Learn to Breathe Easier with Asthma

Learn to Breathe Easier with AsthmaMost people have little trouble climbing a flight of stairs or taking a brisk walk, but these simple activities can be tough for someone with asthma. Although there’s no cure, you can breathe easier by knowing how to keep the condition under control.

Asthma is a common, long-lasting disease that affects the lungs. It can begin in childhood or adulthood. More than 25 million Americans have asthma, including 7 million children. Without proper care, asthma can become serious, even deadly. But most people with asthma learn to manage the disease so they have few symptoms or none at all.

Major symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing), shortness of breath, coughing that’s worse at night and early morning, and chest tightness. These symptoms arise from reactions that narrow the airways, the tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. When symptoms flare up, it’s called an asthma attack.

The airways of people with asthma are prone to inflammation, which causes the airways to swell and narrow. They become extra sensitive to certain substances that are breathed in. These are called triggers.

Asthma triggers can worsen inflammation and cause the muscles around the airways to tighten, further shrinking air passages and making it harder to breathe. Cells in the airways might also produce excess mucus (a sticky, thick liquid), making the airways even narrower.

Common asthma triggers include cigarette smoke, air pollution, mold, house dust mites, and furry animal dander. Other asthma triggers include weather changes, exercise, stress, and respiratory infections like common colds.

“Preventing such infections is important,” stresses Dr. Stewart Levine, an asthma expert at NIH. “People who have asthma should also obtain a flu shot, as they may be at higher risk for flu-related complications.”

Asthma is one of the most common causes of chronic (long-term) illness in children—and some symptoms appear more often in children than in adults. “Children have smaller airways, so if they have asthma, they tend to wheeze more often, particularly during the night,” says Dr. Robert Lemanske, Jr., a pediatric asthma expert at the University of Wisconsin.

Some preschool age children frequently wheeze when they get colds but don’t go on to develop chronic asthma. “But some kids start wheezing at age 3, and the problem continues,” says Lemanske. “These kids also tend to be more allergic.”

A doctor will test for asthma by doing a physical exam and asking about your medical history to learn when and how often your symptoms occur. Your doctor may also ask you to breathe in and blow out into the tube of a spirometer. This device measures how much air you can breathe out and how fast you can do it.

“It’s sometimes tough to do a spirometry test on young children,” says Dr. Michelle Freemer, an NIH asthma expert. For youngsters, a doctor will do a physical exam and may perform other tests to identify possible asthma triggers.

Whether you’re young or older, it’s important to know how to manage your asthma. Work with your doctor to develop a written asthma action plan. Your action plan should spell out the daily treatment plan to help control your asthma. This may include recommendations for medications and for avoiding exposure to your triggers. The action plan should also give specific instructions for what to do when asthma symptoms start and what actions to take if symptoms worsen, including when to seek medical attention, go to the hospital, or call an ambulance.

“Patients with asthma should have an action plan, so they know if they’re getting into trouble and what to do about it,” Freemer says.

For some patients, Freemer notes that a hand-held device called a peak flow meter can help you monitor your asthma. You blow into the device to measure how strongly your lungs can force air out. If the meter shows that your air flow is lower than normal, you can use your action plan to adjust your treatment.

“There are 2 main types of medicines for managing asthma: quick-relief and long-term controllers,” says Levine. Quick-relief medicines—such as short-acting bronchodilator inhalers—are used to relax the muscles in the airways to make it easier to breathe within a few minutes. If exercise is an asthma trigger, doctors may recommend taking this medicine 5 to 15 minutes before exercise or strenuous activity.

Long-term control medicines, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are used every day to help control symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. “Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended as the preferred long-term control medications for most children and adults,” says Freemer. “Taken daily, they help reduce inflammation to control the disease.”

If young children have trouble taking inhaled medications, there are masks and other devices that can help. Some kids are given a nebulizer, a portable machine that releases medicine in a mist.

A small percentage of people with asthma have a hard time controlling their symptoms even when they take their medicines regularly. Their airways become extremely inflamed and particularly sensitive to asthma triggers. They wheeze more, wake more throughout the night, and are at greater risk for breathing failure and trips to urgent care. If your asthma is severe, see a specialist to identify the most appropriate, personalized treatment.

The underlying causes of asthma are still unclear. Researchers believe asthma is caused by a combination of your genes and environmental factors. If you have allergies or a parent who has asthma, you’re at increased risk for the disease. Obesity and exposure to cigarette smoke may also raise the risk of developing asthma. NIH scientists are continuing to investigate the causes of this disease.

Researchers are also working to develop new approaches to help prevent and treat asthma. Levine’s team is studying the effects of house dust mites inside the home. While exposing mice to dust mites, the researchers identified a protein in the lung that blocked the development of asthma. With further research, the finding may eventually lead to new approaches for preventing or controlling asthma symptoms in people.

If you or your loved ones have asthma, identify your triggers and try to avoid them. Monitor your symptoms, and take prescribed medications regularly.

“For most people with asthma, if you take your prescribed medicines and stay away from the triggers, you’ll do well,” Levine says. Keep your asthma under control so you can keep living life to the fullest.

This article was provided by News in Health (http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), and Dana Steinberg.

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2014 National Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day

2014 National Men's Health Week and Father's DayA statement by Deputy Secretary Bill Corr:

National Men’s Health Week, June 9-15, which concludes with Father’s Day, is a good time to focus on how men can take control of their health. That includes eating right, being active, and taking advantage of certain preventive services, such as screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers must cover recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket charge. The affordable health coverage that more than 8 million Americans signed up for through the Health Insurance Marketplace is a crucial step that they have taken to invest in their health, as well as their families’ security and peace of mind.

The next open enrollment period starts in November, but you may be able to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace before then under special circumstances, such as getting married, having a child, or losing job-based coverage.

We encourage all men to schedule a check-up with their health care provider and get the care they need to get and stay healthy. And to the wonderful men in our lives: Happy Father’s Day!

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Get Active to Celebrate Older Americans Month

 Get Active to Celebrate Older Americans MonthPhysical activity supports healthy aging and we all need to get more active and support Older Americans Month.

Seriously? Yes!

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health and independence. It can help prevent, delay, or manage many of the health problems that can come with age such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Regular physical activity can also help keep thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp. It can reduce the risk of depression and may help improve sleep. Some activities such as Tai Chi can help improve balance. If you are not getting regular physical activity, this month is a perfect time to start.

How Much and What Kinds of Physical Activity Do You Need?

Someone who is 65 years of age or older and generally fit can essentially follow the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines: -Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
OR
-One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
OR
-An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

When older adults are not able to meet the guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their specific abilities. A health care provider can help match physical activities to abilities. Remember, some physical activity is better than none and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. All adults should avoid inactivity.

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Addressing the Veterans Healthcare Issues

Addressing the Veterans Healthcare IssuesThe following press release is a message from the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sloan D. Gibson:

“Not all Veterans are getting the timely access to the healthcare that they have earned. Systemic problems in scheduling processes have been exacerbated by leadership failures and ethical lapses. I will use all available authority to swiftly and decisively address issues of willful misconduct or mismanagement.

VA’s first priority is to get all Veterans off waiting lists and into clinics while we address the underlying issues that have been impeding Veterans’ access to healthcare. The President has made clear that this is his expectation.

Even as we implement these immediate actions, we will work with Veterans Service Organizations, members of Congress, academia, public and private organizations, and with all other agencies and institutions that can help us move forward.

We will also continue to depend on the faithful service of VA employees and leaders who place the interests of Veterans above their own, those who serve Veterans with dignity, compassion, and dedication, and who live by VA’s core values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

Finally, as we accelerate our access to care, we will not lose sight of the fact that the quality of VA healthcare remains strong. Ten years of external validations have consistently shown that, on average, Veterans who use VA healthcare rate our hospitals and clinics as high or higher in customer satisfaction than patients give most of the Nation’s private sector hospitals.

On behalf of all Veterans, I express my appreciation to Secretary Shinseki for his leadership of VA. For decades to come, Veterans will benefit from the transformation begun in the past five years.

Thank you for your support and dedication to Veterans and our mission to serve them.”

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Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Tick Bites and Lyme DiseaseWhen warm weather arrives, you might get the urge to walk barefoot through the grass. But before you stroll through your lawn or head out on a hiking trail, you’ll want to protect yourself and your loved ones from ticks that often lurk in tall grass, thick brush, and wooded areas. Many ticks carry disease, so do what you can to keep ticks from taking a bite out of you.

Tick-borne diseases are found in many areas across the country, and they’re on the rise. The diseases are often clustered in specific regions. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, for instance, occurs mainly in the mid-Atlantic and southern states.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness. It’s found mainly in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Each year, more than 30,000 cases are reported in the United States, and many more likely go unreported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year.

Ticks are tiny 8-legged creatures that can be hard to see. Deer ticks—which can carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease—are especially small. The young “nymphs” are only the size of poppy seeds. Adult deer ticks aren’t much larger—about the size of a sesame seed. If an infected deer tick chooses you for its next blood meal, that bite can transmit Lyme disease or another infection to you.

“Ticks can be so tiny that most people who get Lyme disease don’t recall a tick bite,” says Dr. Adriana Marques, a Lyme disease expert at NIH. But if you have symptoms of the disease, she says, “The earlier you get treated, the better.”

Tick-borne diseases tend to share certain symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, and extreme fatigue. People with Lyme disease usually get an expanding red rash that sometimes resembles a bull’s-eye. “The rash is usually tender, not painful or itchy, so people may not realize they’re sick,” says Marques.

If left untreated, the infection can spread and cause rashes in other parts of the body. Some people may develop nerve problems, arthritis, or other disorders. But even if Lyme disease isn’t caught until later stages, most people fully recover after treatment with antibiotics.

Of course, the best way to avoid Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites in the first place. Most bites from disease-causing ticks occur in the spring and summer months, when ticks are most active and when people are spending more time outside.

Help keep ticks off your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and long socks. You can also ward off ticks by using an insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET (for the skin) or permethrin (for clothes). To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and steer clear of tall vegetation.

If you’ve been in an area where ticks are common, bathe or shower as soon as possible, and wash or tumble your clothes in a dryer on high heat. Check your body carefully for ticks. They dig and burrow into the skin before they bite and feed. Removing ticks right away can help prevent disease. If you develop a rash or fever after removing a tick, see your doctor.

So watch out for ticks! Make a habit of tick prevention as you venture into the great outdoors.

How to remove a tick:
-Use fine-tipped tweezers.
-Grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull upward to remove the entire tick.
-Don’t use home remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a lit match to try to detach ticks.
-After removing the tick, clean the bite area and wash your hands thoroughly.
-If you develop a fever, severe headaches, or a rash within weeks of removing the tick, see a doctor.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D., Editor: Vicki Contie, Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations) and Dana Steinberg.

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The Hazards of a Florida Summer

spiderWhen I saw this story once again (since 1999) going around on Facebook warning us that there is a NEW POISONOUS SPIDER IN THE UNITED STATES, I felt inclined to educate the ignorant on the hazards of a Florida Summer. As the story goes, the venomous ‘two-striped telamonia’ spider lurks beneath toilet seats in public restrooms ready to bite you in the butt and kill you. False says SNOPES

But now that the weather has almost overnight turned from winter to summer, a lot of critters are anxious to reintroduce themselves into our lives. Whether indoors or outside, venomous spiders are a part of Florida living, as are snakes, gators, yellow flies, yellow jackets, hornets and mosquitos and here at the beach, we also entertain the nuisance called no-seams, during dusk especially.

So what do we need to be aware of?

Summertime is perfect to be barefoot outside, but of course, some of those buggers will also make their way into our homes, where many of us are barefoot more often. My bare feet are stuck underneath my computer desk as I type this and on occasion I nervously rub them together, to shake off whatever may be lurking down there!! Just in case.

A particularly troublesome bug is the spider and feet aren’t the only body parts they attack. There are only less than a handful of deadly spiders in the U.S., most famously the Black Widow, which has been spotted in 49 states. (Alaska still appears to be safe.)  But other spiders can also produce a very itchy bite that seems to take forever to go away and sometimes leaves a (semi) permanent mark.
Since nobody wants to run to the doctor every time an insect or arachnid stings or bites, for cot reasons alone already. But spider bites can be serious, and it’s therefore a good idea to learn how to identify those bites and what kind of treatment is best. In addition to itching and pain, some spider bites can cause skin damage, infection, muscle aches, cramping throughout the body, and chest and abdominal pain.
And yes, some people have died from spider bites.
The hobo spider is a non-native species of spider that originally came to the United States from Europe. The spider is found in the northwest portion of the country, and probably arrived in the 1920s, getting into the country accidentally in packages and crates that were shipped from overseas. The hobo spider is brown with no special markings, but it has a potentially dangerous bite that produces distinctive symptoms.

Spider bites can be deadly and painful. It’s important to be able to recognize spider bite symptoms quickly after they appear. Starting spider bite treatment early can make all the difference. By looking at some pictures of spider bites and reading a little advice you can be way ahead in the event of getting bit.

For everyone living in the U.S.,remember there are only three types of potentially deadly spider bites in the U.S.:

• Brown Recluse spider bite (southern two-thirds of the country)
• Hobo Spider bite (out west)
• Black Widow spider bite (everywhere except Alaska)

The Brown Recluse likes to hide in boxes, books, and other hard to reach places. They are often found around human habitations, outdoors under rocks and bark as well as indoors in houses, schools, sheds, and barns. The brown recluse is about 1/2 inch long. It is brown and bears a violin-shaped dorsal stripe on its cephalothorax.Their bites can be mild to serious and occasionally fatal. As of 1984, at least 5 deaths had been reported from their bites in the USA. Their hemolytic or cytotoxic venom is dangerous because of its toxic effect on cells. The toxins in the bite kill the cells surrounding the puncture, producing a black gangrenous spot. Often, the skin proceeds to peel away from the area around the wound, exposing the underlying tissues. In extreme cases, an area 6 inches across can be severely affected and, since the wounds are slow to heal, they leave a very unpleasant scar.

Other symptoms can be:

• Headache
• Nausea
• Abdominal cramps
• Joint stiffness
• High fever
• Possible kidney failure if left untreated

The brown recluse spider doesn’t spin webs, but likes to crawl around to hunt. They are often found lurking in the basement or in the garage. To kill brown recluse spiders, grab a vacuum and go around your house cleaning under and around things. Suck up any spiders you may find.
A more effective way to kill the brown recluse spiders in your home is to use brown recluse traps. These can be bought online and are made specifically for brown recluse spiders. They attract brown recluse spiders with a sweet scent and then of course kill them.

The Widows

Florida has four species of venomous Widow spiders, of which two, the Southern Black Widow and the Brown Widow may be found around buildings. The Northern Black Widow is found only in the Florida Panhandle and makes its web at the end of low tree branches. The Red Widow is mainly found in sand scrub habitat in central and south central Florida.Their venom is neurotoxic (affects nervous system).

A bite victim may feel the following symptoms:

• Painful rigidity in abdominal muscles
• Tightness in the chest
• Increased blood pressure
• Rise in body temperature
• Nausea and Sweating
• Death is uncommon but may happen in the elderly or very young usually from asphyxia 14-32 hours after being bitten.

Hobo Spiders

Dry Bites: As many as half of all people bitten by hobo spiders will have no symptoms. This is because the bites are “dry”, meaning that the spider failed to inject any of its venom into the person.

Early Signs: When venom is injected into a bite, the area will become numb within 15 minutes, with other parts of the body, such as the tongue, possibly feeling numb as well. It will begin to turn red, and become swollen and hard within 18 hours.

Blistering: After a span of 24 hours, the hobo spider bite will start to blister in the middle of the wound. During this time, the victim may experience bad headaches and suffer from visual or auditory hallucinations.

Serious Symptoms: The blister will break open on the second day and ooze fluids, eventually scabbing over in about 3 weeks. In severe cases, after 2 to 3 days the area can become black, and in 10 days the flesh in the region of the bite may rot, requiring surgical intervention.
Scars
The hobo spider bite will leave a scar. In some instances, it can be as long as 2 or 3 years before the bite heals completely.

Here are a few hints on how to identify a spider bite.

Evaluate the Pain

If you feel pain when the spider bites, it’s likely a black widow spider bite, whose bite is often but not always painful. You may also develop severe body aches and fever.
A brown recluse spider bite is a slight sting at best. Most of the time you feel nothing. They hide in or under boxes, under your bed sheets, in your clothes. The first you know about it is the pain that develops several minutes to hours after the bite.
As a brown recluse spider bite progresses it takes a nasty turn. You may not know when it a brown recluse bites you, but when the bite area becomes red, blistered, or black you know it’s a brown recluse. The area starts out small, and the redness spreads. A black spot of dead tissue develops in the middle of the redness. This dead tissue can be anything from small and superficial to deep and large—sometimes enough to warrant a skin graft when everything’s said and done. As the tissue dies, the area becomes very painful.

Now the hobo spider can cause skin damage, but less so than the brown recluse, while the black widow spider bite causes a red spot that’s sometimes hard to see, but another symptom will be much more obvious; it usually causes painful muscle aches and cramping throughout the body for one to three weeks.

Poisonous Spider Bite Treatment:

If at all possible, get to a doctor. If you can’t, consider the following:
If you think the spider was a brown recluse or hobo spider:
keep the wound cool and slow your breathing. This will help slow the venom’s spread: Apply ice, and keep the area at heart level or above.
Even though bites are rarely fatal, secondary infections can quickly turn so. The next step you need to do is make sure you do everything possible to prevent infection.
As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) sloughs off, treat the wound as you would any other, by keeping it clean and covered and applying antibiotic ointment or honey. Some large wounds take several weeks to heal. If it starts looking infected, you’ll need oral antibiotics.

Treat the pain.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If you think the spider was a black widow take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin for the muscle cramps.
Within minutes to hours, a black widow bite can lead to severe chest and abdominal pain mimicking appendicitis or a heart attack. It can make your blood pressure go up and may need to be treated. (Possible signs include an quickened pulse and a flushed face.)
If you can’t get to a doctor, rest to try to lower the blood pressure.
The good news is that these days, thanks to anti-venom, it’s extremely  rare to die from a spider bite and those that do are typically caused by an allergic reaction or a severe secondary infection.
That being said, most people are still terrified of spiders and shake out their sheets before hopping into bed.

Last but not least, I’d suggest, if it’s got eight legs and bit someone, try and recover the critter, no matter how small, and give it to medical staff when being treated so it can be properly identified.

Now there are a dozen other spiders in the State that are intriguing if not fascinating to learn about HERE at http://floridabackyardspiders.com

 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the six venomous snakes that are indigenous  to Florida — the eastern diamondback, pigmy rattler, canebrake rattler, cottonmouth (commonly called a water moccasin), copperhead and coral snake.

Honoring EMS Workers this Week

Honoring EMS Workers this WeekA statement from Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

This week, our nation honors emergency medical service (EMS) professionals for their dedication to public service.

Over the past century, the field of emergency medical services has grown from hospital interns who rode in horse-drawn carriages transporting the sick and injured in a few cities during the 1800s. Today our nation draws on diverse network of nearly a million EMS physicians, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, and support staff in every community. With each passing year, EMS has demonstrated increasing importance in our nation’s health care system.

EMS practitioners serve our nation in its darkest hours and at a moment’s notice. In recent months, they provided care after a deadly mudslide in Washington state, in the aftermath of a tornado in Arkansas, and when a gunman opened fire in a Navy facility in Washington, D.C. EMS practitioners work just as diligently to protect health and save lives in every American town and city every day in emergencies large or small.

At HHS, we recognize the connection between the care patients receive through the primary care providers, the acute care provided by emergency medical services practitioners and the care provided in emergency departments. We know that a seamless health care system is required, day in and day out, for our nation’s health security.

To that end, we are working on a wide variety of projects. Among them: We are partnering with EMS practitioners to link EMS records with other electronic health record systems and health information exchanges.

We also are working through the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS to improve coordination among federal agencies that affect emergency medicine. We’re exploring ways to improve the effectiveness and reliability of Enhanced 911 services, and working with EMS practitioners to implement a strategy that ensures a culture of safety within the EMS community.

We also are providing guidance, training, and materials to assist EMS providers who face active shooter situations.

Please join me in taking a few moments during EMS week to thank an emergency medical services practitioner.

EMS: Dedicated. For life.

************************

Presidential_SealA PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Wherever and whenever crisis hits, the men and women of our emergency medical services (EMS) rush to the scene. With unyielding steadiness, they bring care to those who need it most. During Emergency Medical Services Week, we show our gratitude to the EMS practitioners who aid our families, friends, and neighbors in their darkest moments.

We saw their professionalism in action after a devastating storm hit Vilonia, Arkansas. Immediately after a tornado struck, 200 people, including EMS personnel from other counties, were ready to go house to house searching for injured neighbors. We saw it after last month’s mudslide in Washington State when first responders and rescue crews braved unsteady ground to search for survivors. And we see it in towns and cities across America every hour of every day. My Administration is dedicated to supporting the vital work of our paramedics, emergency medical technicians, 911 dispatchers, and EMS medical directors.

This week, we thank the EMS providers who ease suffering and so often mean the difference between life and death. Let us honor their service with a renewed commitment to them. Let us ensure that those who watch over our communities have the support they need to get the job done.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 18 through May 24, 2014, as Emergency Medical Services Week. I encourage all Americans to observe this occasion by showing their support for their local EMS providers and taking steps to improve their personal safety and preparedness.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

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What is Oil Pulling?

What is Oil Pulling?There has been a lot of hype in the mainstream media about “oil pulling” for a healthier mouth and body. The idea is to put 1 – 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15 – 20 minutes; do this first, every morning. Then brush your teeth afterwards.

One tablespoon of cold pressed, organic sesame oil seems to be the preferred oil to use.

The oil is supposed to increase the secretion of saliva produced in your mouth and in doing so it has been said it reduces plaque, removes bacteria and naturally cleans your teeth and gums leaving you with fresh breath.

This new fad is really thousands of years old and was practiced in Ayurvedic medicine, an alternative medicine native to a southern region of Asia.

Some have written that the oil is difficult to keep in your mouth for the recommended time without vomiting, but the method is to swish the oil, pushing and pulling it through the teeth, as opposed to a gargle technique.

Keep in mind the increased saliva will increase the amount of fluid in your mouth, so the original 1 -2 tablespoons will soon become a much larger amount of fluid. Upon spitting it out, it should be frothy, if not, you are doing it wrong according to the experts.

As the oil mixes with your natural saliva, the lipids in the oil pull out toxins from the saliva, absorbing them so when you spit out the oil, you spit out the toxins before they are reabsorbed in the body.

While I couldn’t readily find any reputably named scientific studies, some “studies” have shown that the sesami oil reduces the amount of germs in the plaque on your teeth and in your spit. The “soapy” environment created by all the swishing around naturally cleans the mouth and reduces fungus.

Other suggested benefits include:
-Better smelling breath
-Prevention of oral dryness
-Strengthening of the teeth, gum and jaw

Still other suggested benefits claimed are:
-Reduction in migraine headaches
-Cures hang-overs
-Reduces allergy symptoms and sinus congestion
-Better sleep
-Improves your skin

According to US News, coconut oil may stop plaque from forming, but the evidence of expecting greater benefits is lacking. “There’s absolutely no data whatsoever that shows diabetes can be treated or prevented, or that heart disease can be,” says Lyla Blake-Gumbs, a physician with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. “It’s not a new practice, it’s been done thousands of years, but there were no real records kept?. So I can’t go to any objective, well-run clinical trials to look into the other claims.”

While on the lookout for affordable, healthy alternatives, oil pulling is relatively simple and a non-invasive, painless, inexpensive treatment. Maybe I’ll even try it myself and do a follow up story about the results, but in the meantime, try it for yourself if you feel so inclined to do so, but a few words of warning, “Don’t swallow the oil.” You may end up with an upset stomach or even diarrhea!

One more important item to consider: Don’t spit into your sink or in the toilet as the oil may clog your pipes; it’s best to spit into something disposable and toss it into the trash.

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Pet Research Helps People and Pets

Pet Research Helps People and Pets
Where would we be without our furry friends? Pet dogs and cats stand by us with love and loyalty, sharing our lives’ ups and downs. Our beloved pets can also share many of the same medical problems that we have, like asthma, diabetes, and even cancer. Doctors, veterinarians, and scientists work together to study diseases that affect both pets and people. The aim is to improve medical care for people as well as our companion animals.

More than half of U.S. households have at least one pet. In 2011, we had more than 144 million pet dogs and cats. Many people consider pets to be part of their family. And like any family member, pets can get sick.

“Our pets live in our houses. They drink the same water and eat some of the same foods. They’re exposed to many of the same environmental risks. They share many of the same genes, which is why they get many of the same diseases,” says Dr. Amy LeBlanc, a veterinarian and cancer expert at the University of Tennessee.

Pet dogs, for instance, can develop cancer naturally just as people do. “Tumors in dogs tend to spread the same way that our tumors spread. And they respond to therapies the same way that our cancers respond to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation,” says LeBlanc.

Pet cats, too, might inherit genes that raise their risk for conditions, like severe kidney disease, that can be similar to human disease. “Cats get asthma just like we do, and they can be allergic to dust mites just like us,” says Dr. Leslie Lyons, an expert in cat genetics at the University of Missouri. “Cats can become obese from eating the wrong kinds of foods and just sitting around the house, which can raise the risk for diabetes, just like us.”

Over the years, NIH-funded studies of dogs and cats with naturally occurring diseases have led to improved therapies for both people and pets. For example, researchers studied an aggressive type of childhood bone cancer that’s rare in people (affecting about 600 children and teens a year) but common in dogs (affecting up to 15,000 a year). The cancer, called osteosarcoma, arises in large bones in the arms and upper legs. By studying pet dogs and people, researchers developed techniques that are now being used to prevent arm and leg amputations and sometimes cure the cancer.

