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How to Manage Food Allergies During the Holidays

I read a funny story the other day by Read more

Regular, Moderate Exercise Improves Asthma Symptoms

There’s a long-standing myth that if you have asthma, Read more

How to Exercise Safely with Type 1 Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   ,
Aerobic and anaerobic exercise will have different effects on blood sugar levels.

Aerobic and anaerobic exercise 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.


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  
Thirty minutes of daily exercise can relieve asthma symptoms.

Thirty minutes of daily exercise can relieve asthma symptoms.

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

Missing Gut Bacteria Plays Role in Development of Asthma

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

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about gut bacteria, evidenced by the growing selection of probiotics available at Whole Foods and the rising popularity of Activia yogurt, which promises to bring balance to your gut bacteria. Research on gut bacteria is still in its infancy, but researchers are discovering that diversity in gut bacteria could be linked to metabolic health. Gut bacteria could impact our health in another surprising way – scientists recently discovered that the health of four types of gut bacteria could influence children’s risk of developing asthma.

Researchers took samples of gut bacteria from 319 babies and discovered that children with low levels of four types of bacteria had a higher likelihood of developing asthma by age 3. Scientists believe that these four microbes play an important role in influencing the development of our immune system. It makes sense then that these bacteria would also have an impact on the development of asthma since “asthma is really an immune allergic-type reaction in the lungs,” said Brett Finlay, microbiologist at the University of British Colombia and member of the research team.

The researchers checked their theory about the relationship between gut bacteria and the development of asthma by running tests on mice bred to have a condition similar to asthma in humans. Scientists gave these mice the four missing types of bacteria and noticed a reduction in lung inflammation, which is a risk factor in the development of asthma. Doctors may one day be able to test babies to see if they’re missing these important microbes, and restore them if needed.

Women with Diabetes at Higher Risk of Heart Attacks than Men

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

women heartGender plays an interesting role in how diabetes affects those with the condition. For example, pregnant women carrying a baby boy are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than mothers of girls. New research has revealed another way that diabetes affects men and women differently—studies in China and Italy have shown that women with diabetes are at a greater risk of having heart attacks than men with diabetes.

In the Chinese study, Dr. Xue Dong of the Affiliated ZhongDa Hospital of Southeast University of China and his team looked at studies from 1966-2014 and analyzed health data of nearly 11 million individuals. Their research revealed that women diagnosed with diabetes are 40% more likely to have acute coronary syndromes than men with diabetes. An Italian study, led by Dr. Giuseppe Seghieri from the Regional Health Agency in Florence, looked at reports from 2005-2012 and over three million individuals. Researchers found that women with diabetes had a 34% higher risk of a heart attack than men with the condition.

About one-third of the 16 million Americans with diabetes don’t know that they have the condition. Women with gestational diabetes also have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, and research has shown that women with diabetes are three times as likely to develop heart disease than women without it. Men with diabetes also experience adverse changes to their heart, but not to the same degree as in women with diabetes. Although diabetes affects men and women differently, both genders should take the condition seriously and work with their doctors on a treatment plan.



Bionic Pancreas Improves Control of Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  
The iLet bionic pancreas could go to market in 2017. Image by Boston University.

The iLet bionic pancreas could go to market in 2017. Image by Boston University.

A big challenge for individuals with type 1 diabetes is having to continually check blood sugar levels and administer insulin throughout the day. A new device called the “bionic pancreas” would alleviate the need to both manually check glucose levels and administer insulin. A research team at the University of Cambridge, and another team at Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital are both developing bionic pancreases.

Roman Hovorka, Director of Research at the University of Cambridge has been developing the artificial pancreas with colleagues Professor David Dunger and Dr. Carlo Acerini. The artificial pancreas consists of a sensor that communicates with an algorithm to regulate blood sugar levels. The sensor is implanted in the abdomen and synchs wirelessly with an algorithm installed on a mobile device, like a cell phone or tablet. If the patient’s blood sugar rises, the algorithm alerts their insulin pump to administer the exact amount of required insulin. Because the sensor continually monitors glucose levels, individuals with type 1 diabetes can literally rest easy—the bionic pancreas alleviates the need to wake up at night and check blood sugar levels.

