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AllergyManager Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by Read more

The Double Threat of Vaping


Food industry workers at a microwave popcorn factory were Read more

EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.


Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing Read more

Diabetic Tips: Making Sure It’s “In the Bag”

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

Emergency Diabetes BagAs a diabetic patient or parent, you are well aware that you need an emergency diabetes bag. This is one project that can’t be put off.

Advance planning is key to successful management of your diabetes. Don’t “live and learn,” coming up with a Plan B on the fly.

Here are some ideas for filling your emergency diabetes bag

Your Medical History and Contacts List

Take the necessary time to gather this information, which should include your health conditions, allergies, medications and dosages. Also, include contact information for your doctor, pharmacy, and emergency contact. Carry one in your wallet and smartphone.  Don’t forget to store a copy in an easy-to-locate area of your home, such as attached to the fridge.

Glucose tablets or gels are great to have in your bag in the event of a blood sugar nosedive.

But don’t forget a glucagon injection kit, you may need this depending on the severity of your episode. On that note, it would also be a good idea to keep a list of signs and symptoms at work and home so others can identify these and know how to assist.

Extra Medications – Include three days’ worth of your medications.

When you are ready to head out, keep your insulin cold with reusable frozen gel packs.

Snacks to keep blood sugar stable.

Always have some non-perishable snacks such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, whole-grain crackers, trail mix, or dry cereal on hand.

Testing Supplies – so you can test as many times as you need to.

Being out and about can raise your stress level, causing your blood sugar to fluctuate more than usual. Therefore, it may be necessary to test a little more frequently.

Include the following:

  • Meter
  • Test Strips
  • Batteries
  • Lancing Device
  • Lancets
  • Needles
  • Alcohol Swabs
  • Hand Sanitizer

Let a Medical Alert Bracelet Speak For You When You Can’t

Always remember to wear a Diabetes ID bracelet. In the event you lose consciousness or cannot speak, bystanders and first responders will know that you are diabetic and can help accordingly. This bracelet should clearly state your diagnosis and any other key health information. You can find these at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) website at www.shopdiabetes.org.

Advanced Planning is the Key to Peace of Mind

Once you have your emergency bag packed, you can relax while on-the-go. For additional peace of mind, consider using a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system or an insulin pump if you are not already benefiting from one of these devices.

More information about how CGM works can be found in our previous blog The 411 on CGM.


Pump, Don’t Fail Me Now!

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

Check your blood sugarInsulin pumps are invaluable tools in managing diabetes. Most medical equipment is very reliable and the majority of the time everything works as it should. But what if it suddenly doesn’t?

Have you thought about what you would do if your insulin pump were to fail? It is important to have a plan in place for when and if this occurs. You can create a fail-safe plan for the rare event of a pump failure by following these four steps.

Pump Failure Action Plan

Step 1

First and foremost, call your pump manufacturer. Your pump’s warranty will cover repairs. The manufacturer may be able to troubleshoot the pump, arrange for repairs, or even a replacement.

Step 2

Next, call your endocrinologist. He/she can help you create a plan to manage your blood sugars in the interim and what warning signs to watch for.

Flu vaccine

Step 3

Keep the following items with you at all times, making sure all are within the prescription limits and not expired:

  • long-acting insulin (in case you will be without a pump overnight)
  • short-acting insulin (to inject and repeat for bolus and/or correction)
  • ketone strips
  • a list of 24-hour pharmacies

Step 4

Also, keep a record of your pump’s settings, as you may need to program a replacement or loaner pump. On this record, include the following:

  • Total basal
  • Your basal setting, which determines how much insulin you receive each hour
  • Insulin to Carbohydrates (I:C) ratio to help with adjusting pre-meal bolus insulin doses
  • Insulin Sensitivity Factor (ISF) — the number of points one unit of rapid acting insulin lowers your blood glucose
  • Insulin On Board (IOB) – the calculation telling you how much insulin is still in your body from previous bolus doses

The possibility of a pump failure may give you chills, but remember not to panic. With the help of your manufacturer and endocrinologist, you can be well equipped to deal with this unlikely event. Before you know it, you’ll be pumping again.


The Double Threat of Vaping

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

Food industry workers at a microwave popcorn factory were the first to get sick from inhaling the vapors from artificial flavorings. The vapors caused symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, similar to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Popcorn: Tasty Snack; Popcorn Lung: Deadly Disease

Dubbed popcorn lung, this condition (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a serious and irreversible lung disease. The culprit is the chemical diacetyl. When inhaled, it scars the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of one’s airways.

While many major popcorn manufacturers have removed this chemical from their manufacturing process, it still poses a threat. Diacetyl is also an ingredient in the flavorings for e-cigarettes. A Harvard study found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contained the offending ingredient.

