Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Does Flu Trigger Asthma?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personalized medicine in asthma?

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

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

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

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

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Consumer Reports Health: Tests Reveal Top Performing Sunscreens

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

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

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

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

Consumer Reports Health offers these tips for using sunscreens:

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


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Friday, May 20, 2011

Arthritis Common Among Obese, Significantly Inhibiting Physical Activity

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

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

Among the key findings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action

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


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Monday, May 16, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What a Low-carb Diet Could Mean for Kidney Patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monday, May 02, 2011

National Stroke Association Launches the Faces of Stroke(SM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Stroke

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CDC Report Highlights Lack of Healthy Food Environments for Children

/PRNewswire/ -- States can do more to improve food access, regulations and policies to promote healthy eating and fight childhood obesity, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report also notes that the communities, child care facilities and schools all have roles to play.

"Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI), a measure of the proportion of food retailers that typically sell healthy foods within a state. Scores can range from 0 (no food retailers that typically sell healthy food) to 100 (only food retailers that typically sell healthy food). States with lower mRFEI scores have more food retailers, such as fast food restaurants and convenience stores, that are less likely to sell less healthy foods and fewer food retailers, such as supermarkets, that tend to sell healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nationally, the average mRFEI score was 10. State-by-state scores ranged from highs of 16 in Montana and 15 in Maine to lows of 5 in Rhode Island and 4 in the District of Columbia.

The report shows that as of December 2008, only one state – Georgia – had enacted all of the following state licensure regulations for child care facilities: to restrict sugar drinks, to require access to drinking water throughout the day, and to limit TV and computer screen time. CDC and other experts see the childcare setting as an important opportunity to address nutrition and physical activity issues.

Twenty-nine states had enacted one of these regulations, while 13 states and the District of Columbia had enacted none.

Forty-nine percent of middle and high schools allowed less healthy foods like candy, soft drinks, and fast food restaurants to be advertised to students on school grounds. In Ohio nearly 70 percent of middle and high schools allowed such advertising, while in New York only 24 percent of schools allowed it.

"To feed their children healthy food at home, parents must have ready access to stores that sell affordable, healthy food," said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. "Parents also want their children to continue eating well in school or child care facilities. This report highlights actions that states, communities, and individuals can take to improve children's food choices and influences."

CDC supports a number of programs that help states, tribes, and communities combat both childhood and adult obesity. The agency funds 25 state-based nutrition, physical activity, and obesity programs to develop and implement science-based interventions. The current focus is to create changes that support healthy eating and active living where Americans live, work, learn, and play.

Additionally, CDC funds 23 state and territorial education agencies and tribal governments to help school districts and schools implement coordinated school health program s. This approach can increase the effectiveness of policies and programs to promote physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco-use prevention among students.

CDC's Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative funds 47 communities, three tribes, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories to use tested strategies to creating healthier community environments.

The 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report compiles data from a variety of sources, including Preventing Obesity in the Child Care Setting: Evaluating State Regulations and CDC's School Health Profiles. The full report is available at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Most Americans Don't Understand Health Effects of Wine and Sea Salt, Survey Finds

/PRNewswire/ -- Most Americans believe drinking wine is good for your heart but are unaware of recommended alcohol limits, and most mistakenly believe sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt, according to a new survey about these common products.

The American Heart Association surveyed 1,000 American adults to assess their awareness and beliefs about how wine and salt affect heart health. Many studies have reported the benefits of limited wine intake for heart health and the risks of too much salt.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that wine can be good for your heart. Drinking too much can be unhealthy, yet only 30 percent of those surveyed knew the American Heart Association's recommended limits for daily wine consumption.

"This survey shows that we need to do a better job of educating people about the heart-health risks of overconsumption of wine, especially its possible role in increasing blood pressure," said Gerald Fletcher, M.D., American Heart Association spokesperson and professor of medicine – cardiovascular diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

If you drink any alcohol, including wine, beer and spirits, the American Heart Association recommends that you do so in moderation. Limit consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women – for example, that's generally 8 ounces of wine for men and four ounces of wine for women.

Heavy and regular alcohol use of any type of alcohol can dramatically increase blood pressure. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. Heavy drinking can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

The survey also showed that many Americans are confused about low-sodium food choices and don't know the primary source of sodium in American diets. Excessive sodium can increase blood pressure in some people, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Sixty-one percent of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium), and they count the same toward total sodium consumption.

Forty-six percent said table salt is the primary source of sodium in American diets, which is also incorrect. Up to 75 percent of the sodium that Americans consume is found in processed foods such as tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes.

"High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. You must remember to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list on food and beverages," said Dr. Fletcher.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. To effectively limit sodium intake, when buying prepared and prepackaged foods, you should read the nutrition and ingredient labels. Sodium compounds are present whenever food labels include the words "soda" and "sodium," and the chemical symbol "Na."

Managing your blood pressure is a good way to manage your heart health. Access the American Heart Association's free information, resources and tools on high blood pressure at


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Musical Activity May Improve Cognitive Aging

A study conducted by Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist in Emory’s Department of Neurology, and cognitive psychologist Alicia MacKay, PhD, found that older individuals who spent a significant amount of time throughout life playing a musical instrument perform better on some cognitive tests than individuals who did not play an instrument.

The findings were published in the April journal Neuropsychology.

While much research has been done to determine the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime.

“Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging,” said lead researcher Hanna-Pladdy. “Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.”

