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Category Archives: Health

Federal Judge Strikes Down Health

A federal judge ruled Monday that the new U.S. health-care reform law is unconstitutional, saying the federal government has no authority to require citizens to buy health insurance.

That provision is a cornerstone of the new legislation, signed into law in March by President Barack Obama.

The judge’s decision was not unexpected, and both supports and opponents of the legislation anticipate the validity of the new health law ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush who had seemed sympathetic to the state of Virginia’s case when oral arguments were heard in October, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, White House officials said a negative ruling would not affect the implementation of the law because its major provisions don’t take effect until 2014, the AP reported.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, had filed a lawsuit in defense of a new Virginia law barring the federal government from requiring state residents to buy health insurance. He argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal law to force citizens to buy health insurance and to assess a penalty if they don’t.

The U.S. Justice Department said the insurance mandate falls within the scope of the federal government’s authority under the Commerce Clause. But Cuccinelli said deciding not to buy insurance is an economic matter outside the government’s domain.

By 2019, the law will expand health insurance access to 94 percent of non-elderly Americans. Advocates say that between now and then, it will also provide Americans with many new rights and protections.

Key provisions include:

  • Health plans may no longer deny coverage to people based on pre-existing health conditions.
  • Health plans that cover dependents must permit children to stay on a parent’s family policy until age 26.
  • Insurers may no longer place lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits.
  • New health plans must offer preventive services such as mammogramsand colon cancer screenings without charging a deductible, co-payment or coinsurance. (This provision does not apply to existing plans that are “grandfathered.”)

Communities Access for Health Care Strengthens

The study, “Beyond Health Effects? Examining the Social Consequences of Community Levels of Uninsurance Pre-ACA,” published by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, is an effort by researchers Tara McKay and Stefan Timmermans to “broaden the conversation” about the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Given the strain that uninsurance places on individuals, providers and health care markets, it is not unreasonable to imagine that the consequences of uninsurance are likely to go beyond health and health care and impact the social lives of individuals and communities,” said McKay, assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University.

Timmermans is a professor of sociology at UCLA. “We find that living around a lot of people who have insurance makes you more likely to trust the people you live around, makes you more likely to have common goals and values and feel like those goals and values are shared,” McKay said of the results of the study. “That’s true for everyone in such a community, even those who don’t have health insurance. Conversely, low levels of insurance in a community strain relationships and trust among people who do live here.”

ACA Endangered

McKay and Timmermans’ research appears while the ACA, which has resulted in health insurance coverage for more than 20 million Americans, is endangered because of pledges from Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the ACA in 2017. President-elect Donald Trump denounced the ACA during the presidential campaign.

Surveys conducted in 2000-2002 and 2006-2008 by the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A.FANS), provided data for the study along with information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Vanderbilt study was funded by the National Science Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Social cohesion increases by a third

L.A.FANS, a multistage probability sample of adults in Los Angeles County, was designed to probe the neighborhood effects on the health and well-being of a random sample of adults and children. These data have been used to examine a broad array of issues, including neighborhood and household effects on health and mortality, and health care access and utilization.

McKay and Timmermans based their analysis on 1,195 L.A.FANS survey respondents, and a series of multilevel regression analyses to “demonstrate that prior to the enactment of ACA, individuals living in communities with lower levels of insurance reported lower levels of social cohesion,” McKay said.

“After adjusting for individual and community characteristics, we find a 34 percent decrease in social cohesion scores when moving from a neighborhood with the highest levels of insurance to one with the lowest levels of insurance,” McKay said.

The L.A.FANS data were collected in a way in which it can account for potentially confounding factors, such as the age, race-ethnic, nativity and income composition of the communities.

Social cohesion continues to rise

Importantly, when the researchers estimate the effects of an ACA-type insurance expansion on the same respondents, they find that social cohesion increases over time.

“I think this is an important step — to consider the other ways that policies actually affect people beyond health and health care access. This can change how we see ourselves and how we interact with our communities too,” McKay said.

“You can’t participate in social life and civic engagement without having health first, right?”

Hot Peppers Can Make Longer Life?

Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial in the treatment of diseases, but only one other study — conducted in China and published in 2015 — has previously examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality. This new study corroborates the earlier study’s findings.

Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . . had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.

There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers’ health benefits, state Chopan and Littenberg in the study. Among them are the fact that capsaicin is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food — consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.

