Thursday, August 27, 2009

Red Cross Survey Finds Overwhelming Majority of Public Taking Steps against H1N1 Flu Virus

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A recent poll on the H1N1 flu conducted by the American Red Cross found that more Americans are taking or planning on taking extra measures to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissue (78%) or wash their hands more carefully (76%) to avoid getting the flu.

The survey also found that 62 percent plan on being vaccinated against this new flu virus if one is offered.

While only 1 in 10 of those surveyed by the Red Cross claimed to be very worried about H1N1 flu (swine flu), results show people have a strong interest in taking protective actions.

The survey found that 93 percent of Americans are taking or planning to take at least one action to guard against this new flu. Nearly half of those surveyed (46%) plan on assembling a two-week supply of food, water and medicine that they might need in the event they or someone in their family becomes sick and need to stay home for extended periods of time.

"Even though most Americans aren't extremely worried about the virus, they seem interested in taking steps to protect themselves and their families," said Scott Conner, Red Cross senior vice president of preparedness and health and safety services. "Taking those basic steps -- such as washing your hands more frequently and remaining at home if you are sick become even more important as the new flu season approaches."

The survey results also found that women are more likely to take protective actions, with 84 percent making an extra effort to cover coughs and sneezes (versus 71 percent for men), and 81 percent washing their hands more carefully and more often (compared to 71 percent for men).

However, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that a vaccine may not be available until later this fall, the Red Cross is urging people to remember these simple actions to help guard against the flu:

-- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or
sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don't
have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
-- Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water,
especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are
also effective.
-- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
-- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are
feeling sick.

As with any emergency, the Red Cross encourages people to prepare by getting an emergency kit, making a plan and being informed.

Later this fall, the Red Cross will be releasing a Pandemic Flu educational program for small businesses to help raise awareness and educate workplaces on what to expect and how to plan for a pandemic. Smaller companies often operate with fewer resources and limited capacity compared to their larger counterparts and can be particularly at risk for disruptions resulting from a flu pandemic.

More information about H1N1 and the seasonal flu is available at This site contains video resources, preparedness tips and information about how to help lessen the spread of the flu virus. The Red Cross also has products available at to help people protect themselves against the flu.

The telephone survey of 1,002 U.S. adults 18 years and older was conducted July 17-20, 2009 by CARAVAN(R) Opinion Research Corporation. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beat economy-induced stress with massage therapists’ secrets

(ARA) – Your shoulders are tight, your head throbs, your heart pounds and you don’t recall the last night you slept peacefully. Whether it’s because your 401(k) statement just arrived or you’re dreading the up-coming holiday shopping season, you – like millions of other Americans these days – are probably feeling economy-induced stress.

Whatever its source, prolonged stress can have serious health consequences – a well-known fact that may contribute to Americans’ willingness to spend money on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), like massage therapy. In 2007, Americans spent $33.9 billion on CAM, according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. And that was at least a year before most of us realized just how bad the economy had become.

“Even during these tough economic times, massage is thriving because more and more it is seen as a cost-effective way to influence your overall health,” says Grant Lessard, director of education for Cortiva Institute in Scottsdale. “For some who have had to make other sacrifices, massage is seen as an inexpensive substitute for more costly stress relievers such as vacations or extended time off from work.”

“Not enough has been written about the benefits of laying down and doing nothing for an hour in the day,” says Lisa Santoro, an instructor at Cortiva Institute - Boston. “Having someone work lotion or oil into the largest organ of the body, the skin, while relieving muscle tension at the same time, is an added bonus to just laying down.”

The professionals of Cortiva Institute, a network of massage therapy schools across the country, offer some helpful hints for easing your economy-induced stress:

Start with your eyes

“Many people are on computers during the day, whether for doing a job or trying to find a job,” Santoro says. “The eyes endure a lot of stress from staying focused on such a small area (the computer screen) for long periods of time.”

Santoro recommends giving your eyes a two-minute break every few hours. “Place your palms over your eyes to block out all light. If possible, lean back so the eyes can sink into the socket, which can be even more restful,” she says. “Do this for two minutes, breathing deeply. Just this simple two-minute rest can do wonders for increasing comfort and decreasing stress on the eyes.”

A getaway without going away

“Massage provides a positive and relaxing sensory experience,” says William Ensminger, co-director of the student clinic at Cortiva Institute - Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy. “The rest of the world goes away and you get a mini vacation.”

“Massage therapy has been found to elicit an energy-conserving state and decrease the levels of pain and stress chemicals in the body, as well as decrease blood pressure,” says Deanna Sylvester, education director at Cortiva Institute - Tucson. “Your time with a massage therapist feels good because you are slowing down, and you continue to feel good afterward because of the physiological changes that occur due to the treatment.”

Make time in your day

Don’t have time or resources to get a massage? “Take a few deep breaths, grab your foot and start to massage,” Ensminger suggests. “Your feet take a beating. Give them a treat and pamper them yourself. Feet don’t care who massages them, and you will reap the rewards.”

If you’re at work and massaging your feet isn’t an option, you can relax by massaging your hands for a few minutes, he adds. “Concentrate on slow, deep breaths. Massage the whole hand – the palm, the fingers and thumb, even between the fingers.”

A professional massage might be more affordable than you think, and there are good reasons to invest in one. “Allowing yourself to get a massage regularly is not only physically and mentally beneficial, it will give you something to look forward to and motivation for completing whatever tasks daunt you,” says Kathy Lee, graduate resources coordinator of Cortiva Institute - Tucson.

To find an affordable massage therapist, check with massage schools in your area to find out if they offer a student clinic, Ensminger suggests. “It’s a great way to try different therapies and therapists to see what style you like best. You can also check with your chiropractor’s office. Many now have a massage therapist on staff.”

Another way massage can help you relieve economy-induced stress is by providing a challenging, meaningful and financially rewarding career, the Cortiva staff agree. If you’re out of work or just looking for a career change, you can achieve a professional credential and be prepared for a job in massage with as little as six months of training.

“Many people have taken mandatory salary cuts, and massage can be a versatile alternative to make up the difference in income,” says Jeff Mann, president of Cortiva Institute - Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy. “They can ease their stress because massage therapy can provide the flexibility they need with a minimal investment. It works as a full-time or part-time career option.”

“Massage is a career that fits around your life, versus life fitting around your career,” Santoro says. “It is very flexible, every day is different, every person is different.”

To learn more about a career in massage therapy, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Keeping Asthma Under Control

(StatePoint) A new nationwide telephone survey of 1,001 asthma patients found that while most patients with asthma understand the risks associated with uncontrolled asthma, they don't always act accordingly.

"This finding demonstrates a serious disconnect between the perceived consequences of uncontrolled asthma and the necessary steps people should take to achieve better control," explains Dr. Shailen Shah, an asthma expert with PA Allergy and Asthma Consultants. "Some people believe that asthma goes away when their symptoms do, but asthma is a chronic disease. The good news is that with the appropriate treatment regimen, the inflammation that causes the symptoms may be properly managed."

Additionally, there are simple steps patients can take to avoid unnecessary complications, beginning with an open discussion with a physician and taking advantage of such free patient programs like My Measures For Success (, where patients choose the offerings they want, the way they want them, from a menu of free resources.

Understanding Asthma

People with asthma suffer from chronic lung inflammation, with symptoms ranging from coughing and wheezing to chest tightness and shortness of breath. Additionally, asthma triggers such as air pollution, smoke, pet dander, pollen and mold can set off an asthma episode.

"Some asthma triggers that people may not initially think of are seasonal weather changes and air pollution," says Shah. "If allergens like pollen or mold trigger your asthma, or you live in an area with smog, take simple steps to limit your exposure by signing up to receive daily air quality alerts or pollen counts -- delivered right to your phone or e-mail -- at"

It's important for patients to understand that when their asthma is under control with the help of their physicians, through lifestyle modifications and the proper use of appropriate controller medication, they should exhibit few asthma symptoms.

Simple Steps to Asthma Control

A physician can help create an asthma action plan and determine if a controller medication, in addition to a rescue medication, is appropriate.

"To complement an asthma action plan, patient programs like My Measures For Success offer patients tools and resources to better help manage their disease," says Dr. Shah. "I recommend patients utilize such features as the automated doctor appointment reminders and medication reminders, to help them stay on top of their treatment program."

In addition to these unique tools offered through My Measures For Success, members also receive Success Points, awarded for regular participation in the program that can be redeemed for various health-related items.

"Using an asthma action plan in conjunction with a patient program can help patients stay in the know and in control of their asthma," Shah stresses. "By understanding proper asthma management and appropriate use of medications, patients can help maintain control over their asthma symptoms and minimize the risks associated with uncontrolled asthma."

To help make living with asthma easier, sign up for free resources at:

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Cystex "Know Your Bladder Better" Video Explains the Sex and UTI Connection

According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, frequent sexual intercourse (three or more times a week) is associated with a greater risk for a UTI compared with less frequent intercourse (less than once a week).

"An increase in sexual activity can lead to urinary tract infections and is often referred to as honeymoon cystitis, however, you don't just get cystitis on your honeymoon," says Elizabeth Kavaler, M.D., urologist and author of A Seat on the Aisle, Please! The Essential Guide to Urinary Tract Problems in Women (Copernicus Books, 2006). Any boost in the romance department can put you more at risk for a UTI.

The increased genital friction can more easily introduce bacteria into the female urethra (leading to the bladder), which for some women who have issues with urinating properly, can increase the chance of getting a UTI.

If you think you have a UTI you need to see a physician for proper treatment, but until then there are some things that you can do to ease the pain and keep the infection under control. Dr. Kavaler suggests drinking a lot of water, emptying your bladder frequently, and taking Cystex , an over-the-counter medication that will not only take the pain of the infection away, but it will also slow the reproduction of the bacteria in the bladder until you can see a doctor.

Visit to view the new Cystex "Know Your Bladder Better" video series , including a new video on honeymoon cystitis, or connect with Dr. Kavaler directly by visiting the new interactive "Ask the Urologist" feature to submit an informational question about bladder health.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Breathe well to live well

Breathing is an act that we do some 20,000 times each day. Breathing incorrectly can produce tension, exhaustion and vocal strain, and can interfere with athletic activity and encourage aches and illnesses. Breathing correctly, however, nourishes every fiber of our body and soul. By breathing correctly you can melt away tension and stress, improve energy or simply relax and unwind.
To breathe correctly allow your abdomen to expand when you inhale and air seems to flow in deeply to the pit of your stomach. Physical posture greatly affects breathing. In other words, if you have perfect posture and are as stiff as a board, proper breathing is not possible. We need to form our body so that it is flexible, soft and supple. A good, relaxed posture represents a more receptive way for air to flow deeply and fully.

Mollie McCarl Personal Trainer and owner of Fitness Spa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthy Lifestyles Are 'In' - Magic Bullets Are 'Out'

/PRNewswire/ -- Though years ago everyone was looking for the "magic bullet," or one habit that would reduce the risk of chronic disease, scientific researchers today recognize that it is the combination of many lifestyle factors -- including things such as eating a healthy diet, using dietary supplements and exercising regularly -- that will keep individuals healthy. Two recently released studies -- as well as the "Life...supplemented" consumer education program -- are helping to spread the word to consumers that an overall healthy lifestyle approach is the best way to be healthy and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine(1) this week found that individuals who followed four healthy lifestyle habits -- including never smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a healthy diet -- together reduced their risk of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases by as much as 80 percent. Specifically, the four factors were associated with a 93 percent reduced risk of diabetes, 81 percent reduced risk of heart attack, 50 percent reduced risk of stroke and 36 percent reduced risk of cancer.

Similarly, a study published at the end of July in the Journal of the American Medical Association(2), looked at a combination of healthy lifestyle choices in regards to hypertension and found that women with six healthy lifestyle habits -- including having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, a daily mean of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, a high score on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, modest alcohol intake, use of nonnarcotic analgesics less than once per week, and intake of 400 micrograms/day or more of supplemental folic acid -- resulted in a nearly 80 percent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure, which can often lead to heart attack, stroke, and other chronic diseases.

