31 October 2018
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — As scientists look more deeply into the effects of diet on health, they’re finding that more and more everyday foods offer benefits that go well beyond making dishes tastier. Garlic, an ingredient found in almost every type of cuisine, is emerging as one such superfood. Part of the allium family, which includes onions and leeks, garlic has a number of compounds that supply its health-boosting effects as well as its pungent aroma. According to wide-ranging research, garlic seems to improve immunity and heart health, help fight certain cancers, and lower triglycerides and total cholesterol. Some of these benefits can be seen after eating just one meal with raw garlic. Yet overall there’s enough evidence to have at least half a clove every day, researchers suggest. Garlic is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Buy one whole head of garlic at a time — the skin should be dry and papery and the visible bulbs should be firm and full, not shriveled. To get the most benefits, chop, slice or crush fresh garlic to use it. This fires up a process that makes its compounds more potent. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before eating or adding to a dish, especially if you’ll be mixing it with a highly acidic food like lemon juice. Some easy ways to use minced raw garlic are to blend it into avocado, along with red onion, jalapeno and cilantro for guacamole; into chickpeas for hummus; or into cooked white beans for bean dip. Whisked into oil and vinegar with your choice of herbs, garlic adds zest to salad dressings and marinades. But you don’t have to always eat it raw. As long as the garlic is prepped as suggested and added toward the end of a recipe, it will retain its nutritional value when cooked. More information Learn more about garlic from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
30 October 2018
TUESDAY, Oct. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you insist on dressing your pet in a costume for Halloween, Fido will thank you for doing so in a safe and comfortable way, veterinarians suggest. “Make sure costumes are the appropriate size and fit for the pet. A costume that is too tight will be constricting and uncomfortable, and a costume that is too loose may rub and cause skin irritation; in either case, the pet may have difficulty moving around and will not enjoy their experience,” said Leni Kaplan. She is a clinician at Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals. “Costumes with accessories that are easy to grab or pull off are not recommended; a pet might eat the accessory predisposing them to a gastrointestinal foreign body obstruction, which will require veterinary medical attention and possible surgery,” Kaplan warned in a Cornell news release. Katherine Houpt is professor emeritus of behavior medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She suggested if you’re planning to dress up your pet, “make the costume a signal that good things are about to happen, like a walk. Another method is to pair a tiny, but delicious snack with the placement of the costume.” Costumes aren’t the only thing you need be careful with: Halloween candy may be a treat for you, but could be dangerous for animals. Kaplan explained that, for pets, “candy and human snacks can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and, in some circumstances, pancreatitis — a serious illness which may require hospitalization. Restrict access to chocolate, coffee, caffeine, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and any food containing xylitol or psychoactive cannabinoids, such as marijuana.” It’s also probably a bad idea to take your dog trick-or-treating. “It is not advised to take your dog trick-or-treating — due to crowds, children, unfamiliar people dressed in unfamiliar outerwear (costumes, masks, and carrying props). Dogs who are normally fine in crowds may be scared or spooked, and may act aggressively or out of character,” Kaplan said. “If you do take your pet trick-or-treating, make sure to dress your pet in brightly colored and reflective clothing so they are easy to see at night, and keep them on a leash at all times,” Kaplan added. Halloween decorations can also pose risks to your pet, the vets added. “Pumpkin is safe for pets to eat as long as it is not moldy. If your pet eats moldy pumpkin, contact a veterinarian immediately,” Kaplan said. “Avoid using real candles, as pets are often drawn to the flickering light and warmth. They could burn themselves or start a fire if the candle or Jack-o’-Lantern is tipped over,” she noted. “Instead of candles, use battery-powered LED candles or glow sticks. Make sure your pet cannot access and eat the LED candles or glow sticks.” If Halloween hijinks are too much for your dog, take steps to keep your pet calm. For example, Houpt suggested, “During parties or trick-or-treater visits, dogs can be confined in a room with a long-lasting treat or a food-dispensing toy. Play loud music or white noise so the dog is unaware of the people.” More information The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has more on Halloween safety for pets.
