Health & Wellness

New Blood Test Shows if Children Have Concussion with over 90% Accuracy

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children playing football - US Army

A new blood test has been developed that can identify when a child has experienced a brain injury with 94% accuracy. The test was developed by Orlando Health, a non-profit health care company who recently published a study, in the journal Academy Emergency Medicine.

“The idea is to get a test that could be used on the field to help the coaches, trainers, and athletic directors make a decision then and there about whether the child should go back to play,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Linda Papa, a researcher at Orlando Health. “If we could find a simple test that takes the guess work out of diagnosing these kids, that would completely change the way we approach concussions and would certainly give parents greater peace of mind.”

The test detects the biomarker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which helps gauge the severity of the injury. The higher the levels of GFAP that are present in the blood, the more severe the brain injury is, explained Papa. The proteins found in the glial cells that make up GFAP surround neurons in the brain, so when there’s an injury to those particular brain cells, GFAP is released into the blood stream.

Researchers examined CT scans of 257 children, 197 of whom had suffered trauma to the head. Of those children, they administered blood tests and CT scans to 152 children and compared results. The researchers were able to identify with 94% accuracy which children had experienced a brain injury as indicated by the CT scans, plus they were able to tell the severity of the brain injury using the blood test.

“This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury,” Papa said. “We have so many diagnostic blood tests for different parts of the body, like the heart, liver, and kidneys, but there’s never been a reliable blood test to identify trauma in the brain. We think this test could change that.”

Papa and her research team plan to conduct more studies using the blood test, and hope to have it ready for store shelves within the next five years.

[Photo courtesy of U.S. Army on Flickr]


Health & Wellness

Walking and Riding Public Transportation Improves Cardiovascular Health

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Aerobic exercises have long been known to make the heart healthy, but two recent studies suggest that even the simplest moments of walking and riding public transportation can boost cardiovascular health.

The two studies — one from Canada and the other from Japan — emphasize the benefits of walking to overall health. “Walking is easy, it’s cheap and it’s safe. It doesn’t take fancy equipment, and it can be done from our front doors,” said The Katz Institute for Women’s Health vice-president for women’s health Dr. Stacey Rosen in a news release.

Dr. Russell Luepker of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis said that people can enjoy this kind of benefit much more if they live in places that encourage walking or going through public commute. “Even something as simple as walking to the store or taking public transportation to the office can provide long-term benefits, if you do it often enough,” Luepker said.

The Canadian research looked into health information of more than a thousand people living in Ontario, and checked their conditions after moving to another neighborhood. The study results showed that people who moved in highly walkable areas had close to 50 percent lower risk of high blood pressure within 10 years after relocation.

As for the Japanese study, about 6,000 adults were monitored in terms of health and divided into two groups: those who drove a vehicle to work, and those who rode public transportation. Results were clear: people who rode a train or bus to work had 27 percent less risk of high blood pressure, and 34 percent less likelihood of develop diabetes.


Health & Wellness

Eating Home-Cooked Meals Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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If you want to avoid having Type 2 Diabetes, you may start by eating more home-cooked meals, as recommended by a recent study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“There is growing trend of eating meals prepared out-of-home in many countries. Here in the United States, energy intake from out-of-home meals has increased from less than 10 percent in the mid-60s to over 30 percent in 2005-2008, and average time spent on cooking has decreased by one third,” according to research fellow and study author Geng Zong via a news item. Together with this changing trend, he said that diet-related health concerns such as obesity and diabetes have increased as well.

The study involved almost 58,000 females who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, as well as more than 41,000 males who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. According to the results, people who ate more home-cooked meals had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. There was a 13 percent less risk for people who ate up to 14 home-cooked meals in lunch and dinner, compared with individuals who ate less than six in a week.

Part of the reason behind this link is the lower likelihood of people to take sweetened drinks together with their home-cooked food. “We tried to analyze differences in the diet of these people and found, among other differences, that there was a slightly lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages when people had more homemade meals, which is another bridge linking homemade meals and diabetes in this study,” Zong added.


