Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Sleeping for longer leads to a healthier diet

Sleeping for longer leads to a healthier diet

Excerpts from the article in Science Daily
(Granted this is a small study, only 21 people. Still it is food for thought (pun intended!))

Young woman asleep in bed

Date: January 9, 2018: King’s College London
Summary: Sleeping for longer each night is a simple lifestyle intervention that could help reduce intake of sugary foods and lead to a generally healthier diet, according to a new study.

The principal investigator, Dr Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences observed: ‘The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars, by which we mean the sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home as well as sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice, suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets.’

Lead researcher, Haya Al Khatib, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences commented: ‘Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions. We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalised approach.

‘Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices. This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies.

‘We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviours in more detail, especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardio-vascular disease.’

Story Source:

Materials provided by King’s College London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

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January 12, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Wellness tips throughout January (Twitter chat on Jan 16 and tips via Twitter)

From the NIH news item , January 2018

Throughout January, many agencies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including NCCIH, are sharing information about health and wellness on Twitter. We are covering a broad range of topics, including general wellness, healthy eating, disease prevention, physical activity, managing stress and anxiety, quitting smoking, and healthy aging

NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health banner image
Health and Wellness Information banner image

Join us and other @NIH agencies for #NIHHealthy2018 chat on January 16 from 12 noon-4 p.m. ET. We’re sharing information on managing #stress and anxiety, quitting #smoking, #mindfulness, weight control, and more! The schedule follows (all times are Eastern Standard):

 

  • 12-12:20 p.m. ET:  Live Periscope panel with experts from @NIMHgov, @NIDDKgov, and @NIH_NHLBI
  • 12:20-1p.m.:  Managing Stress and Anxiety Twitter Chat
  • 1-2 p.m.:  Healthy Eating, Exercise, & Healthy Aging Twitter Chat
  • 2-3 p.m.:  Health, Wellness, & Disease Prevention Twitter Chat
  • 2:30-3 p.m.:  Live Q&A with Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., @NIHDirector
  • 3-4 p.m.: Kicking Habits Twitter Chat

 

Click on the link below to see the wellness tips that agencies throughout NIH have shared on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23NIHHealthy2018&src=typd

 

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Has an Alternative to Table Sugar Contributed to the C. Diff. Epidemic?

Excerpts from the  post on

Ice cream sundae

Most of us know how hard it is to resist the creamy sweetness of ice cream. But it might surprise you to learn that, over the past 15 years or so, some makers of ice cream and many other processed foods—from pasta to ground beef products—have changed their recipes to swap out some of the table sugar (sucrose) with a sweetening/texturizing ingredient called trehalose that depresses the freezing point of food. Both sucrose and trehalose are “disaccharides.” Though they have different chemical linkages, both get broken down into glucose in the body. Now, comes word that this switch may be an important piece of a major medical puzzle: why Clostridium difficile (C. diff) has emerged as a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections.

A new study in the journal Nature indicates that trehalose-laden food may have helped fuel the recent epidemic spread of C. diff., which is a microbe that can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal distress, especially in older patients getting antibiotics and antacid medicines [1, 2]. In laboratory experiments, an NIH-funded team found that the two strains of C. diff. most likely to make people sick possess an unusual ability to thrive on trehalose, even at very low levels. And that’s not all: a diet containing trehalose significantly increased the severity of symptoms in a mouse model of C. diff. infection.

What has changed is the recent addition of man-made trehalose into the food supply, often in large quantities. This shift was prompted by a new method to manufacture trehalose from cornstarch, which made the sugar much less costly.

This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start worrying about trehalose. In fact, Britton says the sugar does have some advantages. For instance, because it’s harder to break down, trehalose doesn’t cause blood glucose to spike in the way some other sugars do.

 

 

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Recap of clinical trial on skin cancer treatment includes both strengths and weaknesses of the findings

From the January 8, 2018 HealthNewsReview article by Earle Holland, Dan Mayer, and Kathlyn Stone

Our Review Summary

This release reports on a large multi-center clinical trial intended to gauge the preventative value of using a cream containing 5 percent fluorouacil as a means of reducing the occurrence of both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinomas. It says that the cream appears to reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinomas among the elderly veterans in the trial by 75 percent, although it has no statistically significant effect on reducing basal cell carcinomas. The release also states that the protection appears to only extend for the first year.

The release omits mention of the drug’s hefty price tag but it does clearly state both the benefits and the risks of using the medicinal cream.

More at https://www.healthnewsreview.org/news-release-review/clearly-state-both-the-benefits-and-the-risks-of-using-the-medicinal-cream/

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Could finding more cancer lead us to understand risk factors less?

From an article at the HealthNewsReview.org blog, by Michael Joyce

An opinion piece in last week’s Annals of Internal Medicine argues that just how aggressively we screen for some cancers can actually distort our understanding of the risk factors for a particular cancer, as well as how common we perceive it to be.

The authors describe ‘scrutiny-dependent’ cancers  — those subtypes of cancers often picked up with screening that are commonly referred to as slow-growing, indolent, subclinical, or even as pre-cancerous — and that often don’t progress to cause health problems or shorten lives. Prostate cancer and thyroid cancer are two such examples.

They propose two common ways in which aggressive screening can distort our understanding of these cancers:

  • The push for ‘early detection’ leads to more scrutiny-dependent cancers being found which, in turn, gives the false impression of an increased incidence of some cancers.
  • Aggressive screening of the family members of someone with cancer means more cancer will be found. This could give the impression of family history being more of a risk factor than it may actually be.
    ….
  • Breast cancer found by mammography, ultrasound, or MRI is more likely to be indolent than that found by self-examination. As we screen with more advanced technologies capable of finding smaller and smaller tumors, we will find more cases of cancer but also more cases that don’t develop into cancer. This not only represents overdiagnosis, but can also give the false impression of breast cancer being more common than it really is

“In the 80’s and 90’s the prevailing message from the media was screen, screen, screen,” said Brawley. “Only in the past 10-15 years have some reporters begun to question this. And this goes for advocacy groups too, who have an understandable emotional conflict of interest because they care about a particular disease. I know, I work for one. But, both reporters and advocates need to be truthful and accurate about screening. Because people can get hurt.

,,\…
In short, Welch and Brawley firmly believe that screening should be based on rigorously tested evidence. In some cancers that evidence is clear, while for other cancers (‘scrutiny-dependent’ ones) the evidence is lacking. Media messages about cancer screening need to do a better job communicating that uncertainty. 

January 9, 2018 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to make sense of articles in scientific journals

Have you ever come across a scientific article and it just seems too dense to read? And you want to share the information with your health care provider or a family member or friend?
Here’s some tips that just might help out!

From a Web page at the National Institutes of Health (A US government agency)

Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research

Almost every day, new findings on medical research are published, some of which may include complementary health approaches.

Research studies about medical treatments and practices published in scientific journals are often the sources of news stories and can be important tools in helping you manage your health.

sight + document = understanding

But finding scientific journal articles, understanding the studies they describe, and interpreting the results can be challenging.

One way to make it easier to understand information you find in a scientific journal is to share the information with your health care providers and get their opinions. Once you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research, you have one more tool to help you make better, informed decisions about your health.

Here are 9 questions that can help you make sense of a scientific research article.

The article goes on to answer 9 questions, including

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to evaluate complementary health approaches reported in the news

From an article at the US National Institutes of Health (a US government agency)

News stories about complementary approaches to health are often on television, the Internet, and in magazines and newspapers.

Health news headlines from newspapers, magazines, and websites

In fact, the media is one of our main sources of information when we make decisions about complementary health approaches. While many news reports are reliable, some are missing important information, and some are confusing, conflicting, or misleading.

The 11 points include Missing Information From Health Stories,  What’s Missing: Information on Side Effects!, and Is It Real Online News? Or Just Advertising?

