Blog - Active Healthcare

Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma


The benefits of having a canine companion to come Read more

The Sunshine Vitamin


What if all it took was a little sunshine Read more

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

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 Leave a comment  

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 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!

You may also like:

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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