Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Does Flu Trigger Asthma?

/PRNewswire/ -- When children with asthma get the flu, they often land in the hospital gasping for air. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have found a previously unknown biological pathway explaining why influenza induces asthma attacks. Studies in a mouse model, published online May 29 by the journal Nature Immunology, reveal that influenza activates a newly recognized group of immune cells called natural helper cells – presenting a completely new set of drug targets for asthma.

If activation of these cells, or their asthma-inducing secretions, could be blocked, asthmatic children could be more effectively protected when they get the flu and possibly other viral infections, says senior investigator Dale Umetsu, M.D., Ph.D., of Children's Division of Immunology.

Although most asthma is allergic in nature, attacks triggered by viral infection tend to be what put children in the hospital, reflecting the fact that this type of asthma isn't well controlled by existing drugs.

"Virtually 100 percent of asthmatics get worse with a viral infection," says Umetsu. "We really didn't know how that happened, but now we have an explanation, at least for influenza."

Natural helper cells were first, very recently, discovered in the intestines and are recognized to play a role in fighting parasitic worm infections as part of the innate immune system (our first line of immune defense).

"Since the lung is related to the gut – both are exposed to the environment – we asked if natural helper cells might also be in the lung and be important in asthma," Umetsu says.

Subsequent experiments, led by first authors Ya-Jen Chang, Ph.D., and Hye Young Kim, Ph.D., in Umetsu's lab, showed that the cells are indeed in the lung in a mouse model of influenza-induced asthma, but not in allergic asthma. The model showed that influenza A infection stimulates production of a compound called IL-33 that activates natural helper cells, which then secrete asthma-inducing compounds.

"Without these cells being activated, infection did not cause airway hyperreactivity, the cardinal feature of asthma," Umetsu says. "Now we can start to think of this pathway as a target – IL-33, the natural helper cell itself or the factors it produces."

Personalized medicine in asthma?

The study adds to a growing understanding of asthma as a collection of different processes, all causing airways to become twitchy and constricted. "In mouse models we're finding very distinct pathways," Umetsu says.

Most asthma-control drugs, such as inhaled corticosteroids, act on the best-known pathway, which involves immune cells known as TH2 cells, and which is important in allergic asthma. However, Umetsu's team showed in 2006 that a second group of cells, known as natural killer T-cells (NKT cells), are also important in asthma, and demonstrated their presence in the lungs of asthma patients. NKT cells, they showed, can function independently of TH2 cells, for example, when asthma is induced with ozone, a major component of air pollution. Compounds targeting NKT cells are now in preclinical development.

The recognition now of a third pathway for asthma, involving natural helper cells, may reflect the diversity of triggers for asthma seen in patients.

"Clinically, we knew there were different asthma triggers, but we thought there was only one pathway for asthma," Umetsu says, adding that all of the identified pathways can coexist in one person. "We need to understand the specific asthma pathways present in each individual with asthma and when they are triggered, so we can give the right treatment at the right time."

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Consumer Reports Health: Tests Reveal Top Performing Sunscreens

/PRNewswire/ -- In tests of 22 sprays, creams and lotions, Consumer Reports Health identifies nine products that provide excellent protection against the UVB rays that cause sunburn and very good protection against UVA rays, even after immersion in water.

Consumer Reports Health identifies three "CR Best Buys:" Up & Up Sport SPF 30 (Target), No-Ad with Aloe and Vitamin E SPF 45, and Equate Baby SPF 50. The Up & Up is a spray while the other two products are lotions. On UVB protection, all three products provide "Excellent" protection, while providing "Very Good" protection against UVA radiation, which penetrates deeper than UVB, and can cause tanning and aging the skin. But consumers shouldn't rely on sunscreen alone, notes the report. "Sunscreens can be very effective but you should combine them with other good options for protecting your skin such as broad-brimmed hats, tightly woven clothing, and umbrellas. You can be creative—consider bringing a small tent to the beach for your kids to crawl into," said Jamie Hirsh, senior associate editor, Consumer Reports Health.