The research team tested the device on 33 adults and 25 children over a period of three months. The team compared the study participants’ use of both the bionic pancreas to sensors and pumps that aren’t connected to the algorithm. Adult participants stayed in the “ultrasafe” blood sugar target zone 68% of the time, compared to 57% with current systems on the market. Children only used the artificial pancreas at night and stayed in the target zone 64% of the time as opposed to 34% of the time with other systems. The research team is working with a medical device company to move forward with commercialization of the algorithm.

Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital are also working together on a bionic pancreas called the iLet, as part of their Bionic Pancreas Project. The iLet also uses an algorithm to monitor blood sugar levels and administer insulin, but differs from the device under development by Hovorka’s team because it doesn’t need to synch with a smart phone or laptop. A Dexcom CGM sensor and transmitter communicates with the iLet device that contains two pumping systems to administer insulin and glucagon. The iLet team says, “Until a cure is found, the goal of the Bionic Pancreas Project is to reduce the impact of diabetes for people who have to live with it.” Their goal is to bring the device to market in 2017.

Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine Under Development

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  
Researchers are testing a new vaccine for type 1 diabetes.

Researchers are testing a new vaccine for type 1 diabetes.

The CDC recommends children get vaccinated for 16 diseases including polio, the flu, chickenpox, and the measles. A vaccine for type 1 diabetes may be added to that list in the near future–researchers at the University of Florida are currently developing a vaccine for type 1 diabetes.

When tested on mice, the type 1 diabetes vaccine prevented 40% of the mice from developing the disease. Developing this vaccine was different than creating a vaccine for a disease like the flu. Vaccines for the flu signal the immune system to attack the virus, but with a type 1 diabetes vaccine, researchers had to find away to train the immune system to identify and accept insulin, rather than to fight it. The goal of this vaccine is different because it needs to stop an immune response, rather than to trigger one.

Researchers used two methods to deliver the vaccine and found both to be equally effective. Their goal is to identify which approach will be safest and require the least amount of injections. Scientists also hope to implement clinical trials as they better identify the best method to administer the vaccine.

Nearly 10% or about 30 million Americans had diabetes in 2012, and of those with the condition, 1.25 million have type 1 diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make insulin, which is a hormone that extracts glucose from the bloodstream and delivers it to the body’s cells to use for energy. A viable vaccine would be a boon to the medical field since type 1 diabetes is treatable with medication, but there is no cure.

Seattle Otter Diagnosed with Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
A Seattle otter's asthma was triggered by wildfire smoke.

A Seattle otter’s asthma was triggered by wildfire smoke.

I was surprised to learn that wildfires on the West Coast have affected air quality as far away from the fire source as Colorado Springs, Colo. Even more surprising was the news that a Seattle otter was recently diagnosed with asthma triggered by smoke from these wildfires.

In August, as the air at the Seattle Aquarium became smokier from nearby wildfires, aquarium staff noticed that Mishka the otter was lethargic and lacked an appetite, which is unusual for otters. The next day she had an asthma attack; aquarium staff rushed to put an oxygen mask on Mishka and administer anti-inflammatory medication. Mishka became the first-known case of a sea otter with asthma after medical tests indicated that she has the condition.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), “Sarah Perry, an aquarium trainer, is teaching Mishka to use an asthma inhaler by putting food on the tip and encouraging the otter to push her nose into it and take a deep breath.” The aquarium is trying to use positive reinforcement as a way to encourage Mishka to use the inhaler. Otters tend to be playful, so aquarium staff is trying to make using the inhaler fun.

Asthma is most common in people, cats and horses, but it’s possible for any animal with lungs to develop the condition. Mishka is learning to self-administer medicine through an inhaler called AeroKat, which is a feline aerosol chamber used for cats with asthma. AeroKat can also be used to administer fluticasone, the generic for Flonase, and Mishka takes albuterol for asthma attacks. Sounds like Mishka knows that she “otter” take her asthma medication as directed!


