Blog - Active Healthcare

When Valentine’s Day is Bittersweet


Most people are aware of the most common asthma Read more

Five Flu Myths Debunked


January is the height of flu season, and if Read more

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Asthma Season


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, everyone Read more

Asthma and Obesity: The Chicken or the Egg?


Over the last two decades, asthma and obesity have Read more

Keeping You in the Loop About the Artificial Pancreas

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  

If you have Type 1 diabetes, your entire day can be spent treating your condition. Over the past few decades, technology has advanced significantly, making life as a Type 1 diabetic easier than ever before. The FDA approval of a new medical device called the “artificial pancreas” in September 2016 will continue this trend. Derek Rapp, President and CEO for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) www.jdrf.org says that the artificial pancreas “is a historical achievement for JDRF and the entire T1D community. After years of laying the ground work, this life-changing breakthrough is a true testament to the reason JDRF exists, which is to accelerate ways to cure, prevent, and treat this disease.”

Researchers at the University of Virginia are developing and testing this type of device. This device has two components: a smartphone and an implanted insulin pump. You may be asking yourself, but how does it work? The smartphone component uses an algorithm to deliver just the right amount of insulin into the body, as well as control blood levels. The insulin pump receives the patient’s blood sugar levels from the smartphone every five minutes in a process called “looping.” The device performs the same functions as a healthy pancreas.

Trials are being conducted all over the United States and Europe, the first of which is the International Diabetes Closed-Loop trial. This trial will be performed using the device developed by UVA mentioned above and will be led by Boris Kovatchev, director of the UVA Center of Diabetes Technology. According to Kovatchev, the artificial pancreas is “not a single-function device; it is an adaptable, wearable network surrounding the patient in a digital treatment ecosystem.”

Les Hazelton, a 59 year old type 1 diabetic from Minnetonka, Minnesota, says that until he enrolled in a trial at Park Nicollet’s International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, he was “always chasing” his blood sugar. “It was totally mind-blowing. I like being in better control of my body and my disease. The more I know about what’s happening right now, the better I can manage it,” he said.

You are likely wondering when such a device will be available on the market. Diabetes In Control www.diabetesincontrol.com says that with several trials having been conducted in 2016, we could see the first artificial pancreas available sometime this year.


When Valentine’s Day is Bittersweet

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  

Most people are aware of the most common asthma triggers which are referred to as the 3 Ps: pets, pollen, and pollution. Recent studies have brought a new one to light – sugar. The reason? Sugar causes inflammation of the airways. I bet you didn’t know that a little sugar could cause such a reaction.

In 2008, Dr. Sonja Kiersten, a researcher from the Nestle Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, began to make this discovery. Dr. Kiersten and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used mice to perform their research by feeding them sugar water. This experiment produced the following results.

  • The mice’s airways became inflamed, which made them more prone to developing asthma.
  • The mice fed the sugar water had airways that were twice as reactive as those that drank plain water.
  • The mice became addicted to the sugar water and wanted more.

Limiting your sugar intake is beneficial to everyone, as sugar can affect your body in a variety of ways including:

  • It can lead to an over-active pancreas, which can cause inflammation in various parts of the body. The pancreas is a small organ, so it can only take so much before it starts releasing hormones that affect your sugar levels.  It also produces insulin.  When you feed it with refined sugar like that in a can of soda, for example, your pancreas goes into overdrive.  Therefore, if it produces too much insulin, this will, in turn, inflame air passages.
  • Excess sugar leads to weight gain. Obesity aggravates asthma, as it does with many other chronic illnesses.

In addition to sugar, dairy can also worsen an asthmatic’s symptoms.  Many doctors tell their asthma patients to try to eliminate dairy from their diets because of the mucus milk and cheese produce, which clogs the airways and constricts air passages.  Even coffee can be harmful.  It is definitely important for asthmatics to stay hydrated and water is the best way for them to do so.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, here are some ideas on how you and your family can celebrate this popular holiday with minimal impact:

  • Have your child take Valentines to school with small toys attached instead (ex: a balloon).
  • Do a Valentine’s Day craft.
  • Make a special, heart-shaped breakfast using cookie cutters.
  • Take him/her out on a “date” not involving food such as a movie, walk, game night, etc.

 

 


Five Flu Myths Debunked

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health 1

January is the height of flu season, and if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s not too late to do so. Influenza or “the flu,” as it more commonly known, is a respiratory virus that can be fatal and causes severe symptoms including high fever, shaking chills, headache, body aches, cough, and tiredness.  If you haven’t ever contracted it, consider yourself lucky.

Here are five myths you might have heard about the flu that we will clear up for you.

Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine
Fact:  This is false

The shot contains a dead virus and cannot transmit infection.  If you get sick around the time you got it, you were probably already going to get sick from exposure to the virus by an infected person.  In addition, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up the antibodies needed to fight the flu.

Myth: Vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of Influenza.
Fact:  Influenza is strictly a respiratory illness.

Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is a completely different and separate virus.  With stomach flu, you would experience vomiting and/or diarrhea in addition to stomach pain.

Myth:The vaccine is the only ammunition you need to fight the flu.
Fact:  In addition to the vaccine, you should wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow, and drink lots of fluids.

Also, as with any illness, you will want to disinfect your surfaces such as phones, doorknobs, light switches, and remotes, as the germs can stay alive for up to 72 hours.

Myth: Young, healthy individuals cannot catch the flu.
Fact: Young and healthy individuals can catch the flu.

This group has a greater ability to fight complications of the flu, but it can still have an impact.  The 2014 flu season was particularly hard on this group of individuals.  Then, 61% of those hospitalized with influenza-like illnesses were adults aged 18-64.  In addition to reducing complications brought on by the flu, patients who are vaccinated also reduce the likelihood of transmission of the virus.

Myth: The flu vaccine causes Bell’s palsy.
Fact: No evidence has been found to support this.

One study from the Institute of Medicine reports that vaccines cause very few health problems.  “The findings should be reassuring to parents that few health problems are clearly connected to immunizations, and these effects occur relatively rarely.  The flu vaccine does not aggravate asthma, and the flu vaccine doesn’t cause Bell’s palsy,” explains Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University.

Everyone, male or female, young or old, healthy or sick, will benefit from receiving a flu vaccine.  Get yours today!


Five Misconceptions About Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  

There are many misconceptions about diabetes. Below are a few of these misconceptions and the truth.

Myth: People get Type 1 diabetes from eating too much sugar
Reality: No one really knows how someone gets the disease.

It does not mean that the patient eats too much sugar. “Type 1 is like being hit by lightning, and it’s not anybody’s fault,” says Steven Griffen, MD who is a vice president for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Researchers still can’t pin down the real cause of this disease, but it means that the patient’s pancreas is not processing insulin the way that it should.

 Myth: It is dangerous for people with diabetes to exercise or participate in sports
 Reality:  Patients can safely participate in sports or any other exercise program.

As long as the patient pays attention to his/her blood sugar levels, it is possible to participate in sports and even thrive as an athlete. Professional athletes such as tennis star Bill Talbert, boxer Jersey Joe Walcott, and golfer Sherri Turner are all Type 1 patients.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by being overweight
Reality: There are two very different types of diabetes.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that never goes away, while Type 2 symptoms can diminish with weight management and dietary changes.  Being overweight puts you at risk for Type 2 diabetes, but Type 1 patients often find it difficult to gain weight.

scaleMyth: Diabetics should avoid all sugar and carbohydrates
Reality: Diabetics can and should have some sugar and carbohydrates. 

Did you know that diabetics also experience extreme lows in their blood sugar?  Yes, it’s true.  When a diabetic has a blood sugar nosedive, this is called hypoglycemia.  The highs are referred to as hyperglycemia.  Hypoglycemia can make the patient feel just as bad as if their sugar is too high. Hypoglycemia can be avoided by a regular intake of natural sugars, such as those found in fruit, and complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread and pasta.

Myth: Diabetes is easy to control.
Reality: Diabetes is hard to control, no matter how diligent one is with sticking to his/her meal plan and treatment schedule.

Treatment is ongoing.  One misconception here is that people assume the patient “has it all figured out.”  There are many things that can cause a diabetic’s blood sugar swings such as stress, hormone changes, growth spurts, and illnesses.

On the upside, there are so many more ways to combat Type 1 diabetes now than ever before.  The medical device industry has advanced significantly in the past decade, and patients now have a plethora of options available to them to make life with Type 1 diabetes more manageable including insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and even an artificial pancreas.


It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Asthma Season

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment   , ,

airplaneIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, everyone says when referring to the holiday season, but, not so much for asthma sufferers. While in the midst of the flurry of activity the season brings, it can be hard for asthmatics to enjoy themselves, especially when away from home. Here are some things that you can do to make your holiday travel and festivities more enjoyable.

Before Your Trip

First, if you know you are going to be traveling anywhere this holiday season, make an appointment as soon as possible with your doctor. This will give you the opportunity to update medications, obtain new prescriptions, and get necessary information you need for your specific asthma case to help you in your travels.