Pregnancy & Fertility

Depression Linked To Chain of Health Concerns for Pregnant Women

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Some of the health risks involved in a woman’s pregnancy include gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. Although these health concerns may be traced to many factors, a recent study indicates that one possible cause is depression.

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK discovered a possible link between depression during the second trimester of pregnancy and sedentary lifestyle, which could lead to pregnancy-related health issues. The study followed more than 1,200 expectant mothers who were asked about their physical activity and emotional state. The study proponents also noted the women’s health data, as reported in a news item.

Results of the study showed that women who experienced bouts of depression became more sedentary in their daily activity. This was also linked to a greater weight gain when they reached the second trimester. In addition, women who had minimal to no physical activity were linked to a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Study lead author Nithya Sukumar stressed the importance of their study on the health of pregnant women. “Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of birth complications for the mother and baby and so it is important we minimize this risk by reducing the time that pregnant women spend sitting down,” Sukumar said.

Sedentary behavior has long been linked to various health risks, some of which include obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.


Pregnancy & Fertility

More Pregnant Women Gaining Excess Weight, Says Study

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pregnant women excess weight

Pregnancy is a sensitive health condition for both mother and child, and so the results of a recent study should raise concern for women who are conceiving.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via a news release, at least half of pregnant women in the country are gaining more than their recommended weights. The study, conducted by a team of CDC researchers including epidemiologist Andrea Sharma, also confirmed that only 32 percent of expectant mothers were able to maintain their weights as prescribed by their respective doctors.

“A large proportion of women enter pregnancy not at a healthy weight,” said Sharma. One of the possible reasons behind the phenomenon is a misconception in terms of the nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman. “Eating for two shouldn’t translate to eating without limits… It should translate to eating twice as healthy,” the epidemiologist said.

The study was based on data from 41 states on pregnant women in 2013, as well as pregnancy risk data recorded in 2012. Details of the study were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the health agency.

The research team emphasized the importance of proper diet especially in women who are carrying a child. “The amount of extra calories needed during pregnancy [per day] is relatively small… It’s only about an additional 340 to 450 calories in the second and third trimester only. An apple, a cup of yogurt, a handful of almonds might be about 350 calories,” Sharma added.


Health & Wellness Pet Health

Exposure To Pets Lowers Asthma Risk in Children

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pet health childhood asthma

Asthma continues to be a health issue in the U.S., with about 9.3 percent of kids diagnosed with this respiratory disease. Although there are many ways to treat and prevent asthma, have you ever thought that your pets can help alleviate this health concern?

This was revealed by a team of Swedish researchers from Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet, who discovered that exposing kids to dogs before they turn a year old decreases their risk of developing asthma by 13 percent when they reach school age. The researchers based this on previous research that links farm life with human health. “Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child’s risk of asthma to about half… We wanted to see if this relationship was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes,” said study co-author Tove Fall, PhD in a news item.

In addition, children who are exposed to farm animals may have 31 percent lower risk of asthma at preschool age, and up to 52 percent decreased risk at school age.

The research team believes that the results of their study could give parents more options to increase the protection in their kids’ health. “For what we believe to be the first time in a nationwide setting, we provide evidence of a reduced risk of childhood asthma in 6-year-old children exposed to dogs and farm animals. This information might be helpful in decision making for families and physicians on the appropriateness and timing of early animal exposure,” the researchers added.

Results of the study were published in JAMA Pediatrics.


Health & Wellness

Risk of Heart Disease Increased By Drinking Sweetened Beverages

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As the U.S. celebrates American Diabetes Month this November to raise awareness on one of the leading diseases in the world, a new study revealed that drinking sweetened beverages on a regular basis not only worsens the risk of diabetes but also of cardiovascular diseases.

A Swedish study conducted by Dr. Susanna Larsson and colleagues at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm involved close to 49,000 males who were asked about their diet, physical activity, lifestyle, and health status. After filtering out those with existing health issues such as heart ailments or cancer, the remaining 42,400 respondents were monitored for about 12 years.

From the survey and continuous monitoring, researchers discovered that “men who consumed at least two servings per day of sweetened beverages had a 23% higher risk of heart failure, compared with non-consumers,” as reported in a news item.

Aside from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases remains one of the top causes of death, affecting roughly 23 million people around the world.


Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Childbirth and Breastfeeding Linked To Lower Death Risk in Women

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Ladies, listen up: Your chances of dying from cancer and other leading causes of death may be lower if you have either given birth or engage in breastfeeding.

This was revealed through a study by researchers from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in England, via a news report. The study was carried out with close to 323,000 European women who were monitored for about 13 years. The participants were followed up in terms of their health and death.

Out of more than 4.4 percent who died within the study period, women who gave birth were found to have a lower risk of dying from cancer. The statistic improved further for those who had more two or more children, as compared to whose who had only one child. In terms of cardiovascular diseases, the likelihood of death from such a disease was lower for women who either gave birth or engaged in breastfeeding. In addition, those who delivered a baby at age 26 to 30 were found to have the lowest likelihood of death, compared to any other age group.

Study co-author Melissa Merritt attributes the link to the natural hormonal changes in a woman’s body whenever she carries a baby in her womb or breastfeeds her child. However, because the connection of childbirth and breastfeeding to lower death risk is not a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers recommend further studies to determine the impact of reproductive factors on long-term health.


Health & Wellness

Excessive TV Watching May Increase Risk of Death From Leading Causes

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watching television effect on health

Be careful how much time you spend in front of the television, because a new study suggests that this might increase your likelihood of developing some of the leading causes of death.

Researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute led by fellow Sarah Keadle discovered a link between watching too much television and the leading causes of fatalities in the country. The study was conducted by following more than 220,000 individuals between the ages of 50 and 71 who were not diagnosed with any of the chronic diseases before the research started. The study ran for 15 years, and the participants were monitored until their deaths or up to the conclusion of the study on December 2011.

As reported in a news release, results showed that the risk of death from leading causes was higher by 15 percent in those who spent an average of 3.5 hours of daily TV watching, as compared with those who watched for less than 1 hour per day. The risk was elevated by 47 percent in people who spent at least seven hours in front of the TV. The increase in risks were found in some of the leading causes of death, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and respiratory diseases.

The research team inferred that the reason behind the increased risk is the lack of physical activity while watching television. “We know that television viewing is the most prevalent leisure-time sedentary behavior and our working hypothesis is that it is an indicator of overall physical inactivity,” Keadle said.

The results of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, led the researchers to conclude that television viewing should be considered a vital part of public health programs to prevent diseases. “Given the increasing age of the population, the high prevalence of TV viewing in leisure time, and the broad range of mortality outcomes for which risk appears to be increased, prolonged TV viewing may be a more important target for public health intervention than previously recognized,” Keadle added.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Study: Daily Alcohol Consumption May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

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women drinking breast cancer risk

A large-scale research confirmed earlier studies that say drinking alcohol regularly is associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer in women.

The findings were based on data on more than 334,000 females between the ages of 35 and 70 living in ten countries within Europe. The researchers, who come from five universities in Spain, discovered that every glass of alcoholic drink corresponds to a fourfold increase in breast cancer risk. “A daily intake of one glass of wine or beer — or less — would correspond to a risk value of 1. However, if we increase our intake to two daily glasses of wine or beer, our risk would rise by 4 percent,” said study co-author Maria Dolores Chirlaque in a news item.

In addition, women who started drinking alcohol on a daily basis before being pregnant for the first time are found to have a much greater breast cancer risk.

Despite this risk, the researchers find a glimmer of hope in the sense that the risk factor is preventable. “Alcohol intake is a breast cancer risk factor that can be changed by a personal decision to form healthy habits,” Chirlaque added.

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer.