improve or go away, Subak found. Losing more made urinary symptom improvement more likely.

Subak called the results very encouraging.

In a previous study, Subak found that a six-month focused program of weight loss and diet information helped reduce incontinence in obese women better than four weekly education sessions about weight loss and physical activity.

Dr. Amy Rosenman, a specialist in urogynecology and pelvic surgery in Santa Monica, Calif., and health sciences clinical professor at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, said the study findings ring true in practice.

“I have patients who have lost weight and it ended their stress incontinence,” she said. Those who lost by nonsurgical means also noticed improvement, she said.

The new findings reflect what has been found previously by other researchers, too, said Rosenman, who is president-elect of the American Urogynecologic Society. “There are many other studies that show weight loss improves leakage, probably due to less pressure, less weight pressing on the bladder from above and beside. So it stands to reason that bariatric surgery would also benefit [the incontinence],” she said.

Like all surgeries, bariatric surgeries are not without risk. The procedures are accompanied by possibility of infection, blood clots and heart attacks, among others, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Costs for the surgery range greatly, from about $12,000 to $26,000, but are sometimes covered under insurance policies.

Some of Subak’s co-authors report advising or consulting for companies such as Crospon, Covidien and Ethicon, which manufacture or are involved in bariatric surgery products.

More information

To learn more about weight loss surgery, visit National Institutes of Health.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Help Out: The American Red Cross Needs Blood Donations Badly

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:00

Photo: Getty Images

TUESDAY, July 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Blood donations to the American Red Cross are down substantially, and the agency says an “emergency situation” could arise within weeks.

“Donations through the Red Cross are down approximately 8 percent over the last 11 weeks, resulting in about 80,000 fewer donations than expected,” the agency said in a statement released Tuesday. “The number of donors continues to decline.”

The looming blood shortage can be blamed, in part, on the calendar: This year, July Fourth fell on a Friday, cutting the number of blood drives the Red Cross could schedule for early July as volunteers went on vacation.

“In an average summer week, about 4,400 Red Cross blood drives are scheduled, compared to Independence Day week when only 3,450 drives occurred,” the agency said.

While “all eligible donors” are being urged to give blood, types O negative, B negative and A negative are especially needed, the Red Cross said. Type O is the “universal” blood type, which can be safely used by anyone needing a transfusion.

Also needed are platelets, which allow blood to clot and are often needed by cancer patients, bone marrow recipients and burn victims. These patients need to be given these platelets within five days of donation, so it’s essential that a fresh supply of donated platelets always be on hand, the Red Cross said.

The agency reminds Americans that blood can be safely donated every 56 days, and platelets can be donated as often as once a week.

Those deemed eligible to donate blood typically include anyone age 17 or older who weighs at least 110 pounds and is in generally good health. High school students and others aged 18 or younger also have to meet certain height and weight measurements.

“Blood and platelet donations are needed now and for the rest of the summer,” the Red Cross said. “Individuals who donated blood earlier this summer may now be eligible to donate again and help patients such as accident victims, heart surgery patients and children with blood disorders.”

More information

To find out how and where you can donate blood, head to the American Red Cross.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Why Too Much Salt Could Be Extra Harmful For Diabetics

Wed, 2014-07-23 07:00

Photo: Getty Images

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A diet loaded with salt is associated with double the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with type 2 diabetes. The risk skyrockets even higher among those whose diabetes isn’t well-managed, a new Japanese study reports.

The study found that people with diabetes who consumed an average of 5.9 grams of sodium daily had double the risk of developing heart disease than those who consumed, on average, 2.8 grams of sodium daily. In addition, heart disease risk jumped nearly 10-fold for people with poorly managed type 2 diabetes and a diet with excess salt.

However, it’s important to note that this study only found an association between salt intake and increased heart disease; the study wasn’t designed to prove that the increased salt intake actually caused heart disease.

Still, experts believe it’s important to limit salt in the diet.

“The findings are very important from a public health point of view,” said Dr. Prakash Deedwania, chief of cardiology for the Veterans Administration Central California Health Care System and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

“Everyone’s focused on controlling glucose [blood sugar] to prevent diabetes complications. Salt intake is not as well emphasized, but this shows it should be reduced as well,” said Deedwania, a member of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Committee.

The study highlights the need for people with diabetes to track more than just carbohydrates when managing their daily diet, said Deedwania.

Public health officials previously have established a link between diabetes and heart disease. There are about 29 million Americans with diabetes, and they die from heart disease at a rate 1.7 times higher than people without diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Salt — also called sodium — is known to increase blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Accordingly, U.S. nutritional guidelines call for limits on salt intake. Because of the already increased risk of heart disease, people with diabetes should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. People without diabetes should limit their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, the CDC says. In the current study, the lowest average was 2.8 grams a day, which equals 2,800 milligrams.