  • Ask your doctor to provide you with a copy of your personal medical records to carry with you.
  • Refill as many prescriptions as you can that you think you could potentially use up while away from home a few days before your trip.

Packing Tips

  • When packing your bags, remember there are some critical things to leave out of your checked baggage such as your inhaler and medical record.
  • For your remaining medications, use a re-sealable plastic bag with all of the prescription labels visible so that you can move quickly through the security checkpoint at the airport.
  • Packing a pillowcase (and a pillow and mattress pad if you have the space) from home will help eliminate the possibility of inhaling dander from the pillowcases at your destination that could bring on an attack.
  • Tell a fellow traveler that you have asthma and how they can help you if you begin to have an attack. Make sure they know where to find your inhaler in your carry-on.

car

At Your Destination

  • If you will be staying in a hotel, be sure to request a non-smoking room. Look for pet-free hotels.
  • Before you go, search for the nearest emergency room or urgent care to your destination.


The Sunshine Vitamin: Diabetes Edition!

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   ,

sunshine
The sunshine vitamin strikes again! Last month, we discussed how important vitamin D can be to reducing children’s risks for asthma, but we decided to also look into how the “sunshine vitamin” could be affecting risks for diabetes. First, what exactly is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a unique steroid hormone that influences nearly all the cells in your body. It is the only vitamin your body can create – when sunlight is absorbed in your skin, your body creates this vitamin and turns it into a hormone. Vitamin D is important to your overall health – and low levels have been linked with many chronic diseases. Most recently, diabetes and pre-diabetes have been linked with low levels of vitamin D.

There is a distinct connection between insufficient vitamin D and insulin resistance and diabetes, both type 1 and 2. Findings in recent research indicate that a vitamin D deficiency affects your glucose metabolism and may actually be more closely linked to diabetes than obesity. In one study of 118 people, it was determined that a vitamin D deficiency and obesity interact synergistically to raise the risk of diabetes and, by extension, sleep apnea and other metabolic disorders.

Researchers also discerned that for every unit increase in vitamin D levels, the probability of progression towards diabetes in people with pre-diabetes went down by eight percent.

In another study in 2013, researchers learned that type 2 diabetics given 50,000 IUs of oral vitamin D3 per week for eight weeks experienced a meaningful reduction in fasting plasma glucose and insulin. A different study with over 5,000 individuals with impaired glucose intolerance discovered vitamin D supplementation increased insulin sensitivity by 54 percent.

Animal studies have also supported that vitamin D is a foundational factor necessary for normal insulin secretion and that vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity.

Optimizing levels of vitamin D among the general population could help protect against cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, infertility, DNA repair and metabolic processes, migraines, neurological/psychological/mental disorders, and notably, both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Diabetes has been linked to many chronic issues including obesity and sleep apnea.

As stated in our other Sunshine Vitamin post, all it takes is a few minutes in the sun to absorb some vitamin D. No need to sit in the sun for hours and raise risks for skin cancer! Additionally, supplements with vitamin D3 are also recommended – in particular if they contain vitamin K2, as it has been found to aide in the maximum absorption of vitamin D into your body.

The Sunshine Vitamin is truly invaluable support to your body’s overall health and disease prevention!


Asthma and Obesity: The Chicken or the Egg?

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

eggsOver the last two decades, asthma and obesity have reached epidemic proportions. Obesity is a common comorbidity to asthma and it is commonly thought that obesity precedes the asthma symptoms. Now, the question has been raised about whether it is the other way around. Does obesity follow on the heels of asthma or is it asthma that raises the likelihood of becoming overweight?

Understanding this relationship could help doctors better give their professional recommendations in obese versus non-obese asthmatic patients.For instance, not automatically stepping up controller medication in overweight patients who report needing to use rescue medication often. Additionally, it may be that obese patients may be able to step down their level of controller medication, especially if the symptoms can be better dealt with through non-asthma related interventions.

In a recent study, aged 10-17 years children – both a higher and lower body mass index (BMI) – with a physician’s diagnosis of persistent asthma were monitored to assess asthma control, symptoms, and quality of life. The patients underwent methacholine challenge testing – a test to evaluate lung function and reactivity. Additionally, the patients experienced measurement of exhaled nitric oxide values – a test done to help evaluate whether their asthma (and inflammation) is under control.

Intriguingly, overweight children were less responsive to the methacholine challenge test, needing nearly four times the dose of methacholine before the lungs were responsive. Overweight children also had lower nitric oxide values, meaning inflammation in the lungs were still a problem.

However, there were no differences in regard to reported wheeze, chest tightness, or nocturnal symptoms between overweight and lean children. These findings are a distinction from previous research, which has mostly focused wheeze as a symptom most commonly associated with just obese children.

