Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

California, Oregon To Allow Hormonal Contraceptives Without A Doctor’s Prescription [Reblog]

California, Oregon To Allow Hormonal Contraceptives Without A Doctor’s Prescription

From a July 2015 Kaiser Health News post

California and Oregon will allow hormonal contraceptives without a doctor’s prescription (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

California and Oregon will be the first states in the nation to allow women to get birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives directly from their pharmacists – without a doctor’s prescription.

As California officials were busy finalizing regulations on a state  law passed in 2013, Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed a similar bill into law last week.

The two measures were hailed by women’s health advocates. They noted that men have long had an easier time getting birth control, simply purchasing condoms over the counter.

“We support efforts like these that remove barriers to women gaining access to birth control and other reproductive health care,” said Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California,  in a written statement.

Read the entire post here 

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care, Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Is the Federal Government Afraid of Fat? [Reblog]

Why Is the Federal Government Afraid of Fat?
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rom a July 2015 post at Medication Health News

The New York ID-100303054Times has recently shared an interesting piece with their readers. Since 1980’s Dietary Guidelines and Federal food policies recommended limiting dietary fat in the American diet to less than 30% of a daily caloric intake. This recommendation has remained active since and is still used in the Nutrition Facts panel on all packaged foods. A number of recent studies of low-fat diets revealed no significant benefits in major cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer risk and weight gain. In fact, the only research that suggested a reduction in these conditions related to a Mediterranean-style diet with a higher 40% of total fat intake. Additionally, a harmful increase in the consumption of refined carbohydrates has occurred over the past several decades. For the first time the advisory committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines omitted the upper limit on total fat, focusing the recommendation on promoting healthy food consumption and improving the food quality rather than concentrating on the total fat content. In your opinion, is an average American ready to abandon the low-fat trend?

For additional information please read The NewYork times

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

From a July 2015 post by Dr. Jekyll

douche aisle

Women who use feminine care products called douches may increase their exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates–and black women may be at particularly high risk due to frequent use. Public health officials advise against the use of douching products, which can hide vaginal infections and lead to other serious health problems. Despite that, douching products are still a popular item on the drug store shelf, and are disproportionately used by black women.

“This study suggests, for the first time, that vaginal douches may increase a woman’s exposure to phthalates, chemicals that may alter hormone action and are associated with serious health problems,” says senior author of the study Ami Zota, ScD, MS.

“These findings raise questions about the health and safety of vaginal douches and other fragranced products used in and around the vaginal area.”

 

This study did not directly tie phthalates in douching products to health problems in women–additional research will have to make that direct connection. Still, the research did find that vaginal douching may increase a woman’s exposure to DEP and that’s a troubling finding that needs to be explored further.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other health experts recommend against douching because this practice has been associated with increased risks of vagina infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, problems during pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Now, this study adds the worry that douching may also expose women to chemicals that can lead to health problems later in life or can harm their developing baby–if women are pregnant while using such products.

Read the entire post here

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Climate Change-related Health Effects Tied to the Decline of Pollinators such as Bees and Butterflies [Reblog]

From a July 2015 post at RFF Library blog
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[AFP via Yahoo! Health] The unprecedented degradation of Earth’s natural resources coupled with climate change could reverse major gains in human health over the last 150 years, according to a sweeping scientific review published late Wednesday.

“We have been mortgaging the health of future generations to realize economic and development gains in the present,” said the report, written by 15 leading academics and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

“By unsustainably exploiting nature’s resources, human civilization has flourished but now risks substantial health effects from the degradation of nature’s life support systems in the future.”

Climate change, ocean acidification, depleted water sources, polluted land, over-fishing, biodiversity loss — all unintended by-products of humanity’s drive to develop and prosper — “pose serious challenges to the global health gains of the past several decades,” especially in poorer nations, the 60-page report concludes…

“This is the first time that the global health community has come out in a concerted way to report that we are in real danger of undermining the core ecological systems that support human health,” said Samuel Myers, a scientist at Harvard University and one the authors.