Girl 9-Year-Old With Terminal Brain Tumor

n just a few short weeks, 9-year-old Ciara Brills’ life has changed dramatically. First, it started with headaches that painkillers couldn’t relieve. Then, on Christmas, her family noticed she had a lazy eye. The following day, doctors diagnosed her with a malignant brain tumor.

Brills, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a type of tumor found almost exclusively in children, Fox 25 reported. DIPG tumors are notoriously aggressive, difficult to treat, and, due to their placement on the brain stem, affect breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.

While their daughter’s life may soon be cut short, the Brills family plans to make what could be Ciara’s final days as fun and pleasant as possible by creating a bucket list for her.

“I want to show her the world, as much as we can,” Ciara’s father, Harold Brills, told Fox 25.

Family friends have started a GoFundMe pageto help the family cover bucket list expenses, as well as medical expenses and missed work. As of Friday, they had raised over $52,800 of their $100,000 goal.

Brills went home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve. On Friday, the family updated their Facebook page to share that Ciara is to start radiation as soon as possible, likely next week, as recommended by doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In 2015, Mount St. Joseph basketball player Lauren Hill died more than a year after she was diagnosed with DIPG. Before her death, she advocated for research and treatment of DIPG and her efforts raised more than $1.4 million.

7 Trick to Make Water Taste Better

1. Add fresh fruit. Citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and oranges, are classic water enhancers, but other fruit flavors might also tempt your taste buds. Try crushing fresh raspberries or watermelon into your water, or adding strawberry slices. Cucumber and fresh mint are refreshing flavors as well — especially in summer.

2. Use juice. Any fruit juice can be a good base flavor for water, but tart juices, like cranberry, pomegranate, grape, and apple, are especially delicious. Go for juices that are all natural, with no added sugars. And remember: Fruits and their juices don’t just taste good — they contain vitamins and antioxidants that can benefit your health too.

3. Make it bubbly. Many people prefer sparkling to still water. If plain old water isn’t inspiring to you, try a naturally effervescent mineral water — which will give you the added benefit of minerals. Or try bubbly seltzer, a carbonated water. You can add fresh fruit or natural juice flavors to your seltzer, as suggested above, or look for naturally flavored seltzers at your local market. If you become a seltzer devotee, you might want to consider getting a seltzer maker for your home.

4. Get creative with ice. Some say that ice water tastes better than water served at room temperature. If that’s so, flavored ice cubes may make an even better drink. Use some of the flavoring suggestions above and start experimenting with fresh fruit, mint, or cucumber ice cubes. Simply chop your additive of choice, add it to your ice cube tray along with water, then freeze. You may also consider juice, tea, or coffee cubes. If you want to be more creative, use ice cube trays that come in fun shapes, like stars, circles, or even fish.

5. Drink tea. Herbal, fruit, green, white, and red teas are generally considered to be better for you than black teas (or coffee, for that matter) because they contain little to no caffeine. And there are countless flavors of these teas to choose from. Start with the selection at your local market or health food store. If you’re interested in pursuing more exotic flavors and sophisticated teas, start researching the vast array of specialty teas that come from all parts of the globe.

6. Try bouillons, broths, and consommés. If your palate leans toward the savory, you may pass on tea and start sipping one of these hot and savory liquids instead. Choose low-fat and low-sodium versions for maximum health benefits. Because soup is water-based, a cup of hot soup will count toward your daily fluid consumption.

7. Add fast flavor. If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy flavor booster, you might also consider sugar-free drink mixes, and flavor cartridges that can be used with your faucet filter system.

How Seat Belts Save Your Lives ?

Seat Belt Safety: 5-Way Protection

“Seat belts prevent occupants of the vehicle from serious injury in five ways,” says Angela Osterhuber, director of the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project in Media, Pa. A seat belt:

  • Keeps the occupants of the vehicle inside. “It’s clearly a myth that people are better off being thrown clear from the crash,” Osterhuber says. “People thrown from a vehicle are four times more likely to be killed than those who remain inside.”
  • Restrains the strongest parts of the body. “Restraints are designed to contact your body at its strongest parts. For an older child and adult, these parts are the hips and shoulders, which is where the seat belt should be strapped,” Osterhuber says.
  • Spreads out any force from the collision. “Lap-and-shoulder belts spread the force of the crash over a wide area of the body. By putting less stress on any one area, they can help you avoid serious injury,” Osterhuber says. A shoulder strap also helps keep your head and upper body away from the dashboard, steering wheel, and other hard interior parts of the automobile should you stop suddenly or be hit by another vehicle.
  • Helps the body to slow down. “What is it that causes injury? A quick change in speed,” Osterhuber says. “Seat belts help extend the time it takes for you to slow down in a crash.”
  • Protects your brain and spinal cord. A seat belt is designed to protect these two critical areas. “Head injuries may be hard to see immediately, but they can be deadly,” Osterhuber says. Likewise, spinal cord injuries can have serious consequences.