Clearly healthy habits and chronic disease prevention go hand in hand, but it's also important to point out that one healthy habit may influence other healthy habits. A 2008 survey fielded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition(3) found that those consumers who take vitamins and other dietary supplements are more likely than non-users of supplements to also try to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, visit their doctor regularly and get a good night's sleep.

"Consumers who engage in one healthy habit are likely to engage in many healthy habits as part of their overall preventative lifestyle approach," said Douglas MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN. "One theory for this is that the discipline required to engage in one healthy habit influences other daily health decisions."

What this means for consumers

"These studies are good news for consumers because they reiterate that there are many small things that individuals can do that will have big impacts on their overall health and wellness," said William Cooper, M.D., medical director of cardiovascular surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Emory University and advisor to the "Life...supplemented" campaign. "I think that many healthcare professionals would agree that healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet, taking your daily vitamins, exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough sleep are part of a healthy lifestyle that helps maintain health and prevents chronic disease."

Dr. Cooper encourages individuals to visit and take My Wellness Scorecard, a free, on-line health assessment that will ask visitors to answer 36 questions about the healthy (or not so healthy) lifestyle choices they are making including their diet, use of dietary supplements and physical activity. After the brief online questionnaire, respondents find out immediately if they are an AlphaWELL, extremely proactive about overall health; WELL, often focused on and proactive about health; WannabeWELL, recognize the importance of taking care of themselves, but sometimes find it difficult to follow through; or an OhWELL, who may need to improve their healthy lifestyle choices in most categories.

Individuals will also find easy-to-follow tips to improve their wellness profile; interesting facts about high-profile members of the "Life. . .supplemented" Wellness Cohort; a reference guide to dietary supplements; articles relating to the three pillars of health; and information about general health and wellness.

"I've had many of my patients take My Wellness Scorecard, print out the results, and bring it back to me so that we can engage in a discussion about how to improve their overall health and wellness," said Dr. Cooper, who personally takes and recommends dietary supplements including a multivitamin, fish oil, and fiber for good heart health. "I'd much rather see my patients improve their health than have to come to me for heart problems later in life. I'd like nothing better than to put myself out of business, by encouraging healthier habits."

(1) Ford E, Bergmann M, et al. Healthy Living is the Best Revenge: Findings from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition -- Potsdam Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(15):1355-1362.

F(2) Forman J, Stampfer M, et al. Diet and Lifestyle Risk Factors Associated With Incident Hypertension in Women. JAMA. 2009;302(4):401-411.

(3) 2008 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements available at

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Make September…STEPtember

STEPtember is America On the Move’s national month-long celebration highlighting how easy it is to be active and eat healthy. Individuals, families, worksites, schools, and communities can help make September STEPtember by joining the challenge at Through out the month of September, the STEPtember challenge will empower millions of Americans to experience the simplicity, power and success of living healthier through small changes.

By participating in the STEPtember challenge participants will have access to America On the Move’s free online resources that have helped hundreds of thousands of people achieve positive, lasting results.

Registering for the STEPtember Challenge is easy. All you have to do is register anytime between August 17 - September 30. Once registered, start a six-week challenge (42 days) and you can receive daily tips on nutrition and physical activity that assist in small lifestyle changes. You can also track your activity to determine your progress on the America On the Move website.

Maintaining a healthy weight depends on achieving energy balance. This is accomplished by balancing the amount of energy burned and food consumed in your day. Small changes in the types of foods you eat and in the portion sizes you choose will quickly add up to 100 reduced calories, or even more! By walking an extra mile (equivalent to 2000 steps) and reducing 100 calories (equivalent to 1 pat of butter) you’ll see how easy it can be to achieve energy balance.

The goal of STEPtember is to allow everyone to experience how small steps can lead to a healthier lifestyle and healthy weight for life.

