Testing It Up » September 2011

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Early Disease Detection

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Focuses on Breast Cancer Exams

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and across America, advocates are focusing on the importance of performing breast cancer exams towards detecting breast cancer.

Here are some things to remember: perform breast self-exams once a month, while in the shower, while getting ready for bed. Women are enjoined to be familiar with their breasts, and to look for lumps, and changes in size, shape or feel; one should also observe whether there are any fluids or discharges.

Jennie Yoon Buchanan, medical director of Women’s Imaging Services at Florida Hospitals, shared: “I encourage all of you to become an expert about the way your breasts look and feel so you can detect any subtle changes. After all, it’s our body, and we are the ones who have to live with whatever goes wrong with it.”

It is recommended that women in their 20s should see a doctor and undergo a clinical breast exam every three years. When they turn 40, it is recommended that the frequency of exams be changed to once a year; women 40 years old and older are also advised to undergo annual mammograms.

Kristina Thomson, interim executive vice president for the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey, shared: “Many breast cancers will be found in women who never felt a lump, because on average, mammography will detect about 80 to 90 percent of the breast cancers in women without symptoms.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to spread knowledge and awareness about the disease, as well as raise money towards finding a cure.

Substance Abuse

Drug in Magic Mushrooms Shows Personality-Altering Properties

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A new study indicates that the drug in magic mushrooms may have properties that could alter personalities over the long term.

According to the results of the study conducted by Roland R. Griffiths, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the drug psilocybin may help people become more open, creative, and curious — with a single high dose.

Dr. Griffiths shared: “Personality, after the age of 25, is relatively stable, and if anything happens, openness decreases across decades, just very slightly, but generally people become more rigid and less creative, and this is showing an anti-aging affect if you will, on openness.”

The study involved an analysis of data gathered from 52 healthy adult volunteers, who tried psilocybin as part of ongoing studies at Johns Hopkins. The study participants were aged 24 to 64 years old, and most of them were well-educated and spiritually active. Before taking the drug, they received counseling about what they may expect, and were subjected to close monitoring during their sessions, which lasted for eight hours.

The volunteers were given standardized doses of psilocybin, which is not possible if the drug is to be sourced by taking magic mushrooms recreationally.

The results of the study indicated that 57 percent of volunteers reported that they had transcendent, mystical experiences when they took the drug. While each individual volunteer reported unique experiences, they all shared a common theme that revolved around feeling peace and joy, and a sense of sacredness, among others.

The researchers warn, however, that some volunteers also reported experiencing anxiety and fear, which can lead people to engage in risky behavior; as such, the researchers advise against using magic mushrooms on their own.

Health & Wellness

Does Processed Foods Offer Any Health Benefit?

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Most of the time we are told to steer clear of processed meat as they are bad for our health, but could this be an absolute truth?

Connie Weaver, head of Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University, says that she grew up in a farm “where a childhood activity was picking food and processing it in the kitchen.” She notes that “You harvest food all at once, but you can’t eat it all at once.”

Processed food doesn’t have to be something that is wrapped in plastic and is shipped from a factory to around the country. Editor of Cooking Light magazine Scott Mowbray stresses that the question isn’t about the food being cooked, fermented or canned but more about how it is processed.

In the October issue of Cooking Light, a round-up of the best processed and packaged foods available includes the expected healthy items such as gluten-free pasta made with brown rice flour as well as some unexpected ones like frozen burritos and potato chips. They also included shredded wheat cereals, both frosted and unfrosted.

In choosing the best examples of processed food, Cooking Light staff members went through every label that might show a processed food isn’t the best choice. These include excess sodium, trans fat, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners and too many stabilizers.

According to Weaver, avoiding all processed food is “ridiculous,” and that people should really just be selective.

Health & Wellness

How to Make Your Favorite Fatty Foods Healthier

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We easily fall prey to delicious and calorie-laden comfort food. Often times, we are not aware of how much calories we’ve already taken in especially when we’re munching on our favorite foods. The good news is we can always make adjustments to make sure we still enjoy the foods we love less the guilt. Check out what you can do to these frighteningly fattening foods to make them a whole lot healthier.

Cream Soups and Hearty Stews

Soups are perfect during a cold morning or a cold night. However, soups or stews that have milk, cheese or meat are chock full of calories especially if you serve them in a bread bowl or on top noodles or rice. Here is good tip to still have and enjoy your soup: go for broth-based and vegetable-based soup. They still keep you full but they have fewer calories.

Macaroni and Cheese

Everyone’s favorite comfort food can also be a real downer on the calories, especially when topped with bits of ham or bacon. Tweak the recipe a bit by using low fat milk or cheese and using veggies instead of meat.

