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Dangerous Bacteria Hide Out in Nurses’, Doctors’ Uniforms

 Where you live may have a bigger impact on your brain health than you thought. Find out where your state ranks in America’s Brain Health Index.

The white coats and medical scrubs worn by hospital staff may harbor hazardous bacteria, a new study finds.

Researchers in Israel swabbed nurses’ and physicians’ uniforms and found potentially dangerous bacteria on more than 60 percent of the clothing items.

The team, from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, analyzed swab samples collected from three parts — sleeve ends, pockets and abdominal area — of the uniforms of 75 registered nurses and 60 doctors.

Potentially dangerous bacteria were found on 60 percent of the doctors’ uniforms and 65 percent of the nurses’ uniforms. Especially dangerous drug-resistant bacteria were found in 21 of the samples from nurses’ uniforms and six samples from doctors’ uniforms. Eight of the samples had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA), which is becoming tough to fight using conventional antibiotics.

The bacteria on the uniforms may not pose a direct risk of disease transmission, but the findings suggest that

Pose Health Risks May Cause Global Warming

 Medical and public health groups are banding together to explain how global warming has taken a toll on human health and will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths unless policy changes are enacted.

In a conference call with reporters, the heads of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) joined with a pediatrician and a scientist to lay out what they say is a major public health issue: climate change caused by global warming.

The “evidence has only grown stronger” that climate change is responsible for an increasing number of health ills, including asthma, diarrheal disease, and even deaths from extreme weather such as heat waves, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA.

For one, rising temperatures can mean more smog, which makes children with asthma sicker, explained pediatrician Dr. Perry Sheffield, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.

There is also evidence that pollen season is also getting longer, she said, which could lead to an increase in

Colon Cancer May be Less Likely Smoker’s Survive

 Current smokers diagnosed with colorectal cancer are more likely to die from it than former smokers or people who never tried cigarettes, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined five-year survival odds for 18,166 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer and found current smokers were 14 percent more likely to die during the study period than people who never smoked. The effect was seen mainly among smokers treated with surgery but no chemotherapy, who were 21 percent more likely to die.

“We don’t know exactly how smoking causes colorectal cancer in this case or makes prognosis worse; however it clearly does just like in many other human cancers,” said Dr. David Weinberg of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“Not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation have been shown to consistently reduce risk for many common cancers including lung and colorectal cancers,” Weinberg, who wasn’t involved in the study, added by email.

Worldwide each year, about 750,000 new cases of colorectal cancers are diagnosed, with about two-thirds developing in the colon.

Medical Guideline Panels Have Conflicts

More than half of panel members who gather to write clinical practice guidelines on diabetes and high cholesterol have conflicts of interest, new research suggests.

“The concern is that compensation by industry on some of these panels can pose a potential risk of industry influence on the guideline recommendations,” said Dr. Jennifer Neuman, lead author of a paper published online Oct. 11 in the BMJ.

Clinical practice guidelines are meant to direct health care professionals on how to best care for patients.

In the United States and Canada, most organizations (including nonprofit and governmental bodies) have their own protocol for divulging conflicts of interest.

And recently, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published recommendations on how organizations should manage conflicts of interest when drawing up guidelines. Among other things, the institute advocated excluding individuals with financial ties to thedrug industry.

The authors of this paper looked at conflicts of interest, both reported and unreported, among members of 14 different guideline panels in the United States and Canada over the past decade. They focused on two categories only: high cholesterol and diabetes, which account for a lion’s share of drug expenditures.

Organizations included

Health Hypnosis’s Benefits

Today is World Hypnotism Day, and according to the official website, its mission is to “remove the myths and misconceptions while promoting the truth and benefits of hypnotism to the people of the world.” There are certainly many of those misconceptions around, largely due to movies and TV shows that depict eyes following a swinging watch, or people called up on stage who get suckered into acting like clucking chickens or barking dogs. But proponents say it’s time to forget those old stereotypes — whether it’s called hypnosis, hypnotism, or hypnotherapy, this practice is actually an effective, drug-free way to promote behavioral change.