This study’s findings support exploring non-asthma related interventions before raising levels of controller medications in overweight asthma patients. These results also support the plan that overweight asthmatic patients may need different treatment plans to control their asthma appropriately.

Whether it is the reduced lung capacity and activity level due to asthma that causes obesity, or excess weight that induces the development of asthma, it is clear that these two issues have a linked relationship. However, further research into differences in obese patients with asthma will be needed to best assess optimal therapy and prevention.


Diabetes and the Dopey Effects of Dopamine

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  

brain

Have you ever wondered if there was more as to why it can be so hard to eat well? Insulin has been linked to the pleasure centers of our brain! According to a recent study, insulin has been found to be strongly allied with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls pleasure. This can mean a myriad of things for people with diabetes, as well as those at risk.

First, what exactly is dopamine? It is a neurotransmitter that acts as a chemical messenger in the brain. It has many vital roles in our brain and its functions include movement, memory, attention, and most commonly known pleasure and reward seeking behavior.

At New York University Langone, researchers determined that the more insulin in the in the brain, the higher the release of dopamine. Consequently, this creates the need for us to seek out high-carb or sugary foods in order to escalate insulin levels in the brain, and therefore raise the release of dopamine. Thus, instilling a reward system in the brain.

“Our work establishes what we believe is a new role for insulin as part of the brain’s reward system and suggests that rodents, and presumably people, may choose to consume high-carb or low-fat meals that release more insulin – all to heighten dopamine release,” said Margaret Rice, senior study investigator and neuroscientists at New York University Langone.

Dopamine levels were found to rise between 20 and 55 percent as a group of mice and rats ate and increased their glucose quantities. Rats who were fed a low-calorie diet only needed 10 percent of the insulin needed by rats on a normal diet to elicit an elevated release of dopamine. Essentially, this means that lowering insulin intake lowers the baseline needed to stimulate a dopamine release.

The link between higher insulin levels and diabetes makes this a dangerous discovery for those with a type 2 diagnosis or are at higher risk for it. Higher carb and higher sugar foods increase insulin levels in the brain and it may explain why many find it difficult or near impossible to follow a healthy diet. Likewise, following an unhealthy diet means that people need more insulin to trigger the dopamine response in the brain. And so, the cycle continues.

The good news is that if these findings continue to hold, diets can be adjusted in healthy ways to manage that dopamine-reward rush! I don’t know about you, but making smart food choices and conscious decisions are much easier for me when I understand the mechanisms working behind it.


Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1

puppies

The benefits of having a canine companion to come home to are numerous, and new research states that lowering a child’s asthma risk is yet another reason to add to that list. Having a dog has been shown to reduce a child’s risk for asthma, as well as to reduce levels of stress and depression, increase one’s physical shape, and enhance social skills.

A recent study accounted for more than 1 million children, using Sweden’s meticulously detailed healthcare records, found that those with dogs in the home within the infant’s first year of life had a 15% lower rate of asthma.

Researchers say that their findings indicate that having a dog in the house may affect their child’s microbiome, the individual’s inner bacterial environment of the gut, which is influenced by the food we consume and the air we breathe. Examinations are being made into whether there is a specific strain of bacteria that lessens the likelihood of asthma that is transmitted from dog to child.

It is also worth noting that children living in households with dogs almost certainly spend more time outdoors and exercising more frequently, both of which are factors that lower a child’s probability of developing asthma.

Interestingly enough, researchers have also explored data relating to children who grew up on farms and therefore exposed to farm animals such as cows, sheep, or horses. Findings show that these farm children had a 25% lower risk for an asthma diagnosis than those who did not grow up on a farm.

While these discoveries are not enough to definitively prove that puppies prevent asthma, they absolutely suggest that it isn’t necessary to rehome family pets for fear of their children developing respiratory problems by being around dogs.

Tove Fall, a coordinator of the study and assistant professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, stated, “It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to dog ownership lifestyle or dog owner’s attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active.”

All I’m hearing is a scientific reason for parents to give in and give their children a puppy!


5 Natural Remedies to Aide Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  

herbs smallI have often thought that there has to be ways to boost my body’s ability to care for itself without adding to my medicine cabinet. There has been a surge in patients seeking naturopathic doctors, as well as traditional medical doctors researching the benefits of naturopathic remedies alongside necessary prescriptions. Many clinical trials have shown that herbs can successfully assist in the treatment of various diseases such as diabetes. The traditional medical system of India, Ayurvedic medicine, finds the following herbs to help manage diabetes. It is still extremely important to maintain your relationship with your doctor and to check in before trying any herbal supplements. However, herbs can become a complimentary support to your regular treatment plan.

1. Gurmar – Translated from Hindi as the “sugar destroyer,” this is a tropical herb native to southern and central India and Sri Lanka. Its leaves have been known in India for centuries for its anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory uses. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) states there is developing research suggesting an extract, in combination with diabetic medications, can moderate blood sugar levels in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It is also used to facilitate weight loss.

2. Cinnamon – A familiar spice to Americans, particularly in the fall, some evidence suggests that cinnamon might help people with Type 2 diabetes. In an early study, two daily doses of cinnamon showed that it lowered fasting glucose by 18 to 29 percent, triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27 percent, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26 percent. Despite this, a few studies still yield mixed results. As it is easy to incorporate into a diet, many doctors still recommend it.

3. Fenugreek – A common addition to Indian dishes, this plant’s seeds have been cited to have an affinity for regulating insulin. It contains an amino acid known to increase the body’s production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. In some studies of animals and humans with both diabetes and high cholesterol levels, fenugreek lowered cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels.

4. Shilajit – Every summer as the Himalayan mountains warm, India’s most prized herbal remedy literally oozes from resins in the mountain crevasses in the form of Shilajit. This nutrient-rich biomass has been touted for millennia by Ayurveda’s Materia Medica as the best carrier of energy and nutrition into the human body. As an endocrine tonic, shilajit supports the pancreas in insulin secretion.

5. Artemisia – Also known as “wormwood,” for women with gestational diabetes, a daily extract is associated with improved insulin sensitivity, according to a study. The researchers observed significant reductions in fasting plasma glucose, serum insulin levels, insulin resistance, and beta-cell function in the Artemisia extract group compared with the placebo group.


The Sunshine Vitamin

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  

pregnant-blog picWhat if all it took was a little sunshine to lower your baby’s risk for asthma? In a recent study, researchers have observed that women with more vitamin D in their second trimester lowered their babies’ risk for asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 12 in the U.S. suffers from asthma. “Our health system spends billions and billions treating asthma, and there’s lots and lots of opportunity costs,” said David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas. “Pain and suffering, loss of productivity and premature death — asthma has all of those.”

The University of Kansas has found that as little as 10 minutes a day in the sun during the second trimester of pregnancy could reduce a child’s risk for asthma later in life. Sunlight is where Americans get more than 90 percent of our vitamin D. David Slusky and colleagues Nils Wernerfelt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Richard Zeckhauser of Harvard’s Kennedy School examined the medical hypothesis using an economist’s tools, such as survey and health data.

Looking at hospital discharges and where asthmatics were born, they were able to pinpoint times mothers would have been in their second trimesters. Concerned about the sunlight being systematically different in separate parts of the country, researchers focused on relative variations. In other words, instead of looking at sunny versus non-sunny areas, they concentrated on differences of the level of sunlight at a particular place at a particular time of year. For example, people born in Georgia in July of 1978 received a different exposure to sunlight in utero than did their fellow Georgians born a year later.
Medical literature emphasizes our need for the “sunshine vitamin” and recommends at least 10 minutes a day to us all. Of course, if you’re going to be in the sun for longer periods of time, wear sunscreen.

“Skin cancer is a very serious disease, and I don’t want to minimize it, but at some point that extra minute you spend inside is costing you more vitamin D than it’s helping you not get skin cancer,” Slusky said.

Prenatal vitamins may include vitamin D already, but medical professionals pointed out that mothers may not be absorbing the full benefit from them. Anything that can help minimize the likelihood of asthma is worth doing, especially something as pleasant as spending some time in the sun.

Besides, sunshine is free!


Obesity Raises the Risk of Asthma in Women

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  
Photo by Shutterstock.

Photo by Shutterstock.

Researchers have identified obesity as a health risk for asthma, but a new study revealed that the level of risk differs for men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study in March that looked at the prevalence of asthma from 2011-2014 among adults based on weight. The rate of asthma in adults with obesity is 11 percent compared to 7 percent of adults in the normal weight range. In women with obesity, asthma prevalence was 15 percent–nearly twice that of normal-weight women.

The study revealed very different findings for men–there wasn’t a significant increase in asthma prevalence in obese men versus men in the normal weight range. For children, asthma prevalence is greater in boys than girls but the prevalence of the condition switches when they hit puberty. Researchers don’t know the specific reason for the difference in asthma prevalence among men and women, but it could be related to fat distribution and/or hormonal differences. More research is also needed to determine if weight loss could reduce asthma rates.


