Study: No Symptoms of Herpes Does Not Mean No Risk to Others

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Genital herpes remains one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.  Many people think they can only infect their sexual partners if they are showing symptoms, such as genital lesions. A new study finds that among those who test positive but have no clinical symptoms, the infection is still active and can be shedding in the genital tract, therefore posing a potentially increased risk of transmitting the infection to sexual partners. 

This was the first study to look over time at people that have HSV-2 infection but don't have a history of genital herpes.

Doctors Anna Wald and Christine Johnston from the University of Washington in Seattle and co-authors studied almost 500 people, some with recurring genital herpes with  symptoms and others testing positive for the HSV-2 antibody having no clinical signs of genital herpes. All were asked to swab the genital area for at least 30 days to assess how often the virus was active.

The study appears in a theme issue on infectious diseases and immunological disorders in this week's JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers also found people who had recurring genital herpes had the active virus on about 20 percent of days. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Smartphone App Might Make Food Less Appetizing

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you really need an app to tell you that certain foods are chock full of calories?

DailyBurn, a fitness social network, thinks you do.  That’s why the company has come up with the MealSnap smarthone app, which informs users of the calorie content of virtually everything they consume.

For instance, let’s say you’re staring at a slice of greasy, double-cheese pizza.  Just snap a photo of the meal in front of you and wait a couple of minutes while the MealSnap matches the picture with half-a-million food items in its data base.

Of course, the pizza might be cold by the time the search is over but you'll have an accurate idea of just how many calories it contains, not to mention fat, carbs and vitamins.

Furthermore, DailyBurn CEO Andy Smith says, “Users can then choose to share what they've eaten on Twitter or FourSquare, leading to social accountability.”

While Smith admits the process can be somewhat time consuming, it allows you to keep a food diary and may spur a psychological change that could get you and your online pals eating better.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Terry Bradshaw Admits NFL Concussions Cost Him

Evan Agostini/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw has often joked that he's not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

However, Bradshaw, a Fox football broadcaster, is dead serious these days about the side-effects of the concussions he endured during his Hall of Fame career.

Bradshaw is now saying that all those hits to the brain have resulted in short-term memory loss and diminishing hand-eye coordination.

To the best of his knowledge, the 62-year-old Bradshaw suffered six diagnosed concussions during his 14 years in the NFL.  However, he estimates that there were numerous other occasions when he had to "clear the cobwebs" after getting slammed in the head.

While the NFL is paying closer attention to concussions, Bradshaw is urging the league to bolster its support for former players who are afflicted with the effects of brain injuries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chocolate Milk Debate Rages in Schools

Bananastock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chocolate milk, that sweet childhood pleasure, has become the center of an intense health debate. Some health experts believe it contributes to childhood obesity, leading many school districts to place limits on its sale or ban it outright. But many doctors and nutritionists say leaving it off the menu deprives children of valuable nutrients they aren't likely to make up elsewhere. Parents are left wondering whether it's okay for their kids to drink it or not.

Milk consumption has plummeted from 25 to 20 gallons per year per person since 1990, even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that most kids don't get enough calcium and several other "shortfall" nutrients milk offers in abundance. Increasingly, children tend to drink the majority of their milk at school and increasingly, the majority of the milk they drink is flavored -- more than 70 percent of it, according to the Milk Processor Education Program, the dairy industry's advocacy group.

Therein lies the dilemma: Provide kids with essential nutrients lacking in their diet, or limit their access to sugary, high-calorie foods?

"Flavored milk is far less sugary and tends to have fewer calories and more nutrition than beverages like soda," said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City. "Children who drink flavored milk are no more likely to be overweight and are more likely to get enough calcium and eat a better diet than kids who don't."

There is support to this claim. A survey of 58 elementary and secondary schools across the country that removed the chocolate version of moo juice from cafeterias for two years and offered only the white version found a 32-to-64-percent drop in the amount kids drank depending on the grade, in part because they stopped fully draining the carton.

"That isn't even the whole story either. Kids will simply hold their thirst until after school and head to the nearest corner store to order something that is a far worse choice. Better to give them the chocolate milk," Ayoob said.

But not everyone agrees.

"This is like asking your kids to eat more apples by giving them apple pie," said Ann Cooper, a leading advocate for healthy school lunches. "Chocolate milk is just sugary soda in drag."

While complete school bans are on the increase, some have yielded to pressure from students, parents and special interest groups and settled on a compromise of sorts. They've ordered reformulated the beverages that are lower in fat and calories and that replace high fructose corn syrup with sugars made from sucrose or beets.

Compared to typical half pint of chocolate milk which has 170 calories, 28 grams of sugar and one percent fat, the new kind has just 130 calories, 22 grams of sugar and almost no fat. A 20-ounce bottle of cola has 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Wrist Size Predict Future Diabetes?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Predicting an overweight child's risk of diabetes and heart disease may be as simple as measuring the size of his or her wrist, according to new research published by the American Heart Association. In the study, published in the latest addition of the journal Circulation, wrist size was linked to insulin resistance, a precursor for type 2 diabetes, in overweight kids and teens.

"This is the first evidence that wrist circumference is highly correlated to evidence of insulin resistance," Dr. Raffaella Buzzetti, senior study author and professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, said in a statement. "Wrist circumference is easily measured and if our work is confirmed by future studies, wrist circumference could someday be used to predict insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk."

Though measuring body fat is usually a reliable predictor of insulin resistance and heart disease risk in adults, this is not always the case for kids because their bodies grow and change so rapidly during puberty. Typically, doctors will measure a teen's BMI (body mass index) by comparing height and weight. This may be a misleading gauge, however, especially for athletes who may have a high percentage of muscle, which weighs more than fat.

In the study, researchers analyzed how wrist size and BMI correlated with levels of insulin resistance. While BMI only accounted for 1 percent of variation in insulin resistance, the wrist measurement accounted for between 12 and 17 percent.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body has difficulty using the insulin it makes to break down blood sugar. Excess body fat is linked to developing insulin resistance, and insulin resistance has been identified as a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Surprisingly, researchers found that it wasn't necessarily a fatter wrist that correlated with higher heart disease risk, just a larger one. Because higher insulin levels in kids can contribute to increased bone production, larger wrist bones may be a marker of insulin resistance, which in turn is a predictor of future heart disease.

"It's surprising that bone size correlated better [to insulin resistance] than body mass index," says Dr. Robert Gensure, endocrine specialist and pediatric bone density specialist at Montefiore Medical Center. "Insulin is a growth factor and it promotes growth in many tissues, including bone."

This means that some kids and teens who are overweight are actually becoming bigger-boned in response to the extra insulin their bodies are producing. Buzzetti's research is picking up on this change and using those bigger bones as an indicator of the higher levels of insulin that put kids at risk for future heart disease and diabetes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Can You Protect Yourself in a Plane Crash? Five Tips for Surviving 

Digital Vision/Thinkstock (BOSTON) -- More than one in ten Americans say they are afraid of flying. It's the first jolt of moderate turbulence that gets our hearts pounding and out bodies shaking, even though we know it's an irrational fear.

Most of us have heard the facts and know that we're safer in the skies than on the highway, but that still doesn't stop most of us from dreading that takeoff.

MIT airline safety expert Arnold Barnett did a study on aviation safety and found that the chance of dying on a scheduled flight, from propeller planes to jetliners, in the United States is 1 in 14 million. At that rate, you would have to fly every day for 38,000 years before you had a fatal accident.

His MIT colleague John Hansman agrees flying is the safest mode of travel available today. "Riding on a commercial airliner has about the same risk as riding on an elevator," says Hansman.

And as pilots always seem to remind us, flying is 22 times safer than driving your car. Still, all it takes is a few stories on close calls to bring back that emotional fear of flying.

So what are the chances of you surviving one of those extremely rare accidents? Believe it or not, the National Transportation Safety Board says 76 percent of passengers do survive the most serious of crashes.

Here are some ways to protect yourself if you're still nervous:

1. Sit within five rows of an emergency exit.

2. Make a mental note of how far away you are from the nearest exit.

3. Sit in an aisle seat.

4. Sit in the rear of the cabin. It is statistically safest.

5. Don't sleep during takeoff and landing. That is when most accidents occur.

So why are we so afraid of flying? Professor Barnett blames the media. Over a two-year period, he studied the front page of The New York Times, looking for stories on flying. He found that for every 1,000 homicides, The Times published fewer than two stories. For every 1,000 AIDS deaths, there were 2.3 AIDS stories. But for every 1,000 airplane fatalities, there were 138 plane crash stories.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


HHS in Campaign to Cut Hospital Errors

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday announced a national program to help save 63,000 lives and up to $35 billion in health care costs over the next three years by preventing hospital-related injuries.

"Americans go the hospital to get well, but millions of patients are injured because of preventable complications and accidents," Sebelius said. "Working closely with hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, families and employers, we will support efforts to help keep patients safe, improve care, and reduce costs. Working together, we can help eliminate preventable harm to patients."

Sebelius was joined by hospital leaders, employers, insurers, doctors, nurses and patient advocates.

As many as one-third of hospital visits lead to hospital-related injuries, according to an April 7 report in Health Affairs. The missteps range from hospital-acquired infections to deadly surgical mistakes.

Sebelius said under the Partnership for Patients, HHS would invest up to $1 billion in federal funding through the Affordable Care Act.

The Community-based Care Transitions Program pledged $500 million and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will pitch in up to $500 million more to achieve the partnership's two main goals: To reduce preventable injuries by 40 percent; and cut preventable hospital readmissions by 20 percent.

"Reaching those targets would save up to $35 billion over the next 10 years," Sebelius said, adding that $10 billion of that would come from Medicare savings. "That's a return of up to $10 for each dollar we're investing."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fat Weight Loss Experts Fight Misperceptions

BY LIZ NEPORENT, ABC News Medical Unit

(NEW YORK) -- Being called a fatty in front of 200 people is embarrassing for anyone. When you're a registered dietitian getting paid to lead a discussion on dieting and weight loss it's especially humiliating.

Bill Bradley grew up fat in a family of fat people who were obsessed with Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous. Even at points in his life when he wasn't particularly overweight, he was still focused on food, eating and weight. That he chose dietetics as a profession is a bit like being raised as an arsonist and deciding to become a firefighter.

As Bradley began his internship, he was in a relatively svelte phase. He recalls encountering some overweight dietitians during his training and wondering how they had the audacity to give anyone guidance about shedding pounds. They so obviously wore their own struggles with food on their sleeve -- and thighs, buttocks and waistlines.

Bradley's coursework was stressful. Food helped him deal with the stress. By the end of his internship, he found himself in the uncomfortable position of being one of those chubby health experts dispensing advice not personally followed.

Now faced with a mocking question about his burgeoning belly in front of a large crowd, Bradley felt a momentary wave of shame pass over him but quickly recovered. He spoke from the heart and he spoke the truth.

"I'm not perfect and I have struggled with weight issues my whole life," he responded. "That's why I'm a dietitian. Not just to help other people, but to stay focused on helping myself too."

It's an interesting thing to be both a person who assists others with weight loss while battling weight demons of your own. Bradley points out that the vulnerability of such a professional conundrum has worked to his advantage because it makes him more accessible to clients. It's a lot easier confessing a midnight run for cookie dough ice cream to a nutritionist who has taken that same trip many times himself than to one who is a size zero vegan.

On the other hand, what gives someone the right to dispense health information they don't follow, won't follow or can't prove works? Isn't their credibility buried underneath a mountain of excess flab?

While Bradley has since lost weight and believes he never lost clients or potential clients because he didn't look the part, he admits he wouldn't go to an obese cardiologist. Which is exactly what Joseph F. Majdan was before he dropped "epic amounts of weight" about 18 months ago.

In Majdan's case, it was his fellow doctors, not his patients, who let him know how they felt about his adiposity. Over the years, they called him names like Fat Albert and asked if his lab coats were made by Omar the Tentmaker. In one particularly cruel and damaging episode, an oncologist refused to send a patient to him dismissing him as too fat to be a good doctor. She came to see him anyway, choosing to judge him not by the depth of his fat tissue, but by the depth of his character.

"My colleagues will look at cancer and drug addiction with compassion but some cannot look at overweight in the same vein," Majdan said. If they treat one of their own with such distain, what must they think of their obese patients?

Majdan said that in a way, fat has become a civil rights issue. "It's one of the last remaining prejudices where it's PC to make jokes at someone's expense. Perhaps that's why it's easy to be so judgmental about fat health experts," he said.

You can poke at the soft belly of your fat nutritionist or doctor (or nurse or personal trainer) and accuse them of being a hypocrite like a divorced marriage counselor or barber with bad haircut. It's easy to be dismissive if you've never fought against the complex cocktail of DNA, environment, health habits and dozens of other factors that make fat cling to our bodies.

Even when you've done everything right, you sometimes still come out on the gaining end. Going to school and learning all you can does not exempt you from the biological struggle. It doesn't.

Both Bradley and Majdan say their desire to be at an ideal weight wasn't a response to any criticism. Like you and me, they wanted to be healthy and feel good about themselves. Perhaps this makes them ideal health experts: Someone who once was fat but now is thin.

This provides them with a good understanding of what 66 percent of the population who are overweight and obese go through on a daily basis, but allows them to look the part of the stick-thin genetic lottery winner. It's a lose-win scenario.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Vitro Fertilization Gives Couple Two Sets of Identical Twins

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- "Babies, babies, babies."  That's how Miranda and Josh Crawford now describe a typical day after their two sets of identical twins -- quadruplets in all -- joined their two-year-old sister in February.

After trying to get pregnant for more than a year, Miranda, 34, and Josh, 28, of Charlotte, North Carolina, turned to artificial insemination, and then in vitro fertilization, to have their first daughter.  Doctors implanted two embryos into Miranda's uterus, and one survived.  On March 17, 2009, Miranda gave birth to baby Joslyn.

But Miranda, 34, and Josh, 28, both registered nurses, hoped to eventually expand their family over time to three or four children.

A year later, the couple sought out in vitro fertilization for a second time.  Again, doctors transferred two embryos into Miranda's uterus, and, just six weeks into the pregnancy, doctors told the couple that they would be having twins.

But the ultrasound was fuzzy, and both the doctor and Miranda wanted to confirm how many babies were growing in her belly.  She returned to the hospital four days later.  This time, the ultrasound was clear -- there were four hearts beating on the screen, not two.

"I was shocked, the doctor was shocked," Miranda said.  "Never had that happened in his entire career."

Typically one or two embryos are inserted into a woman's uterus during one round of IVF.  Even then, the patient typically has a 60 percent chance of getting pregnant at all.  But both embryos had split in Miranda's uterus to create two sets of identical twins.

"For a woman who is less than 35 years old, it is recommended that one or two embryos be transferred into the uterus during a fresh IVF cycle," said Dr. Jani Jensen, a physician in the department of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Mayo Clinic.  "In this case, it appears that the guidelines were correctly followed, but that lightning struck twice."

"This is certainly an unusual outcome," Jensen said.  "I've never seen it happen quite like this."

Jensen said she has rarely seen embryos split, but doctors estimate that it can happen in a little more than one percent of IVF cycles, and slightly more if the embryos are transferred as blastocysts, or embryos that have developed longer outside the body.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Natalie Portman Drops Vegan Diet During Pregnancy

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, who is pregnant with her first child, has dropped her vegan diet. Portman, who launched a vegan shoe line in 2008, said the strict diet that prohibits animal-derived products, from meat to honey, took its toll when she started craving sweets.

Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said it's common for women to make the switch during pregnancy.

"A lot of people do, I think, listen to their bodies and switch from being vegan to vegetarian when they're pregnant," Greenfield said. "Some people can just feel they're not getting enough and have the smarts to say, 'My body is telling me something and my baby is more important."

And while a healthy vegan pregnancy is possible, it's tricky.

"I know there are people who do stay vegan," Portman told Atlanta radio station Q100, "but I think you have to just be careful, watch your iron levels and your B12 levels and supplement those if there are things you might be low in your diet."

Vegans often need to take supplements like iron and vitamin B12.

The biggest challenge for vegan moms-to-be is getting the right kind of protein and enough of it.

"In order to make whole proteins there are certain essential amino acids your body can't make. You have to combine your vegetable protein to make them," Greenfield said.

For babies to grow, mom has to gain weight too.

"If you're not gaining weight, that would certainly be a red flag," Greenfield said. "If you have a poor diet, the baby cannot grow well."

During pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recommends six to 11 servings of grain products, three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruits, four to six servings of milk and milk products, and three to four servings of meat and protein foods every day.

"If you're not eating a standard diet, the take-home message is educate yourself about where the gaps might be and how you can fill them in a healthy way," Greenfield said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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