Almost every sunscreen tested by Consumer Reports Health contains some ingredients associated with adverse health effects in animal studies. Oxybenzone and other endocrine disruptors may interfere with hormones in the body, and nanoscale zinc oxide and titanium oxide are linked to problems such as potential reproductive and developmental effects. Retinyl palmitate (listed among inactive ingredients), a type of topical vitamin A, is an antioxidant that animal studies have linked to increased risk of skin cancers. In skin, it converts readily to retinoids, which have been associated with a risk of birth defects in people using acne medications that contain them. As a precaution, pregnant women may want to avoid sunscreens with retinyl palmitate. Some examples of top performing sunscreens that do not contain retinyl palmitate include Up & Up Sport SPF 30 and Equate Baby SPF 50. More research is needed, but as of now, the proven benefits of sunscreen outweigh any potential risks.

Consumer Reports Health also details the smell and feel of each of the 22 sunscreens. Many sunscreens have a floral and/or citrus scent. Some feel draggy, meaning that the skin "pulled" when a panelist rubbed a hand across an arm. Some even made testers want to wash them off after applying them. "Sunscreen needs to be applied generously to protect exposed areas of your body, so you want to know how it's going to feel and what it will smell like. If you want to smell like coconut, that's your prerogative, or you can go for the classic citrus scent, available in many top performing brands," said Hirsh. The report also notes that all of the more effective sunscreens tended to stain cloth.

Consumer Reports Health offers these tips for using sunscreens:

* Don't rely on sunscreen alone. Wear protective clothing and limit time in the sun.
* Choose a sunscreen that is water resistant with an SPF of at least 30. Above 30, there's not much more protection.
* Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
* Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of a lotion on most of your body, or "spray as much as can be evenly rubbed in and then go back over every area and spray completely once again," advises Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist.
* Don't pay too much. La Roche-Posay costs $18.82 per ounce and scored lower overall than No-Ad at 59 cents an ounce.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Arthritis Common Among Obese, Significantly Inhibiting Physical Activity

/PRNewswire/ -- A nationwide report released today finds arthritis is common among obese adults and inhibits physical activity, a recommended intervention for both conditions. The findings were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation during National Arthritis Awareness Month in May.

The study, published in the May 20 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among obese adults. It follows previous reports citing arthritis as a common comorbidity that also hinders physical activity among adults with heart disease and diabetes.

Among the key findings:

* Arthritis affects 36 percent of obese adults.
* Obese adults with arthritis were 44 percent more likely to be physically inactive compared to those without arthritis, even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity and education.
* In every state, physical inactivity among obese adults with arthritis was at least five percentage points higher than among those without arthritis, ranging from 5 percent to 16 percent higher.

"Weight loss and physical activity can improve arthritis symptoms among obese adults with arthritis," says Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Public Health, Dr. Patience White. "Low impact activities, such as walking, swimming and biking, are generally safe and appropriate for obese adults with arthritis and can have a role in both weight and pain reduction."

"It is very hard for obese adults with arthritis to become physically active. Fortunately, physical activity programs are available in local communities that can help obese adults with arthritis safely engage in activities that can improve their pain, function and quality of life," says CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Kamil Barbour, PhD.

To raise awareness that “moving is the best medicine” to fight arthritis pain, the Arthritis Foundation joined the Ad Council in launching a multimedia campaign that features messages about the importance of physical activity and weight reduction in preventing and managing osteoarthritis pain.

Let's Move Together is a nationwide movement led by the Arthritis Foundation that encourages daily physical activity for better health. Visit www.letsmovetogether.org for creative exercise tips, uplifting stories, information about local Arthritis Walk events, and a physical activity tracker to help keep you moving all year. In addition, safe and effective physical activity arthritis programs taught by trained instructors are offered in many communities. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors the following programs:

* The Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program – A program that incorporates gentle movements in a heated pool to help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness, while increasing joint flexibility and range of motion.

* The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program – A low-impact, joint-safe land exercise program that helps decrease arthritis pain and relieve stiffness.

* Walk with Ease – An exercise program shown to reduce pain and improve health, with strategies for building and maintaining a successful walking routine, that can be done with a group or alone.

