Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Beyond the garnish: Will a new type of produce get the microgreen light?

Microgreens may be the answer. Quicker to grow than baby greens.
Does not have the bitter roots of sprouts.

Great informative yet entertaining tutorial from the Tennessee State Extension Office at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfX59p_E2tw&feature=youtu.be



Accompanying PDF at https://mastergardener.osu.edu/sites/mgv/files/imce/MISC/Resources/microgreens%20handout.pdf

June 24, 2020 Posted by | Nutrition, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Creative (“traditional”) swearing may help one tolerate pain

Do you want to swear when facing a shot by a healthcare provider? But don’t want to resort to four letter words? Here’s an idea!



https://www.keele.ac.uk/research/researchnews/2020/june/traditional-swearing/tolerate-pain.php

June 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Mind-altering drugs could treat mental disorders

This is an “old” 2016 article, but still under discussion in biomedical circles

https://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i13/Psychedelic-compounds-like-ecstasy-just.html

June 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

For anyone interested – Music blog

Top Benefits of Taking Music Lessons for Young Adults

I don’t know much about this blog, to be honest. But am posting upon request.
It seemed interesting, but am posting with disclaimer that I am not associated with this.

June 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eat better for better mental health, heart health, immune health!

Have mental health, heart health, or immune health issues? Consider altering your diet for better gut microbe colonies. The gut, brain, and immune system are all related and interact.

At this time “There is currently no ‘silver bullet’ probiotic or antibiotic, although certain combinations of probiotics are providing promising research results.”



However, one can most likely foster good bacteria through following a Mediterranean diet.


Read more about this at The American Heart Associations May 28, 2020 article –> https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/05/28/how-bacteria-in-your-gut-interact-with-the-mind-and-body

June 15, 2020 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We Know About Possible COVID-19 Treatments And Vaccines So Far

Confused about the current science regarding drugs as hydroxychloroquine and Remesivir? Treatments as convalescence plasma? If Vitamin C works?

The Huffington Post has a good overview of a few treatments and vaccines recently in the news.

Additional Resources

June 12, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public), Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Trump, the politics of fear and racism: How our brains can be manipulated to tribalism

In situations perceived as dangerous humans have historically tended to trust others in one tribe and authorities of kindred spirits. The downside is politicians seen as authorities (even when they are not) can exploit this trust for their own gain. Politicians will go so far as to dehumanize those outside one’s tribe and portray “the other’ as less worthy and the enemy.

This thought provoking article by The Conversation** can be found at https://theconversation.com/trump-the-politics-of-fear-and-racism-how-our-brains-can-be-manipulated-to-tribalism-139811

**”Academic rigor, journalistic flair

June 12, 2020 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social psychiatry could stem the rising tide of mental illness

The Conversation is a Web site that bills itself as having “academic rigor, journalistic flair”. It is a great place to go for insightful thoughtful articles on a variety of current event topics.

A June 3 2020 article outlines the history of social psychiatry, ” a preventive approach to mental health that was highly influential in the US after the second world war. It focused on identifying the social factors believed to cause mental illness. These included poverty, inequality and social exclusion. It was also an interdisciplinary approach. Psychiatrists worked closely with social scientists, especially sociologists and anthropologists, to determine the relationship between society and mental illness.”

Historical neighborhoods highlight how poverty, inequality, and social isolation relate to mental illness. In one study “.. patients in the lower classes were more likely to receive invasive, somatic therapies. These included drugs, electroshock therapy and lobotomy. Patients from higher classes were more likely to receive psychoanalysis.”

Prevention was seen as imperative since at least the 1950’s. Indeed, even
President Kennedy was on board.

“In February 1963, Kennedy stressed the role of prevention in a speech to Congress. Americans “must seek out the causes of mental illness and of mental retardation and eradicate them”. In psychiatry, “an ounce of prevention was worth more than a pound of cure”.

By “causes” Kennedy meant “harsh environmental conditions”. But the primary solution he recommended did not address these conditions. Instead, he proposed creating a national network of community mental health centres (CMHCs) to replace the asylum system.”

However, from the late 60’s on social psychiatry was no longer in favor.
Instead there was more reliance on treatment, specifically prescription drugs.

The author ends on a hopeful not. “During the past few years, however, concerns about rising rates of mental illness have put prevention back on the agenda. Although social factors – especially in light of COVID-19 – have been mentioned, there is not enough discussion of policy changes that could make a difference. This was also a problem during the heyday of social psychiatry.”

The author ends with a few radical prevention imperatives. “My research on social psychiatry has convinced me that introducing universal basic income could improve mental health. But other progressive policies, ranging from reducing the working week to ensuring we all have ample time to commune with nature, could also make a difference.”



June 5, 2020 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Experts urge caution in interpreting COVID-19 antibody tests


False positive results are cause for concern
From the May 26, 2020 Washing University School of Medicine in St. Louis News Release

Laboratory workers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis process blood samples. Blood tests for antibodies against the COVID-19 virus are becoming more available, but no test is perfectly reliable, so results must be carefully interpreted, experts say.

“There are two kinds of COVID-19 tests, and both are critical to controlling this pandemic. Molecular diagnostic tests, first developed in January, detect parts of the COVID-19-causing virus on swabs from people’s noses or throats. Such tests can identify people with active infections, even when they have no symptoms. With widespread and rapid diagnostic testing, people with the virus can be identified quickly and isolated, and anyone who came into contact with them quarantined and tested. Such surveillance and isolation measures can prevent a few cases from mushrooming into an outbreak.”

Why are antibody tests for COVID-19 important?

Farnsworth: Antibody testing is really helpful in monitoring how widely a virus has spread within a community. Such testing could help determine how many people have recovered from the virus, even if they never had symptoms. For many viruses, once about 70% of the population is immune – either because they have had a natural infection or, better yet, received a vaccination – infected people are less likely to encounter a susceptible person and give them the virus, so transmission goes down and the epidemic ends. That’s called herd immunity.”

If my antibody test is positive, does that mean I’ve had COVID-19 and won’t get it again?

Anderson: A positive test just means your body has produced antibodies in response to a past infection; it doesn’t tell us whether those antibodies will protect you from getting re-infected

Can antibody tests decide who can safely go back to work?

Farnsworth: Many people are anxious to get people back to work, but antibody tests may give some people a false sense of security. The problem is that even a highly accurate antibody test like the one we use in our laboratory has false positives and false negative

How should antibody tests be used?

Anderson: There have not been formal guidelines at the national or local levels regarding how exactly these tests should be used. And, in the absence of such guidelines, many people are anxious to get antibody testing. The way I look at such tests is that they’re a tool.not … the sole source of information for decision-making.

Related Resources

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Spend About $2,500 a Year in Health Care Costs

While insulin comprises a big part of diabetes expenses for children and adults, diabetes-related supplies can cost even more.

From the Jun 1, 2020 University of Michigan Health Lab News Release

diabetes monitor, syringe and bottle

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes will spend an average of $2,500a year out-of-pocket for health care – but insulin isn’t always the biggest expense – new research suggests.

While out-of-pocket costs for insulin was substantial, it accounted for just 18% of total out-of-pocket expenses for health care, according to the findings in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In fact, insulin accounted for less out-of-pocket spending than diabetes-related supplies, such as insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors.”

Removing barriers to high-value care

 “Several states and insurers imposed monthly caps on these [out-of-pocket] costs [for insulin] earlier in 2020. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just announced that many elderly Medicare beneficiaries will soon pay no more than $35 for a one-month supply of insulin. “

More at the news release

Help for paying for diabetes medicine and supplies

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

As hospitals walk the tightrope of patient data-sharing, one system offers a new balance

Sharing of one’s personal health and medical data with researchers and industry raises issues of trust and privacy.
For example one might wonder if one’s health issues will be shared with advertisers or one’s health insuance. Or one might concerned that a company would profit from one’s medical record.

As hospitals walk the tightrope of patient data-sharing, one system offers a new balance

From the May 28, 2020 University of Michigan HealthLab News Release
Industry wants access to massive data troves, but patients deserve transparency and privacy; Michigan Medicine approach offers a path forward.

Tight rope


Every major medical center in America sits on a gold mine. The data they hold about their patients and research participants could be worth millions of dollars to companies that would explore it for clues that could lead to new medicines, medical technologies, health apps and more…

The crux of the [University of Michigan] system, launched in 2018, is an easy-to-understand informed consent document that research participants can choose to sign, in addition to the forms that they sign to take part in a U-M-run research project. The additional consent focuses on sharing their information, and any samples taken from them, outside the university.

They must first discuss the special outside-sharing consent form with research staff, who assess each participant’s understanding of what giving the additional consent means.

The critical passage in the form reads: “You give permission to share your samples and information with researchers around the world including those working for companies. Researchers and their organizations may potentially benefit from the sale of the data or discoveries. You will not have rights to these discoveries or any proceeds from them.”

More than half of research volunteers asked for such consent have given it. Once they do so, it opens up the possibility (with additional legal and ethical steps) for companies, foundations, medical specialty societies and nongovernmental agencies to access their samples and data to move innovation forward.

