Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Heart Association Media Advisory: CDC Says Arthritis Pain May Keep People with Heart Disease Physically Inactive

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing that arthritis may create an additional barrier to using physical activity to help people manage their heart disease. Adults with both heart disease and arthritis are significantly more likely to be physically inactive than those with heart disease alone, the study said.

The study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), found that arthritis is common among those having heart disease. Approximately 57 percent of adults with heart disease have arthritis.

The American Heart Association has long recommended physical activity for both prevention of and recovery from heart disease. The association supports the national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans issued by Health and Human Services in 2008, which specify that people with chronic conditions may require an activity plan that integrates preventive and therapeutic recommendations. This includes those adults with arthritis.

The recommendations specify that adults with osteoarthritis should get regular physical activity to lower their risk of getting other chronic diseases such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes and to help maintain body weight. People with osteoarthritis should match the type and amount of physical activity to their abilities and the severity of their condition. Most people can usually do moderate-intensity activity for 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week or more, and may choose to be active three to five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes per episode. For more information on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, visit: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter7.aspx

The American Heart Association encourages physical activity among all Americans to help prevent heart disease and combat obesity, and focuses on walking because it's an activity that almost everyone can do.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recently Reported Childhood Deaths from Influenza Are a Stark Reminder to Vaccinate Now

/PRNewswire/ -- In recent weeks, a number of childhood deaths across the country have been linked to influenza. These tragic reports underscore the importance of preventing this serious and sometimes deadly disease with an annual flu vaccine.

Influenza vaccine is still available and with influenza activity at a relatively high level across the country, now is the time for anyone who hasn't yet gotten the vaccine to do so. It takes about two weeks for the body to develop protection after receiving an influenza vaccine. The Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition (CIIC) urges everyone who raises and cares for children to make sure those kids are vaccinated against influenza as soon as possible.

"Most people use the term "flu" generically, to describe a number of different viruses that circulate in winter months (between December and May), but true influenza is much more severe than these other viruses," said Dr. Carol J. Baker, Immediate Past President of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and Chair of CIIC. "It's also preventable. Unfortunately far too few kids get the vaccine each year. As a pediatrician, it is devastating to see kids suffer needlessly."

National health experts recommend that all kids 6 months through 18 years of age receive an annual vaccination. Younger children and those with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are at particularly increased risk for severe complications from the flu. Because infants younger than 6 months cannot be vaccinated themselves, parents must protect them by making sure those around them are vaccinated.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Young Smokers Increase Risk for Multiple Sclerosis

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- People who start smoking before age 17 may increase their risk for developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25 to May 2, 2009.

The study involved 87 people with MS who were among more than 30,000 people in a larger study. The people with MS were divided into three groups: non-smokers, early smokers (smokers who began before age 17), and late smokers (those who started smoking at 17 or older), and matched by age, gender, and race to 435 people without MS.

Early smokers were 2.7 times more likely to develop MS than nonsmokers. Late smokers did not have an increased risk for the disease. More than 32 percent of the MS patients were early smokers, compared to 19 percent of the people without MS.

"Studies show that environmental factors play a prominent role in multiple sclerosis," said study author Joseph Finkelstein, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD, which conducted the study in collaboration with Veterans Affairs MS Center for Excellence. "Early smoking is an environmental factor that can be avoided."

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aching Back? Cholesterol Medication Might Help

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Back pain, a hallmark of degenerative disc disease, sends millions of people to their doctor. In fact, more than 80 percent of patients who undergo spine surgery do so because of disc degeneration. And part of the answer may be as close as a patient's medicine cabinet.

In their quest to discover ways to stop or reverse degenerative disc disease, orthopaedic researchers have been removing disc tissue from patients who are having spine surgery and extracting cells from that tissue for cultivation in vitro (a controlled environment outside of a living organism). They then transfer the cells back into the patient. Shu-Hua Yang, MD, PhD, is part of a Taiwanese research team that has discovered that Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication, helps the differentiation of disc cells in vitro.