Seattle Otter Treated For Asthma After Exposure to Wildfire Smoke, by Scott Simon, National Public Radio

Sea otter with asthma learns to use an inhaler, by Laura Geggel, CBS News

Diabetes Service Dogs Sniff Out Changes in Blood Sugar Levels

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  
Diabetes alert dogs are able to smell changes in blood sugar levels.

Diabetes alert dogs are able to smell changes in blood sugar levels.

I’m always impressed by the skills dogs can learn—skills that save lives in some cases. Service dogs help sight-impaired individuals better maneuver through their environment, are used in search and rescue missions, and protect soldiers over seas. Perhaps a less-widely known role for service dogs is assisting individuals with diabetes.

ABC News recently published a unique story about 15 year-old Elle Shaheen, a type 1 diabetes patient, and her service dog Coach, a yellow Labrador Retriever. Diabetes alert dogs are able to smell changes in blood sugar and can alert their owner right away by nudging or scratching their owner. Shaheen felt immediately reassured the first time Coach alerted her to a change in blood sugar. She was testing her blood sugar up to a dozen times a day, but now Coach can let her know right away if she needs to take a test. However, there is a waiting list for diabetes alert dogs and it took two years before Elle was matched with Coach.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages diabetics to do their homework when researching a diabetes alert dog to make sure the dog is properly trained. There isn’t a standardized training method, so it’s important to ask a lot of questions about how the dogs are trained. Diabetes alert dogs also aren’t a replacement for monitoring blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter and continuous glucose monitor, but they can add an additional level of comfort and security to keeping up with blood sugar levels. Also, finding a diabetes alert dog can be a long and pricey process, but non-profit organizations often provide dogs at low to no cost to the owner. For a full list of qualifications to look for in a diabetes alert dog, as well as suggestions of organizations to go through, take a look at this buyers guide by the American Diabetes Association.


Diabetes Alert Dogs: Buyers Beware, by Jennifer Cattet and Dana Hardin, American Diabetes Association

Diabetic Girl and Yellow Lab Bond While He Works to Keep Her Alive, by Sarah Kunin, ABC News

“Race to Quit, NC” Campaign Helps North Carolinians Win Their Race to be Smoke-Free

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

Smoking is one of the more common asthma triggers for children and adults with asthma, but one out of every five North Carolinians is still smoking. The number of smokers nationwide has dropped to 15%, but over 20% of North Carolinians smoke, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Smoking kills 14,200 North Carolinians each year and causes $3.8 billion in annual health care costs. Over 50 organizations—including Active Healthcare, leading patient groups, health care delivery systems, nonprofits, and state and local agencies—have joined together to launch “Race to Quit, NC.” The goal of this smoking cessation campaign is to help North Carolinians win the battle of quitting smoking and tobacco use.

It’s no secret that quitting tobacco use is a difficult endeavor, and many users have tried multiple times to quit without success. During the Race to Quit, NC launch week October 5-9, campaign partners will hold events to raise awareness of the campaign and to promote the campaign website. The site features educational materials and comprehensive resources to help tobacco users quit. You can also follow the campaign on social media via the hashtag #RacetoQuitNC.

Quitting is hard, but smokers don’t have to go it alone. There are huge health and financial benefits to quitting—both for the smoker and those that might breathe in their second-hand smoke. Together, we can help North Carolinians break the cycle of tobacco use and cross the finish line to a tobacco-free life.

North Carolina Smoking Cessation Infographic[1]

Wildfires in California Affect Asthma Sufferers in Colorado

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Smoke from the California fires is affecting air quality in Colorado.

Smoke from the California fires is affecting air quality in Colorado.

The photos and videos of the Northern California wildfires are both stunning and disheartening; as of Sept. 15, 13,000 people have had to leave their homes and 67,000 acres have burned in the valley fire. The fire isn’t just affecting California. Surprisingly enough, the smoke from the California fires is affecting the air quality hundreds of miles away in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Air pollution from the fires “can cause inflammation of the airways, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath,” according to an article by Christina Dawldowicz, Fox21News. The additional air pollution Colorado Springs residents are exposed to can be especially problematic for individuals with allergies and/or asthma. Even those without respiratory problems can experience eye and nose irritation from the smoke.

Asthma and allergy sufferers can experience some relief from the smoke pollution, also known as “particle pollution,” by limiting time spent outdoors. Those with respiratory problems can switch to indoor exercises, or shorten their outdoor exercises, and should pay close attention to symptoms to determine how much time they can handle being outdoors.

Additional Resources:

Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution by the Environmental Protection Agency


Why Outdoor Air Pollution is Hard on Your Heart

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Outdoor air pollution is a risk factor for heart disease.

Outdoor air pollution is a risk factor for heart disease.

I’m fortunate to live in an area where it’s easy to hop on a greenway and go for a relaxing walk in the woods. The air seems just a little bit crisper and cleaner when I’m surrounded by trees and an umbrella of beautiful blue sky overhead. The air probably is a little cleaner–certainly more so than if I was walking next to a busy road–but I know that I can’t completely escape outdoor air pollution.

My initial thoughts about air pollution are usually on the impact that air quality has on our ability to breathe and how it affects asthma sufferers. These thoughts come to mind first because I can immediately feel the affect of poor air quality on my ability to breathe. Outdoor air pollution and allergens like pollen can cause coughing, sneezing, throat irritation, and trigger asthma symptoms. But air pollution also affects our health in ways we may not immediately notice.

Air pollution is “caused by small particles and ground level ozone that comes from car exhaust, smoke, road dust and factory emissions,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not only does outdoor air pollution make it harder to breathe, it can also be hard on your heart and is the ninth most important cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease. The small particles in air pollution can cause inflammation in the lungs and blood vessels that in turn can increase the risk for clots and atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque deposits build up in the arteries. As plaque hardens, it narrows the arteries and limits blood flow. Even short periods of exposure to these particles, like driving with the windows down, can increase the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Neil Schachter, Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) to monitor local air pollution levels. He recommends avoiding outdoor activities when the AQI is above 100. Running air conditioning instead of leaving the windows down in your home and car is another way to reduce your exposure to air pollution since your home’s filters will capture large particles. In the car, use the “recirculate” setting to keep 80 percent of outdoor air pollution out of the vehicle. Also, try to exercise away from roads to avoid breathing in exhaust from vehicles. See you out on the greenway!


Surprising Dangers of Air Pollution by Dr. Neil Schachter, Bottom Line Health

Asthma Triggers: Gain Control, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Start School on the Right Foot with These Asthma Tips

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

schoolasthmaI was out shopping the other day and was surprised to see the school supply section bustling with students and parents gathering supplies for the start of school. It seems like summer started yesterday, but ready or not, here comes a new school year! As children get ready by packing fresh supplies in brand new backpacks, parents of children with asthma also need to prepare for a new school year. More than 10 million school days are missed each year due to asthma-related absences, according to the American Lung Association. Parents can help their children start school on the right foot by reviewing this back-to-school asthma checklist:

  1. Talk to the school about your child’s asthma action plan: The American Lung Association’s Back-to-School with Asthma Toolkit has asthma resources and tips for parents, teachers, students, school nurses and school officials. The Asthma Toolkit also includes “The Basics for Parents,” which explains which asthma questions parents should ask their child’s school. Check that your child’s school nurse and/or teacher have a recent copy of your child’s asthma action plan, and ask if your child can carry their medication while at school. That way, the school will be familiar with your child’s medications and will be prepared to help in the event of an asthma emergency. The asthma action plan should include information about your child’s asthma triggers and symptoms, when and how to administer medication, and what to do in an emergency.
  2. Learn about asthma emergency protocols: Ask about the school’s procedures in the event that your child has an asthma attack. Label your child’s medication with their name, the name of the medication, and instructions for use. Make sure the school has emergency contact information for you and a few backup contacts.
  3. Keep tabs on air quality: If your child’s asthma is triggered by perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning chemicals, chalk dust, mold, and/or pet dander, talk to your child’s teacher and the school nurse about how your child can avoid these triggers. Each day, check the ozone forecast at the EPA’s AirNow site to monitor outdoor air quality and decide whether or not it’s safe for your child to play outside. Asthma symptoms can increase on days when ground level ozone is high, so your child might need to stick to indoor activities on those days.