With flavors like ‘Cinnatoast Munch,’ ‘Cotton Candy,’ and ‘Kiwi Watermelon,’ teens are drawn to vaping. Not only do teens think vaping looks cool; they justify their new habit by saying it is better than smoking. Some e-cigarette ‘juices’ do not contain nicotine, but there is still a danger from the artificial flavorings.

As we discussed in our March blog vaping is often a method people choose for quitting tobacco, but can be very harmful to asthmatics. Vaping is not safe. Why put yourself at risk to develop ‘popcorn lung’? Don’t forget about the many other chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, like formaldehyde.

If you are a current smoker who desires to quit, there are better and healthier ways to accomplish this. A lot of people have trouble quitting because of an oral fixation. Below are some ideas to use as a substitute for smoking or vaping.

• Chew gum (some even contain nicotine) or eat hard candies.
• Get more exercise as this can reduce stress – which may lead smokers to crave a cigarette.
• Consider the nicotine patch which can curb your urge to smoke or vape.

The American Lung Association has many resources to help you quit smoking – or vaping.

Final Notes

Diacetyl has since been removed from the following brands of microwave popcorn: Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret, and Jolly Time. So, don’t worry. Your favorite snack is safe now.

The FDA is closely monitoring this market and has begun to apply and enforce key provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This 2009 law gives the FDA authority to regulate the tobacco market and minimize the negative impacts of smoking on America’s youth and families.

Resources

2016 Surgeon General Report detailing the use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults.

Quitline NC:  1-800-QUIT-NOW or En Espanol at 1-855-Dejelo-Ya


The Lowdown on Stress and Diabetes

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

If you have diabetes, stress can take a larger toll on your body.  When the body is under stress, it acts as if it is under attack.  Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels rise, causing your body to store energy in the form of glucose and fat.  In diabetics, this process can be disrupted.  The glucose is released, and if it can’t be stored, it builds up in your bloodstream.

Stress hormones are scientifically proven to affect blood glucose levels.  Scientists who have been studying the effects of stress on these levels have found that when diabetic mice were under stress they had elevated glucose levels.  In Type 1 diabetics, studies produced mixed results with some patients experiencing a rise in blood glucose while others noticed a decline.  Type 2 diabetics more consistently experienced a rise than a decline.  This research confirms the importance of stress reduction.

Not All Coping Mechanisms Are Good

Everyone has different ways of coping with stress on the outside.  Some negative examples are below:

  • Drinking more alcohol
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Neglecting nutrition (very important NOT to do if you’re diabetic)
  • Not getting adequate sleep

 

Diabetics have even more to think about during stressful times and stress may cause them to forget important tasks such as checking their blood glucose levels on a regular basis or planning their meals ahead of time.

Positive Coping Mechanisms

On the other hand, there are many positive ways to deal with stress.  Below are some methods anyone can implement to reduce stress:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Spend more time on your hobbies or learn a new one
  • Perform volunteer work in your community
  • When commuting, take the less stressful route to work if your drive is long
  • Patch up conflicts with your friends or family

 

Relaxation Therapy Techniques for Stress Reduction

  • Breathing exercises
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
  • Progressive muscle relaxation therapy — an example of this is shown in the video below

 


EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.

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

EpiPen Recall - 2017Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing partner, has expanded a voluntary recall of select lots of EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to now include additional lots distributed in the U.S. and other markets in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Lots Effected by Recall

The recall impacts certain lots of the 0.3 mg and 0.15 mg strengths of EpiPen Auto-Injector. None of the recalled lots include the authorized generic for EpiPen Auto-Injector, which is also manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies.

The manufacturer will be replacing the recalled devices at no cost.

Please visit Mylan’s website to read the Press Release with a list of the impacted lots that were sold in the United States and additional information on how to return effected devices.


Vaping is Smoking, Too

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

It’s no secret that tobacco is one of the most common asthma triggers. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes your lungs to produce more mucus. In addition, it weakens the tiny hairs called cilia that sweep away mucus and other irritants that settle in your airways.

Quitting smoking is an excellent method of combating asthma, but you aren’t out of the woods yet. Another important risk factor to consider is secondhand smoke. It is especially harmful for children. If you are an asthmatic, tell your family and friends how tobacco smoke affects you. Have them smoke outside and far away from the doorway, if possible. Encourage them to quit for their own health, not just yours.

Vaping is Not Risk Free

Since it is common knowledge that tobacco smoke is very bad for one’s health, many nicotine addicts turn to electronic cigarettes and “vaping.” It gives many a false sense of security and the mindset of “at least I’m not smoking actual cigarettes.” Vaping is harmful, too, but in a different way. The vapor released by e-cigarettes contains formaldehyde, another asthma trigger. So, while people are on the right track with quitting tobacco, they need to know that vaping is not risk-free and may worsen their asthma symptoms. Vaping is a developing trend among teens because there are a number of flavors offered, some even tasting like candy and adult beverages.