Dr. Yang, who is chief of the department of orthopedics at National Taiwan University Hospital, Yun-Lin-Branch, is presenting the group's findings in the poster "Lovastatin Helps Re-Differentiation of Human Nucleus Pulposus Cells During Monolayer Expansion" during the 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Feb. 22-25, 2009, in Las Vegas. Dr. Yang is also presenting the results of a related study, "Influences of Age-Related Degeneration on Regenerative Potential of Human Nucleus Pulposus Cells," at the same meeting. The two studies reveal the findings of a team of researchers from National Taiwan University Hospital.

In one study, the researchers removed nucleus pulposus tissues from six human patients. (Nucleus pulposus is the jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc.) The patients, ages 23 to 29, were undergoing surgery for herniated lumbar discs. Researchers then isolated the nucleus pulposus cells and eventually added Lovastatin, hoping to optimize the properties of the regenerative tissues. They hoped to maximize the expression of collagen II and minimize the expression of collagen I, two proteins involved in facilitating bone formation.

They reported the following results:
-- After 72 hours, researchers found that the number of nucleus pulposus
cells had increased.
-- Lovastatin increased the synthesis of collagen II, a protein that
makes up moveable joints, and decreased the synthesis of collagen I, a
protein that is related to fibrosis (the formation or development of
excess fibrous connective tissue).
-- Lovastatin had no cytotoxicity (the quality of being toxic) on nucleus
pulposus cells.


"Regeneration of the nucleus pulposus tissue in the early stage of intervertebral disc degeneration can theoretically retard or even reverse the degenerative process and possibly regain a healthy intervertebral disc," says Dr. Yang. "Further studies are needed to determine the potentials of statins for regeneration and repair of degenerative disc disorders."

In a related study, Dr. Yang and his fellow researchers looked at how the patient's age affected the suitability of nucleus pulposus tissue for regeneration.

Researchers removed tissue from two groups -- adolescent patients (who were undergoing surgery for scoliosis) and adult patients (who were undergoing surgery for herniated discs) -- to find out how to manipulate the cells in the healthiest way. The researchers found that the tissue of younger patients was generally more suitable for regeneration than tissue from older patients.

These two studies represent just two of the latest advances in tissue engineering. Spine surgeons at one German institute are already using cells from the discs of human patients for autologous cell transplantation (reimplanting cells back into the same individual the cells came from). Other published studies about disc degeneration have looked at animal cells, instead of human cells.

Degenerative disc disease is one of the leading sources of back and neck pain. Disc degeneration is part of the normal aging of the spine. In this condition, the spinal discs (the pillow-like pads between the bones) lose their cushioning. When this happens, it can cause persistent pain in the lower back, legs, neck or arms. Treatments for pain can include medications and physical therapy. Sometimes surgery is needed if the pain is severe and keeps a person from participating in everyday activities.

Abstracts of both studies are available online at http://www.ors.org/web/Media.asp.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women Only: Cramps, Bloating and Now, Tooth Erosion?

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Monthly menstrual cycles produce many uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, symptoms, which can include cramps, headaches and bloating. With more intense, painful menstruation, a condition otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, regular vomiting also is a symptom. This monthly recurrence can cause severe tooth erosion, according to a study in the November/December 2008 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

This condition often masquerades as an eating disorder, since both dysmenorrhea and bulimia nervosa cause noticeable erosion on the back of the front teeth of the top jaw as a result of the exposure to stomach acid. However, it is imperative that patients understand the main distinguishing factor between the two conditions.

"Whereas bulimia nervosa is a voluntary act - the woman induces vomiting herself - dysmenorrhea is involuntary," says Mohamed Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD, author of the study. "Contractions in the uterus or the abdominal wall force the patient to vomit without any cause."

Due to its uncontrollable force, dysmenorrhea also creates a different erosion pattern on the teeth. "A dentist can tell when a patient suffers from bulimia or dysmenorrhea, due to the distinct erosion patterns," says Dr. Bassiouny. "When vomiting is voluntary, the individual controls the direction and force," he says. "The tongue creates a tunnel which protects, in most instances the back teeth. When a patient has dysmenorrhea, the erosion affects almost all surfaces of the dentition to varying extents."

Dr. Bassiouny also notes that many women are affected by dysmenorrhea without knowing that the condition exists. "Roughly 52 percent of the population suffers from the condition," he says, "and women who are affected by dysmenorrhea usually do not detect the damage to their teeth until later in life." In his research, women become aware of dysmenorrhea's effects on teeth in their 50s or 60s, whereas women who suffer from bulimia do so most commonly in their 20s or 30s due to the fast rate of destruction by the frequent voluntary vomiting. The symptoms of dysmenorrhea, he says, can occur every three to four weeks and even outside of the traditional cycle, and last between 10-12 days.

When severe erosion occurs, "the tooth enamel is worn down, exposing the nerve endings of the teeth, which results in tooth sensitivity," says Connie White, DDS, FAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. Although erosion is not reversible, Dr. White says, dentists can help reduce the effects of the acid on the teeth by advising them on proper care. Patients should "rinse the mouth thoroughly during episodes of vomiting and avoid immediate brushing of the area. Brushing right after vomiting actually worsens the effects of the acid because it rubs the acid into the teeth."

According to Dr. Bassiouny, to treat the condition it is imperative that women inform all health professionals of the symptoms. "The condition and associated dental fallout are not purely medical or purely dental," he says. "Women who suffer from dysmenorrhea need to be treated by a gynecologist for internal causes and by the dentist to restore and prevent further damage to the dentition. This coordinated effort of management is the best course of action."

Dental effects of dysmenorrhea:
-- Teeth may show loss of enamel
-- Exposed dentin of affected teeth may appear brownish
-- Sensitivity due to dental erosion
-- Teeth appear shorter
-- Disfigurement of facial esthetics

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On 100th Anniversary, Mental Health America Declares 'It's Time for Mental Health'

/PRNewswire/ -- Mental Health America, the country's oldest and leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all Americans live mentally healthier lives, today called for action on urgent challenges facing the country declaring, "It's Time for Mental Health."

Founded a century ago today, Mental Health America pointed to the negative impact of the economic crisis on families' mental health, and the difficulties faced by thousands of soldiers and returning servicemen and women who are still living with the trauma of war.

Mental Health America urged business and elected leaders to recognize the importance of mental health and invest in programs and policies so it is integral to overall health.

"We possess the knowledge and techniques that can help millions of Americans manage threats to their mental health, stay resilient and live healthy and productive lives," said David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO of Mental Health America. "But they are not reaching the people who need them most. We cannot and should not wait for another time of trauma and tragedy to make them available. It's time for mental health."

Founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers, a young businessman who experienced firsthand the treatment of individuals with a mental illness, Mental Health America (then called the National Committee for Mental Hygiene) was the first association of its kind and the beginning of what we now know as the organized mental health movement in America.

In any given year, over 60 million adult Americans have a mental health condition and twenty percent of children have a mental health condition serious enough to hinder their ability to learn. Mental health and substance abuse problems are among the most chronic and disabling of all medical conditions, driving up health costs and destroying employee productivity and school achievement. People with serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than the rest of the population.

But over two-thirds of adults and over one-half of children with a diagnosable mental health condition do not receive the treatment and services they need. Yet, these conditions are just as treatable as other medical conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Decades of rigorous scientific work have shown that mental illnesses are diseases of the brain and therefore can be reliably diagnosed and effectively treated. Recovery is not only possible, but likely.

Mental Health America, which worked to pass mental health parity legislation last fall, said health reform proposals present an opportunity to expand services and access if concerted action is taken.

But it also called on corporate America to follow the lead of many major companies that are expanding mental health services through the workplace and finding it helps their bottom line and benefits their workers' health.

To continue efforts to end the prejudice and discrimination, Mental Health America today launched its realLIVES program, a unique online community where mental health consumers can share their stories of living with mental health conditions. Through their courage to speak out, participants give voice to the nearly 60 million American adults who have a mental health condition. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/reallives.