Before school starts, consider making a doctor’s appointment for your child to make sure their asthma action plan is up to date. A little preparation with your child’s doctor and school will set your child up for a happy and healthy school year.

Additional Resources:

Back-to-School with Asthma Checklist by the American Lung Association

Back to School with Allergies and Asthma by Thanai Pongdee, American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

Asthma Sufferers Could Find Relief in Obama’s Energy Plan

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,
Obama's energy plan could improve air quality and reduce asthma attacks in children.

Obama’s energy plan could improve air quality and reduce asthma attacks in children.

President Barack Obama announced a plan earlier this month to reduce power plant emissions, a move that could improve air quality and greatly benefit asthma sufferers. The energy plan requires a reduction of power plant emissions in the U.S. by 32% by 2030. Obama said that these changes would help reduce 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030. The effect of air quality on asthma sufferers hits close to home for Obama—earlier this year he spoke about the fear he felt when his daughter Malia had an asthma attack when she was 4 years old.

Older coal-fired power plants that lack pollution control can emit sulfur dioxide, a known asthma trigger. Ground level ozone, considered “bad ozone,” is caused when pollutants from sources like cars and power plants chemically react with sunlight. High ground level zone levels can trigger asthma symptoms and are usually more of an issue in the summer because of high temperatures, high humidity and lighter winds. Urban areas can be even more problematic for asthma sufferers because of higher pollution levels.

In North Carolina, the ozone forecast season extends from April 1 to October 31. Asthma sufferers can monitor ozone levels by signing up for the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroFlash daily air quality forecasts. The forecast rates ozone and particle pollution levels on a scale from Code Green (Good) to Code Purple (Hazardous) as a way to help individuals sensitive to air quality, like asthma sufferers, decide if it’s safe to participate in outdoor activities.

Asthma Management: There’s an App for That!

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Asthma sufferers now have a lot of apps available to them.

Asthma sufferers now have a lot of apps available to them.

I’m convinced there’s a smartphone app for just about anything you could imagine. One unusual but clever app is called “Fake me out of here.” If you’re stuck in an awkward situation, simply shake your phone and it will ring so you can pretend you just got an important phone call that requires your immediate attention. Apps aren’t just for playing pranks or games anymore, and I’ve noticed a growing number of apps that monitor a variety of health conditions. Asthma sufferers now have a lot of apps available to them–from tracking daily asthma management to monitoring pollen counts, there’s an app for that!

5 Free Asthma Apps:

  1. Asthma Health–The Asthma Health app was developed in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. App users can utilize the technology to get a better understanding of their asthma, but by using the app, they can also participate in what the developers say “may become the largest study of asthma management ever performed.” The app helps patients stick to treatment plans by tracking symptoms and medication usage, avoiding triggers, and viewing reminders to take their medication.
  2. Asthma 360–Asthmatics can setup a dashboard with the Asthma 360 app and track personal statistics like their last peak flow reading. They can also add an asthma action plan for emergencies, setup medication and doctor’s appointment reminders, and create a personalized quick add menu to log their symptoms and triggers.
  3. AsthmaCheck–In addition to keeping track of peak flow meter readings, medication use and symptoms, asthma sufferers can also export their data to share it with their doctor.
  4. EPA’s AIRNOW–This app provides useful information like the Air Quality Index for the user’s location, pollution levels, and explanations about what level of outdoor activity is safe for that day.
  5. Allergy Alert–This is another air quality app, but it focuses more on local pollens counts and allergen levels. App users can access 5-day weather and allergy forecasts, and keep an allergy diary.

Keeping a log of medication use and staying informed about allergens and pollution forecasts can help asthma sufferers better adhere to their asthma management plan, and help them to identify potential triggers.

Most Americans in Favor of Raising the Minimum Age for Tobacco Purchases

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Most Americans are on board with increased restrictions on cigarettes.

