Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy [newspaper article]

Toxic Waters

From a 2009 NY Times article

(Yes this article is a bit old, but posting it because of water woes here in Toledo regarding microcystins, which fortunately are still at safe levels, in my humble opinion. Still, it seems to be wrecking havoc with our mayor’s election bid)

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Toxic Waters

Outdated Laws

Articles in this series are examining the worsening pollution in American waters, and regulators’ response.

All Articles in the Series »

Only 91 contaminants [ still true, I counted them today, 31 July 2015  at http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#List ] are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The rise of wearable health tech could mean the end of the sickie

The rise of wearable health tech could mean the end of the sickie.

From the 25 May 2015 Lancaster University news release

Is your smartwatch spying on you? wearables by Alexey Boldin/shutterstock.com

26 May 2015 06:11

Now that the sun is shining and the temperature is rising, it’s officially sickie season: go to work, or get struck down with “flu”, a “24-hour virus”, or that faithful stand-by, the dodgy prawn takeaway.

Figures show that over a third of employees in the UK admit to pulling a sickie at some point or other. But things may be changing soon – wearable tech such as the Apple Watch, Microsoft Band, Fitbit, or Jawbone Up may become mainstream within a few years, bringing health monitoring capabilities that reveal how your body is performing. It’s not inconceivable that in time this same data could be used to prove how well, or unwell, you are – such as when phoning in sick.

Wearable health tech is still in its early days. These devices come with sensors that can record how many steps and how much exercise you’ve taken, how well and long you‘ve slept, stress levels, blood pressure, sun exposure, even what you’ve have eaten. Added together, all this could easily demonstrate that you’re not so sick after all.

Using your data against you

What if employers and health insurance companies move in the direction that the car insurance industry has taken, where every health transgression (a boozy night out, a Christmas feast, or too many lazy days on the sofa) could increase your health premium rates? Such a scenario isn’t so far away, and this should concern us. Apple is clearly making a beeline for the health and fitness industry with Watch and its integrated HealthKit software, now integrated with its iOS mobile operating system, and it is the only firm to do so.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

6 Things Every Woman Should Know About Yeast Infections [Reblog]

From the 25 July 2015 Time blog by Jennifer So

The symptoms can mimic other problems

One study found that as few as 11% of women who have never had a yeast infection could identify the symptoms, while other research has found that only one-third of women who thought they had a yeast infection actually did. Why the confusion?

The signs are similar to other down-there problems. If you have a yeast infection, you might notice burning, itching, pain during sex, and a thick white odorless discharge.

But if it smells fishy, it may instead be bacterial vaginosis (BV), and if you have only burning and pain during urination, that suggests a urinary tract infection. Bottom line: It can be difficult to figure out.

First-timer? Go to the doctor if you think you have one

 

Read the entire post here

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

Expert discusses ways to stay heart healthy, hydrated and fit during the summer

Expert discusses ways to stay heart healthy, hydrated and fit during the summer
From the 22 July 2015 Virginia Commonwealth news release

Summer can be a lazy time. Cookouts, vacations, graduation parties and similar events may tempt us to throw caution to the wind when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly as it relates to diet and exercise. However, experts at the Pauley Heart Center, part of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, suggest being ever mindful of lifestyle habits that promote good heart health.

What is the significance of staying hydrated as it relates to a healthy heart?

Your heart has to work harder if you are dehydrated.  Your muscles do not work efficiently without proper hydration. Hydrate throughout the day, not just before exercise. Water is best. Mix it up with flavored waters or sparkling water.  Keep a water bottle within reach. Avoid sodas and alcohol. Additionally, monitor your urine. If you are drinking enough water, it should be clear or light yellow, not cloudy and dark. If you weigh yourself before and after exercise, consume 16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.

Consider healthy choices at your family events. Choose lean beef and make smaller hamburger patties. Grill chicken or salmon. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Considering typical summer events such as cookouts, graduation celebrations, etc., what are some tips for eating healthy and thoughtfully?

Consider healthy choices at your family events. Choose lean beef and make smaller hamburger patties. Grill chicken or salmon. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They contain nutrients that you lose when you sweat. Enjoy seasonal food, peaches, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupes. Try new healthy foods like kale, spinach or red beets. Eat desserts in moderation.

Describe the appropriate attire and accessories to stay cool and regulate your body temperature during the summer months?

Wear single-layer, absorbent, loose-fitting clothing, preferably light colors. Look for “wicking” fabrics. Carry a water bottle and consider a water belt.

What types of exercises and preventive actions are appropriate during the summer months for a person who has heart issues?

Don’t give up.  If you can stay active, you should.  Walk on the treadmill indoors.  Exercise at a cardiac rehab center with blood pressure and heart rate monitoring. Take more breaks. Rest in a shaded area. Exercise early in the day.  Gradually begin your exercise and gradually cool off. Pay attention to the heat index which takes into account

Read the entire article here

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indian state sets schoolbag weight limit [news item]

Indian state sets schoolbag weight limit

heavier-school-baghttp://www.coreconcepts.com.sg/mcr/sling-bag-vs-back-pack-vs-luggage-bag-which-one-should-i-pick/

Children struggling under the weight of an oversized schoolbag is a common sight the world over, but now one Indian state has ordered parents to ensure kids lighten their load.

“As a rule of thumb the bags must be ten percent of the child’s body weight,” local education secretary Mr Nand Kumar wrote in the executive order.

“But we have found bags that weigh 20 to 30 percent due to thick notebooks, textbooks, unrequired stationery and even cosmetics.

“This is harmful. It causes spine and joint problems as well as stress and fatigue. They adversely affect the well being of the child,” he added.

Given the intense competition for higher education places in India, children often feel under immense pressure to perform well at school, with materials for extra tuition in the evening often adding to the weight of their bag.

The government ruling said teachers should stagger homework and timetables so children don’t need to carry several textbooks to school every day. It also asked parents to ensure children do not pack unnecessary items.

The order did not mention any punishment for violating the weight restriction.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-indian-state-sets-schoolbag-weight-limit-2015-7#ixzz3gtyJVBn8

 

Related posts

Sling bag vs. back pack vs. luggage bag, which one should I pick?

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

Teens turn to Internet to cope with health challenges [news release]

Teens turn to Internet to cope with health challenges.

From the 2 June 2015 Northwestern University news release

National survey explores how and why teens use online health information and digital tools

June 2, 2015 | by Julie Deardorff

EVANSTON, Ill. — At a time when teenagers are grappling with new and often confusing health concerns, the overwhelming majority — 84 percent — turn to the Internet, according to the first national study in more than a decade to examine how adolescents use digital tools for health information.

But while most teens tap online sources to learn more about puberty, drugs, sex, depression and other issues, a surprising 88 percent said they do not feel comfortable sharing their health concerns with Facebook friends or on other social networking sites, according to the study by Northwestern University researchers.

The report yields important information for public health organizations trying to reach adolescents. Nearly one third of the teenagers surveyed said the online information led to behavior changes, such as cutting back on soda, trying healthier recipes and using exercise to combat depression. One in five teens surveyed, or 21 percent, meanwhile, have downloaded mobile health apps.

“We found some real surprises about what teens are doing online when it comes to their health,” said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern’s Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report.

“We often hear about all the negative things kids are doing online, but teens are using the Internet to take care of themselves and others around them,” said Wartella, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in Communication in Northwestern’s School of Communication.

“The new study underscores how important it is to make sure there is accurate, appropriate and easily accessible information available to teens, because it’s used and acted upon.”**

– See more at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/06/teens-turn-to-internet-to-cope-with-health-challenges.html#sthash.kXrBqfZl.dpuf

**Related Resources

KidsHealth provides information about health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years.Material is written by doctors in understandable language at three levels: parents, kids, and teens. KidsHealth also provides families with perspective, advice, and comfort about a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens

 

MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

Medline Plus (National Insitutes of Health)  is a great starting point for reliable health information.Over 750 topics on conditions, diseases, and wellness.  Information on drugs, herbs, and supplements. Links to directories (health care providers, health care facilities, etc) and organizations which provide health informationSurgery videosinteractive health tutorials, and more. 

Image DetailThe CDC is the US government’s primary way to communicate information on diseases, conditions, and safety. Information may be found in areas as ….

 

 

July 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , | Leave a comment

Where do you get your health information? [Reblog]

Where do you get your health information? ‹ Reader — WordPress.com.

From a June 2015 post at drgladstone

Recently there was something in the news about roughly half of the information in the shows “the doctors” and the Dr. Oz show was correct (actually it was 63% of the time in “the doctors: and correct about 49% on the Dr. Oz show). See an article reporting on this here. Often times people will have looked things up on the internet when they come into the office.

Now I’m not bringing this up to knock Dr. Oz or the doctors who appear on “The Doctors”, nor looking things up the internet. However it’s important to ask several questions.
1) Does the claim have any scientific basis?
2) Has the study (if a study is being quoted) been replicated with the same or similar results obtained?
2a) who funded the study? was it reported in a reputable journal? If it is a product being touted, did the company making the product fund the study?
3) Does the person ‘reporting’ the results, or pushing the product have a connection with the company? Just because someone is employed or funded doesn’t necessarily mean they’re biased, but it is something to take into account

Read the entire post here

Related Resources

MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

Medline Plus (National Insitutes of Health)  is a great starting point for reliable health information.Over 750 topics on conditions, diseases, and wellness.  Information on drugs, herbs, and supplements. Links to directories (health care providers, health care facilities, etc) and organizations which provide health informationSurgery videosinteractive health tutorials, and more.

Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

  Latest information for improving your health, including podcasts and videos

Image DetailThe CDC is the US government’s primary way to communicate information on diseases, conditions, and safety. Information may be found in areas as ….

Most articles include causes, symptoms, treatment options, prevention, prognosis, and more. Information may also be browsed by topic (Topics A-Z).  Additional features include picture slideshowsetools, and more. 

 

 

familydoctor.org -- health information for the whole familyFamilydoctor.org includes health information for the whole family
Short generalized information on Diseases and Conditions (with A-Z index), Health Information for Seniors, Men, and Women, Healthy Living Topics, pages geared to Parenting & Kids.  Numerous health tools in the left column (as health trackers, health assessments, and a Search by Symptom page.

Healthfinder.gov is a US government Web site with information and tools that can help you stay healthy.

 
KidsHealth provides information about health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years.Material is written by doctors in understandable language at three levels: parents, kids, and teens. KidsHealth also provides families with perspective, advice, and comfort about a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens
UpToDate
UpToDate For Patients has a Patient Information tab to find information by topic or through a search box.
Topics help one to learn more about a medical condition, better understand management and treatment options, and have a better dialogue with health care providers.
 

[Adapted from Great Places to start (Univ of Toledo Consumer Health LibGuide)]

Even more….

Health Resources for All Edited by Janice Flahiff

Consumer Health Library Guide – University of Toledo
mostly link to free reputable Web sites

July 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , | Leave a comment

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

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

From a July 2015 Kaiser Health News post

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire post here 

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

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

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

From the 29 May 2015 University of Maryland news release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile app educates teens on risky sexual behavior

Mobile app educates teens on risky sexual behavior.

From the 1 June 2015 Carnegie Mellon news release

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

mobile app image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Links:

Watch the 30-second trailer.

Visit the Seventeen Days website.

Follow Seventeen Days on Twitter.

 

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

Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions

Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions
·http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/pickyourpoison/
Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 5.56.03 AM

 


It’s not hard to see why our readers loved this thought-provoking expose of America’s long history with mind-altering substances. In fact, the ad for Cocaine Toothache Drops (contemporarily priced at 15 cents) alone is worth a trip to this colorful and well curated site. Lesson plans and online activities help educators illustrate how the United States has handled the thin and shifting line between useful medical prescriptions and harmful, illicit substances.

Over a century ago, it was not uncommon to find cocaine in treatments for asthma, cannabis offered up as a cure for colds, and other contentious substances offered as medical prescriptions. This engaging collection from the U.S. National Library of Medicine brings together sections on tobacco, alcohol, opium, and marijuana. Visitors can learn about how these substances were marketed and also view a selection of digitized items culled from its voluminous holdings, including advertisements, doctor’s prescriptions, and early government documents. In the Education section, educators can look over lesson plans, check out online activities, and explore online resources from the National Institutes of Health, such as, “A Guide to Safe Use of Pain Medicine” and “College Drinking: Changing the Culture.”

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News release] Why Americans can’t buy some of the best sunscreens

From the 27 May 2015 American Chemical Society news release

With summer nearly here, U.S. consumers might think they have an abundance of sunscreen products to choose from. But across the Atlantic, Europeans will be slathering on formulations that manufacturers say provide better protection against the sun’s damaging rays — and skin cancer — than what’s available stateside, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Marc S. Reisch, a senior correspondent at C&EN, reports that sunscreens on the U.S. market do protect users from some ultraviolet-A and -B rays. But there are eight sunscreen molecules approved for use in Europe that could boost the effectiveness of products in the U.S. and also give manufacturers more flexibility in making their lotions. Some have been in line for FDA approval since 2002.

Why the hold-up? In Europe, sunscreen molecules are considered cosmetic ingredients. In the U.S., they are subject to the same scrutiny as over-the-counter drugs, which go through a more rigorous review process than cosmetics. More than 10 years ago, the FDA introduced a streamlined process to speed up the review of sunscreens from overseas to bring them to the U.S. market. But the products’ makers are still waiting for approval, and some have given up.

###

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] How you can help people make safer (chemically related) choices every day

From the 20 May 2015 post at Our Planet, Our Home – EPA’s Blog About our World

…Safer Choice is our label for safer chemical-based products, like all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, degreasers, and many others.  Each day, consumers, custodians, cleaning staffs, and others use these products, and families, building occupants, and visitors are exposed to them.  The Safer Choice program ensures that labeled products—and every ingredient in them—meet the program’s stringent health and environmental criteria—and perform well, too.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 5.52.24 AM

So how can you help people make safer choices?

Related Web site

    Household Products Database (US Department of Health and Human Services)
Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 5.57.19 AM

This database links over 14,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients. The database is designed to help answer the following typical questions:

  • What are the chemical ingredients and their percentage in specific brands?
  • Which products contain specific chemical ingredients?
  • Who manufactures a specific brand? How do I contact this manufacturer?
  • What are the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in a specific brand?
  • What other information is available about chemicals in the toxicology-related databases of the National Library of Medicine?

 

 

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Magazine article] 80% of Sunscreens Don’t Really Work or Have ‘Worrisome’ Ingredients: Report

From the 19 May 2015 Time Magazine article

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2015 sunscreen guide on Tuesday, which reviewed more than 1,700 SPF products like sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers. The researchers discovered that 80% of the products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A,” they say. Oxybenzone is a chemical that can disrupt the hormone system, and some evidence suggests—though not definitively—that adding vitamin A to the skin could heighten sun sensitivity.

The report points to Neutrogena as the brand most at fault for promising sun protection without delivering. The EWG says that Neutrogena claims its baby sunscreens provide “special protection from the sun and irritating chemicals” and is labeled “hypoallergenic,” but it contains a preservative called methylisothiazolinone that has been deemed unsafe for use in leave-on products by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. The company also boasts of high SPF levels like SPF 70 or SPF 100+, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there’s only notable protection up to SPF 50, the report adds. Neutrogena did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

In the new report, EWG also provides a Hall of Shame of products that don’t deliver on their sun protection promises, as well as a database for users to search how protective their particular sun products are—and find one that works.

To stay protected this summer, the researchers suggest, use sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF of 15 or higher, limit time in the sun, wear clothing to cover exposed skin and re-slather your sunscreen every couple hours.

 

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Why excess iron can be dangerous

Why excess iron can be dangerous.

From the 15 January 2015 article at The Conversation

Campaigns tell us to eat red meat to keep our iron levels up – but what if we have too much? tarale

Many people are aware that low levels of iron in their body can lead anaemia, with symptoms such as fatigue. But few realise that too much iron can result in a potentially fatal condition.

Normally, if we have enough iron in our body, then no further iron is absorbed from the diet, and our iron levels remain relatively constant.

But the body also has no way of excreting excess iron. In a condition called hereditary haemochromatosis, the most common cause of iron overload, the mechanism to detect sufficient iron in the body is impaired and people can go on absorbing iron beyond the normal required amount.

Untreated, haemochromatosis can result in scarring to the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, damage to the heart and diabetes. These problems are the result of excess iron being deposited in the liver, heart and pancreas. Haemochromatosis can also cause non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, loss of libido and arthritis. In some, it results in a shortened lifespan.

The most common cause of hereditary haemochromatosis is a mutation received from both parents, in a gene called HFE.

Around one in every 200 Australians of European heritage have a double dose of this gene fault and are at risk of developing the disorder. Haemochromatosis is much less common among people who aren’t of European ancestry.

Approximately 80% of men and 60% of women who have inherited this gene fault from both parents develop high iron levels. And of those who do, up to 40% of men and 10% of women will develop health problems.

Diagnosis

Actual blood iron levels are generally normal in those with haemochromatosis, as excess iron in the body is stored in tissues like the liver. So haemochromatosis is diagnosed by testing blood iron indices called transferrin saturation and serum ferritin levels.

May 17, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

[Press release] Trust increases with age; benefits well-being

From the 18 March 2015 EurkAlert!
“Though trust can have negative consequences, especially among older adults at risk of falling for scams and fraud, the studies found no evidence that those negative consequences erode the benefits of trust.”

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , | Leave a comment

[News release] Why “hypoallergenic” isn’t a thing (video)

From the 19 March 2015 American Chemistry Association news release

It’s a simple claim made on thousands of personal care products for adults and kids: hypoallergenic. But what does that actually mean? Turns out, it can mean whatever manufacturers want it to mean, and that can leave you feeling itchy. Speaking of Chemistry is back this week with Sophia Cai explaining why “hypoallergenic” isn’t really a thing. Check it out here:

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March 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality A Meta-Analytic Review

From the article, Perspectives on Psychological Science, March 2015  vol. 10 no. 2 227-237

Several lifestyle and environmental factors are risk factors for early mortality, including smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and air pollution. However, in the scientific literature, much less attention has been given to social factors demonstrated to have equivalent or greater influence on mortality risk (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). Being socially connected is not only influential for psychological and emotional well-being but it also has a significant and positive influence on physical well-being (Uchino, 2006) and overall longevity (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988Shor, Roelfs, & Yogev, 2013). A lack of social connections has also been linked to detrimental health outcomes in previous research. Although the broader protective effect of social relationships is known, in this meta-analytic review, we aim to narrow researchers’ understanding of the evidence in support of increased risk associated with social deficits. Specifically, researchers have assumed that the overall effect of social connections reported previously inversely equates with risk associated with social deficits, but it is presently unclear whether the deleterious effects of social deficits outweigh the salubrious effects of social connections. Currently, no meta-analyses focused on social isolation and loneliness exist in which mortality is the outcome. With efforts underway to identify groups at risk and to intervene to reduce that risk, it is important to understand the relative influence of social isolation and loneliness.

Living alone, having few social network ties, and having infrequent social contact are all markers of social isolation. The common thread across these is an objective quantitative approach to establish a dearth of social contact and network size. Whereas social isolation can be an objectively quantifiable variable, loneliness is a subjective emotional state. Loneliness is the perception of social isolation, or the subjective experience of being lonely, and thus involves necessarily subjective measurement. Loneliness has also been described as the dissatisfaction with the discrepancy between desired and actual social relationships (Peplau & Perlman, 1982).

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade

Don’t think the article is advocating skip the annual flu shots!

Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade, suggests study 

From the release

 

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Adults over the age of 30 only catch flu about twice a decade, a new study suggests.

Flu-like illness can be caused by many pathogens, making it difficult to assess how often people are infected by influenza.

Researchers analysed blood samples from volunteers in Southern China, looking at antibody levels against nine different influenza strains that circulated from 1968 to 2009.

They found that while children get flu on average every other year, flu infections become less frequent as people progress through childhood and early adulthood. From the age of 30 onwards, flu infections tend to occur at a steady rate of about two per decade.

Dr Adam Kucharski, who worked on the study at Imperial College London before moving to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There’s a lot of debate in the field as to how often people get flu, as opposed to flu-like illness caused by something else. These symptoms could sometimes be caused by common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. Also, some people might not realise they had flu, but the infection will show up when a blood sample is subsequently tested. This is the first time anyone has reconstructed a group’s history of infection from modern-day blood samples.”

Dr Steven Riley, senior author of the study, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial, said: “For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think. In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people. The exact frequency of infection will vary depending on background levels of flu and vaccination.”

In addition to estimating the frequency of flu infection, the researchers, from the UK, the US and China, developed a mathematical model of how our immunity to flu changes over a lifetime as we encounter different strains of the virus.

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Most Consumers Encounter Challenges Using New Types of High Tech Devices, Accenture Survey Finds | Full Text Reports…

Most Consumers Encounter Challenges Using New Types of High Tech Devices, Accenture Survey Finds | Full Text Reports….

From the press release

NEW YORK; Jan. 5, 2015 – Most consumers experience challenges using several new types of smart high tech devices, according to a new report from Accenture titled Engaging the Digital Consumer in the New Connected World.

Overall, 83 percent report various problems when they use new device types such as wearable fitness monitors, smart watches, smart home thermostats, in-vehicle entertainment systems, home connected surveillance cameras and security systems, and wearable health products.

The biggest challenges consumers face are that the smart devices are “too complicated to use” (21 percent), “set-up did not proceed properly” (19 percent), and “did not work as advertised” (19 percent).

“For these new connected device categories, high tech companies need to go back to the drawing board and rethink their product development approaches to focus on the entire customer experience,” said Sami Luukkonen, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High Tech group. “They should make fundamental strategic changes that no longer focus on product feature differentiation but rather holistic, digital experience differentiation.”

 

Related resources

      • Set realistic expectations
      • Avoid apps that promise too much
      • Research the developers
      • Choose apps that use techniques you’ve heard of
      • See what other users say
      • Test apps before committing
  • Sources of Trusted, Reviewed and Evaluated Apps
    iMedical Apps   –Mobile medical app reviews, commentary by medical professionals
    Gallery of Mobile Apps and Sites – from the US National Library of Medicine
    Mobile Resources Selected by the MSKCC Library for Patients and Families   from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center LibraryInformation For Patients from the University of Michigan LibraryGuide-Health Sciences Mobile Device Resources – Resources by Subject
     Scroll down in the right column of this guide until you get to Information for Patients

     

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Women and Girls at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in the United States

English: updated prevalence of FGM in Africa

English: updated prevalence of FGM in Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the February 2015 Population Reference Bureau report

The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) data included in this data brief are preliminary. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on female genital mutilation/cutting in the United States also will be released soon, providing additional information on women and girls at risk.

(February 2015) Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), involving partial or total removal of the external genitals of girls and women for religious, cultural, or other nonmedical reasons, has devastating immediate and long-term health and social effects, especially related to childbirth. This type of violence against women violates women’s human rights. There are more than 3 million girls, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa, who are at risk of cutting/mutilation each year. In Djibouti, Guinea, and Somalia, nine in 10 girls ages 15 to 19 have been subjected to FGM/C. Some countries in Africa have recently outlawed the practice, including Guinea-Bissau, but progress in eliminating the harmful traditional practice has been slow.1 Although FGM/C is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, global migration patterns have increased the risk of FGM/C among women and girls living in developed countries, including the United States.

Increasingly, policymakers, NGOs, and community leaders are speaking out against this harmful traditional practice. As more information becomes available about the practice, it is clear that FGM/C needs to be unmasked and challenged around the world.

The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1996 making it illegal to perform FGM/C and 23 states have laws against the practice.2 Despite decades of work in the United States and globally to prevent FGM/C, it remains a significant harmful tradition for millions of girls and women. In the last few years, renewed efforts to protect girls from undergoing this procedure globally and in immigrant populations have resulted in policy successes. In Great Britain and in other European countries, a groundswell of attention has focused on eradicating the practice among the large immigrant populations of girls and women who have been cut or are at risk of being cut. Moreover, in 2012 the 67th session of the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging states to condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls, especially FGM/C. The UN resolution was a significant step toward ending the practice around the world.

In the United States, efforts to stop families from sending their daughters to their home countries to be cut led to a 2013 law making it illegal to knowingly transport a girl out of the United States for the purpose of cutting. FGM/C has gained attention in the United States in part because of the rising number of immigrants from countries where FGM/C is prevalent, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000 and 2013, the foreign-born population from Africa more than doubled, from 881,000 to 1.8 million.3

The Risk of FGM/C in the United States

In 2013, there were up to 507,000 U.S. women and girls who had undergone FGM/C or were at risk of the procedure, according to PRB’s preliminary data analysis. This figure is more than twice the number of women and girls estimated to be at risk in 2000 (228,000).4 The rapid increase in women and girls at risk reflects an increase in immigration to the United States, rather than an increase in the share of women and girls at risk of being cut. The estimated U.S. population at risk of FGM/C is calculated by applying country- and age-specific FGM/C prevalence rates to the number of U.S. women and girls with ties to those countries. A detailed description of PRB’s methods to estimate women and girls at risk of FGM/C is available.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Could a wireless pacemaker let hackers take control of your heart?

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 5.31.59 AM

From the 9 February 2015 Science article

Medical devices don’t get regular security updates, like smart phones and computers, because changes to their software could require recertification by regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And FDA has focused on reliability, user safety, and ease of use—not on protecting against malicious attacks. In a Safety Communication in 2013, the agency said that it “is not aware of any patient injuries or deaths associated with these incidents nor do we have any indication that any specific devices or systems in clinical use have been purposely targeted at this time.” FDA does say that it “expects medical device manufacturers to take appropriate steps” to protect devices. Manufacturers are starting to wake up to the issue and are employing security experts to tighten up their systems. But unless such steps become compulsory, it may take a fatal attack on a prominent person for the security gap to be closed.

For more on privacy and to take a quiz on your own privacy IQ, see “The end of privacy” special section in this week’s issue of  Science.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Magazine article] Reducing Lifestyle Diseases Means Changing Our Environment

 

From the 5 February 2015 Scientific American article

How and why our bodies are poorly suited to modern environments—and the adverse health consequences that result—is a subject of increasing study. A new book The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, chronicles major biological and cultural transitions that, over the course of millions of years, transformed apes living and mating in the African forests to modern humans browsing Facebook and eating Big Macs across the planet.

“The end product of all that evolution,” he writes, “is that we are big-brained, moderately fat bipeds who reproduce relatively rapidly but take a long time to mature.”

But over the last several hundred generations, it has been culture—a set of knowledge, values and behaviors—not natural selection, that has been the more powerful force determining how we live, eat and interact. For most of our evolutionary history, we were hunter-gatherers who lived at very low population densities, moved frequently and walked up to 10 miles a day in search of food and water. Our bodies evolved primarily for and in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

….

 

Read the entire article here

 

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Medical Journal Editorial] Using Drugs to Discriminate — Adverse Selection in the Insurance Marketplace

From the Perspective article by Douglas B. Jacobs, Sc.B., and Benjamin D. Sommers, M.D., Ph.D.at the 5 Feburary edition of the New England Journal of Medicine

Eliminating discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions is one of the central features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before the legislation was passed, insurers in the nongroup market regularly charged high premiums to people with chronic conditions or denied them coverage entirely. To address these problems, the ACA instituted age-adjusted community rating for premiums and mandated that plans insure all comers. In combination with premium subsidies and the Medicaid expansion, these policies have resulted in insurance coverage for an estimated 10 million previously uninsured people in 2014.1

There is evidence, however, that insurers are resorting to other tactics to dissuade high-cost patients from enrolling. A formal complaint submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May 2014 contended that Florida insurers offering plans through the new federal marketplace (exchange) had structured their drug formularies to discourage people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection from selecting their plans. These insurers categorized all HIV drugs, including generics, in the tier with the highest cost sharing.2

Insurers have historically used tiered formularies to encourage enrollees to select generic or preferred brand-name drugs instead of higher-cost alternatives. But if plans place all HIV drugs in the highest cost-sharing tier, enrollees with HIV will incur high costs regardless of which drugs they take. This effect suggests that the goal of this approach — which we call “adverse tiering” — is not to influence enrollees’ drug utilization but rather to deter certain people from enrolling in the first place.