A companion study on the worldwide decline of bees and other pollinators, led by Myers and also published in The Lancet, illustrates one way this might happen.

The dramatic decline of bees has already compromised the quantity and quality of many nutrient-rich crops that depend on the transfer of pollen to bear fruit…

 

 

Read the entire post here

July 20, 2015 Posted by | environmental health | , , | Leave a comment

US debate on e-cig’ regulation rages on | States & Municipalities with Laws Regulating Use of Electronic Cigarettes (Report) -[Reblog]

E-cigs are at the least annoying. Both my husband and I can tell if there is e-cig smoke in the near vicinity, it is a nasty feeling in one’s lungs.  I was walking out of the public library behind someone, and before I could dodge another person exiting, he was vamping. Took about 15 minutes for the vapors to get out of my lungs.

From a July 2015 post at  DR B’ VAPING. all.things.vapelife

Petal (Mississippi) resident Jonathan McNeil used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day. His smoking once caused his two cousins to have asthma attacks, and even forced him to have to use an inhaler. “Now that I vape, I don’t need one,” he said. “I was vaping at the shop and filled the whole place with the vapor. My little cousins walked in, and they were fine. They didn’t have a single attack.” McNeil is one of many who believe electronic cigarettes help people more than they harm them. “This vapor is fine for people to be around,” he said. “It’s the same stuff that comes out of smoke machines on Halloween. A business should be able to do what it wants, so I think a ban like this from the government isn’t needed.” But there are plenty who disagree.

E-cigarettes are being banned in an increasing number of locations, as the debate about their potential harmful side effects rages on. So far, Petal is the lone city inForrest and Lamar counties to specifically address the electronic smoking devices, although the issue is on other cities’ radar. “We’re just trying to keep pace with the technology that is out there,” said Petal Ward 4, Alderman Brad Amacker, who proposed the Friendly City’s ban on using the devices in public locations. “We already have the ban on tobacco cigarettes, so it only seemed prudent to update the ordinance to reflect current smoking devices.”

American Non-smokers Rights Foundation (ANRF) issued a report detailing Local Laws Regulating Use of E-cigarettes. As of July 1, Mississippi had 46 cities and counties where laws restrict e-cigarette use in 100 percent smoke-free venues.

Read the entire article here

July 20, 2015 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Asthma attack! Nosy bacteria could be to blame [Reblog]

From a July 2015 post at Public Health, FYI

Asthma attack! Nosy bacteria could be to blame

You have been colonized by bacteria since the day you were born. Yes, you are the breeding ground for a multitude of tiny organisms. In fact, bacteria outnumber your own cells by 10 to 1!

But before you drench yourself in hand sanitizer to get rid of these little beings, it’s important to note that not all bacteria are bad.

Some good bacteria that live in your gut actually help you digest food. Other good bacteria also live in food like yogurt and milk.

But in a world of good and evil, we do have bacteria that rather complicate our lives and cause us more harm than good.

Meet Staphylococcus aureus, a seemingly innocent-looking bacterium. S aureuslikes to live on your salty skin and in mucosal membranes like your nostrils. This bacterium isn’t always pathogenic, which means it doesn’t always cause disease; however, it can secrete a toxin called that could be the true culprit for causing illness.

These enterotoxins can be found in undercooked or mishandled food, which can cause food poisoning. Beyond causing explosive bowel movement due to a bad burrito, enterotoxins can actually be inhaled, especially if a colony of S aureus lives in your nose.

Herein lies the newest medical mystery – can S aureus enterotoxins cause some kind of respiratory damage like asthma?

Science says… maybe!

 

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Different Chronic Illnesses Demand Different Connected Health Strategies [Reblog]

From a May 2015 post at The cHealth blog

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We made a decision some years ago to build the case for connected health around the management of these illnesses because:

  1. They are costly. By some estimates these chronic diseases account for 70% of U.S. health care costs.
  2. They have a significant lifestyle component. This backdrop seems an ideal canvas for connected health interventions because they involve motivational psychology, self-tracking and engagement with health messages. These chronic illnesses pose a unique challenge in that the lifestyle choices that accelerate them are for the most part pleasurable (another piece of cheese cake? spending Sunday afternoon on the couch watching football, smoking more cigarettes and drinking more beer.) In contrast, the reward for healthy behavior is abstract and distant (a few more minutes of life sometime down the road or an avoided heart attack or stroke). This combination of lack of symptoms and the uphill battle around lifestyle improvement makes these illnesses uniquely challenging.
  3. They are mostly amenable to tracking some objective bit of information about you (e.g. your blood pressure, blood glucose or activity level) in order to make you more aware and, hopefully improve your lifestyle in order to improve your health.

20100811 - Wednesday, August 11, 2010, Fairhaven, MA, USA – LIGHTCHASER PHOTOGRAPHY – Images of a Mass General Hospital diabetes patient in his own home using an advanced home monitoring system for the Partners HealthCare Center for Connected Health's 2010 Progress Report, Forward Currents.   ( lightchaser photography 2010 © image by j. kiely jr. )

 

 

ocused on these illnesses and the attendant challenges, we developed programs for home blood pressure monitoring, home glucose monitoring and various activity challenges (nothing on cholesterol just yet). By iteration, trial and error, we’ve become comfortable with the psychology around these illnesses and how it affects both our ability to manage patients and the patient’s ability to improve these conditions.

Because these conditions are silent and because most people would rather not be reminded that they have an illness, we found that a strong engagement platform is needed to get people’s attention. We also found that we need to create tools that nudge people to adopt and sustain a healthy lifestyle rather than ignore our natural tendencies to ignore these silent conditions and engage in unhealthy behaviors.

Read the entire blog post here 

July 20, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study finds online hookup sites increase HIV rates in sometimes-surprising ways

Study finds online hookup sites increase HIV rates in sometimes-surprising ways.

From the 29 May 2015 University of Maryland news release

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The introduction of Craigslist led to an increase in HIV-infection cases of 13.5 percent in Florida over a four-year period, according to a new study conducted at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith of Business. The estimated medical costs for those patients will amount to $710 million over the course of their lives.

Online hookup sites have made it easier for people to have casual sex—and also easier to transmit sexually transmitted diseases.  The new study measured the magnitude of the effect of one platform on HIV-infection rates in one state, and offered a detailed look at the varying effects on subpopulations by race, gender and socio-economic status. Looking at the period 2002 to 2006, it found that Craigslist led to an additional 1,149 Floridians contracting HIV.

The study “underscores the need for broader communication and dissemination of the risks posed by the type of online matching platforms studied here,” noted Ritu Agarwal, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and founding director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS), and Brad N. Greenwood, a 2013 Smith Ph.D. and assistant professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

The study also found that the new HIV cases came disproportionately from one racial-ethnic group, African Americans, who accounted for some 63 percent of the new cases. “That is a bit of paradox,” says Agarwal, “because research suggests that the African American community is one which uses the Internet the least, even though the gap is narrowing.”

Greenwood described African Americans as suffering the effects of a “double digital divide.” He said, “Not only have studies shown there is lower utilization of the Internet for welfare-enhancing activities, but now there’s evidence of utilization for negative activities as well.”

There was also an increase in new HIV cases among Latinos and Caucasians—although only intermittently statistically significant and not statistically different from each other. The lack of difference between Latinos and Caucasians was notable, as Latinos have a higher baseline rate of HIV infection. One explanation could be that fewer Latinos may have sought treatment. Or Florida’s Latino community, which is especially large and well-off, may not be reflective of national trends.

Another counterintuitive result was that more cases came from non-Medicaid patients, the wealthier patients, than from the population covered by the government program.  That was the case even though the base rate of HIV infection is higher among lower-income citizens. “It could be the case that higher-income people face a higher social penalty for engaging in casual, quasi-anonymous sex, and that the freedom of internet anonymity changes their behavior more than it does for the less wealthy,” Agarwal suggested. “Or it could be a byproduct of substantially better internet access.” (Together with the finding for African Americans, that would suggest that degree of internet access affects different sub-populations in different ways).

HIV-prevention efforts tend to focus on the highest-risk populations, such as the economically disadvantaged, but public-health officials should be aware than online platforms may be “changing the game,” says Agarwal.

Perhaps most surprising of all, given the relatively high rates of infection among bi- and homosexual men, there was not a statistically significant difference in HIV-infection-rate increases across men and women.

It could be the case that homosexual men with HIV who used Craigslist were more likely to practice safe sex than infected heterosexuals, the authors speculated. Or matching platforms may lead to more homosexual activity by men who do not identify publically as homosexuals, who then spread the virus to their female partners. The question demands more research, the authors said.

Agarwal and Greenwood were careful to note that they weren’t making a statement about the overall value of Craigslist. Nevertheless, the study offers a reminder of the downside of connectivity. “While there is a general belief that connectivity is good on average, unfortunately ‘on average’ means that some people are going to benefit more and others are going to lose more,” Agarwal says.  “We need to better understand both the beneficial as well as the punitive effects of the Internet on individual and public health.”

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Despite guidelines, too many medical tests are performed before low-risk procedures

Despite guidelines, too many medical tests are performed before low-risk procedures.

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From the 1 June 2015 EurkAlert

Despite guideline recommendations to limit medical tests before low-risk surgeries, electrocardiograms (ECGs) and chest x-rays are still performed frequently, found a study inCMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Evidence indicates that for patients undergoing low-risk surgery, routine testing does not improve outcomes and can actually lead to surgical delays, patient anxiety and other issues. The Choosing Wisely campaign, which started in the United States and spread to Canada and other countries, aims to raise awareness of unnecessary tests and procedures among physicians and patients to decrease their use.

“Rates of preoperative testing before low-risk procedures were higher than expected, given current guidelines and recommendations, with a significant degree of regional and institutional-level variation across hospitals in a large, diverse jurisdiction with a single-payer health system,” writes Dr. Sacha Bhatia, Department of Cardiology and the Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, with coauthors.

There was a 30-fold difference between institutions with the lowest and highest rates of ordering preoperative tests.

Previous studies have looked at patients over age 65, whereas this study included all patients over age 18.

“Our finding emphasizes the need for re-evaluation of ordering decisions and clinical pathways for patients preparing for low-risk procedures. In particular, preoperative anesthesia and medical consultations have been shown to increase preoperative testing rates.”

The authors suggest more research to understand why these tests continue to be performed, which may be useful for institutions in improving their ordering practices.

July 20, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile app educates teens on risky sexual behavior

Mobile app educates teens on risky sexual behavior.

From the 1 June 2015 Carnegie Mellon news release

By Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 / shilo@cmu.edu

mobile app image

Teenagers, parents, educators and clinicians will have a new tool to help adolescents make more informed decisions about their sexual behavior. “Seventeen Days,” a mobile app based on the interactive movie of the same name, will be available at no cost on iPhone, iPad and Android devices beginning June 4.

“Our goal is to create and make readily available a tool that will help teenagers make better decisions for themselves,” said Julie Downs, associate research professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University who studies how social influences affect decision making and how people can make better decisions by understanding these influences. “For the most part, adolescents don’t want to get pregnant. They definitely don’t want to contract a disease. By building on our research about what goes into their decisions, we have crafted an application that will help them avoid these negative outcomes.”

Seventeen Days — in both the video and mobile app form — are results from a five-year, $7.4 million grantfrom the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to update Downs’ earlier interactive video, “What Could You Do?” which was shown to increase abstinence among teenage girls. Preliminary research indicates that giving young women access to the Seventeen Days film leads to better knowledge about the risks associated with different sexual behaviors and a stronger sense that they can carry out safer behaviors themselves.

In addition to CMU, the mobile app was developed with researchers at West Virginia University, the University of Pittsburgh and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The goal of creating the mobile app is to get the interactive tool into as many hands as possible.

“We know that teenagers are having sex, and addressing this is a very important part of their healthcare needs,” said Pamela Murray, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics at the WVU School of Medicine and section chief for WVU Healthcare’s Adolescent Medicine. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted teen pregnancy as a winnable public health battle. In the same way that we’ve reduced infectious diseases with immunization, we can reduce teen pregnancy rates and unwanted pregnancies with better communication.”

The mobile app’s release coincides with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) annual conference. Beginning June 4, download the Seventeen Days mobile app.

This project and film were made possible by Grant Number TP1AH00040 from the Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Related Links:

Watch the 30-second trailer.

Visit the Seventeen Days website.

Follow Seventeen Days on Twitter.

 

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , | Leave a comment

Researchers find fructose contributes to weight gain, physical inactivity, and body fat

Researchers find fructose contributes to weight gain, physical inactivity, and body fat.
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From the 1 June 2015 University of Illinois news release

n the last 40 years, fructose, a simple carbohydrate derived from fruit and vegetables, has been on the increase in American diets. Because of the addition of high-fructose corn syrup to many soft drinks and processed baked goods, fructose currently accounts for 10 percent of caloric intake for U.S. citizens. Male adolescents are the top fructose consumers, deriving between 15 to 23 percent of their calories from fructose–three to four times more than the maximum levels recommended by the American Heart Association.

A recent study found that, matched calorie for calorie with the simple sugar glucose, fructose causes significant weight gain, physical inactivity, and body fat deposition.

“The important thing to note is that animals in both experimental groups had the usual intake of calories for a mouse,” said Rendeiro. “They were not eating more than they should, and both groups had exactly the same amount of calories deriving from sugar, the only difference was the type of sugar, either fructose or glucose.”

The results showed that the fructose-fed mice displayed significantly increased body weight, liver mass, and fat mass in comparison to the glucose-fed mice.

“In previous studies, the increases in fructose consumption were accompanied by increases in overall food intake, so it is difficult to know whether the animals put on weight due to the fructose itself or simply because they were eating more,” Rhodes said.

Remarkably, the researchers also found that not only were the fructose-fed mice gaining weight, they were also less active.

“We don’t know why animals move less when in the fructose diet,” said Rhodes. “However, we estimated that the reduction in physical activity could account for most of the weight gain.”

“Biochemical factors could also come into play in how the mice respond to the high fructose diet,” explained Jonathan Mun, another author on the study. “We know that contrary to glucose, fructose bypasses certain metabolic steps that result in an increase in fat formation, especially in adipose tissue and liver.”

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brain wave study shows how different teaching methods affect reading development

Brain wave study shows how different teaching methods affect reading development.

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A study, co-authored by Professor Bruce McCandliss, provides some of the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact.

 

From the 28 May 2015 Stanford news release

Stanford Professor Bruce McCandliss found that beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading.

Words learned through the letter-sound instruction elicited neural activity biased toward the left side of the brain, which encompasses visual and language regions. In contrast, words learned via whole-word association showed activity biased toward right hemisphere processing.

McCandliss noted that this strong left hemisphere engagement during early word recognition is a hallmark of skilled readers, and is characteristically lacking in children and adults who are struggling with reading.

In addition, the study’s participants were subsequently able to read new words they had never seen before, as long as they followed the same letter-sound patterns they were taught to focus on. Within a split second, the process of deciphering a new word triggered the left hemisphere processes.

“Ideally, that is the brain circuitry we are hoping to activate in beginner readers,” McCandliss said.

By comparison, when the same participants memorized whole-word associations, the study found that they learned sufficiently to recognize those particular words on the reading test, but the underlying brain circuitry differed, eliciting electrophysiological responses that were biased toward right hemisphere processes.

 

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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