Most Americans are on board with increased restrictions on cigarettes.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more restrictions on where smokers can have a cigarette. That’s good news for asthma sufferers that are more likely to experience an increase in asthma symptoms and even an asthma attack when exposed to cigarette smoke. Asthma attack symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, pain or tightness in the chest, and coughing. More Americans are on board with increased restrictions on cigarettes, and surprisingly enough, so are smokers. The majority of American adults support increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21, according to an article the CDC published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Among American adults, 75% supported increasing the minimum age, and 70% of adult smokers also supported raising the age of sale. Only 11% of adults were in strong opposition to raising the minimum age of sale.

In most states, the current minimum age of sale for tobacco products is 18, but in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, the minimum age is 19. Hawaii’s minimum age of sale is the highest at 21. In a press release issued by the CDC, Brian King, Ph.D., acting Deputy Director for Research Translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, explained that raising the minimum age of sale could reduce the likelihood that first time smokers become regular smokers. This policy change could also benefit asthma sufferers, since tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers.

“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Dr. King. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”

Smokers that try their first cigarette before age 21 are more likely to continue smoking as an adult. A 2012 Surgeon General report revealed that 96% of adult smokers had their first smoke before age 21. Tobacco distributers are familiar with this trend, and aggressively market to younger consumers. A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) showed that raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco products in all 50 states would reduce the amount of cigarette smoking by 12% by 2100.

Those with asthma that experience worsened symptoms when exposed to tobacco smoke can take a few measures to reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack. If you have asthma, ask smokers to smoke outside your home and car. Also look for tobacco-free campus policies at day cares and schools. Choose no-smoking rooms at hotels and pick restaurants that don’t allow smoking since restaurants with no-smoking and smoking sections don’t provide enough protection against second-hand smoke. Discuss an asthma action plan with your doctor to insure that you have the right medication on hand at all times.

Chronic Inflammation Increases Diabetes Risk

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   , , ,
Chronic inflammation raises the risk of diabetes, and damages body tissue.

Chronic inflammation raises the risk of diabetes, and damages body tissue.

When we get hurt or have an infection, the body’s natural response is to trigger inflammation. Short-term inflammation helps the body heal as white blood cells fight off bacteria and viruses. Normal inflammation manifests as pain, swelling, redness, and a sensation of heat. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can occur in conjunction with some diseases, like arthritis, and it can also raise the risk of developing diabetes. In these cases, inflammation continues for years and damages body tissue. Individuals suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, gum disease, poor diet or obesity are among those at risk for long-term inflammation.

Researchers have found that chronic inflammation raises the risk of developing diabetes because it interferes with insulin’s ability to regulate glucose, which can cause high blood sugar. Inflammation damages beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, and inflammation is also a result of the main diabetes risk factors – obesity, smoking, and diets high in fat and sugar. High-carb, low protein diets are inflammatory for many people, but low-carb diets and diets higher in fruits and vegetables have been known to reduce inflammation. In observational studies, participants on the Mediterranean diet – high in fish, whole grains, beans, nuts and vegetables – have reported low inflammatory markers.

Gum disease, air pollution and cigarette smoke, and lack of exercise are all threats that can lead to chronic inflammation. These risk factors can be reduced through good dental hygiene, the use of indoor HEPA filters and by avoiding cigarette smoke, and with regular exercise. There are also some foods, spices and teas that can help to reduce inflammation. One of my favorite anti-inflammatory foods is dark chocolate! One square of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) a day can help reduce inflammation. You can also reduce inflammation by drinking a few cups of rose hip tea a day, and by adding the spice turmeric to food. If you would prefer to take a rose hip or turmeric supplement, talk to your doctor to make sure these supplements don’t conflict with any medication you’re taking. Your doctor can also test for inflammation and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Diabetes Drug Maker Owes Billions in Settlement

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  
Actos, a drug for type 2 diabetes, has been linked to bladder cancer.

Actos, a drug for type 2 diabetes, has been linked to bladder cancer.

