Testing It Up

Obese Children Already Show Tell-Tale Signs of Heart Disease

heart diseaseObese children and teens already show the same signs of heart disease as adults do, new research has found.

In a study published online in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, German researchers studied 61 overweight and obese children 8-to 21-years-old, comparing them with 40 non-obese children of the same age. All of them were free of disease and not taking any medicines.

Compared with children of normal weight, the obese group had significantly higher triglycerides, higher total cholesterol, lower HDL (“good cholesterol”), higher LDL (“bad” cholesterol), higher blood pressure, higher fasting glucose and higher fasting insulin readings.

The researchers also found that in obese children part of the heart muscle was thicker on average, which in an adult would be a sign of impending cardiovascular problems.

“We do not know if these changes are reversible with weight loss or how they will impact future cardiovascular disease in these subjects,” said the lead author, Dr. Norman Mangner, a cardiologist at the University of Leipzig.

November 3, 2014 at 8:52 am Comments (0)

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month

November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month.inacatseye

Although many people head into a shelter intent on adopting a young animal, there are advantages to adopting an older pet. Senior pets are typically calmer and less energetic than puppies and kittens and it can be easier to teach them new tricks. Many senior pets already know basic commands. Their low-key natures can also make them ideal for households with children.

Also, older pets are usually house trained, so you don’t have to spend weeks or months trying to train them like you do with a younger pet.

Understanding the personality of an animal is key to finding the perfect match for your family and for that homeless pet. While young puppies and kittens are still developing their personalities, you’ll know right away what type of animal an older pet is.

One thing you have to remember about adopting an older pet is that they do require monitoring for their health, as older animals are more susceptible to diseases and health complications. One way of monitoring your pet’s health is using at-home health testing kits for your dogs and cats. These kits use either a saliva or urine sample to test for common pet ailments so you can keep your pet healthy and happy for longer.

November 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm Comment (1)

DNA Helps to Protect Some Hispanic Women from Breast Cancer

New research has found that some Hispanic women are less prone to breast cancer thanks to their DNA. mammogram showing breast cancer

Compared with women of European or African-American descent, fewer Hispanic women develop breast cancer and fewer of them die from it, medical statistics show, and an international team led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, recently said they now know the reason why this is.

A tiny difference in the DNA of certain women makes Latinas who inherit it about 40% less likely to develop breast cancer, medical geneticist Laura Fejerman and her colleagues reported in Nature Communications. And, if women have inherited the variation from both sides of their family, they are 80% less likely to get breast cancer.

“It is strongly protective,” said cancer specialist Elad Ziv at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, who helped conduct the study funded by the National Cancer Institute. “We really need to do more experiments to nail it down and understand what it is doing.”

Women who carry the genetic variant have breast tissue that appears less dense on mammograms. High-density breast tissue is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

The finding may lead to more effective genetic testing for women at risk, by helping to determine who most needs to take preventative measures.

October 20, 2014 at 7:33 am Comments (0)

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Just in case you need another reason to adopt an adorable little pal, October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month.

Photo courtesy of Jack Pease on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Jack Pease on Flickr

As part of the initiative, some shelters are lowering adoption fees and providing incentives for people to adopt dogs. The San Diego Humane Society, for example, is lowering adoption fees for dogs seven months and older to $10 and giving away a free pumpkin with each adoption. There are also several events planned around the city

Often, dogs adopted from shelters are older and have more health problems than their young counterparts. To keep your dog in the best possible health, rely on TestCountry’s at-home dog testing kits.

To find out the breeds of your adopted dog, which is important to maintaining its health, rely on TestCountry’s DNA Dog Breed Saliva kit.

To learn more about adopting a shelter dog, visit the ASPCA website, the American Humane Society website or the Hartz website.


October 1, 2014 at 1:47 am Comments (0)

New Blood Test Detects Depression

Many people believe that depression is just a state of mind and that it can be wished away. A new technology supports the idea that depression is caused by biochemical reactions that can be treated medically and identified through a blood test.

blood test for depressionIn fact, a new test is being developed by Dr. Eva Redei of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to identify blood particles linked to depressive episodes. Call it a blood test to detect depression. According to Redei, the study could pave the way for treating depression like any other disease, which can be cured through medical treatment.

In the meantime, the study focuses on tracing ribonucleic acids (RNA) in the blood as a marker for depression. The framework of the RNA strand of a person experiencing depression was taken from comparisons conducted on depression patients with those who were not depressed. The study was able to identify differences between the RNA in the blood of depressed people and those of people without the condition.

The study author believes that the study will change the way society thinks about depression. “I really believe that having an objective diagnosis will decrease stigma,” said Redei in a news release.

Medical professionals advise people diagnosed with depression to have their condition treated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, diagnosis takes months to confirm that the person is depressed. With this new blood test, detection of depression is made quicker.

September 17, 2014 at 12:59 am Comment (1)

It’s National Dog Day!

August 26 is National Dog Day, so give your canine cuddler a big hug.walking the dog

We all want our pooch pals to be as healthy as they can and when it comes to doggie health, one of the best ways you can ensure your dog stays in top notch shape is to test them periodically. Many people don’t even know you can test your beloved pet for common ailments, but TestCountry carries a full line of pet testing kits for both dogs and cats. These tests become increasingly important as your pets age and become (like us) more susceptible to illness.

These tests can be done easily in your own home and cost much less than if you were to take your pet to a veterinarian to have the same tests done.


August 26, 2014 at 8:00 am Comments (0)

Laser Technology Introduces Non-Invasive Blood Sugar Measurement

Diabetes patients and those who regularly check their blood sugar levels may look forward to the day when they won’t experience daily needle pricking anymore.

Photo credit: Frank Wojciechowski for the Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton University

Photo credit: Frank Wojciechowski for the Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton University

A new procedure is being developed by a team of researchers from New Jersey’s Princeton University to use laser technology as a non-invasive way of extracting blood samples. The new device, which was recently presented in the journal Biomedical Optics Express, involves a laser beam pointed at a patient’s palm to measure the blood sugar level. The light beam will be absorbed by the sugar molecules in the skin’s dermal interstitial fluid, which is said to be a good indicator of blood sugar.

Sabbir Liakat, one of the study’s authors, said that the accuracy of its latest prototype is at 84 percent. This satisfies the industry standard for home glucose monitors to register at least 80 percent accuracy. Meanwhile, university professor Claire Gmachl emphasized the positive impact of the new technology on diabetes testing. “With this work we hope to improve the lives of many diabetes sufferers who depend on frequent blood glucose monitoring,” Gmachl said in a news item.

The existing prototype still needs work, as its current iteration is too bulky. The ultimate aim is to create a mobile version of their device in order to collect more data through clinic visits.

August 25, 2014 at 1:01 am Comments (0)

June is cataract awareness month

June is Cataract Awareness Month. cataract

Cataracts, the number one cause of blindness worldwide, affect an estimated 24 million Americans 40 and older.

The good news is that cataracts can be removed and cataract surgery has a 95% success rate. It is one of the most commonly performed operations in the Unites States and in addition to giving people their eyesight back, it has been proven to lower the risk of fall-related hip injuries.

According to the organization preventblindness.org, cataracts are caused by:

  • Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Hereditary influences
  • Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Eye injuries
  • Eye diseases
  • Smoking

Blurry vision, double vision, seeing phantom images, or feeling like there is a film over your vision, being blinded by bright light, or feeling as though it is too dark to read are all common symptoms of cataracts. You can sometimes see your cataract as a milky or yellowish spot over your pupil, which would normally be clear black.

Cataracts are most common among older individuals, because the cells in the eye that replenish it are not able to leave the eye as you get older. Thus, they build up in a cloudy residue over the lens.

Even though they are manageable and potentially curable, it is important to take good care of your eyes your whole life in order to prevent cataracts later on. That means getting eye exams every year or every other year. It’s especially important to have dilated exams to check for developing cataracts.

June 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm Comments (0)

15 Year Old Develops Software to Identify Cancer-Causing Gene Mutations

Nathan Han, a 15-year-old from Boston, has won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for creating a computer program that can predict how harmful gene mutations related to cancer might be. 

Photo courtsy of fastcoexist.com

Photo courtsy of fastcoexist.com

Han says that he’s been fascinated with bioinformatics for awhile and when a close friend’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, he started thinking about possible projects.

He eventually settled on his winning software, which evaluates mutations in the BRCA1 gene–a gene commonly associated with ovarian and breast cancer–to see how harmful they are.

Han programmed his software to differentiate between disease-related mutations and harmless mutations using data from public databases.

“I chose to focus on BRCA1 in particular for practicality. It’s one of the most studied genes in the human genome,” he says.

According to Han, his program has an 81% accuracy rate in identifying cancer-causing mutations. Existing algorithms have an accuracy rate of only around 40%.

His software could one day be customized to evaluate other genes and diseases.

“Down the road, as accuracy improves, I can imagine using this sort of process for personalized genomic analysis,” Han says.

For winning the Intel science fair, Han receives $75,000, which he will put toward college.

June 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm Comment (1)

Yelp used to identify food-borne illnesses at NY restaurants

Up until now, all restaurant owners had to worry about when it came to bad Yelp reviews was a hit to their business. But a new pilot project in New York could see them get pinpointed as the source for food-borne illness outbreaks.food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report recently saying that New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has completed a pilot project that used Yelp reviews to help identify unreported outbreaks of food-borne illness.

The researchers used a software program developed by Columbia University to search nearly 300,000 Yelp reviews of restaurants in the city over a nine-month period in 2012-13. The researchers searched for specific words like “sick,” “vomit” and “diarrhea,” along with other details.

Using the research, health officials were able to pinpoint three instances when 16 people had been made ill by restaurant food. Furthermore, they were able to discern the restaurants patrons had eaten at and the food the patrons had eaten that made them ill.

Since diners who suffer food-related ailments rarely report them, using Yelp helps to keep track of these unreported outbreaks.

“With food-borne illnesses, it’s much better to reach people sooner,” said Dr. Sharon Balter, a medical epidemiologist with New York’s health department. “When investigating an outbreak, we want to know what people who got sick ate, who else was with them and what items they all ate together. If you wait, people forget.”

During the pilot program, the computers searched through a week’s worth of Yelp reviews at a time, but now that’s been bumped up to checking them daily.

Health officials don’t just rely on the reviews, though. Once it’s been determined that a restaurant has made two more people sick and that the incubation period was more than 10 hours, the researchers then reach out to the patrons through Yelp to ask if they’d be willing to talk with health officials.

Using this information, city health officials investigated the restaurants where the illnesses originated (as they do with all illness outbreaks) and although they weren’t able to identify the source of the illnesses, they did discover unsanitary practices and other health violations at the restaurants.

May 27, 2014 at 6:51 am Comments (0)

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