We found evidence of adverse tiering in 12 of the 48 plans — 7 of the 24 plans in the states with insurers listed in the HHS complaint and 5 of the 24 plans in the other six states (see theSupplementary Appendix for sample formularies). The differences in out-of-pocket HIV drug costs between adverse-tiering plans (ATPs) and other plans were stark (seegraphAverage HIV-Related Costs for Adverse-Tiering Plans (ATPs) versus Other Plans.). ATP enrollees had an average annual cost per drug of more than triple that of enrollees in non-ATPs ($4,892 vs. $1,615), with a nearly $2,000 difference even for generic drugs. Fifty percent of ATPs had a drug-specific deductible, as compared with only 19% of other plans. Even after factoring in the lower premiums in ATPs and the ACA’s cap on out-of-pocket spending, we estimate that a person with HIV would pay more than $3,000 for treatment annually in an ATP than in another plan.

Our findings suggest that many insurers may be using benefit design to dissuade sicker people from choosing their plans. A recent analysis of insurance coverage for several other high-cost chronic conditions such as mental illness, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis showed similar evidence of adverse tiering, with 52% of marketplace plans requiring at least 30% coinsurance for all covered drugs in at least one class.3 Thus, this phenomenon is apparently not limited to just a few plans or conditions.

Adverse tiering is problematic for two reasons. First, it puts substantial and potentially unexpected financial strain on people with chronic conditions. These enrollees may select an ATP for its lower premium, only to end up paying extremely high out-of-pocket drug costs. These costs may be difficult to anticipate, since calculating them would require knowing an insurer’s negotiated drug prices — information that is not publicly available for most plans.

Second, these tiering practices will most likely lead to adverse selection over time, with sicker people clustering in plans that don’t use adverse tiering for their medical conditions.

Read the entire Perspective here

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Investing in the Health of Young Adults

From the 30 October 2014 Institute of Medicine Report

Young adulthood—ages approximately 18 to 26—is a critical period of development with long-lasting implications for a person’s economic security, health, and well-being.

Recognizing the need for a special focus on young adulthood, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Department of Defense commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) to convene a committee of experts to review what is known about the health, safety, and well-being of young adults and to offer recommendations for policy and research.

The resulting report, Investing in the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults, offers federal, state, and local policy makers and program leaders, as well as employers, nonprofit organizations, and other community partners’ guidance in developing and enhancing policies and programs to improve young adults’ health, safety, and well-being. In addition, the report suggests priorities for research to inform policies and programs for young adults.

 

Related report –> 2014 Consumer Health Mindset (Aon Hewitt,)
Excerpt from Full Text Reports

From press release:

A new analysis from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE:AON) finds that Millennials put a lower priority on medical care than other generations. However, they are the most likely to want employers to play an active role in supporting their overall health and wellbeing.

The analysis is based on data from the 2014 Consumer Health Mindset report, a joint survey of more than 2,700 U.S. employees and their dependents conducted by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company. Aon Hewitt analyzed the perspectives, behaviors and attitudes of employees from different generations towards health and wellness.

According to the analysis, Millennials are the least likely to participate in activities focused on prevention and maintaining or improving physical health compared to other generations. About half (54 percent) have had a physical in the last 12 months, compared to 60 percent of Generation X and 73 percent of Baby Boomers. In addition, just 39 percent say preventive care is one of the most important things to do to stay healthy, compared to 49 percent of Generation X and 69 percent of Baby Boomers.

Millennials are also less likely to participate in a healthy eating/weight management programs (21 percent), compared to Generation X (23 percent) and Baby Boomers (28 percent). Interestingly, they are the most likely generation to engaging in regular exercise (63 percent), compared to 52 percent of Generation X and 49 percent of Baby Boomers.

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Health is Life

From the 2 February 2015 post at the Health Care Blog by By ALEXANDRA DRANE

The literature is clear – when life goes wrong, health goes wrong. Case in point – it’s now estimated that workplace stress alone is causing additional expenditures of between $125 to $190 billion a year – representing 5 to 8 percent of national spending on health care…and even more importantly – 120,000 deaths a year.

There are growing examples of individuals and organizations that get this stuff – and that are fielding solutions to help. Companies like Health Leads (meeting us on the lowest rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy and getting us access to heat, water, safety…), and Iora Health (meeting us squarely where we are and getting us support for our caregiver stress, our divorce, our substance issue…). I recently got to be part of the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneering Ideas Podcast (link below) and in the process learned how broadly this idea is spreading…Dr. Paul Tang of linkAges from Palo Alto Medical Foundation(a project RWJF supports) talks about stress, and its effects – especially on seniors – and what we can do about it. Harvard economist/MacArthur Genius Grant winner Sendhil Mullainathan shares ideas for transforming health and healthcare in a world where ‘attentional real estate’ – given the messy realities of life – is scarce.  We double dog dare you to listen here:

As an industry with a mantra to heal, this is ground zero. We need to expand our definition of health to include life – and take this on not just as our obligation, but as our opportunity to address the fundamental drivers of health. And let’s not stop there. Let’s practice radical empathy with each other, and with ourselves. Let’s do it in the privacy of our homes, and let’s bring that raw authenticity with us to our work. Whatever you do to start acknowledging that health is life – start it now… maybe just by closing your eyes and inhaling a big fat breath of fresh air while reminding yourself, ‘I am not alone in this crazy world, because we all feel alone and on some level we are all crazy – but only in the very best of well-intentioned ways.’

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health, Workplace Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Study Helps Predict Pesticide Exposure in Diet

From the 2 February 2015 Boise University press release

While health-conscious individuals understand the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies, they may not be aware of the amount of pesticides they could be ingesting along with their vitamin C and fiber. A new study published in the Feb. 5 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives is among the first to predict a person’s pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet.

FreshFruit620x320

 

The study was led by Cynthia Curl, an  assistant professor in Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences. She recently joined Boise State from the University of Washington.

While Curl’s study is not the first to link organic produce with reduced pesticide exposure, the method she used may have significant implications for future research. By combining self-reported information on typical food consumption with USDA measurements, researchers will be able to conduct research on the relationship between dietary pesticide exposure and health outcomes in bigger populations, without needing to measure urinary metabolites.

“If we can predict pesticide exposure using dietary questionnaire data, then we may be able to understand the potential health effects of dietary exposure to pesticides without having to collect biological samples from people,” Curl said. “That will allow research on organic food to be both less expensive and less invasive.”

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Women’s Health Issues: Special Collection on Women’s Heart Health | Full Text Reports…

Women’s Health Issues: Special Collection on Women’s Heart Health | Full Text Reports….

Women’s Health Issues: Special Collection on Women’s Heart Health

February 3, 2015

Special Collection on Women’s Heart Health
Source: Women’s Health Issues

For American Heart Month 2015, the editorial team at Women’s Health Issues has assembled a special collection of research on women’s cardiovascular health published in the journal since mid-2011, following the release of updated American Heart Association guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. The articles address healthcare services for women at risk for cardiovascular disease; social determinants of health; and physical activity in specific populations of women.

These articles will be accessible for free during the month of February 2015 so that they are available to a wider interested audience.

February 5, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , | Leave a comment

[News article] New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers

67959016From the New York Times article By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, FEBRUARY 3, 2015

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers on Monday of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves.

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

The investigation came as a welcome surprise to health experts who have long complained about the quality and safety of dietary supplements, which are exempt from the strict regulatory oversight applied to prescription drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration has targeted individual supplements found to contain dangerous ingredients. But the announcement Monday was the first time that a law enforcement agency had threatened the biggest retail and drugstore chains with legal action for selling what it said were deliberately misleading herbal products.

Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.

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Here are the products in the cease and desist letters from the Attorney General

February 4, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Physical activity as medicine among Family Health Teams: Study

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http://www.classbrain.com/cb_pta/images/childact1.jpg

An interdisciplinary primary care model ideal setting to promote physical activity as medicine

From the 2 February 2015 Canadian Science Publishing site

To better understand the current use of physical activity as medicine among Family Health Teams (FHTs) in Ontario, researchers at the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and the Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team conducted an environmental scan of 102 FHTs. They published their findings today in the journalApplied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Family Health Teams (FHTs) are part of a shift towards a multidisciplinary primary care model that addresses the healthcare needs of a community by allowing different healthcare professionals to work collaboratively under one roof.  Currently, FHTs serve a relatively small percentage of Ontarians; however, their multi-disciplinary structure may create an ideal environment to enable physical activity promotion as most Canadians receive healthcare though the primary care system. Physical activity has well-established health benefits; however, the best way to engage Canadians in an active lifestyle remains largely unknown.

Before this environmental scan, the number and types of physical activity promotion services, and the types of professionals providing physical activity counselling in Ontario FHTs was not known .