Type 2 diabetes patients should check with their doctor if they’re taking Actos – the medication has been linked to bladder cancer in several medical studies. Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Actos, didn’t admit liability but settled around 9,000 lawsuits related to the drug and owes $2.37 billion as part of the settlement. Patients taking Actos filed lawsuits for a number of reasons including Takeda’s failure to warn the public and health care providers that taking Actos could increase bladder cancer risk if taken for longer than a year, failing to properly test the drug, distributing the drug despite knowledge of dangerous side effects, and withholding research data on Actos from the public.

Actos has been banned in France, Germany and India, but is still on the market in the U.S. with a Food and Drug Administration warning about bladder cancer. Symptoms of bladder cancer include abdominal pain, frequent or painful urination, and blood in urine. Bladder cancer usually occurs in individuals over the age of 55, and the average age of diagnosis is 73. In 2015, 74,000 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. and men have 3 to 4 times the risk of developing bladder cancer to women. If you take Actos, talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have after reading this blog.


Introducing the Smart and Painless Insulin Patch

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  
Photo credit: Zhen Gu, PhD.

Photo credit: Zhen Gu, PhD.

Imagine having to self-administer medication with a needle multiple times a day. This is a reality for diabetics that have to regularly inject insulin. Diabetes currently affects over 387 million people worldwide, and that number is projected to reach 592 million by 2035. Researchers recently made some headway that could create a break in the insulin injection cycle. Scientists at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University developed a “smart” insulin patch that could make painful injections a thing of the past. The tiny penny-sized patch contains over 100 needles, but the needles are each the size of an eyelash and can painlessly deliver insulin. The needles also contain glucose-sensing enzymes that are released when blood sugar levels spike.

The patch worked well in a study of mice with type 1 diabetes, and researchers hope to mirror those positive results in human trials. The patch lowered blood glucose levels in mice for up to nine hours, but since humans are more sensitive to insulin than mice, the patch could last longer for humans.

The patch is “smart” because it can be personalized to the patient based on their weight and sensitivity to insulin. Injecting the wrong amount of medication can cause serious problems anywhere from limb amputation to comas to death. The “smart” patch could reduce the risk of human error and improve the accuracy of medication delivery. Researchers can also customize the patch to only alter blood glucose levels within a certain range. When administered too frequently, insulin injections can cause blood sugar levels to lower at a dangerous rate, so the customized patches would alleviate this problem.

Additional Resources:

Smart insulin patch could replace painful injections for diabetes, by Mark Derewicz, UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine

Mystery Solved! The Truth About Common Asthma Myths

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
One in 12 people (25 million) have asthma.

One in 12 people (25 million) have asthma.

The number of Americans with asthma grows steadily each year; about 1 in 12 people (25 million) have asthma. Although it’s a relatively common condition, there are many misconceptions about asthma. Here are a few common asthma myths, and the reality behind those misconceptions:

  1. Save your asthma medication for when you are having an asthma attack
    If you have mild persistent, moderate persistent, or severe persistent asthma, you will likely need to take a daily medication and have a fast-acting inhaler on hand for asthma attacks.
  2. Asthma symptoms improve in dry climates
    This is true for some individuals with asthma, but others do better in a wetter climate. If moisture helps ease your symptoms, consider purchasing a humidifier for your home. Regularly replace your indoor air filters and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to improve indoor air quality and lessen your asthma symptoms.
  3. If you have asthma, you should avoid intense exercise
    Believe it or not, there are quite a few professional athletes with asthma, and regular exercise can improve lung function. Your doctor can help you determine if you should take medication before working out. Check out this article on exercise-induced asthma for advice on how to safely exercise if you have asthma.
  4. Diet has little impact on asthma
    Fatty foods, like fries or red meat, can cause increased inflammation in the airways that can worsen asthma symptoms. The Mediterranean diet is the go-to diet for gaining more control over your asthma symptoms. Healthier fats, like olive oil, are allowed in this diet and the Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of heart disease.
  5. You can get addicted to your asthma medication
    Asthma medication isn’t habit forming, but asthma is a chronic condition so long-term use of medication is to be expected. Your asthma treatment plan should explain which medications you should use regularly, and which ones you should use in the event of an asthma attack.

Are you being fooled by asthma myths? by Allergies & Asthma, Winter 2014/2015
Common Asthma Myths and Facts by remedy’s communities

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