National leaders and long-time advocates in the mental health field today praised Mental Health America on its century of achievement:

"I extend my warmest congratulations to Mental Health America on reaching its 100th Anniversary. This extraordinary day honors the remarkable accomplishments of the oldest mental health association in the nation and its longstanding care and concern for the rights of persons with mental illness. The organization has improved the lives of countless citizens and has called constant attention to their needs. It deserves great credit for the progress we have made over the years, and continue to make today, in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness."--Senator Edward M. Kennedy

"I applaud Mental Health America for its century of outstanding work on behalf of individuals with mental illness. As someone who has worked on mental health issues for more than three decades, I know how imperative it is to have the grassroots advocacy and leadership of Mental Health America to keep this issue on the forefront of our national agenda. The passage of the Mental Health Parity Act, which Mental Health America championed, has been a great achievement, but we must continue to work together across our nation to ensure that prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, and recovery are available to everyone who experiences mental illness."--Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

"I want to commend and congratulate Mental Health America for its 100 year record of achievement and advocacy on behalf of people with mental illness. From the earliest days of your founding, when Clifford Beers was speaking out about changing the public's attitudes toward people with mental illness, you have led the sea change of reducing stigma and providing hope. Your efforts have not only changed the way we as a nation view mental illness, but also have opened the door for new and more effective treatments and a focus on prevention. As the first association of its kind, you have paved the way for future health advocacy efforts and helped elevate mental health and wellness on our national agenda."--Tipper Gore

"As you embark upon the centennial year celebration of Mental Health America you should be proud of the work you have done and the progress we are making in moving the mental health agenda forward. Working with you has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career."--Dr. David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General of the United States

For fact sheets and additional information on mental health issues and conditions, go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation--everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Learn How To Make Your Home Asthma-Healthy with Newly Released Guidelines

(NAPSI)-One common asthma myth is that asthma triggers are found mostly outdoors. In fact, asthma triggers can be found everywhere-outdoors, at work and inside the home. Asthma affects over 20 million Americans and it is estimated that many Americans may spend 90 percent of their time indoors, therefore making indoor air quality extremely important for asthma patients, especially during the cold winter months.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), in collaboration with Merck, wants to dispel this myth with a new resource guide to help patients with asthma better control their indoor environments. The Guide for Creating an Asthma-Healthy Home offers a list of common indoor asthma triggers-from allergens to irritants-as well as useful, easy "tips" for reducing asthma triggers in every room of the house. Examples of tips include how to kill dust mites, waterproof your home and reduce exposure to irritants. The guide also provides tips on cleaning and maintaining an asthma-healthy home and information about building or remodeling a home by using asthma-healthy materials and fabrics.

Asthma triggers are not just found outdoors; indoor triggers can include dust, mold, and pet dander as well as chemicals found in cleaning products, potpourri, and air fresheners. In fact, the indoor environment may expose people to more asthma triggers than anywhere else. "Many asthma sufferers are unaware of how critical proper indoor air quality control is for the management of their disease," said AAFA spokesperson Mike Tringale. "This is why we have created a guide to educate patients and provide them with simple steps that will help make their home asthma-healthy. By getting better control of their indoor environment, asthma patients can take an active role in helping their asthma get under control."

There are two main types of indoor asthma triggers, including:

• Allergens, such as animal dander, cockroaches, dust mites and mold, which can be found in common household furniture and materials.

• Irritants, which are particles that can pollute indoor air and irritate the airways in the lungs. They are commonly found in certain types of paints, varnishes, waxes, solvents, cleaning products and more.

The Guide for Creating an Asthma-Healthy Home contains easy-to-follow, room-by-room tips for creating an asthma-healthy home. Some key pointers include:

• Get rid of dust mites:

-Use dust mite-resistant mattresses and pillowcases and wash sheets once a week in 130-degree water to kill dust mites and their eggs

• Never eat in bed, replace mattresses every ten years and vacuum floors and wipe dust off furniture weekly

• Opt for blinds and shades rather than heavy drapes and curtains

• Wash your child's plush toys regularly. You can also freeze them for 24 hours to kill mites

• Waterproof your home to avoid mold/mildew:

-Fix leaky pipes

-Use a fan/vent when showering to keep air circulating and reducing moisture

-Use easy-to-clean flooring and avoid carpeting where moisture can get trapped and encourage mold

• Avoid irritants:

-Avoid scented products like candles, air fresheners and potpourri

-Avoid wood-burning fireplaces as well as kerosene heaters

-Learn about common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be in cleaning products, paints, solvents, varnishes, etc., so that you can better avoid them.

It's important for people to discuss their asthma symptoms with their doctor to achieve asthma control. People need to understand the myths versus facts about asthma. Get started by visiting www.ASTHMyths.com, where you can download a free brochure to help start a conversation with your doctor about asthma control. You will also find AAFA's Guide for Creating an Asthma-Healthy Home, which provides additional easy tips on making your home asthma-healthy so that you can have better control over indoor allergens and ultimately over asthma. Reducing the sources of triggers and exposure to triggers is called environmental control, and it is a cornerstone of modern asthma management.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tips For Developing Good Sportsmanship

(NAPSI)-There may be good news for people concerned about what they think is a lack of sportsmanship in America.

A program created to reward and recognize sportsmanship on and off the field has developed a set of practical steps that parents and others can take to encourage fair play in youngsters and adults alike.

Tips To Help

• ABCs of sportsmanship. Teach sportsmanship as part of the fundamentals of the sport. Sportsmanship isn't naturally learned and must be taught daily.

• Go team. Parents should cheer for the team, not just their child, to teach the importance of being part of a group.

• Reward the positive. Give game balls, provide privileges for the "best sport of the game" or give the opposing team an award.

• More than the handshake. Start new end-of-the-game rituals that highlight sportsmanship. From creating a special song to a new ceremony, create an atmosphere that's positive.

• Be a reporter. Call or e-mail the media when witnessing great displays of sportsmanship to spread good news.

• Form a sports support group. Join forces with parents, coaches and community leaders.

Expert Advice

Consider the advice of LaVell Edwards, the legendary former coach of the Brigham Young University Cougars football team and chair of the blue-ribbon panel that selects the winner of the national ARA Sportsmanship Award. The award is given annually to a college senior who excels at sportsmanship on and off the football field.

Said Edwards, "This is an issue we need to address at the grade- school level and with coaches and parents everywhere."

The Good News

A higher percentage of Americans (83 percent) report they have witnessed positive displays of sportsmanship than have seen bad sportsmanship (78 percent).

That's according to a national sportsmanship survey fielded by TNS for the Awards and Recognition Association (ARA), an international trade association whose members are specialists in recognizing people through awards, trophies and other forms of appreciation.

Learn More

To learn more, visit www.arasportsmanshipaward.com.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

COPD: Learn More About It

(NAPSI)-What's the difference between awareness and understanding? The answer could save your life.

COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. It is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. A recent national survey found that while awareness of COPD is growing, understanding of the disease, its risk factors and symptoms remains low.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health analyzed results from the annual HealthStyles survey of American public health attitudes. The NHLBI found that 64 percent of respondents have heard of COPD (this up from 49 percent in a similar survey conducted in 2004). However, most respondents could not name smoking as a key risk factor for COPD, and many did not recognize chronic cough or "smoker's cough" as a common symptom of the disease.

"While we applaud the millions of Americans who have heeded the public health community's call to quit smoking, it's important that both current and former smokers know that they remain at risk for COPD," said James P. Kiley, Ph.D., of the NHLBI.

COPD kills more than 120,000 Americans each year. The NHLBI estimates that half of the 24 million living with COPD do not know they have the disease. With COPD, the airways of the lungs are narrowed, making it hard to get air out and causing an "out of breath" feeling. Other symptoms include frequent coughing, excess mucus and wheezing. Most people with COPD are over 40 with a history of smoking or long-term exposure to fumes or pollutants in the environment.

If you think you might be at risk for COPD, the NHLBI recommends that you ask your doctor about a simple breathing test called spirometry. The lung function test involves breathing out as hard and fast as you can into a tube connected to a machine, and it can be done right in the doctor's office.

If you find out you have COPD, there is hope. Many treatments are available to reduce symptoms, improve breathing and help you get back to doing more of what you used to do.

You can find out more at www.LearnAboutCOPD.org, part of the NHLBI's COPD Learn More Breathe Better® education and awareness campaign.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Valentine's Day Indulgences Can Be Heart Healthy

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The sweet delights of Valentine's Day are thought of as indulgences, but fruit, chocolate, wine and romance can be good for your heart, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Of course moderation is key when enjoying food and wine, but there are components in tart cherries, grapes and wine that can lower blood pressure and protect heart muscle. And a glass wine and massage can do wonders for lowering stress and anxiety.

"There are many fruits associated with Valentine's Day, most commonly cherries, of course," says Steven F. Bolling, M.D., professor of cardiac surgery at the U-M medical school. "In cherries there are compounds called anthocyanins, which also can be very good for your heart. Perhaps we could even take the cherries and dip them in chocolate to make a very good, heart-healthy Valentine's snack."

Not any chocolate will do. Dark chocolate is the kind that contains flavonoids credited with being good for the heart.

"People have asked the question which is better for you: red wine or white wine? Probably wine in itself is good for you, just because it reduces stress and anxiety; let's not over do it," Bolling warns. "But red wine has specific agents, perhaps in the dark skin of red wine grapes that are heart-healthy and heart-friendly."

Bolling recently published research on the benefits of grapes. A study performed in the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory showed grape intake lowered blood pressure and improved heart function in lab rats. While more research should done, the study results were encouraging.

The animals in the study were like many Americans who have high blood pressure related to their diet, particularly a salty diet. So what is it about grapes? The effect of the grapes is thought to be from the high level of phytochemicals -- naturally occurring antioxidants -- that grapes contain.

As for tart cherries, both animal studies and new clinical studies have examined their benefits. "A 'tart, heart-smart diet' has shown to be very beneficial in terms of heart health, heart function and also really reducing belly fat and changing your metabolic obesity syndrome, all very helpful," Bolling says.

Animals that received powdered tart cherries in their diet had lower total cholesterol, lower blood sugar, less fat storage in the liver, lower oxidative stress and increased production of a molecule that helps the body handle fat and sugar. Cherries were found to alter these factors that can lead to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

There are other activities associated with Valentine's Day that are heart-healthy, including massage. In the hospital setting, massage therapy is used to help patients and their families relax and reduce anxiety. Reducing stress and anxiety has long been linked with benefiting the heart.

"There is proven research that indicates that massage itself is beneficial in the post-operative state, in hospitalized patients to reduce stress and anxiety and even probably to reduce blood pressure," Bolling says.

It's possible to set the mood for a romantic and heart-healthy Valentine's Day.

"All of these indulgences really do not have to be limited to Valentine's Day itself and certainly will lead to a much better heart-health status if we practice them everyday," Bolling says.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

A Consumer Tip to Avoid Salmonella: Don't Get Turtles as Pets

Amid the Salmonella outbreak from peanut butter products, The Humane Society of the United States reminds consumers that they can avoid another source of Salmonella by not getting turtles as pets. Turtles and other reptiles carry the Salmonella bacteria and spread it to humans. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 74,000 Salmonella cases in the U.S. each year, or 6 percent, are related to reptiles and amphibians.

"Consumers can make a simple choice to protect their family's health by not getting turtles or other reptiles as pets," said Beth Preiss, director of the exotic pets campaign for The HSUS. "The trade in pet turtles is also detrimental to animal welfare and the environment."

The Salmonella risk from small turtles is so great that selling turtles less than four inches long has been prohibited in the United States since 1975. However, illegal sales continue. In 2007, an infant in Florida died from Salmonella from a pet turtle. Small children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to serious complications. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that these groups avoid contact with turtles.

Health officials in Lewis and Clark County, Mont. report that at least four cases of Salmonella infection in the county in the past year were linked to pet turtles.

For public health, environmental and animal welfare reasons, turtles belong in the wild, not as pets. For more information, visit humanesociety.org/turtles.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Great Eating And Lifestyle Tips For Heart Health Month

(StatePoint) From Valentine's Day to Heart Health Month, February is all about matters of the heart. It's a time to tell loved ones they matter. And what better way than to help you and your sweetheart get healthier than through smart lifestyle choices?

Heart and cardiovascular disease continue to be the number one killer in the U.S., according to medical statistics. With this in mind, every year since 1963 Congress and the President have proclaimed February "American Heart Month." It's a great time to get the whole family started on a healthier path.

"As a doctor and a food executive, I've seen many, many people unnecessarily suffering from heart ailments," says Dr. Peter Praeger, a practicing heart surgeon and founder of Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods. "We all know that bad eating and lifestyle habits are direct contributors to heart disease, so why not make a change in your family's lives simply by making some better choices?"