In other research, NIH-funded scientists studied pet dogs with blood cancer to develop better treatments based on bone marrow transplants or stem cell therapies. The improved techniques have now been widely adopted for treating human cancers across the country. The therapies are also used to treat cancer in dogs at some veterinary hospitals.

These types of medical advances are made possible because owners of sick pets enrolled them in veterinary clinical trials. Such trials can help speed the discovery of new and effective therapies for human patients and ultimately improve care for pets too. As in human clinical studies, cats or dogs might receive experimental treatments for cancer or other conditions. Some veterinary clinical studies evaluate different types of imaging techniques that might help humans and animals. Others study the biology of certain genetic conditions that pass down from dogs and cats to their puppies or kittens.

“The idea is that human medicine can learn from the work we do in the veterinary sciences, and vice versa. We can learn from each other,” says LeBlanc. “It’s a concept that’s called ‘one medicine.’ It’s a mutual exchange of discovery.”

“This isn’t a new philosophy; certainly this type of comparative research has been going on for decades,” adds Dr. David Vail, a veterinarian and cancer specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But, it’s probably been just in the last 10 years that clinical trials involving pets have become well-organized.”

In 2003, NIH launched a program—called the Comparative Oncology Program—to learn more about the biology and treatment of cancer. Scientists compare natural cancers in people and in animals (mostly pet dogs). Today, the program runs a research network that includes 20 veterinary centers across the United States and in Canada.

Pet dogs with different types of cancer can receive cutting-edge treatments at these centers that might save their lives. At the same time, the studies add to our understanding of cancer in all creatures.

“Because NIH is concerned with human health, the goal of these studies is to develop therapies for people,” says Vail. “But at the end of the day, I’m a veterinarian, and so the two-way flow of information is important to me. I want these treatments to come back to my veterinary clinic.”

Pets participating in NIH-sponsored veterinary clinical studies get a lot of oversight and care. “We spend time talking with pet owners to make sure they understand possible risks and benefits of the study,” LeBlanc says. As in human studies, a data safety and monitoring board tracks the trial’s progress. If serious side effects or other problems arise, the trial will be halted or altered, just as in human studies.

Although much NIH-funded research focuses on dogs, cats are also important in helping to understand human disease. Lyons studies cats with a condition called polycystic kidney disease (PKD). “It’s one of the more common inherited diseases in cats, especially Persian cats, and it’s a common inherited trait in humans,” Lyons says. PKD leads to harmful buildup of fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys.

PKD can hit cats hard when they’re about 7 years old. But it takes much longer to be noticed in people.

“In humans, the condition generally leads to kidney failure later in life, when people are in their 50s or 60s,” says Lyons. “We can’t stop this disease. There are no effective treatments that have been approved for humans that will slow progression of the cysts and delay the onset of kidney failure.”

Lyons and her team are now working to set up veterinary clinical trials for PKD. “If we could find a therapy that helps fix PKD in cats, we could make a lot of cats better. And then, most important, we may be able to develop effective treatments for humans,” says Lyons.

“When owners enroll their pets in a trial, they often hope their pet will benefit. But they also like that they’re contributing to the greater good,”” LeBlanc says. “A drug that’s tested in dogs or cats might one day help a very sick person or maybe help some other pets.”

Not all pets can qualify for veterinary clinical research. The pet’s condition needs to match the type of research study under way. If approved for a study, pets often receive medical care free of charge.

To learn about NIH-sponsored comparative studies of cancer, visit NIH’s Comparative Oncology Program website. Your veterinarian might also be able to help you find veterinary clinical trials. Or try looking at the websites of local veterinary schools, which often list ongoing studies of pets.

Whether human or pet, basic steps for staying healthy can be similar:
-Get plenty of physical activity. Activity can strengthen joints and muscles and improve heart health.
-Walk or run with your dog.
-Play often with your cat.
-Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight in pets can raise the risk for some of the same conditions that can affect overweight humans: diabetes, joint problems, and certain cancers.
-Eat a healthy diet, or a specialized diet if needed. Ask your veterinarian about the right diet for your pet. Some “people foods” can be dangerous for pets.
-Don’t smoke. Secondhand smoke can harm your pets just like it does people.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations) and Dana Steinberg

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What You Need to Know About Hepatitis C

What You Need to Know About Hepatitis CIf you were born between 1945 and 1965 you are 5 times more likely to have Hepatitis C. More than 75% of people with Hep C were born between these years according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). You can have Hep C with no symptoms and live for decades with the virus and not feel sick at all.

Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and even death. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants! Getting tested for Hepatitis C can help many people access lifesaving treatments that can prevent serious liver damage. Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

Here is more information about Hepatitus C from the CDC:

Hepatitis C has been called a silent epidemic because most people with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected.

In 2012, CDC started recommending Hepatitis C testing for everyone born from 1945 – 1965.
Most people with Hepatitis C don’t know they are infected so getting tested is the only way to know.
The longer people live with Hepatitis C undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease. Getting tested can help people learn if they are infected and get them into lifesaving care and treatment.

Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest.