 

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Medical and Health Research News, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

5 resolutions for reading and writing about health care in 2018 [Via HealthNewsReview.org]

From my “go to” place on how to evaluate health news stories

As the season of New Year’s resolutions rolls around, it’s inevitable: Health and fitness stories will dominate our news feeds in the next few days and weeks. To help both writers and readers of healthcare information, we’ve put together a few resolutions that are handy now–and any time of year:

Read–and heed–our 10 newly refurbished criteria for health news reporting and news release writing. If a news story or news release meets most or all of our criteria, you can have a greater degree of confidence that the information is accurate, balanced and complete. While the criteria are most relevant for new treatments, procedures or medical devices, they also apply to diet trends and fitness fads that are popular news topics this time of year.

Be careful with screening advice. Some surprisingly common recommendations in health care stories aren’t actually supported by high-quality evidence. For example, this NBC News story lists an annual physical as a top resolution. However, evidence-basehhd guidelines say that if you’re healthy with no symptoms, such physicals are unlikely to help you stay well and live longer. And they can lead to additional tests and treatments that may do more harm than good. This is also true for many cancer screening tests. One important reality: Cancer screenings are often unequivocally framed as important because “early detection saves lives” — messaging that minimizes the potential harms that people need to know about.

 

More at https://www.healthnewsreview.org/2018/01/4-resolutions-for-reading-and-writing-about-healthcare-in-2018/

 

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , | Leave a comment

Accessing your own genomic data is a civil right but requires strategies to manage safety [this right does not include most non-HIPPA collected as 23&me, Ancestry.com]

From 4 January 2018 Science Daily news item

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 expanded individuals’ access to genetic information by forcing changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. These amendments gave Americans a civil right to obtain copies of their own genetic test results stored at HIPAA-regulated laboratories. Researchers describe how civil rights and safety concerns collided after these changes and offers strategies to reconcile the two…….

…..”You only have an access right if the party that stores your data happens to be HIPAA-regulated. Most direct-to-consumer testing [as Ancestry.com and “23 & me”  and cloud data storage services are not HIPAA-regulated, so you may not have an access right if your data are there…

…..Giving people access to data from research laboratories is controversial because the genomic data they produce do not always contain clinically relevant information (only about 200 gene sequences have known clinical significance). Someone could misinterpret the data to pursue needless medical treatment or waste healthcare resources to clarify findings that they misunderstand.Giving people access to data from research laboratories is controversial because the genomic data they produce do not always contain clinically relevant information (only about 200 gene sequences have known clinical significance). Someone could misinterpret the data to pursue needless medical treatment or waste healthcare resources to clarify findings that they misunderstand……

……..”Having access to your own genomic data also lets you exercise important constitutional rights, such as your First Amendment rights to assemble and petition the government. You can go on social media and assemble groups of people with genes like yours and lobby Congress to spend more research dollars studying how those genes affect your health,” says Evans. “Like the right to vote, access to one’s own genomic data is a foundational civil right that empowers people to protect all their other civil rights.”

 

 

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Seven highly effective portable heater safety habits

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Safety, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

DASH diet – news story, recipes, and a systematic review

Recently US News and World Report ranked the DASH diet as the best diet overall for the 8th year in a row. DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension . Government funded researchers developed DASH to prevent and treat high blood pressure, but the diet also has proven highly effective in lowering blood cholesterol.

Image of an empanapita
Empanadas are a great staple of Latino cuisine. Empanapitas, a new take with pita bread, are a DASH healthier, but just as tasty.NHLBI

High blood pressure is the most common chronic condition worldwide. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, affects 1 billion people, and accounts for 1 in 8 deaths each year.
And according to the  NIH news release “dietary interventions can be as effective as – or more effective than – antihypertensive drugs in those at highest risk for high blood pressure, and should be a routine first-line treatment option for such individuals”

The  NIH news release states that “DASH is not a fad diet, but a healthy eating plan that supports long-term lifestyle changes. It is low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and includes whole grains, poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, and nuts. It is rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. However, it calls for a reduction in high fat red meat, sweets, and sugary beverages.”

Scientific evidence seems to back the claims of the DASH diet.  A recent systematic review thoroughly analyzed 34 news reports investigating diet quality with mortality.  Diets were scored using three indexes – including DASH.  High scoring diets had a “significant reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease by 22%, 22%, 16%, 18%, and 15%, respectively.”

Interested in learning more about the DASH diet?
Great description with tips may be found here

Many recipes may be found here 

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 3.49.24 AM.png

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

HealthNewsReview.org – unbiased site which critically analyzes claims about health care interventions

Have you ever read a health news story and wondered if it was really based on science?
Would you like to see health news items objectively discussed?
Would you like to learn how to analyze news stories on your own?

Look no further than HealthNewsReview.org This site’s reviewers includes physicians and heath care journalists who rate stories on objective criteria.

HealthNewsReview.org

  • Reviews health stories (granted not all of them, but most ones widely covered
  • Posts weekly reviews which are also available for free through subscription
  • Podcasts covering in-depth discussion on health care and news media messaging
  • A toolkit to help journalists and consumers evaluate claims about health care interventions.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Here’s a summary of a  current story covered by HealthNewsReview

“LA Times provides strong overview on study showing vitamin D and calcium supplements don’t prevent fractures

Our Review Summary

“Reporting on a large review study, this Los Angeles Times article walks readers through the conflicting advice and evidence about calcium and vitamin D supplements. Both compounds play roles in bone health and the routinely accepted claim is that supplementation can help prevent bone breaks in older people. This new meta-analysis shows that claim is not supported by evidence: not for calcium pills, vitamin D pills, or the two in combination.

The story is well-done on several points, particularly on explaining how this study worked and what it found. The story would have been stronger if it had included some commentary from experts in the field who were not associated with the study to help put this recent, apparently strong finding, into context for readers.”

The review goes on to rate the story on criteria as adequately covering costs, benefits, potential harm, evidence, and conflict of interest.

I am not sure how I learned about this site.  It was included in a recent webinar I took
from the US National Library of Medicine (part of the US government).

 

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Health News Items, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Tai Chi and Your Health – A Modern Take on an Ancient Practice

From NIH News in Health, Dec 2016
  https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/12/tai-chi-your-health

“You may have seen the flowing postures and gentle movements of tai chi and wondered what it’s all about. Tai chi is an ancient mind and body practice. While more research is needed, studies suggest that it may have many health benefits.

illustration-adults-tai-chi_0

Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation.” There are many types of tai chi. They typically combine slow movements with breathing patterns and mental focus and relaxation. Movements may be done while walking, standing, or sitting.

“At its root, tai chi is about treating the whole person and enhancing the balance and crosstalk between the body’s systems,” says Dr. Peter Wayne, a longtime tai chi researcher at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a promising intervention for preserving and improving many areas of health, especially in older adults.”

Several studies have found evidence that tai chi can increase balance and stability in older people and reduce the risk and fear of falls. Each year, more than 1 in 4 older adults falls, and 1 out of 5 of these falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.

“Trying to be careful can make you more prone to falls,” Wayne says. “Tai chi may help you move more confidently and safely again.” Some NIH-funded research suggests that tai chi may also improve balance and prevent falls in people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease.

Research suggests that practicing tai chi might help improve posture and confidence, how you think and manage emotions, and your quality of life. Studies have found that it may help people with fibromyalgia sleep better and cope with pain, fatigue, and depression. Regular practice may also improve quality of life and mood in people with chronic heart failure or cancer. Older adults may find that tai chi can help improve sleep quality and protect learning, memory, and other mental functions.

Further study will be needed to fully evaluate and confirm the potential benefits of tai chi. But since the practice involves moving slowly and mindfully, there’s little chance of harm when done correctly.

“Whether you’re interested in trying tai chi to help with a chronic health issue or the stresses of everyday life, tai chi—if taught properly—can be a great complement to other ways of healthy living and rehabilitation,” Wayne says. “I think we’re all looking for tools to help us live productive, long lives with a little more grace and ease.”

