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Florida Declares Health Emergency Due to Zika Virus

flyToday, Florida governor Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in four counties as a result of the Zika virus.  This mosquito-born illness is not showing any sign of slowing down and what started mainly in South America has now shown us that we are not safe from infection here in the U.S. either.

So what is it? Essentially this virus is linked to deformities in babies born to infected mothers. These deformities include impaired brain function and also a smaller than normal-sized head.  What officials originally believed about the virus is now being challenged as well. It appears that not only mosquito bites but also sexual contact with an infected person may cause infection.

One thing we know for sure is that at least nine cases of the virus have been reported in Florida. It’s currently believed that all these cases involved infection in other countries. With the newly discovered possibility of spreading the infection sexually, however, we are seeing a real possibility of the infection rapidly spreading.

In Brazil however officials are still claiming there is no concrete evidence that the virus is being spread through sexual contact. As a result of recent speculation, Brazil’s Health Ministry has announced that they will be calling for deeper investigation into the recent Texas report that a person in the state spread the infection through sexual contact with someone who had recently visited the affected area.

Currently there is no cure and immunization for the virus. In addition, we are observing the side effects in babies but we still don’t know the extent of the damage to adults.

 




Key Health Information May Be in Your Sweat

Copy-spaced image of a cheerful sportswoman in sweatband in the park

For most of us, sweat is the unavoidable, yet rather undesirable, consequence of exercise, heat or stress but science has proven there may be a lot of valuable information in sweat. So how does it go from what’s typically wiped away carelessly to a major hub of health information? The answer lies in a new form of wearable technology according to a new study published recently in Nature.

The study allowed scientists to monitor the levels of sodium, potassium, glucose and lactate in 14 men and women through the use of sticky electronic sensors. The participants then wore a special headband that contained a flexible circuit board allowing the data to stream to a smartphone app for monitoring.

So how much sweat is needed to produce a proper reading? Less than you probably think. The scientists involved in the study discovered that just one fifth of a drop of sweat contained valuable information. In order to fully test the scope of the product, participants completed a variety of exercises both indoors and outdoors and some hydrated well while other did not. In just this small amount, researchers could see electrolyte levels of dehydration in those who went without water and regular levels in those who were hydrated.

Researchers have stated that the information gathered in sweat is similar to some of the things we gather in a blood test but the perk is that sweat can be gathered more frequently allowing for long-term monitoring.

 




New Health Concerns Surround HPV

Human Papilloma Virus vaccine with syringe in vial at a clinic.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) has spent a fair amount of time in the headlines since the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, became available in doctor’s offices across the U.S.

According to the CDC, HPV is not one but rather a group of more than 150 related viruses. These viruses have been attributed to increasing the likelihood of developing certain cancers. Forty of these viruses can affect the genitals of both men and women.

Fortunately, most of these can be prevented with childhood vaccination.

Recently HPV has returned to the spotlight, this time for another potential health issue – head and neck cancer. While the increased risk of developing these cancers has been tied to HPV for some time now (along with other types like cervical cancer), a new study revealed just how much more at risk people with this virus actually are. The group of researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York discovered that those with HPV are 7 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer.

For those who have already been vaccinated, this isn’t really an issue but for the more than the 79 million Americans currently infected this news is nothing short of terrifying.

The silver lining here, however, is that those most at risk of developing these cancers are easily identifiable by doing a simple mouthwash test. Samples were taken throughout the study revealing that those with the specific HPV-16 strand ranged from two times to 22 times more likely to develop cancer.

Most head and neck cancers caused by HPV are the result of oral sex with someone who is infected. Before more current research, head and neck cancer risk factors were largely pegged on smoking and second-hand smoke. Throughout the last 30 years (according to NBC news) there has been a large increase in these types of cancers in heterosexual males. This spike led health care professionals and researchers to seek out another cause and that’s how they discovered the correlation between oral sex, HPV and cancer.

For parents who are on the fence about vaccinating their children against HPV, this may be the tipping point leading them to make that important doctor appointment. Ideally, children of both sexes should start their first of a series of three vaccinations by the time they are 11 or 12.




Hawaii Changes Legal Smoking Age to 21

Quit smoking. Broken cigarette isolated on white background

The last few years have seen many changes in how the government regulates cigarettes and smoking. From the more graphic packaging on cigarette packs to restricted smoking areas in restaurants and other public places, it’s safe to say we have come a long way from the when smoking was allowed in both hospitals and airplanes. Now, the first state in the U.S. has taken an even more aggressive stand – raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

As of January 1st, Hawaii now bans the sale of cigarettes  and tobacco products (including the popular e-cigs) to anyone under the age of 21. In addition to this change, Hawaii also now prohibits the use of e-cigs in any public places where traditional cigarettes are banned.

The law has just come out of a 3 month grace period and now, for any business caught selling to anyone under the legal age, penalties will be strict. The average fee will range from $500 to $2,000 for businesses and any customers who are caught will be fined up to $50 for each offense and will also need to complete community service as well.

According to a recent Washington Times article, nearly 5,600 kids try smoking in Hawaii each year. Nearly 86% of adult smokers claim to have had their first cigarette before turning 21 and about 1,400 residents of Hawaii die annually as a result of smoking or from second-hand exposure.

It’s with these stats in mind that Hawaii hopes to set an example for other stats. While certain cities, like New York City, have implemented similar laws, this is the first time it has spanned across the entire state.




The #1 Deadliest Type of Cancer

patient looking a lung radiographya lung radiographyWhen you ask someone what the deadliest type of cancer is, you will likely get many different answers. If it’s any other answer aside from lung, then you are incorrect.

While we most commonly hear about colon, breast and prostate, lung cancer still causes more death than any other type. Every year, 220,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer according to the National Cancer Institute. It’s one type of cancer that is not only misunderstood but has also genetic changes that are associated with the diseases developments.

Most commonly people believe that only those who smoke are at risk of lung cancer but the fact is, anyone (smoker or not) may be impacted. In fact, genetics play a large role in lung cancer. There is also no main universal form of treatment for lung cancer since all types of lung cancer act differently for each person.




New Study Reveals Moderate Drinking May Benefit Early Alzheimer’s Patients

Mature couple drinking wine over natural background

We all let out a collective cheer when reports showing that alcohol can actually benefit our health, right? The latest in this area of research has revealed a perhaps surprising benefit. For those who are suffering from early (or mild) Alzheimer’s, moderate alcohol intake has been found to correlate with lower risk of death.

There are many parts to this that seem counter intuitive. For instance, it’s widely known that alcohol actually kills brain cells so for a condition that impacts the brain, it goes against reason that alcohol should be a benefit. However, the proof is in the numbers. Researchers reported that those in the study who consumed roughly two to three drinks daily had a 77% lower risk of death over the three year study.

There are many unanswered questions regarding this study however. The actual cause behind these surprising numbers has not yet been explored which has led some to come up with their own theories. One of these is that perhaps it’s not the alcohol, but rather the social aspect that is leading to better health overall. Of course further research will be needed before we can totally jump on board with these findings.




New Device Could Help Breast Cancer Patients Keep Hair

Chemotherapy. Medical Concept on Orange Background with Blurred Text and Composition of Pills, Syringe and Stethoscope. Selective Focus.

There is nothing even remotely tolerable about having cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, but a new device could at least help women keep their hair during this difficult time. A new FDA approved cooling cap may soon be used on a larger scale. Prior to approval, many women already had success keeping their hair while using the cap.

Basically the device, called DigniCap, has an inner layer that is kept at 37 degrees F by cool liquid which circulates throughout the cap. Another layer holds the cap in place while keeping the cool temperature within. Once the coolness is applied to the scalp, the cells in the hair follicles divide less frequently and make them less appealing for the chemotherapy drugs to target them since they hone in on quickly dividing cells. In addition, the cooler temps slow down blood flow to the area making it less likely for much of the chemo drugs to make their way to the scalp.

During the FDA review of the DigniCap, 70% of the women kept their hair in situations that would normally lead to complete hair loss. The cap is designed to be worn for 30 minutes prior to chemo, during treatment and then for an additional 30 minutes to an hour after chemo has ended.




Male and Female Brain Are the Same, According to Science

Brain.

While any couple who has had at least one solid argument can attest to, it often seems men and women think very differently at times. You might be surprised to learn, however, that science has shown that the brain is actually considered unisex, with no real differences from male to female.

While other studies have looked at particular parts of the brain, this is the first to look at the brain as a whole. Apparently there are both masculine and feminine characteristics when it comes to the brain, and these aren’t reliant upon gender at all. Study lead author Daphna Joel wanted to compare and contrast the brains of males and females to find any defining differences.

The MRI brain scans of 1400 people were analyzed as part of the research included in the study. When looked at from a scientific standpoint, there is a negligible difference in the gray matter, white matter as well as the connections in the brain. Researchers also noted that the majority of brains they looked at had both common female and male traits. This of course is looking at merely the brain itself and not the way gender impacts your overall thought patterns. The nature vs. nurture aspect is left aside.

If you would like to read the while report, the study was published in the November 30th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 




New Internal Device for Vital Sign Monitoring

Modern Electrocardiogram Monitor Device DisplayIf the idea of having a tiny robot in your body makes you a bit squeamish, this new device may not be for you!

While it sounds very science fiction, a new pill-sized device, which can measure vital signs from within the body, was just successfully tested in pigs. These animals have bodies that are closely related to ours and by that token, often success in pigs yields successful results in humans as well.

Inventor Albert Swiston sent his new digital information collectors on a journey to gather vital signs from within six Yorkshire pigs. While similar devices have been created, this one multitasks and contains a microphone, thermometer and battery that will last from ingestion to excretion.

On it’s journey through the digestive system, the device records the sounds of the heart and lungs from within. These sounds are transmitted to a device that records pulse and respiration rates.

For those with extreme trauma, this hands-off vital check option can be extremely beneficial. It’s also been said to be a great way to monitor athletes without requiring them to wear bulky devices.

The current cost to manufacture the device is about $70 and the device simply paces through the body like food naturally would.

This igestible, as they are called, could also be beneficial for monitoring members of the military as well. It seems there will be many more similar devices to choose from in the coming years.




Diabetes Risk is Lowered by Eating Home-Cooked Meals

Man in kitchen cooking lunch - Focus on food

Stock your pantry shelves and fire up the stove, if you want to reduce your diabetes risk you can start my cooking more meals at home. Currently there are roughly 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes and the majority of these cases are type 2 which happens when the body is no longer able to handle large amounts of sugar.

The obesity epidemic, as it has been coined by the media, can be blamed on many people, places and things but one thing we know for sure is that the restaurant industry definitely plays a part in obesity and diabetes.  Tourists from different parts of the world are often entertained and left in awe of the American portion size that is served at the majority of restaurants across the country. It’s these same heaping portions that are consumed too often and lead to diabetes and obesity in not just adults, but in children as well.

By cooking at home, you know exactly what you will be consuming and can cut out a lot of the processed ingredients that are in food produced for the masses. Studies have shown that those who eat two to three meals at home are at a reduced risk of diabetes when compared to their peers who dine out daily.

If you are at risk of developing diabetes already, try making the switch to daily home-cooked meals and your body (and insulin levels) will thank you.




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