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Archive for the ‘Consumer Health’ Category

Poor Sleeping Patterns Get Worse With Age

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Untitled by Unsplash is licensed under CC0.

sleep

A new study finds that as seniors get older, it is just generally harder for them to get a good, restorative night’s sleep, which in turn could worsen health problems. Many medical conditions may make it harder for a person to sleep well, but a poor night’s sleep can also contribute to disease.

The researchers used dementia as an example–dementia patients often have a difficult time sleeping, and these poor sleeping patterns also speed up their memory decline.

Recognize that good sleep is critical to good health, right along with a good diet and regular exercise…and regular exercise can generally help get you a good night’s sleep as well.

Seniors should talk to their doctors if they notice they are consistently sleeping less than six hours per night.

To read more about the study, please visit “Good Sleep Does Get Tougher With Age.”

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When Too Many Lab Tests are Bad for Your Health

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Running a Test by Myfuture.com is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

rain

Imagine you visit your doctor and get some shocking news. You have a rare disease with no cure or treatment and only have a few months left to live. After you come to terms with the news, you start making arrangements, perhaps work on some of those things on your bucket list. Then you get a call from your doctor; there’s been a mistake, you’ve been misdiagnosed, and now have a long life to look forward to.

While this may sound like the plot to a feel-good movie or a hypothetical philosophical debate, the issue of over diagnosis is a very real one. Over diagnosis is a side effect of screening tests, which are given to people who seem healthy to find unnoticed problems. While these screening tests can help catch chronic health conditions early, in some cases the results can be harmful.

Screening tests are not 100% accurate, so while they are helpful for finding hidden disease, they can also give inaccurate results. The situation described above might be the consequence of getting a false positive for a screening test, when the test results incorrectly indicate a disease. Also possible is a false negative, which means you’re told you don’t have the disease when you do, perhaps causing you to ignore symptoms that appear later on.

According to Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, a cancer prevention expert at NIH, “I wouldn’t say that all people should just simply get screening tests. Patients should be aware of both the potential benefits and the harms when they’re choosing what screening test to have and how often.”

When deciding whether to get a screening test, a number of factors should be considered, like your age, family health history, or lifestyle exposures like smoking. You should also consult with your healthcare provider to determine what screening tests are right for you and how regularly you should have them.

To find out more, you’ll soon be able to watch the archived recording of our recent webinar SCR CONNECTions – Over Diagnosis: Why Too Many Lab Tests are Bad for Your Health starting April 17 on our website.

Source: Adapted from NIH News in Health Article “To Screen or Not to Screen? The Benefits and Harms of Screening Tests,” March 2017 <https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Mar2017/feature2>

Loneliness Could Lead to a Worse Cold

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Untitled by Mojpe is licensed under CC0.

dna

Having a cold, or being sick in any regard, is never fun. But new research is suggesting that if you’re lonely, a cold might feel even more miserable.

The study looked at 159 individuals who were all single ages 18-55 that were all infected with the common cold through nose drops.

The study was unable to prove true cause-and-effect, however it did show a difference in the severity of symptoms.

“[Chris] Fagundes [psychologist] and [Angie] LeRoy, [study co-author] found that people who said they had less “social support” had cold symptoms that were more severe compared to people who felt more socially included,” according to the MedlinePlus article.

To read more about the study, please visit “A Lonely Heart Could Worsen a Cold.”