The study enrolled 70 individuals age 60-83 who were divided into three groups. The participants either had no musical training, one to nine years of musical study or at least ten years of musical training. All of the participants had similar levels of education and fitness, and didn’t show any evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitive performance was measured by testing brain functions that typically decline as the body ages, and more dramatically deteriorate in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brain’s ability to adapt to new information.

“Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical,” Hanna-Pladdy says. “There are crucial periods in brain plasticity that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument before a certain age and thus may have a larger impact on brain development.”

The preliminary study was correlational, meaning that the higher cognitive performance of the musicians couldn’t be conclusively linked to their years of musical study. Hanna-Pladdy, who has conducted additional studies on the subject, says more research is needed to explore that possible link.

The study was conducted with at the University of Kansas Medical Center. At the time of the study, Hanna-Pladdy was an assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Kansas Medical Center and a research faculty member of the Landon Center on Aging University of Kansas Medical Center. MacKay, also a former research assistant at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is now an assistant professor of psychology at Tulsa Community College.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Georgia Residents Are Urged to Kick Those Butts - But Not to the Curb

/PRNewswire/ -- Each year more than 360 billion cigarettes are smoked in the United States, with more than 1 million adults in Georgia lighting up regularly. Where do all those butts go? Public roads, waterways, parks and beaches? New research released today further demonstrates the negative impact that cigarette filters and discarded cigarette butts have on the environment. Cigarette butts contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life. The new data is part of a special supplement – funded by the national public health foundation Legacy – in the journal Tobacco Control. In honor of Earth Day, Legacy urges smokers to quit smoking, and if they can't, to properly dispose of cigarette butts and filters.

Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, and cigarette filters/butts may play a major role in polluting the already taxed environment. According to environmental cleanup reports, nearly 2 million cigarettes or cigarette filters/butts were picked up internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup in 2010. This number includes more than one million from the United States alone, making it the No. 1 littered item found on beaches and in urban environments.

According to the new research, cigarette butts have potentially toxic effects on ecosystems, for example, in one laboratory test, one cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water was lethal to half of the fish exposed. Some other new research findings include:

* Poison centers report hundreds of cases of cigarette butt consumption among children under 6 years old, with some cases of moderate toxicity due to nicotine poisoning.
* Tobacco products are the single largest type of litter collected along U.S. roadways and on beaches.
* Tobacco industry research reveals that there might be misconceptions that cigarette filters are readily biodegradable or inconsequential as litter. However, in reality, even under ideal conditions, cigarette butts can take years to degrade, merely breaking up into small particles of plastic, toxic waste.
* Cigarette litter clean-up costs can be substantial to local authorities.

"This special supplement brings together the currently known science about cigarette butt waste and sets the stage for a new research agenda – one focused both on preserving our environment and protecting our public health," said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy. "Cigarette butts comprise approximately 38 percent of all collected litter items from roads and streets—the carcinogenic chemicals that they contain make their use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet they are commonly, unconsciously, and inexcusably dumped by the trillions (5.6 and counting) into the global environment each year."

Tobacco litter is not only an eyesore, but clean-up costs to cities can be substantial. An economic study based on a litter audit in San Francisco, California, found the clean-up cost to be more than $5.6 million annually. In an effort to reduce that cost, the San Francisco City Council imposed a 20 cent per pack "litter fee" on cigarettes sold in the city in 2009.

Additionally, there is growing momentum in cities, counties and municipalities to pass laws keeping cigarettes out of parks and beaches. As of April 1, 2011, 507 municipalities across the country have prohibited smoking in their parks and 105 have passed laws prohibiting smoking on public beaches in an effort to reduce the impact that cigarette butt waste has on their communities. Georgia laws already prohibit smoking in all child care centers, government buildings, health facilities and schools. Other restrictions require restaurants to have enclosed, separately ventilated areas for smoking.

"It's a common assumption that since tobacco is organic, its waste is harmless. However, both the plastic filters and the remnants of tobacco are poisonous to children and other living organisms, as this research confirms. These waste products contain nicotine, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals that leach into the environment," said Tom Novotny, Professor of Global Health in the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. "We applaud those communities who have already taken action to stop this problem and hope that through this new research we can strengthen awareness with consumers, environmental advocates, researchers and even the tobacco industry itself."

Cigarette filters/butts have become the last socially acceptable form of littering in the increasingly health and environmentally conscious world. For more information on the environmental impact of cigarettes visit:


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Allergy Sufferers Contend With Longer Allergy Season

/PRNewswire/ -- The 2011 allergy season is expected to be 27 days longer in northernmost parts of North America,(1) adding almost a month of suffering to the typical pollen allergy season of February/March-October,(2) according to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The longer allergy season could be particularly rough on eye allergy sufferers, notes a leading expert. "Ocular (eye) allergies affect one in every five individuals and it is estimated that 50 percent of individuals with seasonal and indoor allergies also experience some degree of ocular allergy,"(3,4) says Paul Karpecki, O.D., F.A.A.O., Clinical Director, Koffler Vision Group, Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Karpecki offers the following advice to allergy sufferers:

* Find out what causes your allergy and try to avoid the trigger. "If pollen is what bothers you, try to stay indoors and minimize the amount of time you are in the wind, which blows allergens around."
* Be cautious with allergy pills that claim to ease allergy symptoms. "Quite frequently, allergy medication can dry the eyes out. If you must take an allergy pill, try to take it at night so the drying effect is not as dramatic. Talk to your doctor about what medication(s) are best for you."
* Allergy season is particularly challenging for some contact lens wearers because allergens and other irritants can build up on contacts over time, leading to discomfort and symptoms such as itching, tearing and redness. "Daily disposable lenses like 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST® Brand Contact Lenses are a healthy and more comfortable option for any lens wearer. Putting a clean, fresh lens into the eye each day minimizes the potential for the buildup of irritants that occur with repeated use of the same pair of lenses."
* Use preservative-free artificial tears. "People who suffer from eye allergy symptoms may also find that the preservatives in artificial tears also cause discomfort."
* Consider allergy drops, which are prescribed by a doctor. "I tell my patients to put the drops in each eye in the morning before inserting contact lenses and then put a few drops in at night after they remove their lenses."
* Take more frequent showers to wash away allergens and at night, turn off ceiling fans, as allergens and dust are easily picked up by a fan.
* Take a cool washcloth and place it over the eyes to ease swelling and discomfort. "Relax for a bit with the washcloth over the eyes to relieve symptoms."

To help allergy sufferers better understand and manage their condition, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) offers a free educational brochure titled "Eye Health and Allergies." The brochure, which also includes smart allergy season strategies for contact lens wearers, can be viewed or downloaded at The brochure, along with a free trial-pair certificate* for 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST® Brand is also available at

Important information for contact lens wearers: ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses are available by prescription only for vision correction. An eye care professional will determine whether contact lenses are right for you. Although rare, serious eye problems can develop while wearing contact lenses. To help avoid these problems, follow the wear and replacement schedule and the lens care instructions provided by your eye doctor. Do not wear contact lenses if you have an eye infection, or experience eye discomfort, excessive tearing, vision changes, redness or other eye problems. If one of these conditions occurs, contact your eye doctor immediately. For more information on proper wear, care and safety, talk to your eye care professional and ask for a Patient Instruction Guide, call 1-800-843-2020 or visit

Clinical research has shown when worn on a daily disposable basis, 1 - DAY ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses and other daily disposable etafilcon A contact lenses such as 1 - DAY ACUVUE® MOIST® Brand Contact Lenses may provide improved comfort for many patients suffering from mild discomfort and/or itching associated with allergies during contact lens wear compared to lenses replaced at intervals of greater than 2 weeks.

*Professional exam and fitting fees not included. Valid only while supplies last.

1) Ziska, Lewis et al. Recent Warming By Latitude Associated with Increased Length of Ragweed Pollen Season in Central North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 8 March 2011.

2) Tips to Remember: Outdoor Allergens. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Web site. Accessed March 16, 2011.

3) Katelaris CH, Bielory L. Evidence-based study design in ocular allergy trials. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;8(5):484-488.

4) Bassett C. Ocular Allergies. Asthma & Allergy Advocate. Summer 2007. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Web site. Accessed November 3, 2008.

ACUVUE® and 1 -DAY ACUVUE® MOIST® are trademarks of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

CVS/pharmacy Debuts the "To Your Health" Program in Atlanta Bringing 60 Free Health Screening Events to the Community

/PRNewswire/ -- CVS/pharmacy, the nation's leading retail pharmacy, brings its "To Your Health" free health screening program to Atlanta on Saturday, April 9. The program will provide free preventive health screenings for Atlanta area residents at 60 events now through November as a way to help citizens determine their risk for chronic diseases and get them on a path to better health.

The "To Your Health" program will kick off with "The Makeover Mile" – a one mile health walk led by medical and diet expert, Dr. Ian Smith, to fight obesity and encourage Americans to lead healthier lifestyles. The walk will start at 11:30 a.m. at Clark Atlanta University located at 223 James P. Brawley Drive SW in Atlanta. Registration starts at 10:30 a.m. and there is no fee.

"Exercise is an important way to combat weight gain and obesity, which can contribute to many chronic diseases," said Smith. "The Makeover Mile walk will encourage people to get out and take active steps toward better health."

The walk will finish at the CVS/pharmacy located at 895 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard SW, where CVS/pharmacy will provide free adult health screenings for walk participants and the community at large starting at 12:00 p.m., as part of its "To Your Health" program. The event will end at 4 p.m.

This program and each of the additional "To Your Health" events will offer participating adults $150 worth of free screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density (osteoporosis) and vision. Doctor consultations and medication reviews with a CVS Pharmacist are available. Dental and chiropractic screenings and referrals for mammograms and pap smears are also available in select locations. No appointment is necessary.

"These preventive health screenings will provide members of the community valuable information needed in order to make positive changes, before the onset of serious health issues like diabetes and heart disease," says Andre Mackey, R.Ph., pharmacy supervisor for CVS/pharmacy.

In 2010, the "To Your Health" program detected health concerns in an alarmingly high percentage of participants. Of those screened:

* 34 percent had high cholesterol
* 38 percent had a high to moderate risk of developing osteoporosis
* 37 percent had hypertension
* 29 percent had blood sugar levels that indicated a risk for diabetes

For more information and a full calendar of "To Your Health" events, visit or call 888-604-0333. For more information about The Makeover Mile or to register, please visit

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can the USDA Guidelines Really Lead to Healthier Eating Habits?

/PRNewswire/ -- As National Nutrition month comes to a close, Alere Health, the health management services business of Alere Inc., highlights four ways that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) updated dietary guidelines can be used to encourage actionable changes in behavior.

In January, the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), using the most blunt language to date about the need to confront America's obesity epidemic. The guidelines also include changes that reduce recommended sodium and trans fats levels.

But to Alere, a global company that provides industry-leading health and wellness programs, the most important takeaway is the emphasis on empowering individuals to make changes in behavior. Alere encourages health plans and employers seeking ways to improve health to look beyond the words and focus on practical ways to encourage action. Below is a look at the top four ways the dietary guidelines can encourage practical lifestyle changes:

1. "Empower individuals and families." People are more likely to make lasting changes in behavior if they are truly motivated. The new guidelines emphasize ways to focus on the positive aspects of adopting a healthier lifestyle, building skills to help people "heighten enjoyment of preparing and consuming healthy foods." This includes activities such as gardening, cooking together and eating as a family.

2. Promote "behavior change through environmental strategies." The guidelines acknowledge that many individuals lack the knowledge or motivation to change behavior without support. Given this, it's critical that organizations embrace changes that can make environments more conducive to healthier lifestyles.

3. Advocating a "healthy eating pattern." The guidelines also acknowledge that rigid prescriptions simply don't work when encouraging dietary changes. They emphasize flexible "eating patterns" that accommodate personal preference, cost and availability. Specific dietary recommendations include:

* Mediterranean-style diets: The guidelines cite extensive research on Mediterranean-style diets that emphasize vegetable, fruits and nuts, olive oil and whole grains, with only small amounts of meat products.
* Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: The guidelines go into detail about how nutrient-dense foods can help individuals limit their calories, particularly from solid fats and added sugars.

4. "Set the stage for lifelong healthy eating, activity and weight management." The guidelines cite obesity prevention as one of the most urgent public health issues in America. They note that "lifelong habits are developed throughout childhood," and focus on ways to support healthier approach for families. Alere has taken the lead in helping organizations work proactively to provide tools to combat childhood obesity with its Healthy Kids Program. This six-week online program provides parents with specific strategies they can use to improve their family's health.

"When you consider the state of our nation's health, blunt talk and specific guidelines are necessary," says Heather Zeitz, R.D., vice president of health content and programming for Alere. "But the new guidelines demonstrate that the most powerful way to change lifestyle behaviors is with a coordinated, participant-centered approach. At Alere, we recognize the scope of the challenge, but are hopeful that the USDA's call to action will help unite the cause for encouraging real changes that can have a real impact."

To show its commitment to healthy eating, Alere will feature live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chef Carla Hall, a finalist on the TV show Top Chef and now competing on Top Chef's All Stars, at the World Health Care Congress April 4-6 in Washington, D.C. An advocate for healthy cooking, Carla supports Michelle Obama's child obesity campaign by demonstrating healthy cooking in school cafeterias. She will perform a series of demonstrations on April 4 and 5 in booth #203.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Heart Association Meeting Report: Physical Activity Decreases Salt's Effect on Blood Pressure

Study Highlights:

-- The less physically active you are, the more your blood pressure rises in response to a high-salt diet.

-- Following a low-salt diet may be particularly important in lowering blood pressure among sedentary people.

 /PRNewswire/ -- The more physically active you are, the less your blood pressure rises in response to a high-salt diet, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions.

"Patients should be advised to increase their physical activity and eat less sodium," said Casey M. Rebholz, M.P.H., lead author of the study and a medical student at the Tulane School of Medicine and doctoral student at the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. "Restricting sodium is particularly important in lowering blood pressure among more sedentary people."

Investigators compared study participants' blood pressure on two one-week diets, one low in sodium (3,000 mg/day) and the other high in sodium (18,000 mg/day).

The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium.

If a person's average systolic blood pressure (the top number in the reading, measured when the heart is contracting) increased 5 percent or more from the low-sodium to the high-sodium regimen, the researchers labeled them as high salt-sensitive.

Based on physical activity questionnaires, researchers divided participants into four groups ranging from very active to quite sedentary.

The average increases in systolic blood pressure after switching from low to high sodium, adjusted for age and gender, were:

* 5.27 mm Hg in the least active group
* 5.07 mm Hg in the next-to-lowest activity group
* 4.93 mm Hg in the next-to-highest activity group
* 3.88 mm Hg in the most active group

Compared with the sedentary group, the odds of being salt-sensitive, adjusted for age and gender, fell:

* 10 percent in the next-to-lowest activity group
* 17 percent in the next-to-highest activity group
* 38 percent in the most active group

"In all the analyses we found a dose-response relationship with the more activity, the better," Rebholz said.

The participants were 1,906 Han Chinese adults (average age 38) in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Salt Sensitivity (GenSalt), a large project to identify genetic and environmental factors contributing to salt sensitivity. Siblings and their parents were invited to become involved in GenSalt if at least one sibling had pre-hypertension (blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg) or stage-1 hypertension (between 140/90 and 159/99 mm Hg). No one was on blood pressure medication during the study.

The GenSalt project is located in rural China because the homogeneous population makes it more likely that genes influential to blood pressure control will be identified.

"The study needs to be repeated, but I suspect that the relationship between physical activity and salt-sensitivity will apply to other populations," Rebholz said.

Co-authors are: Dongfeng Gu, Ph.D.; Jing Chen, M.D., M.S.; Jian-feng Huang, M.D.; Jie Cao, M.D., M.S.; Ji-chun Chen, M.D., M.S.; Jianxin Li, M.D.; Fanghong Lu, M.D.; Jianjun Mu, M.D.; Jixiang Ma, M.D.; Dongsheng Hu, M.D., M.S.; Xu Ji, M.D.; Lydia A. Bazzano, M.D., Ph.D.; Depei Liu, M.D., Ph.D.; and Jiang He, M.D., Ph.D.

Author disclosures and sources of funding are on the abstract.

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HealthMPowers Teams-up with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation to Launch 'Health EmPowers YOU!'

/PRNewswire/ -- Physical education teachers, classroom teachers and school nutrition workers are helping students improve their health-related fitness and eating habits, through a new initiative from HealthMPowers and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) Foundation called "Health EmPowers You!"

A school and home-based educational program, Health EmPowers You! addresses the growing childhood obesity epidemic facing Georgia. Currently, Georgia has the second highest obesity rate with 21.3 percent of Georgia's children ages 10 to 17 years old being obese, according to the 2010 report by Trust for America's Youth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens American's Future 2010. The initiative will be in 41 schools and will educate more than 20,000 students and their families on ways to integrate physical activity and healthy eating into their lives.

"With Georgia's childhood obesity at an astoundingly high rate, it is imperative we implement the necessary programs to help our children succeed by surrounding them with healthy, supportive environments," said Morgan Kendrick, president of BCBSGa. "The program that HealthMPowers has developed will benefit many Georgia children and help set them on a course for a healthy future."

As with all of HealthMPowers' programming, Health EmPowers You! is science-based and uses a comprehensive, hands-on approach to integrate important nutrition, fitness, and physical activity instruction and skill practice into all aspects of the school environment. Educational materials will be provided to physical education teachers, classroom teachers, nutrition directors, other school support, students and parents to teach and reinforce important lessons.

Health EmPowers You! includes:

* Lesson plans, classroom exercise DVDs and educational resources for teachers,
* Heart health physical education equipment for fitness teachers,
* Newsletters and support materials for parents, and
* A tracking system for students.

This fall, per House Bill 229, all schools in Georgia will be required to provide health related fitness assessments as part of a quality physical education program. Physical education teachers will conduct an annual fitness assessment program with students in first through 12th grade in the areas of aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. The schools involved in the initial launch of Health EmPowers You! will have early access to fitness assessment information and can begin programming to improve their students' scores. Teachers from each school are already receiving training on the initiative, equipment and resources for successful program implementation.

"Health education must extend beyond the walls of a school building and infiltrate the home and community environments as well," said Christi Kay, executive director of HealthMPowers. "That is why HealthMPowers provides tools and resources to be used at school and at home – to engage students and help them become health advocates to their families and peers."

Childhood obesity can cause many health and psychological issues, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Short-term consequences can include poor body image and lower test scores at school while long-term consequences can include diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory ailments. The CDC reports that nearly 75 percent of every health care dollar spent is due to lifestyle choices that result in chronic illness, which now affects one in four Americans.

In fact, today, March 22, 2011, is the American Diabetes Association's "Alert Day," which is held every fourth Tuesday in March. This one-day "wake-up" call asks Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. With Georgia recently being named to the "diabetes belt" by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the information and resources provided by the Health EmPowers You! initiative can be used to help combat this growing epidemic.

According to data collected by HealthMPowers, its programming has been proven to help increase student fruit and vegetable consumption, improve student cardiovascular fitness scores and create better school health policies.

"HealthMPowers has long recognized the connection between healthy schools, healthy students and healthy communities," Kay said. "Our collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation will expand HealthMPowers' reach throughout Georgia and provide schools and families with the tools and knowledge needed to engage in healthier behaviors."

Schools in Bibb, Jackson, Barrow and Newton counties are involved in the project.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Georgia Kids 'Kick Butts' on March 23

/PRNewswire/ -- Kids in Georgia will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 23 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 16th annual Kick Butts Day. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events see below).

Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.

In Georgia, health advocates are calling on state leaders to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack in order to prevent kids from smoking and raise much-needed revenue to address the state's budget shortfall and fund critical programs such as health care and education. According to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a $1 cigarette tax increase in Georgia would have the following benefits:

* Raise $354.5 million in new annual revenue;
* Prevent 79,600 kids from becoming smokers;
* Spur 49,100 current adult smokers to quit;
* Save 38,400 residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and
* Save $1.8 billion in health care costs.

"On Kick Butts Day, kids are standing up to the tobacco companies, and elected officials should stand with them by supporting proven tobacco prevention measures," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We know what works to reduce smoking and other tobacco use. Every state should implement these proven solutions, including higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and smoke-free air laws."

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.

In Georgia, tobacco use claims 10,500 lives and costs $2.25 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 16.9 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 42,100 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.

On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to carnivals to rallies at state capitols. Activities in Georgia include (all events are on March 23 unless otherwise noted):

On March 19 in Savannah , students, parents, community leaders and other youth groups from community centers will participate in a tobacco awareness event at the Blackshear Basketball Complex/Park. Students from the Youth for a Cleaner Environment (YFACE) will hand out literature, balloons, posters and more detailing the dangers of smoking. Time: 10 AM. Location: 820 Wheaton Street, Savannah. Contact: Janice Banks James (770) 283-7591.

In Dalton, students at Dalton Middle School will paint Kick Butts-themed graffiti art on three, large vinyl backgrounds. One background will be placed in the school hallway, one at a downtown restaurant, the Dalton Depot and one at the Walnut Square Mall. Location: 1250 Cross Plains Trail, Dalton. Contact: Cassandra Cutts (724) 859-7774.

Students from the Future Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Club will sponsor an event in Savannah showing the consequences of smoking where youth will be able to visit various booths and sign a pledge wall. Time: 3 PM. Location: 2025 East 52nd Street, Savannah. Contact: Barbara Baker (912) 236-9511.

In Marietta, a student from Osborne High School will dress as the Grim Reaper, followed by students with anti-smoking signs, and walk through the cafeteria inviting other students to join the silent procession. Students will receive a totem representing their departure from a life of tobacco use. Time: 11:45 AM. Location: 2451 Favor Road, Marietta. Contact: Janet Grenleski (770) 878-0628.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Depression Can Worsen Knee Arthritis Symptoms in Older Adults

/PRNewswire/ -- Clinical depression can exacerbate the symptoms of knee arthritis beyond what is evident on X-rays, according to a new study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS). Patients with mild to moderate knee arthritis are especially affected by depression, the study notes.

"Knee osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain and impairment in older adults," said Tae Kyun Kim, MD, study author and director of the Division of Knee Surgery and Sports Medicine at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital's Joint Reconstruction Center. "Often, the level of arthritic symptoms reported by patients is much more severe than what is represented by X-rays, which can make it difficult for the doctor to treat.

"The results of this study indicate that depression can play a major role in the way patients experience the symptoms of knee arthritis, and that even when X-rays show the arthritis is not severe, patients with depression may report significant pain," Dr. Kim said. "The relationship between pain and depression suggests that both should be considered by physicians when treating patients with knee osteoarthritis, particularly in those with X-rays not indicating severe damage to the joint."

The study included 660 men and women aged 65 years or older who were evaluated for the severity of their knee arthritis on X-rays, as well as symptom severity. Patient interviews and questionnaires were used to assess coincident depressive disorders. The study was conducted as a part of the Korean Longitudinal Study on Health and Aging (KLoSHA).

As expected, the researchers found the levels of pain attributed to knee arthritis were higher in patients whose X-rays indicated greater joint damage; however, they also found depressive disorders were associated with an increase in pain in patients with mild to moderate knee arthritis, even when X-rays did not show significant joint damage.

"When evaluating the results of this study, the contribution of depression to knee osteoarthritis symptoms was almost as important as the damage indicated on X-rays," Dr. Kim noted.

Knee arthritis typically affects men and women over 50 years of age, and occurs most frequently in people who are overweight. Common symptoms include:

* pain or stiffness in or around the knee;
* swelling of the knee;
* limited range of motion when walking or moving the knee; or
* knee weakness or a feeling of instability.

In more severe cases, the knee joint may appear deformed, such as bowlegged or knock-kneed appearance, either bulging outward or toward the side of the leg. Knee replacement surgery is often performed in patients with severe symptoms.

Although studies have indicated depression is not uncommon among older adults, it remains largely underdiagnosed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

* The risk of depression increases with other illnesses and when ability to function becomes limited.
* Estimates of major depression in older people range from 1 percent to 5 percent among those living in the community, to as high as 11.5 percent in hospital patients and 13.5 percent in those who require home healthcare.
* An estimated 5 million older adults have mild depression, which is often undiagnosed.

Symptoms of depression may include:

* feelings of sadness or hopelessness;
* loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed;
* change in appetite or sleep patterns;
* difficulty thinking and remembering; or
* frequent thoughts of death or dying.

"Despite the reported satisfactory outcomes of knee replacement surgery a percentage of patients still experience knee pain and impaired movement," said Dr. Kim said. "Sometimes pain and disability after surgery is medically unexplained, so in these patients screening for depression might be a very good option."

Disclosure: In support of their research for or preparation of this work, one or more of the authors received, in any one year, outside funding or grants in excess of $10,000 from Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals (Grant No. 06-05-039) and Seongnam City Government in Korea (Grant No. 800-20050211). Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity.

More information on osteoarthritis of the knee and other orthopaedic conditions can be found at

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U.S. Death Rate Falls for 10th Straight Year

The age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population fell to an all-time low of 741 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 -- 2.3 percent lower than the 2008 rate, according to preliminary 2009 death statistics released today by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. This marks the 10th year in a row that U.S. death rates have declined.

Life expectancy at birth increased to 78.2 years in 2009, up slightly from 78.0 years in 2008. Life expectancy was up two-tenths of a year for males (75.7 years) and up one-tenth of a year for females (80.6 years). Life expectancy for the U.S. white population increased by two-tenths of a year. Life expectancy for black males (70.9 years) and females (77.4 years) was unchanged in 2009. The gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations was 4.3 years in 2009, two-tenths of a year increase from the gap in 2008 of 4.1 years.

The findings come from "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009," which is based on death certificates provided to NCHS through the National Vital Statistics Reporting System from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Other findings:

* Age-adjusted death rates declined significantly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death in 2009: heart disease (declined by 3.7 percent), cancer (1.1 percent), chronic lower respiratory diseases (4.1 percent), stroke (4.2 percent), accidents/unintentional injuries (4.1 percent), Alzheimer's disease (4.1 percent), diabetes (4.1 percent), influenza and pneumonia (4.7 percent), septicemia (1.8 percent), and homicide (6.8 percent).
* In 2009, suicide passed septicemia (blood poisoning) to become the 10th leading cause of death. Although the U.S. suicide rate did not change significantly between 2008 and 2009, the number of suicides increased from 35,933 in 2008 to 36,547 in 2009 (1.7 percent increase). Deaths from septicemia declined 1 percent from 35,961 in 2008 to 35,587 in 2009. Otherwise, the rankings for the 15 leading causes of death did not change between 2008 and 2009.
* Overall, there were 2,436,682 deaths in the United States in 2009 – 36,336 fewer than in 2008 (1.5 percent decrease).

SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Every Five Minutes Someone Dies from a Blood Clot

/PRNewswire/ -- Each year between 100,000-180,000 Americans die as the result of pulmonary embolism, a complication from blood clots in the lungs. The Vascular Disease Foundation urges Americans, especially women, to learn about the risks of venous blood clots to help prevent these deaths. While men and women are at equal risk, the risk for deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, varies depending on where a woman is in her lifecycle, her hormone levels, and if she has a family history of clotting disorders.

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins, usually of the pelvis or leg. DVT can be dangerous in two ways. First, DVT can be fatal if a blood clot breaks free from the leg veins and travels through the heart and lodges in the lung arteries. This complication, called pulmonary embolism (PE), causes between 100,000 and 180,000 deaths per year in the United States. Second, because blood clots can permanently damage the veins, as many as half of DVT survivors can experience long-term leg pain, heaviness and swelling that can progress to difficulty in walking, changes in skin color and open leg sores (known as ulcers). This condition, called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) or "chronic venous insufficiency," can significantly impair quality of life.

Certain individuals may be at greater risk for developing DVT, but it can occur in almost anyone. Risk factors or triggering events that are more likely to affect women include pregnancy and the six to eight weeks after giving birth, the use of birth control pills or postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, cancer and its treatment, and major surgery.

Anyone may be at risk for DVT but the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances are of developing it. Knowing your risk factors gives you the chance to do something about it:

* Hospitalization for a medical illness or any illness
* Recent major surgery (especially orthopedic surgery) or injury or trauma
* Personal history of a clotting disorder or previous DVT
* Increasing age
* Cancer and their treatments
* Family history of DVT
* Extended bed rest
* Obesity
* Smoking
* Prolonged sitting when traveling (longer than 6 to 8 hours)

DVT and PE should be considered emergencies that require immediate care if any of the following symptoms are present:

Symptoms of Possible DVT:

Recent swelling of one leg
Unexplained pain or tenderness of one leg
Change in skin color or skin is hot to the touch

Symptoms of Possible PE:

Recent or sudden shortness of breath
Sharp chest pain, especially when breathing in
Coughing up blood or sudden collapse

"Every year, more people die from preventable blood clots than from breast cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined," said Dr. Samuel Goldhaber, Chairman of the Venous Disease Coalition. "It is so important to raise awareness about DVT and PE because although blood clots are common, few Americans have sufficient knowledge about blood clots and how to prevent them."

For more information about DVT, its risk factors, signs and symptoms or to take a free risk assessment quiz, visit

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Leading Health Groups Launch National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Baseball

/PRNewswire/ -- With spring training for the 2011 baseball season underway, 10 major medical and public health groups have joined together in the launch of a coordinated campaign urging Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to ban tobacco use by players, managers, coaches and other staff at major league ballparks.

Today, the groups have teamed up to kick off the online campaign featuring a new website,, with social media tools that allow fans and other members of the public to tell their hometown teams, players and Major League Baseball that continued use of smokeless tobacco at baseball games is unacceptable. The campaign is called Knock Tobacco Out of the Park.

The groups involved are: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Dental Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, Oral Health America and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In Florida last weekend, youth activists rallied and circulated petitions at games between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in Port St. Lucie and between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called for Major League Baseball and the players association to ban the use of tobacco products at MLB venues. The senators cited Washington Nationals' pitching ace Stephen Strasburg's struggle to overcome his addiction to smokeless tobacco.

In November, the chief executives of the 10 health groups wrote to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the players association, urging that they agree to the tobacco ban in the contract that takes effect in 2012. The new collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated this year.

"Use of smokeless tobacco endangers the health of Major League ballplayers. It also sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball at the ballparks and on TV and often see Major League players and managers using smokeless tobacco," the groups wrote.

The use of smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball has drawn scrutiny from Congress and the media for months. In April 2010, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), held a hearing on the issue.

Several news stories have examined the difficulty players and coaches have in breaking their addiction. Among those who have spoken about the challenge of quitting are Strasburg, American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton and Bruce Bochy, manager of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn's recent cancer diagnosis and his public comments attributing his disease to years of chewing tobacco have underscored the health threat from smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use was banned in baseball's minor leagues in 1993. The NCAA and the National Hockey League have instituted prohibitions on tobacco use. Major League Baseball is lagging behind.

Meanwhile, smokeless tobacco use among high school boys is spiking – there has been a 36 percent increase since 2003 and 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and has been found to cause oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions. It has also been linked to other forms of cancer.

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Joint Pain in Children: Is it Just a Sore Knee, or...?

/PRNewswire/ -- While lab tests and imaging can sometimes help diagnose juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), a physical examination and thorough patient history are the most valuable tools in identifying this disease. According to a new literature review from the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), the rate of false positives in laboratory evaluations and imaging studies meant to screen for juvenile arthritis makes their value limited.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) is an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States under the age of 18. The cause is not known, and it does not appear to be genetic, although some family members may suffer from other autoimmune disorders. Symptoms may include:

* joint stiffness in the morning that improves later in the day;
* pain, swelling, and tenderness in the joints;
* limping or limits in range of motion;
* high fever and light rash;
* weight loss;
* fatigue or irritability; and/or
* red eyes or blurred vision.

Depending on the type of JIA, these symptoms can vary quite a bit. In fact, some young patients may not suffer any of these symptoms, but have a swollen joint that is discovered after another incident such as an injury.

"To establish a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a matter of pattern recognition," says Marilynn Punaro, MD, a pediatric rheumatologist at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, and the author of this review. "Also, there is no lab test that can conclusively diagnose rheumatic disease—you have to rule out other common diagnoses. That is why a full physical exam is important, as well as a detailed patient history that will reveal other symptoms. If the patient has one swollen joint, the other joints should be examined because the diagnoses could be very different based on what is found in that exam."

Review details and findings:

* If JIA is suspected, the orthopaedic surgeon should conduct an assessment of all peripheral joints, not just the joint or joints about which the patient is complaining.
* Exquisitely painful, tender, or red joints are not typically diagnostic for JIA.
* Oligoarticular JIA (where just a few joints are affected) is the most common type of JIA, affecting 60 percent of children with this disorder. The onset of this type of arthritis is usually between the ages of 1 and 3.
* Treatment of juvenile arthritis is designed to reduce swelling, maintain full movement of affected joints, and relieve pain, and includes medications and physical therapy. Surgery may be indicated in rare cases. Some JIA patients' disease can go into remission.
* Recent clinical trials are showing that with new drug treatments, remission will soon be a realistic goal for most patients.

"It is important to try and diagnose JIA early so treatment can begin," Punaro says. "If left untreated for months or years, there is a likelihood of long-term disability, growth problems or deformity. The disease can cause joint damage that is irreversible. The good news, though, is that when we do diagnose JIA, we have many excellent treatments available."

Disclosure: Dr. Punaro has nothing related to this study to disclose. 

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Arthritis Foundation and National Psoriasis Foundation Launch Effort to Encourage Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Psoriatic Arthritis

/PRNewswire/ -- Two leading patient advocacy organizations have joined forces to educate people about psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory disease that can lead to joint damage, especially if not diagnosed and treated early. The Joint Smart Coalition, launched today by the Arthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation in collaboration with Amgen and Pfizer, aims to provide empowering and educational resources for people with psoriatic arthritis and other related inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis.

A key component of the effort is, a website that provides resources and information for people to learn more about these diseases. The central message of the site is that people who have certain chronic inflammatory diseases should carefully monitor their joint health, and see a doctor if they experience pain, tenderness or swelling in their joints lasting more than three days, or similar symptoms that come and go several times in a month.

"About 7.5 million adult Americans have psoriasis, a serious chronic disease that appears on the skin," said Randy Beranek, president and CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Up to 30% of patients diagnosed with psoriasis may actually have psoriatic arthritis. "Many of them are not aware that they may actually have this potentially disabling form of arthritis."

"Early diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis can help to stop or slow the progression of permanent damage to the joints," says Dr. Patience White, Arthritis Foundation vice president of public health. "Through the 'Be Joint Smart' effort we aim to educate people with chronic inflammatory forms of arthritis, like psoriatic arthritis, to seek early diagnosis and treatment to reduce the potential for progression of joint damage."

While 70 percent of people who develop the disease already have skin lesions, others develop the arthritis first, or develop both skin and joint symptoms at about the same time. People with a family history of either psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis are also at risk.

If you or someone in your family has psoriasis and/or you are experiencing persistent or recurring joint pain, stiffness or swelling, the Joint Smart Coalition urges you to see a doctor. Learn more at

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar-Nominated True Grit Gets Top Reviews for Acting but Mixed Reviews for Snakebite Treatment

Editor Note:  If you have a medical emergency out in nature, be sure to call 911.  They can provide you with the best advice on what should be done as you are in route to seeking emergency medical treatment.

/PRNewswire/ -- Confronting a rattler may be a minor challenge for Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers' Oscar-nominated remake of True Grit, but proper handling of poor Mattie's snakebite was a major ordeal in the old West. The tough-as-nails U.S. Marshall unknowingly perpetuates Hollywood myth by doing precisely the opposite of proper snakebite protocol, although the hero does get it right when it comes to the need for speed in seeking immediate treatment.

Cutting the skin ("X marks the spot") to suck or bleed out the poison, applying a tourniquet, bandage or pressure, and drinking alcohol not only don't help, but may cause added harm by further damaging tissue.

Despite all of the folklore, the only correct response to poisonous snakebite is to seek emergency care. Remain calm and call 911 or your local poison control center at (800) 222-1222. Snakebite treatment is best left to the experts! So it is imperative to get to an appropriate hospital or emergency center as quickly as possible.

Above all, do not attempt to capture the snake, which could very well result in a second bite. CroFab® Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab (ovine) is an intravenous medicine, usually administered in the hospital emergency room, that is approved to treat venomous snakebites from North American pit vipers. Pit viper snakes include rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths/water moccasins. BTG International Inc. markets and distributes CroFab® to hospitals in the United States.

"Although nowadays we don't cut and suck snakebites like the cowboys used to do, Rooster knew the best thing for Mattie was to get her to a doctor as fast as he could," said Sean Bush, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Loma Linda School of Medicine in Loma Linda, CA. "The same is true today. The difference now is that there is a treatment to prevent the progression of a venomous pit viper bite."

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