Entries in health (55)


Six Ways Your Body May Clue You In to Possible Health Problems

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- From the eyes and ears to the fingertips, the human body can offer small hints that reveal a lot about a person’s health, some medical experts say.

Dr. Michael Wald, a holistic doctor in Mount Kisco, N.Y. who calls himself the “Blood Detective,” said that people should pay attention to features like creases in their ears and the length of their arms because they can serve as clues to medical issues such as heart disease.

1. Ear Crease

A 74-year-old man with an increased risk for heart disease said that while he’d noticed the crease in his ear, he’d paid little to no attention to it.

“That diagonal earlobe crease that goes from the very bottom of the ear up in a diagonal fashion — it really is an enfolding of tissue and that is what is being associated with heart disease,” Wald said.

One study found that 71 percent of people with that crease suffered from heart disease.

2. Ear Wax

Wald said that even ear wax has been linked to heart disease.

“We’re basically born genetically with one of two different types of ear wax,” he said. “There is a wet, sticky type and a dry, brittle type and if you are more of a dry, brittle type, you are at more of a risk of heart disease as opposed to the wet one.”

Wald said the connection has something to do with the way the body handles oil and fat.

3. Five O’Clock Shadow

Wald said that the five o’clock shadow could mean that a man “probably will have a lower risk of cardiovascular risk in the future because that five o’clock is produced by testosterone. The more testosterone you have, the less risk of heart disease.”

4. Arms and Legs

Arms shorter than 60 inches could signal an increased risk of heart disease.

And long arms have been associated with a chance of reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors say they think it’s linked to the embryo’s exposure to different hormones like estrogen and testosterone.

Calves less than 13 inches around could also signal heart problems.

“Sometimes small calves reflect increased risk in circulation and increased risk in cardiovascular disease,” Wald said.

5. ‘Nail Clubbing’

Nail clubbing occurs when the tissue at the tips of the fingers start to cover the nail. Studies have shown that 80 percent of people with clubbing fingernails have serious illness, heart disease, lung disease or cancer.

6. Green Nasal Mucus

Green nasal mucus has been associated with a higher instance of heart disease. The green mucus contains a chemical that gives it that color. The chemical can damage tissues in the sinuses, in the lungs or in the heart.

Wald said that if a person had any of these traits, they should not panic.

“If you see something that you have just read or heard, take that to your doctor, and that might lead him or her to test you a little bit differently or question you a little bit differently, and then see what is really going on,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Truckers Stay Fit and Healthy on the Road

File photo. Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- John Drury is a rare breed. At 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds he is a trucker who is also a dance fitness instructor. He cares a great deal about his health, but admits it's tough to keep in shape when you're behind the wheel 11 hours a day, often for weeks at a time.

"Last year, I lost 100 pounds driving a truck and dancing. In the last seven months I've gained back 40 pounds," Drury says of his constant battle with weight.

Like the rest of America's 3.5 million truckers, staying healthy on the road is a challenge for Drury. There are few opportunities to eat anywhere other than truck stops, and they aren't exactly famous for offering calorie-conscious meals. Opportunities to move and access to health care are also few and far between.

As a result, truckers are in bad shape. More than 50 percent of them are obese, nearly twice the national obesity rate -- and they have a 50 percent higher prevalence of diabetes compared to the general population, according to National Institute of Health statistics.

Hopefully the situation is about to change. Companies who promote wellness have begun to view truckers as an ideal target for their services.

Arlington-based Snap Fitness, in conjunction with the wellness company Rolling Strong, is opening gyms at truck stops nationwide. The first one is a 1,000-square-foot facility located at the Flying J on Interstate 20 in Dallas, one of the busiest truck routes in the country.

For about $20 a month, drivers now have access to free weights and cardio machines. Their membership also entitles them to access at any of the 1,400 regular Snap Fitness facilities, 60 of which have tractor-trailer-friendly parking lots.

"Truckers have huge unmet needs because of their lifestyle. Hopefully, the fitness centers help fill the void," said Gary Findley, Snap's chief operating officer.

Since opening about five months ago, 120 truckers have signed up.

