Testing It Up » May 2011

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Constipation Myths That Need To Be Dispelled

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Constipation is a painful and frustrating condition that few people are comfortable talking about. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some time in his or her life and it is not serious in many cases. Yet, as common as it is, it has been surrounded by a lot of myths that make it more difficult for people to fully understand.

Here are some constipation myths as shared in a feature on Boots WebMD.

constipationDaily Bowel Movement. While it is common for many to have bowel movement every day, this is not the case for all. One is considered constipated if your bowel movement is less often or cause more strain than usual. Some people go 3 times a day; others go 3 times a week. This will be the ‘normal’ upon which constipation or diarrhea (loose bowel movements) can be referred.

Lack of Fiber. Most people think that constipation only means one needs more fiber in the body. While fiber can help relieve constipation, the condition can be caused by stroke, diabetes, thyroid problems or Parkinson’s disease. It can also signal bowel cancer or autoimmune disease.

Coffee. Others turn to coffee to stimulate the muscles in the digestive system to contract and thus cause a bowel movement. Caffeine, however, is a diuretic and as such, encourages liquid to be drawn out of stools. This makes the stool harder to pass.

People who are regularly constipated may have considered undergoing colon irrigation or colon cleansing. It is advised to first seek medical advice as the procedure can damage the colon and even lead to other issues.

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Mercury Found in Fish Along California Coast

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A study funded by the State Water Resources Control Board found mercury in PCBs in several species of fish along the coast of California. Some of the levels detected were higher than thresholds set by the state, although none of these levels were high enough to warrant the modification of guidelines regarding fish consumption.

According to a feature on The Orange County Register, the study is part of an effort to observe fish in the ocean and in inland waters. It involved sampling 42 coastal sites in 2009, 27 of which were located in Southern California.

fresh fishThe study classified the fish into several categories, based on the levels of mercury detected. The categories included “one serving per week” and “no consumption”. Average concentrations in the tested fish from Ventura to San Mateo Point south of San Clemente placed them in the “one serving per week category.” Around 5 percent of the samples were placed in the “no consumption category,” mostly in sharks.

Samples for the Southern California study included kelp bass, Pacific chub mackerel, white croaker, yellowfin croaker, barred sandbass and spotted sandbass. Spotted sandbass and kelp bass had the highest mercury levels, based on the results of the study.

Majority of the samples fell into the moderate range for mercury and PCBs. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenals) are cancer-causing chemicals, and were usually used in electrical transformers prior to their being banned in 1979.

Ken Schiff, deputy director of the independent science group Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and one of the study authors, shared: “Mercury really hasn’t been measured throughout all of coastal Southern California, especially edible fish… The fact that we’re getting moderate contamination here – that’s a new finding.”

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

No Smoking in NYC Public Outdoor Spaces

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Smokers in New York, beware. Public outdoor spaces in New York – including parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas – will implement a no-smoking rule starting Monday.

no smokingThe new law is an effort at reducing, or eliminating, exposure to second hand smoke, according to a feature on CBS News. In addition, New York City health officials hope that the law would dissuade the younger generation from lighting up.

The law was pushed by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is a former smoker himself.

New York City is not the only one implementing smoking bans in outdoor places, although these cities definitely do not comprise the majority; only less than 3 percent of cities have outdoor smoking bans. There are, however, 35 states that implement indoor smoking bans.


New York Health Screening


Health & Wellness

Blood Tests May Help Determine Life Span

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A blood test that is scheduled to hit the British market within the year may potentially determine a person’s life span.

A feature on ABC News shared that the test may provide information regarding a person’s biological age, which may not necessarily coincide with chronological age. Jerry Shay, professor and vice chairman of cell biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, shared: “That means some people may be biologically older or younger than their age… The test will tell you within about a decade what your biological age is.”

blood testShay is a member of the scientific advisory board of Life Length, the manufacturer of the test.

The test measures the length of telomeres – pieces of DNA located at the ends of chromosomes. These get shorter as cells divide with age.

Shay pointed out, however, that while biological age may be a factor in determining life span, it does not necessarily predict the length of a person’s life: “If you have really short telomeres, that doesn’t mean you’re going to die in the next year or two… It’s really for the average person who’s just curious his or her general health.”

Shay added that the information provided by the test “could be a red flag that perhaps you need to do something to try and reverse the conditions that led to that.”

The test costs about $700; anyone who would like to take it should see a doctor to have blood drawn. The blood is sent to a lab, and results may be available in a month, although these can also become available in a week if it is necessary.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Controversy Over Melatonin-Laced Brownies

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The increasing popularity of desserts laced with melatonin, a sleeping aid, is causing a stir, even drawing criticism from some politicians. Products such as Lazy Cakes, Kush Cakes, and Lulla Pies are now being sold online, as well as in convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Walgreens.

browniesAccording to a feature on The New York Times, the baked goodies are being promoted as a harmless way to promote relaxation. It has actually gained a following who now endorse them via Twitter and Facebook, saying that the products are a good way to relieve stress and relax.

There are insomniacs who are touting the effects brought about by the products, labeling them as a “more natural” way to address their condition. Nick Collado, the founder of Lulla Pies, is an insomniac, and he shared: “I realized there’s got to be more people like me who don’t want to take prescription drugs anymore, who want to take an alternative.”

The brownies and cakes, however, contain about 8 mg of melatonin per serving. With the way that these products are served up, it is easy to forget that one is essentially taking a drug. Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard, commented: “It’s making it much more difficult for the consumer to recognize that they are taking a drug.”

It is recommended that anyone who would like to consume the products consult with their doctors before doing so. The melatonin that these products contain may have an effect on the efficacy of other medication that consumers may be taking.

New York Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Mummified Playmate Died of Heart Failure

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The cause of death for Yvette Vickers, the 1959 Playmate whose remains went undiscovered in her Los Angeles home for almost a year, has been determined as heart failure, based on the findings of the coroner’s office.

A feature on the Los Angeles Times shared a statement from Joyce Kato, an investigator with the Los Angeles County coroner’s department, which revealed that Vickers had died of natural causes “due to arterial sclerotic cardiovascular disease.” The actual date of her death was not determined. She would have been 82 at the time her body was discovered.

Yvette VickersVickers, born Yvette Vedder, was an actress and model in the 1950s. The films that she starred in include “Sunset Boulevard,” “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” and “Attack of the Giant Leeches.” She had been married twice, first to Don Prell, and then to Leonard Burns. Both marriages ended in divorce. She never remarried, but was said to have had a long-term relationship with actor Jim Hutton. She did not leave behind any immediate survivors.

Her home is located at Westwanda Drive, in the neighborhood of Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. A neighbor noticed cobwebs in her mailbox, and decided to enter her home. Her body was discovered on April 27, in an upstairs bedroom, where a small space heater was still on. The home had fallen into disrepair, with its rooms filled with boxes containing clothes, junk mail, and letters.

Those living on Westwanda Drive shared that Vickers had not been seen since the summer of 2010. An acquaintance shared further that in recent years, she had been suffering from paranoia.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Celebrity Substance Abuse Pregnancy & Fertility Substance Abuse

Is Mariah Carey on Drugs and Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

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Nick Cannon, singer Mariah Carey’s husband, recently revealed that they had received a visit from a social worker over accusations of drug and alcohol use.

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Cannon shared that someone had apparently complained that the couple’s newborn twins – born two weeks ago via Caesarean section – were subjected to abuse, due to Ms. Carey’s consumption of drugs and alcohol while breastfeeding. Cannon said: “Child protective services were called with allegations that, you know, there was some drinking and drugs and all that going on while in the hospital, which again makes no sense to me… Like, how would a hospital even allow that?”

Mariah Carey and Nick CannonCannon also shared in another interview, with A.J. Hammer of HLN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” that the social worker had told him that the allegations of alcohol and drug use were not just limited to the time that was spent in the hospital.
The twins, Moroccan Scott, a boy, and Monroe, a girl, are being treated in a neonatal intensive care unit.

The social worker’s visit, which happened on Tuesday, may have been triggered by a suggestion given by a nurse, according to Cannon. The nurse had suggested that Carey drink a small amount of Guinness, a dark beer, as it could help improve breastfeeding. Carey had followed the suggestion, according to Cannon.

The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, citing confidentiality rules, did not give any comment.
Cannon said: “I guess someone maybe overheard that (suggestion), and this is a good way to make a quick buck, or call the tabloids… It’s kind of sad that people think that we’ll make money off of these newborns.”

Los Angeles Drug Screening

Early Disease Detection

Chemo Cocktail May Increase Odds for Pancreatic Cancer Survival

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Pancreatic cancer has been categorized as one of the deadliest forms of cancer, claiming the lives of 36,800 of 43,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease annually. With such bleak chances for survival, many patients suffering from pancreatic cancer opt to endure the side effects that may be caused by medication, if it meant extending their survival.

According to a feature on the Los Angeles Times, French researchers were able to determine that a cocktail of four chemotherapy drugs may improve the average survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients by 60 percent. The drugs, however, cause various side effects, although these did not impair a patient’s quality of life.

pancreatic cancerThe study was conducted by Dr. Dr. Thierry Conroy of Nancy University and Centre Alexis Vautrin in Nancy, France, and his colleagues. It involved 342 patients who had been diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer, and who were under the age of 76.

The study participants received treatment for a period of six months, and were divided into two groups. One group received a cocktail of four chemotherapy drugs, collectively termed as FOLFIRINOX: oxaliplatin, irinotecan, leucovorin and fluorouracil. The other group received gemcitabine (Gemzar), the primary drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.

The results of the study showed that those who received FOLFIRINOX had a median survival time of 11.1 months, compared to 6.8 months among those who received gemcitabine. Those who received combination therapy, however, experienced more side effects, including pain, numbness in the extremities, loss of appetite, diarrhea and weight loss. Due to the severe side effects observed among those who received combination therapy, physicians recommend that it be given to patients aged 75 and below.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Health & Wellness

Healthiest Foods for Men

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Men may not be as vain as women when it comes to their looks, but they share a common need to be as healthy as they can be. One way to do that is to eat healthy.

A feature on WebMD shares some of the foods that can boost male health.

lean red meatLean Red Meat. One of the first things that gets cut from one’s normal diet, when one wants to eat healthier, is red meat; but that may not necessarily be the case. Red meat can be good, for as long as you choose lean cuts of beef or pork, according to Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, the nutritional consultant of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lean meats are rich in protein and are one of the best sources of leucine, an amino acid that builds muscle.

Chocolate. This may be one of the foods that one least expects to see on a healthy food list, but chocolate, like red meat, can be good, if you eat the right kind of chocolate. There is evidence based on studies that flavanols in dark chocolate can help lower bad cholesterol levels, improve circulation, and manage blood pressure. The other key thing to remember, however, is to eat the right amount of the right kind of chocolate, in order to prevent weight gain. Bonci recommends an ounce of dark chocolate daily, to replace other sweets.

Avocado. Some people steer clear of avocado because of its fat content, but the WebMD feature shared that this is the “good” kind of fat. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats, which can replace saturated fats or trans fats in the diet.

Substance Abuse

Increase in Hepatitis C Cases in Massachusetts Linked to Drug Use

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The number of hepatitis C cases in the state of Massachusetts has been increasing, according to federal health officials. Based on the analysis conducted in the state regarding cases of hepatitis C, it was determined that the likely culprit for the increase is an increase in drug use in the United States.

injection drug useA feature on Smart About Health shared that the analysis was able to identify a clear increase in the number of hepatitis C cases from 2002 to 2009. In the same time period, there was also an increase in the rate of drug use in Massachusetts, as well as the United States in general.

The report was written by a team from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, according to a feature by Reuters, and was released through the weekly report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers indicated the following in their report: “Of cases with available risk data, injection drug use was the most common risk factor for HCV transmission… The increase in case reports appears to represent an epidemic of HCV infection related to IDU (injected drug use) among new populations of adolescents and young adults in Massachusetts.”

Health researchers were able to link the rise in hepatitis C cases to an increased use of heroin and other injected drugs. From 2002 to 2009, there was an increase in the number of first-time users of heroin, from 100,000 in 2002, to 108,000 in 2009.

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It is usually passed on through contaminated blood, caused by such actions as sharing needles when using injected illegal drugs.