Here are some basic heart health tips from Dr. Praeger that you and your loved ones can follow:

* The key to being healthy is moderation and exercise. Keep this in mind when setting healthy living goals.

* Get your blood pressure and cholesterol screened starting at the age of 14.

* Make simple changes in your lifestyle to become more active, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

* Walking two miles per day can help keep your heart healthy.

* Focus on eating sensibly most of the time, but don't deprive yourself of all the foods you enjoy.

* Make sure your grocery list includes foods that are all-natural and preservative-free, such as Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods products.

* Eat more fiber. Eating fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains may help lower your chances of getting heart disease.

* Try to avoid foods high in trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

* When purchasing vegetables, keep in mind that the more colorful they are, the more heart-protective antioxidants they typically contain.

For ideas for heart healthy foods, visit www.drpraegers.com.

"The key to heart health and general health is to make healthful eating and lifestyle choices, no matter how old you are," stresses Dr. Praeger.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Go Red For Women(R) Hosts Casting Call to Beat No. 1 Killer of Women With Celebrity Supporter Andie MacDowell

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Women face choices every day. Some choices aren't important, while others are life changing. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., yet research shows that eighty percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women make the right choices for their hearts, involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking. That's why on February 6, 2009, National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women(R) movement is launching a nationwide search for women who have turned their personal choices into life-saving actions. Actress Andie MacDowell will help kick off the search at the second annual national casting call at New York City's Grand Central Terminal.

Go Red For Women is looking for compelling stories of choice to help ignite action and inspire others. Women who share their stories have the chance to become spokeswomen - representing the cause on GoRedForWomen.org, in media appearances, advertising, billboards, at events and possibly in a nationally televised special on women and heart disease, airing on NBC in the fall of 2009.

"As I celebrate life, I can't help but think how young my mom was when she died of a heart attack at 53. My mom didn't get to meet her grandchildren, but I'm determined to watch mine grow up," said Andie MacDowell, actress and Go Red For Women supporter. "Right now, one in three women die of heart disease, but we can choose to beat it, using the tools and support provided by Go Red For Women."

The Importance of Heart-Healthy Choices

"Choosing to ignore your heart health may not seem life changing today, but more women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer," said Jennifer H. Mieres, M.D., Go Red For Women spokeswoman and director of Nuclear Cardiology at New York University. "Heart disease is largely preventable if women choose to act, and our research shows that women who 'Go Red' are very likely to make new potentially life-saving choices."

Alarming heart health statistics include:
-- Cardiovascular disease kills more than 450,000 women each year, which
is about one every minute.
-- Only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is her greatest health
threat.
-- Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease
have no previous symptoms.

Casting Call Information

The New York City casting call event will be held on February 6, 2009, in Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall(R). Auditions will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST. Highlights include:

-- Appearance by Andie MacDowell, Go Red For Women celebrity supporter
-- Expert stylists from Macy's showing women how to 'Go Red' with the
latest makeup and accessories
-- Complimentary health screenings provided by Merck & Co. Screenings
will include: total cholesterol, blood pressure, and Body Mass Index
(BMI), allowing women to learn their critical health numbers.
-- Display of the red dress design finalists from the Macy's and American
Heart Association Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Red Dress
Competition
-- Opportunity to support Go Red For Women and take the Go Red Heart
CheckUp
-- Exclusive Go Red giveaways and more!


In addition to the national event in New York City, local Go Red For Women casting calls will be hosted in more than 50 other cities across the country. For more details on local events or to submit your story online, go to GoRedForWomen.org.

Choose to Wear Red on National Wear Red Day

The casting call is not the only way for women to show support for Go Red For Women. On February 6, 2009, women across the country are encouraged to wear red - whether it is a red dress, a red t-shirt, a red dress pin or red lipstick. Join thousands of other women, television personalities, news anchors and even national monuments, like the Empire State Building, to show the world you passionately support the American Heart Association's movement to save women's lives.

To thank you for your support, Macy's is offering an all-day in-store savings throughout the store from Wednesday, Feb. 4 through Sunday, Feb. 8 to shoppers wearing red. Shoppers not wearing red will be able to purchase a red dress pin for $2 and receive the savings. Macy's will donate 100% of the pin proceeds to Go Red For Women.

For more information about Go Red For Women, the casting call or National Wear Red Day, please visit www.GoRedForWomen.org.

Go Red For Women is nationally sponsored by Macy's and Merck & Co., Inc.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's a Mad Dash in the Race Against Heart Disease

/PRNewswire/ -- Ever imagine strapping on your sneakers and running across the country for a good cause? Well, now you can, virtually, in the Mrs. Dash(R) Women's Heart Health Dash. To raise awareness about heart disease -- the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.* -- Mrs. Dash(R) is kicking off the Women's Heart Health Dash, an online race across America, at www.mrsdash.com.

Through March 31, 2009, visitors can log on to share their own heart-healthy stories and activities. Each action equals one mile in the Women's Heart Health Dash and supports Mrs. Dash(R)'s donation to WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, the only national organization solely dedicated to advancing women's heart health through advocacy, community education and patient support. The goal is to reach 12,000 miles, which equals four times across the country and the distance the blood travels through the body each day!

"There are as many as 44 million women in the U.S. living with or at risk of heart disease," said Lisa M. Tate, CEO of WomenHeart. "This important support from Mrs. Dash(R) helps WomenHeart continue its work to advocate, educate and support women with heart disease through our unique programs and by encouraging more women to join WomenHeart to learn about health heart living."

In addition to inspiring others with personal heart-health stories, each day people share their heart-healthy moments at www.mrsdash.com -- whether it's taking a walk after dinner with the family, riding a bike to work or serving a heart-healthy meal -- they are entered into the Women's Heart Health Dash sweepstakes for a chance to win one Grand Prize Spa Vacation for two at Red Mountain Resort & Spa in St. George, UT. Weekly prizes will also be given away through the end of March, including heart-healthy Mrs. Dash(R) gift-packs and $100 gift cards. A map will track the miles logged by visitors sharing their personal heart-health actions. Come back every day, because each heart-healthy tip equals $1 to support the Mrs. Dash donation to WomenHeart, up to $15,000.

"Mrs. Dash(R) is committed to helping people make heart-healthy lifestyle choices, starting at the dinner table," said Brittanie Stewart, from Mrs. Dash(R) Salt-Free Seasoning Blends. "We are proud to support the vital work of WomenHeart, and we encourage everyone to join the Mrs. Dash(R) Women's Heart Health Dash and help get closer to the finish line in the race to prevent and fight heart disease among women."

Visit www.mrsdash.com to join the Women's Heart Health Dash and to find recipes, tips and product information for a heart-healthy lifestyle. To enter the Mrs. Dash(R) Women's Heart Health Dash online sweepstakes and review the official rules, log on to www.mrsdash.com, February 1 - March 31, 2009, and follow the directions to share your heart-healthy tips. Log on and share a tip as often as you'd like (one entry per day per person into the Grand Prize and weekly prize drawings).

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Living Proof That Bone Marrow Registration Saves Lives

(NAPSI)-Every year, more than 10,000 people are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases that can be treated with a bone marrow transplant.

Unfortunately, most will never find a match. According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), a nonprofit organization that registers potential donors, thousands could be treated each year if more Americans took a surprisingly simple step.

Meet Matthew

Three-year-old Matthew Welling's family knows about waiting for a match. At a year old, Matthew was diagnosed with the often fatal disease of osteopetrosis, but thanks to registered donor Steve Karas, a bone marrow transplant saved his life. "It was a relatively easy and painless procedure," Karas said. "It was an amazing opportunity and something that has changed my life."

More Donors Needed

After learning how Karas, an Aflac sales agent, saved Matthew's life, his company wanted to help. Aflac president and COO Paul Amos, a registered donor, spearheaded an initiative with the NMDP to register as many Aflac employees and sales agents as possible.

"More and more, we are seeing this as a course of treatment, yet many people still cannot get matches. In fact, 61 percent of people applying for bone marrow are unable to get it," Amos said. Statistics show that for certain minority groups, the odds of finding a matching donor are even worse.

To date, Aflac has registered employees and sales agents ranging in the thousands, which Dr. William G. Woods, medical director for the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta, says is just what the doctor ordered. "Children who need a bone marrow transplant often don't have family matches that work. We have to rely on bone marrow registries." More registration drives are scheduled throughout the country.

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