If their samples are being sought for a project with a specific company, they will be told about the project and company, though their consent applies to all approved industry use. They’re told they can revoke their consent in the future, stopping their data from being shared further.
More at the news release

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond the garnish: Will a new type of produce get the microgreen light? [News Release]

No fam of sprouts because of the roots and safety concerns? But like their nutritional value? Microgreens may be worth looking into. They are nutritious, taste good, and can be home grown. They are somewhere in-between sprouts and baby greens.

Two excerpts from the May 31st news release

Microgreens are young and tender leafy greens of most vegetables, grains, herbs and flowers that are harvested when their first leaves appear. Their rapid maturity of a few weeks and affinity for controlled-environment agriculture (also known as indoor farming) means they use very little water and can be harvested quickly. It makes them a model of sustainability: They can be grown indoors, year-round, in cities and rural communities, in greenhouses, warehouses, vertical farms and even homes.

Johnson described them as leafy greens that pack a punch. They carry fewer food safety concerns than sprouts because they are grown in an environment with less moisture and, unlike sprouts, the roots of microgreens are removed during harvest. Nutritionally, they have been shown to have higher concentrations of phytochemicals** and nutrients like beta-carotene (which can be converted to Vitamin A) than mature plants.

** Photo means plant in Greek
The Harvard Health Newsletter published a article in 2019 on the health benefits of phytochemicals. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fill-up-on-phytochemicals

How to grow microgreens

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

How much sleep do you really need? (and how you can get it)

The past months probably affected the sleep of quite a few people. Here’s a good overview of how to get better sleep from the National Sleep Foundation.

Two excerpts

  • Recommended Sleep Ranges
    • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
    • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
    • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
    • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
    • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
    • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
    • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
    • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hoursOlder adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category) 

Additional Resources

  • Healthy Sleep (MedlinePlus, sponsored by National Institutes of Medince (NIH)
    A good overview plus links in the following groupings: Start here, Treatments/Therapies, Related issues, Games, Videos, Statistics, Research, Clinical trials, Journal articles, Find an expert, Teenagers, Women, Older Adults, Patient Handouts
  • Your Guide to Healthy Sleep (NIH)
    Illustrate 62 page large print PDF with numerous images. Contents include “What is sleep”, “What makes you sleep”, “What does sleep do for you”, “Common sleep disorders, “What disrupts sleep”, “Is snoring a problem”
  • Improving Your Sleep: A Self Guided Approach For Veterans With Insomnia (US Department of Veterans Affairs)
    Includes sections on “Using a Sleep Diary”, “Steps to Improve Your Sleep”, “Worksheets and Charts” “Resources and References”

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health | Leave a comment

Gratitude is good for mental health

We’ve all heard about the importance of gratitude, here’s a study that shows its good for you! Scientific studies as this one with a control group and experimental group are good because only one variable is being tested.
However, it is only one study, and conclusions are best drawn by different researchers which are then compared.
Links to Web sites on evaluating health information and health news below**

From the May 25, 2020 University of Twente news release

Research shows that people who live their lives with a sense of gratitude are happier and less likely to suffer from psychological issues. A study by the University of Twente shows that training yourself to be more thankful can help people to feel better and increase mental resilience. This is the first time that this has been demonstrated convincingly. Professor of Positive Mental Health Ernst Bohlmeijer explains: ‘Previously, research into exercises  to train people’s sense of gratitude had not been able to discern much effect. So we decided to study the effect of a six-week training. The results of the study were published today in the Journal of Happiness Studies.’ “

….
“The participants in the gratitude group were given a different exercise to develop their sense of gratitude every week. These included actively focusing on feeling appreciative, keeping a gratitude journal, expressing gratitude to others, writing positively about their own lives and reflecting on the positive effects of adversity. The participants were asked to do these exercises for about 10 to 15 minutes every day. ‘It is important to say that the idea is not to ignore negative experiences. Acknowledging difficulties and psychological distress, while also appreciating the good things in life, is possible. In fact, that’s the essence of psychological resilience,’ says Professor Bohlmeijer. “


“In September 2020, the intervention will become available as an app. It will be a free app that anyone can use”


**Some resources on how to read health news and evaluate health information

How to read health news (UK National Health Service blog item, 12/23/2014)
8 questions to ask


–How to read health news (PubMedHealth via the Wayback Machine, 07/12/2012)
Similar to above

Evaluating medical research and clinical trials (Family Caregiver Alliance)
Tips on evaluating health news as well as research

Evaluating health information (Univ of California San Francisco)
Includes red flags

How to spot fake news (Infographic from International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions )

— A few more at How to evaluate health information on the Internet (University of Toledo Libraries)

I was looking for a Web page that explained levels of evidence for “all of us”. So far, this was the best I could do.
Evidence-Based Medicine Resource Guide (Georgetown University)
Two points from the pyramid below
Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) are better than observations.
RCTs study two groups of people. One group receives the intervention, the
other does not. People are assigned to the groups randomly.
Systematic Reviews are better than RCTs. They summarize all the
literature on the topic and draw conclusions about the intervention.


