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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.


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.


Obesity Raises the Risk of Asthma in Women

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

Photo by Shutterstock.

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

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


Treating Sleep Apnea Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   ,
Photo by ResMed

Photo by ResMed

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

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

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


Chronic Inflammation Increases Diabetes Risk

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment   , , ,

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.


Americans with Diabetes on the Rise

Lisa Feierstein Diabetes Leave a comment  

The number of Americans with diabetes and the cost of are on the rise according to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014, from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In 2010, 26 million Americans had diabetes—that number rose to 29.1 million in 2014, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population. Of those 29.1 million with diabetes, 8.1 million people have undiagnosed diabetes.

These statistics are troubling since the CDC estimates the total cost of diabetes has increased from $174 billion in 2010 to $245 billion in 2012, or a 41 percent increase in costs. These costs include medical expenses, disability, work loss and premature death.


Increased Risk of Asthma Linked to Childhood Obesity

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

Doctors have long warned the public that obesity is linked to comorbidities like heart disease, adult onset diabetes and sleep apnea. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California discovered another obesity-related health problem for children—asthma.

The researchers reviewed the health records of 623,358 children and found that overweight and obese children were about 1.5 times more likely to develop asthma than children at a healthy body-mass index (BMI). The overweight and obese children with asthma also experienced more severe asthma symptoms, had to visit the doctor more frequently, and had to take more medicine.

The Kaiser Permanente Southern California study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, also stated that asthma affects one in 10 kids in the U.S. and the amount of children with asthma has more than doubled in the past 30 years. If your child has asthma, it’s important that they adhere to their treatment plan. This study also reveals another reason to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and to encourage your children to stay active and choose healthy foods.


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