Besides their Snap partnership, Rolling Strong offers truckside health evaluations that include a blood pressure check, body fat measurement and weigh-in. They provide printed workout manuals plus a special Internet health channel where truckers can log on for fitness classes and videos promoting healthy lifestyle habits.

Later this year, they will be introducing an exercise kit for in-cab workouts and a line of sandwiches made with natural ingredients that will be sold alongside the usual fried and battered truck stop fare. A series of roadside health clinics is also in the works.

Bob Perry, founder of Rolling Strong, was a trucker himself. His two brothers are truckers. His father was a trucker for 50 years. He said his company's initiatives are essential for improving the lives of truckers.

"Truckers are the ones who carry the country," he said. "They deserve access to fitness centers and good food and health care like the rest of us."

Trucking companies have begun to embrace health and fitness initiatives for their big rig road warriors. Eleven major carriers participated in the Truckload Carriers Association's Trucking's Weight Loss Showdown this past spring, with each carrier signing up 12 employees, half of them drivers. Last year, more than 11,500 of Con-way Freight's 21,000 employees consulted with wellness coaches. And U.S. Xpress has a points system for drivers that rewards healthy behaviors with cash.

The programs are aimed at reducing the number of drivers who call in sick, lowering on-the-job injuries and controlling health care costs. But they're also intended to keep drivers on the road.

Drivers are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to take a physical exam every two years. They're checked for issues like heart conditions, diabetes and respiratory disorders that could incapacitate them while driving. Any driver who doesn't pass the exam immediately loses driving privileges.

Troy Robbins, a trucker for the past seven years, was pulled off the road last November for high blood sugar and a host of other potentially dangerous health problems. He says in the past he had few options for losing weight and improving his health, but this time around his company enrolled him in an intensive Rolling Strong program.

For three months he attended health classes and worked out with a personal trainer. He consulted with a health coach and learned how to lead a healthier life while on the road. He whittled his weight down 70 pounds, lowered his blood sugar and is back to driving.

"The program has made such a difference for me. Instead of just going to bed when I hit a stop, I now go for long walks and I've learned how to eat better too," he said.

Bob Perry hopes this is just the start of a trend towards a nation of healthier drivers.

"We need to change the trucker culture so obesity and bad health aren't the norm," he said. "We need to keep them going so they can continue to do their jobs and get home healthy and happy to their families."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Hospital Noise Harms Patient Health

Pixland/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Noisy hospitals have long been a major complaint among patients. Now, new research purports to show how hospital noise can possibly harm them.

The small study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that as the overall level of noise increased in the hospital, sleep was more likely to be disrupted. When the patients' sleep was disrupted, their heart rates increased.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied 12 healthy adult volunteers in a sleep laboratory, using noises pre-recorded in an actual hospital -- medical monitor alarms, telephones, staff conversations, and outside traffic -- for three nights. They analyzed how the noises affected the patients' sleep and heart rate by using brain monitoring equipment and heart rate monitors.

Of the sounds that were used, sounds from medical equipment designed to alert medical staff, such as alarms, were more disruptive than the sounds of the environment or human voices. When the patients' sleep was disturbed, their heart rates increased -- even if they did not wake up.

Dr. Orfeu Buxton and Dr. Jo Solet, two of the study's authors, said they "have heard what the patients have been saying in patient satisfaction reports, which is that there is too much noise in the hospital," and they launched the study in order to better understand the types and volume of sounds that caused the most disruption while understanding how noise affects the patient.

Previous research had already shown that noise disrupts sleep -- and that these disruptions are linked to high blood pressure, higher rates of heart disease, impaired immune function, increased memory problems and depression.

"This is the first study that has actually recorded a hospital environment and systematically quantified the response of the brain and the heart rate to these sounds," Buxton said.

A noisy hospital environment that causes disturbed sleep "may lead to increased use of medicines like sedatives that have side effects such as increased falls and increased rates of delirium. This can lead to a longer hospital stay," he said.

The authors also suggest that hospital administrators need to address three key issues to create a restful environment -- the acoustics of the hospital, the routines of hospital staff, and eliminating the noises from medical equipment.

"Eighty percent of alarm monitors in patient rooms and on hospital floors have no clinical relevance," Buxton said.

