Thursday, April 30, 2009

When It Comes to Battling Swine Flu, Hygiene Helps

/PRNewswire / -- Worldwide concerns over the swine flu outbreak is spurring governments and health agencies into action to keep the public safe.

Closer to home, The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA - is reminding families that disease prevention is in their hands -- literally.

"Cleaning your hands with soap and water is simple, safe, effective and inexpensive," said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education. "When it comes to preventing the spread of the flu, hygiene is your first line of everyday defense. Very simply put, clean hands save lives.

"Whether you're using bar soap, liquid soap, or foam soap, just make sure you lather your hands and rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds."

Parents' concern over their children's health in school settings may be understandably heightened due to the round-the-clock news coverage of the swine flu outbreak. SDA offers three quick tips for parents to help keep their kids healthy in school:

-- Make sure your school has adequate supplies of soap, paper towels and
surface cleaning and disinfecting products. It's tough for students
to keep their hands clean if bathrooms lack the basics. And make sure
there are sufficient and effective cleaning and disinfecting products
available for school custodians, who are on the front lines of keeping
our schools healthy.
-- Tuck some hand wipes along your child's packed lunch. Sometimes kids
are so rushed during the day, they don't wash their hands before they
eat. Hands wipes are useful when kids are on the go.
-- Consider adding a hand sanitizer into your older child's backpack.
Convenient, portable sanitizer products are great to have around when
soap and water aren't readily available. (Check with your school to
make sure students are allowed to carry along a sanitizer.)

"Take time to explain to your kids why handwashing is important, and stay informed. Proper hygiene, common sense, and good information from credible sources will go a long way to seeing us through this public health challenge," added SDA's Nancy Bock.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Georgia Public Health provides information on swine flu

The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health is providing information to the public about the recent outbreak of swine flu.

At least 64 people as of April 28, 2009, have contracted swine flu in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). None of those 64 people had life-threatening symptoms and only one person required hospitalization.

Georgia has no confirmed reports of people contracting swine flu at this time.

Here are answers to common questions about swine flu and what Georgia is doing to prepare should any cases be reported in the state.

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person to person, but in the past this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

How is swine flu contracted?
The spread of the swine influenza virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Some people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

What is Georgia doing to help with the swine flu investigation?
Georgia continues to closely monitor developments surrounding the swine flu outbreak in the U.S. The state’s Division of Public Health is conducting enhanced surveillance for influenza, providing laboratory diagnosis and support for suspected cases and monitoring the syndromic surveillance system, which examines numbers of patients presenting to emergency rooms across the state.

What type of surveillance is the state conducting?
The Georgia Division of Public Health is utilizing an aggressive surveillance protocol which looks for any changes in influenza patterns across the state.

What should people do if they begin experiencing flu-like symptoms?
As always, persons who become ill should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading infections, including influenza and other respiratory illnesses, to others in their communities. Ill people who experience any of the following warning signs should seek emergency medical care:

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Sudden dizziness
Severe or persistent vomiting

How can citizens protect themselves and their loved ones?
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based handscleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

What if I have eaten pork recently?
Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork products.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Increased Mortality Associated With Nocturia

/PRNewswire / -- Patients suffering from nocturia, the need to urinate at least twice during the night, may have a significantly increased risk for mortality. Researchers presented a study at the 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) showing that there was a significantly increased mortality rate in elderly patients living in a Japanese assisted-living facility who suffered from nocturia relative to other residents.

Researchers conducted a comprehensive geriatric assessment of 788 residents 70 years old or older to determine incidence of nocturia. Using data from a national health insurance system, researchers assessed differences in survival stratified by presence or absence of nocturia over three years. Researchers adjusted the models to control for age, sex, BMI, diabetes, hypertension, history of coronary heart disease, nephropathy, alcohol consumption, and use of tranquilizers, hypnotics or diuretics.

"Nighttime urination is not necessarily just a matter of getting older. Patients should talk to their doctor about what may be causing this," said Anthony Y. Smith, MD, an AUA spokesman. "There may be a very serious yet treatable condition involved."

