Sunday, May 8, 2016

Walking Fido Is Doggone Good for Your Health

Walking the dog may be a health boon for older Americans, new research suggests.
Dog walking helps cut back on excess weight and the overall need to visit a physician while raising overall moderate and vigorous exercise levels among the over-60 set, investigators found.
And the strong emotional bonds formed between owner and pet offer social benefits, encouraging increased contact with other pet owners.
“There is a wealth of evidence that walking is beneficial for people’s physical health,” said study lead author Angela Curl. She is an assistant professor in the department of family studies and social work at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio.
“[And] what makes dog walking unique is the relationship between people and their dogs, as well as the ways dogs can motivate walking behavior,” she added. “Other studies have shown dogs’ needs provide a motivation to get out and walk. Our findings illustrate that the emotional bond people have with their dogs may play an important role in getting out to walk.”
Curl and her colleagues discussed their work in a recent issue of The Gerontologist.
The authors noted that in 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all adults, regardless of age, rack up a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity every week.
Walking happens to be the most frequent exercise activity among adults 60 and up.
To explore the impact of dog ownership on that, the investigating team analyzed data involving a nationally representative sample of 771 men and women (50 years old and up) collected in 2012 by the Health and Retirement Study. That investigation was conducted at the University of Michigan, with funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
Just over a third of the participants (271) owned at least one dog. Pet ownership involving other types of animals was not considered.
A portion of the dog owners group was asked questions to gauge pet “bonding,” including whether they considered their dog a friend, and whether they talked about their dog with others.
Frequency and overall time spent walking was also assessed, as were overall walking habits, walking speed and total distance walked per week.
The result: While owning a dog was not directly associated with having better overall health among those 60 and up, it was associated with a lower body mass index (a measure of weight and obesity status); fewer physical limitations; less frequent visits to a doctor; and more routine exercise. The study didn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, however.
But would owning other types of pets also pay a health dividend?
“Other research studies have found that cats and dogs can help reduce loneliness as well as improve health outcomes such as cortisol [stress hormone] levels, cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure,” said Curl. “However, we need a lot more research about the potential health benefits of other species of pets, and who might benefit the most [or] least from pet ownership.”
Daniel Promislow, an American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) spokesperson, and director of the Canine Longevity Consortium at the University of Washington in Seattle, heralded the special benefits of dog ownership.
“On average, dog owners walk more,” he said, “and score better on stress tests and other measures of psychological well-being. There is even some suggestion in the scientific literature that owning a dog is associated with a lower risk of various diseases [perhaps from that extra exercise], and faster recovery times when disease does occur.
“So it would seem that for people in their later years, there are a variety of benefits that come from having a companion dog,” Promislow said.
Dr. Alice Pomidor, a geriatrics professor at Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, noted that in general, “pet ownership can lead to increased physical activity, as well as a greater sense of feeling connected to your community and to other pet owners.
“For many older adults, pets are also a great source of comfort after close friends, relatives or partners have passed away,” she added. “Hospice and long-term care facilities often have pets for comfort, support and recreation.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

E-Cigarettes to Be Regulated as Tobacco Products

E-cigarettes will be regulated as tobacco products, federal authorities announced.
In a long-awaited ruling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized rules that give the agency authority to regulate all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, as well as other products. Until now, e-cigarettes were not regulated by the FDA and there was no national law to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes,hookah tobacco or cigars to people under 18.
The actions being taken today will help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks,” the agency said in a statement.
The new rule means the agency will have to approve all products that made it to market as of Feb. 15, 2007—a point at which the e-cigarette market was virtually non-existent. “What we know is absence of federal restriction means that enforcement is uneven and at times nonexistent,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said during a news conference.
The risks of e-cigarettes has been a public health debate for some time and the FDA initially announced its proposal to increase its jurisdiction in 2014. The HHS and FDA said on Tuesday that surveys show 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 13 middle schoolers report being tobacco users. 16% of high schoolers also reported using cigarettes in 2015, a 900% increase from 1.5% in 2011. While e-cigarettes do not contain the same carcinogens as traditional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, which is addictive. Early research has also cast doubt on the safety of some of the chemicals used inE-cigarettes when inhaled into the lungs.
Small and medium sized e-cigarette companies have responded to the news with concerns that undergoing the new approval process will be costly. “This gigantic price tag is affordable to Big Tobacco companies, but small and medium-sized businesses will be crushed,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. “If the FDA’s rule is not changed by Congress or the courts, thousands of small businesses will close in two to three years.”
Burwell addressed these concerns during a news conference with reporters, saying the agencies understand the concerns small businesses will have, and that the FDA will allow them to have more time to comply.
The FDA says after 90 days they will begin enforcing portion of the rule that says the products cannot be sold to people under 18. This rule also requires ID to purchase tobaccos products and bans sales in vending machines as well as free samples
The health of the nation will continue to suffer the consequences of any further delay in implementing a law intended to protect public health,”Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Costco berry recall and hepatitis A: What you need to know

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investigating hepatitis A infections linked to the recently recalled Nature's Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend, a frozen fruit product sold at Costco stores. 
Here are some answers to questions about the product, the recall and hepatitis A: 

Where and when was the product sold?

At Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, between Dec. 11, 2015, and April 15, 2016, according to federal health officials. 
Costco Canada has said it also gave out free samples in some locations.

What should I do?

Check your home for any Nature's Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend, and do not consume the product.
"Secure the product in a plastic bag, throw it out and wash your hands with warm soapy water," PHAC says. "If you are unsure whether a frozen fruit product you have in your home is part of the food recall warning, do not consume it."
See your health-care provider if you suspect you've been exposed to the recalled product, even if you tasted any samples, or have hepatitis A symptoms. Vaccination is recommended within two weeks of exposure. 

What is hepatitis A?

It's one of the three hepatitis viruses that can affect the liver — the others are hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis A is transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water, or through contact with an infected person. 
 The World Health Organization says almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A, and "very small proportions die from fulminant [sudden and severe] hepatitis. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and acute liver failure if not treated, the WHO adds.
Some people with hepatitis A may not be symptomatic, but can still transmit the illness by serving food or drinks, PHAC says. 
In most people, symptoms appear two to seven weeks after infection and can include:
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
  • Dark urine.
  • Fatigue. 
"Symptoms are usually mild, and the illness usually lasts one to two weeks," the agency says. "Although severe cases can last several months, most people recover without treatment. It is rare for healthy adults to die from hepatitis A, and the illness does not become chronic."

How many hepatitis A cases relate to this outbreak?

As of April 22, 11 cases related to this recall were found — eight in Ontario, two in Quebec, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador, PHAC says.

How do I get a hepatitis A vaccination?

Contact your health-care provider, your local public health department or your local Costco pharmacy. Costco is offering free vaccinations for anyone affected by the recall. 

What if I've already been vaccinated?

PHAC says the vaccination provides "lifetime immunity," so Canadians who've already had the shot don't need to get another one. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

What Manufacturers Really Mean By Natural & Artificial Flavors, According to Museum of Food & Drink

Like many shoppers, I find food labels oddly confusing. You can have words such as “artificial” and natural” in most circumstances, and the implications are pretty clear. But once the words hit food labels, the meaning starts to get blurry. With the prevalence of food flavoring in our diets today, I often wonder what it means to consume natural versus artificial flavors. Is one type of flavoring necessarily better for you when you’re not eating the actual food anyways? While “artificial” generally sounds fake and bad, there are artificially-flavored products that taste more “real” than their naturally-flavored counterparts. In the world of food flavoring, what do manufacturers really mean by natural and artificial flavors?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21), the term natural flavor essentially has an edible source (i.e. animals and vegetables). Artificial flavors, on the other hand, have an inedible source, which means you can be eating anything from petroleum to paper pulp that are processed to create the chemicals of flavorings. For example, Japanese researcher Mayu Yamamoto discovered a way to extract vanillin (the compound responsible for the smell and flavor of vanilla) from cow poop in 2006, as reported by the Business Insider.
But before you peg artificial food flavoring as worse than natural flavors, Emma Boast, Program Director of the Museum of Food and Drink who is currently preparing for the exhibition “Flavor: Making It and Faking It,” offered a different perspective. She noted, “Natural and artificial flavors can be made from exactly the same chemicals that come from edible and inedible sources.” For example, you can have a “natural” lemon flavor made from citral, which is a chemical found in lemon peel. You can also have an “artificial” lemon flavor made from citral, which is processed from petrochemicals. The only difference between these two chemicals is how they were synthesized. Your sensory experience of each will be exactly the same, because they are the same chemical. The most important thing to note, according to Boast, is that “natural” citral does not need to come from lemons; it can come from plants like lemongrass and lemon myrtle, which also contain citral. In short, the word “natural” does not necessarily mean a product is better for you, or more sustainable.
As for health implications, Boast noted, “we don’t have any evidence distinguishing the nutritional benefits of natural and artificial food flavoring at this point.” Although odds are much higher of finding artificial food flavoring in potato chips than in broccoli for instance, the sugar and starch-rich component of the snack can be more easily considered as the culprit of the negative dietary effect before the artificiality of the flavoring comes into play, according to Boast.
Gary Reineccius, Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, agreed. He said, “There is no intrinsic nutritional value in flavor.” So whether it’s artificial or natural, there is no nutritional difference, according to the professor.

4 Smart Ways to Split Pills

Pill splitting is a common strategy among patients looking to save money amid rising drug costs.
In fact, United Healthcare has actively urged its members to ask for more potent drugs with the intention of splitting them to reduce monthly prescription copays.
The health insurer’s “Half Tablet Program” purports to help patients lower their copays by as much as 50% on a select group of medications, including cholesterol drugs Lipitor and Crestor, as well as popular antidepressants Zoloft and Lexapro.
However, the FDA has deemed pill splitting a “risky practice” and advises against the practice unless a drug’s package insert specifically says it is approved for splitting.
An analysis from Consumer Reports offers 4 smart steps that pharmacy staff can share with patients to ensure they safely split pills.
1. Ask for a Pharmacist’s Approval.
About 8% of consumers admit to splitting pills without receiving approval from a pharmacist or physician.
Certain drugs for certain conditions—including high cholesterol medications like lovastatin (Mevacor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor), and depression medications like sertraline (Zoloft)—can be split without reducing drug efficacy or causing negative side effects.
However, other medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), omeprazole (Prilosec), chemotherapy drugs, and contraceptives should never be split.

2. Don’t Split Pills That Can’t Be Divided Accurately. 
Dividing delayed- or extended-released tablets or pills with protective coating for the stomach can be dangerous.
Drugs with a hard coating or any sort of capsule should also be swallowed whole to avoid crumbling, leaking, or cracking into pieces.

3. Use a Pill Splitter.
Studies have shown that pill splitters come very close to dividing drugs exactly in half, with as little as 2% variability between the split halves.
Using a knife, scissors, or any other sharp tool could divide the pill into unequal parts, thereby reducing the efficacy of the doses. Not to mention, using those sharp tools increases the risk for injury.
Pill splitters can be found at most pharmacies and discount stores at a low cost. Some health insurers, like United Healthcare, provide pill splitters for their members.

4. Split Pills One at a Time.
Certain prescription medications deteriorate when they are exposed to air, heat, or moisture after they’re split, so it’s best to split pills one at a time to ensure that potency and dosage sizes are consistent.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

10 Incredible Health Benefits of Oranges

5 Things You Should Know About Freezing Your Eggs

Actress Olivia Munn recently recommended "every girl" should freeze her eggs. But the decision isn't as simple as it sounds.

Nature has an ironic sense of humor: For a lot of women, the idea of having a baby is downright terrifying until one day, it suddenly isn’t. But in many cases that day doesn’t come until right around the time the baby-making window of opportunity is starting to close, and fast.  
While our fertility rates gradually decline as we get older, there’s a drop in our ability to reproduce between ages 32 and 37, with a more rapid fall after that, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). That biological deadline is one of the reasons actress Olivia Munn, 35—of Iron Man 2 and Mortdecai fame—decided to freeze her eggs. Last week on the podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, Munn talked about how much relief it has brought her: “I think that every girl should do it,” she said. “It’s also just like, why not do it.”
In reality, the decision is a lot more complicated than that. Before you call your local fertility clinic, there are a few things you should know about the procedure technically known as oocyte cryopreservation.

It’s not a one-step process 

The egg freezing procedure takes a few weeks, says Mindy Christianson, MD, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University and a physician at the Johns Hopkins Fertility Center. First steps can include a baseline ultrasound and a blood test. After that, you’ll start giving yourself injections of fertility hormones at home for about a week or so. The hormones will hopefully spur your ovaries to produce, say, 20 eggs, instead of just one. (Luckily, the needles aren’t painful, says Dr. Christianson. They’re similar to insulin pens.) Throughout the process, you’ll need to return to your doctor’s office for follow-up blood tests and ultrasounds.

Egg retrieval is no day at the spa

Your doctors will probably gather your eggs (sorry) with ultrasound guidance. They’ll stick a long, thin needle into your vagina, then grab the eggs and prep them for freezing. You’ll be under sedation for that, naturally. The good news: You’ll probably only have mild cramping afterwards, and with a pain pill, you should be okay. (Though wait a few days to exercise, since your ovaries will be enlarged.)

It’s pretty expensive

After tallying up the costs of the injections, doctor’s visits, and the procedure itself, you’re probably looking at a bill that can total $10,000 to $15,000, says Dr. Christianson. And then there’s the cost of storing the eggs, which may set you back anywhere from $500 to $800 a year.
However, the price tag looks better after you turn 40. A 2012 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that a woman trying to get pregnant at age 40 would save $15,000 if she froze her eggs at age 35. That’s because the costs of using assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant after you’re 40 can be more expensive than freezing your eggs at a younger age.

Egg freezing isn’t endorsed as a way to delay having kids

ACOG, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology all agree: There’s “no data to support the safety, efficacy, ethics, emotional risks, and cost-effectiveness of [egg freezing for the purpose of circumventing reproductive aging].” It’s also worth pointing out that the technique used today is still relatively new. It was only in 2012 that the ASRM recommended that oocyte cryopreservation no longer be considered an “experimental” procedure.

You aren’t guaranteed to get pregnant afterward

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that usingin-vitro fertilization with frozen eggs resulted in a live birth about 43 percent of the time. But of course, no one is guaranteed to get pregnant. Even a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman only has a 20% chance of getting pregnant per cycle.
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of freezing your eggs, you may want to start by looking up the clinics near you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps this database of fertility clinics in every state with statistics on their success rates.