Testing It Up » November 2009

Monthly Archives: November 2009

Substance Abuse

World’s Strongest Beer from World’s Most Irresponsible Brewery?

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The “World’s Strongest Beer” is here. The concoction was developed by a rather controversial brewery in Scotland, which had already been branded previously as being “irresponsible” for releasing into the market a beer that had 18.2% alcohol content called Tokyo. We wonder what they will be branded by with the launch of this new offering with almost twice the percentage of Tokyo.

The beer is called Tactical Nuclear Penguin and is manufactured by BrewDog of Fraserburgh. Fortunately, the product will reportedly only be available in “limited supply,” and each bottle will be sold for £30.

BrewDog Managing Director with Tactical Nuclear Penguin bottlesManaging Director for BrewDog James Watt gave this statement: “This beer is about pushing the boundaries; it is about taking innovation in beer to a whole new level.”

At a time when the consumption of what may be termed as “normal” beer with “normal” alcohol content is already being scrutinized and has been known to lead to less than desirable consequences, it will certainly be interesting to know exactly what the manufacturer was thinking by coming out with beer containing 32% alcohol.

The product itself has the following warning on its label: “This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”

The release of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, incidentally, coincided with the day that alcohol was prioritized on the political agenda through the unveiling of the Alcohol Bill by the Scottish government.

Early Disease Detection

Artificial Sweetener to Help in Lowering Blood Pressure, Cholesterol

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A certain type of artificial sweetener may do more than just help people lose weight, which was known to be its primary purpose. A study that was reported at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that the sweetener has the potential for use in the lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

sugarThe study was conducted by researchers from China, among them Dr. Dan Qu of the Changhai Hospital in Shanghai and focused on a sugar substitute called oligofructose or OFS. Its primary use is as a substitute for fat or sugar in order to reduce calorie content of foods such as ice cream and pastries. According to the Food and Drug Administration, OFS has 30 to 50% of the sweetness of table sugar.

Data was gathered from 96 adult test subjects between the ages of 32 to 63 who have pre-hypertension. The condition basically refers to having mild or borderline hypertension and may be a flag indicating the tendency to develop high blood pressure in the future. Blood pressure readings for this demographic consist of systolic readings of 120 to 139 and diastolic readings of 80 to 89.

The test subjects were divided into those who were given 20 grams of OFS and those who were only given placebo for a period of 12 weeks. After the period, those who were given OFS had an average drop of 6.9 points in their systolic blood pressure compared to only 3.5 points among those who only took placebo. For the diastolic readings, those who were given OFS dropped an average of 7.3 points compared to only 2.3 among those who were only given placebo.

A decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride levels were also observed, more for those who were taking OFS than those who were not.

The results of this study can be a stepping stone towards further research regarding the use of OFS for blood pressure reduction in supplement form.

Health & Wellness

Hot Topic in Senate: Health Care Bill

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We cannot think of testing for diseases and taking care of one’s health without considering health care coverage, and as the traditional Thanksgiving festivities wind down, it will be time for the Senate to get busy thinking – and talking – about the health care bill.

health careProposed health care reforms under the current administration have been the subject of scrutiny and the recipient of both praise and controversy. Monday will mark the beginning of debates that will involve the remaking of the U.S. health care system, and this will be a series of debates that will not likely come to an end immediately.

The focal point is a 2,074-page bill, the estimated cost of which is said to be $848 million over ten years. Included are amendments to what the current health care system has to offer, all in the hope of improving what we now have. The intention is said to be to extend coverage over 6 years to those Americans who currently do not enjoy the privilege of having one, as well as to address issues that involve the denial of health benefits. These reforms are the brainchild of the Democratic Party, and Republicans are reportedly skeptical about the rather significant costs that it will entail as well as the risks that will have to be taken if the bill was to be pursued.

In question are amendments that are related to several standing social issues, which include abortion, illegal immigration and what is being called as “public option” – a government-run insurance plan.

Among the things that are included in the bill is the requirement for most Americans to purchase insurance, and the plan to impose taxes on insurers and high-income Americans in an effort to generate enough funds to help cover the estimated 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The new bill will also prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have medical conditions, or drop coverage in the event that one gets sick.

Home Health Hazards

Great Places for Asthma Patients

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This is not meant to be a travel guide of any sort; but then again, when one has to deal with the inability to breathe well for the rest of one’s life, one may just find something such as this list from WebMD useful in both the short and long terms.

It will be inaccurate to say that these cities are virtually asthma-free. It’s just that relatively speaking – and with all factors taken into account – these places may be good for those who have to suffer through asthma. Whether you are just out to take a respite from chronic asthma or looking to relocate to a place where things have the possibility of even just a tad bit easier, here are the cities you may want to consider.

asthmaThere were ten cities on the list, and if we understood the accompanying text correctly, it seems like they were listed in no particular order. They were basically the ones who received relatively good evaluations from a list of 100 metropolitan cities that were looked into based on certain criteria. And the cities are: Cape Coral, Palm Beach and Daytona Beach in Florida; Colorado Springs in Colorado; Portland in Maine; Boise City in Idaho; Portland in Oregon; Seattle; Minneapolis; and San Francisco.

So what makes these cities “The Place” for people with asthma? Or is that even an accurate tag to attach to them? Before anything else, being on the list is reportedly not to be misconstrued as the be-all and end-all list that should influence life-altering decisions, such as relocating. Asthma is a rather relative disease, meaning different people may have equally different factors that can trigger symptoms, and decisions are to be made in conjunction with close scrutiny of air quality and other factors.

The factors include geography, weather conditions, pollen count, pollution, other allergens, and smoking ordinances.

 

Seattle Health Screening

 

Substance Abuse

Quit Smoking and Gain Weight?

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Smoking can be a rather tricky habit. There a lot of reasons that may lead to someone starting to smoke, and a lot of reasons not to. And once one has started smoking, there are also a lot of reasons to quit, and a lot of reasons not to.

One of the apprehensions that smokers have against quitting is the possibility of gaining weight. Studies have suggested that people who quit smoking can gain an average of 10 lbs.

weight gainThere are reportedly two reasons behind this weight gain. First is the fact that when a smoker decides to stop, he or she will be missing that act of putting something in one’s mouth. This leads to the tendency to eat more to mimic the action of placing something to the mouth. The fact that one has stopped smoking will also allow one to smell and taste food better, then the sweet and sugary – and similar things sinful – will start looking awfully attractive.

The other reason is reportedly metabolic in nature. The nicotine in smoking increases one’s metabolic rate; its absence will lead to a decrease.

But what if you really want to quit smoking? There are ways of getting around the weight gain. One is to exercise more. You will no longer be constantly out of breath, so one can actually take full advantage of that and be more physical. Exercise will also reportedly help one “burn off nervous energy” that those trying to kick the habit sometimes experience. A healthy diet will also help.

Smokers who intend to take the plunge without putting on weight are also encouraged to plan ahead. A gradual change in diet and exercise routines before actually quitting is reportedly a great way to do it. It will also be to one’s advantage to find something else to stick in one’s mouth other than sweet temptations, such as carrot sticks or sugar-free candy. Lastly, it is deemed important to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Early Disease Detection

H1N1 Self-Assessment Tool from Microsoft

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Towards the end of October, Microsoft launched a new website that can hopefully help people who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms to determine whether they will need immediate medical attention or not.

We may recall that in previous statements and requests from health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the general public is encouraged to exercise due diligence and prudence in determining the appropriate time to seek medical attention. There have been cases of people seeking medical help out of panic when they don’t really need it, as well as people who ask for help when it is already a bit too late.

response centerThe site, h1n1responsecenter.com, provides information on swine flu, tips on how to prevent the flu and on how to take care of one’s self as well as others. There were also H1N1 guidelines on the site specifically for people who have health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cancer.

In addition to information, the site also features an online self-assessment tool. The assessment is based on material from Emory University and will help the person taking the test to assess whether or not one has the symptoms of swine flu as well as decide on what the next appropriate step should be. It is reportedly based closely on an algorithm for health professionals destined for use during the 2009 – 2010 flu season. This algorithm was a joint development effort between the CDC and Emory University, according to a feature on ModernMedicine.com announcing the launch of the tool.

The assessment tool will not only be a way to help one’s self; a person using the assessment tool will be given the opportunity to agree to share the information that he or she provided during the assessment for purposes of “public health, education and research.” The information, when shared, may be used by health officials and researchers in efforts to learn more about “where symptoms may be occurring in the U.S.”

Early Disease Detection

Swine Flu May Spread During the Holidays, Warns CDC

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We know that we just reported how incidents of swine flu seem to be on a decline, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nevertheless warns of how this trend might change over the holidays.

Just as there were concerns expressed over the annual Hajj, the exodus of people going back to their hometowns to spend time with family over the holidays is causing concern regarding the possibility of spreading swine flu.

christmas partiesThere are a lot of potential scenarios, and keeping them in mind might help ensure that our holidays are kept swine flu-free. The most common will be the possibility of catching the virus while traveling and passing it on to friends and family once one gets home. Health officials recognize this and have already launched a new travel-health campaign to serve as a guide for people.

Shopping malls, which may be filled with eager shoppers this holiday season, are also considered as danger zones. We already did a feature regarding department store and mall Santas who also recognized the health risk of being in the midst of crowds during the holidays.

The CDC and the government’s due diligence include putting up of posters in airports, seaports and border crossings, displaying such slogans as “Stop, Wash and Go.”

Travelers are encouraged to exercise prudence in pushing through with any travel plans. If one feels out of sorts in any way, then it is deemed more preferable to simply shelve travel plans and stay home until one absolutely feels better. We wonder is the government can make some kind of arrangement with airlines and bus companies regarding more lenient penalties for sudden cancellations due to health reasons.

Must-haves to place in one’s purse or carry-on are antiseptic wipes and sanitizers; having been vaccinated against the flu will is also encouraged.

Early Disease Detection

HIV Rates Decreasing Globally

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There is good news to be shared as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned; Reports indicate that the rates for infection with HIV are decreasing. This change is reportedly the fruit of more powerful drugs as well as an increase in access to AIDS-centered care and health care facilities which has brought about a reduction in new infections with HIV by as much as 17 percent over the past eight years.

HIVThe decline is also being attributed to the fact that more people are getting tested and provided with appropriate support and care. The work however, is far from over, at least according to pioneering AIDS researcher Dr. Margaret Fischl of the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. Despite the decline in new cases as well as deaths due to the disease, the number of AIDS-related deaths is still too many for comfort.

For instance, there have been nearly 2.7 million people who were diagnosed with HIV in 2008; almost half a million, 430,000 of them, had been children. Since the disease was discovered in 1981, 25 million people have died due to AIDS.

What the study noticed, though, is that the significant improvements were felt in low-income, developing countries. Countries such as the United States and those in Europe did not exactly show very positive results. This is most probably due to the fact that appropriate care is more readily available in these countries than they are in developing countries. What this means is that there may have been a number of cases left unchecked and unidentified prior to the introduction of new techniques for treatment and testing.

Miami and For Lauderdale are two cities who are among the top 5 US cities for AIDS cases.

Miami Health Screening

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Vaccine Still Effective Despite Swine Flu Mutation

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There have been cases of swine flu being resistant to Tamiflu, which indicated that the virus may be mutating. This has warranted investigations and is undeniably fueling concerns among people.

Despite this, though, health experts in Europe and North America reportedly gave the assurance that swine flu vaccines in their current form are still effective towards protecting one’s self against swine flu.

TamifluAccording to experts, which included Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the fact that the H1N1 virus mutated did not come as a surprise. On the contrary, it was a phenomenon that they had already foreseen and expected. Neither will this be the only time that the virus will mutate, the experts also said.

Schuchat also said that the discovery of the mutation does not have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine against swine flu, as well as anti-virals.

The World Health Organization stressed that while a mutation of the virus has been discovered, it “did not appear to cause a more contagious or more dangerous form” of the swine flu virus.

Mutation is not new, as similar cases of mutations have already been observed in Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine and the United States as far back as April this year, when the virus and the flu first came to media and global attention.

Didier Houssin, France’s health chief, also confirmed through a radio interview that “the ability of the vaccine to induce an immune reaction is not affected by the mutation,” which indicates that the vaccines will still be effective. There are also vaccines that have been manufactured with the possibility of mutations already taken into consideration; there are vaccines that have additives that “expands the range of effectiveness” of the vaccine in terms of being able to react against a slightly modified virus.

That does not mean, though, that scientists and researchers are resting on their laurels. They are still very much concerned about the possibility that a mutation into a more virulent form of the virus will occur, and studies are being conducted to prepare for that possibility.

Early Disease Detection

Medical Warning Signs You Should NOT Ignore (Conclusion)

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We conclude the series on medical warning signs that you should not ignore. There were six listed on the WebMD article, and we are now bringing you the final two symptoms to watch out for.

Asthma symptoms that don’t improve or get worse.

asthmaPeople who have lived with asthma all their lives will certainly find asthma attacks a dime a dozen; they are simply so used to it by now. But WebMD says watch out for asthma attacks that either do not improve or gets even worse. Whether you are used to asthma attacks or not, it is certainly time to seek immediate medical attention – meaning call 911 and get to the ER, stat.

If asthma is left on its own, it can cause severe chest muscle fatigue that can even lead to death, something that we actually have a personal experience with. A 16 year-old chronic asthma patient from a couple blocks down our street had an attack that was left unchecked until the wee hours of the morning; they simply were not able to get to the ER fast enough, and the young girl unfortunately passed away.

During an asthma attack, a patient will have difficulty breathing. The muscles for breathing will eventually tire and there will be a decrease in the volume of air exchanged by the lungs. The end result of this is a decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide levels. When you notice an attack or if it happens to someone you are with, monitor it; if it doesn’t get better after several hours, ask for medical help immediately.

Depression and suicidal thoughts.

The last symptom may make some people’s eyebrows rise, but it certainly is something that should not be ignored. Severe feelings of anxiety, sadness and fatigue can lead to the ultimate preventable tragedy in someone’s life: suicide. We are fortunate enough to live at a time when such a condition has been given due medical attention and credence, so we should, in turn, do what is necessary to address it should it happen to us or to someone we care about.

In closing, we leave readers with this reminder — do not be afraid to speak up. Complaining about chest pain or fatigue does not have to be associated with being whiny. If your body is trying to tell you something, you should by all means heed it. Remember, your body – and by extension, your health – is the only one you’ve got; it is only right that you take care of it, no matter what it takes!