Take Action

For the 50 million Americans and the many more at risk in the United States, the pain, cost and disability of arthritis are unacceptable. That's why in May – National Arthritis Awareness Month – the Arthritis Foundation is calling on people to take action against arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. For information on arthritis and tips on overcoming barriers to physical activity, visit http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-awareness-month-2011.php .

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Obese Americans Are in Denial About Their Own Health and Doing Little to Change Their Destiny

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Most Americans who are overweight or obese – even those who are well-educated – see themselves as being in good health even though they appear to be well aware of the dangers of obesity, a new study finds.

Their level of concern about the danger their weight poses to their health is reflected in their exercise patterns, according to the study. More than half either don’t exercise at all or merely engage in naturally occurring exercise, such as walking up the stairs in their own home.

The study, conducted by Catalyst Healthcare Research, a nationally recognized leader in healthcare research, found that 60 percent of Americans say obesity is the number one threat to public health, far outdistancing cancer, in second place with 16 percent. Researchers interviewed 1500 Americans ages 18 to 65.

Of those considered to be obese or overweight, 11 percent of those who responded to the survey considered themselves to be in excellent health, and an additional 61 percent said they were in good health.

“These results suggest that many Americans are living in denial about their health status,” said Dan Prince, president of Catalyst Healthcare Research. ”Health advocates face a much deeper problem than merely persuading people of the benefits of losing weight -- they must find ways to help people face the hard truth about themselves.”

“The survey results suggest to us that many Americans may not connect their own weight or exercise level with perceptions of their overall fitness,” Prince added.

Sixty percent of those questioned in the Catalyst Healthcare Research study were overweight or obese as measured by their Body Mass Index, which relates a person’s weight to his or her height. That percentage is similar to the U.S. adult population at large. People who are overweight have a lower BMI than those considered obese, but both groups are considered by medical professionals to be at risk for serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Participants in the Catalyst Healthcare Research survey were asked whether they saw themselves as fitter, fatter or about the same as they were a year ago. Among obese/overweight study participants, 27 percent said they were fatter than they were a year ago. An additional 43 percent said they were about the same.

Among all survey participants who said they were fitter than they were a year ago – including those who were underweight, those who were normal weight, and those who were overweight/obese – only one in ten said that they weighed less than they did a year ago and exercised more than they did a year ago.

The reasons for not exercising ran the gamut among all participants, with time being the biggest enemy. But in the end, the result was the same – they were less fit than they could be.

There can be little doubt that obesity is a big -- and growing -- problem in the U.S. A recent McKinsey Quarterly report estimated the annual cost of obesity in the United States at $450 billion. That includes $160 billion in medical costs plus such items as absenteeism and decreased productivity on the job and the cost to individuals of extra food and plus-size clothing.

“It is vital to the health of our nation that we find ways to help people face the truth and take action to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors,” said Melissa Johnson, former executive director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports, who reviewed the findings.

For more details on the study, please visit the Catalyst Healthcare Research website.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What a Low-carb Diet Could Mean for Kidney Patients

PRLog  – There is news of a health breakthrough that may help diabetics who have impaired kidney function. It comes in the form of healing foods. Researchers have for the first time found that a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet may reverse that impaired kidney function. Those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes might be interested in learning more about the “ketogenic” diet.

Researchers evaluated mice that were genetically predisposed to have type 1 or 2 diabetes. The mice were allowed to develop “diabetic nephropathy”, a.k.a. kidney failure. Half the mice were put on the ketogenic diet, while the control group maintained a standard high-carbohydrate diet. After eight weeks, kidney failure was reversed in the mice on the ketogenic diet.

This is the first health news to show that using diet alone can be enough to reverse this serious complication of diabetes. And it may be very positive for adults diagnosed with diabetic kidney failure.

What is a ketogenic diet? It is a low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high-fat diet typically used to control epileptic seizures. “Ketones” are molecules produced when blood glucose levels are low and blood fat levels are high. When cells use ketones instead of glucose for energy, it means blood glucose is not used. The researchers believed that a ketogenic diet could block the toxic effects of glucose.

