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Obesity Raises the Risk of Asthma in Women


Researchers have identified obesity as a health risk for Read more

How to Plan for Camping with Asthma and Allergies


Camping isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s one Read more

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 Leave a comment   , , ,
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

Kelsey Kusterer 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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Asthma Management: There’s an App for That!

Children’s Lives Saved by 3-D Printer Technology 


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

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ 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.


Type 1 Diabetes in Children on the Rise

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  

Doctor taking notes_ShutterstockThe rate of children with type 2 diabetes has declined since 2002, but unfortunately, the rate of type 1 diabetes in children is on the rise. Researchers used a national database to track the rate of type 1 diabetes amount children in the U.S. and published the results of their study in the journal “Diabetes Care” in December 2015. The rate of type 1 diabetes among children rose nearly 60% since 2002, from 1.5 case per 1,000 children in 2002 to 2.3 cases per 1,000 in 2013. This increase isn’t isolated to the U.S., researchers are noticing the upward trend of type 1 diabetes in other countries.

The reason for this change is unknown, but doctors believe some potential causes could be an increase in C-sections, antibiotic use, and processed foods that may be reducing the diversity of gut bacteria. The lack of diversity in these bacteria could trigger type 1 diabetes in children with a higher genetic risk of developing the condition. Gut bacteria have a broad impact on overall health–researchers also recently discovered that a lack of 4 key gut microbes could increase the risk of children developing asthma.

Another potential influencer on the development of type 1 diabetes is stress. A Swedish study of 10,500 children found that serious stress increased the risk of type 1 diabetes in children threefold. Stressors like a divorce or death in the family, or a serious accident were some of the triggers linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes in children.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body attacks it’s own pancreatic cells that produce insulin. There is no cure for this form of diabetes, and patients must take insulin their whole lives to manage the condition. Promising new technological advancements, like the bionic pancreas, have improved the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and could make managing the condition simpler and more comfortable for patients.


EPA Implements Cleaner Diesel Bus Program to Improve Air Quality for Students

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,
The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

It seems like I get stuck behind a smelly car at least once a week during my commute. I feel trapped in my own car, breathing in smelly exhaust fumes. It always seems difficult getting away from those cars—I can’t seem to change lanes fast enough. Pollution from exhaust is more than just an annoyance—it has a big impact on our respiratory health. Diesel-powered school buses are linked to increasing rates of children missing school and experiencing reduced lung function. In response to this growing health concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking strides to reduce the number of high-polluting vehicles that are out on the road.

In an effort to reduce school children’s exposure to diesel emissions, the EPA will provide $7 million in rebates to replace or retrofit 400 diesel school buses of model years 2006 and older. The rebates will be available to 85 school bus fleets in 35 states. Many older buses pre-date EPA standards that have made newer diesel engines over 90% cleaner. The EPA has required stricter emissions standards on diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.

“Schools and other organizations that install clean diesel technology are doing more than just saving money–they’re creating cleaner, healthier air for children and all community residents,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in a press release issued by the EPA on Dec. 11, 2015. “This program continues to help thousands of children breathe easier and lead safer lives year after year.”

Diesel pollution is high up on the list as one of most prevalent sources of toxic air pollution in the U.S. It’s not only linked to respiratory problems like asthma attacks, but also to heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Diesel pollution increases the risk of cancer over seven times more than the combined risk of the other 181 air toxics that the EPA tracks, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

Switching to cleaner diesel buses can greatly benefit children with asthma. A University of Michigan and University of Washington joint study released in 2015 showed that switching to ultra low sulfur diesel reduced a marker for lung inflammation by more than 16% for all the children in the study, and by 20-31% for children with asthma.


Treating Sleep Apnea Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   ,
Photo by ResMed

Photo by ResMed

Untreated sleep apnea is tied to a whole host of other health problems like an increased risk for heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes. The risk goes both ways for sleep apnea and diabetes – type 2 diabetes can increase the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but having OSA can also increase the chance of developing diabetes. Individuals with severe OSA are at a 30% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A new study reinforced the importance of treating OSA with CPAP therapy because it can reduce the risk individuals with prediabetes face of eventually developing diabetes.

This recent study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and researchers investigated the effect of using CPAP therapy for eight hours a night on the development of diabetes. Thirty-nine study participants that were middle-aged, overweight or obese with prediabetes and sleep apnea were assigned to two weeks of CPAP treatment or given a placebo.

Blood sugar control improved for participants using CPAP, they experienced lower blood pressure, and had 27% lower levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine than the placebo group. In addition to regular use of CPAP machines, OSA patients can also reduce their risk of developing diabetes by practicing healthy eating habits and through weight loss.