Seat Belt Safety: Buckle Up Correctly

Adjusting your seat belt properly is a must: Getting the right fit is as important as wearing it. The strap that goes across your lap should fit snugly over your hips and upper thigh area. “If the belt rides up on the stomach, it could cause serious injuries in a crash,” Osterhuber says.

Shoulder belts should rest securely across your chest and shoulders between your breasts. Don’t ever let the strap fall across your neck or face and never place the strap under your arms or behind your back. “Any one of these positions can cause serious injury,” Osterhuber says.

Can a Cold Shower Really Benefit Your Hair, Skin and Metabolism?

A blast of chilly water may do the body good—but are the shivers worth it? Of all the beauty trends out there right now, this one might take the cake: searches for “cold showers” are up 75% on Pinterest, according to the social platform. Proponents claim the brrr-inducing temps help increase metabolism, boost mood, and even lead to healthier skin and hair.

But showers aren’t just about getting clean (hello, relaxation!), so a cold one better offer real perks. But does it?

Well… maybe. First, let’s talk beauty benefits. In terms of your hair, “the cold will flatten the ruffled cuticles and lock in moisture to prevent breakage,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a dermatologist in the Chicago area. Cold water will initially help constrict blood vessels in your skin to temporarily tighten pores and decrease redness and puffiness, she adds. What’s more, cold temperatures boost circulation (it’s your body’s way of keeping warm). For your face, that might mean a healthy glow.

A cold shower is also said to help boost mood, but the evidence for this is slim. One study from the International Journal of Circumpolar Health looked at the practice of “winter swimming,” which is popular in Finland. Their findings suggest that regularly taking a dip in cold water (the participants swam four times a week) might improve energy and overall well-being. And a 2007 study published in Medical Hypotheses found that short 2-3 minute cold showers may help relieve depressive symptoms—but the researchers noted more widespread studies on this are needed.

There has been some emerging research suggesting cold temperatures may stimulate brown fat, a type of fat that burns extra calories. In a small 2014 study, men exposed to a cold environment had an increase in brown fat volume as well as corresponding fat metabolic activity. But again, there’s not enough research to suggest that taking cold showers can lead to weight loss.

The real benefits may come from avoiding super-hot showers in the first place. Hot water might feel good, but it does a number on your skin and hair, explains New York City-based dermatologist Lance Brown, MD. “Hot water will strip away some of the natural, protective oils that your skin makes,” he says, which can leave skin feeling dry and itchy and possibly exacerbate skin conditions like eczema. This is especially problematic during the winter months, when cold air outside and dry heat inside naturally make skin more parched.

brain cells can predict your age | How ?

 As we get older, our brain cells show changes, and now a new study finds that certain changes happen so reliably that by themselves they can reveal a person’s age.

In the study, researchers analyzed brain tissue samples from 480 people who died between the ages 16 and 106. None of these individuals had experienced a brain disease before their death.

The researchers then examined whether they could find differences between the older brains and the younger ones by looking at the level of their expression of certain genes, meaning which genes were “turned on” and “turned off.”

They found that, with age, certain types of brain cells called glial cells showed a shift in their gene expression patterns in certain regions of the brain. In contrast, no such change was seen in the brain’s neurons, which are the “signaling cells” of the brain. Glial cells provide support for neurons.

What’s more, when the researchers looked at whether the gene expression pattern inside the different types of cells could be used to predict a person’s age, they found that the gene expression levels of glial cells were most strongly linked with a person’s age.

“These findings reinforce a growing body of evidence implicating [glial cells] in aging,” the researchers, from the University College London, wrote in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Cell Reports.

Some of the biggest shifts in glial-cell gene expression were seen in the hippocampus (which is involved in memory) and the substantia nigra (which is involved in movement).

Because these two brain areas are also affected in people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, the study may provide insights into the roles that glial cells may play in these age-related diseases, the researchers said.

“We believe that our data, and computational approaches, provide a powerful resource for further study of the cellular and molecular changes taking place during human brain aging, and provide insights into the pre-clinical cellular phase of dementia,” the researchers said.

Still, more research is needed to better understand the cellular changes seen in the study, and how glial cells and neurons interact during aging in general and in people with age-related diseases, they said.

5 low-FODMAP

 1       Apples out for blueberries: An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it may not keep IBS symptoms at bay. Apples areeliminated in a low FODMAP diet because they contain an excessive amount of fructose.Fructose is a type of sugar found in fruits. Foods that have excess fructose are considered high FODMAP and should be avoided by people who suffer from IBS. Such foods include apples, watermelon, cherries, mango, agave, and honey. Some fruits have less fructose than others though, and can safely be incorporated in a low FODMAP eating plan. Blueberries (20 blueberries), grapes (1 cup), orange (1 small), and kiwi (2 small) all make the low FODMAP list. Although these fruits are lower in fructose, people who suffer from IBS should still limit their overall fruit consumption as fructose in lower amounts can still add up when consumed in large quantities.

2        Artichokes out for eggplant: Foods high in fructan, a substance similar to fructose, and found in many vegetables and grains, are also high FODMAP and thus should be avoided. Foods high in fructans to avoid include: artichokes, garlic, leeks, scallions, onion, peas, and certain grains, nuts, and legumes. Before you swear off salads for life, know that there are plenty of low fructan vegetables that can be enjoyed by all. Eggplant, arugula, zucchini, sweet potato, spinach, tomatoes, and cucumbers all get the green light for low FODMAP dieters.

3       Pasta out for spaghetti squash: Aside from being high in carbohydrates and deliciousness, pasta is also high in fructans. For this reason, pasta is a no-go when following a low FODMAP plan. Other grains in addition to pasta that must be avoided include wheat and rye such as bread, crackers, cookies, and couscous. To get your pasta fix, you can make spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, as both zucchini and squash are low FODMAP foods, or use a gluten-free pasta like quinoa pasta. Other suitable low FODMAP grain products and grains include gluten-free bread, millet bread, rice, and spelt bread.

4       Cottage cheese out for mozzarella cheese: A commonly known gastric irritant, lactose, is another defining characteristic of high FODMAP foods.Therefore, high lactose foods are also high in FODMAPs, and should be should be avoided if following a low FODMAP diet. Such high lactose foods include cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, and ricotta cheese. These high lactose foods can be swapped for dairy products that are lower in lactose such as lactose-free milk and cheese, hard cheeses like mozzarella and cheddar and feta cheese.

5       Kidney beans out for lentils – Beans beans they’re good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you… Well, let’s just say… they’re high in FODMAPS. Legumes like kidney beans, soy beans, black beans, split peas, garbanzo beans, navy beans are considered a high FODMAP food because of their high fructan content. Following a low FODMAP diet doesn’t mean beans are completely off limits though. Interestingly, canned beans have a lower FODMAP value than regular, and of legumes, lentils are your best bet. Swap any of the beans mentioned above for 1/4 cup canned lentils to get your bean-on in a way that will be more comfortable for you… and those around you….

California Woman’s Death Because Meningitis

 Health officials said a California Bay Area woman’s death was likely caused by bacterial meningitis, which would make it the second fatality linked to the illness in one week. David Robson, Laura Robson’s brother, told a local news outlet that his sister had complained of a headache and a slight fever before her death.

Robson reportedly was already dead when she was found in the back of a San Francisco Muni bus, which was located in Daly City at the time, NBC Bay Area reported. A preliminary investigation said the 53-year-old’s cause of death was likely meningitis, David told the news outlet, but a complete autopsy is being conducted by the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office.

David and his 5-year-old son received antibiotic treatment as a precaution, NBC Bay Area reported.

On January 7, Seven Phillips, a 48-year-old San Rafael resident, died of bacterial meningitis. As a precaution, more than 200 individuals who attended classes at the SoulCycle location which Phillips frequented were contacted by the spin studio. Phillips contracted the infection between December 31 and January 7, but did not contract it at the popular fitness studio. No one has reported symptoms so far, the New York Post reported.

“While the rider did not contract the infection at our studio, we have nonetheless been in constant communication with the Department of Health which has emphasized that there is no evidence of any health risk to our riders,” SoulCycle said in a statement, according to NBC Bay Area.

The disease is rare and risk of infection is low. It spreads through respiratory droplets, coughing and sneezing and can stay on surfaces.

David told NBC Bay Area that his sister had not attended a SoulCycle class at the studio Phillips had visited.