“This is something we have been touting with diabetes patients,” said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Now we have more evidence to solidify our arguments.”

The new study involved nearly 1,600 people, aged 40 to 70, participating in a nationwide study of diabetes complications in Japan. They responded to a survey about their diets, including salt intake, and researchers reviewed data on heart complications participants experienced over the course of eight years.

The investigators found no link between salt intake among diabetics and increased risk of kidney disease, diabetes-related eye problems or death.

Diabetes and salt have similar harmful effects on the cardiovascular system, Mezitis said. Both cause blood vessels to harden, and both increase the risk of blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.

“Because the vascular complications of diabetes are similar to those of salt, that’s where it becomes doubly as bad,” he said. “The higher the salt intake, the worse the cardiovascular effects we see.”

However, Mezitis cautioned that the study needs to be replicated in America. Japanese patients are not as heavy as Americans, they eat less salt, and they do not take as many cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The study also relied on people’s own reports of salt intake, which could lead to some inaccuracy, said Dr. Robert Carey, a professor of endocrinology at the University of Virginia and spokesman for the Endocrine Society.

“I would not recommend any guideline changes based on this study, but I think this study strongly suggests there may be a relationship with cardiovascular disease and salt intake among diabetics,” Carey said.

The study by Chika Horikawa, of the University of Niigata in Japan, and colleagues was published July 22 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

More information

For more about salt, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Categories: Health & Fitness

Many Overweight Kids Think They’re Thinner Than They Are

Wed, 2014-07-23 06:30

Photo: Getty Images

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Many obese and overweight American children and teens look in the mirror and tell themselves their weight is fine, U.S. health officials reported Wednesday.

“Being overweight or obese is associated with adverse health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,” said lead researcher Neda Sarafrazi, a nutritional epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“Children who have a misperception of their weight are not going to take steps to control their weight or reduce their weight, and reduce the risk of future health complications,” she said. “If people perceive their weight accurately, they can start weight-control behavior.”

According to the CDC report, 34 percent of Hispanic-American children and teens believe they are thinner than they are, as do 34 percent of black kids and 28 percent of white kids.

In addition, about 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls think their weight is about right. Among obese boys, 48 percent think they’re at the right weight, as do 36 percent of obese girls, the researchers found.

There are also differences in weight perception based on family income. Obese and overweight kids and teens are more likely to consider themselves at about the right weight when they come from poorer homes than similar kids from richer homes (31 percent vs. 26 percent).

Overall, about 30 percent of kids and teens misperceive their weight as being too fat or too thin, according to the CDC. This misperception is more common among boys (32 percent) than girls (28 percent), the researchers added.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City, noted that “weight perceptions are not as simple as asking how children view themselves at their current weight and comparing that with CDC weight definitions and categories.”

There are many factors that influence how children view themselves, including cultural and socioeconomic norms and the media, as well as peer and environmental influences, she said.

“We tread a fine line when we talk to children and adolescents about their weight. Of concern is creating disordered eating patterns among kids who are labeled as misperceiving their weight,” Heller said.

On one hand, seeing many overweight and obese children and adults has become the norm, Heller said. So it would seem reasonable that overweight children see themselves as being at a normal weight. On the other hand, the media and social influences create unrealistic ideal body types that both boys and girls strive to achieve, she said.

“We can help bring children and adolescents to appropriate weights by focusing on healthy foods, regular exercise and a positive self-image. Parents, educators and caregivers can make headway by becoming role models themselves and creating opportunities to support and enjoy healthy lifestyle choices and activities with children,” Heller said.

Dr. David Katz is director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. He said: “There is well-established variation, over time and across cultures, in perceptions of ideal weight. But that variation is about appearance, not health.”

Unfortunately, obesity in children is a major cause of serious health problems, from type 2 diabetes to fatty liver disease, he noted.

“We need to fix this and raise awareness among all ethnic groups about the important health threats posed by childhood obesity. But we have to proceed with caution. We should empower people to take constructive action, not confront them with blame or impose any sense of shame,” Katz said.

Data for the report came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2012.

Meanwhile, a recent report published in the journal Pediatrics found that the waist sizes of America’s kids and teens appear to have stopped spreading.

According to the University of Minnesota researchers who conducted that study, the proportion of children and teens aged 2 to 18 who were obese, based on waist size, held steady at nearly 18 percent from 2002 to 2012.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on obesity and youth.