America On the Move is a national non-profit initiative with the aim of improving quality of life-for individuals, families, communities, and society. America On the Move engages people of all ages in programs that emphasize energy balance-a balance between the amount of calories eaten and the amount of calories burned through physical activity. America On the Move research shows that achieving energy balance is an effective approach to healthy weight management. Small, specific changes in physical activity and calorie intake can make a big difference.

Unlocking Alzheimer's

As baby boomers and their parents get older, they discover that forgetfulness becomes a natural part of aging. But when do simple lapses in memory become more than just senior moments? One UWG alumna is working to uncover the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as many as five million Americans are living with various stages of the disease, which is also the most common form of memory loss. Dr. Alexis Abramson ’94, gerontologist and Emmy award-winning journalist, said patients and caregivers often confuse Alzheimer’s disease with other forms of dementia because they all result in a loss of brain function.

“The best way to differentiate the two is to recognize that dementia is a gradual loss of intellectual functioning and Alzheimer’s is a loss of memory primarily in older adults,” she said. “Specifically, dementia is when an individual’s thinking processes deteriorate, affecting the person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Alzheimer’s, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of all dementia cases, occurs among older adults and slowly controls the brain’s thoughts, memory and language areas.”

Memory loss is a symptom of vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Pick’s disease. According to Abramson, it is therefore “critical that individuals talk with their physicians and get a proper diagnosis, not only because some forms of dementia can be treated, but because they all require families to develop a plan on how to address their situation.”
A doctor may prescribe medication to help control behavioral symptoms of the disease and suggest counseling on safety practices and memory training.

“Medication and counseling may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms, which could minimize the effect of Alzheimer’s,” Abramson said. “This can provide patients with comfort, dignity and independence for a longer period of time.”

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Largest Survey of Its Kind Finds That People With Psoriasis Are at Risk for Other Medical Conditions

/PRNewswire/ -- Emerging research reveals that people with psoriasis are at risk for developing other serious medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. According to a new study by the National Psoriasis Foundation, of 5,000 people with psoriasis, nearly two-thirds report having at least one other critical health problem.

Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. Appearing on the skin most often as red scaly patches that itch and bleed, psoriasis is chronic, painful, disfiguring and disabling. There is no cure for psoriasis.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation patient survey:
-- Nearly 70 percent of people with psoriasis are overweight or obese.
-- 33 percent have high blood pressure.
-- 28 percent have another chronic, inflammatory disease such as lupus,
Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis.
-- 24 percent have high cholesterol.
-- 11 percent have diabetes.

"This data reinforces what we've known all along. Psoriasis is a very serious condition that impacts the body well beyond the skin," said Mark Lebwohl, M.D., professor and chairman of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board. "Like any patient with a chronic disease, people with psoriasis must see their doctor regularly and adopt a healthy lifestyle to lessen their risk of developing another serious disease."

Additionally, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, swelling and stiffness around the joints. People with mild psoriasis are just as likely to develop psoriatic arthritis as those with moderate or severe forms of the disease.

The National Psoriasis Foundation urges people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to work with their dermatologists to find an appropriate treatment regimen to help manage their disease.

The organization also encourages patients to pay careful attention to their joints and to see a doctor if they experience tenderness or pain over tendons, swollen fingers or toes, changes to the nails such as pitting, or morning stiffness or tiredness, which could indicate the onset of psoriatic arthritis.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and the National Psoriasis Foundation is working to raise awareness about the physical, social and emotional impact of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Off-Roading With Safety: CPSC Reminder To Yamaha Rhino Riders To Stay Safe This Summer

Summer is here and that means off-road riding is in high season in many communities. As side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) continue to gain in popularity, so does the number of reports to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of injuries and deaths involving these vehicles. Even though ROVs have a roll cage and seat belts, CPSC urges all riders and passengers to remain vigilant about safety before hitting the trails and while off-roading.

CPSC's safety message is especially targeted at Yamaha Rhino drivers and passengers. In March 2009, a free vehicle repair and helmet giveaway was offered to all owners of Rhino model 450, 660 and 700 ROVs, in order to enhance stability and reduce the potential for rollover, as well as improve occupant protection. About 145,000 vehicles were affected, and we urge every owner to act now to bring their Rhino into a Yamaha dealership for the free upgrades.