The researchers found that almost 60% of responding FHTs in Ontario offered a physical activity service.  However, the types, durations and targeted populations of the services varied depending on the individual FHT.  Physical activity services were often restricted to people with specific conditions or needs rather than available to all individuals.

According to the study, “many different types of allied health professionals were facilitating physical activity services.  The diversity in the qualifications is concerning, as it suggests that individuals providing physical activity therapy do not always have qualifications related to physical activity prescription and counselling.”

Cameron Moore, from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and co-author  of the study said, “It is promising that almost 60% of responding FHTs offered a physical activity service.  However, continued efforts are needed to increase the accessibility and standardization of physical activity therapy offered though primary care.“

“In Ontario, Kinesiology is a newly accredited professional designation with a scope of practice that includes physical activity promotion and prescription. We feel that physical activity counsellors who are Registered Kinesiologists with expertise in physical activity prescription and behavior change counselling are ideally suited as primary care providers in FHTs.”

The article “Physical Activity as Medicine among Family Health Teams: An Environmental Scan of Physical Activity Services in an Interdisciplinary Primary Care Setting” was published today in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

 

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Expert Panel Recommends New Sleep Times

 

sleep-recommendations

http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/02/09/and-so-to-bed-new-guidelines-from-the-national-sleep-foundation/

 

From the 2 February 2015 National Sleep Foundation press release

This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,”

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Duration Recommendations:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
Newborns0-3 months

 

14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours18 to 19 hours Less than 11 hoursMore than 19 hours
Infants4-11 months

 

12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours16 to 18 hours Less than 10 hoursMore than 18 hours
Toddlers1-2 years

 

11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours15 to 16 hours Less than 9 hoursMore than 16 hours
Preschoolers3-5 years

 

10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours14 hours Less than 8 hoursMore than 14 hours
School-aged Children6-13 years

 

9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours12 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 12 hours
Teenagers14-17 years

 

8 to 10 hours 7 hours11 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 11 hours
Young Adults18-25 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 to 11 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 11 hours
Adults26-64 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 10 hours
Older Adults≥ 65 years

 

7 to 8 hours 5 to 6 hours9 hours Less than 5 hoursMore than 9 hours

The recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] A simple intervention can make your brain more receptive to health advice

From the 2 February 2015 University of Pennsylvania press release

 

Emily Falk, Ph.D.

A new discovery shows how a simple intervention—self-affirmation – can open our brains to accept advice that is hard to hear.

“Self-affirmation involves reflecting on core values,” explained Emily Falk, the study’s lead author and director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Has your doctor ever told you to get more exercise?  Has your spouse ever suggested you eat healthier? Even though the advice comes from good intentions, most people feel defensive when confronted with suggestions that point out their weaknesses. Reflecting on values that bring us meaning can help people see otherwise threatening messages as valuable and self-relevant. “Our work shows that when people are affirmed, their brains process subsequent messages differently.”

Past studies have shown that brain activity in VMPFC during health messages can predict behavior change better than individuals’ own intentions, and this study sheds new light on why.  VMPFC is the brain region most commonly activated when participants think about themselves and when they ascribe value to ideas. The new results show that opening the brain in this way is a key pathway to behavior change.  “Understanding the brain opens the door to new health interventions that target this same pathway,” Falk noted.

“We were particularly interested in using self-affirmation to help people become more active because sedentary behavior is one of the biggest health threats faced by both Americans and people around the world,” said Falk.  Overly sedentary lifestyles are becoming a big problem; in some regions nearly 85 percent of an adult population leads an inactive lifestyle. This can cause multiple health problems, including poor heart health, diabetes, and cancer, just to name three. Increasing activity even small amount can have an important impact on both mental and physical health.

….

Psychologists have used self-affirmation as a technique to improve outcomes ranging from health behaviors in high risk patients to increasing academic performance in at risk youth, suggesting that the findings may be applicable across a wide range of interventions.  “Our findings highlight that something as simple as reflecting on core values can fundamentally change the way our brains respond to the kinds of messages we encounter every day,” Falk noted.  “Over time, that makes the potential impact huge.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why sitting for too long is killing you, with tips for all (including those with health & mobility issues)

From the 26 January 2015 post at the National Posture Institute Posture Correction and Resistance Training Blog

Well, by now you’ve heard of this…right? If not, this brief video is a must watch on the reasons why sitting too much is a killer.
[Don’t see the video? Try this–> https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422327029&x-yt-cl=84838260&v=dnVmeaYjdrs ]

 

While viewing this video I wondered how those who are unable to follow the tips. So I did a little Web surfing and came across this page from a reputable source.

Some tips for those wheelchair bound or with serious health or mobility issues
Excerpts from Helpguide.org

If you have a disability, severe weight problem, chronic breathing condition, diabetes, arthritis, or other ongoing illness you may think that your health problems make it impossible for you to exercise effectively, if at all. Or perhaps you’ve become frail with age and are worried about falling or injuring yourself if you try to exercise. The truth is, regardless of your age, current physical condition, and whether you’ve exercised in the past or not, there are plenty of ways to overcome your mobility issues and reap the physical, mental, and emotional rewards of exercise.

What types of exercise are possible with limited mobility?

It’s important to remember that any type of exercise will offer health benefits. Mobility issues inevitably make some types of exercise easier than others, but no matter your physical situation, you should aim to incorporate three different types of exercise into your routines:

  • Cardiovascular exercises that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance. These can include walking, running, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, water aerobics, or “aquajogging”. Many people with mobility issues find exercising in water especially beneficial as it supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint discomfort. Even if you’re confined to a chair or wheelchair, it’s still possible to perform cardiovascular exercise.
  • Strength trainingexercises involve using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass, improve balance, and prevent falls. If you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and abs.
  • Flexibility exercises help enhance your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. These may include stretching exercises and yoga. Even if you have limited mobility in your legs, for example, you may still benefit from stretches and flexibility exercises to prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.


 

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Vapor from e-cigarettes triggers changes to cells in lab study

From the 27 January 2015 article at Covering Health – Monitoring the Pulse of Health Journalism by Mary Otto

https://i0.wp.com/healthjournalism.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/vaping.jpg

Photo: Jonny Williams via Flickr

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes are growing in popularity among American adults, and while some states restrict their use by minors, nearly 1.8 million American middle and high school students reported using them one recent year, a federal study found.


Manufacturers promote e-cigarettes as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes and as tools for smoking cessation. Yet researchers point out that there is a dearth of scientific evidence regarding the effects of e-cigarette vapors on the lungs.

A laboratory study published in September suggests vapor from e-cigarettes may cause damage and raise the risk for respiratory infections among young people. In the lab, the vapor triggered a strong immune response in the epithelial cells of tissue samples donated by deceased children and the exposed cells appeared to be more vulnerable to infection by cold-causing rhinovirus, according to the research article, published in PLOS One. According to the study, even nicotine-free vapor increased the risk of infection.

HealthDay News reporter Dennis Thompson, who has been following the research on e-cigarette safety, took a look at the findings this month in a story posted on WebMD.

“Epithelial cells are the first line of defense in our airways,” the study’s lead author, Qun Wu, a lung disease researcher at National Jewish Health in Denver explains in Thompson’s article.

“They protect our bodies from anything dangerous we might inhale. Even without nicotine, this liquid can hurt your epithelial defense system and you will be more likely to get sick.”

Wu and his team placed the human cells in a sterile container in one end of a machine with an e-cigarette at the other end, Thompson notes. “The vapor spurred the release of IL-6, a signalling protein that promotes inflammation and an immune system response. This occurred whether or not the vapor contained nicotine, although nicotine appeared to slightly enhance the release of IL-6, the researchers said.”

An industry group representing e-cigarette manufacturers is stressing the limits of the study, pointing out that the tests involved cells in a lab, not actual e-cigarette users.

“Many in public health agree that the risks of vaping must always be considered in the context of the risks of cigarette smoking and traditional stop-smoking therapies,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association observes in Thompson’s article.

….

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Why all-nighters don’t work: How sleep and memory go hand-in-hand

Why all-nighters don’t work: How sleep and memory go hand-in-hand 

From the Brandeis University press release

Young Man Studing at Night

Want to ace that test tomorrow? Here’s a tip: Put down the coffee and hit the sack.

Scientists have long known that sleep, memory and learning are deeply connected. Most animals, from flies to humans, have trouble remembering when sleep deprived, and studies have shown that sleep is critical in converting short-term into long-term memory, a process known as memory consolidation.

But just how that process works has remained a mystery.

The question is, does the mechanism that promotes sleep also consolidate memory, or do two distinct processes work together? In other words, is memory consolidated during sleep because the brain is quiet, allowing memory neurons to go to work, or are memory neurons actually putting us to sleep?

h6F72EF3EIn a recent paper in the journal eLife, graduate students Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann in the Griffith Lab make a case for the latter.

Haynes and Christmann focused their research on dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, well-known memory consolidators inDrosophila. They observed, for the first time, that when DPM neurons are activated, the flies slept more; when deactivated, the flies kept buzzing.

These memory consolidators inhibit wakefulness as they start converting short-term to long-term memory. All this takes place in a section of the Drosophila brain called the mushroom body, similar to the hippocampus, where our memories are stored. As it turns out, the parts of the mushroom body responsible for memory and learning also help keep the Drosophila awake.

“It’s almost as if that section of the mushroom body were saying ‘hey, stay awake and learn this,’” says Christmann. “Then, after a while, the DPM neurons start signaling to suppress that section, as if to say ‘you’re going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.’”

Understanding how sleep and memory are connected in a simple system, like Drosophila, can help scientists unravel the secrets of the human brain.

“Knowing that sleep and memory overlap in the fly brain can allow researchers to narrow their search in humans,” Christmann says. “Eventually, it could help us figure out how sleep or memory is affected when things go wrong, as in the case of insomnia or memory disorders.”

To learn more about this and other fly research, check out Christmann’s blog, Fly on the Wall. 

This research was funded by the National Institute of Health

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Women’s pain: Common, treatable and often overlooked or mismanaged — ScienceDaily

Women’s pain: Common, treatable and often overlooked or mismanaged — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts from the 19 January article


“I can’t tell you the number of women I see who have been told they just have to live with the pain,” Dr. Thomas said. “It’s just heart breaking because many of these women have been suffering a long time. Women, especially older women, are less likely to speak up and seek treatment for their pain.”
Credit: Image courtesy of American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

Despite the variety of effective treatments, and physicians who specialize in treating pain, women often suffer unnecessarily from conditions ranging from backaches to pain after cancer surgery, and also treat their pain with medications that may be ineffective and possibly harmful, according to a review of research related to women and pain by the American Society of Anesthesiologists® (ASA®).

ASA conducted the literature review and issued the Women’s Pain Update to help raise awareness of the many options available to women for controlling both acute and chronic pain, and how a pain medicine specialist can help them choose the right treatment. Among other things, the studies showed that remedies such as music, yoga and rose oil are proven effective for several types of pain, that opioids are often used inappropriately, and that the type of anesthesia used during breast cancer surgery can affect how quickly and comfortably a woman recovers from the operation.

Physician anesthesiologists are doctors who focus on anesthesia and critical care medicine and are among the medical specialists who are experts in the subspecialty of pain medicine, seeing patients in private practices and pain clinics.

Donna-Ann Thomas, M.D., a member of ASA’s Committee on Pain Medicine, frequently sees women who have been suffering in silence for years, with conditions such as a type of back pain that can develop after childbirth, and chronic pain after breast cancer surgery.

“I can’t tell you the number of women I see who have been told they just have to live with the pain,” Dr. Thomas said of women who come to her with sciatica, a type of back pain that radiates down the leg. “It’s just heart breaking because many of these women have been suffering a long time. Women, especially older women, are less likely to speak up and seek treatment for their pain.”

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise — ScienceDaily

Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts from the 19 January 2015 article

Source:
University Health Network (UHN)
Summary:
The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study.
The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.
Credit: © elen31 / Fotolia

The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television, or working at a computer,” said Dr. David Alter, Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehab, University Health Network (UHN), and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”

……

The authors found the negative effects of sitting time on health, however, are more pronounced among those who do little or no exercise than among those who participate in higher amounts of exercise.

……

“Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival,” said Dr. Alter. “It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours.”

In the interim, Dr. Alter underlines strategies people can use to reduce sitting time. The target is to decrease sedentary time by two to three hours in a 12-hour day.

…..

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] My Health Data Is Killing Me | The Health Care Blog

My Health Data Is Killing Me | The Health Care Blog.

Excerpt from the 20 January post

AppleHealth

We are still in the dark ages when it comes to health and fitness data. It reminds me of the early 1990s when I had a paper day planner for a calendar, a business card holder for contacts, and a map.

Then along came the Microsoft Outlook and LotusNotes platform. These two platforms slugged it out like Uber verses Lyft. Then Microsoft integrated MS Office with MS Outlook and it was “game over.” I finally had one place to find everything I needed to do 90% of my job.

I’m waiting for that moment to come to the realm of my fitness data. It’s extremely difficult for me to access my medical and fitness data as it is, and yet the recent CES conference presented hundreds of new ways to collect more of my data. There will be wearables, scales, patches, contact lenses, smartphones, watches, etc. Maybe even a drone to fly overhead and watch what I eat for lunch. It is overwhelming. How overwhelming, you ask?

Read the rest of the article here

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Science Matters: the power of vitamins

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcbill/2319466919/in/photostream/

From the  article at Prospect – Journal of International Affairs at USCD 

Vitamins have become a booming industry in recent years. Businesses like The Vitamin Shoppe and Nature Made have made millions by isolating specific vitamins and minerals necessary for metabolic activity. However, recent studies have shown that an excess of certain vitamins may not only be unnecessary, but also harmful. In 2014, Nature published a piece which summarized the debate among scientists and health professionals regarding the use of vitamins in society, and several studies have shown that vitamins have no significant health benefit in terms of fighting cardiovascular disease or cancer.

….

According to David Agus, physician and best-selling author of “The End of Illness”, Americans spend $28 billion per year in dietary supplements, including both vitamins and herbals. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have gone so far as to propose that the US cease producing vitamin supplements, because most of the money and the resources go to waste.

Related Resources

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The effects of radio frequency radiation upon the brain: Dr Leif Salford, neurosurgeon

From the 12 January 2015 item at Stop Smart Meters Australia

Dr. Leif Salford is a neurosurgeon at Lund University Hospital (Sweden), and Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery. Since 1988 he has led a team of researchers that have exposed thousands of laboratory rats to microwave radiation from various sources. Since the late 1990s they have used mobile telephones as the source of this radiation.

The results have been consistent and alarming: not only does radiation from a mobile phones damage the blood-brain barrier, but it does so at even when the exposure level is reduced a thousandfold.

This is presentation by Dr. Leif Salford on the effects of radio frequency radiation (RF) upon the brain.  The statistics are jolting, to say the least: YouTube Link

See also: http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/?page_id=579

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] WEARABLE HEALTH TECH ALONE NOT ENOUGH TO GET TANGIBLE RESULTS

From the 12 January 2015 item at Public Health View

Wearable devices targeted at healthy living are alone not enough to drive tangible changes in an individual’s health, experts say, although sales of these devices are expected to soar in the coming years.

Courtesy: Garmin

Companies like Apple and Google sell watches and cellphones that can track health-related statistics, and others like Fitbit and Garmin make wristbands and even necklaces geared towards recording health-related statistics. This, in turn, is expected to translate into improved health behavior and hence better health outcomes.

But it is not that simple, say experts.

“The gap between recording information and changing behavior is substantial, and while these devices are increasing in popularity, little evidence suggests that they are bridging the gap,” experts wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
….

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

[Report] Regulation of Clinical Tests: In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) Devices, Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs), and Genetic Tests

From the summary of the December 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service

In vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices are used in the analysis of human samples, such as blood or
tissue, to provide information in making health care decisions. Examples of IVDs include (1)
pregnancy test kits or blood glucose tests for home use; (2) laboratory tests for infectious disease,such as HIV or hepatitis, and routine blood tests, such as cholesterol and anemia; and (3) tests forvarious genetic diseases or conditions. More recently, a specific type of diagnostic test—called acompanion diagnostic—has been developed that may be used to select the best therapy, at the right dose, at the correct time for a particular patient; this is often referred to as personalized or precision medicine.


In June 2010, FDA announced its decision to exercise its authority over all LDTs. A provision in
the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 stipulates that the agency
“may not issue any draft or final guidance on the regulation” of LDTs without, “at least 60 days
prior to such issuance,” first notifying Congress “of the anticipated details of such action.” On
July 31, 2014, in fulfillment of this statutory requirement, the FDA officially notified the Senate
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce that it will issue draft guidance on the regulation of LDTs, and included the
anticipated details of that regulatory framework. On October 3, 2014, the FDA formally issued
these documents as draft guidance in the Federal Register, giving 120 days for comment.
The draft guidance identifies groups of LDTs that will be (1) exempt from regulation entirely; (2)
only required to meet notification and adverse event reporting requirements; and (3) required to
meet notification, adverse event reporting, applicable premarket review, and other regulatory
requirements. FDA will use the information obtained through the notification requirement to
classify LDTs, based on risk, using a public process involving advisory panels and public
comment. Once classification has taken place, the FDA will enforce premarket review
requirements, prioritizing the highest-risk tests. The agency anticipates the entire process of
bringing all LDTs into compliance will take nine years to complete.

From the summary of the December 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service

In vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices are used in the analysis of human samples, such as blood or
tissue, to provide information in making health care decisions. Examples of IVDs include (1)
pregnancy test kits or blood glucose tests for home use; (2) laboratory tests for infectious disease,such as HIV or hepatitis, and routine blood tests, such as cholesterol and anemia; and (3) tests forvarious genetic diseases or conditions. More recently, a specific type of diagnostic test—called acompanion diagnostic—has been developed that may be used to select the best therapy, at the right dose, at the correct time for a particular patient; this is often referred to as personalized or precision medicine.


In June 2010, FDA announced its decision to exercise its authority over all LDTs. A provision in
the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 stipulates that the agency
“may not issue any draft or final guidance on the regulation” of LDTs without, “at least 60 days
prior to such issuance,” first notifying Congress “of the anticipated details of such action.” On
July 31, 2014, in fulfillment of this statutory requirement, the FDA officially notified the Senate
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce that it will issue draft guidance on the regulation of LDTs, and included the
anticipated details of that regulatory framework. On October 3, 2014, the FDA formally issued
these documents as draft guidance in the Federal Register, giving 120 days for comment.
The draft guidance identifies groups of LDTs that will be (1) exempt from regulation entirely; (2)
only required to meet notification and adverse event reporting requirements; and (3) required to
meet notification, adverse event reporting, applicable premarket review, and other regulatory
requirements. FDA will use the information obtained through the notification requirement to
classify LDTs, based on risk, using a public process involving advisory panels and public
comment. Once classification has taken place, the FDA will enforce premarket review
requirements, prioritizing the highest-risk tests. The agency anticipates the entire process of
bringing all LDTs into compliance will take nine years to complete.

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] SCIENCE MATTERS: THE POWER OF VITAMINS

From the  article at Prospect – Journal of International Affairs at USCD 

Vitamins have become a booming industry in recent years. Businesses like The Vitamin Shoppe and Nature Made have made millions by isolating specific vitamins and minerals necessary for metabolic activity. However, recent studies have shown that an excess of certain vitamins may not only be unnecessary, but also harmful. In 2014, Nature published a piece which summarized the debate among scientists and health professionals regarding the use of vitamins in society, and several studies have shown that vitamins have no significant health benefit in terms of fighting cardiovascular disease or cancer.

….

According to David Agus, physician and best-selling author of “The End of Illness”, Americans spend $28 billion per year in dietary supplements, including both vitamins and herbals. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have gone so far as to propose that the US cease producing vitamin supplements, because most of the money and the resources go to waste.

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Atlantic article] The Cold-Medicine Racket

From the 19 December 2014 Atlantic article by 

There are now hundreds of flashy “cold and flu” products, but still only a handful of simple, cheap ingredients. Here’s one new way to cut through the noise.

One in four people, when buying an over-the-counter medicine to treat a headache, will go for a brand name product. Unless that person is a pharmacist. In that case, according to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, they’ll almost certainly buy a generic version. The pharmacists know, and trust, that the drugs are identical.

But Bayer aspirin costs $6.29 at CVS, while the same amount of CVS-brand aspirin costs less than a third of that, $1.99. The two products are required by law to be “bioequivalent,” and CVS even has signs imploring shoppers to go for the cheaper option. Yet many people do no such thing. The difference in price between brand names and generics accounts for tens of billions of dollars “wasted” every year by Americans in pharmacies, according to the economics researchers. They also found that more highly educated people are more likely to buy generic medications, concluding that “misinformation explains a sizable share of the brand premium for health products.”

Consumer confusion, or misplaced trust, is compounded by the fact that a drug store is likely to have upwards of 300 cold-and-flu products.

Angelotti, formerly at Google, has now co-created a program that can help people pare down their options. On the Iodine site, you can click on the symptoms you’re experiencing, and that will comb a database of common cold-and-flu products and tell you which ones meet your needs. The results also include product reviews (via Google, with over 100,000 medication reviews so far), dosage forms (liquid or pill), active ingredients, and the names of generic versions at various pharmacies.

[janice’s note…it would still be wise to consult with an expert…as in a licensed pharmacist!]

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Tutorials/Finding aids | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health videos for some frequently asked questions (with additional related resources)

No, this is not from the Mercy hospital system here in Toledo. However, the Health Library at Mercy Health is a good resource for consumer  questions on topics ranging from “what causes wheezing?” to “tracking your blood pressure at home”,  or even something along the lines of  what’s “the difference between a cold and the flu .
Related resources

Consumer/Patient

Health Professional

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (Health Professionals) | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily

Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily.

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 5 December 2014 Lancet press release

The combined use of spraying insecticide inside homes and insecticide-treated bed nets is no better at protecting children against malaria than using bed nets alone, a study in The Gambia suggests. The findings, published in The Lancet, should encourage donors to invest their limited resources in additional bed nets, the more cost-effective solution to tackling malaria*.

 

Related article
Malaria death rate halved, but many still lack nets – health – 09 December 2014 – New Scientist

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Parents skipping needed care for children, pediatricians say | Association of Health Care Journalists

Parents skipping needed care for children, pediatricians say | Association of Health Care Journalists.

Joseph Burns

 

Photo: Alex Prolmos via Flickr

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) discourage families from seeking primary care for their children, according to the American Association of Pediatricians. The problem is so severe that the federal government should consider limiting HDHPs to adults only, the AAP said in a policy statement published in Pediatrics.

“HDHPs discourage use of nonpreventive primary care and thus are at odds with most recommendations for improving the organization of health care, which focus on strengthening primary care,” the association said in its statement. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services are covered in full without charge.

This is the second time in as many months that a report has shown consumers skipping needed care because of the cost. Last month, we reported that out-of-pocket health care costs force one out of every eight privately insured Americans to skip necessary medical treatment, according to the survey from the AP-NORC Center, “Privately Insured in America: Opinions on Health Care Costs and Coverage.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the survey. In a report earlier this month, “Too High a Price: Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs in the United States,” the Commonwealth Fund expressed similar concerns.

In an article about the policy statement, Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff, associate editor of Pediatrics, quoted Budd Shenkin, M.D., the lead author of the AAP’s policy statement on HDHPs, saying parents are so concerned about the cost of care that they don’t bring in their children when they should. “They’re reluctant to come in, they seek more telephone care, they’re reluctant to complete referrals, and they’re reluctant to come back for appointments to follow up on an illness,” he said.

For children with chronic conditions, foregoing care can exacerbate illnesses, said Thomas F. Long, M.D., chair of the association’s Committee on Child Health Financing. “If it’s going to cost them out-of-pocket money, they may say, ‘Well, it’s just a cold, I don’t need to see the doctor.’ And ‘just a cold, turns into ‘just pneumonia,’” he added.

The problem of delaying necessary care is one Paul Levy addressed in his blog, Not Running a Hospital, about HDHPs. “Beyond the sad impact on individual families in any given year, I fear that the economic backlash of these policies will be a deferment of needed health care treatments and a resulting future bulge of cost increases. We’re playing Whac-A-Mole here,” he wrote.

For the Commonwealth Fund, researchers found that among privately insured consumers across all income groups, low- and moderate-income adults were most likely to skip the health care they need because of high out-of-pocket costs.

It’s no surprise that adults with the lowest incomes were most likely to skip needed care, the fund reported. Among consumers earning less than $22,890 annually, 46 percent cited at least one example of skipping needed health care because of copayments or coinsurance: 28 percent did not fill a prescription; 28 percent skipped a medical test or follow-up treatment; 30 percent had a medical problem but did not see a doctor; and 24 percent did not see a specialist when needed.

When deductibles are high relative to income, consumers tend to skip care as well, and low- and moderate-income adults had the most trouble, the report showed. Consumers whose deductibles represent 5 percent or more of their income cited at least one example of skipping needed health care because of their deductible: 29 percent skipped a medical test or follow-up treatment; 27 percent had a medical problem but did not go to the doctor; 23 percent skipped a preventive care test; and 22 percent did not see a specialist despite their physician’s advice.

For an article in Modern Healthcare, Bob Herman covered this topic well. He cited the case of a woman in Indiana who was searching for a health plan on HealthCare.gov. A single, 40-year-old nonsmoker, this woman could choose from 29 plans and 24 of them were considered HDHPs, he wrote.

Under IRS rules, (PDF) an HDHP in 2015 is defined as one that has an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family coverage and annual out-of-pocket costs that do not exceed $6,450 for individual or $12,900 for a family.

The Commonwealth Fund report showed that 13 percent of consumers with private health insurance had plans with a deductibles equivalent to 5 percent or more of their income; that figure includes 25 percent of adults with low incomes and about 20 percent of adults with moderate incomes ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for a single person).

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Web-savvy older adults who regularly indulge in culture may better retain ‘health literacy’ — ScienceDaily

Web-savvy older adults who regularly indulge in culture may better retain ‘health literacy’ — ScienceDaily.

From the news article

Date:November 25, 2014
Source:BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:Older people who are active Internet users and who regularly indulge in a spot of culture may be better able to retain their health literacy, and therefore maintain good health, suggests research.

There was a link between age and declining health literacy, and being non-white, having relatively low wealth, few educational qualifications, and difficulties carrying out routine activities of daily living.

Poorer memory and executive function scores at the start of the study were also linked to greater health literacy decline over the subsequent six years.

Around 40% of the entire sample said they never used the internet or email, while one in three (32%) said they did so regularly. Similar proportions said they had consistently engaged in civic (35%) and/or leisure (31%) activities over the six year follow-up period.

Almost four out of 10 (39%) said they had regularly engaged in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, galleries, concerts or the opera, during this time.

Across all time points, internet use and engagement in civic, leisure, or cultural activities were lower among those whose health literacy declined.

After taking account of influential factors, only the links between regular internet use and engaging in cultural activities remained statistically significant.

But each factor appeared to exert an additive effect, and a combination of all four seemed to afford the best protection against health literacy decline, a finding that was independent of any tailing off in cognitive function.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

,,,

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Health Care for Dummies (and Innovators): In search of a practical definition of health | The Health Care Blog

Health Care for Dummies (and Innovators): In search of a practical definition of health | The Health Care Blog.

From the 25 November 2014 post

flying cadeuciiFor a while now, I’ve been working on an ebook about making digital health more useful and usable for older adults.

(Don’t hold your breath, I really have no idea when it will be done. I can only work on it for about an hour every weekday.)

In reflecting on the health innovation conferences and conversations in which I’ve participated these past few years, I found myself musing over the following two questions:

1. What is health?
2. What does it mean to help someone with their health?

Three Components

After all, whether you are a clinician, a health care expert, or a digital health entrepreneur, helping people with their health is the core mission. So one would think we’d be clear on what we’re talking about, when we use terms like health and health care.

But in fact, it’s not at all obvious. In practical parlance, we bandy around the terms health and health care as we refer to a wide array of things.

Actually defining health has, of course, been addressed by experts and committees. The World Health Organization’s definition is succinct, but hasn’t been updated since 1948:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

A more recent attempt to define health, described in this 2011 BMJ editorial, proposed health as “’the ability to adapt and self manage’ in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges.”

This left me scratching my head a bit, since it sounded more like a definition of one’s resilience, or self-efficacy. Which intuitively seem much related to health (however we define it), but not quite the same thing.

I found myself itching for a definition of health that would help me frame what I perceive as the health – and life – challenges of my older patients.

Also, it seemed impossible to articulate how digital health tools might help us care for an aging population, if one didn’t start with a practical definition of health.

So after doing an hour of research in the literature (and finding endless scholarly rabbit holes), I ended up trying to sketch a model of health that felt true to my experiences.

In this post, I’d like to share what I came up with, and get your feedback. Then in a follow-up post, I’ll write about what this might mean for defining health care, and our efforts to improve or facilitate health care.

What is health?

Health is a dynamic state. For an individual, it involves three core components:

• How are you feeling? How do your body and mind feel? Are you experiencing any pain? Bothersome sensations? Mental distress? This component of health addresses the individual’s experience of suffering.

• How well are your body and mind outwardly working? Are your body and mind working as you expect them to, or need them to, or want them to? Can you get around physically as you usually do? Can you manage your thinking tasks? Can you see, hear, speak, and otherwise communicate effectively with others? This component addresses the individual’s ability to leverage body and mind in order to manage one’s usual activities and life tasks.

• How well are your body and mind internally working? This component relates to one’s inner physiology and function. When we peer inside, whether with modern technology, via the careful pulse auscultation used in some cultures, or any other method, is anything awry? Do we find signs of disease, disorder, or disruption? In Western medicine, we consider the workings of organs and cells, but other cultures have their own “inner workings” that they assess when evaluating health.

These three components are in constant interplay with each other. Right now I’ll refer to them your wellbeing, your macrofunction, and your microfunction. (But I’m not sure those are best terms.)

These three components of health are also in constant interplay with our social and physical environments, as well as with our nutrition and our “lifestyle choices.” For instance, rich social encounters and purposeful work improve wellbeing, as well as immune function and other aspects of our microfunction. Air pollution might make us cough, and can negatively impact our lung function, along with other less visible parts of our health.

Are these many external factors, and our behavior choices, synonymous with “your health”? I would call them influences on your health, or in certain cases “health care”, rather than your health itself. (And they aren’t diagrammed above, although I’d like to add them eventually.) These factors are incredibly important, but we confuse matters when we conflate things that influence health — such as access to clinicians, clean water, walkable cities — with the actual health of an individual.

Why does a person’s health matter?

Better health is an important end in of itself.

But to a large extent, health is a means to a more important end: that of living life.

In other words, being able to do the things we care about, need to do, and want to do. Being able to do things that give purpose, meaning, and pleasure to our lives. Being able to do the things that make us feel like our selves.

This is kind of obvious, but it’s actually fairly easy to lose sight of this when we get immersed in the weeds of health and health care. (Which is why the Unmentionables at Health 2.0 is so fantastic: it’s a much-needed reminder that health serves life.)

[Caveat: There is a lot of overlap between the life activities, but I haven’t yet figured out how to diagram this. Graphic design is not my forte.]

What is a health problem?

As a doctor, my job is to help people address their health problems. And I’d like for the digital health entrepreneurs to create tools that work better for this purpose.

So what is a health problem? How to define what people seem to need help with? How to define what digital health tools should help us – whether we are a patient, a clinician, or a family caregiver – address?

Here is a practical definition: a health problem is anything that is “wrong” with one or more of the three components of health above.

For instance:
• Wellbeing Problems: Examples include being in pain, being fatigued, having insomnia, feeling depressed, feeling anxious, feeling short of breath, and so forth. Many symptoms, pains, discomforts, and any other forms of suffering fall into this category.

• Macrofunction Problems: These might include having difficulty walking due to arthritis, problems exercising due to shortness of breath, or problems thinking due to dementia. You could also include vision problems, hearing problems, and speech difficulties due to stroke. These issues often cause noticeable functional impairments.

• Microfunction Problems: These would include problems such as having impaired glucose metabolism, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, kidney disease, as well as early stage cancer.

You’ll notice that problems with wellbeing and macrofunction are primarily person-defined. It’s the affected person – sometimes known as “the patient” – who experiences suffering, or difficulties in how the body and mind are working. Whereas microfunction problems are generally “expert-defined”: nobody knows they have osteoporosis until clinicians tell them.

Many diagnoses, diseases, or health stressors will cause problems in all three parts of health. For example, cancer symptoms and the related functional impairments (e.g. problems doing anything you can usually do) are the consequence of the cancer cells running amok within.

Congestive heart failure might cause uncomfortable dyspnea, as well decreased exercise tolerance, such that a person has difficulty managing usual ambulation and activities.

Your Life

Of course, there is a lot of room to argue about what constitutes “wrong” with a given health component. Cultural and social factors influence how people perceive their own suffering, or overt impairments. And we could quibble endlessly about what is ideal blood pressure, and how we might otherwise assess how right or wrong a person’s body and mind are internally working.

Still, in many cases, if most of agree that something seems “wrong” with a given component of health, this should provide us with a decent practical starting point for identifying health problems.

Do we need to distinguish between microfunction and macrofunction?

I believe we do. Problems with macrofunction are the things that people notice in themselves (or in others, when it comes to cognitive macrodysfunction). These are what patients are often most concerned about.

Macrofunction problems, along with forms of suffering, are also what directly impacts people’s ability to participate in life tasks, and their short-term quality of life.

So helping people correct, mitigate, or adapt to these types of functional impairments is incredibly powerful, if you want to address health problems in a way that makes people’s lives materially better. This is an approach that is common in geriatrics, palliative care, physical and occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy.

Microfunction, on the other hand, is what people need technical assistance to assess. (Historically that assistance have been clinicians, but we’re on the cusp of seeing advanced diagnostic tools in the hands of the public.)

Much of the work that we doctors do in modern medicine, especially in primary care, is address physiologic problems that are scarcely perceptible to the affected person: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, asymptomatic atrial fibrillation.

We do this work because we are trying to prevent or delay more overt health problems, such as those associated with suffering and macrodysfunction. So it’s certainly worthwhile work. But it doesn’t always feel satisfying or worthwhile to patients, especially if they are pre-occupied by other problems which are causing suffering or overt functional impairments.

In fact, it seems to be fairly common that patients and clinicians are focused on different aspects of health. A typical example: a doctor might decide to unilaterally prioritize tinkering with the microfunction, such as by prescribing more statins, even though a patient’s most pressing concern is falls or pain.

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] MyFitnessPal Works If You Use It | The Health Care Blog

MyFitnessPal Works If You Use It | The Health Care Blog. (November 24, 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.33.22 AMYou may have seen some news regarding a study MyFitnessPalrecently did with UCLA.

I wanted to take a minute to address this study, since we participated in it directly. We are excited that we got to work with some very smart people to answer a question we also wanted to know the answer to. We jumped at the opportunity to find out—is having your physician introduce you to the app and help you sign up enough to kickstart a health journey?

What we learned is that just introducing people to MyFitnessPal wasn’t enough. People have to be ready and willing to do the hard work.

The app itself does work—if you use it. Our own data and the data from the study show that the more you log on, the more you use the app, the more success you will see. Users that logged in the most lost the most weight. In fact, we already know that 88% of users who log for 7 days lose weight.

We make tools designed to make it as clear and simple as possible for you to see the path to achieving your fitness goals. We are not, however, making a magic bullet—because there is no magic bullet. Ultimately, you’re the one who has to do the work.

And my, how much work you guys have done.

You have:

  • lost over 180 million pounds
  • logged over 14.5 billion foods
  • burned 364 billion calories
  • supported each other with over 82 million status likes in the last year alone
  • and much more!

The first thing I say when people talk to me about MyFitnessPal is that user success is our true North. We are relentlessly focused on user success. We believe that if you are succeeding at reaching your goals then we will succeed as a company. We’re going to keep working to make our app even more accessible, simple to use, and motivating so we can help even more people succeed.

Of course, it’s our job to make the app as engaging and easy to use as possible. It’s not exactly where we want to be, yet. But we’ll keep working hard to get there. To that end, we’ve made lots of updates since this study was done. From a product perspective, in the last year and a half we’ve:

  • streamlined the logging experience
  • made logging streaks more visible
  • added more ways to get push notifications and reminders
  • added insights to help you get more out of logging
  • made a recipe tool that allows you to quickly log recipes from anywhere across the web

As long as you keep working on your goals, we’re going to work on better ways to help you get there.

Thanks for everything you do, making the MyFitnessPal community so amazing, and helping us toward our vision of making an even healthier world.

Mike Lee is the Founder and CEO of MyFitnessPal

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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