Some hospitals are already ahead of the noise-canceling curve. Susan Alves-Rankin and Jason Phillips, who works in the department of Patient Services and Service Excellence at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, say their hospital is one such institution.

"We built a brand new hospital and took many steps to reduce noise," Alves-Rankin said, adding that the changes include noise-reducing flooring from Sweden and a silent nurse calling system to eliminate electronic noises. They are currently piloting a program using special sound masking devices in their noisiest hospital units to decrease noise and increase privacy.

Other efforts to reduce noise range from using sound absorbent materials during the design and construction phase of new hospitals to educating staff about being aware of their noise levels. At the new Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham Women's Hospital in Boston, special acoustical insulation and ceiling tiles were used during construction.

Several hospitals are using traffic light indicators to make staff more aware of their noise levels. When noise escalates, the traffic light changes from green to yellow; and when noise is too loud, the light turns red. Other hospitals have noise reduction campaigns in place.

"[The campaigns] are not only a satisfier for patients, but our staff is happy about having some more restful periods as well," said Tom Moore of the University of Iowa Hospitals.

Dr. Vineet Arora of the University of Chicago, who studies the sleep quality of patients in the hospital setting, says "we need to generalize the findings [of this study] to real patients in an actual hospital setting" and change the culture of the hospital where "patients are empowered to talk to their doctors about their sleep needs."

The hope is that when patients have a quiet environment where they can sleep and heal, patient outcomes may improve. When the dial on hospital noise is turned down, Solet says, "we can expect decreased lengths of stay and lower rates of re-admission."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Want Better Heart Health? Don't Worry, Be Happy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full kind of person?  Researchers say a glass half-full perspective could do more for you than just make you smile.  Positive feelings may help protect cardiovascular health, a review of studies has found.

In the first and largest systemic review on this topic to date, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.  

In the review, which included more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, researchers found there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease.  It also appears that these factors slow the progression of the disease.

People who have a positive attitude also had a healthier lifestyle, which included exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep, they found.

Additionally, greater well-being was related to better biological function, such as lower blood pressure, healthier lipid (blood fat) profiles and normal body weight.

Professor Laura Kubzansky, a lead author of the study, said, "These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health."

The review's findings were published online in Psychological Bulletin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


This Just In: Healthy People Live Longer, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Unhealthy habits, like smoking and being overweight, have long been linked to heart disease and cancer, America’s top killers.  The reverse of that coin -- the impact of healthy habits on preventing disease and death -- has been a mantra in the medical community. Now a new study adds weight to that, finding that healthful behaviors, like exercising and eating a balanced diet, can reduce the risk of early death by up to 76 percent.

“It’s common sense,” said study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Diseases and Stroke Prevention. “We know what increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. And if you can prevent or postpone those risk factors from developing, it will really reduce your risk long term.”

Yang and colleagues used surveys to probe seven measures of healthy living -- smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, diet and weight -- in nearly 45,000 adult men and women between 1988 and 2010. They found people who were “ideal” on six or more of the parameters were 76 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 51 percent less likely to die from other causes, including cancer.

“We can prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing the risk factors from occurring in the first place,” said Yang. The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 600,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. While each healthy living parameter independently affected the risk of death due to heart disease, having an ideal blood pressure was the biggest contributor, reducing the risk by 40 percent.

“There are about 68 million people with hypertension in the U.S.,” said Yang. “If you could bring that down by 10 percent, you could prevent 14,000 cardiovascular events.”

Not smoking and eating an ideal diet reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 13 percent each, Yang said. But less than one percent of the U.S. study population ate an ideal diet consisting of fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains with limited sodium and sugar.

Although smoking has declined since 1988, blood sugar -- a marker of diabetes -- and weight have risen steadily. Only 2.1 percent of the study subjects were ideal on six or more parameters. They tended to be younger, female and more educated. The majority of subjects were healthy on three of the seven parameters.

Yang said he hopes to see smoking continue to decline, and weight and diabetes level off. He also hopes to see the proportion of people with ideal physical activity and diet increase.

“If we can shift the whole population towards ideal cardiovascular health metrics, we will really reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death,” said Yang.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Spicy Compound May Boost Heart Health

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Some people can’t get enough of the painful pleasure of spicy foods. Now, new research on hamsters suggests that those who like it hot may get some added heart-health benefits from capsaicinoids, the compounds that give chili peppers from jalepenos to habaneros their kick.

Scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied how capsaicinoids -- capsaicin and its chemical relatives -- affected the blood vessels of hamsters. Researchers fed hamsters diets high in cholesterol, and spiced up the food for some groups of the animals with varying levels of capsaicinoids.

The hamsters fed any capsaicinoids had lower levels of cholesterol in their blood, particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol. They also had decreased plaque in their arteries compared with the hamsters that got no capsaicinoids.

The findings were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

Zhen-Yu Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one of the study’s authors, said the findings give scientists a better idea of just how spicy foods might work to improve heart health in humans.

“But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess,” Chen said in a press release. “They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant.”

Scientists have been hot on the trail of capsaicin’s potential health benefits in recent years. The compound is currently used as an effective remedy for pain associated with arthritis, neuropathy and psoriasis. Dr. Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, told ABC News that capsaicin works against pain by prompting the body to produce endorphins.

“The endorphins work to block the heat. The body produces them in response to the heat, which it senses as pain,” Bosland said.

Some studies have also suggested that capsaicin may help prevent prostate cancer.

Spicy foods may even improve metabolism. A 2011 study found that foods flavored with spices like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano and garlic powder lowered insulin and triglyceride levels after a meal in overweight but healthy male volunteers.

More work is needed on the connection between spicy compounds and cardiac health, but for now, some researchers say, that burn in your mouth should make you feel good.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oldest Twins in World Celebrate 102nd Birthday

Comstock/Thinkstock(BRECON, Wales) -- The oldest twins in the world had their cake and ate it too when they celebrated their 102nd birthday Wednesday. Ena Pugh and Lily Millward of Wales chalked up their centenarian health to “laughter and a good joke.”

The twins’ families presented the sisters with the most recent edition of the Guinness Book of World Records so they could check out their new entry, according to the UK’s The Sun. Pugh and Millward were born on January 4, 1910, making them the oldest pair on the planet.

Born to farmers in Garthbrengy, near Brecon, Wales, Millward and Pugh were two of 10 children. They are the only siblings still living, and both sisters’ husbands died about 20 years ago. The twins have 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren between them. The sisters reportedly talk on the phone every day despite both having significant hearing loss, and only recently have their weekly shopping and tea sessions slowed down because Millward broke her hip after a fall.

Nevertheless, the women were together on their birthday, and expressed gratitude for being blessed with happiness and good health.

“We used to work on the farm all day, but we would enjoy ourselves,” Millward told the Wales News Service. “It was a lot of fun and sociable. We’ve been very lucky and we have always had good health.”

But even in an era of complex exercise regimens, perfect diets and juice cleanses, it is genes more than lifestyle that play a major role in whether a person will reach centenarian proportions.

“At higher and higher ages, genetics play a larger and larger role,” said Dr. Alan Shuldiner, director of endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition at University of Maryland. “Many centenarians eat unhealthy diets, smoke, never exercised. I suspect genetics is a large reason why they have lived 204 years between them.”

About 84,000 centenarians live in the United States, and that number is expected to grow to 10 times that by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While a study back in 2010 found that genes played a direct effect into a long life expectancy, 30 percent of the centenarians studied had a lifestyle that played a large role in their longevity.

Those lifestyle factors include the ones we should all know by now: exercise, a healthy diet, keeping weight off, not smoking, limiting alcohol, staying social and keeping the cognitive function fresh with reading and crossword puzzles.

Longevity is a complex process, said Dr. Heidi Tissenbaum, professor in the program of gene function and expression at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“Although there are many that say a positive attitude is good, as well, thus far, studies on centenarians have shown that there is not one environmental factor that stands out,” she said.

“Clearly genetics play an important role and the fact that this is seen in twins confirms that, no less genome sequencing findings,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego. But he notes, “Laughter didn’t get known as the best medicine by accident!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A Text a Day to Keep the Doctor Away

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Using wireless technology to improve health outcomes was the focus for the annual mHealth summit, which took place last week at National Harbor in Washington, D.C. With more than 12,000 health-related apps in the iTunes store, it can be hard to know which ones to download, and which ones to pass on. Not to mention there are many other ways to use your phone -- smart or not -- to help you in your quest for good health.

As health management moves from files and folders, to electronic medical records and into the memories of smart phones, here are some of the (free) smart phone apps and mobile services that can help you manage your health.

  • iTriage: With more than 11,000 ratings and an average rating of four stars (4.5 on newest version), it is easy to see why iTriage is a one-stop health app. Created by two ER doctors in 2008, this app can tell you not only what’s wrong with you but where to go for treatment. The application uses a national listing of ERs and medical providers to provide the closest location, as well as ER wait times. And in the unlikely event that you don’t have your phone, you can log in to the app from your computer, too.
  • Text4baby: It may be hard to believe, but not everyone has a smart phone (even if smart phones accounted for 50 percent of all phone sales last year). That is why Text4Baby uses free text messaging to educate and inform moms to be and new moms about how to give babies the “best possible start in life.”
  • What is really cool about this service is that it times the messages to your due date or your baby’s birthday. All you need to do is to text the word “Baby” (or “Bebe” for Spanish) to the number 511411 from your cell phone.
  • Smokefree TXT: This is another app that uses free 24/7 text messages to help smokers quit the habit. Although the program was designed for teenagers (according to Pew, 72 percent  of all teens are text-messagers), anyone can use it. The service sends encouraging messages about quitting. You can also text back with keywords like “crave” or “slip” to let the app know what kind of day you are having.
  • Also, good news for the smart phone users, an app called QuitStart is currently in development and is set to launch in early January.
  • LoseIt: Losing weight and keeping tabs on your caloric intake can be not only hard but discouraging. Enter LoseIt, whose website touts that “86 percent of their users have lost weight.” LoseIt lets you track what you have had to eat each day, as well as how many calories the food counted toward your “daily calorie budget.” Not only can you track your progress from your smart phone but also your computer.
  • Rxmind Me: Ever had trouble remembering which pill to take when? With so many medications out there, all with different dosages and time intervals, it’s no wonder many people are not in compliance with their doctors advice. Well, now with apps like Rxmind Me that faulty memory is no excuse. Simply download the free app, insert your medications, dosages and other important information and Rxmind Me will alert you when it is time to pop that pill. You can even add pills you take randomly so you can check on drug interactions with your physician or pharmacist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama ‘in Excellent Health’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The results of President Obama’s second periodic physical exam are in and they show that Obama is “fit for duty.”

“The president is in excellent health and ‘fit for duty.’ All clinical data indicate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency,” Dr. Jeff Kuhlman, a Navy captain and the physician to the president, concluded.

The results of the exam, which was conducted last week, found the president is taking a number of steps to remain healthy, including being “tobacco free,” physically active, and only drinking alcohol in moderation.

The president, who works out regularly and eats a healthy diet, has “ideal” cholesterol and normal blood pressure. He is 6’1″ in height and weighs in at 181.3 pounds.

“The President is current on all age-appropriate screening tests. He is ‘fit at fifty’ and ‘staying healthy at 50+,’” Kuhlman writes in the report, recommending the president’s next physical take place in December 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Baby Boomers 'In Denial' About Their Health in Retirement

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Most baby boomers are planning to be pretty active and healthy when they retire -- that's if they aren't already.
But a new poll shows that baby boomers need to take off the rose-colored glasses when it comes to their health.
Some experts say baby boomers are not just unprepared, they're delusional about their health in retirement.
Only 13 percent of those over 50, but not yet retired, expect their health to go downhill after retirement.
Three times as many retirees said their health has already worsened.
The poll -- conducted by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health -- showed that more than 70 percent of boomers have stepped up their physical activity and exercise. More than 65 percent have changed their diets and more than 80 percent are watching what they eat.

Still, only a handful (one percent) of boomers expect their exercise to decrease when they retire, while more than one-third of retirees say they already exercise less.
Furthermore, more baby boomers than ever are aware that expenses for long-term care, such as nursing homes, assisted living or home care could lead to financial hardship. And the majority expressed concern concern about whether they would be able to afford it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio