Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Can Help Stop Malaria's Spread

news you may not knowTheir Days Are Numbered...

Global is the new local. It's the global economy, the global environment and, of course, the global battle against poverty. But, what if you live in the Midwest? Are you really connected to the global - anything? Sure, you'd like to be a good citizen, but...

Well, relax. A bright, young - and, now, extremely rich - college student has devised a means by which you can help wipe out malaria. Right from the comfort of your kitchen, den, or even your from your mobile phone.

Here's how it works.

Tom Hadfield, a British entrepreneur who made millions when he sold to ESPN, has now turned his sights to health care. After returning from a trip to Zambia, he reflected on the devastating impact malaria has on those without the proper prevention tools or treatments. So, using his entrepreneurial flair, he established

According to their website, MalariaEngage is a collaboration between the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, Impactanation and the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania. Impactanation says it is "committed to finding innovative strategies to engage the world's largest untapped resource, youth, in solutions to the key challenges we are facing on the planet today. We believe in the potential of individuals to see the world in a new way and to use that view to solve the challenges in front of them. As we imagine a better world we develop our imagination. As we see the experience of our impact, we Impact a Nation."

The basic idea of MalariaEngage is to encourage people to donate a minimal amount, $10, toward research that will help speed ideas from the laboratories of Africa to the peoples in need. Further, Hadfield hopes to connect thousands of people in social networks, based on their common desire to eliminate malaria, believing this will add crucial momentum to the research and interventions.

$10? Yeah, that's all it takes to be part of a worldwide effort to get rid of malaria. Pretty cool...

To read more about Hadfield, see this from Reuters. To participate in the effort, see this from MalariaEngage.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Does Growing Older Mean Growing Happier?

tidbits that tantalizeYeah, Life's Terrific!

It's the ultimate irony. Teenagers just can't wait to grow up, to establish themselves as full-fledged adults, and partake of the real world. Adults, especially those whizzing past sixty, long for the days of youthful indiscretion, boundless energy, and the decades of life stretching out before them. But, though each age has its unique perspectives and dilemmas, how does each generation's longing impact their overall view of life?

A study at the University of Chicago says teenage angst trumps elderly melancholy when it comes to happiness. The researchers assessed data collected over a three-decade period by their National Opinion Research Center. Each year from 1972 to 2004 the center conducted face-to-face interviews with between 1,500 and 3,000 individuals. Each person was asked to assess their happiness with the standardized question, "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days-would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"

The results are quite enlightening. Those angst-ridden teens are the least likely to be happy, with only 15 to 33 percent expressing contentment. White women scored the highest, at 33%, followed by white men at 28%, black women at 18%, and black men at 15%.

But, age changes everything.

Not only did the survey show people grow happier overall as they age, it also revealed the differences between men and women, and blacks and whites diminish. As a matter of fact, by the time people reach their late 80s, more blacks than whites say they are happy, with over 50% of blacks saying they are "very happy." Researchers postulate that as we age we mature and gain positive psychosocial traits that allow us to better deal with life's difficulties.

There is one group that struggles on the happiness scale: the baby boomers. "This is probably due to the fact that the generation as a group was so large, and their expectations were so great, that not everyone in the group could get what he or she wanted as they aged due to competition for opportunities. This could lead to disappointment that could undermine happiness," said Yang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago.

So, how do you find happiness? Hmm... It appears that if you hang around long enough you'll simply stumble upon it...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about living an active, healthy life as you age, see this from

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alzheimer's Caregivers Don't Have To Go It Alone

news you may not knowDon't Go It Alone...

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. In its early stages it may be no more than a bit of forgetfulness. Where are those dang car keys? As Alzheimer's progresses the complications unfold with the continuing decline of mental abilities. Ultimately, individuals fade away before their time, losing touch with loved ones and the realities of daily life.

If you know people - chances are you do - then you know someone with Alzheimer's. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently over 5 million people with Alzheimer's in the United States. Another person develops Alzheimer's every 71 seconds and it's the seventh leading cause of death. Baby boomers beware: it's estimated that over 10 million boomers will develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime.

Often forgotten in the assault of Alzheimer's are the caregivers. These are the loved ones whose lives are also turned upside down by the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Gone are the carefree days of life. They find themselves suddenly cast into new roles, assuming significant responsibilities at a time when they are often least mentally and emotionally prepared to do so.

Don't go it alone.

The emotional toll of losing your loved one to Alzheimer's is a terrific burden. It's a journey that should not be taken without the love and support of family. But, as important as family is, there is great comfort to be found in the experience of fellow caregivers: those husbands and wives, sons and daughters, who are walking your own road. They intuitively understand your burden. They've dealt with the same physical, emotional, and financial tolls. They've walked through the same grief.

There are several terrific support groups available to help you through the process of caring for someone with Alzheimer's. See this from the Family Caregiver Alliance for an overview of Alzheimer's and a discussion of the role of the caregiver. For a vibrant community of support for Alzheimer's caregivers, see this from

Please: Don't go it alone.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yoga Brings Balance to Older Women

tidbits that tantalizeAre Pizza and Yoga a Match?

Are you an Eastern philosophy type? Is the yin and yang of life the driving force directing you toward peace, enlightenment, and health? Or, do you tend more toward the pizza and soda philosophy of life, in which the only critical issues revolve around the immediate? How much fun can you have right now, or exactly how great will that deep-dish pie taste with extra cheese?

Do yoga and pizza go together? Hmm...

A recent study by researchers at Temple University indicates that, while pizza is certainly tasty, yoga may in fact be healthier for you. The scientists looked at the impact of yoga on the ability to balance among elderly women. As women age they are at increased risk of falling, often resulting in broken hips and other serious injuries. The ability to maintain one's balance is a crucial tool in achieving longevity.

The team enrolled 24 women, age 65 or older, in a nine-week course of yoga training. The training was an adapted version of Iyengar Yoga, specifically designed to be less intense, making it appropriate for the elderly. Previous studies had used the more traditional, and more intense, forms of yoga.

The results were encouraging. The women showed improvement in several areas, including balance, length of stride and speed of walking. The women also expressed a feeling of greater confidence in their ability to balance while standing and walking.

"We were very impressed at the progress our participants made by the end of the program," said study chief Dr. Jinsup Song. "Subjects demonstrated improved muscle strength in lower extremities, which helps with stability. There was also a pronounced difference in how pressure was distributed on the bottom of the foot, which helps to maintain balance."

Where does that leave pizza? Well, try this: stand on one leg, slowly bringing the pizza slice to shoulder level, rotating your arm at the elbow, gently bring the slice toward your mouth...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about Iyengar Yoga, see this from B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga.

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Egg a Day Means Trouble For Men

tidbits that tantalizeCan You Count to Six?

Are you a fan? Do you love the sizzle and pop of eggs frying in the skillet? Well, you're certainly not alone. More than 70 billion eggs were consumed in the United States in 2000. That's a bunch of breakfast. But, though they're fantastically tasty, are they good for you?

Much ado has been made in recent years about the cholesterol in eggs. Several studies have pointed to eggs as a food to absolutely avoid. But, often in the same week, other studies have said eggs are terrific sources of protein and essential amino acids. It makes breakfast decisions quite complicated.

Well, a new study - yes, certainly to be refuted next week - indicates it may not be an all-or-nothing choice when it comes to eggs. It may have to do with balance. The study indicates that up to six eggs per week seems quite healthy. It's egg number seven that appears to be the culprit.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed data from over 20,000 male physicians participating in the Physician's Health Study. This is a large study that has been tracking the health and lifestyle of doctors since 1981. The team looked at the egg consumption habits of the men, and the rate of fatality, over a twenty-year period.

Interestingly, the study found no correlation between egg consumption and heart attack or stroke. But, the overall rates of death, from any cause, were significantly higher for men who consumed seven or more eggs each week. These men were 23% more likely to have died in the previous twenty years than men who consumed six or fewer eggs per week.

The news was even worse for diabetic men. Diabetics who consumed any eggs were twice as likely to have died in the twenty-year period.

Further study, of course, is needed. There is the potential that other co-factors, such as being overweight, smoking, or drinking may have contributed to the outcomes of men who ate the most eggs.

So, what's the bottom line? Well, even as the debate rages on, it appears that if you can count to six you should be OK.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the healthy side of eggs, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Does Loss of Smell Predict Parkinson's?

news you may not knowYour Nose Knows

Should you be concerned if you can no longer smell the roses?

Researchers at the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System in Honolulu say it's possible. Dr. G. Webster Ross and his staff studied the correlation between the loss of smell and the incidence of Parkinson's. The results are quite telling.

The team assessed almost 2,300 men for the study. The participants were, on average, 80 at the onset of the study and they were followed for 8 years. All were unaffected by Parkinson's or other dementias at the beginning of the study.

Those men with the poorest sense of smell were 5.2 times more likely to develop Parkinson's than those with a good sense of smell. That's a big difference.

A 12-item Brief Smell Identification Test (SID) is typically used to assess the olfactory abilities of study participants. The SID assesses the ability to identify twelve familiar aromas, including banana, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon and onion.

Previous research by Rush University Medical Center has indicated a link between Alzheimer's and the loss of smell. It certainly appears to be a significant pattern.

The researchers believe these smell tests may become valuable tools in the early assessment of Parkinson's and other dementias. This will be especially important as early medical interventions become available.

On a more positive note, earlier research by Dr. Ross indicates that drinking coffee may offer some protection against Parkinson's. He reported, in 2000, a direct inverse correlation between coffee consumption and development of Parkinson's: those consuming the most coffee were the least likely to develop Parkinson's. To read the results of that study, see this press release.

In the meantime, don't panic. Live a healthy lifestyle, enjoy your family and friends, and go to the drugstore. The only thing wrong with your sense of smell may be quickly resolved with a shot of nasal spray.

To read more about the current study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about Parkinson's, and to find resources, see this from the National Parkinson Foundation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is Tea Really Healthy?

tidbits that tantalize Exactly How Healthy is Tea?

What's your favorite? Are you a green tea fan, relishing its cleansing and energizing properties? Or, do you prefer the earthy richness of a powerful Pu-erh or other black tea? Either way, why do you drink it? Is it for the simple pleasure and taste? Or, do you drink tea for its health benefits? Health benefits? Hmm...

Several studies have indicated tea has many health benefits. But, in the April Mayo Clinic Health Letter, tea's health claims have been questioned. At issue is the form of the previous studies. Most of the studies have been population, or epidemiological, studies rather than clinical trials. These are studies that study groups and health conditions, but gather information after the fact and present only an indirect cause and effect association. Because of this, some clinicians give less weight to the health benefits of tea, saying that true clinical trials are needed.

The Mayo Health Letter considered several health claims previously associated with drinking tea:

-Cardiovascular Health: Mayo concludes it's uncertain whether tea reduces cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Green teas may reduce the risk of heart attack, but it's unclear whether black tea also does so.

-Cancer: The jury is still out on black tea's ability to fight cancer. White tea, though, does show some potential for fighting colon cancer.

-Bone and Joint Health: Chalk one up for green tea - it may in fact reduce inflammation and slow cartilage breakdown.

-Memory: Green tea's on a roll. Studies show green tea drinkers may have better memories than non-drinkers.

So, are you still a tea drinker? Good for you! Enjoy...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about the health benefits of tea, from a British perspective, see this from the United Kingdom Tea Council.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Healthy People Take Fewer Vitamins

tidbits that tantalizeThere He Is...

