Clean Eating at the Farmers Market

Clean Eating at the Farmers MarketEating clean means eating good, local, and seasonal foods that nourish a healthy body. We’ve recently seen a variety of food movements including “The Paleo Diet”, “Farm to Table”, and “Field to Fork”, and while they have different details, they all have one common message inviting us to get back to eating foods the way nature intended.

Foods that are environmentally sustainable, natural, and grown in ways that treat animals and workers well, are gaining in popularity as more and more folks are demanding greater transparency from agricultural corporations to learn what we really are putting into our bodies.

We are learning that the soy and corn fields of yesterday introduced a plethora of new foods, boxed products, fast and convenient foods, processed foods, sweetened beverages, and meats infused with growth hormones and antibiotics. This way of feeding the masses became the “norm” and along with it we’ve seen a strong correlation to health problems such as obesity, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. There have also been scandals such as mad cow disease and E.coli outbreaks that encouraged us to question how our food is being prepared.

Seasonal foods are grown naturally and require less interference. Land and labor are cheaper in foreign countries, making the price of an out of season product attractive, but purchasing off-season foods not only hurt the environment by using more fuel in shipping, but it also hurts the local economy by not purchasing from your neighbors. Farmers markets are a great way to get back to the basics. Local foods, grown in your backyard, your community, your state or your region, leave a smaller footprint on the environment.

The Fernandina Beach Market Place farmers market, open every Saturday on North Seventh Street in historic Fernandina Beach, offers a wide variety of locally grown, or prepared foods. Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables are readily available, but they may look a little different than their grocery store counterparts. You won’t find the waxed cucumbers or the gassed oranges you may see in the big box stores where produce is mass distributed, and you may even find a bug or two instead of a thin coating of pesticides.

In Florida (and California), we have the majority of the “native-to-the-Americas” fruits and vegetables and our produce vendors have a nice supply of seasonal foods, year-round. Much of the produce is harvested on Fridays, right before the market. Our bakers are baking within hours of the market’s opening. The local shrimp is caught wild, and even the dog treat vendor offers the freshest possible treats for your best friend.

When you come to the farmers market, we invite you to look at the labels and ask open ended questions to learn more about the processes our producers and growers use. Our exhibitors love to talk about their products and they are a wealth of information; you may even learn your next favorite recipe!

We are open from 9:00 to 1:00, rain or shine. For more information, please visit FernandinaBeachMarketPlace.com.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis - Patches of Itchy, Sore SkinYou may have heard of psoriasis, but do you know what it is? Psoriasis is a long-term, or chronic, skin disorder that affects more than 6.7 million U.S. adults. Symptoms can vary, but it’s usually recognized by itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. There’s currently no cure, but treatment often helps.

Psoriasis occurs when skin cells quickly rise to the surface of the skin and build up into thick patches, or plaques. Ordinarily, skin cells mature as they rise from their origins below the surface of the skin. In psoriasis, these cells pile up before they’ve had a chance to properly mature.

Psoriasis actually begins in the immune system, which normally protects the body against infection and disease. In psoriasis, the immune system becomes misdirected and overactive. This can cause redness and swelling (inflammation) and lead to the rapid buildup of skin cells.

Plaques are most often found on the elbows, knees, or scalp. But they can also affect the face, fingernails, toenails, soft tissues of the genitals, or any skin-covered region.

“Patients can have a lot of symptoms like itching, cracking, and bleeding that can disrupt their sleep and their social relationships,” says Dr. Joel Gelfand, a skin specialist (dermatologist) at the University of Pennsylvania. People with moderate to severe psoriasis may feel self-conscious or have a poor self-image, which can lead to depression or social isolation.

Some people with psoriasis also experience joint inflammation that produces arthritis-like pain. This condition is called psoriatic arthritis. Gelfand and other NIH-supported researchers have found that psoriasis, especially severe psoriasis, is linked to certain other disorders as well, such as heart conditions, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Psoriasis can occur at any age, but it typically first appears in young adulthood. Many people with psoriasis have a family history of the disorder. Researchers have been able to identify certain genes linked to the disease, but they still don’t fully understand the disease process. They do know that it isn’t contagious. You can’t “catch” psoriasis by touching someone who has it.

Psoriasis can be hard to diagnose, because it can look like other skin diseases. Your doctor might need to look at a small skin sample under a microscope. It’s often best to make an appointment with a primary care doctor or a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis.

There are many approaches for treating psoriasis. Safe and proven treatment options include creams, light therapy, and medications given as pills or a shot.

“Treatment decisions in psoriasis need to be highly individualized and tailored toward the patient’s clinical condition and underlying health status, as well as their preferences and goals,” Gelfand says. Be sure to ask your doctor about the best treatment options for you.

Psoriasis symptoms may briefly worsen, or flare. These flares can arise when people are stressed or experience a traumatic event like the death of a family member or friend. Smoking, heavy alcohol use, and being overweight can also aggravate psoriasis.

Gelfand and other NIH-funded researchers have been working to develop better therapies. “It’s a great time to be hopeful and optimistic about this disease,” Gelfand says. “Most of the therapies coming out now seem to be well-tolerated and have impressive effectiveness.”

Article by NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Your Sense of Smell and Your Health

Your Sense of Smell and Your HealthYour sense of smell enriches your experience of the world around you. Different scents can change your mood, transport you back to a distant memory, and may even help you bond with loved ones. Your ability to smell also plays a key role in your health. If your ability to smell declines, it can affect your diet and nutrition, physical well-being, and everyday safety.

Whether coffee brewing, pine trees in a forest, or smoke from a fire, the things we smell are actually tiny molecules released by substances all around us. When we breathe in these molecules, they stimulate specialized sensory cells high inside the nose. Each of these sensory cells has only one type of odor receptor—a structure on the cell that selectively latches onto a specific type of “smelly” molecule. There are more smells in the environment than there are odor receptors. But a given molecule can stimulate a combination of these receptors, creating a unique representation in the brain of a particular smell.

“It’s estimated that the number of odors that people can detect is somewhere between 10,000 and 100 billion, or even more,” says Dr. Gary Beauchamp, a taste and smell researcher at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. We all have different combinations of odor-detecting cells in our noses, he explains, so people vary greatly in their sensitivity to smells. “In fact, when you or I smell the same physical thing, our perceptions may be very different,” Beauchamp says.

Because smell information is sent to different parts of the brain, odors can influence many aspects of our lives, such as memory, mood, and emotion. For thousands of years, fragrant plants have been used in healing practices across many cultures, including ancient China, India, and Egypt. Aromatherapy, for example, aims to use essential oils from flowers, herbs, or trees to improve physical and emotional well-being.

To date, there’s little scientific evidence supporting aromatherapy’s effectiveness for most health issues. Yet memories of smell can be vivid and long lasting, which may have a positive effect.

“Lavender is a good example, which is touted as a relaxation odor,” Beauchamp says. “But the question is: Is that a relaxation odor because we’ve had past experience with this particular odor where we’ve been relaxed, and so we’ve learned the association?” Scientists continue to examine how different types of aromatherapies might affect our health and well-being.

Smell is also important for your perception of taste. Chewing your food releases aromas that travel from your mouth and throat to the nose. Without smell, we can detect only 5 basic tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami (savory). But our brains incorporate information from both taste and smell receptors to create the perception of many different flavors.

Some people may think they’ve lost their sense of taste if food begins to taste bland or slightly “off.” But in fact, they may have lost their ability to smell.

Many things can cause smell loss. A stuffy nose, or a harmless growth in the nose (called a polyp) can block air and thus odors from reaching the sensory cells. Certain medications, like some antibiotics or blood pressure pills, can alter smell. These effects are usually temporary. Your smell should come back once you’ve recovered or stopped the treatments.

But some things can cause a long-lasting loss of smell. A head injury or virus, for example, can sometimes damage the nerves related to smell. And your ability to smell may naturally fade as you get older.

“A good sized majority of people don’t know they have a problem with their sense of smell,” says Howard Hoffman, a public health expert at NIH. A national health and nutrition survey recently revealed that 12% of adults have a smell dysfunction. The problem increases with age, with 39% of those ages 80 and older showing a deficit.

“Quality of life issues from smell loss affect people differently depending upon their situation,” Hoffman says. “The effects can be enormous.” Food can become less enjoyable. You may lose interest in eating or change your eating habits, consuming a less healthy diet.

People who’ve lost their sense of smell sometimes try to boost flavor by adding more salt or sugar to their foods. But these additions might cause problems for those at risk for certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes. Talk with your doctor if you think a smell deficit might be affecting your quality of life.

Smell loss can also put you in harm’s way if you don’t notice a “warning” smell. The recent national health and nutrition survey found that 1 in 10 people couldn’t identify the smell of smoke, and about 15% couldn’t identify the smell of natural gas. “As people get older, those rates go up,” Hoffman says. For those ages 70 and older, 20% couldn’t identify the smell of smoke, and 31% couldn’t recognize gas odor.

“With age, there is a decline in the ability to smell to some extent in the nose, but much more in the brain itself,” says Dr. Davangere Devanand at Columbia University, an expert on neurodegenerative diseases and smell loss. “The main reason appears to be that the functioning of the brain regions involved in smell and memory become impaired as we grow older.”

But problems with your ability to smell may be more than normal aging. They can sometimes be an early sign of serious health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. Devanand’s group is currently studying the relationships between smell dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease.

If your food doesn’t smell or taste the way you think it should, talk to your doctor. Health care providers can give you a “scratch and sniff” smell identification test to help assess the kind of smell disorder you might have. This test alone can’t diagnose more serious health problems, but it can be informative when used alongside other tests.

Smell may be the most mysterious of our 5 senses, Beauchamp says. “We know quite a bit about smell loss and can diagnose this fairly well. But, for the most part, we have no treatments that are reliable and widely accepted” for long-lasting cases of smell loss. Some studies suggest that smell training may help you improve your ability to discriminate and identify odors. It may stimulate growth of new receptors or improve your brain’s ability to interpret low levels of odors, Beauchamp explains. But researchers are still learning how and whether this works.

Like all of your senses, your sense of smell plays an important part in your life. If you think you’re experiencing a loss of taste or smell, see your health care provider. There may be ways to help fix the problem. If not, your doctor can help you learn to cope with the changes in smell and taste.

If you’ve lost your ability to smell, it’s important to find other ways to detect:
-Smoke. Check your smoke detectors once a year to make sure they work.
-Gas leaks. Make sure you have a gas detector in your home.
-Spoiled food. Throw out food that’s been in the refrigerator too long and practice other basic food safety. Learn more at www.foodsafety.gov.
-Household chemicals. Make sure there’s fresh air where you live and work.

Article by NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Arthritis Mechanisms May Vary by Joint

Press release – Molecular differences between knee and hip joints with rheumatoid arthritis may inform more personal treatment strategies. Sebastian Kaulitzki/Hemera/Thinkstock

Knee and hip joints with rheumatoid arthritis have differing genetic markers linked to inflammation, suggesting that different joints may have varying disease mechanisms. These new findings may lead to more effective, personalized therapies for rheumatoid arthritis.

People with rheumatoid arthritis have swelling and pain in joints throughout the body. These problems arise when the immune system, which protects the body from germs and infections, mistakenly attacks the joints. For unknown reasons, different joints are affected differently in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

An NIH-funded research team previously found that certain cells in joints have unique patterns of chemical tags—called epigenetic markers—that differ between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Such tags can affect when genes turn on or off and can regulate immune function.

In the new study, the scientists examined epigenetic patterns in joint cells from 30 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 16 with osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis cells had differing patterns of epigenetic tags as expected. But unexpectedly, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the patterns in knee joint cells differed from cells in hip joints.

The scientists next assessed the affected biological pathways that distinguish different joints. Knee and hip joints with rheumatoid arthritis had differing activated genes and biological pathways. Many of these pathways were related to immune system function.

The team also found that new drugs for treating rheumatoid arthritis may affect some of these pathways. Their findings might offer an opportunity for developing more precise approaches to treating different arthritic joints.

“We showed that the epigenetic marks vary from joint to joint in rheumatoid arthritis,” says study coauthor Dr. Gary S. Firestein of the University of California, San Diego. “This might provide an explanation as to why some joints improve while others do not, even though they are exposed to the same drug.”

Article contributed by NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Florida Commissioner Adam H. Putnam Issues Mosquito Declaration

Tallahassee, FL – In response to the continental United States’ first locally acquired cases of Zika confirmed, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam issued a statewide mosquito declaration. This mosquito declaration initiates aggressive mosquito control efforts within a minimum 200-yard radius around a locally acquired case patient’s home.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been testing mosquitoes from around the state at the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and all samples have been negative for the Zika virus to date.

“We will continue to proactively work with federal, state and local officials to protect Floridians and visitors from Zika,” stated Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Floridians can do their part by draining standing water surrounding their homes, as it can serve as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting the virus.”

While the virus has been widespread in countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean, this declaration is consistent with Florida’s proactive approach in combating Zika.

Florida’s efforts, which are conducted by local mosquito control programs and supported by the expertise provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, include: eliminating larval habitats by emptying standing water, treating water-holding containers with long-lasting larvicide, providing outdoor residential and spatial insecticide treatments to reduce adult vectors, and conducting adult mosquito surveillance to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.

While the Florida Department of Health is the lead agency in this public health crisis, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been supporting statewide efforts by: providing technical assistance to mosquito control programs, monitoring mosquito control activities across the state, training pest control companies, distributing BG Sentinel traps used for surveillance throughout Florida, and equipping the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory with the tools needed to test mosquitoes for the presence of Zika.

On February 2, 2016, the Florida Surgeon General declared a public health emergency in regards to the Zika virus. Floridians can assist in Zika-related response efforts by draining standing water and allowing officials who are conducting mosquito control efforts to access their property.

For more information on the Zika virus, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website at FloridaHealth.gov.

NIH funds Zika virus study involving U.S. Olympic team

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health will monitor potential Zika virus exposure among a subset of athletes, coaches and other U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) staff attending the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Brazil. The study, funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and led by Carrie L. Byington, M.D., from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, aims to improve understanding of how the virus persists in the body and to identify potential factors that influence the course of infection.

“Zika virus infection poses many unknown risks, especially to those of reproductive age,” said Catherine Y. Spong, M.D., acting director of NICHD. “Monitoring the health and reproductive outcomes of members of the U.S. Olympic team offers a unique opportunity to answer important questions and help address an ongoing public health emergency”

USOC established an Infectious Disease Advisory Group (IDAG), chaired by Dr. Byington, to help prepare the U.S. Olympic team for travel to Brazil, which is the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak in the Americas. Dr. Byington proposed the project, which aims to enroll at least 1,000 men and women, in response to an NIH announcement designed to expedite review and funding for Zika-related research projects.

“We partnered with the USOC to improve knowledge of the dynamics of Zika infection, so that we can better protect the health of athletes and staff who will participate in the 2016 Games,” said Dr. Byington. “This ongoing relationship also opens avenues for long-term research that promises to benefit not only the Americas, but also other regions facing the emergence of the virus.”

The current study seeks to determine the incidence of Zika virus infection, identify potential risk factors for infection, detect where the virus persists in the body (blood, semen, vaginal secretions or saliva), evaluate how long the virus remains in these fluids, and study the reproductive outcomes of Zika-infected participants for up to one year.

To prepare, USOC and the University of Utah conducted a pilot study in March and April 2016. The study was fully enrolled in two days and included 150 participants. Notably, one-third of the pilot group indicated that they or their partner planned to become pregnant within 12 months of the Olympic Games.

Participants in the current study will complete health surveys and provide samples of bodily fluids for the detection of Zika and similar flaviviruses, such as dengue. Zika virus infection typically does not cause symptoms in adults, so routine sampling will detect asymptomatic infections and help shed light on symptomatic versus asymptomatic infections. Zika virus testing kits and training on how to use the tests will be provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before traveling to Brazil, all USOC staff, including athletes and coaches, will be briefed on a number of items, including the Zika outbreak. IDAG will provide educational materials to athletes and staff and answer questions. During this time, the NIH-funded researchers will present the study and enroll as well as consent USOC staff who are interested in participating. Approximately 3,000 USOC staff members are expected to travel to Brazil. In addition, spouses or sexual partners who are traveling to Brazil may be eligible to participate.

The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, from August 5-21, 2016, and the Paralympic Games are scheduled for September 7-18, 2016.

Test Your Sense of Pitch

Fun stuff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health – Have you ever wondered how a musician can pick out a single wrong note in a complex piece of music? Has anyone told you that you are tone-deaf or have a tin ear? These all relate to a sense of pitch—roughly speaking, the highness or lowness of a sound. It’s what distinguishes a soprano from a bass singer and gives each piano key a distinct identity.

Our ability to distinguish pitch is not fully understood, but we do know that it involves some processing by the brain after a sound is perceived. This means tone deafness is not necessarily linked to any hearing disorder. An individual with perfect hearing may still have trouble distinguishing pitch because of how the brain interprets the sounds.

Research shows that 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population has problems with pitch perception. Studies in twins also indicates that the role of inheritance in deficits in pitch recognition is extremely high, with little effect of environmental experience. Tone deafness appears to stem from nature, not nurture.

Want to test your own sense of pitch? There is an online version of the Distorted Tunes Test, a standardized survey in use for over 50 years. In it, you’ll listen to a series of snippets from well-known tunes—some of which have been distorted by changing various notes’ pitch. Your task is to pick out the incorrectly played tunes.

No personal information about you will be collected while you take the test.

You must be 16 or older to take this test. Tone recognition is not fully developed at younger ages, and test results may not be meaningful. If you agree to the conditions of this test and certify that you are 16 years or older, click the link below to proceed. Good luck, and have fun!

The Distorted Tunes Test link is found at the bottom of this page:
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/tunestest/test-your-sense-pitch

What Causes Nearsightedness, or Myopia?

As a child in school, did you ever struggle to see what the teacher wrote on the board? Maybe you could easily read from a book, but things further away—like highway signs—looked blurry. Blurry distant vision is the main symptom of myopia, a condition that affects about a third of American adults.

If you have myopia, you’ll have trouble seeing things far away, but you’ll be able to see nearby things clearly. This is why myopia is commonly called nearsightedness. Other symptoms of myopia include headaches, eyestrain, and squinting.

Myopia typically begins in childhood. In most cases, the amount of nearsightedness someone has stabilizes by the time they reach adulthood. Some people, however, may have myopia that continues to worsen with age.

“Myopia develops gradually, says Dr. Mary Frances Cotch of NIH’s National Eye Institute. “Children often don’t realize they are myopic because myopia develops gradually and they don’t have any way of knowing that their blurry vision is different from others.”

When you look at an object, the light rays of that object pass through the cornea and the lens of the eye. These bend (refract) the light and focus it on the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the retina). If you have perfect vision, the rays focus directly on the surface of the retina. In a myopic eye, the eyeball is usually too long from front to back. This causes light rays to focus at a point in front of the retina, rather than directly on its surface. This makes distant objects blurry.

Myopia can also be the result of a cornea that is too curved or a lens that is too thick. For some, myopia may be caused by a combination of these problems.

What causes the eyeball to grow too long isn’t completely known, but NIH-funded researchers are exploring several possibilities. For many people, myopia appears to be inherited, so if you have a parent with myopia, you’re at increased risk for developing it yourself.

Myopia is becoming increasingly common, both in the U.S. and around the world. The problem is especially prominent among school-age children living in urban areas in some Asian countries. In a study published in 2008, NIH experts found that the number of Americans with myopia increased significantly from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The researchers estimated that at least 33% of Americans are nearsighted.

Researchers are looking to see if and how myopia might be related to a person’s sex, age, ethnicity, and environmental exposures—such as sunlight or the amount of time spent doing close-up work. In the past, experts thought that myopia might arise in children who spent too much time indoors reading and writing, which require close-up vision, or from reading in poorly lit rooms. Recent studies, however, suggest that increased myopia in children might instead be related to kids spending less time outdoors. Continued research into how myopia develops will begin to sort out the potential causes and influences.

If distant objects seem out of focus, talk with an eye care professional. He or she can diagnose myopia or other eye problems and recommend options to improve your vision.

Prescription lenses, either eyeglasses or contacts, are precisely curved to refocus light before it enters the eye. This helps light hit the sweet spot on the retina to provide the clearest possible vision.

Eye surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, changes the shape of the cornea so that light hits the retina properly. Phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs), a new option for people who are very nearsighted or whose corneas are too thin for LASIK or PRK, are surgically implanted inside the eye.

By: NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

How Much Stress is Too Much?

How Much Stress is Too Much?It has been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit down and really write an article – which traditionally for me is a great stress reliever. The past year or so has been personally challenging. I’ve been on the highest high (my son and oldest daughter both had beautiful weddings last June), and I felt helpless despair (my youngest daughter’s unexpected surgery) in August. Plenty of other, major life stressors have been put directly in my life’s path over the past year or so, too.

Strangely enough, the majority of the frightening experiences have had blessed results… such as the skilled hands of my surgeon. When I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in September, the surgeon removed over a foot of my colon excising all of the cancer. When we feared my husband was going to bleed to death in February, six days under the caring professionals in the Intensive Care Unit gave him another chance at life.

Life changes! I know that, but one can become overwhelmed by too many of life’s events. Adjusting to unusual demands, especially for prolonged periods, can contribute to physical problems and other illnesses. When faced with several stressors, within a relatively brief period of time, one may find they struggle just to maintain physical and emotional health – and that is where I find myself this summer, tired and overwhelmed.

While I am so thankful for the well wishes and answered prayers, my spirit feels broken. I know that stress is part of the human experience, and our bodies are designed to react to it; think fight or flight, but anything in excess is problematic.

Webmd.com says, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (Really? I had no idea!)

My husband and I are both self-employed; adding to my stress level is the nausea and headache I have just trying to grasp the hit our finances took when we were each forced to be out of work for several weeks these past months.

How do you define stress? What counts? What is just life? Humanstress lists not being able to find a babysitter for a sick child and having to take the day off of work as a psychological stressor. I laugh in the face of that type of petty stress! Then they break stress into two types: Absolute Stressors (everyone freaks out over the same thing, like an earthquake) and Relative Stressors (subjective to different reactions in different people, such as writing a thesis). There is also Acute Stress (imagine an unexpected event like a car accident) and Chronic Stress (dealing day-to-day with a co-worker who has narcissistic personality disorder).

Psychologytoday.com says, “Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life.” Stressful incidents cause hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. Some stress, “acute stress,” can be stimulating, often exciting. “Chronic stress”, stress that is long-term, can impact our health negatively.

I thought it would be interesting to look up The Stress Test and I found a copy of The Homes and Rahe Stress Scale put out by Dartmouth University. It is a simple test where many of life’s events are given a point value relative to the stress it causes; you add up your points and the score tells you the likelihood of illness in the near future. I scored over 600 points!

With a score like that, I’m thinking I should consider planning my own funeral – or, would that be too stressful?

Physical Activity Linked to Reduced Cancer Risk

Leisure-time physical activity such as walking, running, or swimming is associated with a reduced risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, a new study reports.

Past research has shown that the benefits of physical activity can include weight control; strengthening bones and joints; and reducing the risk for heart disease and other disorders. An international research team decided to take a close look at the links between physical activity and different types of cancer.

The researchers pooled data from 12 studies that together followed 1.44 million people over time to assess cancer risk. Study participants ranged from 19 to 98 years old. They were surveyed about time spent in moderate to vigorous leisure-time physical activities. The scientists took into account factors such as age, smoking, alcohol use, diet, and education.

During a follow-up of about a decade, 187,000 new cases of cancer arose. People with the highest level of leisure-time physical activity had a reduced risk for 13 of 26 types of cancer compared to those with the lowest level of activity.

Those with the highest activity had a 20% lower risk for 7 cancer types: esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia, endometrial, and myeloid leukemia. They also had a 10-20% lower risk for myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and breast.

Leisure-time physical activity was also linked to a higher risk of malignant melanoma, likely due to greater sun exposure.

“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes. Our study demonstrates that it’s also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” says study lead author Dr. Steven Moore of NIH. “Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

Contributed by: NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Advice for Older Adults to Stay Safer in Hot Weather

Summer is here and it’s blazing hot! It is important to be aware of the health risks that higher temperatures can bring. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. Knowing the signs and recognizing the dangers to avoid problems is essential. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, offers advice to help combat the dangers of hot weather.

Heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are forms of hyperthermia, which is caused by a failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms to deal with a hot environment. The combination of individual lifestyle, general health, and high temperatures can increase older adults’ risk for heat-related problems.

Lifestyle factors can include not drinking enough fluids, living in housing without air conditioning, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions. On hot and humid days, older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, should stay indoors in cooler spaces, especially during an air pollution alert. People without air conditioners should go to places that do have air conditioning, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries. Cooling centers, which may be set up by local public health agencies, religious groups and social service organizations in many communities, are another option.

There are many things that can increase risk for hyperthermia, including:

    Dehydration
    Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat production
    Use of multiple medications – it is important, however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician.
    Reduced sweating caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
    High blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet; people on salt-restricted diets may be at increased risk, however, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor.
    Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
    Being substantially overweight or underweight
    Alcohol use

Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), mental status changes (like confusion or combativeness), strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, lack of sweating, feeling faint, staggering or coma. It is critical to seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat stroke symptoms, especially an older adult.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

    Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke.
    Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
    Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
    If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
    Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helps eligible households pay for home cooling and heating costs. People interested in applying for assistance should contact their local or state LIHEAP agency or go to www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap.

Vaccines Protect Us All

Vaccines Protect Us AllWe share more than food and culture within our homes and communities. We can also spread disease. Luckily, we live in a time when vaccines can protect us from many of the most serious illnesses. Staying current on your shots helps you, and your neighbors, avoid getting and spreading disease.

Vaccines have led to large reductions in illness and death, for both kids and adults, compared with the “pre-vaccine era,” says Dr. David M. Koelle, a vaccine expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. Vaccines will prevent about 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths among U.S. children born over the last 20 years, according to a recent report.

Vaccines harness your immune system’s natural ability to detect and destroy disease-causing germs and then “remember” the best way to fight these germs in the future. Vaccination, or immunization, has completely eliminated naturally occurring smallpox worldwide, to the point that we no longer need to get shots against this fast-spreading, once-deadly disease. Polio too has been eliminated in the U.S. and most other nations as well, thanks to immunizations. Poliovirus can affect the brain and spinal cord, leaving people unable to move their arms or legs, or sometimes unable to breathe.

“These childhood diseases used to be dreaded problems that would kill or paralyze children,” says Koelle. “In the 1950s, it was a common occurrence for kids to be fine in the spring, get polio over the summer, and then have to go back to school in the fall no longer able to walk.”

Experts recommend that healthy children and teens get shots against 16 diseases (see Wise Choices box). With this growing list, many disabling or life-threatening illnesses have significantly declined in the U.S., including measles, rubella, and whooping cough. But, unlike smallpox, these disease-causing germs, or pathogens, still exist around the world.

“These days, the risks of not being vaccinated in a developed country, like the United States, may seem superficially safe because of low rates of infection due to vaccination and other advances in public health,” says Koelle. “But we live in an era of international travel where we can be exposed to mobile pathogens.” So even if you don’t travel, a neighbor or classmate could go overseas and bring the disease back to your area.

“When the rates of vaccination drop, there can be a resurgence of the disease,” explains Dr. Saad Omer, a global health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta. For instance, measles was completely eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But since then, hundreds of travel-related cases have occurred, with a spike of more than 600 measles cases in 2014.

Omer and colleagues examined U.S. reports on measles outbreaks since 2000. “We found that measles cases have occurred mostly in those who are not vaccinated and in communities that have lower rates of vaccination. And that’s true for many vaccine-preventable diseases,” Omer says. Most of the unvaccinated cases were those who chose not to be vaccinated or not to have their children vaccinated for non-medical reasons.

When enough people are vaccinated, the entire community gains protection from the disease. This is called community immunity. It helps to stop the spread of disease and protects the most vulnerable: newborns, the elderly, and people fighting serious illnesses like cancer. During these times, your immune system is often too weak to fend off disease and may not be strong enough for vaccinations. Avoiding exposure becomes key to safeguarding your health.

“There’s a huge benefit to all of us getting the recommended vaccines,” explains Dr. Martha Alexander-Miller, an immune system expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. “Number one, vaccines protect you. But they also limit the presence of disease-causing entities that are circulating in the community. So, you’re helping to protect individuals who may not be capable of protecting themselves, for example because they are too young to get vaccinated.”

When expectant moms are vaccinated, immune protection can pass through the placenta to the fetus. “Early on, the baby’s immune system is immature. So there’s a period of vulnerability where disease and death can occur,” Omer explains. “But the mother’s own antibodies—proteins formed by her immune system—can protect the baby.”

Doctors recommend that moms-to-be get both flu and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough) shots, so her body will make antibodies against these diseases. A mother’s antibodies can help protect the newborn until they can receive their own vaccinations.

Some vaccines must be given before pregnancy. Rubella, for instance, can cause life-altering birth defects or miscarriage if contracted during pregnancy. There’s no treatment, but the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine given pre-pregnancy offers prevention. Vaccines for many other common diseases that put newborns at risk are being studied.

“We’ve made amazing progress in the development of effective vaccines,” says Alexander-Miller. “Our ability to have such breakthroughs is the end result of very basic research that went on for years and years. But we still don’t know everything that we need to know about how to create the very best vaccine.” NIH-funded scientists are continuing to search for new ways to stimulate protection against various diseases.

Koelle studies how our bodies fight herpes viruses. There are 8 related herpes viruses, but the body responds differently to each one. So far, we only have a vaccine for one: varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles.

Koelle’s team is comparing how our immune system responds to chickenpox and the herpes simplex viruses, which cause mouth and genital sores. “We’re hoping to harness the success that has been possible with the chickenpox vaccine and see if we can create a vaccine that would work for both chickenpox and shingles and also herpes simplex,” he says.

Researchers are also working to improve existing vaccines. Some vaccines require a series of shots to trigger a strong immune response. The protection of other vaccines can fade over time, so booster shots may be needed. Some, like the flu vaccine, require a shot each year because the virus changes so that the vaccine no longer protects against new strains. So keeping up with the latest flu vaccines is important.

Ask your doctor’s office whether your vaccinations are current. You may also find records of vaccinations at your state health department or schools. If you can’t find your records, ask your doctor if it’ s OK to get a vaccine you might have received before.

Most side effects of vaccines are mild, such as a sore arm, headache, or low-grade fever.

“It can be easy to take vaccines for granted, because you’ll never know all the times you would’ve gotten really sick had you not been vaccinated,” says Alexander-Miller.

Help your community keep diseases at bay: Stay up-to-date with vaccines.

Contributed by: NIH News in Health
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Learn More About Allergies

A change in season can brighten your days with vibrant new colors. But blooming flowers and falling leaves can usher in more than beautiful backdrops. Airborne substances that irritate your nose can blow in with the weather. When sneezing, itchy eyes, or a runny nose suddenly appears, allergies may be to blame.

Allergies arise when the body’s immune system overreacts to substances, called allergens, that are normally harmless. When a person with allergies breathes in allergens—such as pollen, mold, pet dander, or dust mites—the resulting allergic reactions in the nose are called allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

Allergy is one of the most common long-term health conditions. “Over the past several decades, the prevalence of allergies has been increasing,” says Dr. Paivi Salo, an allergy expert at NIH. “Currently, airborne allergies affect approximately 10-30% of adults and 40% of children.”

Avoiding your allergy triggers is the best way to control your symptoms. But triggers aren’t always easy to identify. Notice when and where your symptoms occur. This can help you figure out the cause.

“Most people with allergies are sensitive to more than one allergen,” Salo explains. “Grass, weed, and tree pollens are the most common causes of outdoor allergies.” Pollen is often the source if your symptoms are seasonal. Indoor allergens usually trigger symptoms that last all year.

If your symptoms become persistent and bothersome, visit your family physician or an allergist. They can test for allergy sensitivities by using a skin or blood test. The test results, along with a medical exam and information about when and where your symptoms occur, will help your doctor determine the cause.

Even when you know your triggers, avoiding allergens can be difficult. When pollen counts are high, stay inside with the windows closed and use the air conditioning. Avoid bringing pollen indoors. “If you go outside, wash your hair and clothing,” Salo says. Pets can also bring in pollen, so clean them too.

For indoor allergens, keep humidity levels low in the home to keep dust mites and mold under control. Avoid upholstered furniture and carpets because they harbor allergens. Wash your bedding in hot water, and vacuum the floors once a week.

Allergies run in families. Your children’s chances of developing allergies are higher if you have them. While there’s no “magic bullet” to prevent allergies, experts recommend breast feeding early in life. “Breast milk is the least likely to trigger allergic reactions, it’s easy to digest, and it strengthens an infant’s immune system,” Salo says.

Sometimes, avoiding allergens isn’t possible or isn’t enough. Untreated allergies are associated with chronic conditions like sinus infections and asthma. Over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants can often ease mild symptoms. Prescription medications and allergy shots are sometimes needed for more severe allergies. Talk with your doctor about treatment options.

Allergy relief can help clear up more than just itchy, watery eyes. It can allow you to breathe easy again and brighten your outlook on seasonal changes.

Article contributed by NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklinn.

Researchers Explore the Secret to Living Longer

Want the secret to living a longer and healthier life? Scientists have found ways to prolong the healthy lifespans of worms, mice, and even monkeys. Their work has revealed exciting new clues about the biology of aging. But solid evidence still shows that the best way to boost the chance of living a long and active life is to follow the advice you likely heard from your parents: eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and stay away from bad habits.

People born in the U.S. today can expect to live to an average age of about 79. A century ago, life expectancy was closer to 54. “We’ve had a significant increase in lifespan over the last century,” says Dr. Marie Bernard, deputy director of NIH’s National Institute on Aging. “Now if you make it to age 65, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 85 is very high. And if you make it to 85, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 92 is very high. So people are living longer, and it’s happening across the globe.”

Older people tend to be healthier nowadays, too. Research has shown that healthful behaviors can help you stay active and healthy into your 60s, 70s, and beyond. In fact, a long-term study of Seventh-day Adventists—a religious group with a generally healthy lifestyle—shows that they tend to remain healthier into old age. Their life expectancy is nearly 10 years longer on average than most Americans. The Adventists’ age-enhancing behaviors include regular exercise, a vegetarian diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.

“If I had to rank behaviors in terms of priority, I’d say that exercise is the most important thing associated with living longer and healthier,” says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, an NIH geriatrician who oversees research on aging and health. “Exercise is especially important for lengthening active life expectancy, which is life without disease and without physical and mental/thinking disability.”

