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Archive for the ‘Health News’ Category

Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission Ends in Cuba

The happy family mother and baby daughter playing and laughing baby kissing in bed

There is definitive proof that we are getting another step closer to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Cuba officially became the first country to eliminate the transmission of the AIDS virus from mothers to children. An amazing step in the right direction!

This is a claim that a country can not make lightly. In order to make this declaration, the World Health Organization has several requirements. Cuba had to prove that they have had fewer than 50 children born with HIV infections out of every 100,000 births annually. A similar standard was also met by Cuba in regards to syphilis transmission.

So how is it possible for an HIV positive mother to not pass on the virus to her child? Health care has come leaps and bonds in this area. If mother and child do not get antiretroviral medicines, the chance of the child having HIV is anywhere from 15% to 45%. If mother and child are treated with the medicines however the chance drops dramatically to just over 1%.

In the United States, the numbers of HIV positive children has also dropped dramatically but currently it appears no WHO recognition has been requested. CDC statistics suggest that in 2010 only 162 children living with HIV under the age of 13 received the virus as a transmission from their mother at birth or during breastfeeding.




Keeping the Brain Active is Important for Alzheimer’s Patients

Closeup of a CT scan with brain

Closeup of a CT scan with brain

By Emily Murray

For those with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, waiting for a miracle drug to reverse the damage to the brain seems all they can do. While many medications are currently being tested, researchers and health care professionals advise that all who are diagnosed, stay as mentally active as possible. In fact, keeping the unaffected areas of the brain active can prevent them from the disease for an extended period of time.

Activities like crossword puzzles, reading and even learning a new language can slow the advancement of the disease.

An earlier news story made the surprising announcement that 45% of patients who were treated for Alzheimer’s were never told they had the disease. At a time when transparency in the medical field is expected, many wonder how this could even happen.

The reason may surprise you.

According to the article, many doctors fear telling their patients about their degenerative brain disorder because there currently is no remedy. This news can be incredibly discouraging and may cause more harm than good with the patient already pondering what nursing home they should check in to as a result of their diagnosis.

The truth is, as we age many people suffer from a loss of brain function. While the damage is irreversible currently, we can at least do our part to slow the degeneration by staying as mentally stimulated as we possibly can. The saying “you are only as old as you feel,” might have some real truth here.

 




The Gluten-Free Debate: Does it Help Athletes?

gluten free stampBy Emily Murray

The world of diet fads and nutrition has been marked by the words “gluten-free” for the last few years now. While a certain percentage of the population does, in fact, have a gluten sensitivity, many others are eliminating gluten from their diets in an effort to improve their health. Additionally, many athletes have also jumped on the craze.

A new small study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports has found that going sans-gluten doesn’t have that desired impact on athletic performance.

By conducting a small study and testing inflammation and other factors in the participants, scientists were able to conclude that there was not a significant change in the participants bodies that would increase athletic performance.

Celiac disease occurs when people have an actual intolerance to the protein but it’s been stated that only a mere 1% of all Americans suffer from it and of those 1%, 83% of them are undiagnosed. So why then are so many people unaffected by the protein going sans-gluten?

Many believe that there are benefits of living a life without this but the more research that we see conducted on the matter, the less of a correlation between health and gluten are recognized.




Women’s Viagra Looking for FDA Approval Once Again

Loving couple in the park. Vintage retro style with light leaks

By Emily Murray

Nearly everyone knows about “the little blue pill,” these days. It’s worked wonders for men suffering setbacks in their love lives due to erectile dysfunction. Women who have decreased libido have been hoping for a similar pill. While the medication (flibanserin) has previously sought out FDA approval, it has yet to earn it. Now, drug makers are stepping back up to the plate and asking the FDA for the green light.

The proposed drug would treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder. In short, this condition is marked by a low sex drive and is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “persistent or recurrent lack of interest in sex that causes you personal distress.” The drug is currently owned by Sprout Pharmaceuticals and has been rejected twice already, citing that perhaps the pill’s benefits are not enough to outweigh potential side effects.

Sprout Pharmaceuticals is not the only manufacturer to attempt to enter the field of women’s libido drugs. Pfizer and Procter & Gamble have also made their own similar medications with no luck getting approval yet.

Many supporters are rallying around the potential approval as they feel women do not have as many options for increasing libido like men currently do. Others believe that therapy, rather than a medication, is the answer to increasing libido and dealing with other sexual roadblocks.

The FDA will make it’s decision on June 4th.




Fructose May Trigger Food Cravings

Ripe apple with leaf

By Emily Murray

Not all types of sugar affect the body in the same way, this according to a new small study in the journal PNAS. Apparently fructose, a sugar which is found in many products including fruit, may trigger a desire for more sweets and increase hunger levels.

The study took place in Southern California and was composed of 24 participants and tested the results of glucose versus fructose on appetite. The participants were given a cherry-flavored, sweetened drink but were not told whether it was fructose or glucose. The surveyors than asked them to rate their level of hunger. In addition to these questions, the participants were also shown pictures of tempting foods, alternated with “neutral” foods, while undergoing a brain scan.

Days later the process was repeated using a different sweetener type than the test beforehand.

The result showed that when people drank fructose sweetened drinks their brain scans showed that they reacted more strongly to the appearance of food photos than those who had glucose sweetener.

It’s important to note that both fructose and glucose are similar when it comes to calorie content but where they differ is how the body breaks them down.

While this is certainly no reason to stop eating fruit, it is a reminder to pay attention to what types of sugar you put in your body and recognize your cravings as a result.

 




Exercise Leads to Longer Life, According to New Study

Running on the beachBy Emily Murray

It’s no surprise that exercise is good for us, but what many may not realize is that it can actually lead to a longer life. New research shows that “vigorous exercise” is responsible for preventing chronic disease and early death. When it comes to defining exactly what constitutes as “vigorous” there has been much debate.

This recent study was conducted by researches for James Cook University and the University of Sydney. More than 204,000 participants were tracked, all over 45 years of age, for six and a half years. These participants were then divided in to groups based on the intensity of exercise. One included those who took part in moderate activity (household chores, swimming, social tennis games), the next group was divided by those who took part in vigorous exercise (think jogging, competitive tennis or aerobics) up to or more than 30% of the time.

The results proved that those who fell in to the category of vigorous exercise 30% of the time had a 9% lower risk of death and those who exercised vigorously reportedly more than 30% of the time actually had even greater results by lowering their risk by 13%.

According to an article on the study, the standard guidelines show that two minutes of moderate activity are about equal to one minute of vigorous exercise.

If you are interested in stepping up your work out routine, check with your doctor first to assure that your body is healthy enough for vigorous exercise.




Organic Produce Carries Lower Risk of Pesticide Exposure

By Emily Murray

Health nutrition means a healthy youWe’ve all been faced with that tough choice in the produce aisle – do we cough up the extra 50 cents to buy organic or do we save a little on the regular veggies and call it a day?

The raging debate about whether to ‘go organic’ has revolved largely around whether organic items are better for us nutritionally than their chemically grown counterparts but thanks to a new study. we have another fact to consider. If given the option for chemical exposure or not, most of us would go with the ‘not.’ So perhaps that’s the main reason that spending that extra money is well worth it. Let’s take a closer look at the study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal and you can be the judge.

While we are largely under the impression that pesticides are “bad,” few studies have actually looked in to the correlation between poor health and pesticide exposure. This recent research however took this very approach.

Here is a list of the most common crops treated with pesticides:

Broccoli
Cantaloupe
Grapes
Green Beans
Lettuce
Nectarines
Oranges
Pears
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Mangoes
Onions

OPs (or organophosphates) which are used for treating crops have been identified as toxic for the nervous system if a person is directly exposed. When we eat produce treated with this, washing and peeling the vegetables does reduce much of the residue – but not all. The grey area for us is largely figuring out how much exposure we are getting through food grown in these treated crops and how it is impacting us. That’s were the new research comes in.

After studying data from a two year range of nearly 4500 participants, researchers discovered that those who ate non-organic fruits and vegetables had higher concentrations of OP metabolites in their urine. While research is still being conducted on long term health effects, one thing is for sure. The level of OPs you are exposed largely depends on whether you eat organic or chemically grown produce. The study leader concluded with the advice that eating fruits and veggies daily is important for overall health regardless of whether they are organic or not. Until we have further evidence on the impact of OPs, it’s up to you to choose whichever option you feel most comfortable with.




Ebola Vaccination Ready for Testing in West Africa

Microscopic view of Ebola VirusBy Emily Murray

Since the Ebola threat in the U.S. appears to have subsided substantially in the last few months, it’s easy to forget that it is still claiming life after life in West Africa. Our national news has taken a step back from reporting as it is no longer impacting us but Ebola is a very real part of life for many people. Fortunately, this incurable virus is now on the verge of being combated preemptively with vaccines and there efficacy will be tested by the end of the month.

 

Two leaders in the pharmaceutical field (GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co) have joined forces to create vaccinations with the potential to save lives. Representatives of WHO (World Health Organization) have stated that testing in Liberia is set  to begin the end of this month and is also set for next month in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

This could finally give health officials the upper hand on fighting the outbreak which has now killed 8,259 people.

Ebola Facts

*Currently there is no cure for Ebola

*The largest outbreak area is West Africa

*An estimated 50% of those infected will survive

* The most common symptoms include body aches, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and fever

*The virus responsible for Ebola is called RNA and comes from infected animals (commonly by ingesting them)

 

 

 




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.




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