Another thing to avoid is secondhand vapor. Since electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses and workplaces do not have policies in place to keep employees and patrons from “vaping” indoors. In the same way you would tell your family and friends not to smoke around you, you should also ask them to vape elsewhere.

E-Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks

A recent National Jewish Health study links the liquid in e-cigarettes to an increase in respiratory infections. During the study, a test was performed on young, healthy non-smokers and it discovered that e-cigarette use damaged the cells in the airways that defend against harmful inhalants, such as viruses. “The cells showed a strong pro-inflammatory response within minutes and the risk of viral infection in those cells rose significantly,” said Hong Wei Chu, MD, who led the study.

If you are an asthmatic or have one in your life, remember to avoid both smoking and vaping for a healthier future.


When Valentine’s Day is Bittersweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five Flu Myths Debunked Just in Time for Flu Season

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

flu vaccineJanuary is the height of flu season, and if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s not too late to do so.

Influenza or “the flu,” as it more commonly known. This respiratory virus that can be fatal and causes severe symptoms including high fever, shaking chills, headache, body aches, cough, and tiredness.  If you haven’t ever contracted it, consider yourself lucky.

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

Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine

Fact:  This is false

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

Myth: Vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of Influenza.

Fact:  Influenza is strictly a respiratory illness.

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

Myth:The vaccine is the only ammunition you need to fight the flu.

Fact:  In addition to the vaccine, you should wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow, and drink lots of fluids.

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

Myth: Young, healthy individuals cannot catch the flu.

Fact: Young and healthy individuals can catch the flu.

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

Myth: The flu vaccine causes Bell’s palsy.

Fact: No evidence has been found to support this.

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

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


Five Misconceptions About Diabetes

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

There are many misconceptions about diabetes. Below are a few of them followed by the truth.

Myth: People get Type 1 diabetes from eating too much sugar

Reality: No one really knows how someone gets the disease.

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

Myth: It is dangerous for people with diabetes to exercise or participate in sports

Girls Walking for Exercise

Photo from Shutterstock.

participate in sports and even thrive as an athlete. Professional athletes such as tennis star Bill Talbert, boxer Jersey Joe Walcott, and golfer Sherri Turner are all Type 1 patients.

Myth: Diabetics should avoid all sugar and carbohydrates

Reality: Diabetics can and should have some sugar and carbohydrates. 

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

Myth: Diabetes is caused by being overweight

Reality: There are two very different types of diabetes.

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

Myth: Diabetes is easy to control.

Check your blood sugarReality: Diabetes is hard to control, no matter how diligent one is with sticking to his/her meal plan and treatment schedule.

Treatment is ongoing. People often assume that the patient “has it all figured out.”  Stress, hormone changes, growth spurts, and illnesses can all cause a diabetic’s blood sugar to swing.

On the upside, there are so many more ways to combat Type 1 diabetes now than ever before. Patients now have many options available to them to make life with Type 1 diabetes more manageable including insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and even an artificial pancreas.


It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Asthma Season

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

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but not so much for asthma sufferers. While in the midst of the flurry of activity the season brings, it can be hard for asthmatics to enjoy themselves, especially when away from home.

Here are some things that you can do to make your holiday travel and festivities more enjoyable!

Before Your Trip

airplane

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

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

Packing Tips

car

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

 

At Your Destination

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


Asthma and Obesity: The Chicken or the Egg?

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

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

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

Recent Research Highlights the Asthma Obesity Connection

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

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

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

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

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


Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma

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

puppies

The benefits of having a canine companion to come home to are numerous. 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. It can also reduce levels of stress and depression, increase one’s physical shape, and enhance social skills.

A recent Swedish asthma study included more than one million children. 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. Each individual’s inner bacterial environment of the gut 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.

Pets like Puppies = More time Outdoors

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

Interestingly enough, researchers have also explored data relating to children who grew up on farms. These children were 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!


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!


The 5 Best Apps for Diabetes Management

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes, Men's Health, Women's Health 1 , ,

Smartphone Apps to Track Health

Diabetes Apps AboundWith 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.

Diabetes App Roundup

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.


Type 1 Diabetes in Children on the Rise

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  

Diabetes in Children on the RiseThe 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.

Possible Causes for Increase in Diabetes in Children

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 four key gut microbes could increase the risk of children developing asthma.

Stress Increases Diabetes Risk

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.

Rebates Available to Update Aging School Buses

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 Exhaust: A Potent Pollutant

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.


Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Type 2 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 breastfeed 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.

Can Breastfeeding Reduce Your Risk of 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.

Breastfeeding – A Healthy Choice for Mom and Baby

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


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

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

Asthma sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient.

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

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

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


Air Pollution Could Increase Risk of Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Children's Health, Diabetes Leave a comment  

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

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

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

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Proposed Legislation Will Make Public Housing Smoke-free

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

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

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

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

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


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