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As Health Reform Takes Shape, Leading Medical and Public Health Organizations Join Effort to Keep Obesity Front and Center

/PRNewswire / -- Eight medical groups, public health associations and obesity experts joined the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance today as the organization accelerates outreach to public and private sector decision makers grappling with the high costs of weight-related health conditions -- such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"Any national health reform discussion that does not address the impact of obesity will ultimately be unable to meet the goals of better health and more affordable care," said 17th U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, Health and Wellness Chairperson of the STOP Obesity Alliance and President of Canyon Ranch Institute. "Obesity threatens every segment of our society -- from our military to our schools. These medical professionals and public health officials bring additional fire power to the Alliance's recommendations for action to help reverse the obesity epidemic."

The STOP Obesity Alliance, based at The George Washington University Department of Health Policy (GW), is run by a Steering Committee of business, labor, insurance, quality, consumer and medical organizations. The new Associate Members will participate in efforts to remove the barriers preventing greater national attention and progress on managing and preventing obesity.

New Associate Members include the American Association of Diabetes Educators, American College of Sports Medicine, American Society of Bariatric Physicians, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Campaign to End Obesity, Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Together, they strengthen the Alliance's membership, and further its reach into the health system, medical, education and policy arenas.

The Alliance also announced today the addition of a new obesity expert as part of its research and policy staff. Morgan Downey, formerly the executive vice president of The Obesity Society and chief executive officer of the American Obesity Association, joined the team at GW as policy advisor to the STOP Obesity Alliance. He will help drive key research, writing and advocacy efforts. Among Mr. Downey's many accomplishments are his successful efforts in creating policy changes that recognize obesity as a chronic disease at numerous government organizations.

Representatives from the new member organizations met today for their first meeting at GW, and received a briefing on several upcoming Alliance outreach and research initiatives including the Alliance's annual obesity decision makers survey and a series of educational roundtables for governmental and private sector audiences. The group also heard from guest speaker, Victoria Brown, Healthcare Initiative Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who discussed the organization's programs and experiences in working with groups from different sectors.

"As our leaders attempt health reform, they need informed guidance on obesity's effect on the nation and the health system," said Christine Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance. "Businesses and institutions across society are at a breaking point when it comes to managing the impact of obesity-linked chronic diseases -- and they are calling out for help. The Alliance's strength is aligning diverse perspectives into common recommendations and tools that can help leaders across the country make the changes we need."

About Overweight and Obesity

Affecting 60 million adults, the overweight and obese population is one of the fastest growing segments in American society. Weight-related chronic disease -- diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers -- is the country's second-highest cause of preventable death behind smoking. The condition costs the nation $117 billion in direct and indirect costs, including healthcare, treatment, lost productivity, and absenteeism.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Unpasteurized milk poses serious health risks

Unpasteurized milk from cows, sheep or goats can carry dangerous bacteria that infect humans. People have contracted salmonella, E. coli, listeria and even rabies from consuming raw milk. It’s a risk people shouldn’t take, says a University of Georgia food specialist.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 people in the U.S. have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from it since 1998.

Consumers say they are drinking the raw milk for convenience, taste preference or perceived health benefits, says Judy Harrison, a food safety specialist with UGA Cooperative Extension.

“A growing segment of the population believes getting back to nature is best for you, but that is not always the case,” Harrison said. “Food still needs to be handled properly, or it becomes unhealthier than the commercial products.”

Most commercial milk products are pasteurized. First performed in 1864, pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful bacteria responsible for diseases like listerosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis. Substantial research shows the process doesn’t cause allergic reactions or reduce the nutritional value or taste of milk.

"Raw milk cannot be sold for human consumption in Georgia," said Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner. "The raw milk that can be sold here is for animal consumption only. Raw milk sold for animal feed should not be consumed by humans. If you give raw milk to your family, you are putting them at risk, especially young children and pregnant women.”

Harrison said she has been told by UGA Extension agents that homemade milk and cheeses are showing up in farmers markets. Cheese made from unpasteurized milk needs to be aged for at least 60 days in an environment not lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all of the bacteria.

If you are purchasing cheese at a farmers market the best way to tell if it is a legitimate product is to examine the label, Harrison says. The label must list the manufacturer or distributor, the weight or liquid measure of the product and must include the metric measures such as grams and milliliters as well as ounces and fluid ounces. A list of ingredients and a product code will also be included. If the appropriate information is not on the label, beware.

Pathogens in raw milk that infect humans come from animal feces and can be present in or on the animal’s udders. Standard hygiene practices during milking can reduce but not eliminate the risk.