How do you get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through multiple ways. Before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, Hepatitis C was spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. People with clotting problems who took blood products prior to 1987 could have been exposed to Hepatitis C. Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs was and is a very efficient way to transmit the virus. People have also become infected with the Hepatitis C virus from body piercing or tattoos that were done in prisons, homes, or in other unlicensed or informal facilities.

Although uncommon, outbreaks of Hepatitis C have occurred from poor infection control in health care settings. In rare cases, Hepatitis C may be sexually transmitted. Babies born to mothers with Hepatitis C can get infected during childbirth. Still, many people do not know how or when they were infected.

Hepatitis C is not spread by casual contact, kissing, hugging, sneezing, coughing, breastfeeding or sharing food, eating utensils or glasses.

Symptoms
Many people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. People with chronic Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms or feeling sick.
When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain and/or jaundice.

hepatitus-c-progressionInformation on Testing
The only way to know if someone has Hepatitis C is to get tested. Doctors use a blood test, called a Hepatitis C Antibody Test, to find out if a person has ever been infected with Hepatitis C. The Hepatitis C Antibody Test looks for antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. The antibody test results will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back, although new Rapid Antibody Tests are available in some settings.

A Non-reactive or a negative Hepatitis C antibody test result means that a person does not have Hepatitis C. However, if a person has been recently exposed to the Hepatitis C virus, he or she will need to be tested again.

A Reactive or a positive Hepatitis C antibody test result means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time.

A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean a person still has Hepatitis C. Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus. A reactive antibody test requires an additional, follow-up test to determine if a person is currently infected with Hepatitis C.

How is chronic Hepatitis C treated?
Medications, called antivirals, can be used to treat many people with chronic Hepatitis C. There are several medications available to treat chronic Hepatitis C, including new treatments that appear to be more effective and have fewer side effects than previous options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a complete list of approved treatments for Hepatitis C.

However, not everyone needs or can benefit from treatment. It is important to be checked by a doctor experienced in treating chronic Hepatitis C. He or she can determine the most appropriate medical care. Decisions about starting treatment are based on many factors, such as the type of virus, the condition of the liver, and other health conditions. Whether or not to be treated or when to start treatment should be discussed with your doctor.

To protect your liver, you can:
-Ask your doctor before taking any prescription, over-the-counter medications, supplements or -vitamins. For instance, some drugs, such as certain pain medications, can potentially damage the liver
-Avoid alcohol since it can increase the speed of liver damage
-Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B

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New Science Board to Advise Health and Human Services

New Science Board to Advise Health and Human ServicesSix experts from outside the federal government will join the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) to provide advice and guidance to HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and to the HHS Secretary, on preventing, preparing for, and responding to adverse health effects of public health emergencies.

The new members replace members whose terms expire April 30, 2014.

The ASPR serves as the Secretary’s principal advisor on bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and coordinates the federal public health and medical response to disasters.

“NBSB members are vital to our operations here in HHS. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience. Over the past six years, the board has helped us improve federal policies and practices in disaster preparedness and response,” said Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, M.D. “I look forward to working with the new members in helping to build more resilient communities across the nation.”

The NBSB was created under the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 and chartered in May 2007. Since then, the board has provided recommendations on federal disaster preparedness and response issues. In the past year, these issues have included anticipated responsibilities of the Strategic National Stockpile in the year 2020 and cost-effective ways to meet those responsibilities. The stockpile has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the public if there is a public health emergency, such as a terrorist attack, flu outbreak, or earthquake, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

The board has 13 voting members with a broad range of expertise in science, medicine, and public health. There also are voting and non-voting members from federal and state government agencies as deemed appropriate by the HHS Secretary.

Information about the NBSB and its meetings is available at http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/boards/nbsb/Pages/default.aspx.

Incoming members are as follows:

-Virginia Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department in Indianapolis;, associate professor of medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and board member of the National Medical Association.
-David Ecker, Ph.D., divisional vice president and a general manager at Ibis Biosciences, Inc., an Abbott company located in Carlsbad, Calif. He is serving his first term as a voting member on the NBSB and has been chosen to be reappointed for an additional three-year term.
-Noreen Hynes, M.D., M.P.H., D.T.M.& H., associate professor of medicine and public health, and director of the Geographic Medicine Center of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
-Catherine Slemp, M.D., M.P.H., public health consultant. She previously served as West Virginia’s state health officer with the Bureau for Public Health.
-Tammy Spain, Ph.D., senior member of the technical staff at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Bioengineering Center at the University of South Florida.
-David Weinstock, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Affiliated Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, all Boston.

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Shingles Vaccine and Treatments to Reduce Risks

shingles from News in HealthIf you’ve ever had chickenpox, you may be at risk for a painful disease called shingles as you grow older. Shingles is a sometimes-agonizing skin rash and nerve disease that’s caused by a virus. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent shingles or ease its serious effects.

Shingles usually affects adults after age 50, although it can strike at any age. “In the U.S., the incidence of shingles is actually increasing,” says Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, an infectious disease researcher at NIH. “If you live to be 85 years old, you have a 50% chance of getting shingles.”

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus stays with you for life, hidden and inactive in your nerve cells. Your immune system helps keep chickenpox from returning. But later in life, the virus can re-emerge and cause shingles (also known as herpes zoster).

You can’t “catch” shingles from someone else. But it is possible for a person with a blistery shingles rash to pass on the varicella-zoster virus to someone who’s never had chickenpox or a chickenpox vaccine. If that happens, the other person would get chickenpox, not shingles.

Shingles may cause skin sensitivity ranging from mild itching to severe pain along with burning, tingling, or numbness. A rash with fluid-filled blisters nearly always appears on just one side of the body or face. The rash usually lasts for 7 to 10 days. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, upset stomach, and headache.

Shingles can lead to some serious problems. If it appears on your face, it can affect your hearing and vision. It may cause lasting eye damage or blindness. After the rash fades, the pain may linger for months or years, especially in older people. This lasting pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, affects nearly 1 out of every 3 older people with shingles. The pain can be so severe that even the gentlest touch or breeze can feel excruciating.

To help prevent these problems, see your doctor at the first sign of shingles. Early treatment can shorten the length of infection and reduce the risk of serious complications.

To treat shingles, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to help fight the varicella-zoster virus. Steroids can lessen pain and shorten the time you’re sick. Other types of medicines can also relieve pain.

Fortunately, a vaccine called Zostavax can help prevent shingles or decrease its severity. It’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people ages 50 and older. “The vaccine can prevent shingles and reduce the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia, which can be very debilitating,” Cohen says.

The shingles vaccine is available by prescription. Unfortunately, the vaccine is expensive, and the costs aren’t always covered by health insurance. If you’re considering the shingles vaccine, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine with your doctor, and check with your insurance provider about coverage.

Now that people have been receiving the shingles vaccine for several years, researchers are evaluating whether booster shots might be appropriate. Scientists are also studying post-herpetic neuralgia to find better ways to treat this complication from shingles.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors:
Vicki Contie, Sara Crocoll, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), and Harrison Wein

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The Nation’s Health is Improving

The Nation's Health is ImprovingThe nation’s health is improving in more than half of the critical measures that are known to have major influence in reducing preventable disease and death, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Healthy People 2020 represents the nation’s current 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. Twenty-six specific measures—in categories such as access to care, maternal and child health, tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity—were identified as high-priority health issues. These Leading Health Indicators (LHI), if addressed appropriately, have the potential to significantly reduce major influences or threats on the public’s health that cause illness and death.

“The Leading Health Indicators are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population. Today’s LHI Progress Report shows that we are doing just that,” says Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health. Koh also notes that with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we can expect to see more improvements across these indicators.

There are 14 health indicators that have either been met or are improving in this first third of the decade, including:

    Fewer adults smoking cigarettes;
    Fewer children exposed to secondhand smoke;
    More adults meeting physical activity targets; and
    Fewer adolescents using alcohol or illicit drugs.

While progress has been made across several indicators, the LHI Progress Report highlights areas where further work is needed to improve the health of all Americans. There are 11 Leading Health Indicators that have not shown significant improvement at this point in the decade, and 1 indicator where only baseline data are available.

For more information about the Leading Health Indicators Progress Update, please visit http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/default.aspx.

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Health care System now Transparent, Affordable, and Accountable

Health care System now Transparent, Affordable, and AccountableAs part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more transparent, affordable, and accountable, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the release of new, privacy-protected data on services and procedures provided to Medicare beneficiaries by physicians and other health care professionals. The new data also show payment and submitted charges, or bills, for those services and procedures by provider.

“Currently, consumers have limited information about how physicians and other health care professionals practice medicine,” said Secretary Sebelius. “This data will help fill that gap by offering insight into the Medicare portion of a physician’s practice. The data released afford researchers, policymakers and the public a new window into health care spending and physician practice patterns.”

The new data set has information for over 880,000 distinct health care providers who collectively received $77 billion in Medicare payments in 2012, under the Medicare Part B Fee-For-Service program. With this data, it will be possible to conduct a wide range of analyses that compare 6,000 different types of services and procedures provided, as well as payments received by individual health care providers.

The information also allows comparisons by physician, specialty, location, the types of medical service and procedures delivered, Medicare payment, and submitted charges. Physicians and other health care professionals determine what they will charge for services and procedures provided to patients and these “charges” are the amount the physician or health care professional generally bills for the service or procedure.

“Data transparency is a key aspect of transformation of the health care delivery system,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “While there’s more work ahead, this data release will help beneficiaries and consumers better understand how care is delivered through the Medicare program.”

Last May, CMS released hospital charge data allowing consumers to compare what hospitals charge for common inpatient and outpatient services across the country.

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2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run or Walk

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run or WalkIt is time to plan for the 2014 Isle of Eight Flags 5K run or walk, sponsored by the YMCA. Invite your friends and family to take part in this community-wide event and stay healthy together.

With four events to choose from, there’s sure to be a race for everyone.

The events will be held Saturday, May 3, 2014, and the race begins at 8:00 am at Main Beach.

Registration is available online http://www.firstcoastymca.org/branch/mcarthur or at the Welcome Center.

2014 Shrimp Festival 1 Mile Katie Caples Run/Walk
Main Beach
8:45 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $15.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 1/2 Mile Popcorn Shrimp Run/Walk
Main Beach
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $12.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run (ages 18 & up)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Run (ages 9-17)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Walk (ages 18 & up)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

2014 Shrimp Festival 5K Walk (ages 9-17)
Main Beach
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Fees: $30.00

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