It is a relatively extreme diet and should not be used over the long term. But exposure to the diet for as little as a month may be sufficient to reset the entire process that led to kidney failure. In the study, they also found an array of genes that are expressed during kidney failure as a result of stress. The expression of these genes was reversed in the mice on the ketogenic diet.

The researchers believe that this special diet could help treat other neurological diseases and retinopathy — a disease that results in vision loss. It is a promising natural remedy that may make the news more and more in the coming years. For now, speak to your doctor about possibilities with this diet.

And remember, you can always get more natural health advice, the latest alternative health breakthroughs and news, plus information about nutrition, alternative remedies and cures and doctors health advice, all free when you sign up for the Doctors Health Press e-Bulletin. Visit http://www.doctorshealthpress.com now to find out how to start your free subscription.

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Deal launches fitness initiative: SHAPE program goes statewide to tackle childhood obesity

Today (May 9) at White County Intermediate School, Gov. Nathan Deal launched Georgia’s SHAPE partnership, a unique public-private partnership to promote childhood fitness and build a culture of wellness among Georgia’s youth. The program will expand statewide after attaining successful results from five pilot programs in White, Hall, Gwinnett, Bibb and Lowndes counties this school year.

“Georgia has one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the nation,” said Deal. “We know that childhood obesity decreases academic performance, increases the chances of sickness and disease and shortens life expectancy. We face a health care crisis in Georgia resulting from poor diets and lack of exercise, and if current trends continue, we may be raising the first generation of children in our state who are expected to have shorter life spans than their parents. More than one in five Georgia kids ages 10 to 17 are obese. Among low-income kids ages 2 to 4, about one in eight are already obese. The healthcare price tag for childhood obesity in Georgia is $2.4 billion annually, and rising.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that this problem is fixable. The SHAPE partnership is an innovative approach to getting Georgia kids fit and on a path to healthy living. This puts our state on the leading edge of innovation in addressing this health problem, as we are one of three state putting a laser-like focus on fitness measures. SHAPE allows students to measure their own progress in physical fitness, and it puts the power of competition into effect as schools jockey for recognition and equipment grants through the Governor’s Fitness Honor Roll.”

SHAPE generates data through Fitnessgram, an internationally recognized assessment that measures the strength, flexibility and endurance of students in P.E. classes. Reports place kids in the “healthy fitness zone” or “needs improvement” on each test. Sophisticated data management helps kids and parents chart improvement.

The benefit of Fitnessgram, developed by the father of the aerobic fitness movement, Dr. Ken Cooper, is that it does not reward specific athletic skills or promote a particular body image; it determines fitness. The test results reveal slim children who are not physically fit as well as heavier kids who are. For more information on SHAPE, go to http://georgiashape.org/.

SHAPE is a partnership of Gov. Deal, the Arthur Blank Foundation, the Georgia Department of Education, the Department of Community Health and the Division of Public Health, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves.

The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation have invested more than $500,000 in the SHAPE Partnership, including a new $350,000 grant from AFYF to help take SHAPE and Fitnessgram statewide over the next three years.

“Thanks to the innovative leadership from Gov. Deal and the SHAPE Partnership, Georgia is poised to reduce rates of life-threatening diseases for a generation of children,” said Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, of which the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation is an affiliated fund. “Regular physical activity is a win-win, as it improves both students’ health and school performance.”

The partnership springs from legislation passed in 2009 with strong backing from House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

“We need to improve Georgia’s national standing with respect to childhood obesity, and that effort began with the SHAPE Act,” Coleman said. “This legislation has empowered schools to work with parents and communities to develop a sound physical education program and to assess students each year. We are now making great headway in helping all Georgian’s have a healthy lifestyle through increased physical activity and good eating habits. And I want to commend Gov. Deal for recognizing the importance of this activity and for recognizing schools that go above and beyond to deliver excellent results.”

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Monday, May 02, 2011

National Stroke Association Launches the Faces of Stroke(SM)

/PRNewswire/ -- Bailey Carlson, 17, appears to live a typical teenage life. She is focused on school, friends and sleepovers. Like many teens, she has days when all she wants is to feel "normal."

But Bailey faces something on a daily basis that most would never imagine: recovery from stroke.

While stroke–a leading cause of death and adult disability–might seem out of the ordinary for a teen, the reality is that it affects all ages. It is also up to 80 percent preventable. About 795,000 people will have a stroke this year, yet the public is largely unaware of basic symptoms. National Stroke Awareness Month in May is a special time of the year to educate about important stroke facts, including prevention tips and how to recognize and respond to warning signs.

The Faces of Stroke is National Stroke Association's latest effort to raise public awareness in honor of National Stroke Awareness Month. The campaign aims to educate by revealing the personal side of stroke through images and stories. From a nurse with a family history of stroke to a 52-year old man who beat a diagnosis that he would never walk again, the people participating in this campaign are a community of inspiration.

"By providing survivors and others affected by stroke a platform on which to tell their stories, both bad and good, the Faces campaign intends to educate others about important stroke prevention and treatment information, but it equally aims to empower those affected by stroke," said Jim Baranski, Chief Executive Officer of National Stroke Association.

"Survivors in particular are deeply impacted on so many levels–emotionally, physically, socioeconomically–this is not often an experience that people easily return from. Some people recover 100 percent, but more often than not, they carry some deficit that, unfortunately, our society stigmatizes. We want those involved in stroke to be a proud and empowered community, and hope this campaign provides them an opportunity to recognize they are not alone. Their identities as stroke survivors and stroke champions can be a powerful voice to restore the dignity deserved by so many."

The Faces of Stroke features daily profiles in May on www.stroke.org, Facebook and Twitter. A free upload tool allows anyone to join this campaign and include a story in an online gallery. Learn more at www.stroke.org/faces.

About Stroke

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. The first step to prevention is identifying if you have any controllable and uncontrollable risk factors and begin to manage them.

Stroke is an emergency. Treatment may be available if a person reaches the hospital in time. Recognizing warning signs can be easy if you remember to think FAST:

F = Face       Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?


A =Arms      Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?


S = Speech   Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?


T =Time       If you observe any of these signs, then it's time to call 9-1-1.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Medical Costs for Youth with Diabetes More than $9,000 a Year

/PRNewswire/ -- Young people with diabetes face substantially higher medical costs than children and teens without the disease, according to a CDC study published in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care. The study found annual medical expenses for youth with diabetes are $9,061, compared to $1,468 for youth without the disease.

Much of the extra medical costs come from prescription drugs and outpatient care. Young people with the highest medical costs were treated with insulin, and included all those with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin anymore and must receive insulin treatment. Some people with type 2 diabetes also are treated with insulin, because their bodies do not produce enough to control blood glucose (sugar).

Children and adolescents who received insulin treatment had annual medical costs of $9,333, compared to $5,683 for those who did not receive insulin, but did take oral medications to control blood glucose.

"Young people with diabetes face medical costs that are six times higher than their peers without diabetes," said Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "Most youth with diabetes need insulin to survive and the medical costs for young people on insulin were almost 65 percent higher than for those who did not require insulin to treat their diabetes."

The study examined medical costs for children and teens aged 19 years or younger who were covered by employer-sponsored private health insurance plans in 2007, using the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database. The estimates were based on administrative claim data from nearly 50,000 youth, including 8,226 with diabetes.

Medical costs for people with diabetes, the vast majority of whom are adults, are 2.3 times higher than costs for those without diabetes, according to CDC's National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. Authors of the Diabetes Care study suggest that the difference in medical costs associated with diabetes may be greater for youth than for adults because of higher medication expenses, visits to specialists and medical supplies such as insulin syringes and glucose testing strips.

Among youth with diabetes, 92 percent were on insulin, compared to 26 percent of adults with diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps convert blood glucose into energy. Without adequate insulin, blood glucose levels rise and can eventually lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and amputation of feet and legs.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Risk factors may be genetic or environmental. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the body no longer handles insulin properly and gradually loses the ability to produce it. Risk factors include obesity, older age, family history, physical inactivity, history of diabetes while pregnant, and race/ethnicity. Type 2 diabetes is extremely rare in children younger than 10 years. Although type 2 diabetes is infrequent in children and teens aged 10 to 19 years, rates are higher in this group compared to younger children, with higher rates among minorities.

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