Several outbreaks of illness have been linked to the consumption of raw milk and its cheese products, according to the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. An outbreak of tuberculosis in New York City was connected to consumption of queso fresco, a soft cheese made from raw milk that had been brought from Mexico. Several people were sickened, mostly children. A 15-month old boy died.

A Kansas community held a heritage fair where fresh cheese was made from raw milk. A few days later, 67 people reported illnesses.

In 2000, a listeria outbreak among Hispanic mothers was reported in North Carolina. Pregnant women contracted listeria after eating cheese made from unpasteurized milk. The illness resulted in five stillbirths, three premature delivers and two infected newborns.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April Sorrow is (a news editor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Raisin and Dried Fruit Consumption Associated With Reduced Abdominal Obesity

/PRNewswire/ -- Data presented yesterday at the Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans suggest raisin and dried fruit consumption are associated with a decreased likelihood of abdominal obesity.

The analysis examined the association between dried fruit consumption and body weight and waist circumference in adults 19 years old and older, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999 to 2004. For the purposes of the analysis, dried fruit eaters were defined as those eating greater than or equal to one-eighth (1/8) cup of fruit equivalent per day either out of hand or contained as an ingredient within other foods.

"The results of this analysis showed a lower prevalence of obesity, specifically abdominal obesity, among adults who consumed dried fruit as compared to those who did not eat dried fruit," said lead researcher Debra Keast, Ph.D., President of Food and Nutrition Database Research, Inc.

This study, funded by the California Raisin Marketing Board, builds upon previous research demonstrating that increased fruit and vegetable intake can reduce the risk of obesity and weight gain.

"This analysis adds to the growing body of research supporting the important benefits of raisins and their role, along with other dried fruits, in diets that support weight management," Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., L.N., C.N.S., national scientific advisor to the California Raisin Marketing Board. "As an economical and convenient fruit choice, raisins have benefits beyond basic nutrition."

Additional data presented at the Experimental Biology conference reinforced raisins as an important source of fructans, a type of dietary fiber which functions as a "prebiotic" and may provide a wide range of health benefits including the promotion of colon health and stimulation of the gastrointestinal immune system. Fructans are not present in Thompson seedless grapes (i.e. raisin grapes) prior to dehydration. However, they are produced during the dehydration process which converts fresh grapes into raisins. Collaborative work from researchers at Rutgers and Winona State Universities examined the phenolic content of raisins and grapes and identified specific types of phenolics previously not identified in these fruits and their implications for improved dietary health. Both of these studies were funded by Sun-Maid Growers.

Keast, et al. Dried Fruit Consumption Associated with Reduced Overweight or Obesity in Adults: NHANES, 1999-2004. Experimental Biology Poster Session 2009. Poster session presented at: Experimental Biology; 2009 April 18-22; New Orleans, LA.

Sing, et al. Raisin, currant and Thompson Seedless grape phenolic compound characterization using LC-MS-MS-EDI with product ion, precursor-ion, neutral-loss analysis and selected reaction monitoring. Poster session presented at: Experimental Biology; 2009 April 18-22; New Orleans, LA.

United States Department of Agriculture. Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, 2007.

Carughi, A. Raisins as a source of prebiotic compounds in the diet. Poster session presented at: Experimental Biology; 2009 April 18-22; New Orleans, LA.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Research Suggests Drinking Vegetable Juice Daily May Help People with Metabolic Syndrome Lose Weight

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Drinking at least one glass of low sodium vegetable juice daily may help overweight people with metabolic syndrome achieve better weight loss results. A study, conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine and presented at this week’s Experimental Biology Meeting, found that participants who drank at least 8-ounces of low sodium vegetable juice as part of a calorie-controlled DASH diet lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but drank no juice lost one pound.1

Metabolic syndrome is defined by a cluster of risk factors including excess body fat in the midsection, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal blood lipids. If left uncontrolled, metabolic syndrome increases risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke or diabetes. An estimated 47 million Americans have some combination of these risk factors and are often overweight or obese as well.

Participants in the study were primarily African-American and Hispanic adults, populations that typically have a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome. Each group followed a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that emphasized eating lean meat, lower fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables and fruit daily and keeping saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol and sodium in check. Two of the groups were given Low Sodium V8® 100% vegetable juice and instructed to drink 1 or 2 cups every day for 12 weeks, while the third group was not given any vegetable juice.