There are different styles and ways to practice tai chi, Wayne says. If you’re interested in trying it, you can start simply. For instance, try standing behind and holding onto a sturdy chair for support, then mindfully rock back and forth to build awareness of all the parts of your body and their connections. Eventually, you might move on to practice more complex movements or sequences.

Want to learn more? Read the Wise Choices box to consider whether tai chi might be right for you. And watch NIH’s online tai chi videos at nccih.nih.gov/video/taichidvd-full.

    Read about the science behind Tai Chi at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/taichi

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Health Information You Can Trust (via the US National Institutes of Health)

Excerpts from the September NIH News in Health
https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/09/health-information-you-can-trust

“When you’re searching online for answers to your health questions, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of websites you come across. How do you know which ones to trust? Which websites have reliable and up-to-date information?

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 11.45.04 AM

First, consider the source. Government websites end in “.gov” and university or other educational institution websites end with “.edu.” These are online sources that you can usually trust. If you see “.org” or “.com” at the end of a web address, it may also be a trusted site. However, check it closely to make sure. The information may not be evidence-based. Or, the site may be trying to sell you a drug or service.Also, find out who is reviewing the health information before it’s published.”

To read more about trusted resources, visit www.cancer.gov/using-trusted-resources.

————————–
I’ve collected some reputable resources at my Google Health Information site
https://sites.google.com/site/healthnewsresources/
A guide to select resources for all with an emphasis on personal health and wellness, help from others, interactive tools, and health news”

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Medicines and Me – Lesson Plans about Safely Using OTC meds

Via the Scout Report —https://scout.wisc.edu/report/current

MEDICINES AND ME
HEALTH
Developed by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Life Science Learning Center, Medicines and Me is a series of lesson plans about safely using over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These lessons are designed for young learners and intended to be incorporated into science, health, or family and consumer science classes. These lessons may also be of interest to Adult Basic Education (ABE) instructors leading Life Skills classes. Individual lessons address topics including reading and understanding medicine labels, choosing medicine safely, and knowing what to do in the case of an accidental overdose. Each lesson, which can be downloaded for free, includes a detailed lesson plan along with links to additional resources. [MMB]

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FTC sanctions yet another digital health product, a vision training app, over claims about effectiveness [Reblog]

From the 23 March 2016 iMedicalApps blog

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 6.26.04 AM

 

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

St. Louis Plan4Health Traffic Calming Demonstrations [YouTube]

Published on Nov 13, 2015

In the fall of 2015, the Missouri Chapter of American Planning Association, the HEAL Partnership, and Trailnet received a Plan4Health grant from the CDC in partnership with American Planning Association and American Public Health Association to work together to implement pop up traffic calming demonstrations. The demonstrations were used as a tool to educate one another on how to create safer streets in the City of St. Louis.

Watch how these demonstrations helped community members, elected officials, and city staff better understand how traffic calming could help their communities.

Missouri Chapter of the American Planning Association: http://www.mo-apa.org

HEAL Partnership: https://www.facebook.com/HEALPartners…

Plan4Health: http://www.plan4health.us

Trailnet: http://trailnet.org/work/transportati…

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , | Leave a comment

Made ya look: Moviegoers may have little control over their eye movements during Hollywood-style films, study finds [news release]

From the 22 March 2016 Kansas State Univ news release

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

https://i1.wp.com/www.k-state.edu/media/images/mar16/shots1-6-sm.jpg

Lester Loschky, associate professor of psychological sciences at Kansas State University, used six shots, a 12-second clip, from the 1979 James Bond film, “Moonraker,” to measure eye movements and understanding.

MANHATTAN — Hollywood-style films may control viewers’ attention more than originally thought, according to a Kansas State University researcher.

Lester Loschky, associate professor of psychological sciences, recently published “What Would Jaws Do? The Tyranny of Film” in PLOS ONE. The study suggests viewers may have limited cognitive control of their eye movements while trying to understand films.

“Hollywood-style filmmakers have developed stimuli — such as shorter shot length, more motion in the frame and higher contrast — that is amazing at directing the viewers’ attention from moment to moment in exactly the way that the filmmaker wants,” Loschky said. “It is not that film producers have complete mind control because we willingly participate in it — we enjoy movies — but they do have a lot of control over our attention.”

Loschky compared eye movements of people who watched a three-minute clip of “Moonraker,” a 1979 James Bond film, with people who watched the last 12 seconds of the clip. His hypothesis, called the “Tyranny of Film,” was that film viewers’ eye movements are separate from a person’s understanding.

“We are investigating film perception and film comprehension together,” Loschky said. “In a static picture, people look at different things at different times, but during a movie suddenly everybody is looking at the same things at the same time.”

Loschky said that in the last 100 years, filmmakers slowly have gotten better at getting every viewer to look at the same place at the same time, a measurement called attentional synchrony. He attributes that to what he calls MTV-style editing, which is a greater frequency of cuts and shorter shot lengths. The researchers hypothesize that filmmakers are so good at influencing viewers’ eye movements in Hollywood-style movies that viewers’ understanding does not necessarily affect where they look.

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Articles focus on OTC medications, dietary supplements & complementary/alternative medicine

From the 21 March 2016 EurkAlert

More older adults used multiple medications and dietary supplements, and taking them together put more people at increased risk for a major drug interaction, according to a new study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Most older adults in the United States use prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. There is increased risk among older adults for adverse drug events and polypharmacy.

Dima M. Qato, Pharm. D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and coauthors analyzed nationally representative data to examine changes in medication use, which included concurrent use of prescription and over-the counter medications and dietary supplements, to gauge potential for major drug interactions.

The study group included 2,351 participants in 2005-2006 and 2,206 in 2010-2011 who were between the ages of 62 and 85. In-home interviews and direct medication inspection were performed.

The authors report:

  • Concurrent use of at least five prescription medications increased from 30.6 percent to 35.8 percent over the study period.
  • Concurrent use of five or more medications or supplements of any type increased from 53.4 percent to 67.1 percent.
  • Use of over-the-counter medications declined from 44.4 percent to 37.9 percent.
  • Dietary supplement use increased from 51.8 percent to 63.7 percent. Multivitamin or mineral supplements and calcium were the most commonly used supplements during the study period.
  • About 15.1 percent of older adults in 2010-2011 were at risk for a major drug interaction compared with an estimated 8.4 percent in 2005-2006. For example, preventive cardiovascular medications and supplements were increasingly used together in interacting drug regimens.

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

The Invisible World of Human Perception [news release]

From the 18 March 2016 Univ of Toronto news release

Stage magicians are not the only ones who can distract the eye: a new cognitive psychology experiment demonstrates how all human beings have a built-in ability to stop paying attention to objects that are right in front of them.

We see much less of the world than we think we do

Perception experts have long known that we see much less of the world than we think we do. A person creates a mental model of their surroundings by stitching together scraps of visual information gleaned while shifting attention from place to place. Counterintuitively, the very process that creates the illusion of a complete picture relies on filtering out most of what’s out there.

In a paper published today in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics a team of U of T researchers reveal how people have more “top-down” control of what they don’t notice than many scientists previously believed.

“The visual system really cares about objects,” says postdoctoral fellow J. Eric T. Taylor, who is the lead author on the paper. “If I move around a room, the locations of all the objects  chairs, tables, doors, walls, etc.  change on my retina, but my mental representation of the room stays the same.”

Objects play fundamental role in how we focus our attention

Objects play such a fundamental role in how we focus our attention that many perception researchers believe we are “addicted” to them; we couldn’t stop paying attention to objects if we tried. The visual brain guides attention largely by selecting objects  and this process is widely believed to be automatic.