How to Plan for Camping with Asthma and Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ 1 , , ,
Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s one of those time-honored American traditions that everyone should try at least once. It’s an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, hike in beautiful surroundings, and take a refreshing break from pervasive technology. Experienced campers understand the importance of packing proper gear, plenty of food and water, and making plans in case of an emergency. For individuals with asthma and allergies, it’s especially important to be well prepared before embarking on a camping trip. If you have asthma and/or allergies, here are some tips on how to prepare for a camping trip that’s both fun and safe:

  • Update Your Asthma Management Plan: Your asthma management/action plan should be updated annually with your doctor, or more frequently if you have severe asthma. This plan will outline how to handle emergencies like an asthma attack or allergic reaction. As you pack for your camping trip, double check that you have all your medication with you.
  • Make an Emergency Plan with Travel Partners: Talk to those joining you on your camping trip about what to do in the event of an emergency—whether it is an injury, allergic reaction, or asthma attack. Share emergency contact information, familiarize yourselves with the location of the nearest hospital, and pack a first aid kit. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis, make sure your travel companions are familiar with how to administer the medicine in the event you should need their assistance. Epiniephrine should be kept at room temperature, so if you carry one, try to take frequent breaks in shaded areas or indoors if possible.
  • Make a Meal Plan: If you have food allergies, carry a list of foods that you’re allergic to and share that with your travel partners. Talk to your companions about how to plan for meals that don’t conflict with your list. Pack plenty of healthy, non-allergenic snacks to keep your energy up during long hikes.
  • Steer Clear of the Campfire: If you have asthma, smoke from campfires can be irritating to your airways and can even trigger an asthma attack. Sit a safe distance away from the campfire; you may have to swap seats if the wind changes and smoke blows in your direction.

A little planning will go a long way in making your camping trip not only safe but also fun and memorable.

Sources:

Camping Safe with Allergies & Asthma, by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, by Food Allergy Research & Education


The 5 Best Apps for Diabetes Management

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes, Men's Health, Women's Health 1 , ,
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

With the advent of apps for smartphones, there’s something nostalgic about using a pen and paper. At meetings, I often find myself still jotting down action items in a notebook instead of in my iPad. But, when it comes to tracking my health, I’m grateful to have so many intuitive and user-friendly apps at my disposal. I can track my sleep habits, exercise and diet easily with my smartphone. There are also a number of useful health tracking apps available for individuals with specific conditions like asthma and diabetes. Here’s a roundup of some of the best diabetes apps available:

  1. Diabetes Logbook: This free app is available on the iPhone and Android platforms; Diabetes Logbook is a personalized way to track meals, blood sugar, carbs and more. The app manages to be both entertaining and educational, making users more motivated to consistently manage their diabetes.
  2. OnTrack Diabetes: A simple, intuitive design makes this app user-friendly. Available for free for Android users, OnTrack Diabetes is a way to log medication use, glucose levels, weight, exercises and more. Tables and graphs can easily be shared with doctors.
  3. Carb Counting with Lenny: This app’s colorful design and built-in mascot, Lenny the Lion, encourages children with diabetes to get in the habit of carb counting. The app also includes educational games that help boost kids’ confidence in better managing their diabetes. This app is free and available to iPhone users.
  4. Diabetik: Individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can easily monitor meal frequency, blood glucose levels, and medication intake via interactive charts with the free iPhone Diabetik app.
  5. HealthyOut: This free app makes eating out easier by providing users with the ability to search for local restaurants that offer more diabetic-friendly meals. Users can search based on filters like “Low Carb” or Low Fat” to find healthy options while eating out.

Thanks to colorful designs, interactive charts, and user-friendly features, these apps streamline diabetes management in intuitive ways. App users can often share key data with doctors and have confidence in experiencing greater control over managing their condition.


What Ozone Forecast Season Means for Air Quality

Lauren Ingall Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

 

Photo from Pexels.

Photo from Pexels.

Spring snuck up on me this year–not that I’m complaining! It doesn’t seem that long ago that the news was monopolized by winter weather warnings and threats of snowstorms. I’m more than happy to put those snow boots away and slip into my favorite summer sandals! The advent of warmer weather also means we’re heading into ozone forecast season which is when ground-level ozone, created by pollution from sources like cars and smokestacks, is at its highest.

High amounts of ground-level ozone can worsen asthma symptoms, so it’s key for asthmatics to check the forecast daily, which is posted to our Asthma Therapy page. Ozone forecast season stretches from April 1 to October 31 in North Carolina and serves as a reminder to check the ozone forecast before heading outdoors. The forecast is color coded to indicate air quality and the potential health implications of ozone levels:

  • Code green – (Good)
  • Code Yellow – (Moderate) – Dangerous to those with extreme asthma
  • Code Orange – (Unhealthy for sensitive groups)
  • Code Red – (Unhealthy for most everyone)
  • Code Purple – (Very Unhealthy) – The whole population is at risk; this is an emergency condition.