The key study findings include:

* On average, the vegetable juice drinkers lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who did not drink juice lost one pound
* Vegetable juice drinkers were more likely to meet the daily government recommendations of 3-5 servings of vegetables (1 ½ to 2 ½ cups)3

* Seven out of 10 American adults fall short of recommendations4

* Vegetable juice drinkers significantly increased their intake of vitamin C and potassium, while decreasing their overall carbohydrate intake

“Diet and body weight are key modifiable factors in changing the course of metabolic syndrome,” said John Foreyt, PhD, study author and Director, Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine. “What this study shows is that by taking simple, proactive steps such as drinking low sodium vegetable juice while watching calorie intake, people can begin to control their weight, which helps reduce the risk of long-term health implications.”

Study Details

The study, conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine, was a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) that lasted 12 weeks and enrolled 81 adults with metabolic syndrome (59 female, 22 male; 57% African American, 22.8% Mexican American, 3.7% Other and 16.5% White). Participants were given Low Sodium V8 100% vegetable juice which has 140 mg sodium and 820 mg potassium per serving. Research funding was provided in part by Campbell Soup Company, and supported by resources from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of California-Davis.

1 Provision of a 100% vegetable juice beverage improves health outcomes, including weight loss, in a metabolic syndrome population given DASH diet counseling, Baylor College of Medicine, TX; Health Research Group, MO; Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis.

2 Ford ES, et al. Prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among US adults: findings from the Third National Health and Examination Survey. JAMA 2002;287:356–9


4 Casagrande SS, Wang Y, Anderson C, Gary TL. Have Americans Increased their Fruit and Vegetable Intake? The Trends Between 1988 and 2002. Am J Prev Med 2007;32:257-63.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

New Program Educates About Serious Warning Sign for Stroke

/PRNewswire/ -- National Stroke Association and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today announced the launch of Talk About TIA!, a new educational initiative to raise awareness of an under-recognized but serious health risk - transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIA is an important warning sign that a stroke may occur. In fact, one in 20 people who experience a TIA are expected to suffer a stroke within two days.(1) Talk About TIA! is the first comprehensive and interactive online resource for people to learn about TIA, the link between TIA and stroke, and how to help reduce the risk of stroke following a TIA.

"Suffering a TIA is one of the most significant warnings that a stroke may occur, and knowing about TIA can be crucial to help reduce your risk of suffering a stroke," said James Baranski, CEO, National Stroke Association. " is a much-needed resource that can help millions become more familiar with this important health warning and encourage them to take action and call 911 immediately if they've experienced a TIA. Steps like these can help reduce their risk of suffering a potentially devastating stroke."

TIA affects more than 240,000 Americans every year, but many don't realize they've had one.(2) TIAs can be difficult to recognize and are often dismissed as minor, temporary discomforts because they happen quickly and last less than a day(3) - in fact, most last less than five minutes.(4) Approximately half of those who experience a TIA fail to report it to their health care providers, and although studies may vary, up to 20 percent will suffer a stroke within 90 days,(1) with the highest risk within the first 30 days following the TIA.(1) Symptoms of TIA are similar to those of stroke but are less severe and generally do not cause permanent brain injury.(3) Suffering a stroke, however, does have lasting effects. Stroke is the leading cause of chronic adult disability in the United States - nearly 70 percent of stroke survivors will be left with some type of disability, which may include paralysis, vision problems, speech or language problems and memory loss.(5)

"I know how important it is to treat TIA to help avoid a future stroke," said TIA patient Charlie Harris, 62. "Being unaware of the symptoms can mean a TIA goes unnoticed and untreated, increasing the risk of a potentially devastating stroke. is a great way to learn and share important health information with those you care about to ensure they have the knowledge I wish I had before suffering my TIA."

The Talk About TIA! Web site,, provides information and interactive resources for people to learn more about TIA. Features include descriptions of common risk factors, interactive body symptoms map, and downloadable checklists to aid discussions with physicians about how to reduce the risk of stroke, including lifestyle changes and medical treatment when necessary. The site also includes personal stories from TIA survivors and e-postcards that visitors to the site can send to share what they learn about TIA and encourage those who may be at risk to speak with their doctors.

About Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to the brain is temporarily obstructed, producing stroke-like symptoms that last less than a day,(3) and typically less than five minutes.(4) TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, and while some produce no outwardly recognizable symptoms at all,(3) common symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache with no known cause.(3) Although studies may vary, up to 20 percent of people who have a TIA will experience a stroke within 90 days,(3) making proper risk reduction and treatment critically important. More than one-third of those who suffer a TIA are expected to eventually suffer a stroke.(3)

About Stroke

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death and the leading cause of chronic adult disability in the United States.(3) There are approximately 5.8 million stroke survivors in the United States,(1) and nearly 70 percent of them are left with some type of disability, which may include paralysis, vision problems, speech or language problems and memory loss.(5) Although studies may vary, up to 20 percent of people who have a TIA will experience a stroke within 90 days,(3) making proper risk reduction and treatment critically important.


(1) American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2008 Update. Found at:

(2) National Stroke Association Guidelines for the Management of TIA. National Stroke Association. 2006. Found at:

(3) National Stroke Association, Transient Ischemic Attack Prevention Brochure, 2008. Found at:

(4) American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Transient Ischemic Attack, 2008. Found at:

(5) National Stroke Association, What is Stroke? 2008. Found at:

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Walk Your Way Into Spring

(ARA) - When it comes to weight loss, activity is essential to obtaining results and supporting a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity can produce long term health benefits and is a key component in the fight against obesity and being overweight, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Spring is the perfect time to learn how easy it is to get started.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released by HHS states that adults can gain substantial health benefits from physical activity by doing two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity coupled with strength training activities. A review by the American College of Sports Medicine states that a greater level of activity is needed to prevent weight gain, produce weight loss, or maintain a weight loss. Maintenance of a weight loss takes the most activity -- 250 minutes a week. Starting slow and maintaining motivation are key to staying active for the long term. A great way to get started is to join a walking team and set a goal such as walking a 5K. The camaraderie and team spirit will help you stay motivated and keep you on track.

To boost your weight-loss efforts, Weight Watchers has engaged the Active Network, a leading online community that promotes exercise, to help encourage the importance of physical activity and support efforts to get more active. trainer Jenny Hadfield suggests the following tips to start moving more:

Go for the Goal
Whether it’s to walk in a 5K, or simply set up a course in the neighborhood to walk with friends, set a tangible goal. Write that goal on paper and mark a date to reach it to stay accountable. Keep in mind that trainers estimate it takes an average of three weeks to form a new habit and eight weeks to prepare for a 5K (3.1 miles).

Evolution Versus Revolution
Evolve into a fitness routine; don’t give your body a reason to revolt. Start where you are instead of where you want to be to prevent injury or burn out. To determine your level of activity, get a pedometer and see how many steps you take in a day. Each week, try to increase the number of steps by 500 to 1,000 with a long-term goal of walking 10,000 steps per day.

Switch to Manual
Bypassing everyday conveniences can help a person move more. Take the stairs. Climb the escalator. Keep your car parked at a large strip mall and trek from store to store. Walk to your coworker’s office instead of calling or e-mailing them. These small changes can add up to big results.

Get Fit with Friends and Family
Gather a group of friends and set a time to walk or run each week. The commitment provides a built-in source of accountability and can make it more fun. Make activity a family event as well, by adding a sense of variety and adventure on the weekends. Whether it’s organizing a hike with your spouse or a treasure hunt with the kids, getting the buy-in from family with help you reach your goal.

Fitness Checking Account
Think of the food you eat as money spent, and the activity burned as a deposit, similar to a checking account. For those with busy schedules challenged to find a slot of 30 minutes to exercise, break it up throughout the day. Ten minutes at lunch walking the parking lot; 10 minutes power shopping at the grocery store; and adding 10 minutes to the walk to get the mail. Just like money, whether it’s one big deposit or three small deposits, all denominations add up. If you’re following the Weight Watchers program, adding up activity POINTS values can translate into extra POINTS values for food.

Challenge yourself this spring by incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle. Until June 6, Weight Watchers members who join a walking team, create one, or sign-up for a selected 5K event will receive access to a free eight week online interactive walking training guide, and may have the opportunity to train with a walking team in their area as part of the Momentum Walk It Challenge. Learn more about the promotion by visiting

Visit a Weight Watchers meeting for additional support this spring. To find a meeting location near you visit www.weightwatchers.comor call (800) 651-6000.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Balancing act is important for golf

If your golf swing rivals Tiger Woods' but your game is over par, your balance could be the culprit.

"If you have poor balance, it will be tough to enjoy your golf game," says Dr. Raymond Chong, associate professor of physical therapy in the Medical College of Georgia School of Allied Health Sciences.

