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3 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for the Holidays

Green BowBy Emily Murray

With the holidays upon us, we are all busy preparing for family and festivities. While it is one of the most loved times of the year, there are some not-so-fun things that tend to come with it. Crowded shopping malls, full flights and lots of travel time expose us to lots of people and regrettably, lots of viruses and germs. While there is no way to guard yourself completely from sickness this season, there are several ways to prepare your body for the influx of germs.

Here are 3 ways to boost your immunity this season.

1. Wash your hands regularly 

Sure, it’s something we have been told to do since we were children but proper hand washing is just as important in adulthood. If you are traveling this season, be sure to wash often so you rid yourself of the germs that are often found at rest stops and airports.

2. Manage your blood pressure

With the stress of shopping, bills and entertaining, it’s easy to see way your blood pressure elevates.  Unfortunately, high blood pressure can result in a weakened immune system. Try and handle stress in the healthiest way you can. If this means taking a walk, writing in a journal or talking to a friend – take the time t release the stress from your system.

3. Don’t fall behind on sleep

Holiday parties and late nights are simply a part of the season but if you are going to be out late, make sure you are still getting plenty of rest. For the most part your immune system does a great job of protecting you but inadequate sleep can give germs the edge on your body.




Flu Virus Mutation Renders Vaccine Less Effective

注射器とワクチンBy Emily Murray

If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, you might want to take a look at this new information.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that the current flu virus has mutated, making this year’s vaccination less effective. As a result, medical professionals are gearing up for a potentially busy flu season.

While most adults can recover from the flu, aging adults, those with compromised immune systems or young children can suffer the full impact of the virus, sometimes ending in death. These are typically the groups of people that the CDC recommends should get the vaccine.

So how do they know the virus has mutated? The CDC found that  52% of the 85 influenza virus samples that were collected between October 1 and November 22 were different from those included in the vaccine this year. This is a clear indicator that once again the virus is changing.

So far, influenza A is the most common strain being reported this season.

So if you haven’t received a flu shot yet, should you still get one? Most medical professionals are still advising that those high risk groups still receive it since it can protect against the many other strains of the virus which are currently circulating as well. As far as the idea of coming out with a new vaccine this late into the season, it’s just not possible.




Gut Microbes to Blame for Fatness or Fitness

Colony of bacteriaBy Emily Murray

The idea that our natural stature has something to do with our genetics is really nothing new but the fact that our gut microbes could be to blame? That’s something many of us have never considered.

It seems with the growing obesity concern, more and more tests and studies have recently been conducted to understand why some people seem to have no trouble remaining fit and others cannot seem to get in shape…even when literally their life depends on it. One of these studies was recently conducted in London and concluded that microbes in our gut influence whether we will be thin or overweight.

Researchers studied 416 pairs of twins and from more than 1000 fecal samples, they were then able to identify the type of bacteria most commonly associated with lower body weight.

The study of course must be conducted on a larger scale before the findings can impact treatments for obesity but researchers and health professionals remain hopeful that this new information can be used to help fight the obesity epidemic.




Store Receipts: The Latest Toxin to Avoid?

Supermarket. paper check receipt bill in hand.While many of us are believers in the old idea of “retail therapy,” or shopping to overcome stress, break-ups, work issues etc. a new study reveals that toxic chemicals on store receipts may actually pose a danger to your health.

The toxic chemical responsible for this news is bisphenol A (more commonly known as BPA). Even in small levels, BPA (a synthetic estrogen ) is linked to issues in the endocrine system. Some of the most common health issues include cancer, infertility, diabetes, early puberty, obesity and behavioral disruptions in children. Some health officials and researchers have begun to question whether the widespread use of BPA in products could be leading to the current obesity issue in America.

While many of us understand we will come in contact with germs while shopping, using hand sanitizer to combat this may actually increase the absorption of BPA chemicals from receipts.

The vast majority of the population is just hearing about this now but it was 2010 when the Environmental Working Group first reported that BPA was present on cash register receipts.

The American Chemistry Council however has attempted to squash concerns by saying “…the most relevant data shows very little BPA exposure under conditions most representative of real-life contact with thermal receipt paper.”

Additionally the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also declared that BPA is safe for use “in food contact materials.”

What do you think? Will you be more cautious about coming in contact with cash register receipts? 




New Tactic for Getting Kids off the Soda Bandwagon

hand holds cola with ice in glass isolatedBy Emily Murray

It comes as no surprise these days that soda is not healthy. Even for those drinking the diet versions, blood sugar is known to still spike from the artificial sweeteners, which can lead to sugary sweet cravings and snacking.

Regardless of this insight, soda continues to be largely consumed by the teenage population. While states like New York have attacked the soda industry by limiting the serving sizes of containers, a new study has revealed a perhaps more well-received tactic.

According to a study which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, when kids and teens learn the length of a walk that would be required to burn off all the calories consumed, the message that soda is not healthy finally hits home.

In order to come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed more than 3,000 soft drink purchases made by children ranging in age from 7 to 18 in a store located in a lower income area of Baltimore. In this area, it was determined that soda purchases accounted for 98% of all beverages purchased by children.

In order to test their theory, researchers placed signs that reported calorie amounts and discovered that one sign that mentioned it would take a five-mile walk to burn off the calories was most effective. The researchers feel that posting calorie amounts on the side of the can or bottle is not enough to help people make a good decision. Until those numbers are attached to a tangible act, they mean nothing.

 




Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

olive branch and a spoon full of oilBy Emily Murray

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the adage goes, but in light of new research perhaps we should be taking a closer look at morphing to a Mediterranean diet.

Researchers studied the impact of a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, on heart health and discovered that this eating habit actually reduced the risk of developing heart disease. Participants (all 5800) were between the ages of 55 and 80 and were a mix of both men and women.

These participants were then split in to the following three groups:

1.  Those with a Mediterranean diet rich with virgin oil

2. Those with a Mediterranean diet with nuts

3. Those with a low fat diet

Researchers noted that those eating the Mediterranean diet had a decrease in obesity and have lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, preliminary tests conducted prior to the start of the experiment found that 64% of those participating had metabolic syndrome. After being on the healthier diet, more than half no longer showed signs of the syndrome. With obesity skyrocketing in our country, there was other great news surrounding the Mediterranean diet. While eating this way, participants were less likely to gain fat around their waist and therefore less likely to have diabetes.

 




Study Finds Lung Cancer May be Dormant for Over 2 Decades

Doctor examining a lung radiographyBy Emily Murray

A new study revealed some surprising new information about lung cancer – apparently it can remain dormant for more than 20 years before becoming an issue. When it does become triggered however the damage can be substantial.

Researchers conducted a review of the lung cancer from seven different patients (some were smokers, some never smoked and others smoked but had quit) and found that the “genetic errors” that cause cancer had actually appeared long before their cancers had become aggressive.

So what does this mean for cancer research and treatment? In the long run this may provide awareness that screening can be done early to find these genetic errors and perhaps the cancer can be treated long before it begins irreparable damage.

Researchers found that the cancer most often comes out of dormancy once more genetic errors happen in the body. This triggers the cancer cells to become active.

If this information can be used to detect lung cancer sooner, this could drastically help raise the low survival rate for lung cancer patients.




Smoking Mothers May Have Less Fertile Sons

Pregnant woman with cigarette.By Emily Murray

We all know that smoking during pregnancy is strongly advised against and can lead to problems like low birth weight and even miscarriage or still birth. However,  even if a woman does give birth to a surprisingly healthy child, the damage may not have yet shown itself.

A new study recently published in the journal Human Reproduction demonstrated that sperm quality can be impacted in the children of a pregnant smoking mother. While the testing was done in mice, it’s believed that the same finding would hold true in humans as well. The male offspring of the mice who were exposed to the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day while pregnant and nursing developed sperm that were of poor quality, making them less fertile.

Among the many systems impacted, scientists discovered that cigarette smoke impacts the stem cells in the testes which can result in permanently low sperm production.

For this reason, and the countless others that we currently know, you would likely think that no pregnant mothers would smoke. Unfortunately, current statistics show us that around 20% of American women do continue smoking during pregnancy.




Antibiotics Overused in U.S. Hospitals – What This Means for You

drug medincin on handBy Emily Murray

Anyone who has been to the doctor and been prescribed antibiotics knows the deal – ‘even if you begin feeling better, be sure to take all your pills.’

Do you always follow this direction?

If not, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for developing a potentially fatal antibiotic resistant infection according to health experts.

Many of us run to the doctor for antibiotics whenever an illness hits and really who could blame us? Since the invention of penicillin, we now have the opportunity to take a pill and begin feeling better nearly instantaneously. While we have long known the dangers of taking antibiotics too frequently, we are beginning to hear more and more warnings as new antibiotic-resistant infections are making their way in to the public. Even the White House has recently warned of their overuse and the dangers that come with it.

According to the CDC, each year more than 2 million Americans develop an antibiotic-resistant infection. Of these, more than 23,000 will die. These numbers are pretty staggering.

When patients are admitted to the hospital for a major surgery or any other massive issue, one of the first things typically done is to start the patient on antibiotics to ward off infection. According to a study that was recently published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, of the 505 hospitals observed, 78% of the cases involved giving the patient “unnecessary” or “redundant” antibiotics. Not only is this an issue from a health standpoint, but from a financial one as well. According to a Fox News article on this subject, unnecessary antibiotic use results in more than $12 million that could be avoided.




Soy: Should Women With Breast Cancer Avoid it?

Delicious soya background.By Emily Murray

Women with breast cancer may want to rethink their diet if it includes soy products.

In the September issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, new research reveals that in certain women with the disease, soy consumption could increase the activity of genes linked the growth of breast cancer.

Some of the most common soy products include tofu, tempeh and soy milk.

This research sprouted from a collection of research conducted by a breast cancer specialist in New York City who placed 140 newly diagnosed (and early-stage) women with breast cancer in to two groups. One group received soy milk capsules everyday for between 1 and 4 weeks. The other group was given a milk powder supplement.

The result was that nearly 20% of the women taking the soy supplement had an increase in the activity of genes recognized for their roles in tumor growth and spreading cancer.

Researchers cannot conclude that soy products cause cancer, but they have enough information to advise women with a current breast cancer diagnosis to avoid soy products, or consume them only in moderation.




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