Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Food prices and public health

From the 10 September post at Groping Towards Bethelem – Economics and Culture in Bite-Size Pieces

The University of Otago announced the results of some research in which I’ve been involved.  The relevant blog post is here. What I really like about the post is the moderate tone:

In the first paper from the SPEND Project, we found that across 20-odd food groups, low-income people and Māori tended to change their consumption of foods more in response to price changes, using New Zealand data.  This is entirely consistent with economic theory – and data about price impacts for other consumer goods such as tobacco.

This suggests – but does not prove for reasons we outline below – that taxes on ‘unhealthy’ foods like those high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar; and subsidies on ‘good’ foods like fruit and vegetables should not only improve diets across the board, but more so among socially disadvantaged groups with worse diets and health to start with.

But the proof is in the pudding, which in this case is the health and economic modelling to see what effect taxes and subsidies will actually have on disease rates.  And due to data limitations our modelling is still only half-baked, no matter which research group’s findings you look at.

The post goes on from there and explains more about the different bits of research.

Of course, there are all the problems with implementing such tax/subsidy programmes, and the philosophical issues with ‘nudges’ and individual welfare. But importantly, we now have better estimates of prices elasticities in order to make better calculations about gains and losses.

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] All work and no play… Could too much sitting at work be affecting your health?

From the 11 October 2013 post at Cardiac Exercise Research Group  – The K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine’s blog about exercise and cardiac health

There remains little doubt that lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle represent key health problems in today’s modern society. A quick search on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website and you’ll find that physical inactivity ranks 4th in the global leading risk factors for mortality, with many countries around the world demonstrating a trend for women to be less active than men. While health organisations around the world are making a concerted effort to encourage the general public to incorporate exercise into their leisure and free time, this may not be the only period of our day that is dominated by sedentary behavior. Work forms one of the largest segments of sedentary time for employed individuals, and current trends have shifted parts of the working population into less active, ‘sitting’ jobs.

But what does this mean for our long-term health? One study, published last month in PLoS ONE, aimed to answer this question by assessing the impact of occupational sitting on the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality from a large number of British men and women. Stamatakis and colleagues gathered data from identical health surveys conducted in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2004. Subjects (5380 women, 5788 men) were classified based on whether the majority of time in their job was spent walking, standing or sitting. Subjects were further categorized on levels of physical activity during free time, alcohol intake, smoking, socioeconomic status, and whether they had cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of the survey. The mortality rate (number of deaths) was then monitored over a 13 year follow-up period.

Tired businessman sleeping on chair in office with his legs on tThe major findings reported by this study were that standing/walking occupations carried a lower risk of mortality from either all-causes or cancer, in women but not men. When the researchers further compared groups based on free-time physical activity levels, they found that in both men and women, high levels of free-time physical activity coupled with a standing/walking occupation was associated with a lower risk of cancer and all-cause mortality versus low free-time activity coupled with sitting occupation. At first glance, it could be easy to take the results at face value, but there are limitations to the study design which the authors themselves highlight: Much of the data is self-reported, which may introduce bias, especially when it comes to levels of physical activity during free-time. In addition, there was no information available on how long individuals had been in their current jobs, nor was there any data for people switching jobs during the 13 year follow-up, which may have eventually placed them into a different category. The findings are also surprising given that a similar study published earlier in the year, found that even moderate free-time exercise was enough to reduce the risk of both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, regardless of levels of physical activity in work.

The issue still seems unresolved, and it has also been discussed here on the blog earlier. Current exercise recommendations from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest daily physical activity levels should be at least 30 min, a total 3.5 hours per week, which has been shown in a number of studies to confer significant benefits to health and an overall decrease in mortality rates. However, a busy lifestyle, coupled with raising a family may make this target difficult to reach during our leisure time, making activity levels at work a significant factor in overall health. Everything is better than nothing, and maintaining a physically active lifestyle outside of work hours will contribute significantly to achieve the health benefits of exercise. However, if you’re still worried and have been sat at your desk for the last few hours, when you reach the end of this sentence, why not stand up and take a walk?

Allen Kelly, post doc at CERG.

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Hospitalization Tips That Make a Difference: For Aging Parents, Grandparents, Our Children, and Us

From the 28 September 2013 post at Help! Aging Parents – Ideas, Information, and Support for Boomers and Adult Children – To Help Parents and Grandparents Age Well

 

     I recently learned that a friend who worked in the health professionsneeded surgery.  He recently turned 65, is medicare eligible, but elected to remain with his managed care plan. The hospital he selected was one he knew and liked, was near his home, and was approved by his plan.
     Surgery was successful, but was followed by an infection, then other complications. His family insisted he be moved to a larger, more comprehensive hospital for additional treatment. This took a lot of doing–was not easily accomplished.
     After well over a month and several weeks in the larger hospital, he is in rehab for physical therapy, but health issues remain and he’s very week. There’s conversation about his returning to the comprehensive hospital.

This sobering chain of events calls attention to:

1. a slogan
2. advice, gained from Dr.Susan Love’s (surgeon and prominent breast cancer prevention advocate) hospital experience about the importance of family.
3. information from Jon La Pook, MD (NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia U. Medical Center and Chief Medical Correspondent for CBS News) about how to get optimal hospital care.

1. WHERE YOU’RE TREATED FIRST MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s slogan (goes back to the 1990s if not earlier).

2. The IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY MEMBERS WHILE HOSPITALIZED.  NY Times 2/19/13 Science Section interview, Susan Love’s Illness Gives New Focus to Her CauseDr. Love discusses the 4-week ordeal following her bone marrow transplant and the fact that family members “offered round the clock support,” advocated for her during that time “when she wasn’t very articulate,” and the fact that one family member “slept in the hospital every night.”

While the article initially focuses on Dr. Love’s reasons for devoting her efforts to the cause of disease rather than the medicines to treat it, we learn about the importance of family, which translates into good advice for all of us.

Likewise, Marti Weston shares a personal experience as she blogs about the importance of family in her 2/9/13 post  Elder in Hospital. Does a Family Member Need to be There, Too? The bottom line is “yes.”  Marti gives specifics about why and about certain things/actions family members can do/take (which includes sleeping at the hospital) to avert problems.

3. OPTIMAL HOSPITAL CARE. Dr. Jon La Pook’s TV interview on CBS (following  NY-Presbyterian/Columbia U Medical Center’s earning #7 Best Hospital honors in the latest US News Best Hospital’s edition) gives the excellent advice about how to get optimal hospital care these days.

For example, Dr. La Pook stresses the importance of communication between the patient’s regular doctor and the hospital’s doctor or the hospitalist, emphasizing it needs to be “a good hand-off” and likening it to the passing of the baton in a relay. You don’t want the baton dropped.

He opens our eyes to to basic, but critical, things like hand-washing “it could save your life;” tells you what to be on the lookout for; and introduces new terms ie. “electronic healthcare buddy.” Link to this enlightening interview: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57594022/u.s-news-and-world-report-releases-2013-best-hospitals-list/.

This information can benefit all generations, as we try to help parents age well.

Note-New: Check out “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities about cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

 

Read entire article here

October 11, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why is your waist circumference an important indicator of your health?

From the 30 September 2013 post at Nutrition and Beyone – It’s all about a healthy lifestyle!

How can one simple measurement reveal so much about your health? Let’s start by examining what is behind the waist circumference. This measurement is an easy and non-invasive tool that can estimate visceral fat, aka abdominal fat.

Excessive fat accumulated in the abdomen is characterized as visceral obesity. So, what is visceral obesity? Why is it not desired? Well, starting with the term “obesity”, it is a form of malnutrition which is characterized by an excess of body fat and “visceral” refers to the abdominal area. Increased abdominal fat is associated with increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus type 2, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancers, sleep apnea, and the metabolic syndrome. As we can see, abdominal obesity is associated with higher risks of non-communicable diseases and other conditions. So, since abdominal obesity poses a significant number of risks on your health, why not act upon it? Why not be in charge and try to reduce your waist circumference?

Further, the waist circumference has not only been shown to be strongly correlated with risk of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, but it has also been integrated in the diagnostic criteria of the metabolic syndrome. Here is a quick definition of the metabolic syndrome; it’s a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), for a person to have the metabolic syndrome, they must have central obesity, which is defined as a waist circumference equal or higher than 94 cm for males and 80 cm for females, coupled with any two of the following four factors: raised triglycerides, reduced HDL-cholesterol, raised blood pressure, and/or raised fasting plasma glucose.

You can measure your waist circumference after you exhale by using a measuring tape and by placing it horizontally above your hip bone.

waist circumference

In order to decrease your waist circumference to below the values mentioned above, it is recommended to lose weight, to improve the quality and watch the quantity of food you consume, and to be more physically active.

In other words, it is best to adopt a healthy lifestyle!

It is important to note that a precise measurement of visceral fat is challenging in clinical practice and that the waist circumference, which has different ethnicity specific values, is not the only measurement that should be taken into consideration. Other measurements and factors combined with the waist circumference are needed to have a complete description of your cardiometabolic risk.

Joana Abou-Rizk

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[Repost] Tailgating Food Safety Questions and Answers

English: Tailgating

English: Tailgating (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From a fact sheet at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

 

Keeping food safe at a tailgate gathering requires the same safe food handling practices as picnicking outdoors because a refrigerator and running water are probably not available. Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving the safely cooked food. In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer to be sure the meat and poultry reach a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Q. Several of us are planning a tailgate party. How can we handle the foods safely? 

A. Keeping food at a safe temperature between home, a store or restaurant, and the tailgate location helps prevent foodborne illness. Follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that your food stays safe.

  • Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.
  • Place an appliance thermometer in the cooler so you can check to be sure the food stays at 40 °F or below.
  • When packing the cooler for an outing, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.
  • Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator cold, too.
  • If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • To keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. If you keep the insulated container closed, the food should stay hot (140 °F or above) for several hours.
  • If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan ahead and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer so you can check and make sure the meat and poultry reach a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present.
  • Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving the safely cooked food.
  • Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

 

 

 

Read the entire fact sheet here

 

Listen to a podcast of the fact sheet here

 

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]“Microwave News” and an updated meta-analysis on mobile phones and acoustic neuroma

From the 8 October 2013 post at OEH Science – Snapshots from the Worlds of Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology and Public Health

cellphone

 I recently published a letter in the International Journal of Epidemiology entitled “The case of acoustic neuroma: Comment on: Mobile phone use and risk of brain neoplasms and other cancers” in reply to a paper by Benson at al. who used the Million Women study to look at cancer risk from mobile phone use. The letter addressed the fact the authors instead of just reporting their findings (both negative and positive) in the abstract (which, lets face it is what most people read), they only reported the non-significant effects. The only statistically significant increased risk they found was for acoustic neuroma, which does fit in nicely with the conclusion of the IARCmonograph working group. However, they only reported this after the effect disappeared after pooling the data with the Danish prospective cohort. As I discussed in my letter, a more transparent, and generally more accepted method would have been to conduct a meta-analysis of all available studies. This meta-analysis (although with a typo) and my letter can be found here (link).

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | environmental health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Infographic: 60 Ideas to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Million Ideas

SAD-Infographic_for-blog

I’ve always struggled with the winter blues. I live in Oregon, and I love it here, but our constant rain and early darkness are a huge drag. The good news is that I’m not alone. Millions of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and while some cases are really severe (and require some medical attention), many of us can beat the blues by getting active, healthy, and creative.

Since winter affects all of us differently, I wanted to provide some ideas to kick your winter blues right in the chops! While I’m guessing you won’t try all 60 (it would be incredibly impressive if you did), try a few of these out and see if they get you out of your winter rut. Good luck, and happy winter!

header_SAD-Graphic

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October 11, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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