Good balance control underlies every movement the body makes, from standing, walking and sitting to skilled movements such as a golf swing. "It doesn't matter how good your swing is. Your feet must be set in position and you must shift your weight at the right time, or the ball won't get to where you want it to go," Dr. Chong says.

Many body systems contribute to effective balance control, says Dr. Chong, who has analyzed human balance control and motion for 11 years. Good balance control requires adequate muscle strength as well as flexibility and the ability to process and combine information from the eyes, inner ears and the body's sensation of its joints' movements, called proprioception.

The complexity of balance control also requires the brain's attention. "For a long time we thought activities such as walking and keeping our balance while standing or reaching were done subconsciously and there was no need to pay attention because the brain takes care of it. It turns out that's not true," says Dr. Chong. The brain has only so much ability to pay attention, and the balancing act consumes part of that "attentional resource."

The more multitasking you do, the more the brain has to partition those limited attentional resources. Consider the tasks associated with golf – focusing on the hole, balancing and shifting your weight, swinging the club and keeping score. For healthy individuals, balancing requires less attentional resource, allowing the brain to focus on more difficult tasks.

Balance control deteriorates with aging, a sedentary lifestyle or myriad medical conditions including Parkinson's disease and weakness or loss of flexibility in the hips, knees and ankle muscles. But adaptive abilities can overcome balance control deficiencies to some extent, Dr. Chong says.

To test your balance, he recommends filling a cup to the rim with water, holding it out in front of you and trying to walk without spilling the water. For added challenge, put the filled cup on a tray and hold it so that the tray blocks the view of your feet as you walk.

If these tests were difficult for you, Dr. Chong suggests the following exercises and tips to improve your balance:

Get moving. You're maintaining your balance control system as soon as you start to move. Walk with long steps or sideways crisscrossing one leg over the other as in a line dance. Walk on various terrains, such as a dirt trail or sandy beach.

Swing your arms while you walk.

Strengthen your ankles by going up and down on your toes. Do both feet at once, and when you're stronger, try one foot at a time. "Having adequate lower-leg strength is important for keeping your balance under control," Dr. Chong says.

Increase your base of support by spreading your feet farther apart. Consider increasing your base of support front to back by standing with one foot slightly forward. "It's not just your two feet helping you balance; it's also the space between them," he says.

Practice shifting your weight from one leg to the other. When you're used to this, exaggerate the weight shift by moving your hips or head.

Walk while holding an empty tray in front of you to block your vision and rely on your proprioceptive system. To increase difficulty, multitask by placing a small ball on the tray. Keep it from falling off while you walk.

If the tests or exercises are difficult for you after practice, a physical therapist can help diagnose and safely treat your balance control problem.

By Paula Hinely
Medical College of Georgia

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Heel Pain: What Everyone Should Know

(NAPSI)-According to a recent survey from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), heel pain is the foot ailment that affects Americans most--16 percent of the population regularly experiences it. Fortunately, if detected early, heel pain can be successfully treated with noninvasive treatment options.

What Causes Heel Pain?

When you pound your feet on hard surfaces while playing sports or wear shoes that irritate sensitive tissues, you can develop heel pain. Many people try to ignore the early signs of heel pain and keep performing the activities that are causing the problem. But when you continue to use a sore heel, it will frequently get worse and could become a chronic condition, leading to more problems.

The most frequent cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. With this condition, too much running or jumping can lead to inflammation of the tissue band (fascia) connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. The pain is generally centered under the heel; it may be mild at first, but tends to flare up when you take your first steps after resting overnight.

Plantar fasciitis is often successfully treated with custom orthotics, injections, prescription medications, physical therapy and immobilization. However, the longer you have untreated pain, the more difficult it is to find relief. Other possible causes of heel pain include:

• Achilles Tendinitis. This condition is often caused by tight calf muscles, bone spurs, age, injury and primary tendinitis. If left untreated, this can also develop into a more chronic problem called tendinosis, which involves muscle tearing, adhesions and scar tissue.

• Fat Pad Atrophy. Age, obesity and walking on hard surfaces can all cause fat pad atrophy, which occurs primarily in women. Treatments for the condition may include soft insoles and soft-soled shoes prescribed by a podiatrist.

"Heel pain is generally the result of faulty biomechanics that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it," explains Dr. Ronald D. Jensen, APMA president. "If pain and other symptoms of inflammation--redness, swelling, heat--persist, you should limit normal daily activities and contact a podiatric physician immediately."

Avoiding Heel Pain

To avoid heel pain, the APMA recommends wearing shoes that fit well, wearing the proper shoes for each activity, not wearing shoes with excessive or uneven worn heels or soles and stretching the heel before exercising.

To learn more, visit the APMA's Web site at

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Spring Is Here and So Is Allergy Season

FF Note: Springtime has certainly come to Fayette County. For the next few weeks, our citizens are subject to having "yellow car" syndrome. This syndrome is caused by the clouds of yellow pollen flying around in the air and will make any surface yellow. Itchy eyes and sore throats seem to be the order of the day for both non-allergy and allergy sufferers. But alas, we are blessed to have the pollen as we also have some of the most beautiful spring flowers around. This year, we've been especially grateful for the rain as it helps keep the pollen clouds at a livable level.

(SPM Wire) Many of us look forward to the warmer, breezy, sunny days of spring, but the season also brings with it the dreaded itchy eyes, scratchy ears and throat, and sneezing for allergy sufferers.

"Tree pollen blown around by the wind is the allergen people will react to first this season, sometimes before you see the buds," explains Dr. Catherine Monteleone, an associate professor of medicine at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a board-certified allergist. "Patients already are complaining about symptoms, including runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, ears and throat, wheezing and shortness of breath."

People may continue to experience such symptoms into June, a reaction to grass pollen, not blooming flowers. "But how much grass pollen is produced will depend upon the weather this spring. Dry, windy days cause pollen to spread and result in more severe allergy symptoms," she says.

Those beginning to experience symptoms should turn to appropriate medications before symptoms become severe.

"Don't wait until you're miserable," Monteleone warns. "Try over-the-counter medications and, if those don't work, see your doctor, who can prescribe medication that may be more helpful. Don't give up on treatment because there is something out there that will help."

Allergy sufferers should try to avoid exposure to allergens. Keep your car and house windows closed. When going outside, wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from pollen and do outdoor activities later in the day, because pollen is released early. When you get back home, shower, wash your hair, and change clothing because pollen will stick to you.

Otherwise, avoid anything that may cause irritation, such as strong perfumes or tobacco smoke, advises Monteleone.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Amalgam fillings are safe, but skeptics still claim controversy, researcher says

Dental amalgam has been proven safe and effective for years, yet unfounded controversy still surrounds it, a Medical College of Georgia researcher says.

Dentists have used amalgam, an alloy of mercury with at least one other metal, in fillings for over 200 years. Amalgam fillings don’t contain enough mercury to cause potential health problems associated with larger doses, says Dr. Rod Mackert, professor of dental materials in the MCG School of Dentistry Department of Oral Rehabilitation.

"The dose makes the poison,” he says, quoting 16th century Swiss physician Paracelsus. A person would need between 265 and 310 amalgam fillings before even slight symptoms of mercury toxicity could be felt. A person with seven fillings, which is average, absorbs only about one microgram of mercury daily. About six micrograms are absorbed daily from food, water and air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

To create a dental filling, liquid mercury dissolves and reacts with a powder of silver, tin and copper, forming a compound that contains no free mercury. "Anti-amalgam activists say mercury is soaked into metal powder, like water into a sponge, and can come back out of the fillings, but that's not at all true," Dr. Mackert says. In fact, the evaporation rate of mercury from amalgam is a million times lower than from pure mercury.

Anti-amalgam activists also say dental mercury pollutes the environment. However, dental mercury accounts for less than a quarter of a percent of mercury re-entering the environment.

Dr. Mackert presented an overview of amalgam, its controversy and its alternatives today at the 87th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research in Miami.

The amalgam controversy began in the 1970s. Awareness that dental fillings contained mercury was heightened and people were concerned by a couple of mercury-related health scares. In Japan, the release of methyl mercury into industrial wastewater caused a mercury buildup in shellfish and fish, leading to severe mercury poisoning and Minamata disease. Also, a grain covered in mercury fungicide was baked into bread and consumed in Iraq, killing hundreds. "Mercury poisoning was on people's minds and in the press," he says.

Urban legends abounded, including erroneous reports linking vapors from amalgam fillings to kidney damage and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. The only documented health effects of amalgam fillings are rare allergic reactions, Dr. Mackert says, but the controversy led many people to have their fillings removed in the misguided hope of curing neurological diseases.

That controversy continues today. "It's mystifying that people persist in saying there is cause for concern with amalgam fillings when there's no evidence that they cause adverse health effects," Dr. Mackert says.

He also disputes claims that ulterior motives have influenced the American Dental Association position attesting to the safety and effectiveness of amalgam fillings. Anti-amalgam activists link the position to patent interests, but the association had only two amalgam patents, now expired, and neither was licensed, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Most of the association’s 78 patents are for white filling materials, including composite resin, an alternative to amalgam.

But composite fillings have their own problems. They cost more than amalgam and often are not covered by insurance. Numerous studies have shown that amalgam significantly outlasts composite, while composite causes more secondary cavities and may contribute to plaque formation, Dr. Mackert says.

"The bottom line is people don't need to be concerned with adverse health effects from any type of fillings – amalgam or composites," Dr. Mackert says. Since beginning his studies of amalgam in the early 1980s, his position has never changed. In fact, he has amalgam fillings himself.

By Paula Hinely
Medical College of Georgia

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lack of Awareness of Eye Health Risk Associated with Diabetes Poses Blinding Threat to Millions

/PRNewswire/ -- The World Health Organization reports that 366 million cases of diabetes are projected by 2030, raising concerns among eyecare professionals globally because of the risk posed to healthy sight by diabetes. Additionally, recent consumer research conducted by Transitions Optical, Inc. reveals a dangerous lack of awareness about these eye health risks, with less than 40 percent of the population surveyed correctly identifying vision issues as possible complications of diabetes.

In this survey, the majority of diabetics queried were similarly unaware of the risks of vision-compromising direct and indirect effects of diabetes on the eyes, despite the fact that diabetes is currently recognized as the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20-74. The research also reveals that there is a higher incidence of diabetes among minority groups. Both African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes and their lack of awareness is equally low.

"Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Aside from its direct effects in decreasing visual acuity and causing blindness, diabetes can also significantly impact quality of vision by reducing contrast sensitivity and accentuating glare," says Dr. Susan Stenson, ophthalmologist and global medical director at Transitions Optical. "While the major recognized direct ocular complication of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, diabetes also appears to increase susceptibility to a number of common vision-threatening diseases, such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Furthermore, diabetics may be at a higher risk for the development of UVR-related ocular diseases," she added.

According to Dr. Stenson, certain medications taken by diabetics can complicate the vision picture even more, altering the refractive state, increasing photosensitivity, and potentiating adverse effects of UVR on the eyes.

"Low awareness of the impact of diabetes on vision and ocular health poses a real danger to diabetic patients," warns Dr. Stenson. "Regular eye exams are essential to detect diabetes and its ocular complications early and to treat them promptly and effectively, especially since more than 90 percent of severe vision loss and blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy can be prevented with proper eyecare," she added.

An important component of preventative and maintenance eyecare is the prescription of appropriate eyewear to protect the eyes from such risk factors as impact and ultraviolet radiation and to promote quality of vision, visual comfort, and visual convenience for the wearer. Spectacle lens enhancements, such as photochromic lenses, represent an excellent choice for the diabetic individual. They provide continuous 100% protection from UVA and UVB, and, because they titrate incoming light for the wearer, they enhance contrast, reduce glare, and promote visual comfort and convenience under varying conditions of illumination. This serves to decrease eye strain and eye fatigue.

"The most important advice I can offer to individuals with diabetes is to take proper care of themselves -- and of their eyes. Many, if not most, of the devastating complications of diabetes in the eyes, as well as in the rest of the body, are potentially preventable or treatable. I would also advise any individuals who may not have diabetes -- or may not be aware that they have diabetes, since as many as 50% of diabetics remain undiagnosed -- of the importance of regular medical and ophthalmic screening, particularly in the presence of such risk factors for diabetes as obesity or a family history of the disease. Talk to your eyecare professional about scheduling an appointment for a complete eye exam," Dr. Stenson concluded.

Additional Findings from Transitions Optical and the World Health Organization:

-- More than 90 percent of severe vision loss and blindness caused by
diabetic retinopathy can be prevented with proper eyecare

-- Between 21 and 45 percent of diabetics do not receive regular eye

-- Between 17 and 37 percent of diabetics do not wear protective eyewear,
such as prescription or non-prescription sunglasses or photochromic
lenses, like Transitions(R) lenses

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