5 Healthy New Years Resolutions for Asthma Sufferers

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , ,

Dec 31 Jan 1 Calendar image icontactIf you’re getting ready to write your New Year’s resolutions, you’re in good company—45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The coming New Year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and identify areas for improvement. Most resolutions, 47% to be exact, are related to self-improvement or education—we’d all like to be a little healthier physically, relationally, and mentally. If you have asthma and are hoping for a healthier New Year, here are 5 resolutions to help guide you on your journey to better manage your asthma:

  1. Update Your Asthma Action Plan – An asthma action (or management) plan is an important first step in guiding the treatment of your asthma. Your doctor can work with you to identify what to do in situations like an asthma attack or allergy flare-up. An action plan should be updated annually with a doctor, and more frequently for individuals with severe asthma.
  2. Keep Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits – Getting plenty of rest and eating a balanced diet will help keep your immune system healthy. Being overweight can make asthma symptoms worse, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins C and E can help control inflammation in the lungs.
  3. Quit Smoking – Smoking is one of the most common asthma triggers and can result in major health conditions like emphysema and lung cancer. Having the right support can make quitting easier, so the American Lung Association provides The Freedom From Smoking® group clinic, an eight-session, step-by-step plan to quit smoking.
  4. Exercise Regularly – There’s a long-standing myth that exercise can make asthma symptoms worse, but regular, moderate exercise can actually improve asthma symptoms. Thirty minutes of exercise a day—like walking, biking and yoga—can significantly reduce asthma symptoms. Check with your doctor to identify which medications you may need to take before and after exercising.
  5. Avoid Asthma Triggers – Common asthma triggers are tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, pollen, and colds/upper respiratory infections. Talk to your doctor about identifying your asthma triggers and how to actively avoid them. For example, you may need special bedding if dust mites are an asthma trigger for you.

Sources:

13 New Year’s Resolutions for People with Allergies and Asthma, by Carol Proctor, Allergy & Asthma Health

Join Freedom From Smoking, American Lung Association

Can foods I eat affect my asthma symptoms? By James T.C.Li, Mayo Clinic


Study Shows Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women with Gestational Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes, Women's Health Leave a comment  
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both babies and mothers.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both babies and mothers.

The decision to breast-feed or use formula is one of those polarizing parenting subjects akin to co-sleeping or hiring a nanny versus using day care. Breastfeeding can be a real challenge for busy moms, but researchers continue to find more and more examples of how breastfeeding benefits a baby’s immune system. In addition ato delivering antibodies, breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of asthma. Breastfed babies also have fewer ear infections, respiratory conditions, and hospitalizations. When the topic of breastfeeding comes up, the focus is often on the impact breastfeeding has on the baby. New research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that breastfeeding can also greatly benefit the mother by reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study focused on 900 women two years after they gave birth—the women in the study each had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. Breastfeeding for over two months reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%. Study participants who both breastfed and used formula experienced a 30% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Study author Erica Gunderson, a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, explains how breastfeeding allows the insulin-producing cells in the body to take a break, so to speak, because they don’t have to generate as much insulin to lower blood glucose. Breastfeeding also burns glucose and fat in the bloodstream because those nutrients are used in creating milk. Breastfeeding brings the body’s metabolism back to normalcy “after the metabolic chaos of pregnancy,” says Dr. Alison Strube, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine – Chapel Hill.

There are a variety of reasons why some women choose not to breastfeed—busy schedules, difficulty finding a secluded space to breastfeed in public, and because babies digest formula more slowly so bottle feedings may be less frequent. Whatever a mother’s ultimate decision, this study is encouraging in that it shows that mothers who had gestational diabetes can still benefit from a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes by using a combination of breastfeeding and formula. If you’re a new or expecting mom, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and using formula to make an informed decision about the best option for you and your baby.


New Research Explores Link Between Vitamin D and Cold Symptoms in Asthma Sufferers

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  
Asthma sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient.

Asthma sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient.

We often associate a vitamin D deficiency with weak bones, but it’s also linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive impairment in older adults, and severe asthma in children. Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is created in the body after exposure to sunlight, and it can be absorbed from foods like fish and fish liver oils, egg yolks, and from fortified dairy and grain products. Several studies have explored whether or not children with asthma would benefit from increased levels of vitamin D since children with asthma often have low levels of the vitamin. Catching a cold can be especially challenging for asthma sufferers because it can exacerbate or trigger asthma symptoms. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin conducted a recent study to investigate if alleviating the vitamin D deficiency in asthma sufferers would lessen cold symptoms or reduce the number of colds that asthmatics experience.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied the effects of vitamin D on 408 adults with mild to moderate asthma. Study participants received vitamin D on a daily basis or a placebo for a period of 28 weeks. Patients that took vitamin D supplements reached normal levels of vitamin D after 12 weeks. Nearly half of the study participants had at least one cold during the duration of the study, but researchers found that achieving normal vitamin D levels didn’t decrease the number of colds or the severity of colds that patients experienced.

Although increasing levels of vitamin D didn’t reduce the severity or number of colds for asthma sufferers, there are some other steps they can take to prevent colds and manage asthma symptoms if they do catch a cold. Frequent hand washing is one easy way to promote good hygiene and reduce the spread of the cold virus. Asthma sufferers can also work with their doctor to create an asthma action plan that includes a recommendation on how to adjust medication dosage during a cold.


Air Pollution Could Increase Risk of Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  

Air Pollution_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It’s easy to recognize the effects of air pollution on our ability to breathe, but air pollution can cause a myriad of other health conditions. Air pollution is the ninth most important cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease, and new research shows that it could also increase the risk of resistance to insulin in children—a red flag for the onset of diabetes.

A recent study of nearly 400 German children, age 10, revealed that insulin resistance increased 17% for every 10.6 micrograms per cubic meter increase in ambient nitrogen dioxide. Previous studies have revealed a connection between traffic-associated pollutants and the development of diabetes in adults. When individuals breathe in fine particulates from pollution, those particles make there way into heart and blood vessels, and increase inflammation and insulin resistance. A study published in January in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences established that “Air pollution is a leading cause of insulin resistance and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

To reduce exposure to air pollution, individuals can monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) and avoid outdoor activities when the AQI exceeds 100. Exercising on greenways instead of next to roadways also reduces exposure to vehicle exhaust. For more tips on how to reduce exposure to air pollution, check out our blog post on “Why Outdoor Air Pollution is Hard on Your Heart.”

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Proposed Legislation Will Make Public Housing Smoke-free

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

Smoking_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It wasn’t that long ago that restaurants asked patrons, “Would you like to be seated in the smoking or non-smoking section?” In 2010, North Carolina’s legislature passed North Carolina’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law that gradually made that question obsolete. Smoke-free legislation is growing traction on a national level with the proposed rule to make public housing properties smoke-free.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro joined Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in Alexandria, VA to announce the proposed federal rule for smoke-free public housing in November. Secretary Castro says the proposed rule will protect residents—especially the elderly and children with asthma—from harmful secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger that can result in wheezing, coughing, or even an asthma attack.

“Everyone – no matter where they live – deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. So, when 58 million Americans – including 15 million children – are exposed to secondhand smoke, we have an obligation to act. That is what Secretary Castro is doing with this proposal.”

Residents in HUD-assisted housing use emergency rooms more frequently and are at a higher risk of health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, in comparison to the general population and other low-income households. The proposed smoke-free rule could reduce the impact of smoke-related illnesses and improve the overall health of these residents; smoke-free buildings also cost less to clean and maintain a higher property value. If passed, the regulation would affect about one million households in the U.S., and would have the greatest impact on the New York City Housing Authority, which provides 178,000 public housing apartments to over 400,000 individuals.


How to Exercise Safely with Type 1 Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   ,
CCO, Pixabay

Aerobic and anaerobic exercise will have different effects on blood sugar levels.

For many of us, making the decision whether or not to go to the gym after work (or before work for you early birds!) is a daily struggle. There are so many activities vying for your time whether it’s a trip to Target, happy hour with friends, or that new season of your favorite show that was just released on Netflix. For individuals with type 1 diabetes, making it to the gym is much more than a matter of willpower. Exercising with type 1 diabetes means carefully taking into consideration blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise. Although exercise presents a unique challenge for individuals with type 1 diabetes, it improves quality of life, reduces the risk of complications related to type 1 diabetes like heart conditions, and can make it easier to control blood sugar levels. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ve probably found that different exercises, the time of day you exercise, and what you ate before and after exercising all have an impact on how your body handles physical activity.

Since there are a lot of variables at play that can impact your blood sugar levels, begin your journey to better fitness by trying out one exercise at a time. That way, you can adjust for other variables—like food consumed and time of day—that affect how your body responds to exercise.

Ginger Vieira, author of “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout,” knows first hand the challenge of exercising with type 1 diabetes. She suggests keeping an exercise diary and writing down “the time of day, your pre-exercise blood sugar, anything you just ate, and any insulin you just took. Then write down exactly what kind of exercise you’re doing and for how long you’re doing it.” Vieira also recommends checking your blood sugar midway through the exercise and after exercising. She prefers exercising first thing in the morning before breakfast when her blood sugar is in-range and her energy is at its highest.

In addition to what you’re eating, how much insulin you’ve taken, and when you’re exercising, the type of exercise you do will also impact your body’s response. Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, like swimming or running, uses more glucose so it tends to lower your blood sugar. You may need to eat extra carbohydrates before exercising to keep your blood sugar in a safe range. Strength training or anaerobic exercise, like weight lifting, is fueled by fat, and according to Vieira, can “increase your sensitivity to insulin later in the day while it works to repair and build those muscles.”

As you add to your exercise journal and learn what does and doesn’t work for you, remember that it’s normal to get frustrated sometimes. It’s called a workout for a reason, right? Exercising regularly is hard work, but the benefits are lasting and will boost not only your physical but also your mental health. To avoid those days when Netflix wins out over the gym, build up a support system. Workout with a friend and keep each other accountable in regard to your fitness and diet goals. If you’re schedule doesn’t mesh with your friend’s, try out a group fitness class or work with a personal trainer who can tailor a fitness plan to your needs.

Sources:

Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes, by the American Diabetes Association

5 Tips for Exercise with Type 1, by Ginger Vieira, Insulin Nation

Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise, by Daphne E. Smith-Marsh, edocrineweb


How to Manage Food Allergies During the Holidays

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
The holidays are the perfect time to make traditional dishes.

The holidays are the perfect time to make traditional dishes.

I read a funny story the other day by NPR’s Marc Silver about his quest to decipher a dog-eared, stained cookbook from his late mother-in-law. He wanted to keep her memory present at holiday meals, but struggled with missing information (and sometimes misinformation) from his mother-in-law’s handwritten notes. Through trial and error, he managed to nearly re-create her popular recipes but admits, “I guess there are some ingredients only a grandmother can bring into the mix.”

The holidays are the perfect time of year to make these time-honored traditional foods that have been passed down to each generation. However, with so many different foods available at holiday parties, individuals with food allergies can feel like their work is cut out for them. Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and in some cases can trigger asthma symptoms. Common symptoms of food allergies can be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. If your food allergies trigger asthma symptoms, you may start coughing and wheezing, which can lead to anaphylaxis if not treated promptly. If you have a food allergy, here are some steps to take to stay safe during the holiday season:

Update Your Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan

This plan outlines symptoms and warning signs of allergic reactions. It also provides steps and visuals that explain how to help someone experiencing anaphylaxis and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector.

Keep Medication on Hand

Make sure your epinephrine auto-injector isn’t expired, and keep one with you– especially when you’re attending a meal at a friend or family member’s home. Make sure family members are familiar with your emergency care plan so they can help you quickly in the event of an emergency.

Ask About the Menu

If possible, ask the party’s host ahead of time about the menu and let them know about your food allergies. You can also offer to bring a dish that you know is safe, or host a gathering at your home where you can more closely monitor the menu.

Prep for Travel

The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) group has a handy checklist of how to prepare for a flight, and what to keep in mind while traveling. You’ll want to notify the airline of your food allergies, and pack your own safe snacks for traveling. Wipe down the tray table in case there’s leftover snack residue from a previous traveler, and keep your EpiPen® with you instead of in the overhead bin.

The holidays can be a challenging time for individuals with food allergies, but it’s also a time to create family traditions with new food allergy-friendly recipes. Allergic Living has an “Allergy Safe Recipes Search” where you can search for tasty meals that are food allergy-friendly. This gluten-free “Hungarian Goulash with ‘Buttery’ No Egg Noodles” recipe caught my eye! What new food allergy-friendly holiday dish will you try this year?


Regular, Moderate Exercise Improves Asthma Symptoms

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

There’s a long-standing myth that if you have asthma, you should avoid exercising, but there are numerous examples of professional athletes that thrive in their profession despite having asthma. Even individuals with exercise-induced asthma can reduce asthma symptoms by working with their doctor on a medication management plan. New research further dispels the “no exercise with asthma” myth—researchers found that 30 minutes of exercise a day can actually relieve asthma symptoms.

The study looked at the exercise habits of 643 individuals diagnosed with asthma and found that those who exercised regularly were two-and-a-half times more likely to have solid control of their asthma symptoms, in comparison to individuals that didn’t exercise. Simon Bacon, lead author in the study and a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Montreal, said asthma sufferers don’t have to engage in strenuous workouts to see relief from their symptoms. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day—like walking, biking and yoga—can significantly reduce asthma symptoms.

Asthma inhalers, bronchodilators, and medication like albuterol have been known to help when taken about 10 minutes before exercising, but asthmatics should check with their doctor to identify the right course of medication to take before exercising. A study published in the British Medical Journal also discovered that individuals with exercise-induced asthma could benefit from taking vitamin C.

Additional Resources:

5 best workouts for asthma patients, by Lois D. Medrano, Latinos Health


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