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New Study Involves…Tripping Seniors?

Beautiful portrait of an elder woman outdoorsBy Emily Murray

While this may sound like a cruel prank, scientists have begun tripping seniors for research that could be used to help prevent future falls.

Don’t worry, no one is in actual danger of being hurt!

The idea behind the study was to see if researchers could learn more about falls (a problem largely effecting the senior community) and how to prevent them from happening. The goal is to create a specialized type of treadmill that can be used in offices to help teach the elderly to regain their balance and not fall.

The current methods for preventing fall risk in the elderly include improving range of motion and building strength. While this is certainly helpful, the idea behind the new study may add yet another important method – subconscious learning.

The study involved an 81-year-old woman who had sensors taped to her arms and legs and was also attached to an overhead harness so that she would not actually fall. She then walked on controlled walkway that had sections that would randomly slide and move when the scientists clicked the computer mouse.

In this demonstration, after just 24 trips in one session, she began to catch herself when caught off balance. Researchers found that one session taught participants to catch themselves and reduce falling risk by 50 percent for the next year.

This is just the beginning of more tests like this but with more than $30 billion spent in treatment for elderly falls, this research is very promising and hopeful.




Getting Sick From Other Airline Passengers is Not as Common as You Think

airplane seat and windowBy Emily Murray

Summertime means lots of travel…and for those of us who have ever been next to someone who has been coughing non-stop on a flight, that means potential exposure to lots of germs. While it may be uncomfortable to sit next to someone who is ill, a recent article by TIME points out that getting sick from other airplane travelers isn’t as common as you might think.

As a time when the Ebola virus is reaching pandemic levels in West Africa, most of us are on high alert when it comes to germs and diseases these days but the CDC has continued to tell us that we are not in danger at the moment. They also gave an example that may put some minds at ease – if there was a person on board a flight who was later determined to have tuberculosis, possible infection would not be likely to spread beyond two rows in either direction.

 

The article also addresses Ebola specifically. As it stands now, we know that Ebola is not an airborne virus. It’s spread through direct contact with an infected body. This kind of contact is unlikely to happen merely by sitting next to a sick passenger. Of course, it’s not ideal that anybody with Ebola travels outside the country at the moment. The World Health Organization has set pretty strict travel restrictions on those who are suspected of having the virus.

For example, airports in Lagos and Monrovia have begun screening passengers prior to allowing them to board. There are also quarantine CDC areas in international airports where an potentially infected person would be isolated to help prevent the spread of a disease or virus.

The biggest issue that comes from infected people traveling on airplanes is not the risk it posses to other passengers but to the countries and cities they are visiting. This is, after all, how the SARS breakout in Canada occurred in 2003.

For now however, it appears that we aren’t as likely as we think we are to get sick from other passengers…germs and bacteria on the other hand are all over airplanes. Check out another TIME article about the 6 Germiest Places on Planes - you might just be reaching for your hand sanitizer after this one!




Aspirin May Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence in Some Women

Pink breast cancer ribbon on white backgroundBy Emily Murray

Surviving breast cancer is an amazing accomplishment. Once a woman is in remission, the next few years of checkups are vital to be sure that another tumor doesn’t form. A new study may offer insight on one way women can reduce their risks of receiving another frightening diagnosis.

For women who are overweight or obese breast cancer survivors, the use of a regular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) might be enough to lower the risk of recurrence by a substantial rate.

This information was recently released as part of research conducted by the University of Texas at Austin.

The study showed some rather hopeful numbers. Researchers studied postmenopausal women categorized as obese or overweight, who were also receiving hormone therapy. Those using NSAIDs had a 50% reduced rate of the most common form of breast cancer while extending recurrence by two years.

As far as how weight impacts cancer, women who are heavier tend to have a worse prognosis than those who are within their recommended weight range. It’s believed that the changes their bodies undergo is a bit different. Overweight women see a change on the molecular level and unfortunately are often less responsive to treatment. This is something that doctors cannot completely pin on any one reason yet.

By starting a low-dose aspirin regimen (similar to those recommended for certain heart patients), those at a high risk for breast cancer may be used to help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

While this is just a preliminary study, it does provide hope that perhaps this low-cost regimen could be useful for beating the odds.




Another Step Closer to Understanding Depression

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In the wake of the death of America’s much loved comic, Robin Williams, there has been an overabundance of opinions on how and why a man as universally loved as this actor could take his life. Depression is something that an estimated 1 in 10 Americans suffer from and sadly it’s been reported that twice as many people die from suicide than homicide.

For those who don’t know what depression is like, it may be hard to understand what would drive a person to take such a a drastic measure. As always, medical professionals and scientists are looking for new ways to detect and treat mental illness such as depression. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry may be taking them one step closer.

By testing participants blood at 9 and 18 years of age, researchers noticed similarities in those who were diagnosed with depression or psychosis. Blood samples were screened to read levels of IL-6 (which indicates infection) and C-Reactive Protein (which indicates inflammation). Those who had high levels of IL-6 were shown to have double the chance of having depression over those who had low levels of the infection marker.

The study author reported that typically these levels get higher as a reaction to an infection but it appears in some people the levels remain high.

This new information may provide yet another clue on how we can identify those who are struggling with depression and perhaps help us find a new treatment.




1 in 10 Cancer Survivors Still Does THIS!

Man smoking cigaretteBy Emily Murray

Believe it or not, a new study shows that one out of every 10 cancer survivors continues to smoke years later. You might be thinking that perhaps they are trying to quit but the truth is, only 40% say they are planning on it.

This information has now become available as part of an American Cancer Society study. Patients with several types of cancer diagnosis were interviewed, but those with bladder and lung cancer were amount the highest rates of those still smoking. Coincidentally, these are two types of cancer most commonly associated with smoking. Reportedly, 17.2% of the bladder cancer patients still smoked and 14.9% of the lung cancer patients continued to as well.

One statistic that might surprise you is that 88.6% of those currently smoking had actually kicked the habit before they were diagnosed with cancer.

Of those survivors the traits that had the highest incidence of continued smoking were as follows: being young, female, lower income, lower education and higher alcohol consumption. Additionally, older people as well as those who were married tended to report that they were less likely to quit.




Nicotine Patch Use During Pregnancy May Increase ADHD Risk for Child

JEUNE FEMME - PATCHBy Emily Murray

Expectant mothers have likely been advised that smoking may result in serious harm to their unborn baby, however, those using nicotine replacement may be doing just as much harm.

This according to a new study out of Denmark may be bad news for mothers who have been trying to kick the habit while looking out for the health of their child. The use of smoking replacement therapies like the nicotine patch for example are believed to increase the chances of the child developing ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This condition is often recognized when the child first begins attending school. Typical symptoms include the inability to learn at the pace of one’s peers and the inability to get along with others.

Like most early studies, researchers are quick to reiterate that it doesn’t necessarily mean that nicotine will result in ADHD. There are other theories as well. Senior author Dr. Carsten Obel told Reuters.com via email that perhaps women who smoke are more likely to themselves have ADHD which then results in them passing this to their children independently of the side effects of nicotine while pregnant.

At this point in the research process, it simple appears there could be a connection.

Researchers concluded the following after in-depth analysis:

  • ADHD was more likely to develop in children whose mothers used nicotine as opposed to their fathers
  • Mothers who reported using nicotine replacement had children who were at similar risks for ADHD that children of smokers would
  • When compared to non-smoking mothers, children with two parents who smoked were 83% more likely to develop ADHD.

While this information may alarm expectant mothers, it seems most medical professionals agree that my taking nicotine replacement therapy is at least favorable to smoking while pregnant and certainly favorable to smoking around a newborn baby. It’s important to always discuss any medication or therapy you are undergoing while pregnant with your doctor.




5 Tips for Enjoying the 4th of July Safely

fireworksBy Emily Murray

The 4th of July is right around the corner and visions of campfires, cookouts and pool parties are filling the minds of Americans this week.

While our independence is certainly a great time to celebrate, it can also be a weekend of overindulging and accidents.

Here are 5 tips for keeping your holiday safe.

1. Drink Plenty of Water
Not only is hydration important in the hot  summer months but it can also help prevent you from overeating. While we may think we know what our bodies need, did you know sometimes we end up mistaking thirst for hunger? Be certain to keep nice cold water nearby this holiday weekend.This is especially true if you are planning on indulging in holiday libations.

2. Eat Normally
If you are heading to a BBQ, you might think ‘I’m going to refrain from eating today so I will be plenty hungry when I get there!” This is unfortunately a common thought but it’s one surefire way to mess up your metabolism and lead to overeating. Additionally, if the celebration is kicked off with alcoholic drinks, the last thing you want to do is drink on an empty stomach. Be sure to eat as you normally would prior to heading out to the party.

3. Wear Sunscreen
Nothing can ruin your 3-day-weekend faster than a sunburn. Not only is it uncomfortable in the moment but you are also putting yourself at an increased risk of developing skin cancer and premature aging caused by sun damage. During the most intense hours of sunlight be sure to cover your face with a hat. Even though this may shade your face, you should still apply your sunscreen as well.

4. Be Moderate in Your Drinking
If you do decide to drink over the holiday weekend, try and stick to the 1 drink per hour rule. You want to enjoy and relax but you don’t want to end up embarrassing yourself or putting yourself at risk for alcohol poisoning. Of course cabs are a must if you are drinking and needing to get home by the end of the day. The price of a cab is nothing compared to the cost of a DUI or the unthinkable accident that could result from driving impaired.

5. Watch Children Around the Pool/Lake/Ocean
Unfortunately, many children drown in pools and open water every summer. If your pool is not equipped with a gate, be sure to keep an eye on all kids at your place. With one small slip, disaster can result.




A Sobering Look at Alcohol Related Deaths

vino rosso splashingBy Emily Murray

While many working the 9 to 5 Monday through Friday work schedule are at this moment celebrating happy hour, the Centers for Disease Control have released some pretty sobering statistics.

Did you know that the agency has now found that 1 in every 10 deaths is due to excessive alcohol consumption in Americans between the ages of 20 and 64?

That’s pretty incredible…and downright terrifying.

Unlike freak accidents and the countless other dangers we encounter on a daily basis, in this age group, many are causing their own demise.

Included in the causes of death related to alcohol were car crashes, violence, alcohol poisoning and the impacts of long-term heavy drinking.

One thing that many of us dispute is the idea of ‘excessive consumption.’ What does this mean exactly? According to the CDC, 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men constitutes as excessive.

Not only are deaths resulting from too much alcohol consumption, but the economy is impacted as well. According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for costing the U.S. nearly $224 billion in 2006. In that same year in North Carolina alone the state paid $6 billion in alcohol related expenses.

Just a little something to keep in mind as we slip into summer celebrations and happy hours. Alcohol can be consumed in moderation but it can also be abused just as easily.




What You Should Know About the Gluten-Free Fad

gluten free words in flourWhile labels touting “gluten-free” ingredients are on nearly every grocery store shelf, did you know that the amount of people who are sensitive to gluten is actually very small? In fact, it’s estimated that only 1% of the U.S. population is impacted by celiac disease and around 10% have a poor reaction to it which is referred to as non-celiac gluten intolerance or simply gluten sensitivity.

So why does it seem like every product we see is shouting loud and clear that they are gluten-free? Well, marketers are tricky and have a way of jumping on board with the latest fad. Many of us aren’t actually sensitive to gluten at all yet we have a bad association with it in our minds and if given the option between a product containing gluten and the same gluten free, we are more apt to go with the gluten free one.

Those who are suffering from celiac disease however will gladly voice their praise for clear labeling. For the nearly two to three million Americans impacted by this disease, eating gluten, or even coming into contact with a utensil that has touched gluten, can be enough to set off a chain reaction of stomach issues, resulting in permanent damage to the small intestine.

So what exactly is gluten? It’s a type of protein that is used often to improve the texture of dough in food products. It’s found in wheat, rye, triticale (which is a cross of wheat and rye) and barley.

So if you are one of the nearly 93% of the people who don’t have a reaction to gluten, is there any benefit to saying buh-bye to all those gluten filled products? As a TIME article reported on the subject, “Many anti-gluties will surely tell you they feel better, fitter, more energetic…” It’s believed however that going gluten-free tends to have a placebo affect like so many food fads that have come and gone before.

Bottom line: Unless you have a specific gluten allergy or celiac disease, most experts agree there is no reason to avoid eating gluten.




New Breakthrough in Hair Regrowth

Bald man headBy Emily Murray

For many men, balding is unavoidable but that doesn’t stop it from coming as a surprise. One day you are looking at a healthy and aesthetically pleasing hairline, the next you are noticing stray hairs in your comb and on your pillow. Thanks to a new treatment however, we may be seeing a revolutionary breakthrough in hair regrowth therapy.

The drug used for this therapy is one that may be a bit of a shock – it’s actually an arthritis medication.

This discovery came about when a 25-year-old man had a strange disease that left him completely bald. His disease not only impacted the hair on his head, but also all body hair. With the help of the arthritis drug, this man regrew not only the hair on his head but on his body including eyelashes, eyebrows and even facial hair.

In addition to the disease, this patient also had plaque psoriasis. After medical assessment, doctors at Yale determined that the patient would benefit from the use of 10mg a day of an arthritis drug. After two months of treatment, improvements were noticeable. After three additional months at 15mg, the patient began growing hair. At the eight month mark, his head was completely covered in hair.

It’s the hope of those involved in the study that a topical form of this medication may possibly help those suffering from acute alopecia in the future.




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