Categories: Health & Fitness

5 Things You Need to Know About Vitamin D Deficiency

Tue, 2014-07-22 15:10

Imagine there were a nutrient that could protect your bones, brain and heart, and maybe even help you live longer. It’s 100 percent free, and all you have to do to get it is go outside. Seems like something everyone would have plenty of, right? Well, that nutrient exists — it’s vitamin D, which is created by our cells when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But despite these facts, many Americans aren’t getting as much of the “sunshine vitamin” as they should. Here’s what you need to know about vitamin D, and how inadequate levels can affect your health.

Why Your Body Needs Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is vital for forming and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Research has also shown that vitamin D acts similarly to a hormone in the body, and may play a role in regulating blood pressure, weight and mood. One recent study even suggests that having adequate levels can protect against early fatalities from conditions like cancer and heart disease.

When adults don’t get enough vitamin D, they can suffer from osteomalacia (a softening of the bones), osteoporosis, bone pain or muscle weakness.

Vitamin D is also a key component in brain development, and a deficiency may contribute to low energy or depressive symptoms, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach.

1. Sunlight is the best source.

The body can make its own vitamin D, but only when skin is exposed to sunlight. For most people, spending just five to 30 minutes outside twice a week is enough for the body to synthesize healthy levels of vitamin D. The sun needs to shine on bare skin on your face, arms or legs, without sunscreen. (Keep in mind, exposing your skin to UVA and UVB rays for any amount of time can increase your chances of skin damage and melanoma.)

But for those people who don’t spend time outdoors, live far from the equator, have dark skin, or use sunscreen every time they go out may not be able to produce the same quantity of vitamin D. Many people also have lower levels in cold-weather months, when spending less time outdoors and there’s less skin exposure to the elements.

2. Fortified foods can help, too.

Although most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, we can also get a substantial amount from food. Fatty fish (including herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna) and eggs contain vitamin D naturally, and many juices, dairy products and cereals are fortified with the vitamin, as well.

It’s probably not possible to get the full, recommended amount of vitamin D — 600 IU for adults up to age 70 — from dietary sources alone, says Smith. “It’s not found naturally in many foods, and even those that do have it don’t contain nearly enough to meet the body’s needs,” he explains. “Vitamin D must come from multiple sources including diet, sunlight and sometimes supplements.”

3. Vitamin D may improve athletic performance.

A recent review published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal concluded that people who are deficient in vitamin D may have compromised fitness levels. Studies have found, for example, that athletes could jump higher or sprint faster after they took supplements for several weeks or months.

But more is not always better, the review cautions: If you already have healthy levels of vitamin D, taking a supplement probably won’t have an impact on your strength, speed or athleticism.

4. There’s a good chance your levels are low.

Extreme vitamin D deficiency — defined as less than 12 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood — is rare in the United States, but people who follow a strict vegan diet or have dairy allergies are at risk since they are not eating foods (like fish, eggs and milk) with naturally occurring or added vitamin D. Age and weight also play a factor deficiency, says White. “As we get older and our kidneys become weaker, they may not be able to convert enough vitamin D into the active form that our bodies can use.” Obesity can also lead to a deficiency, he adds, as the nutrient is leached out of the blood by body fat.

While most of us aren’t dangerously low on vitamin D, we don’t all have ideal levels, either. Current guidelines recommend that adults have at least 20 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood, says White, although 30 is an even better number for optimal bone and muscle health. Most Americans get close to meeting this guideline, but about two-thirds of us fall slightly short — especially in the winter when we’re not outside regularly.

5. A supplement may improve your health … or it may not

A 2013 study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that many adults who took vitamin D pills to help prevent osteoporosis didn’t actually reap significant bone-building benefits. Still, White suggests that people who are vegan, live in northern areas, have dark skin, are over 50, or who are overweight should consider taking a supplement, since they are more likely to be deficient.

If you suspect you might be low on D, talk to your doctor. He or she may want to give you a blood test to check your levels — although a recent government initiative recommended against routine vitamin D screenings, since there’s no consensus in the medical community on how helpful they really are. “I recommend that healthy adults get screened less frequently than those adults who are not as healthy,” says Smith.

The bottom line: Whether you take a supplement should be a decision you make with your doctor, based on your individual risk factors and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

To learn more about vitamin D, check out the NIH Fact Sheet for Consumers.

Life by DailyBurn is dedicated to helping you live a healthier, happier and more active lifestyle. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain strength or de-stress, a better you is well within reach. Get more health and fitness tips at Life by DailyBurn.
Categories: Health & Fitness

The Right Way to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sex Life

Tue, 2014-07-22 15:04

It seems one man was so upset that he and his wife weren’t having enough sex that he began tracking his attempts and the outcome. And we’re not talking about a mental list here. The man documented his wife’s reasons for turning him down in an Excel spreadsheet over a seven-week period. The list of what he deemed her “excuses” included “I’m exhausted” and “I might be getting sick” and “I’m watching my show.”

But he didn’t stop there: He emailed the spreadsheet to his wife as she was en route to the airport for a work trip. Needless to say, she didn’t take too kindly to it and posted the document to Reddit’s relationships section with this note:

“I open it up, and it’s a sarcastic diatribe basically saying he won’t miss me for the 10 days I’m gone. Attached is a SPREADSHEET of all the times he has tried to initiate sex since June 1st, with a column for my ‘excuses.’ …. According to his ‘document,’ we’ve only had sex 3 times in the last 7 weeks, out of 27 ‘attempts’ on his part.” (Watch the video above to learn more about the couple.)

Talk about communication issues. Though the woman has since removed both the note and spreadsheet from Reddit, the post has generated more than 700 comments. This as-yet-unidentified couple’s story is a great example of how NOT to approach your partner about your sex life. Helpful hint: being passive aggressive won’t solve the real issue at hand.

RELATED: 29 Days to a Healthier Relationship

So what should you do if there’s a sexual mismatch in your relationship, where one person wants sex more often than the other? Gail Saltz, MD, Health‘s contributing psychology editor, says it’s important to acknowledge that there’s a difference and to try to compromise.

“Compromise means having sex sometimes when you don’t feel like it and, on the other side, NOT constantly asking to have sex even though you want to,” she says. “It means agreeing to a middle ground.”

RELATED: 4 Ways to Boost Sexual Compatibility

This balance is something you should figure out before one of you is angry enough to literally start keeping score. Ask to talk to your partner somewhere besides the bedroom, and don’t do it immediately before or after sex.

“Pick a neutral, relaxing place like the kitchen or living room to say you want to talk about your relationship,” Dr. Saltz says. “Avoid acting angry or critical but rather say what isn’t working for you and how it makes you feel.”

Don’t monopolize the conversation either: Ask your partner to tell you what isn’t working for them and then repeat each of your concerns so you know you understand each other, Dr. Saltz recommends. Now, you can start brainstorming compromises to have a more satisfying sex life, whether that means having longer foreplay so you “feel like it” more often, being more affectionate so your partner doesn’t feel rejected, or asking for help around the house so you don’t feel as exhausted all the time.

Yes, that may be a tough conversation to have, but it sounds a lot better than becoming an Internet sensation over your sex problems, doesn’t it?

RELATED: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

 


Categories: Health & Fitness

Keep Your Teens Safe on the Road This Summer

Tue, 2014-07-22 14:37

TUESDAY, July 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death among American teens, and parents need to take steps to keep their teens safe when they’re on the road this summer, an expert says.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest time of the year for teen drivers and passengers, according to the AAA auto club.

“Even more than drinking and driving — which, thanks to strong messaging, is at an all-time low — distracted driving is a huge problem for teens. [That] includes anything that takes their attention away from the road: cellphones, texting, music and GPS, but most of all, other passengers,” Jane McCormack, trauma program manager at Stony Brook University Hospital, said in a university news release.

“The number one thing parents can do to help keep their teen drivers safe is get involved and stay involved,” she advised. “Just because a teen has completed driver’s education training and has received a license does not mean he or she is road ready.”

McCormack offered a number of tips for parents, including not giving teens free use of the car.

“Teens who have to ask for permission to take the car have fewer crashes, better safety records and higher rates of seat belt use,” she noted.

Along with pointing out unsafe behaviors by other drivers, parents should explain to their teens why they make certain driving decisions.

“Describe what you are doing. This will give your teen context and rationale for the things that you do automatically based on your more than 20 years of experience behind the wheel,” McCormack said.

It’s also important for parents to be good role models. “If you talk on your cellphone, eat lunch, apply makeup and peek at text messages while driving, why should a teen listen to you when you ask them not to do the same?” she noted.

Give teens a 10 p.m. “carfew” — meaning they must have the car home by that time. “Most fatal crashes occur at night, so this takes the teen off the road during the most dangerous hours,” McCormack said. “If an adult driver needs to transport the teen after 10 p.m., that teen will be safer.”

Another strategy suggested by McCormack is to create a parent-teen driver contract that clearly outlines parents’ expectations, including not texting and driving, not drinking and driving, and not getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about safe driving for teens.


Categories: Health & Fitness