Natural changes to the body as we age can lead to a gradual loss of muscle, reduced energy, and achy joints. These changes may make it tempting to move less and sit more. But doing that can raise your risk for disease, disability, and even death. It’s important to work with a doctor to find the types of physical activity that can help you maintain your health and mobility.

Even frail older adults can benefit from regular physical activity. One NIH-funded study included over 600 adults, ages 70 to 89, who were at risk for disability. They were randomly placed in either a moderate exercise program or a comparison group without structured exercise. The exercise group gradually worked up to 150 minutes of weekly activity. This included brisk walking, strength and balance training, and flexibility exercises.

“After more than two years, the physical activity group had less disability, and if they became disabled, they were disabled for a shorter time than those in the comparison group,” Bernard explains. “The combination of different types of exercise —aerobic, strength and balance training, and flexibility — is important to healthy aging.” NIH’s Go4Life website has tips to help older adults get and stay active.

Another sure way to improve your chances for a longer, healthier life is to shed excess weight. “Being obese—with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30—is a risk factor for early death, and it shortens your active life expectancy,” Ferrucci says. BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on your weight and height. Use NIH’s BMI calculator to determine your BMI. Talk with a doctor about reaching a healthy weight.

Studies in animals have found that certain types of dietary changes, such as extremely low-calorie diets, can lead to longer, healthier lives. These studies offer clues to the biological processes that affect healthy aging. But to date, calorie-restricted diets and other dietary changes have had mixed results in extending the healthy lives of people.

“We have indirect evidence that nutritional adjustments can improve active longevity in people, but this is still an area of intense research,” Ferrucci says. “So far, we don’t really have solid evidence about caloric restriction and whether it may have a positive effect on human aging.” Researchers are now studying potential drugs or other approaches that might mimic calorie restriction’s benefits.

Not smoking is another pathway to a longer, healthier life. “There’s no question that smoking is a hard habit to break. But data suggest that from the moment you stop smoking, there are health benefits. So it’s worthwhile making that effort,” Bernard says.

You might think you need good genes to live longer. But genes are only part of the equation for most of us, says Dr. Thomas Perls, an aging expert and director of the New England Centenarian Study at the Boston University School of Medicine. “Research shows that genes account for less than one-third of your chances of surviving to age 85. The vast majority of variation in how old we live to be is due to our health behaviors,” Perls says. “Our genes could get most of us close to the remarkable age of 90 if we lead a healthy lifestyle.”

The influence of genes is stronger, though, for people who live to older ages, such as beyond 95. Perls has been studying people who live to age 100 and up (centenarians) and their families to learn more about the biological, psychological, and social factors that promote healthy aging.

“It seems there’s not a single gene that imparts a strong effect on the ability to get to these older ages,” Perls says. “Instead, it’s the combined effects of probably hundreds of genes, each with weak effects individually, but having the right combination can lead to a very strong effect, especially for living to the oldest ages we study.”

It’s a good idea to be skeptical of claims for a quick fix to aging-related problems. Perls cautions against marketed “anti-aging” measures such as “hormone replacement therapy,” which has little proven benefit for healthy aging and can have severe side effects. “People used to say, ‘the older you get the sicker you get.’ But with common sense, healthy habits such as regular exercise, a healthy weight, avoiding red meat, not smoking, and managing stress, it can be ‘the older you get, the healthier you’ve been,'” Perls says.

The key to healthy aging is to engage fully in life—mentally, physically, and socially. “Transitioning to older years isn’t about sitting in a rocking chair and letting the days slip by,” Bernard says. “”Older adults have unique experiences, intellectual capital, and emotional involvement that can be shared with younger generations. This engagement is really key to helping our society move forward.”

Article contributed by the NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklinn.

FSCJ to Offer Free Health Education and Screenings

Florida State College at Jacksonville’s (FSCJ) North Campus invites faculty, staff, students and the community to visit the 2016 Health Literacy Fair to enjoy no-cost health and wellness related activities. There is something for everyone, including exercise sessions, health screenings and health education and training.

The event is filled with motivating exercise opportunities. It kicks off with a wellness walk at 9:30 a.m., then attendees can join in TRX Suspension Training, Silver Sneakers and Meditation classes throughout the day.

For those interested in finding out about their health, the following screenings will be offered:
* Arthritis
* Blood Pressure
* Blood Sugar
* Depression
* Hearing
* Lice
* Oral Health
* Vision

OneBlood will be on-site accepting blood donations and HIV testing will also be available.

Health education sessions will be provided on sexually transmitted diseases, sports rehabilitation and physical therapy, falls prevention and dynamic stretching and health care education for seniors. Attendees can also learn more about the Affordable Care Act from Florida Blue representatives.

Limited cosmetology and massage therapy services will also be available. Additionally, there will be a CarFit event which is an education program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them. This program also provides resources to enhance driving safety for older adults.

For more information, visit fscj.edu/healthliteracyfair.

WHEN: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Wellness Walk: 9:30 a.m.
Event and Activities: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHERE: Florida State College at Jacksonville – North Campus
4501 Capper Road, Jacksonville, FL 32218

1 2 3 4 5 42