CPSC believes that in order to provide a safer ride, all Rhinos must have half-doors, additional passenger handholds, spacers on the rear wheels, and the rear anti-sway bar removed. Consumers should immediately stop using Rhino ROVs until the repairs are installed by a dealer. While these repairs will improve the safety of these vehicles, the repairs alone are not enough. Owners of vehicles should be sure that riders and passengers:

wear their seat belt properly every time,
strap on their helmet every time,
follow on-product warnings,
never remove the half-doors,
never allow a child younger than 16 to drive,
never allow a child to be a passenger if he/she is unable to place both feet on the floorboard with his/her back against the seat, and
only operate off-road-the Rhino is not designed for use on public roads or paved surfaces.

Improving the safety system of the vehicle, combined with occupant attention to safe riding practices, will lead to reduced deaths and injuries.

As of June 23, 2009, CPSC staff has received reports of nearly 60 fatalities involving the 450, 660 and 700 models of the Yamaha Rhino. A number of very serious injuries have also been reported, including injuries to the head and neck, and incidents requiring surgical amputation of victims' arms, legs, and fingers. Many of these cases appear to have involved rollovers at relatively low speeds and on level terrain.

For additional information on the free Rhino repair program, contact Yamaha at 800-962-7926 anytime, or visit the firm's Web site at To report consumer product related incidents contact CPSC's Hotline at 1-800-628-2772 or visit CPSC's website at .

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Teens At Risk For Pertussis: High School Students May Be Missing An Important Immunization

(NAPSI)-Many older teens may be at risk for pertussis, or whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that can cause difficulty breathing and sleeping, and lengthy absence from school. Whooping cough has been on the rise among adolescents in the past few decades, and numerous outbreaks have been reported across the country this year.

Infants are routinely vaccinated against pertussis, but immunity wanes over five to ten years, leaving adolescents vulnerable to the disease. To help protect adolescents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been recommending a tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine, often called a Tdap booster, for 11-12 year olds since 2006. That means today's older adolescents (those 15-18 years of age) may not have received the vaccine when they were preteens because it wasn't available yet. "Many older teens have fallen through the cracks," says Dr. Joseph Domachowske, professor of pediatrics and immunology specialist at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y. "In fact, a CDC survey found that only 19 percent of 17 year olds have been immunized against the disease."

About Pertussis

Pertussis is highly contagious. In fact, 50 to 80 percent of unvaccinated children who are in school with someone who has pertussis will also catch the disease. On average, students can miss up to five and a half days of school. The disease is easily mistaken for a common cold or bronchitis among adolescents and adults during its early stages.

What Parents Can Do

Fortunately, parents can help protect their teens with the Tdap booster. "Many schools have recently mandated the Tdap vaccine for sixth or seventh graders and we are seeing higher immunization rates among these younger adolescents than we are among high schoolers," says Dr. Domachowske. "The bottom line is whether or not your school requires the pertussis booster, if your 11-18 year old hasn't had it, he or she is at risk for the disease. You should talk to your health-care provider to ensure that your teens are up-to-date on this immunization."

Learn More

For more information, visit

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Cheerleading is Leading Cause of Catastrophic Injury in Young Women

/PRNewswire/ -- As a bright, young cheerleader trying out for the high school varsity squad, 14-year-old Laura Jackson had everything going for her.

But when a back flip went wrong during a try-out without a trained spotter on hand, Laura landed on her head fracturing her neck and damaging her spinal cord. Laura is now paralyzed and breathes with the help of a ventilator.

Cheerleading has become the leading cause of catastrophic injury in young female athletes, says Amy Miller Bohn, a physician at the UMHS department of family medicine.

Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that rates of injuries from cheerleading accidents have gone from nearly 5,000 in 1980 to close to 26,000 to 28,000 in the past few years, Miller Bohn says.

In addition, the leading cause of catastrophic injuries in female athletes is cheerleading, according to The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. They account for approximately 65 to 66 percent of all female catastrophic injuries in either high school or college.