It's not exactly what you'd expect. The aisles of Whole Foods and other health food stores are overflowing with healthy looking folks. They're shopping for organic beans, fresh produce, and the occasional whey protein bar. So, while you really haven't paid attention, you just assume these health devotees spend their fair share of time in the vitamin and supplement section.

Think again.

A recent study by the National Cancer Institute says the healthy folks are keeping their distance. The study found, through a survey of over 7,300 people, that the least healthy among us are the most likely to explore the health benefits of vitamins and supplements.

The study was aimed at determining whether cancer survivors are more likely to use supplements. The medical community's concern is that too little is known about the interaction between vitamins and medications. They believe that, while vitamins and supplements may provide benefit, they may also do harm. They want to see further evidence-based studies conducted.

What the study found is quite interesting. Cancer survivors do indeed use supplements, but not to treat cancer. They tend to use the supplements to treat other chronic medical conditions. Chronic medical conditions were shown to be the key factor in whether one uses vitamins. Those individuals with a chronic medical condition, of any nature, were 82% more likely to be taking two or more supplements.

So, here's the new strategy. Next visit to Whole Foods, pick out the healthiest looking person you see and stay on their tracks. If they avoid the vitamin aisle, they're the one. Now, just follow along behind them, and buy whatever they buy. Before you know it, you'll be looking so good, people will be following you around the store.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about eating whole, healthy foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Simple CPR Method Saves Lives

news you may not knowUse Your Hands, People...

Do you have hands? OK, good - you meet the minimum medical requirements to administer CPR in an emergency situation.

The American Heart Association recently issued new CPR guidelines, updating their 2005 recommendations. They now advise bystanders to immediately begin "hands-only" CPR in emergencies. Hands-only CPR eliminates the need to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Instead, a series of rapid chest compressions, "hard and fast," are administered to the center of the patient's chest.

The compressions force blood to flow to vital organs in the first critical minutes following a cardiac arrest. They are to be continued until emergency personnel arrive on the scene.

Consider the facts. More than 300,000 people die each year in the United States due to heart attacks. 94% of heart attack victims die before reaching the hospital. Yet, the simple intervention of hands-only CPR can double or triple the chance the victim will survive.

Are you worried you may make things worse? Don't be. The hands-only CPR will not hurt anyone, and just may save a life. This method is not recommended for children, or for adults who have experienced a respiratory trauma, such as drowning or a drug overdose.

So, remember these simple guidelines: first, call 911. Then, put those hands to work - you have a life to save.

To read more about the recommendations, see this from Reuters. To learn more about hands-only CPR, see this from the American Heart Association.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Clothes Will Monitor Health in the Future

tidbits that tantalizeHow Smart Are Your Clothes?

Unsure what to wear today? Hmm... How about that green shirt with the special fabric - the one that monitors your heart activity, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. That way, if you get yourself in a spot, your shirt will email your doctor and send you a text message telling you to cool it. Yeah, green it is...

Researchers in Europe say this scenario is not so far fetched. They're developing "smart clothing" that will indeed monitor your health. The fabric will be woven with imbedded sensors to monitor an array of bodily functions. Temperature and pulse will be standard. But, the garments will also have the ability to collect miniscule amounts of sweat and complete much more sophisticated analyses.

Many of the analyses rely on miniature devices that collect samples and then change color in response to the sample's content. This then is assessed by way of a spectrometer and the wearer's health status is easily determined.

The initial prototypes will be tested on people with diabetes and obesity, as well as athletes. Once the kinks are worked out, the team will turn to developing clothing for special applications, such as firefighters and rescue teams. As the smart clothing advances it is quite likely it will become a standard monitoring tool for a wide variety of health conditions.

So, yes - the green shirt seems like the wise choice. It not only looks good, it will see you make it through the day in top shape.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about the manufacturer of the clothing, see this from Biotex.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Concord Grape Juice Healthy Like Red Wine

tidbits that tantalizeThey've Got the Good Stuff...

Are you a Teetotaler? If so, you may already experience many health benefits from your daily brew. Tea has been shown to calm the nerves, lower cholesterol, and promote digestion. It's also simply a great way to relax and let your mind wander a bit.

But, what about the well-known health benefits of red wine. Are you missing out?

If you avoid all alcohol you may indeed be missing out on the significant benefits of red wine. The key component in red wine that promotes health is resveratrol. Grapes produce resveratrol to fight against bacteria and fungi, and it's found in heavy concentration in the skin of grapes.

Resveratrol has been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease, promote flexibility of the arteries, fight against cancer, and possibly extend our lifespan. But, there is that Teetotaler thing...

Great news - Concord grape juice works too.

Several studies indicate red and purple grape juices may have the same health benefits as red wine, without the alcohol. This is terrific news. Teetotalers can now be every bit as healthy as red wine drinkers. The same resveratrol that enhances the health properties of red wine is found in grape juice. Now, just add a little dark chocolate and you'll be both healthy and content.

To read more about the positive health benefits of grape juice, see this from Welch's International, or this from the Mayo Clinic. To learn more about resveratrol, see this from

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Vaccine Fights Lyme Disease

news you may not knowGreat News for Nature Lovers...

If you love the outdoors this is very good news.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colorado, have developed a vaccine to fight Lyme disease. Previous findings showed a single dose of oral doxycycline prevents Lyme about 20-30% of the time. But, the new vaccine was 100% effective in recent tests.

The vaccine has been formulated as a slow release treatment. The antibiotic, given as a single injection, is released over a 20-day period. In tests using mice the protection rate was perfect. The scientists will now work on developing different delivery mechanisms for use with humans. One possibility is a sustained-release patch.

Lyme disease is a devastating illness that begins with an imperceptible bite. A deer tick, infected with the bacteria, passes it on to humans. The disease was first identified in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut. A group of mothers realized their children had all been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. After further exploration, the little critter responsible for the ailment was identified in 1982.

Lyme disease may begin with a small rash about the site of the bite. In time the disease progresses, often affecting the entire body. Hallmark symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, muscle aches and pains, stiffness in the joints, swollen glands and headaches. Lyme can also damage the heart, nervous system and peripheral nerves.

It's quite a severe illness considering its tiny origin.

So, "be careful out there." Until the vaccine is perfected and made available for human use, you'll have to use other methods to protect yourself.

To read more about the vaccine, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about Lyme disease, including recommended precautions, see this from

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Veggies Fight Stroke, Heart Attack for Arthritics

tidbits that tantalizeReally - These Are Good For You?

Do you love vegetables? What about fruit, nuts and seeds? Let's hope so. Study after study points to the naturally occurring health benefits of eating vegetables, fruits and other vegetarian fare. Of course, it may come as a surprise to many that processed foods, with all their healthy additives, don't quite match up. Except, of course, in quantities of sodium, sugars, and saturated fats.

The newest study points to a huge advantage for those with rheumatoid arthritis. A group of researchers from the Karolinska Institute found a vegan diet helps protect against both stroke and heart attack. People with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including experiencing higher rates of heart attacks and strokes.

The study assessed the impact of a vegan diet on those with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers followed two groups for a one-year period. One group ate a gluten-free vegan diet, consisting of vegetables, nuts, fruits, sunflower seeds, and various gluten-free grains. The control group ate a balanced diet that included gluten and meat.

At the end of the year the group eating a vegan diet showed some distinct advantages. First, their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels were lower. LDL is the dreaded "bad" cholesterol, to be avoided at all costs. High levels of LDL are associated with cardiovascular disease. The veggie eaters also lost weight during the year. A healthy weight is one additional protection against heart disease and stroke. Finally, the vegans had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of systemic inflammation linked with many diseases, including heart disease.

Be brave. The next time you're in the grocery, just ask. You'll be surprised - they have a whole aisle filled with stuff that doesn't come in boxes and cans.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about vegan diets, see this from The Vegetarian Resource Group.