Entries in health (55)


Study: Chemical in Household Products Linked to Early Menopause

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W. Va.) -- Chemicals found in everyday products such as non-stick pans, clothing, furniture, carpets and paints have been associated with the early onset of menopause, according to a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women with high levels of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the body had lower concentrations of estrogen compared with women with low levels of PFCs.

PFCs are chemicals that are used in many household items, including furniture, cosmetics and food packaging.

"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," Sarah Knox, lead author of the study, said in a news release from the university on Wednesday.

Even though the report may not be conclusive, it's still raising eyebrows. Some doctors say they're not surprised that chemicals are altering hormone levels, but they say they need more proof.

"Studies that we've done looking at these chemicals on the U.S. population show that almost everyone has these chemicals in their blood," Dana Boyd Barr, a research professor at the Rollins School of Health at Emory University in Georgia, told ABC News.

Chemical companies maintain their product is safe, but the study raises questions about whether early menopause is a new reason to worry about PFCs in general.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Popular Characters Influence Food Preferences for Kids, Study Shows

Jupiterimages/Pixland(PHILADELPHIA) -- If a food is branded with your child's favorite cartoon character, it could make them think it tastes better, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that children who ate a food with popular characters on the packaging thought the food tasted better than those who ate the same food that did not display a character.

Although the study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, was specific to one location is the U.S., similar studies have reached the same conclusion. Study authors believe the influence of characters in food advertising could have a negative effect on nutritional choices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Eight Servings of Fruit and Veggies Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OXFORD, U.K.) – People who eat eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily have a 22-percent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who eat three or fewer portions per day, according to a new study.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, followed over 300,000 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Heart study for over eight years after completing an initial health evaluation and nutritional survey.
Researchers at the University of Oxford found that the average fruit and veggie daily intake was five portions per day, while only 18 percent of the study participants ate eight or more portions daily. The beneficial effect of the food was not influenced by blood pressure, lifestyle, or other dietary differences amongst the participants. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teacher Defies Odds, Hasn't Called in Sick in 40 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alphonse Dattolo, a language teacher at Glen Rock High School in New Jersey, says he has worked more than 7,000 days in a row without one single day off. For those trying to do the math, that's more than 40 school years without an absence from the daily school grind.

Dattolo, 62, says he has been sick here and there in the past 40 years, but nothing that warranted a missed day of school. His students keep him going, Dattolo said, and he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Some doctors say Dattolo was probably blessed with a great immune system, but it is unlikely that Dattolo has never had the flu or another contagious illness in the past four decades.

"He may not have perceived himself to be ill, but it's not possible that he hasn't had multiple infections with common gastrointestinal and respiratory problems in that long of time," said Dr. Susan Coffin, medical director of infection and prevention and control department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

But Dr. Paul Glezen, professor of molecular virology, microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said that some bodies are better at fighting illness than others.

"Some people are just genetically programmed to have a better innate immunity, and they have a natural ability to respond to viruses," said Glezen. "[Dattolo] is in contact with students regularly, so he may be fortunate in that he can overcome those infections more rapidly and with fewer consequences than others."

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, agreed that it is quite possible a person can avoid severe illness for most of their lifetime. Getting a flu shot, washing your hands, eating right, and getting plenty of rest can keep a person healthy and robust.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Much Screen Time Means Health Decline

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- People who spend hours glued to a TV or computer screen on a daily basis could be shortening their lifespan, according to a new investigation reported in Tuesday's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

According to the study conducted by a group of international researchers, anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend less than two hours daily in screen play -- and this is regardless of whether or not they also work out.

The researchers surveyed more than 4,500 Scottish adults to find out how much time they spent parked in front of a TV, computer or gaming screen when not at work.  (Scottish work and recreation habits jibe with the rest of the modern Western world, including the "American idle".)  Then they analyzed their medical records for four years to find out how many of them succumbed to health problems or died during that time period.

Dedication to couch potato-style recreation translated into a greater incidence of poor health even after allowing for factors such as physical activity, age, sex and smoking.

"Assuming that leisure-time screen time is a representative indicator of overall sitting, our results lend support to the idea that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality," notes the report's lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London.  "Doing some exercise every day may not compensate for the damage done during very long periods of screen time."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Five Health Goals for 2011 and How to Meet Them

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nothing gets you thinking about health quite like a month of excess. As the holiday haze clears, New Year's resolutions come into focus. But for many, January's motivation dwindles by March -- if not sooner.

Because the start of a new year is a great time to think about breaking bad habits and starting fresh, ABC News asked health experts to share some healthy resolutions and tips on how to see them through.

Lose Weight

The key to losing weight, and not January's enthusiasm, is to set realistic short-term goals, according to Lisa Cimperman, a registered dietician at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

"There's a lot that goes on between losing that first pound and losing that 100, 50 or even 20 pounds," Cimperman said. Aiming to lose one to two pounds per week can help you stay on track and power through the inevitable weight loss lulls.

Eat Better

Bringing a lunch to work every day is a great resolution, Cimperman said. Not only can it save you money, but it will force you to eat healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, that you might not eat given the choice.

Quit Smoking

Out of 100 people who make the resolution to quit smoking, only three will succeed. But with help that number can increase to 25, according to Dr. Frank Leone, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Smoking Treatment Program.

"Generally people who get help, either in the form of counseling or nicotine replacement, preferably both, actually improve their odds of stopping smoking successfully, long-term, pretty dramatically," Leone said.

"The easiest way to get some professional advice on how to quit is to call the national quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW," Leone said.


Digging up the motivation to exercise can be hard in the winter months. Shorter days and cooler temperatures (not to mention sidewalks full of snow) make it hard to get out for a run. Buying a gym membership can give you the financial incentive and the indoor space to work out, but it only works if you use it.

But you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, Cimperman stressed. Running up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building or at work is a great workout. And workout DVDs, even YouTube videos, can also offer some fitness solutions on the cheap.

Walking to work or choosing the stairs over the elevator can help you burn a few extra calories each day. But to get the real health benefits of exercise, your heart rate needs a hike, according to Dr. Shukri David, Chief of Cardiology at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan.

"You ideally want to increase your heart rate to 85 percent of what we call target, which is 220 minus your age," David said. That's 160 for a 40-year-old. And sustaining that increased heart rate for 15-30 minutes each day will benefit your whole body.


Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. So it's important to know your risk factors and your numbers, Providence Hospital's David said.

Genetics play an important part in determining your risk, so knowing your family history is an important first step. But other modifiable factors, such as smoking, being overweight, and having diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol also increase your risk.

"You can't choose your parents, but you can certainly get your blood pressure down, you can get your blood sugar down with diabetes, you can normalize your cholesterol levels, you can stop smoking, and you can lose weight," David said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researcher: Trans Fat Info on Labels Deceptive

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Nutrition labels can be confusing. Experts say their information is often difficult to interpret and that ingredient amounts are meaningless if not put in the proper context. According to one researcher, nutrition labels are not only confusing but deceptive, particularly when it comes to trans fats, the unsaturated fats often found in junk food.

Eric Brandt, now a student at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, did some investigating while still an undergraduate and found that even when labels indicated no trans fats, foods often contained them. He published a paper in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, calling for changes in the way trans fats are listed on labels.

Experts agree that trans fats are a health hazard, but believe there might be better ways to indicate their presence, and that changing regulations could have adverse effects on consumers.

"I looked more closely at the list of ingredients and found that a lot of foods that say they have no trans fats actually contain partially hydrogenated oils, which do have trans fat in them," said Brandt.

He said the discrepancy occurs because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list trans fats if they are present in amounts less than .5 grams. Omitting that information, however, could pose a danger to consumers.

"Research has consistently shown that if you add up small amounts less than .5 grams over time, it can become a significant amount and can be harmful to health," said Brandt.

Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 1.11 grams of trans fats per day. Trans fats also tend to raise levels of "bad" cholesterol and lower the levels of "good" cholesterol.

Because of the FDA's current requirements, if a food contains .49 grams of trans fat, the manufacturer is permitted to list the amount of trans fat as zero.

To more accurately reflect the amount of trans fat in food, Brandt believes it should be listed in increments of one-tenth of a gram. If, for example, there are .35 grams of trans fat in a food, the label should read .4 grams. If there are .34 grams of trans fat, the label should read .3 grams.

The FDA has required trans fat information on food labels since 2006. A spokesperson for the agency said since it hasn't yet seen Brandt's paper, it is too early to comment on it. However, the spokesperson also said it's difficult to confirm amounts less than .5 grams, which is why that became the rule.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gallup: Religious Americans Lead Healthier Lives

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PRINCETON, N.J.) – A new study found that the most religious Americans are more likely to lead healthy lives.
According to Gallup, Americans who were found to be very religious, meaning they attend their chosen religious gathering at least every week or almost every week, scored a 66.3 on the Gallup-Healthways Healthy Behavior Index. The index accounts for eating, exercise and smoking behaviors.

Americans who were classified as moderately religious scored a 60.6 on the index while those considered nonreligious scored a 58.3.

The study found that very religious Americans are likely to make healthier eating choices and exercise more often. The most significant difference in health among the groups was smoking, with nonreligious individuals being 85 percent more likely to smoke than the very religious.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Best, Worst Places To Be a Mom

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Motherhood has its joys and challenges, and the ratio of one to the other can vary wildly depending on where in the world a mom lives. In a list ranking 160 of the best and worst countries on the planet to be a mother, the United States was 28th from the top, according to Save the Children, the international charity that aims to help children in need. Norway topped the list, while Afghanistan came in dead last.

Countries were ranked based on the measurement of four key factors in a mother's life: her own health, economic status, political clout, and the well-being of her children.

All countries were ranked according to lifetime risk of maternal death, percentage of women using modern contraception, female life expectancy, expected number of years of formal schooling, ratio of estimated female to male earned income, participation of women in national government, and mortality rate for children under age five. In industrialized countries, additional factors considered were maternity leave benefits, number of young children enrolled in pre-school education programs and number of older children enrolled in high school.

In developing countries, meanwhile, additional factors included how frequently skilled health care workers assist with birthing babies, children's access to clean water, and the number of children enrolled in primary education program, including the ratio of girls to boys.

Here is a list of the top 10 best and worst places worldwide to be a mom.

Best Places

1. Norway
2. Australia
3. Iceland
4. Sweden
5. Denmark
6. New Zealand
7. Finland
8. Netherlands
9. Belgium
10. Germany

Worst Places
151. Equatorial Guinea
152. Eritrea
153. Sudan
154. Mali
155. DR Congo
156. Yemen
157. Guinea-Bissau
158. Chad
159. Niger
160. Afghanistan

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Vaccine Against Meningitis Could Save Millions in Africa

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- An inexpensive new vaccine used to inoculate against bacterial meningitis will be administered in a large portion of Africa where the disease is rampant, The New York Times reported Saturday. The vaccination could save millions of lives in West Africa.

The highly contagious disease is an infection in the brain and spinal chord, and can have highly debilitating effects even when treated immediately with antibiotics. At 50 cents a dose, the new vaccine against meningitis is remarkably cheap, and is being compared to similarly ubiquitous, groundbreaking inoculations against smallpox and polio.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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