What is hypnosis, anyway? According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, it is a tool that allows the mind to focus — similar to how a magnifying glass focuses and intensifies the sun’s rays. Unlike the popular myths, you’re not actually unconscious while in a hypnotic state, but fully awake and in a heightened state of concentration. There are several different ways that practitioners can help individuals who are under hypnosis: They may present ideas or suggestions, encourage patients to come up with mental images that illustrate positive change, or help them

Low level vitamin D during remission contributes to relapse

Lower vitamin D levels have been associated with active disease in patients with UC, but it has been unknown whether they increase disease relapses. “Prior studies in patients with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis had linked low vitamin D levels to disease flare-ups,” said senior author Alan Moss, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Digestive Disease Center at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“However, it has been unclear if the flare-up was lowering vitamin D levels, or if low vitamin D levels were causing the flare-up. We thought that if we looked at vitamin D levels when the disease was inactive and then followed patients moving forward, the impact of baseline vitamin D levels on future events may be clearer.”

Moss and colleagues collected vitamin D serum levels through a physician-blinded prospective study of 70 patients with UC in clinical remission who were followed up after a surveillance colonoscopy at BIDMC. The study measured vitamin D levels in blood samples and levels of inflammation through blood tests and biopsies. The researchers then followed the patients for 12 months and compared the data from participating patients who remained well and the others who

Second cause of hidden hearing

Now, less than six years since its initial description, scientists have made great strides in understanding what hidden hearing loss is and what causes it. In research published in Nature Communications, University of Michigan researchers report a new unexpected cause for this auditory neuropathy, a step toward the eventual work to identify treatments.

“If people can have hidden hearing loss for different reasons, having the ability to make the right diagnosis of the pathogenesis will be critical,” says author Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute at Michigan Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.

Corfas published the research with co-author Guoqiang Wan, now with Nanjing University in China. They discovered using mice that disruption in the Schwann cells that make myelin, which insulates the neuronal axons in the ear, leads to hidden hearing loss. This means hidden hearing loss could be behind auditory deficits seen in acute demyelinating disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can be caused by Zika virus.

Corfas and Wan used genetic tools to induce loss of myelin in the auditory nerve of mice, modeling Guillain-Barré. Although the myelin regenerated in a few weeks, the mice

More Effective Treatment of Nerve Pain

The sharp pain shoots to the face or teeth and seriously torments patients. Known as trigeminal neuralgia, it is one of the worst chronic nerve pains. The bouts are triggered by touch, such as shaving, putting on make-up, showering, talking and tooth brushing, or even a gust of wind. The cause is usually an irritation of the trigeminal nerve, the cranial nerve responsible for the sensory innervation of the facial area, parts of the scalp, and the oral cavity.

However, there is now a glimmer of hope for patients: Thanks to a newly tested substance, the pain can be reduced to a tolerable level, as indicated by the promising results of an international phase II study involving the Center of Dental Medicine at the University of Zurich.

Less burdening side effects

Pain signals reach the brain via the activation of sodium channels located in the membranes of nerve cells. The sodium channel “1.7” is frequently expressed on pain-conducting nerves and higher pain intensity is linked to higher channel activity. Blocking this sodium channel — e.g. by a local anesthetic — inhibits the pain. In trigeminal neuralgia, the nerve damage is presumed to be at the

Only one-third of parents think they are doing a good job

Nearly all parents agree with the importance of healthy diets during childhood, according to a new national poll. But when it comes to their own homes, only a third of parents of children ages 4-18 are confident they are doing a good job shaping their child’s eating habits.

While a little more than half of parents polled believe their children eat mostly healthy, only one in six rate their children’s diets as very nutritious, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. Meanwhile, about a fourth of parents say their child’s eating is somewhat or not healthy at all.

Common challenges get in the way: Price, picky eaters and convenience.

“Most parents understand that they should provide healthy food for their children, but the reality of work schedules, children’s activities and different food preferences can make meal preparation a hectic and frustrating experience,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark.

“The tension between buying foods children like, and buying foods that are healthy, can be an ongoing struggle. Many of us know the feeling of spending time and money on a healthy meal only to have our children grimace

Food additive found in candy, gum could alter digestive

Researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles — 30 nanometers across — over four hours (acute exposure), or three meal’s worth over five days (chronic exposure).

Acute exposures did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients — iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically — were more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time — don’t worry, it won’t kill you! — but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper.

“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affects microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Mahler said. “We also extended previous work to show that these nanoparticles alter intestinal function.”

Titanium dioxide is

You can Save Your Live and Dollars with Motorcycle Helmet

More lives are saved in states with universal helmet laws for motorcyclists and their passengers than in states with partial laws, a new U.S. report confirms.

Universal helmet laws also saved states millions of dollars, the report said.

More than 14,000 deaths of motorcyclists occurred between 2008 and 2010 in the United States, and of these, more than 6,000 involved people who weren’t wearing helmets, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Universal helmet laws result in increased helmet use and cost savings,” said lead researcher Rebecca Naumann, a CDC epidemiologist.

In all, 19 states have universal helmet laws, 28 have partial laws and three have no helmet laws, she noted.

“In states with universal helmet laws, use approaches 100 percent,” Naumann said.

Some people believe that helmets themselves cause injuries and restrict vision and hearing, Naumann noted. However, all studies have shown that that is not the case.

“They make riding safer by protecting the head. Head injuries are the leading cause of death among motorcyclists,” she explained.

The report appears in the June 15 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Germs Abound on Office Phones, Chairs, Desks

You may want to clear out your workspace and break out the disinfecting wipes: Your area is teeming with bacteria, most of which is human in origin, according to a new study.

More than 500 bacterial genera were identified based on an analysis of viable heterotropic bacteria cultivated off office space surfaces in three cities. There were highly significant differences in bacterial abundance among surfaces, genders, and cities, reported Scott Kelley, PhD, from San Diego State University, and colleagues inPLoS One.

Chairs and phones were the most contaminated surfaces while spaces inhabited by men were more germ-ridden compared with areas where women worked, they noted. Also, offices in San Francisco tended to be less contaminated than offices in New York and in Tucson, Ariz.

However, they pointed out that most of the human-associated bacteria were “commensals,” which indicates a symbiotic relationship between two organisms, where one organism benefits but the other is neutral.

“Humans are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, yet we know little about the diversity of bacteria and viruses where we live, work and play,” Kelley said in a statement. “This study provides detailed baseline information about the rich

You Can Smarter With Water

We get it. Despite the never-ending health benefits, staying hydrated may not top your daily to-do list. If you can’t get yourself to guzzle enough H2O, new findings might offer extra motivation: Drinking water can boost your brain power.

In a study presented Wednesday at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in London, researchers found that students who brought water into exams performed better than those who didn’t. To make sure they hadn’t simply concluded higher-scoring students are more likely to bring water into a test, they used the students’ past coursework grades to set a general ability control. So even among generally poorer-scoring students, bringing water into the exams boosted their grades.

“The results imply that the simple act of bringing water into an exam was linked to an improvement in students’ grades,” says Chris Pawson, a professor at the University of East London and one of the study’s co-authors, in a release from the British Psychological Society. For those of us who’ve graduated from the test-taking world, the same could apply for our cognitive performance and work productivity, in theory.

Smart Water, Naturally

The researchers don’t know if the students actually

Mass Hysteria’s Mystery

A few months ago, six teenagers at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in upstate New York began exhibiting tics and verbal outbursts that resembled some of the classic symptoms of Tourette syndrome. The students — all girls, of whom there are now a dozen — were shaking and jerking uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of not being able to speak.

Parents and school officials were understandably alarmed and launched a full-scale investigation to determine whether environmental substances in any of the buildings could have triggered the problem. Thus far, however, all reports have come back clean.

Now a doctor who is treating some of the girls has come forward with a surprising explanation: mass hysteria.

“It’s happened before, all around the world,” said Laszlo Mechtler, MD, the neurologist who diagnosed the teens. “It’s a rare phenomena.”

Mass Hysteria Throughout History

Not that rare, as it turns out. Mass hysteria — in which various people in a common group (such as students within a school) spontaneously exhibit an outbreak of physical symptoms caused by psychological stress — has been documented frequently over the ages, dating all the way back to the 14th century. In

Why Snakes Make Your Skin Crawl ?

The poet Emily Dickinson greatly feared the “narrow fellow in the grass,” writing that she “never met this fellow/Attended or alone/Without a tighter breathing/And zero at the bone.”

Dickinson was not alone in her ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) and, it turns out, humans have good reason to fear the slithering serpent, whether it is found in the grass or elsewhere.

A new study in the Dec. 12-16 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents frequent python attacks on a tribe of preliterate, hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, one of the first studies to actually quantify the danger that snakes pose to humans.

And the danger, it turns out, is quite real, at least among the Agta Negritos of Luzon Island.

Anthropologist Thomas N. Headland, lead author of the new paper, lived among the Agta Negritos his entire adult life, starting in 1962, and had the opportunity to interview 58 men and 62 women about their experiences with pythons.

Fifteen of the men (26 percent) and one of the women (1.6 percent) had lived to tell of python attacks and many of them bore scars from the encounter.

One in 6 Cell Phones in Britain Contaminated

One in six cell phones in Britain may be contaminated with fecal matter that can spread E. coli, likely because so many people don’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet, a new study contends.

The findings also suggest that many people lie about their hygiene habits, according to the researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London.

The study authors went to 12 cities and collected 390 samples from the cell phones and hands of volunteers, who were also asked about their hand-washing habits.

Ninety-five percent of the participants told the researchers that they washed their hands with soap and water where possible. However, lab tests revealed that 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them. The researchers also found that 16 percent of hands and 16 percent of cell phones harbored E. coli bacteria, which is found in feces and can cause serious illness.

The study was released to coincide with Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15.

“This study provides more evidence that some people still don’t wash their hands properly, especially after going to the

Double Crash Risk Causes Pot Smoking

Drivers who get behind the wheel after using marijuana run more than twice the risk of crashing compared to others, a new study finds.

The risk rises even higher if the driver has also been drinking alcohol.

The authors of a study published online Oct. 4 in Epidemiologic Reviews believe the findings are especially relevant in light of recent moves to legalize medical marijuana in many states.

“As more and more states consider medical use of marijuana, there could be health implications,” said study senior author Dr. Guohua Li.

Even as alcohol use has decreased over the past four decades, illicit use of non-alcoholic drugs, such as prescription medications and marijuana, has increased, said Li, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

A large U.S. survey in 2009 estimated that more than 10 million people aged 12 and over had driven while under the influence of illicit drugs in the previous year. And testing has revealed that 28 percent of drivers who die from a crash and more than 11 percent of drivers in general test positive for drugs other than alcohol. Marijuana

Breaking Down the Brain Health Statistics

States that ranked high in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index share some traits, such as good diets and higher levels of physical activity, and residents of the top states tend to be intellectually curious. “It’s so important to have an intellectual passion and hobbies,” says Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen. The Beautiful Minds campaign also highlights inspiring seniors who are putting their minds to good use by volunteering, teaching classes, writing novels, and even bodybuilding.

Roizen notes that many of the states in the South rank at the bottom of the list, which he attributes to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, reflected in the high incidence of diabetes.

But Southerners don’t have it all wrong: A positive brain health factor the Southern states share is a high level of religious and spiritual activity, which is a big boost for emotional health. “The benefit of believing in a higher being is that it will help you manage stress better,” says Roizen. “Stress ages you more than any other factor.” Several scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of religious activity: The Whitehall study of British civil servants, a major study on the health effects

The Best States for Your Brain

Congratulations to the Old Line State: Maryland has emerged as the state with the best brain health in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index. Developed by National Center for Creative Aging, the index ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 21 brain health indicators including diet, physical health, mental health, and social well-being. This is the second time the index has been calculated; the first one appeared in 2009.

In the 2011 report, Maryland edged out the District of Columbia, which slipped to No. 2 from its first-place 2009 ranking. Maryland took top honors because it experienced a decrease in Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths, and because residents consume a high amount of fish, a natural source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is tied to brain and eye health. Residents of Washington, DC, came in second due to its high proportion of active readers – more than any of the 50 states.

The Brain Health Index was created by health experts including Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and creator of the RealAgeconcept, and Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, chairman of the Neurology Institute for

Judge Tosses Out Healthcare Reform Law

A federal judge in Florida has ruled that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional, siding with the 26 states that sued to block enforcement of the law.

The lawsuit, filed by 26 states that sued to block the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is considered likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Judge Roger Vinson, of the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., stopped short of directing the federal government to stop implementing the law. Still, the ruling is the harshest legal action yet against the ACA.

Unlike a ruling last month by a judge in Richmond, Va., stating that the individual mandate portion of the ACA violates the Constitution, Vinson ruled the entire law “void” because the individual mandate provision can’t be separated out from the rest of the law.

Congress “exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate,” Vinson wrote in his 78-page ruling, which was released Monday afternoon. The mandate requires all citizens to have health insurance by 2014 or else pay a penalty.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” he