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Psychiatry | , | Leave a comment

Parents wary of online doctor ratings [news release]

From the 21 March 2016 Univ of Michigan Health System news release

National poll finds 30% of parents have used rating sites to select or avoid a doctor; majority of parents are concerned about fake ratings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For many, checking online reviews has become nearly routine for decisions on everything from cars to restaurants. But when it comes to choosing a doctor, the majority of parents aren’t convinced online ratings are reliable – or even real, a new national poll shows.

More than two-thirds of parents believe some online doctor reviews are fake, while slightly fewer say there are not enough ratings to make a good decision, according to this month’s report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. More than half of parents also feel doctors may influence who leaves ratings.

March 22, 2016 Posted by | health care | , | Leave a comment

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March 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do You Have Questions About Integrative Health Approaches? [news release]

From the 9 March 2016 news release from the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health agency

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 9.40.16 AM

 

Here’s the contact us link  –> https://nccih.nih.gov/health/clearinghouse?nav=govd

 

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is addiction a “brain disease”? [news release]

From the 11 March 2016 Harvard Medical School news release

…..The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a review of the “brain science” related to addiction and its management by Dr. Nora Volkow and her colleagues. It is a great review with terrific graphics. I’ve sent it to several of my colleagues.

It would take many blog posts to summarize in detail what goes on in the article (let alone the brain), so I’ll hit the points that are most meaningful to me as a practitioner and citizen — and forgive me if I get a little personal.

A look into the science of addiction

The most depressing course I took in college was an introduction to behaviorism. The low point was when I came to believe that free will did not exist, though I later came to believe that this was a narrow and false conclusion. Humans, with our over-developed frontal cortices, have the power to choose not to respond the way, for example, a pigeon would in an experiment of rewards and punishments. When I became a doctor, I perceived that people suffering with addiction were stripped of their fundamental liberty to choose to live life as they would want (within social and economic constraints). I can honestly say that helping to restore some of that freedom is among the most rewarding things I do as a doctor. That’s the personal stuff.

An addicted person’s impaired ability to stop using drugs or alcohol has to do with deficits in the function of the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain involved in executive function. The prefrontal cortex has several important jobs: self-monitoring, delaying reward, and integrating whatever the intellect tells you is important with what the libido is telling you. The difficulty also has to do with how the brain, when deprived of the drugs to which it is accustomed, reacts to stress.

What this all means for overcoming an addiction

It is not enough simply to “just say no.”

The person needs to develop alternative sources of joy and reward, and people who have been isolating themselves in order to drink or use drugs without inhibition may need to work in a purposeful way to re-acquire habitual “joy” — social interactions, physical pleasures like a swim or a bike ride, and other healthy, enjoyable rewards.

At the same time, to say that substance use disorders are “all biology” is an over-simplification. Clearly, there are people on the mild end of the spectrum who have the ability to choose to stop or cut back. For these people, when the rewards of not using outweigh those of using, they stop. Some people with a pattern of unhealthy drug or alcohol use that meets criteria for a diagnosis of substance use disorder may also “mature” out of it without formal treatment. However, the more severe the diagnosis (in other words, the more diagnostic criteria that are met), the less likely this is to happen.

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Psychiatry | , | Leave a comment

No evidence that vaccines cause microcephaly in babies (and other Zika rumors dispelled)

From the 11 March WHO news release

Excerpts

There is no specific repellent that works better against the Aedes mosquito

There are many repellents that are effective against all mosquitoes including Aedes mosquitos. Effective repellents contain DEET (diethyltoluamide) or IR 3535 or Icaridin which are the most common biologically active ingredients in insect repellents. Active ingredients are listed on the product label. The following active ingredients repel or kill the mosquito when it rests or approaches the body: DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), IR3535 (3- [N-butyl-N-acetyl], aminopropionic acid ethyl-ester) or Icaridin (piperidinecarboxílico acid-1, 2- (2-hydroxyethyl) – 1-metilpropilester).

There is no minimum or maximum percentage of active ingredient required. Insect repellents may be applied to exposed skin to protect against the bites of mosquitoes or on the clothes. WHO recommends covering the skin with clothing as much as possible and using insect repellents as effective measures to protect against bites from mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

Repellents must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions. There is no evidence of any restriction of the use of these repellents by pregnant women if they are used in accordance with the instructions on the product label.

No evidence that vaccines cause microcephaly in babies

There is no evidence linking any vaccine to the increases in microcephaly cases that were observed first in French Polynesia during the 2013-2014 outbreak and more recently in northeastern Brazil.

An extensive review of the literature published in 2014 found no evidence that any vaccine administered during pregnancy resulted in birth defects.

No evidence that pyriproxyfen insecticide causes microcephaly

A team of WHO scientists recently reviewed data on the toxicology of pyriproxyfen, one of 12 larvicides that WHO recommends to reduce mosquito populations. It found no evidence that the larvicide affects the course of pregnancy or the development of a fetus. The US Environmental Protection Agency and EU investigators reached a similar conclusion when they carried out a separate review of the product.

No evidence that the Zika outbreak and unusual increase in microcephaly cases in Brazil is linked to recent releases of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil

No evidence that sterilized male mosquitoes contribute to the spread of Zika

Bacteria used to control the male mosquito population are not spreading Zika further

Fish can help stop Zika.

Some countries affected by Zika and dengue are using biological methods as part of an integrated approach to mosquito control. El Salvador, for example, with strong support from fishing communities, is introducing larvae-devouring fish into water storage containers.

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Public Health | | Leave a comment

Colonoscopies: America’s gold standard, while Canada says they’re not justified (Reblog)

From the 26 February 2016 HealthNewsReview item

Excerpt

Do borders really exist in medicine, where the mere act of crossing political boundaries changes what screening programs are recommended? It seems that they do exist, and they’re well guarded.

Generating numerous headlines in major Canadian papers such as the National PostThe Toronto StarGlobe and Mail and Reuters, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care came out this week with new recommendations on colon cancer screening, essentially saying that routine colonoscopies were not justified. By contrast, in the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2015 guidelines say that adults aged 50–75, should have a colonoscopy every 10 years; FIT (fecal immunochemical testing) or gFOBT (guaiac fecal occult blood testing ) annually or flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years plus FIT annually.

For this age group the Canadian Task Force says there is insufficient evidence to justify using colonoscopy for routine screening for colorectal cancer. They recommend patients should undergo the fecal occult blood testing every two years or flexible sigmoidoscopy – a procedure which examines the lower part of the colon and rectum every 10 years. These colon cancer screening guidelines, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, are for low-risk people: asymptomatic adults, aged 50 to 74 who have no prior history of the disease, no family history or symptoms such as blood in the stool, or a genetic disposition to the disease.

March 11, 2016 Posted by | health care | | Leave a comment

Precision Medicine at one year: A soaring White House summit and the potholes ahead (report)

From the 28 February 2016 post at HealthNewsReview

Excerpts

We’re pleased to publish the following guest post by Dr. Michael Joyner, a medical researcher at the Mayo Clinic who recently joined our team as a contributor. These views are his own. You can follow him on twitter @DrMJoyner.


syringe on targetLast week there was a big shindig at the White House reviewing progress from the first year of the million-person Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

As you might imagine, an event of this magnitude drew considerable (mostly glowing) coverage from major US health news media:

This is an exciting scientific undertaking — one that merits the attention these outlets have devoted to it. But the coverage sounded mostly like cheerleading, and none of these stories included a skeptical word about the many challenges ahead and how they could thwart the initiative’s lofty objectives. I watched the webcast of the event with a critical eye and took notes as I was watching. Here are a six of the things that I thought journalists should have been thinking about and writing about as they covered the event:

1) A number of new partnerships and pilot programs related to enrollment of participants, data sharing, analytics, biobanks and privacy were announced. There are no real results yet, so it is simply too soon to tell what elements of what was announced will succeed, partially succeed, or stall.

2) Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health and a prime mover in Precision Medicine, clearly stated that it should take three to four years to meet the one million person enrollment goal of the program. This is an ambitious timeline. The last time that something like this was tried in the National Children’s Study, enrollment goals were never met and the program was ultimately cancelled. As STAT has previously reported, experts in population health have observed similarities between the PMI and the National Children’s Study and the comments by Dr. Collins are a clear marker for evaluating the success of PMI going forward.

3) There were a number of interesting presentations of patient and family vignettes at the meeting. While PMI is supposed to transform health and healthcare for all Americans, three of the four stories were about extremely rare diseases that have nothing to do with the big killers like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. There is no argument by PMI skeptics about the role of gene sequencing in rare diseases, but dealing more effectively with those diseases has nothing to do with the prediction, prevention, and improved treatment of the major causes of death. The fourth presentation was about breast cancer and it was unclear to me exactly what elements of precision medicine were involved in the care of this patient (who happened to be a surgeon). In the absence of big transformative population findings for common diseases, some might argue that the rare disease community is being leveraged to generate support for a much larger and perhaps misdirected program.

4) There was no mention of some of the potholes that are out there or that have emerged in the last year. For example, the National Cancer Institute’s MATCH trial, designed to match the genetic signatures of tumors with targeted therapy, is having trouble “matching” (subscription required). And a study from Europe has cast at least some doubt on just how effective broad-based used of “targeted therapy” will be. There is also plenty of room to question the idea that data mining electronic health records is going to be transformative. The barriers to actually getting this done are significant and range from the quality of the data in electronic health records, issues related to who owns the data, protocols for data sharing, and a host of technical and statistical issues. Big data can certainly be helpful but it can also mislead.

 

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Consumer Reports Uses AHRQ’s Evidence Reports in Drug Comparisons

Featured Case Study: Consumer Reports Uses AHRQ’s Evidence Reports in Drug Comparisons

Consumer Reports magazine and affiliated publications use evidence reports from AHRQ’s Evidence-based Practice Centers Program to inform consumers and clinicians about prescription drugs’ effectiveness and safety. Read the case study.

(From the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1 percent of Americans with the highest health care expenses accounted for nearly 22 percent of the nation’s total health care expenditures [news release]

From the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

AHRQ Stats: Per-Person Health Care Expenses

Among the U.S. noninstitutionalized population in 2013, the 1 percent of Americans with the highest health care expenses accounted for nearly 22 percent of the nation’s total health care expenditures. Members of that group had annual average expenses of $95,200. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Statistical Brief #480: Differentials in the Concentration of Health Expenditures across Population Subgroups in the U.S., 2013.)

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Health Statistics | , | Leave a comment

Latest Biennial Review of Health Problems That May Be Linked to Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War Upgrades Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism, Downgrades Spina Bifida

From the 10 March 2016 National Academies Science Engineering Health news release

Excerpts

Latest Biennial Review of Health Problems That May Be Linked to Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War Upgrades Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism, Downgrades Spina Bifida 

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WASHINGTON – The latest and final in a series of congressionally mandated biennial reviews of the evidence of health problems that may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War changed the categorization of health outcomes for bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and spina bifida and clarified the breadth of the previous finding for Parkinson’s disease.  The committee that carried out the study and wrote this reportVeterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, reviewed scientific literature published between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2014.

 

Bladder cancer and hypothyroidism were moved to the category of “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association from their previous positions in the default “inadequate or insufficient” category.  A finding of limited or suggestive evidence of an association means that the epidemiologic evidence indicates there could be a link between exposure to a chemical and increased risk for a particular health effect.  A finding of inadequate or insufficient evidence indicates that the available studies are of insufficient quality, consistency, or statistical power to permit a conclusion regarding the presence or absence of such a link.  For both bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, new results from a large study of Korean veterans who served in the Vietnam War were compellingly suggestive of an association.  In combination with pre-existing supportive epidemiologic findings and substantial biologic plausibility, the new information provided evidence to merit a change in category of association for these two outcomes.

In addition to reviewing the evidence of health problems that may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides, the committee was asked to address the specific question of whether various conditions with Parkinson’s-like symptoms should qualify the assignment of Parkinson’s disease to the limited or suggestive category of association with herbicide exposure.  The committee noted that Parkinson’s disease is a diagnosis of exclusion, and therefore, the diagnostic standards for this condition should not be assumed to have been uniform in the epidemiologic studies that constitute the basis for this association or in the claims submitted by veterans.  Consequently, there is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease.  To exclude a claim for a condition with Parkinson’s-like symptoms, the onus should be on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a case-by-case basis to definitively establish the role of a recognized factor other than the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam.

 

Given that this is the final report mandated by the Agent Orange Act, the committee developed recommendations for future actions to advance the well-being of Vietnam veterans, including that the VA should continue epidemiologic studies of the veterans; develop protocols that could investigate paternal transmission of adverse effects to offspring; and design a study to focus on specific manifestations in humans of dioxin exposure and compromised immunity, which have been clearly demonstrated in animal models.  The committee also called for a careful review of evidence concerning whether paternal exposure to any toxicant has definitively resulted in abnormalities in the first generation of offspring.  In addition, the committee formulated recommendations for improved assembly and evaluation of information necessary for monitoring possible service-related health effects in all military personnel, including creating and maintaining rosters of individuals deployed on every mission and linking U.S. Department of Defense and VA databases to systematically identify, record, and monitor trends in veterans’ diseases.

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

Penn Study Shows a Form of Genetically Elevated “Good” Cholesterol May Actually be Bad [News release]

From the 10 March 2016 Penn Medicine news release

 

Research has implications for better understanding the relationship between “good” cholesterol function – in addition to level — and heart disease risk

PHILADELPHIA – The generally accepted medical maxim that elevated HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is “good” has been overturned by a multi-center, international study, led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. They show that a certain genetic cause of increased HDL-C may actually be “bad,” noting that a specific mutation in a gene which encodes a cell receptor protein that binds to HDL prevents the receptor from functioning. The mutation causes an increased risk of coronary heart disease even in the presence of elevated levels of HDL-C or “good” cholesterol. Their findings are published this week in Science.

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Previous research raised the possibility that HDL might not be quite as protective against heart disease as generally believed by cardiologists, especially after several clinical trials of HDL-raising drugs showed little or no effect. “The thinking about HDL has evolved recently to the concept that it may not directly protect against all heart disease,” said senior author Daniel J. Rader, MD, chair of the department of Genetics.  “Our results indicate that some causes of raised HDL actually increase risk for heart disease. This is the first demonstration of a genetic mutation that raises HDL but increases risk of heart disease.”

Rader and his colleagues sequenced the lipid-modifying regions of the genomes of 328 people with markedly elevated HDL (along with a control group with lower HDL) to identify genetic causes of high HDL. One of the genes they focused on was SCARB1, which encodes for Scavenger Receptor B1 (SR-B1), the major receptor for HDL on cell surfaces.

In the course of this sequencing, they identified, for the first time, a person without any SCARB1 function, typified by an extremely high HDL-C level of about 150 mg/dL, whereas the normal level is about 50 mg/dL. The subject had two copies of a SCARB1 mutation called P376L, which the team showed caused a breakdown in HDL receptor function.

 

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Reducing Alzheimer’s risk through exercise – Two news releases

Burning more calories linked with greater gray matter volume, reduced Alzheimer’s risk (11 March 2016EurkAlert)

Excerpt – “Whether they jog, swim, garden or dance, physically active older persons have larger gray matter volume in key brain areas responsible for memory and cognition, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UCLA.

The findings, published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed also that people who had Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment experienced less gray matter volume reduction over time if their exercise-associated calorie burn was high.

A growing number of studies indicate physical activity can help protect the brain from cognitive decline, said investigator James T. Becker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine. But typically people are more sedentary as they get older, which also is when the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias increases.

Different kinds of physical activity shown to improve brain volume & cut Alzheimer’s risk in half (another 11 March 2016 EurkAlert)

Excerpt- “LOS ANGELES, CA/PITTSBURGH, PA, March 11, 2016: A new study shows that a variety of physical activities from walking to gardening and dancing can improve brain volume and cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

This research, conducted by investigators at UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh, is the first to show that virtually any type of aerobic physical activity can improve brain structure and reduce Alzheimer’s risk. The study, funded by the National Institute of Aging, was published on March 11 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Covering the debate over expanded use of dental therapists [news release]

Reminds me of my sister who is a pharmacist. She goes on yearly medical missions to Haiti. The folks working in the pharmacy at the clinic there have only a high school education. My sister is a stickler when it comes to pharmacy practice/licensing in the US. But very much in awe with her Haitian colleagues and what they know and are able to do.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 4.09.32 AM

From the 10 March 2016 item at Covering Health:Monitoring the Pulse of Health Care Journalism

Excerpts

A recent news package in The Seattle Times by reporter Will Drabold took a look at how the controversy over dental therapists is unfolding in the state of Washington.

Drabold examined the challenges faced by poor Medicaid patients in seeking dental care. He spoke with health care advocates who believe that technically-trained mid-level providers could bring much-needed care to poor and isolated communities. He also interviewed tribal leader Brian Cladoosby, whose Swinomish tribe had just defied state restrictions to hire a dental therapist. And he spoke with state dental association officials, who made it clear that they – ­like the American Dental Association – believe dental therapists lack the training to perform these expanded duties.

Dental therapists, who often are compared to nurse practitioners, are trained to deliver a range of services including screenings, cleanings, preventive care, fillings and extractions. While the therapists do work under the supervision of dentists, dental groups often contend that dentists alone have the training to perform what they consider irreversible surgical procedures, such as drilling and extracting teeth.

In spite of resistance from organized dentistry, variations of the therapist model already are being used in Alaska’s tribal lands and in the state of Minnesota. Dental therapists have been approved in Maine and are being considered in a number of other states.

March 11, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

sleep

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Advocacy research” not necessarily scientific

russian

A recent article in the National Review used the term “advocacy research” to describe unscientific articles published in predatory journals to promote a social or political agenda.

I have been observing and blogging about this for some time and wish I had come up with the term “advocacy research,” for it fits the concept perfectly.

The National Review article says,

Another trend, related and equally worrisome, is the increasing frequency of publication of the results of flawed “advocacy research” that is designed to give a false result that supports a certain cause or position and can be cited by activists long after the findings have been discredited. The articles are often found in the predatory open-access journals.

Because journals with an honest peer review process won’t publish unscientific advocacy research, predatory journals have become the venue of choice for people promoting unscientific agendas.

Here’s an example — illustrated in the screenshot above — with both a political and commercial motive. The article, “Asbestos-Related Research: First Objectivity then Conclusions,” (HTML, PDF) tries to make the case that government regulations prohibiting the manufacture and sale of asbestos products are “excessive.”

 

Read the entire blog post here

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New report: 25 percent of Texans say they don’t understand basic health insurance terms

From the 8 March 2015 Rice University news release

Excerpt

HOUSTON – (March 8, 2016) – Approximately 25 percent of Texans say they lack confidence in understanding some of the most basic terminology about health insurance plans, according to a new report released today by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF). The report found uninsured, low-income and Hispanic Texans were least likely to understand health-plan terms like “premium,” “copayment and “provider network.”

Credit: thinkstockphotos.com/Rice University

Credit: thinkstockphotos.com/Rice University

The survey asked Texans about their confidence level in understanding seven terms that describe various features of health insurance plans. While one-quarter of all the respondents lacked confidence in their understanding of the terminology, there are significant differences among various subgroups.

Researchers found at least half of those who are uninsured said they didn’t fully understand five of the seven terms. In fact, the rates of lack of confidence for uninsured Texans were nearly double that of those with health insurance.

“This research shows that understanding the key parts of a health insurance plan can be tough, especially for the uninsured,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO and a nonresident health policy fellow at the Baker Institute. “These numbers illustrate the continuing need to offer education and outreach targeting the uninsured so they can better understand their health insurance options.”

– See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2016/03/08/new-report-25-percent-of-texans-say-they-dont-understand-basic-health-insurance-terms/#sthash.vadJ9t9y.dpuf

March 10, 2016 Posted by | health care | , | Leave a comment

Want a younger brain? Stay in school — and take the stairs [news release]

From the 9th March 2016 Concordia University news release

Excerpt

A Concordia study shows that education and physical activity can significantly slow down grey-matter aging
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Montreal, March 9, 2016 — Taking the stairs is normally associated with keeping your body strong and healthy. But new research shows that it improves your brain’s health too — and that education also has a positive effect.

In a study recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers led by Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre, show that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears.

The researchers found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed — i.e., the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building.

“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” says Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | Leave a comment

Study: No Link Between Bully Victimization, Future Substance Abuse

From the 8 March 2016 University of Dallas News Center

Excerpt

“The research by three criminologists in UT Dallas’ School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS) discovered that students who were bullied in third grade did not have a greater risk of using drugs or alcohol by ninth grade.

But the researchers found that children who had experienced the highest level of victimization smoked cigarettes or used alcohol at higher rates than high school peers. The study noted that experimentation with drugs and alcohol is common among adolescents regardless of whether they had been bullied.

“The findings speak to the necessity of continuing to encourage meaningful substance use prevention programs during adolescence and making sure students have the resilience skills necessary to stay away from substances,” said Dr. Nadine Connell, assistant professor of criminologyand lead author of the study. “Early in-school victimization may, however, have other consequences that should be explored.””

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Precision Medicine: Can We Afford It? Can We Afford Not To Explore It? [news release]

From the 8 March 2016 Texas A & M news release

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Excerpts

Imagine that the next time your doctor orders a round of tests, in addition to cholesterol and vitamin D, she also orders a genome sequence. It sounds like science fiction, but the day might come sooner than you think.

Precision medicine—in which each patient’s prevention and treatment decisions are tailored for them—has been a buzzword in the health care industry recently. President Barack Obama launched his Precision Medicine Initiative, and other countries have similar projects underway.

With concerns about the cost of health care, though, can we afford precision medicine?

In certain instances, precision medicine can actually save money. For example, if patients can be screened for drug hypersensitivity before being prescribed certain drugs, they won’t have to be treated later, which is better for patients and cuts down on costs. A similar approach works for choosing treatments.

“When you use a therapy to target only the individuals who will benefit, you avoid wasting drugs or other resources on people who you know won’t get any benefit, and who might actually be harmed,” said David Threadgill, Ph.D., professor and holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. “Whether the economics works out in favor of precision medicine depends on two things: the difficulty and the cost of finding the best candidates who will benefit from specific, tailored treatments,” said Robert L. Ohsfeldt, Ph.D., health economist and professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management at the Texas A&M School of Public Health. “You have to know a lot about the disease process and how individual characteristics—genetics and environmental factors like diet or exposure to toxins—mediate the treatment response.”

Continue reading on Vital Record.

March 9, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Gun Restrictions Help Reduce Gun Deaths? [news release]

From the 8 March 2016 Columbia University news release

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“Astudy by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at the associations between firearm-related laws and firearm homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries and deaths.  The paper is the first to explore the evidence from around the world on gun laws and gun violence to determine whether gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths. While the research did not conclusively prove that restrictions, or relaxation of laws, reduce gun deaths, the results indicate that gun violence tended to decline after countries passed new restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership. Findings are published online in the February issue of Epidemiologic Reviews.

The researchers reviewed the findings from 130 studies conducted from 1950 to 2014 in 10 countries that had overhauled their gun law, mostly in the developed world, including the U.S., Australia, and Austria. A few studies looked at gun laws in middle-income countries, including Brazil, Colombia and South Africa.

“In most countries, we saw evidence of reduction in the firearm death rates after the enactment of firearm legislation” said Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School and the study’s lead author.

Santaella-Tenorio and his Columbia co-authors, Professors Magdalena Cerdá and Sandro Galea, also found evidence that specific laws, such as background checks and rules on storage, reduced specific kinds of gun deaths including intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively.

By comparison, laws in place about carrying concealed weapons or standing your ground either had no effect on gun deaths or increased gun violence. “While our review is not proof that gun laws reduce violence, and also taking into account that for some countries there are very few papers examining firearm laws effects, we did see evidence showing an association between firearm laws and a decline in firearm homicide and suicide rates,” noted Santaella-Tenorio.

“Since we limited our review to changes in firearm policy and not ownership in general or other types of policy, the debate should not end here.”

– See more at: https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/do-gun-restrictions-help-reduce-gun-deaths#sthash.EpAJImmS.dpuf

 

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trust Your Aha! Moments, Experiments Show They’re Probably Right [news release]

From the 7 March 2016 news release

Excerpts

When a solution to a problem seems to have come to you out of thin air, it turns out you’ve more than likely been struck with the right idea, according to a new study.

A series of experiments conducted by a team of researchers determined that a person’s sudden insights are often more accurate at solving problems than thinking them through analytically.

“Conscious, analytic thinking can sometimes be rushed or sloppy, leading to mistakes while solving a problem,” said team member John Kounios, PhD, professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the co-author of the book “The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight and the Brain.” “However, insight is unconscious and automatic — it can’t be rushed. When the process runs to completion in its own time and all the dots are connected unconsciously, the solution pops into awareness as an Aha! moment. This means that when a really creative, breakthrough idea is needed, it’s often best to wait for the insight rather than settling for an idea that resulted from analytical thinking.”

Experiments with four different types of timed puzzles showed that those answers that occurred as sudden insights (also described as Aha! moments) were more likely to be correct. Moreover, people who tended to have more of these insights were also more likely to miss the deadline rather than provide an incorrect, but in-time, answer. Those who responded based on analytic thought (described as being an idea that is worked out consciously and deliberately) were more likely to provide an answer by the deadline, though these last-minute answers were often wrong.

– See more at: http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2016/March/Insight_Correctness/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Science360NewsServiceComplete+%28Science360+News+Service%3A+Complete%29&utm_content=Netvibes#sthash.5dhxWU92.dpuf

 

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

How Finland takes care of its mothers and babies [Reblog]

From the 8 March 2016 blog item at Selam Selam by Laura Kihlström

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Excerpts

Once in a month my husband and I pack Amos in his stroller and walk a few blocks to our closest health care center. We take the elevator to the fourth floor and enter Neuvola, the maternity and child care clinic, or ‘Place for Advice’ as translated freely from the Finnish word.

Neuvola is a Finnish public health care service available for all expectant mothers and children for free.

Maternal and child health is crucial, a cornerstone of development for all countries. Currently in the world approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and an estimated 5.9 million children die annually before they reach the age of 5.

The numbers for maternal and child mortality used to be staggering in Finland as well. Just 80 years ago, out of 1000 children a total of 95 died before reaching the age of 5. Now that number is less than 3, one of the lowest in the whole world. Similarly, the rate of maternal deaths used to be high, with 400 mothers dying per 100,000 births. Today, such deaths do basically not occur.

Who are we to thank for this?

The story of Neuvola dates back to the 1920s.

Mr. Arvo Ylppö, a Finnish pediatrician, was determined to decrease infant mortality in Finland. He got his motivation from Germany where he studied and observed, for instance, that the cause of death for prematurely born infants can be traced to treatable conditions instead of simple underdevelopment.

The ideas he then implemented in Finland are, in essence, preventive health care measures.

He supported efforts to educate health care professionals, along with midwives, to municipalities. The services provided by Neuvola were to be free of charge and voluntary. At its core were to be the provision of guidance for mothers and families, a complete vaccination programme as well as the detection of abnormalities in a child’s development as early as possible.

These remain the activities of Neuvola even today.

Neuvola started small, but today it reaches practically all expectant mothers and children in Finland from their birth to the beginning of primary education which is usually at the age of 7. It has been a tremendous success story. My mother used Neuvola services, now I do too. It is a privilege shared by many generations.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Finland is one of the best countries in the world for parents.

March 9, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Cutting Urban Blight Reduce Teen Murders? [news release]

From the 7 March 2016 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia news release

Analyzing the immediate neighborhood surroundings of teenaged homicide victims, Philadelphia researchers found that neglected conditions — vacant lots, poor street lighting, fewer parks and less-traveled thoroughfares — were in much greater abundance compared to neighborhoods where adolescents were safer. Without attributing cause and effect, the new study adds to previous research suggesting that modifying specific outdoor features with low-cost improvements may foster community interaction and potentially reduce youth violence in cities.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2565207319 Garry Knight Homeless In Clink Street
A couple walk past a young homeless man in London’s Clink Street.

“Homicide is a leading cause of death in U.S. adolescents and young adults, especially among African Americans, but the factors influencing violence are complex,” said corresponding author Alison J. Culyba, MD, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist and epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Large-scale violence-prevention programs addressing poverty and educational disparities are absolutely necessary, but may require long-term investment to yield results. We focused on a different level — modifiable features of the built environment that might be factors in violence risk.”

Culyba and her CHOP co-authors collaborated with researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, led by epidemiologist Charles C. Branas, PhD, the senior author and director of the Penn Injury Science Center.

The study appeared today in JAMA Pediatrics.

“One theory that resonated with a lot of the things we found points to the importance of busy streets in promoting outdoor activity, interaction and cohesion in communities, which could potentially deter street violence,” said Branas, who has led several previous studies suggesting that urban parks and greening vacant lots encourage people to become invested in maintaining their neighborhoods and may reduce violent crime.

Both Culyba and Branas stress that this study does not show that street features and other elements cause or reduce homicide. Rather, they say, street lighting, pedestrian infrastructure, public transit, parks and vacant lot greening may be promising targets for future research to discover whether such interventions may provide social and health benefits.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Person-on-a-chip’ — U of T engineers create lab-grown heart and liver tissue for drug testing and more [news release]

From the 7 March 2016 University of Toronto news release

Excerpts
Professor Milica Radisic and her team have created a new platform for growing realistic human heart and liver tissue outside the body. The technique could help drug companies discover and prevent negative side effects. (Photo: Caz Zyvatkauskas)

Researchers at U of T Engineering have developed a new way of growing realistic human tissues outside the body. Their “person-on-a-chip” technology, called AngioChip, is a powerful platform for discovering and testing new drugs, and could eventually be used to repair or replace damaged organs.

Professor Milica Radisic (IBBME, ChemE), graduate student Boyang Zhang and their collaborators are among those research groups around the world racing to find ways to grow human tissues in the lab, under conditions that mimic a real person’s body. They have developed unique methods for manufacturing small, intricate scaffolds for individual cells to grow on. These artificial environments produce cells and tissues that resemble the real thing more closely than those grown lying flat in a petri dish.

Left to right: Team members Miles Montgomery, Professor Milica Radisic, Boyang Zhang and Yimu Zhao (Photo: Geoff George)

Left to right: Team members Miles Montgomery, Professor Milica Radisic, Boyang Zhang and Yimu Zhao (Photo: Geoff George)

The team’s recent creations have included BiowireTM — an innovative method of growing heart cells around a silk suture — as well as a scaffold for heart cells that snaps together like sheets of Velcro™. But AngioChip takes tissue engineering to a whole new level. “It’s a fully three-dimensional structure complete with internal blood vessels,” says Radisic. “It behaves just like vasculature, and around it there is a lattice for other cells to attach and grow.” The work — which is published todayin the journal Nature Materials — was produced collaboratively with researchers from across U of T, including Professor Michael Sefton (ChemE, IBBME), Professor Aaron Wheeler (Chemistry, IBBME) and their research teams, as well as researchers from Toronto General Hospital and University Health Network.

Zhang built the scaffold out of POMaC, a polymer that is both biodegradable and biocompatible. The scaffold is built out of a series of thin layers, stamped with a pattern of channels that are each about 50 to 100 micrometres wide. The layers, which resemble the computer microchips, are then stacked into a 3D structure of synthetic blood vessels. As each layer is added, UV light is used to cross-link the polymer and bond it to the layer below.

These tiny polymer scaffolds contain channels that are about 100 micrometres wide, about the same diameter as a human hair. When seeded with cells, the channels act as artificial blood vessels. By mimicking tissues in the human heart and other organs, these scaffolds provide a new way to test drugs for potentially dangerous side effects. (Image: Tyler Irving/Boyang Zhang/Kevin Soobrian)

These tiny polymer scaffolds contain channels that are about 100 micrometres wide, about the same diameter as a human hair. When seeded with cells, the channels act as artificial blood vessels. By mimicking tissues in the human heart and other organs, these scaffolds provide a new way to test drugs for potentially dangerous side effects. (Image: Tyler Irving/Boyang Zhang/Kevin Soobrian)

When the structure is finished, it is bathed in a liquid containing living cells. The cells quickly attach to the inside and outside of the channels and begin growing just as they would in the human body.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No girl or woman left behind: A global imperative for 2030 [Report]

From the 7 March 2016 Brookings report

Excerpts

This Tuesday, March 8, marks the first International Women’s Day since world leaders agreed last September to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. A more rounded conception of gender equality marks one of the SDGs’ most important improvements compared to their predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Two SDG targets help to illustrate the broadening geopolitical recognition of the challenges. They also help to underscore how much progress is still required.

 

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A renewed target: Protecting mothers’ lives

The SDGs are also carrying forward the previous MDG priority of maternal health. Target 3.1 aims as follows: “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.” Formally this falls under Goal 3 for health and wellbeing, but it certainly represents a gender equality objective too. Part of that is by definition; mothers are female. Part of it is driven by the need to overcome gender bias; male decision-makers at all levels might overlook key health issues with which they have no direct personal experience.

A new target: Eliminating child marriage

The inclusion of SDG target 5.3 adds one of the most important new priorities to the global policy agenda: to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.”

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

New study finds troubling health care outcomes for US workers without paid sick leave [News release]

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.15.22 AMFrom the 7 March 2016 EurkAlert

Excerpts

“Key findings from the study, which are representative of the nation, showed that regardless of income, age, race, occupation, full-time or part-time work status, health status or health insurance coverage, workers without paid sick leave were three times more likely to delay medical care than were workers with paid sick leave. They also were three times more likely to forgo needed medical care altogether. Furthermore, families of workers without paid sick leave were two times more likely to delay medical care and 1.6 times more likely to forgo needed medical care. The lowest-income group of workers without paid sick leave were at the highest risk of delaying and forgoing medical care for themselves and their family members — making the most financially vulnerable workers the least likely to be able to address health care concerns in a timely manner.

The researchers also found that working adults with paid sick leave benefits missed one-and-a-half days more of work because of an illness or injury compared to workers without paid sick leave, indicating that they were more likely to take time off work to care for themselves or family when needed.”

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health, Workplace Health | | Leave a comment

Too many avoidable errors in patient care, says report [Press release]

From the 8 March 2016 Imperial College London press release

Excerpts

by Kate Wighton

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Avoidable harm to patients is still too high in healthcare in the UK and across the globe.

Safety therefore must be a top healthcare priority for providers and policy makers alike.

These are the findings of two reports launched today by researchers from Imperial College London.  Both reports, produced by NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), provide evidence on the current state of patient safety and how it could be improved the future.  They urge healthcare providers to embrace a more open and transparent culture to encourage continuous learning and harm reduction.

The first report focuses on the current system used by NHS staff to report patient safety incidents, called the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). The report authors explain this system requires refinement and renovation, so as to take advantage of new technologies and recent behavioural insights. For example app-based technologies offer a simplified platform that engages staff in the incident reporting process. This will not only improve the ease of reporting, but also the accuracy of data reported.

In particular, the report reiterates problems around under-reporting of safety incidents, and reveals structural concerns within the NRLS, that have inhibited its usefulness as a tool to drive safety improvement.

The second report, Patient Safety 2030, suggests a ‘toolbox’ for patient safety. This would include: using digital technology to improve safety; providing robust training and education, and strengthening leadership at the political, organisational, clinical and community levels. Other points in the ‘toolbox’ include effective and high-quality education and training; strengthening measurement methods, including incident reporting, and exploring new digital solutions.

However, the authors warn that interventions implemented to reduce avoidable patient harm must be engineered with the whole system in mind, and empower patients and staff to become more involved in preventing harm and improving care.

Ultimately, both reports issue a global call-to-action on patient safety: both for individual health systems to convert the evidence on how to improve patient safety into everyday practice, and for the global community of health systems to share learnings from each other’s successes and failures.

The publications: “NRLS Research and Development Final Report”, funded by NHS England, will be presented on March 8th at the Royal Society in London. The “Patient Safety 2030”, funded by a grant from the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK, will be presented on March 9th at the Patient Safety Global Action Summit 2016.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

CU researchers offer framework to integrate behavioral health and primary care [News release]

From the 4 March 2014 EurkAlert

Excerpt

AURORA, Colo. (March 4, 2016) – – Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, along with experts from across the country, have developed a set of policy recommendations that would improve the quality of behavioral health care patients receive in clinical settings.

The Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released recommendations in a report, “Creating a Culture of Whole Health,” that offers practical improvements that would eliminate the artificial separation of “mental health” from “physical health.” The report provides recommendations that call for creating a new approach to health care.

“The health care system differentiates physical and behavioral health care, patients don’t,” said Benjamin Miller, PsyD, director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center and assistant professor of family medicine at the CU School of Medicine. “They seek care in a single setting with providers they trust in clinics that are convenient for them to visit. There should be no ‘wrong door’ preventing patients from accessing appropriate care.”

To improve the quality of care, Miller and the project team make several recommendations. Among them:

  • policymakers and payers should establish payment methodologies that support team, not individual, providers;
  • policymakers and payers should invest in a national technical assistance center focused on how to improve care by revising federal, state and local policy and regulatory barriers;
  • providers should engage communities in service to advancing needs for behavioral health and assure consistency across care delivery;
  • providers should share information on how to operationalize successful strategies, such as telehealth; and
  • businesses and philanthropies could create resources and technical assistance strategies that improve access to data for patients and other providers.

March 5, 2016 Posted by | health care | , | Leave a comment

Hostile young adults may experience thinking and memory problems in middle age [News release]

From the 4 March 2016 EurkAlert

Excerpt

“MINNEAPOLIS – Young adults with hostile attitudes or those who don’t cope well with stress may be at increased risk for experiencing memory and thinking problems decades later, according to a study published in the March 2, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“We may not think of our personality traits as having any bearing on how well we think or remember things, but we found that the effect of having a hostile attitude and poor coping skills on thinking ability was similar to the effect of more than a decade of aging,” said study author Lenore J. Launer, PhD, with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.”

 

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Health News Items, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

Physicians thoughts on medical care decisions and third-party payers [Reblog]

An excerpt from Quality vs. Quantity by By MICHEL ACCAD, MD at The Health Care Blog (4 March 2016)

“If we bear in mind that medical care consists of decisions and choices made in the face of uncertainty, then the quality of a decision can only be determined in real time, in a specific context, in light of all its alternatives. A third-party payer—public or private, single or multiple—cannot possibly obtain the needed knowledge to make that determination. For an outsider, the quality chasm is metaphysically impossible to cross. Measuring quality is grasping at straws.”

March 5, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

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