Testing It Up » November 2009

Monthly Archives: November 2009

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.

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!

Health & Wellness

Finding a Diet That Works — Really!

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The quest for the right diet towards achieving one’s weight loss goals is like searching for The One; you are most likely going to encounter a few that will not quite work out before finding the right one for you.

In a previous post we shared with you the diets that simply won’t work. This time around, we will be sharing with you tips from Dawn Jackson-Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), on finding the right diet plan for you as featured on WebMD.

fruitsThe first thing that one should remember is that there is no catch-all diet plan that works for everyone. In as much as every person is unique, the fact that a person’s needs – dietary requirements included – will vary from every individual is a natural thing that will follow. Hence, it is to one’s advantage that a diet plan should be drawn up and customized especially for you. This also means that the miracle diet that the lady two cubicles down from you at the office swears by may not exactly work the same way for you.

Also stick to this guideline: it should be simple and realistic enough for you to stick with long-term. It is for this reason that Blatner said that the diet that works may not necessarily refer to a “special diet” at all; it may mean simply tweaking your current diet here and there in order to make it healthier. The focus, as we have mentioned quite a number of times before, should be on “balance, variety and moderation.”

Blatner shared three basic steps in coming up with the right diet plan. The first step is to think about one’s current lifestyle and identify your “weakest links” as far as diet is concerned. Things such as being a sweet tooth and the tendency to snack all day long are examples. Knowing what these factors are will help you in formulating a diet strategy. There are instances when the strategy will not necessarily involve changing your diet; if stress is what causes you to overeat, for instance, then going on a stress management program may be the more appropriate option.

Next is to identify one to three small changes that one can realistically make to one’s diet and exercise routines immediately. These changes will not give you the results you want overnight, but the goal is to arrive at a plan that is “safe, effective and sustainable”.

After a few weeks of sticking with these small changes, reassess and see whether changes have occurred; it is at this point when you may want to think of adding a couple more changes. Twelve weeks is when one will start to see progress, so this is about the right time for one to make a few more adjustments.

Early Disease Detection

Testing For Antioxidant Assessment

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You can get many home tests that test the state of your health. To see how well you are doing when it comes to antioxidants properties in your body, you can use a home testing kit that will give you an assessment of your antioxidant and detoxification values.

If you find that you are low in antioxidant properties in your system, you can use products such as vitamins and foods that will raise the amount of antioxidants you have in your body. Antioxidants are key to fighting disease as they keep your body healthy and boost your immune system. Testing for antioxidants to see if you are in good health is one way that you can learn if you are eating the right foods and how to improve your overall health. You can use an at home testing kit for this purpose so that you can get started on the path to good health right away.

Early Disease Detection

No to Mammography for Women Below 50?

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There has been much ado lately – and it is not about nothing. Guidelines released by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), considered as an “independent panel of experts,” recommended against conducting routine mammograms for women in their 40s. A quick look at news, health and cancer websites now yield all sorts of opinions for and against these new revelations. It was emphasized in some features, though, that the recommendation referred to routine procedures and not cases where women find lumps on their breasts.

mammogramWhat the task force does recommend is for mammograms to start at age 50 to 69, done every other year. Performing the screening procedure among women of this age group will reportedly detect almost just as many breast cancers while at the same time producing only half as many false positives.

The occurrence of false positives – and the numbers are reportedly not exactly a rarity – has long been a criticism that has been hurled against mammograms. Conducting additional and more invasive procedures that turn out to be unnecessary due to a false positive mammogram result is said to cause anxiety and depression to a woman.

Women, the group of people in question, however, will have mixed reactions to this fact; some may even rather go through that just to keep breast cancer at bay, as opposed to just sitting back and doing nothing and being caught unaware when it may be too late. We will agree, however, that having a more efficient and accurate way of detecting breast cancer should be available.

And then again there is the question of health care coverage. With the current administration’s health care reform campaign still the talk of many circles, the task force’s recommendations were seen as another way for the populace to once again be deprived of health care coverage that they should be entitled to.

Several officials and task force representatives are quick to counter, though, that the USPSTF does not have the power to deny coverage, nor are their recommendations enough basis for anyone to assume that companies can therefore deny coverage for these procedures. We certainly hope so.

So what now? Should women not quite 50 still undergo a routine mammogram or not? We are inclined to believe that our body is our own, and that it is difficult to generalize health in terms of culture, gender or age group. It will probably still be to a woman’s advantage to work closely with a physician, who should be able to recommend whether a procedure is necessary based on a patient’s specific condition, medical history and risk factors.

Health & Wellness

Dealing With Nasal Allergies? There May be a Reason Your Sex Life is Suffering

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allergy and decreased sex life

Those who suffer from nasal allergies and their symptoms are likely to also be experiencing a diminished sex life according to research. Why? The symptoms associated with these sort of allergies don’t exactly leave the sufferer feeling very sexy.  We know coughing, sneezing, runny nose and headaches leave us feeling terrible and out if sorts but what we may not be aware of is the fact that we’re also embarrassed by these things, causing us to avoid intimate contact even kissing.

More self-aware and self-conscious when we’re sick dealing with allergies can make us feel as if the allergies make us seem weak and unappealing or gross.  Exhaustion could also play a part in this decrease. The research was based on quality of life surveys conducted with 320 nasal allergy patients, 337 patients who suffered other nasal problems and 44 people who had no nasal health problems. Roughly 17% of those who suffered nasal allergies reported that their allergies always or almost always affect their sex lives, the largest of these three groups to report this problem.

Substance Abuse

Harder to Detect Shake and Bake Meth a Serious Problem

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The traditional stove style of cooking meth is gone and now it’s been replaced by a variety that is far easier to make and harder to detect than the old method. A self-contained bottle (generally an empty 2 liter soda bottle) is filled with the ingredients and then shaken not allowing the ingredients to settle out. Then the liquid is poured through a coffee filter. To make matters worse the new method and ease of use has attracted even more meth makers. Before there were usually only a few in the group who could cook the meth now many of them can do it, opening the ability of small drug producing groups to make quick efficient supply.

The drugs are also much stronger where before they had access to tabs that were 30 milligrams now they have the 24 hour 240 milligram tabs to make meth from. The risk of explosion is also less, meaning that makers can shake the product in a driving car if they’d like to. It also means that it’s easier to make up the meth outside of the home and away from their families, making for more conscientious meth labs.

Early Disease Detection

Two People Died Hours After Getting Swine Flu Shots!

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The Ministry of Health of China has reported that two people have died after receiving swine flu shots. While death after immunization does not necessarily mean that the death was caused by the administration of the vaccine, these occurrences need to be monitored and investigated.

Both fatalities reportedly died within hours after receiving the vaccine. One of them was a teacher from Hunan province. The preliminary autopsy report, however, reveals that the cause of the teacher’s death may have been a heart attack while playing basketball. The Ministry is ruling the death as a “coincidental medical incident” that is not in any way tied with or caused by the administration of swine flu vaccine. There were no details regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of the other person.

swine flu vaccineWhile investigation is ongoing regarding the second death, health officials have reportedly pulled all the batch of vaccines to which the dose used to immunize the teacher belonged. This may have been done in order to ensure that if a tie-in will be made to the batch of vaccines, no other people will receive the doses in question.

China has taken a rather aggressive approach towards swine flu, with the government asking biotech companies to develop a pandemic swine flu vaccine way back in June. It was Sinovac, a company based in Beijing, that was able to develop the first approved swine flu vaccine. They were also the first to conduct trials and report that a single dose of vaccine is enough protection against swine flu.

China started its swine flu vaccination programs in September, the first country in the world to do so.