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The Elephant Sitting On Your Chest: Asthma & Allergens

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

“Untitled” by Darren Coleshill is licensed under CC0/span>.

flower

From winter into spring, the transition is beautiful. Trees are full of leaves and flowers are in full bloom. In Texas, the bluebonnets grace our highways. The sun is out, shining brightly. Suddenly, some of us start wheezing, coughing, and sneezing.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), allergens in the environment can trigger seasonal allergies and asthma. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lung and is now the most common chronic disorder in childhood. The prevalence has increased over the years. According to CDC Vital Signs 1 in 12 people have asthma in the United States. Oxygen absorption in the lungs is a crucial function of the body. With asthma, the airway becomes inflamed, swollen, and narrow. Less air is able to get to the lung tissue. Some describe feeling as if an elephant is sitting on their chest.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted an extensive survey, known as the National Survey of Lead Hazards and Allergens in Housing. The results were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It found that 46% of homes had dust mite allergens high enough to produce allergic reactions and one quarter of the homes had allergen levels high enough to trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals. Nearly two-thirds of American homes have cockroach allergens.

What can we do? See the NIEHS Fact Sheet for some simple steps for decreasing indoor allergens. See the NIEHS and the NHLBI for more information.

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American Diabetes Alert Day: Are You at Risk?

Monday, March 27th, 2017

“Cupcakes and donuts from above” by Jakub Kapusnak is licensed under CC0.

little girl

Today is American Diabetes Alert Day, and did you know that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.–killing more than 75,000 people annually? In honor of this observance, the Oklahoma State Department of Health is encouraging Oklahomans to check their risk of developing diabetes, as well as sound the alarm for the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Oklahoma ranks number 9 in the United States for states with most adults with type 2 diabetes.

Finding out if you are at high risk for developing diabetes is simple; just go to diabetes.org/alertday to take the American Diabetes Association risk test, which is offered in both Spanish and English. If you determine that you or someone you know is at risk, there are plenty of other steps you can take, including becoming involved in the National Diabetes Prevention Program–there are dozens of programs offered through Oklahoma as well as across the nation.

To read more about American Diabetes Alert Day and Oklahoma, please visit “American Diabetes Alert Day: Find Out If You Are At Risk Today.”

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Washing Your Hands Saves Lives

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

“clean hands” by Arlington County is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

washing hands

According to MedlinePlus, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. You may be more familiar with that rule of thumb to sing the “Happy Birthday” song at least two times through before turning off that faucet.

But while we’re admonished to do so, it’s difficult to say what’s actually put into practice even while we know it helps stop the spread of germs. In fact, it can even help stop the spread of superbugs!

How else is it important? The Center for Disease Control has put together some fast facts (and citations) on the importance of handwashing:

  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50%.
  • Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented.
  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections.
  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.
  • The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students.

Read more and find additional resources on the Germs and Hygiene MedlinePlus topic page.

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SCR Regional Highlight: Two Louisiana Cities Rank Top Five for HIV Diagnoses

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Views of the I-10 Mississippi River Bridge by Billy Metcalf Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

patient

According to the 2016 America’s Health Rankings report conducted by the United Health Foundation, Louisiana is the second most unhealthy state in the nation, just behind Mississippi. The report uses a number of factors to create these rankings, but it has become increasingly clear over the years that the state’s high diagnoses of new HIV cases is one factor.

According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report leading up to World AIDS Day in 2016, Baton Rouge ranks number one for newly diagnosed HIV cases; New Orleans ranks number three. In Baton Rouge, 44.7 out of every 100,000 people is diagnosed with HIV; in New Orleans, it’s 36.9.

HIV is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight infection and disease. There is no cure for it. AIDS is a condition that is considered the final stage of HIV. It is most commonly transmitted sexually or through sharing syringes, but can also be spread from mother to child through pregnancy as well as several other less common ways.

To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic prevalent in the state, the Louisiana Department of Health launched the STD/HIV Program, designed to prevent transmission, ensure the availability of medical services and track the impact.

Unfortunately one of the biggest barriers health officials face is the stigma around the disease and an unwillingness to seek out treatment and report it. Timothy Young, head of the HIV/AIDS Alliance in the Baton Rouge area told The Advocate in a 2015 articlefear of being associated with HIV is so pronounced that more than 25 percent of those who are newly diagnosed with the disease in Louisiana have already progressed to AIDS.”

It’s important for these people to know that HIV/AIDS treatment has only continued to get better and it’s no longer the death sentence it used to be, if you get tested.

To read more about the SHP program, please visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website.

To read more general information about HIV/AIDS, please visit the CDC’s website.

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Poor Diets Linked to 400,000 U.S. Deaths

Monday, March 13th, 2017

“Healthy breakfast with eggs while camping” by Jakub Kapusnak is licensed under CC0.

patient

March is National Nutrition Month, so it comes at the perfect time that the results from a study are released explaining that a poor diet was a contributor to 400,000 U.S. premature deaths in 2015.

The study suggested that poor diets are caused not only by not avoiding certain things–like trans fat and salt–but also not incorporating other foods, like vegetables, nuts and seeds. Cardiovascular disease is the number one leading cause of death in the U.S., and a poor diet is the top risk factor, according to Dr. Ashkan Afshin, lead researcher from the University of Washington.

“The study results suggest that nearly half of heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease) deaths in the United States might be prevented with improved diets,” according to Afshin in the MedlinePlus article.

The study results stress that a healthy diet is not only avoiding certain foods–you have to take care that you are making sure to eat others. The study was even able to estimate what percent of the deaths were from too much or too little of certain foods, like 12 percent of the deaths probably could have been avoided had the people eaten more vegetables.

The good news is it’s never too late to change your diet.

To read more about the study, please visit “Bad Diets Tied to 400,000 U.S. Deaths in 2015.”

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Being a Part of Your Own Healthcare: Questions to Know

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Oncology Doctor Consults with Patient by National Cancer Institute is licensed under CC0.

doctor with patient

Recently, I taught a class on how to help older adults find health information. One of the issues that came up during the class was patient safety, which has been a trending topic for us this past year.

Unlike the patient-doctor relationship of the past, patients today are encouraged to be active partners in the healthcare team in order to, in part, reduce the errors that occur in routine processes. According to Sir Liam Donaldson, named by the World Health Organization as the Envoy for Patient Safety, these errors occur in 10% of hospital admissions and sometimes lead to fatal outcomes.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “develops the knowledge, tools, and data needed to improve the health care system and help Americans, health care professionals, and policymakers make informed health decisions” as stated on their profile.

One of these tools is a set of questions that patients can ask their doctors. They also have additional information on what one might ask pre- and post-appointment, along with a guide on building your own set of questions. The basic set includes:

  1. What is the test for?
  2. How many times have you done this procedure?
  3. When will I get the results?
  4. Why do I need this treatment?
  5. Are there any alternatives?
  6. What are the possible complications?
  7. Which hospital is best for my needs?
  8. How do you spell the name of that drug?
  9. Are there any side effects?
  10. Will this medicine interact with medicines that I’m already taking?

One of the participants in the course suggested an additional question to ask the doctor that resonated with the other professionals in the class:

“What happens if I do nothing?”

Asking the right questions is an important part of taking care of one’s health. Find more on AHRQ’s Questions to Ask Your Doctor.

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Hearing Loss Predicted to Grow Tremendously by 2060 in U.S.

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Untitled by Joel Mwakasege is licensed under CC0.

back of head

According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, hearing loss among the U.S. population could jump from 44 million in 2020 to 73.5 million by 2060; the 2060 number would comprise 23 percent of the adult American population, compared to 15 percent in 2020. And in 2060, 55 percent of adults with hearing loss will be over 70.

This sort of growth for this health condition is unprecedented, according to Neil DiSarno, chief staff officer of audiology at American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The most common cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. To prevent this, it is recommended that people should lower their earphone volume and to limit exposure to firearms, fireworks and loud noises you may hear at work.

And besides just not being able to hear as well, hearing loss has other effects on a person as well. Older adults who have hearing loss are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and have a higher risk of falling. There also appears to be evidence between hearing loss and mental decline.

To read more about hearing loss increasing, please visit “Hearing Loss May Double in United States by 2060.”

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