Pumpkin Desserts

Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, and there are many ways to turn this vegetable in one delectable dessert. Try eating crust less, low-fat pumpkin custard or low fat pumpkin muffins. Just remember: adding tons of cream or sugar will lose the health benefits that pumpkin can offer.

Caramel Apples

The gooey richness of caramel can sometimes overshadow the healthiness of the apple and it can total up to 500 calories. Try eating fresh apple slices with a small amount of low-fat caramel dip. Same taste, less calories!

Celebrity Substance Abuse Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Cameron Douglas Admits Guilt in Drug Dealing Case

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cameron douglas

Michael Douglas’ son Cameron has pled guilty to a heroin possession charge and other charges related to selling the drugs cocaine and meth from his hotel room in a New York court room. Douglas was arrested at the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan and is looking at a sentence of at least 11 years and potential life in prison. Douglas shipped packages of the crystal meth through FedEx to New York between 2006 and 2009 working with accomplices to complete the transactions. While on pretrial release, Douglas’s heroin possession charge stems from an incident in which his girlfriend allegedly smuggling the narcotic to him in a toothbrush while he was under house arrest worsening the charges he’s facing.

“I began supplying on a regular basis,” Douglas said.

Douglas is an actor and deejay who has a history of drug abuse. He was arrested as part of a federal drug investigation in the summer of last year. His guilty plea is part of a pleas agreement related to that investigation. Sentencing on the case will come in April.

His father acknowledged his son’s situation in an AARP interview. “Cameron has a lot of his life ahead,” he said. “He now recognizes his own demons and struggles … He’s a tough kid. Still, he’s in a federal prison, and you’ve got some big, bad boys down there.” As well as noting his own past with substance abuse. “Alcohol was an issue in my life at one point,” he said. “A brother died from an overdose a few years ago. Just about any family has someone for whom substance abuse is an issue.”

New York Drug Screening

Drug Testing

Drug Wipe Causes Controversy Among Many as Validity of Product is Debated

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A private investigator in Florida claims to have found a device that is capable of testing for drug  use with little contact, in fact he claims that it can even test places where the person you want to test has touched removing the need for confrontation. How accurate are these claims and can this truly be a valid way to test?

Victor Ortino, a former candidate for Collier sheriff, has been marketing a tooldrugwipe5c that he says allows parents and employers to secretly test their child or employee for drugs for the last year. DrugWipe, a handheld drug-detection device about the size of a candy bar, tests for drug residue in saliva and sweat. According to Ortino it can even pick up detection materials from locations and devices the person being tested have come in close contact with, perhaps even keyboards, cell phones and common objects like toothbrushes and light switches.

“That’s the beauty of it. The child doesn’t have to be there,” said David Rich, a private investigator who works with Ortino. “They would never know.”

While Ortino and his coworkers are convinced others aren’t so sure of the device. Even if the device is accurate just how invasive and damaging might it be in the relationships of parents and children?

“I think when you have to run into your child’s room and sneak around to see if they’re doing drugs or not, I think the approach is wrong,” said Maria Delgado, executive director of Drug Free Collier, who does not endorse products. “If you have a suspicion, then you need to confront that child or that person in a delicate way.”

A negative result means never having to discuss the subject with the person tested but a positive test will need to be brought up and well before it gets to a point when school officials and jobsites could become involved along with law enforcement. DrugWipe (which is already being used in some European countries to test for drugged drivers) tests for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, and benzodiazepines. The results are reported in a window on the device in about 10 minutes.

Florida Drug Screening

Home Health Hazards

New anti-Energy Drink Causing Debate

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A new anti-energy drink called Drank is causing a bit of a stir. According to public health experts the drink is a poorly veiled attempt to cash in on a popular illegal homemade cough syrup concoctions known as “purple drank” that has been mentioned in rap music and may already be being abused by teens. Drank is thought to be unsafe because it could help promote the use of such substances among teens and may contain substances that could be just as harmful to those who drink the beverage. Drank bills itself as an “Extreme Relaxation Beverage.” The sugary drink contains the hormone melatonin and the herb valerian root, and the can carries this warning: “This product may cause drowsiness. Not recommended more than 2 servings within a 24 hour period.”

Could these public health experts be right in worrying? According the manufacturers of the beverage any such concerns are baseless. In fact the drug was made as an alternative to such substances.

“Drank did not invent the illicit street drug nor does its marketing campaign encourage anyone to try it,” said Peter Bianchi, chief executive officer of Innovative Beverage Group of Houston, in a written statement. “In fact, Drank was created as an alternative to drugs and alcohol, and remains a positive product to consume for relaxation. Drank was created to be a mainstream product, appealing to a wide audience and prides itself on being a go-to beverage for professionals, stay-at-home parents, athletes, stressed students and anyone else looking for a way to relax.”

The illegal “purple drank” usually contains codeine cough syrup mixed with Sprite and candy such as Jolly Ranchers. The parallels are certainly there and addiction counselors who deal with teens who’ve abused the illegal substance say that it’s enough to make them worry.

“It’s promoting the drug [purple drank],” said Michelle Hemm, director of Dallas programs for Phoenix House, a treatment center for youths. “They weren’t trying to disguise what they’re promoting.”

The melatonin contained in the product is also a source of concern, This is because the 1 mg of melatonin is enough to produce a drowsy effect and does so very quickly due to the liquid form the beverage contains. This fact reaction could make things like driving unsafe especially if the beverage is mixed with alcohol as many energy drinks are.

So could a beverage like Drank pose a problem for teens? According the youths who’ve tried both the effect isn’t as strong but a person who’d never had the real deal could be tempted to try it looking for a stronger reaction.

Houston Health Screening

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Maggots Can Heal Diabetes Wounds

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It is something out of the ordinary, but apparently maggots can help cure diabetes wounds better than a scalpel! Doctors use scalpels or enzymes to remove dead or infected tissue from these wounds in a process called debridement.  But believe it or not, these tools fail and doctors found out that maggot debridement does a better job.

The study included 37 diabetes patients, who suffered a type of artery disease that caused poor circulation in their limbs and left them with wounds that would not heal, some of which were up to 5 years old.

The doctors then put 50 to 100 maggots of the species Lucilia sericata on the wounds and left them there for two days. When a certain time came they would change the maggots. They repeated this process five times.  “We cage the maggots in a mesh-like material. Nylon panty hose might be used. And then we seal them so they don’t get out,” Eron said.

Twenty-one patients were reported to have successful result: complete removal of dead tissue, formation of robust connective tissue and more than three-quarters of the wound closed. Five of these wounds were infected by the “superbug” MRSA, but they were healed due to maggot therapy; nine cases, on the other hand, were infected by another bacterium named MSSA, and six of those healed.

However, some treatments weren’t so successful. A patient suffered excessive inflammation around the wound, two patients bled and three had a problem with infected bones.

Maggots secrete substances into wounds. This liquefies dead tissue and ingests the material to further break it in their gut. The wounds are then cleaned, and the maggots’ secretions develop granulation tissue, a kind of connective tissue that forms while the wound heals.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Fathers at Less Risk of Heart Diseases

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It looks like fathers have an edge when it comes to risk for heart disease, when compared against those who do not have children. A study from Stanford University indicated that men who do not have children seem to have a greater risk of contracting heart disease than men who have children.

A team led by Michael Eisenberg, professor of urology, analyzed data from 137, 903 American men who were members of the American Association of Retired Persons, collected for 10 years.  The average age of the study participants was 63 years old, excluded anyone who had a history of stroke or heart disease.

Of the total number of the study group, 92% were fathers and at least half of them had three or more children at the start of the study. After a follow-up period of ten years, 10% of them died.

Researchers kept track of death rates of 70 credible causes through Social Security information and other databases, as well as giving questionnaires to existing family members. Not only did they find a link between parental status and heart disease; researchers also identified a link between infertility and a higher risk of heart disease.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, revealed that men who are not fathers have a 17% greater risk of dying due to heart disease, after accounting for various socio-demographic factors such as education, and other risk factors related to heart disease, such as diabetes.

“Maybe having children causes men to have healthier behaviors, so fathers tend to live longer,” Eisenberg said.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Stroke Patients May Benefit From Rehab Programs

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Patients who suffered from mini or mild strokes may benefit from undergoing structured rehab programs, in very much the same way those patients who suffer from heart attacks or undergo heart surgery benefit from rehab programs.

The structured rehab programs that heart patients undergo focus on improving the patients’ diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. This same type of rehabilitation, a new research says, may also be beneficial for patients who suffer a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This kind of stroke is sometimes termed as a mini-stroke, because it exhibits the symptoms of a stroke, but does not last as long.

The study, which was authored by Peter L. Prior, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the London Health Sciences Centre Cardiac Rehabilitation & Secondary Prevention Program in London, Ontario, Canada, involved 110 participants who suffered from TIA, or mild stroke.

These patients, whose strokes did not result in any lasting disability, underwent an out-patient rehabilitation program for a period of 7 ½ months. The focus of the said program was on nutrition, exercise, drug management, and smoking cessation, as well as depression, stress, and anxiety. Of the original population of study participants, eighty people completed the program.

The study indicated that the rehab program proved to be beneficial to the participants, who exhibited decreased total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, they also exhibited weight loss and improvements in blood pressure, while some of those who were smokers eventually quit smoking. The patients were also able to improve their ability to exercise, as a result of the program.