30 October 2018
TUESDAY, Oct. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said that hair dyes can no longer contain lead. The new rule does not take effect for 12 months, but it ends the only remaining legal use of lead, a neurotoxin, in cosmetic products in the United States. “In the nearly 40 years since lead acetate was initially approved as a color additive, our understanding of the hazards of lead exposure has evolved significantly,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb explained in an agency news release. “We now know that the approved use of lead acetate in adult hair dyes no longer meets our safety standard,” he added. “Lead exposure can have serious adverse effects on human health, including for children, who may be particularly vulnerable. Moreover, there are alternative color additives for hair coloring products that consumers can use that do not contain lead as an ingredient.” For the most part, the hair dyes that now contain lead acetate, such as Grecian Formula, are used to darken gray hair, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Along with new scientific data, the FDA’s decision was prompted by a petition opposing the use of lead as a color additive. “In the last several decades, we’ve seen tremendous progress in reducing exposure to lead from major sources. Given this progress and wide recognition that there is no safe level of exposure, it may seem unbelievable that common hair dyes contain the neurotoxin — putting those who use the product and their children at risk,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director at the EDF, one of the groups involved in filing the petition. “[The] FDA’s decision is an important step to protecting people from a continued source of exposure to lead that is a more significant route than the agency originally thought over three decades ago,” Neltner said. Now, there is no safe level of lead exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Companies have 12 months to reformulate hair dye products that contain lead acetate. Consumers who want to avoid using these products during that time can check to see if lead acetate is listed as an ingredient or there is a warning label that states, in part: “For external use only. Keep this product out of children’s reach,” according to the FDA. Some hair coloring product manufacturers have already started using another color additive that does not contain lead as an ingredient, the FDA added. More information The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on lead.
25 October 2018
THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Have a big social event tomorrow night and need “emergency Botox”? A new study finds that if you get the wrinkle-relaxing shots today, you can speed up the effect by making faces. Simple facial exercises can speed the wrinkle-smoothing effects of botulinum toxin (Botox), according to researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago. “Patients often leave getting their Botox to the last minute,” lead researcher and professor of dermatology Dr. Murad Alam said in a university news release. “If people get their botulinum toxin right before a social engagement or important work event, they may worry it won’t start working in time,” he added. “Speeding up the effects could be important to people.” The new study included 22 adult women with forehead wrinkles who were treated with Botox. Half of them exercised their facial muscles for four hours after the injections, and the other half did not. It was quite a workout for the face: Exercises included raised motions of the forehead and scowls in three sets of 40 repetitions, separated by 10 minutes. Six months later, the women received another treatment and the two groups reversed doing exercises or no exercises. Forehead wrinkles were rated as looking better within just two to three days after the treatment if the injections were followed by the facial exercises, compared with three to four days without the exercises. “Botox binds to receptors on nerve cells to relax muscles, and it is possible that exercise speeds this binding process,” Alam explained. “For patients who need quick results, the exercise may be worth the effort. Patients appreciate having more control over their care.” After two weeks, there was no difference between those who did or did not do facial exercises, however. The exercises also made no difference in how long the effects of treatment lasted, according to the study published Oct. 25 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Alam said that dermatologists have often assumed that face exercises might speed up the effects of Botox treatment, but until now, “there had not been any well-designed randomized studies comparing exercise and no exercise side-by-side.” So, “there finally is an answer to the myth of whether or not facial exercises after Botox has any effect,” said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Since so many patients wait until the eleventh hour to do cosmetic procedures, this will be a great way to have the results that they want more quickly,” said Green, who wasn’t involved in the new study. In fact, she said, “I am going to suggest this to all of my patients who are in this circumstance and need ’emergency Botox.'” More information The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more on Botox injections for facial wrinkles.
24 October 2018
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Brisk autumn winds and chilly winter temperatures may make you more vulnerable to heart trouble, a new study suggests. Researchers found “an increase in heart attacks in low temperature, strong wind, low sunshine duration and low atmospheric pressure,” said senior author Dr. David Erlinge, head of cardiology at Lund University in Sweden. However, the news isn’t all worrisome. The risk of heart attack decreased about 3 percent for every 45-degree Fahrenheit (F) increase in minimum air temperature, the study reports. “It’s important to note the overall effect here is quite modest,” said Dr. Usman Baber, an assistant professor of cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. The study involved more than 274,000 Swedes who had heart attacks between 1998 and 2013. Researchers looked up the weather on the day of each heart attack, to see if certain conditions appeared to make people more prone to heart problems. Air temperature had the most profound effect on heart attack risk, with risk greater when the temperature dropped below 32 degrees F. But short days of sunshine, brisk winds and lower air pressure also were linked to increased risk. The observed increase in heart attack risk could be due to weather’s effect on the circulatory system, Erlinge explained. “We know that cold and wind cause the body to contract the blood vessels of the skin to preserve temperature and energy,” Erlinge said. “This causes the heart to pump against higher resistance, which increases the stress on the heart and may trigger a heart attack.” However, the study can’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, and Baber noted that many other factors may also be at play. “I suspect the basis for this observed association is going to be more complex than that,” Baber said. “Physiology may play a role, but other factors like patient behavior that varies with weather might play a role.” “When weather changes, people may behave differently,” Baber continued. “Maybe they are more stressed. Stress plays a major role in heart attack risk. Maybe people don’t take medications as frequently.” Reduced physical activity, dietary changes and depression are other behavioral factors that could influence seasonal heart attack risk, the researchers added. Folks also might be more prone to respiratory infections and flu during this type of weather, and those illnesses are known risk factors for heart attack. For example, it’s been shown that a respiratory infection can cause a six-fold increase in the risk of heart attack, the researchers noted. If you’re concerned about your heart health, take the time to slip on a sweater or jacket during brisk days, or bundle up when the mercury takes a deep dive, Erlinge said. “If you are at high risk, you may avoid going out in really cold, windy weather,” Erlinge added. The study was published Oct. 24 in the journal JAMA Cardiology. More information The American Heart Association has more about cold weather and heart disease.
22 October 2018
MONDAY, Oct. 22, 2018 (HealthDay News) — With the national shortage of primary care doctors and — in certain areas — specialists, and with a quarter of the population living in rural areas without easy access to care, telehealth has stepped in to help fill the gap. In fact, millions of Americans now use it every year. Telehealth involves virtual office visits. Note that you’ll also see the term telemedicine, which usually refers to virtual visits with a doctor. Telehealth is broader and includes care from other types of health professionals, such as nurses. During “visits” you video chat with a health-care professional through your smartphone, tablet or computer, sometimes with no waiting time. And it all happens in real time. Telehealth services vary from getting a diagnosis and a prescription, if needed, for minor medical issues, to ongoing monitoring of chronic conditions — especially helpful to older Americans. As an example, your heart rate or blood sugar levels can be sent remotely to your doctor’s office and he or she can review them with you while you have your virtual visit. One study found that the most common virtual visits were for acute respiratory problems, urinary tract infections and skin complaints. In fact, telehealth can be very helpful in dermatology, a specialty that’s short on doctors. Telehealth for mental health care is another growing area. Video sessions can help people stick with their treatment plan if getting to a therapist’s office is difficult. And it can be just as effective as face-to-face appointments. Some health insurance providers now offer telehealth as an option in some of their plans. There’s usually a fee for a telehealth visit, but it can be lower than your in-office co-pay. If you’re on a high-deductible plan, the cost will certainly be less than you’d pay out-of-pocket for an office visit. The Veterans Administration is just one of many government agencies that offers a variety of telehealth services. More information The National Conference of State Legislatures has state-by-state information on telehealth services in your area.
22 October 2018
MONDAY, Oct. 22, 2018 (HealthDay News) — In some bad news for chocolate Labrador Retriever lovers everywhere, new research shows that they have shorter life spans than their black and yellow cousins. Not only that, but they also have higher rates of skin disease and ear infections. For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 33,000 Labradors in the United Kingdom. The findings showed that while the average life span of black and yellow Labrador Retrievers is 12 years, the median life span of chocolate Labs was at least 10 percent shorter than that. Compared with their counterparts, chocolate Labs were also two times more likely to have ear inflammation and four times more likely to have a skin condition called hot spot. The findings came as a surprise, said lead study author Paul McGreevy, a professor at the University of Sydney, in Australia. “The relationships between coat color and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” McGreevy said in a university news release. “Because chocolate color is recessive in dogs, the gene for this color must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate. Breeders targeting this color may therefore be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene,” he explained. “It may be that the resulting reduced gene pool includes a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions,” McGreevy added. Among all Labs in the study, the most common health problems were obesity, ear infections and joint conditions. Nearly 9 percent of the Labradors in the study were overweight or obese, one of the highest percentages among dog breeds. Rates of overweight and obesity were highest among male Labs that had been neutered. The report was published online Oct. 21 in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. More information The American Kennel Club has more on Labrador Retrievers.
22 October 2018
MONDAY, Oct. 22, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Deaths and complications among pregnant women with lupus have declined in the United States over the past two decades, a new study finds. Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in many parts of the body, including the kidneys, skin and joints, as well as the tissue lining the lungs, heart and brain. Pregnancy has long been considered high risk for women with lupus, and authors of the study decided to investigate if the outlook for pregnant women with lupus has improved. “Beginning in the 1980s, and especially in the 1990s, many studies identified specific risk factors for pregnancy complications and proposed best-practice management guidelines. We wished to see whether these advances improved pregnancy outcomes for SLE patients,” said study co-author Dr. Bella Mehta. She’s a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Mehta and her colleagues analyzed data from 87,065 pregnant women with lupus and more than 70 million pregnant women without lupus in the United States between 1998 and 2014. The study found that pregnant women with lupus had higher rates of complications, as well as higher death rates among mothers and fetuses. However, deaths declined overall for both groups of women during the study period, and the decline was greater among women with lupus than those without the disease. Cesarean-section deliveries rose for both groups, but the increase was smaller among women with lupus, according to the study. It also found that length of hospital stay decreased among women with lupus but rose among those without lupus. Mehta called the findings “very encouraging,” but said more research is needed to further reduce the risk of complications and death among pregnant women with lupus. The findings were presented Oct. 22 at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology and the Association of Rheumatology Professionals, in Chicago. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. More information The March of Dimes has more on lupus and pregnancy.
21 October 2018
SUNDAY, Oct. 21, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Jack-o’-lanterns can be scary, but they shouldn’t be dangerous. Last year, pumpkin carving accounted for nearly 3,200 of the 16,706 Halloween-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments, doctors’ offices and clinics, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Pumpkin carving is a fun activity, but it can result in serious cuts on the hand and injuries to bones and tendons,” American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons spokesman Dr. L. Reid Boyce Nichols said in an academy news release. “Consider having children decorate pre-carved pumpkins with stickers and paint to avoid using sharp objects. This will allow children to join in the fun while eliminating the use of sharp objects and their risk of injury,” he suggested. Nichols, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, offered these safe-carving tips: Use a pumpkin carving kit or knives that are specifically designed for carving. They’re less likely to get stuck in thick pumpkin skin. Carve pumpkins in a clean, dry and well-lit area, and make sure there is no moisture on the carving tools or your hands. If someone suffers a cut, apply pressure with a clean cloth and elevate the injured area above the heart. If bleeding does not stop within 10 to 15 minutes or if the cut is deep, you may need to see a doctor. Clean cuts and cover them with clean bandages. Don’t use candles in pumpkins or other Halloween decorations. Use non-flammable light sources, like glow sticks or artificial pumpkin lights. Nichols added that pumpkin carving isn’t the only potential Halloween danger. “Trick-or-treating can be dangerous if caution is not taken when near traffic and other distractions,” he said. “While you walk, look up, not down and pay attention to the people, objects and obstacles around you. Distracted walking can easily be avoided.” Remind children to use crosswalks and obey traffic signals as they go from house to house. Bright-colored costumes will be easier for motorists to see, but adding reflective tape to clothing and goodie bags will provide added visibility. Using a flashlight is also a good idea. More information Consumer Reports has more on pumpkin carving safety.