 

The ozone forecast is published each day at 3pm to help you plan your outdoor activities for the following day. In addition to accessing the forecast on our website, you can also sign up for email, phone, or mobile app alerts via the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website.

Ozone forecast season isn’t just a reminder to monitor air quality; it can also inspire us to take steps to improving air quality. Cleaner air means fewer high ozone days, healthier lungs, and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. One step you can take to improve air quality is to choose sustainable transportation for your daily commute to work. Rethink your commute by carpooling, vanpooling, biking to work, working from home, or taking the bus. Many local transit agencies offer financial incentives for switching over to a sustainable mode of transportation – like GoTriangle’s GoSmart program. Choosing alternative transportation can also help you save money on gas and vehicle maintenance. It’s been several years since our last code red ozone day and I hope this ozone forecast season proves to be a healthy and safe one!


Local Honey Won’t Provide Sweet Relief from Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about home remedies. I’ve read about eating coconut for stomach troubles, using milk of magnesia as deodorant, and I’ve noticed a movement growing surrounding the purported benefits of essential oils. One home remedy I hear about the most is the potential benefit of eating local honey to treat seasonal allergies caused by plant pollen.

The theory behind using local honey as an allergy treatment is that bees collect local pollen to make honey, so by eating local honey, you expose yourself to a little bit of what you’re allergic to desensitize yourself to it—this is called “immunotherapy.” Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy—patients are exposed to larger and larger doses of an allergen to build up immunity to it.

On the surface, the theory behind using honey as immunotherapy seems like a sound one, but there’s no way to determine exactly which plants the bees are collecting pollen from to make the honey. Allergy shots target specific allergens, but eating local honey is a bit like rolling the dice. Bees also prefer collecting pollen from flowers but most allergies generate from the pollen of grasses, trees and weeds, not flowering plants. The honey that bees produce is from local pollen, but not necessarily from sources that cause common allergies and not in any targeted way like an allergy shot. A 2002 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that eating local honey didn’t improve allergy symptoms. Study participants that ate local honey didn’t fare any better than participants eating processed honey or taking a placebo.

There’s also a slight risk in consuming local honey that’s unprocessed—it can contain bacteria, mold, pollen and even bee parts that in rare cases, can cause an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this home remedy doesn’t hold up, but the good news is that honey is still a great way to add a touch of sweetness to my afternoon cup of tea!

Want to test your knowledge on other spring allergy myths? Check out this post, “Fact or Fiction? Spring Allergy Myths Debunked.”


Credit-Card Sized Inhaler Fits in Your Wallet

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  
Image courtesy of Bloom.

Image courtesy of Bloom.

I bet I’m not alone in the constant battle to limit the amount of stuff I carry around during the day. With oversized purses in fashion, it’s easy to want to fill up the space in my bag with everything but the kitchen sink. There are so many essentials—medication, hand sanitizer, tissues, lip balm, mints—that add up to a very heavy bag and it’s hard to determine which items I could probably do without. I mean, they’re called essentials for a reason, right? Fortunately, some essentials are getting smaller. The Bloom inhaler—a thin, credit-card sized inhaler for asthmatics—is currently under development. The Bloom inhaler fits neatly into the credit card slot in a wallet, which makes it easy to carry, and simple to access.

Users load medication from their typical inhaler canister into the Bloom cartridge that holds up to six doses of medication. Bloom is leak-proof and pressing the device’s trigger dispenses a precise dosage. Medication from any HFA inhaler can be used in Bloom and the device can be refilled over and over. Bloom doesn’t use a mouthpiece, but instead uses the “Open Mouth Technique” which the company likens to “using a breath spray.”

Bloom mist

Image courtesy of Bloom.

The Bloom inhaler creators expect the FDA to approve the device by November 2016, but interested customers can reserve one of the inhalers ahead of time by going to the company’s website. Each Bloom device will cost $40. If this device is approved, it could free up some room in my bag for other essentials…not that I need a reason to make my purse any heavier than it already is!

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Join the American Lung Association in the Fight for Air Climb!

Lisa Feierstein Asthma Leave a comment  
Photo courtesy of American Lung Association

Photo courtesy of American Lung Association

When you’re trying to get back into shape, you’re more likely to reach your fitness goals if you start with simple, specific and attainable goals. There are small steps you can take each day to kick-start your efforts like parking farther from the door when shopping to get more walking in, or taking the stairs at work. If you’ve ever used the stair climber at the gym, you know that even climbing for a few minutes is hard work! Stair climbing actually burns more calories per minute than jogging, and regular stair climbing can reduce the risk of a heart attack. If you’ve been meaning to make good on your New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape, then I have the perfect opportunity for you to jumpstart your workout goals while exercising for a good cause—join the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb!

By signing up for the Fight for Air Climb challenge on April 2, you’ll have the opportunity to show off your stair climbing skills while raising money for lung disease awareness and research. Consider this your official invitation to join Team Active, Active Healthcare’s Fight for Air Climb team, in climbing the 30 floors at the Wells Fargo Capitol Center in downtown Raleigh!

Signing up for the challenge only takes a few minutes and the American Lung Association (ALA) has provided some great resources to help you kick off your fundraising efforts. Email templates provided by the ALA make recruiting and fundraising a breeze, and there are also Facebook and smartphone apps available to help you track your fundraising efforts.

Not only is the Fight for Air Climb a great motivation for getting in shape, it’s a way to raise awareness about the importance of lung health. About 26 million Americans, including 7 million children, have asthma, the third leading cause of hospitalization of children, according to the American Lung Association. Join us on April 2 at 8 a.m. at the Fight for Air Climb and help make a difference in the fight against lung disease.


What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

One unique and popular way to usher in spring in the Triangle area is by attending a movie on the lawn at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Thousands turn out with picnic baskets in tow to enjoy a favorite snack while watching a film under the stars. That’s one of the best parts about spring—the ability to enjoy the outdoors in the deliciously warm weather, whether it’s at a movie on the lawn, a walk on the greenway, or a game of Frisbee in the park. One aspect of spring that I could do without though is the sneezing and the itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies.

If you feel like your allergies have gotten worse in recent years, you’re not alone. Many scientists believe that there’s a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies since plants have started blooming earlier in the season and continue releasing pollen longer. Scientific research suggests that one very common allergen—ragweed—has increased due to higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide. A warmer climate also means higher ozone levels; ground-level ozone caused by pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially during the ozone forecast season that runs from April through October.

Yet many scientists are also hopeful that the pendulum may soon start to swing the other way on climate change. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media recently about the Paris climate change agreement and many are hopeful that stronger environmental goals will combat global warming. This climate change deal in combination with the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama announced in August 2015, could also be beneficial in reducing the impact of seasonal allergies on asthma sufferers. The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce power plant emissions by 32% by 2030 which could reduce as many as 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

It’s of course going to take some time for these climate change plans to go into effect, but asthmatics can take some immediate steps to lessen the blow of seasonal allergies. If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan that you’ve developed with your doctor. This plan should outline which medications to take on a regular basis and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. You can also use one of these five free apps, like EPA’s AIRNOW and Allery Alert, to track air quality and allergy forecasts so you can better prepare for days with high ozone levels and peak pollen counts.


Asthmatics with Occasional Migraines at Greater Risk of Developing Chronic Migraines

Lisa Feierstein Asthma Leave a comment  
Nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines.

Nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines.

For those that experience migraines, these intense headaches can vary from an annoyance to a major disruption in daily living. That head-pounding, throbbing feeling can be followed by nausea and even vomiting, and the painful effects of a migraine can last for a few hours or even a few days. The causes of these debilitating headaches are as unique as the individuals that they affect—hormonal changes; temperature and barometric pressure changes; bright light, loud noises or potent smells; stress and certain food additives are all examples of common migraine triggers. New research shows that some asthmatics are also at a higher risk of experiencing chronic migraines.

Researchers tracked the migraine patterns of 4,500 Americans for a year; each study participant started with less than 15 migraines a month. A year after the study began, researchers found that 5% of study participants with asthma had developed chronic migraines, which is qualified by 15 or more migraines a month. In comparison, only 2.5% of individuals without asthma developed chronic migraines; those with asthma were twice as likely to develop chronic migraines. On a national scale, nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines and 1% have chronic migraines. The study was published in November 2015 in the journal Headache.

“If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine,” explains Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s Division of General Internal Medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author in the study.

By improving management of their symptoms, asthmatics can also reduce migraine symptoms since the two conditions often go hand in hand. Both conditions are linked to inflammation in airways or blood vessels–asthmatics experience inflammation in the airways, and migraine sufferers experience inflammation and widening and narrowing of blood vessels. Also, the same inflammatory chemicals that are activated during an asthma attack are activated during a migraine. Some medications used to treat asthma can trigger migraine symptoms and visa versa, but doctors can work with patients to identify alternative medications that won’t exacerbate symptoms.


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