"If you look at cheerleading injuries, most of them are still more the common types of things that we should think about - muscle strains or pulls, ligament injuries, tendon injuries," Miller Bohn says. "The concern is that there are certainly a fair number of increasingly severe injuries."

Because of the increase in degree of difficulty in cheerleading skills, increased acrobatics and stunt activities may be increasing the risk of severity of injury.

Catastrophic injuries seen in cheerleading involve either death, injuries that results in disability that are often related to head trauma or spine trauma. Doctors are also seeing more injuries that a person may not be able to recover from completely - such as concussions or severe fractures.

Cheerleading injuries appear to be on the rise partly because of an increase in participants, but the sport has also changed significantly in the last 25 years. Cheerleading no longer consists of athletes standing on the sidelines, rooting for a team.

"Cheerleading has become an actual competitive sport," she says.

If participants want to be one of the better teams, compete at high levels and be invited to competitions, athletes must include a higher degree of difficulty and risk in routines. This means fewer traditional pyramids and more tossing people in the air, jumping off pyramids and trying risky stunts," Miller Bohn says.

Miller Bohn believes there aren't enough safety measures in place in schools. Many athletes will practice in places such as a back yard, a hard gym floor or a parking lot. There are often no supportive surfaces to shield them from falls.

Participants also lack adequate supervision. If an adequately trained coach is not present to ensure participants are using proper techniques and make sure spotters are placed where they should, injuries may occur.

In addition, there is no uniformity in training of cheerleading coaches. They can range from a child's parent, a former cheerleader, to someone with a high level of training in gymnastics.

What can parents and school officials do to help prevent injuries?

An area to focus in is coaching staff. It's recommended that a coach have experience in first aid and CPR training. It's also preferred that they have good training in how to coach athletes in regard to their development, strength, conditioning, and flexibility. They should also have experience in coaching and how they perform these activities, technique and how they are supported and monitored, ensuring there's always someone around to be at practices and to be present to make changes if something looks unsafe.

Another area of concern is equipment. A spring loaded floor is a good idea to prevent injuries and to cushion a fall. Mats are also important.

Parents whose children are interested in cheerleading should ask questions about the coach's experience, what type of athletes the coach has worked with and if they have experience with gymnastics stunt work. They also need to know what the plan is for that cheerleading squad, what types of activities they will perform, who is supervising and where activities will be performed.

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Millions Of U.S. Children Low In Vitamin D

/PRNewswire/ -- Seven out of ten U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D, raising their risk of bone and heart disease, according to a study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The striking findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency could place millions of children at risk for high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease.

The study, "Prevalence and Associations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Deficiency in Children and Adolescents in the United States: Results from NHANES 2001-2004," was published today in the online edition of Pediatrics.

"Several small studies had found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in specific populations, but no one had examined this issue nationwide," says study leader Michal L. Melamed, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and of epidemiology & population health at Einstein. Dr. Melamed has published extensively on the importance of vitamin D.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 6,000 children, ages one to 21, collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2004. They found that 9 percent of the study sample, equivalent to 7.6 million children across the U.S., was vitamin D deficient (defined as less than 15 ng/mL of blood), while another 61 percent, or 50.8 million, was vitamin D insufficient (15 to 29 ng/mL). Low vitamin D levels were especially common in children who were older, female, African-American, Mexican-American, obese, drank milk less than once a week, or spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames, or using computers.

The researchers also found that low levels of vitamin D deficiency were associated with poor bone health, higher systolic blood pressure, and lower calcium levels and HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which are key risk factors for heart disease.

"We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking," says lead author Juhi Kumar, M.D., M.P.H., a fellow in pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The authors recommend that pediatricians should routinely screen high-risk children for vitamin D deficiency, and that parents should ensure that their kids get adequate amounts of the vitamin through a combination of diet, supplements, and exposure to sunlight.

As for parents, says Dr. Melamed, "It would good for them to turn off the TV and send their kids outside. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day should be enough. And unless they burn easily, don't put sunscreen on them until they've been out in the sun for 10 minutes, so they get the good stuff but not sun damage."

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