More about this pyramid at http://guides.dml.georgetown.edu/ebm/ebmclinicalquestions

May 26, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Forgot what to ask your healthcare provider? There’s a free app for that!

In your healthcare provider’s office and forgot what you wanted to ask?
Well, there’s an app for that, that allows for inputting questions, emailing the questions, putting questions on calendar…


“Free”, well actually US taxpayer funded…US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Seems easy to use.My phone is dumb, but it might work on an ipad
How to video and download instructions at https://www.ahrq.gov/patient-safety/question-builder.html?utm_source=ahrq&utm_medium=en-9&utm_term=QuestionBuilder&utm_content=9&utm_campaign=ahrq_en5_21_2019



——

QuestionBuilder App

An AHRQ App for Digital Healthcare

The AHRQ QuestionBuilder app helps patients and caregivers prepare for medical appointments and maximize visit time. It’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Download the mobile app.
  2. Select or create questions to ask.
  3. Save the questions to a calendar appointment or send them to any email address so that the information is handy during medical visits.*

May 25, 2019 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Learn About the Science of Health through videos, interactive modules, and more


From the US government agency – National Institute of Health , specifically the Know the Science

Learn About the Science of Health

There’s a lot of health information out there, and not all of it’s accurate. The more you know about the science of health, the better prepared you can be to evaluate health information and make well-informed decisions. NCCIH’s Know the Science toolkit, available in both English and Spanish, can help. It features a variety of interactive modules, quizzes, and other tools to help you better understand complex scientific topics that relate to health research. You can also subscribe to NCCIH’s Know the Science email update for monthly bulletins about helpful resources. Dive in and get to know the science!

February 27, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Use of Complementary Health Products and Practices

Excerpt from NIH article, dated Sept 27, 2017

“As with any treatment, it is important to consider safety before using complementary health products and practices. Safety depends on the specific therapy, and each complementary product or practice should be considered on its own.”

patient_HCP_chart.jpg

Two of the main safety concerns for dietary supplements are

  • The possibilities of drug interactions—for example, research has shown that St. John’s wort interacts with drugs such as antidepressants in ways that can interfere with their intended effects
  • The possibilities of product contamination—supplements have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or other compounds, particularly in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, sexual health including erectile dysfunction, and athletic performance or body-building.Two of the main safety concerns for dietary supplements are
    • The possibilities of drug interactions—for example, research has shown that St. John’s wort interacts with drugs such as antidepressants in ways that can interfere with their intended effects
    • The possibilities of product contamination—supplements have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or other compounds, particularly in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, sexual health including erectile dysfunction, and athletic performance or body-building.”

:

How Safe Is This Product or Practice?

Find safety information from a list of complementary health products and practices

Find FDA and FTC notices about recalls, tainted products, and other alerts and advisories

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Financial help with prescription drug/medical costs through the government, nonprofits, and corporations

Low income people may qualify for assistance through government, nonprofit, or corporate programs. Check out the Financial Help section of the UT Library Consumer Health Library Guide.

http://libguides.utoledo.edu/ConsumerHealth/financial_help

For general health information, check out Health Information for All
by the author of this blog.

Cannot find what you are looking for through the above links? Feel free to email me and
I will do my best to reply within 48 hours.  jmflahiff at yahoo dot com

 

 

October 28, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Eating breakfast burns more carbs during exercise and accelerates metabolism for next meal [News Release]

From the University of Bath, August 18, 2018 news release

43312774834_d36048dd59_b.jpg

“Eating breakfast before exercise may “prime” the body to burn carbohydrates during exercise and more rapidly digest food after working out, University researchers have found.

Scientists from our Department for Health, working with colleagues at the universities of Birmingham, Newcastle and Stirling, were studying the effect of eating breakfast versus fasting overnight before an hour’s cycling. In a control test breakfast was followed by three hours’ rest.

The volunteers ate a breakfast of porridge made with milk two hours before exercise.

Post exercise or rest, the researchers tested the blood glucose levels and muscle glycogen levels of the 12 healthy male volunteers who took part. They discovered that eating breakfast increased the rate at which the body burned carbohydrates during exercise, as well as increasing the rate the body digested and metabolised food eaten after exercise too.”

Read the entire article at https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/eating-breakfast-burns-more-carbs-during-exercise-and-accelerates-metabolism-for-next-meal/

 

43312774834_d36048dd59_b.jpg

August 16, 2018 Posted by | exercise, Nutrition | 1 Comment

SUSPECT Before You Download that Health or Wellness App

From July 9, 2018 blog post at Midwest Matters

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 4.53.43 AM

 

Some resources for reputable health apps

July 24, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

10 WAYS TO ‘REACH OUT’ WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

From the March 3, 2018 blog post at Let’s Queer Things Up

I’m a mental health writer and advocate, and a suicide attempt survivor. I’ve told people on this blog many times, “Keep reaching out.” I’ve written multiple articles preaching the importance of vulnerability, defying stigma, and owning your struggles.

This is my whole thing, okay? This is what I do.

So when one of my closest friends died by suicide a few weeks ago, I wasn’t just shocked — I was completely gutted.

I thought there was never a question of whether or not my loved ones could reach out to me. But the very person who I’d talked to so often about mental health… didn’t call me.

Not even to say goodbye.

Screenshot 2018-03-03 at 10.30.59 AM

In the weeks following their suicide, my grief took me to dark places. I soon began having my own suicidal thoughts. And even then, when it was my turn to “reach out”? Even after losing my friend? I began to withdraw, too.

I watched, with painful awareness, as I did much of what my friend seemed to do leading up to their suicide. I wrote myself off as a burden. I isolated myself. I got lost in my own head. And despite knowing the danger of where I found myself, I said nothing.

After an especially scary night, I realized something: No one ever explained to me how to ask for help. No one told me what “reaching out” even meant.

As my grief began to snowball, I hesitated to tell anyone I was struggling, largely because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to ask for, and without knowing what to ask for, it felt too complicated and futile to ask.

“Why didn’t they tell me?” is such a common refrain when we talk about suicide or mental health challenges in general. It’s easy to make this remark, because “tell someone” seems like a simple request. But in truth, it’s vague at best.

“REACHING OUT” IS THIS SKILL WE’RE SOMEHOW EXPECTED TO KNOW, YET IT’S NEVER TAUGHT AND RARELY MODELED FOR US.

It’s this vague, hopeful sentiment that people throw around, without ever really defining it. What are we asking people to do or say? It’s not exactly clear.

So I want to get more specific. We need to be more specific.

I don’t know if an article like this could’ve saved my friend. But what I do know is that we need to normalize asking for help and talk about what that might look like, rather than pretending it’s a simple and intuitive thing to do.

Maybe then, we can reach people sooner. We can meet them more compassionately. And we can find better ways to support them.

So if you’re struggling but you don’t know what to say? I get it.

Let’s talk about it.

1. “I’M (DEPRESSED/ANXIOUS/SUICIDAL). I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO ASK FOR, BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE RIGHT NOW.”

Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we need, or we’re unsure of what someone can offer. That’s okay; that shouldn’t discourage us from reaching out. It’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you need or want — especially when all you can think about is how much you’re hurting.

Let someone know how you’re feeling. You might be surprised by the ways they offer to support you. And if they aren’t helpful? Keep asking until you find someone who is, or seek out a hotline (I know it can be weird to talk to a stranger, but there are some awesome hotlines out there).

2. “I’M STRUGGLING WITH MY MENTAL HEALTH AND WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING ISN’T WORKING. CAN WE (MEET UP/SKYPE/ETC) ON (DATE) AND COME UP WITH A BETTER PLAN?”

Read the entire blog post at https://letsqueerthingsup.com/2018/03/03/10-ways-to-reach-out-when-youre-struggling-with-your-mental-health/

 

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , | Leave a comment

The Power of Pets Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions

From a Feb 2018 US National Institutes of Health news release

Illustration of people with different types of pets

Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.

An estimated 68% of U.S. households have a pet. But who benefits from an animal? And which type of pet brings health benefits?

Over the past 10 years, NIH has partnered with the Mars Corporation’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition to answer questions like these by funding research studies.

Scientists are looking at what the potential physical and mental health benefits are for different animals—from fish to guinea pigs to dogs and cats.

Possible Health Effects

Research on human-animal interactions is still relatively new. Some studies have shown positive health effects, but the results have been mixed.

Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.

Read the entire article at https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets

 

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Sleep Probelms and Complementary Approaches

From the US National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) – part of NIH

What’s the Bottom Line?

sleepdisorder_ThinkstockPhotos-526393059_square[1]

What do we know about the usefulness of complementary approaches for sleep disorders?

  • Relaxation techniques can be helpful for insomnia.
  • Melatonin supplements may be helpful for sleep problems caused by shift work or jet lag. Melatonin may also be helpful for people with insomnia, but its effect is small.
  • The evidence for other complementary approaches is either inconsistent or too limited to draw conclusions about whether they are helpful for sleep disorders.

What do we know about the safety of complementary approaches for sleep disorders?

  • Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe.
  • Melatonin appears to be relatively safe for short-term use, but its long-term safety has not been established.
  • There are serious safety concerns about kava products (which have been linked to severe liver damage) and L-tryptophan supplements (which may be associated with a potentially serious disorder called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome).
  • If you use a complementary approach for a sleep problem, tell your health care providers. They can do a better job caring for you if they know what you’re using.

What Are Sleep Disorders and How Important Are They?

There are more than 80 different sleep disorders. This fact sheet focuses on insomnia—difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders.

More information

Chronic, long-term sleep disorders affect millions of Americans each year. These disorders and the sleep deprivation they cause can interfere with work, driving, social activities, and overall quality of life, and can have serious health implications. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, plus indirect costs due to missed days of work, decreased productivity, and other factors.

To learn more about sleep disorders, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Web site.

Is It a Sleep Disorder or Not Enough Sleep?

Some people who feel tired during the day have a true sleep disorder, but for others, the real problem is not allowing enough time for sleep. Adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested, but the average adult sleeps for less than 7 hours a night.

More information

Sleep is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing, and is vital to good health and well-being. Shortchanging yourself on sleep slows your thinking and reaction time, makes you irritable, and increases your risk of injury. It may even decrease your resistance to infections, increase your risk of obesity, and increase your risk of heart disease. To learn more about healthy sleep and what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, visit NHLBI’s Your Guide to Healthy Sleep and What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?.

What the Science Says About Complementary Health Approaches and Insomnia

Research has produced promising results for some complementary health approaches for insomnia, such as relaxation techniques. However, evidence of effectiveness is still limited for most products and practices, and safety concerns have been raised about a few.

Mind and Body Practices

  • There is evidence that relaxation techniques can be effective in treating chronic insomnia.

    More information

    • Progressive relaxation may help people with insomnia and nighttime anxiety.
    • Music-assisted relaxation may be moderately beneficial in improving sleep quality in people with sleep problems, but the number of studies has been small.
    • Various forms of relaxation are sometimes combined with components of cognitive-behavioral therapy (such as sleep restriction and stimulus control), with good results.
    • Using relaxation techniques before bedtime can be part of a strategy to improve sleep habits that also includes other steps, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule; avoiding caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise too close to bedtime; and sleeping in a quiet, cool, dark room.
    • Relaxation techniques are generally safe. However, rare side effects have been reported in people with serious physical or mental health conditions. If you have a serious underlying health problem, it would be a good idea to consult your health care provider before using relaxation techniques.
  • In a preliminary study, mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of meditation, was as effective as a prescription drug in a small group of people with insomnia.

    More information

    • Several other studies have also reported that mindfulness-based stress reduction improved sleep, but the people who participated in these studies had other health problems, such as cancer.
  • Preliminary studies in postmenopausal women and women with osteoarthritis suggest that yoga may be helpful for insomnia.
  • Some practitioners who treat insomnia have reported that hypnotherapy enhanced the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques in their patients, but very little rigorous research has been conducted on the use of hypnotherapy for insomnia.
  • A small 2012 study on massage therapy showed promising results for insomnia in postmenopausal women. However, conclusions cannot be reached on the basis of a single study.
  • Most of the studies that have evaluated acupuncture for insomnia have been of poor scientific quality. The current evidence is not rigorous enough to show whether acupuncture is helpful for insomnia.

For more information on mind and body practices.

Dietary Supplements

Melatonin and Related Supplements

  • Melatonin may help with jet lag and sleep problems related to shift work.
  • A 2013 evaluation of the results of 19 studies concluded that melatonin may help people with insomnia fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep better, but the effect of melatonin is small compared to that of other treatments for insomnia.

    More information

    • Studies of melatonin in children with sleep problems suggest that it may be helpful, both in generally healthy children and in those with conditions such as autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, both the number of studies and the number of children who participated in the studies are small, and all of the studies tested melatonin only for short periods of time.
    • Melatonin supplements appear to be relatively safe for short-term use, although the use of melatonin was linked to bad moods in elderly people (most of whom had dementia) in one study.
    • The long-term safety of melatonin supplements has not been established.
  • Dietary supplements containing substances that can be changed into melatonin in the body—L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)—have been researched as sleep aids.

    More information

    • Studies of L-tryptophan supplements as an insomnia treatment have had inconsistent results, and the effects of 5-HTP supplements on insomnia have not been established.
    • The use of L-tryptophan supplements may be linked to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a complex, potentially fatal disorder with multiple symptoms including severe muscle pain. It is uncertain whether the risk of EMS associated with L-tryptophan supplements is due to impurities in L-tryptophan preparations or to L-tryptophan itself.

Herbs

  • Although chamomile has traditionally been used for insomnia, often in the form of a tea, there is no conclusive evidence from clinical trials showing whether it is helpful. Some people, especially those who are allergic to ragweed or related plants, may have allergic reactions to chamomile.
  • Although kava is said to have sedative properties, very little research has been conducted on whether this herb is helpful for insomnia. More importantly, kava supplements have been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.
  • Clinical trials of valerian (another herb said to have sedative properties) have had inconsistent results, and its value for insomnia has not been demonstrated. Although few people have reported negative side effects from valerian, it is uncertain whether this herb is safe for long-term use.
  • Some “sleep formula” dietary supplements combine valerian with other herbs such as hops, lemon balm, passionflower, and kava or other ingredients such as melatonin and 5-HTP. There is little evidence on these preparations from studies in people.

For more information on dietary supplements.

Other Complementary Health Approaches

  • Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils from plants. It is uncertain whether aromatherapy is helpful for treating insomnia because little rigorous research has been done on this topic.
  • A 2010 systematic review concluded that current evidence does not demonstrate significant effects of homeopathic medicines for insomnia.

NCCIH Research on Sleep Disorders

NCCIH funds research on complementary health approaches for sleep disorders.

More information

Recent projects include studies on:

  • How mindfulness meditation training may affect the amount and quality of sleep
  • The effect of blue-white light on sleep disorders in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Whether acupuncture can help insomnia
  • How two forms of mindfulness-based therapy compare with behavior therapy for treating insomnia.

Could You Have Sleep Apnea?

Do you snore loudly? Does your bed partner say that you make gasping or snorting sounds during the night? Do you fight off sleepiness during the day?

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider. You might have sleep apnea—a condition in which sleep is disrupted because of pauses in breathing. For more information, visit the NHLBI Web site.

If You’re Considering Complementary Health Approaches for Sleep Problems

  • Talk to your health care providers. Tell them about the complementary health approach you are considering and ask any questions you may have. Because trouble sleeping can be an indication of a more serious condition, and because some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contribute to sleep problems, it is important to discuss your sleep-related symptoms with your health care providers before trying any complementary health product or practice.
  • Be cautious about using any sleep product—prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, or homeopathic remedies. Find out about potential side effects and any risks from long-term use or combining products.
  • Keep in mind that “natural” does not always mean safe. For example, kava products can cause serious harm to the liver. Also, a manufacturer’s use of the term “standardized” (or “verified” or “certified”) does not necessarily guarantee product quality or consistency. Natural products can cause health problems if not used correctly. The health care providers you see about your sleep problems can advise you.
  • If you are pregnant, nursing a child, or considering giving a child a dietary supplement or other natural health product, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider.
  • If you are considering a practitioner-provided complementary health practice, check with your insurer to see if the services will be covered, and ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital or medical school) to recommend a practitioner.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.:
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers):
1-866-464-3615

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

The NHLBI Health Information Center provides information to health professionals, patients, and the public about heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders and accepts orders for publications.

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

MedlinePlus

To provide resources that help answer health questions, MedlinePlus (a service of the National Library of Medicine) brings together authoritative information from the National Institutes of Health as well as other Government agencies and health-related organizations.

Information on sleep disorders

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Key References

All Other References

Top

Acknowledgments

NCCIH thanks Ronald Glick, M.D., University of Pittsburgh; Nalaka Gooneratne, M.D., University of Pennsylvania; Michael Twery, Ph.D., National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and D. Lee Alekel, Ph.D., and John (Jack) Killen, Jr., M.D., NCCIH, for their contributions to the 2014 update of this publication.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] The Power of Pets Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions

From the Feb 2018  NIH News in Health

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Music Is Good for Your Health

illustration-classroom-kids-playing-music
Check out the ways that playing an instrument or listening to tunes can boost your health.
(From NIH News in Health –> https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/01/sound-health )
Conditions and areas that may benefit include Parkinson’s diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, traumatic brain injury, stroke, aphasia, autism, and hearing loss.
A research team found that music has positive effects on kids’ learning abilities, even when the training starts as late as high school. And “music therapists are trained in how to use music to meet the mental, social, and physical needs of people with different health conditions.”

PubMed references are included!

February 2, 2018 Posted by | Health News Items, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

(Via NIH) Know the Science: How Medications and Supplements Can Interact

From the 21 November 2017 Web page

January 31, 2018 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes : A Systematic Review of Biomedical Literature

This report is a comprehensive and systematic review of the literature that evaluates the evidence about e-cigarettes and health. It highlighting gaps that are a priority for future research, and makes recommendations to improve the quality of this research.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 6.02.02 AM

The report is by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

A few excerpts from the report

   “Because e-cigarettes have only been on the U.S. market for a relatively brief time— rst imported in 2006, most have entered the market much more recently—it is dif cult to scienti cally compare their health effects to those of combustible tobacco cigarettes, whose health effects were not fully apreciated until after decades of use. However, in contrast to long-term effects, research on short-term health effects of e-cigarettes is now available.

The committee evaluated the current state of knowl- edge on outcomes including dependence and abuse liability, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, oral diseases, reproductive and developmen- tal effects, and injuries and poisonings.

Overall, the evidence reviewed by the commit- tee suggests that e-cigarettes are not without biological effects in humans. For instance, use of e-cigarettes results in dependence on the devices, though with apparently less risk and severity than that of combustible tobacco cigarettes. Yet the implications for long-term effects on morbidity and mortality are not yet clear.”

CONCLUSION

Although e-cigarettes are not without risk, compared to combustible tobacco cigarettes they contain fewer toxicants; can deliver nicotine in a similar manner; show signi cantly less biological activity in most, but not all, in vitro, animal, and human systems; and might be useful as a cessation aid in smokers who use e-ciga- rettes exclusively. However, young people who begin with e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to com- bustible cigarette use and become smokers who are at risk to suffer the known health burdens of combustible tobacco cigarettes. The net public health outcome of e-cigarette use depends on the balance between pos- itive and negative consequences.

More and better research is needed to help clarify whether e-cigarettes will prove to reduce harm—or induce harm—at the individual and the population levels. The approach taken by the committee to eval- uate the health effects of e-cigarettes in this report is anticipated to provide a generalizable template for future evaluations of the evidence.

Full text of the report may be found here

January 25, 2018 Posted by | Educational Resources (Health Professionals) | | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Integrating approaches to heal, not just cure

Via an item from a January item at Healthcetera

Personally I believe there is much truth to this. Have found that a combination of Tai Chi,
swimming, and working out at the gym works for me.

“Prescription drugs are a $425 billion business in the United States, and growing. A good chunk of that goes towards prescription pain medication to help alleviate chronic pain. More than 25 million of us report having daily chronic pain, and 23 million say they’re in a lot of pain, according to a study from The National Institutes of Health.

About one in five adults are prescribed opioids to manage chronic pain says the CDC. We all know about the high rate of substance use disorder in the U.S., and while opioids certainly have a place, especially for managing acute pain, they’re not an ideal long-term option.

So what can we do to help people with persistent pain?

Wayne Jonas, M.D., former head of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine and a practicing family physician, said we should be looking at alternative and complementary options, like acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other less traditional approaches. In his new book, How Healing Works, he advocates an integrative approach, combining elements of Western and complementary medicine into a person-centered health plan. He believes this will significantly reduce our national dependence on prescription drugs, lower health costs, and improve patients’ quality of life.”

More at http://healthmediapolicy.com/2018/01/20/integrating-approaches-to-heal-not-just-cure/

 

January 25, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Email Topic on ‘Know the Science’. Sign up & gain a better understanding of complex scientific topics.

From the US Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (a US government agency)

 

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

We appreciate your interest in NCCIH and our work! As a current subscriber, you are invited to be among the first to learn about our newest email topic, “Know the Science.”

This new e-mail will feature tools to help you understand complex scientific topics related to health research. It will help you distinguish facts from myths so you’ll be better prepared to make well-informed health decisions, especially about complementary and integrative health approaches.

Topics will include drug-supplement interactions, the placebo effect, levels of evidence, the science behind complementary approaches for pain, evaluating online health information, and much more.

You can subscribe now by clicking on the below button, and then expect to receive your first email within a week or so!

Click here to subscribe

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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

“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

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

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