Friday, February 17, 2012

Health Tip: Offer Healthy Breakfast Choices

(HealthDay News) -- Doughnuts and pastries may be delicious breakfast treats, but they're probably loaded with fat and sugar.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these healthier breakfast choices:

  • Eliminate doughnuts in favor of whole-grain waffles and reduced-sugar syrup.
  • Instead of regular bacon, opt for turkey bacon or Canadian bacon.
  • Cut white toast in favor of whole-wheat or whole grain toast, and top with reduced-fat peanut butter.
  • Skip sugary cereals in favor of whole-grain, low sugar cereals topped with berries.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Best Friend Benefits Child's Mind, Body, Study Finds

SUNDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A best friend can help children deal with negative experiences, a new study suggests.

"Having a best friend present during an unpleasant event has an immediate impact on a child's body and mind," said study co-author William Bukowski, a psychology professor and director of the Center for Research in Human Development at Concordia University, in Montreal. "If a child is alone when he or she gets in trouble with a teacher or has an argument with a classmate, we see a measurable increase in cortisol levels and decrease in feelings of self-worth."

In conducting the study, researchers asked 55 boys and 48 girls from grades 5 and 6 in Montreal to record their feelings and experiences in a journal over the course of four days. The children's levels of cortisol -- the stress hormone -- were also monitored in regular saliva tests.

The study, recently published in the journal Developmental Psychology, found that cortisol increased and self-worth decreased when a child had a negative experience. However, with a best friend present when trouble struck, cortisol levels and feelings of self-worth changed less.

The researchers noted that what happens during childhood can affect people as adults, including having feelings of low self-worth.

"Our physiological and psychological reactions to negative experiences as children impact us later in life," explained Bukowski in a university news release. "Excessive secretion of cortisol can lead to significant physiological changes, including immune suppression and decreased bone formation. Increased stress can really slow down a child's development."

The study's authors said previous studies have also shown that having friendships can help protect people from bullying, exclusion and other forms of aggression.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Simpler Names May Help You Get Ahead

SATURDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The easier your name is to pronounce, the more likely you are to receive promotions at work and make friends, a new study suggests.

Using mock ballots, researchers from the University of Melbourne and New York University's Stern School of Business also found politicians with simple names are more likely to get elected.

"Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce," study author Dr. Simon Laham, from the University of Melbourne, said in a news release from the university.

In conducting the study, researchers took a closer look at how names can influence first impressions and decision-making. They found evidence of a "name pronunciation effect," in which people with easily pronounced names are viewed more positively by others. They noted, however, that most people are not even aware of this bias.

For instance, in a field study of 500 U.S. attorneys those with easy to pronounce names rose up in their firm's ranks faster than their colleagues with more difficult names.

The name bias probably extends to other professions as well, according to study co-leader Adam Alter, from the Stern School of Business. "People simply aren't aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments," he explained in the news release.

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, could have implications for how bias and discrimination are managed in America, the researchers suggested.

"It's important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others," Laham said.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chemo During Pregnancy Doesn't Seem to Harm Baby

THURSDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that the babies of women who had chemotherapy while pregnant aren't at higher risk for a variety of medical disorders, a sign that the treatment should be safe for the fetus in most instances.

There's a caveat: babies born to pregnant women who had chemotherapy were more likely to be born prematurely, potentially putting them at risk for impaired brain development, which can cause problems with memory, thinking and learning skills.

Still, the findings are "very good news," said maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Elyce Cardonick, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

"No pregnant woman likes to choose between treating themselves and protecting the baby," said Cardonick, who works at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J. "They don't have to choose. By making themselves healthy, they're helping the baby."

An estimated one in 1,000 pregnant women have cancer, Cardonick said. In some cases, doctors recommend that the women undergo abortions. But chemotherapy is an option.

Typically, doctors only treat the women outside the early stages of pregnancy and use older drugs that are "tried and true," Cardonick said.

Could chemotherapy harm the developing fetus? Previous research has suggested it won't, but researchers led by Dr. Frederic Amant, a gynecologic oncologist and assistant professor at Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, sought to understand whether the cancer treatment might affect babies after they are born.

In the new study, the researchers examined medical records and test results of 70 children whose pregnant mothers underwent chemotherapy. The children were followed for an average of 22 months and up to 18 years.

"The study is unique since this is the first time children were extensively examined over the long term," Amant said.

The investigators found that the children weren't at higher risk of heart, hearing or nervous system disorders, or general health and growth problems.

As to why the chemotherapy drugs do not reach the fetus and cause harm, Amant said the placenta acts like a filter, keeping most of the medications away from the fetus. Also, doctors avoid chemotherapy in the first trimester, when organs are in the early stages of development and especially vulnerable, Amant added.

The study is one of a series of articles about pregnant women and cancer published online Feb. 10 in The Lancet Oncology.

The other articles published in this issue report that:

  • The current trend in medicine is to allow pregnancies to continue in women diagnosed with cervical or ovarian cancer. However, chemotherapy must not be used in the first eight weeks, and the pregnancies come with risks.
  • Pregnant women with breast cancer can undergo both surgery and chemotherapy, all with the aim of a full-term pregnancy. The mother's disease outcome would not be improved by terminating the pregnancy.
  • Blood cancer can cause complications in pregnant women, such as blood clots, that may lead to advice to terminate the pregnancy at an early stage to protect the health of the mother. But women in later stages of pregnancy may find it feasible to undergo cancer treatment while preserving the pregnancy.

New Therapy Might Help Relieve Painful Foot Condition

WEDNESDAY Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- For people struggling with plantar fasciitis --- a painful and sometimes disabling foot condition -- a small, preliminary study suggests that a new type of therapy is more effective than standard cortisone injections in restoring mobility.

So-called "platelet-rich plasma" therapy is injected directly into the foot. It harnesses two main ingredients found in blood -- plasma and platelets -- to promote inflammation, connective-tissue growth and vascular healing. This contrasts with cortisone injections, which are designed to reduce inflammation.

"The focus here is on very difficult patients for whom well-recognized nonsurgical and surgical approaches are not effective," said study author Dr. Raymond Monto, an orthopedic surgeon with Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, Mass. "Because while 90 percent of patients usually get better with standard treatment, about 10 percent don't.

"For these patients cortisone shots just don't help," Monto added. "The initial benefit degrades very quickly, and eventually by six months, and certainly by one year out -- you are back where you started.

"But among these sorts of patients I was very encouraged by the results with [platelet-rich plasma therapy]," Monto continued. "For most, after just one shot, we saw dramatic improvements. We're talking about the restoration of well over 90 percent of normal function lasting at least a year after treatment."

Monto was slated to present his findings Tuesday at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Francisco.

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, plantar fasciitis is the most common musculoskeletal problem in the United States, typically prompted by aerobic injury or poor shoe support.

The painful condition arises from inflammation of the connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot, tissue known as plantar fascia, which in turn places heavy stress on the bottom of the foot. Commonly, the condition will begin when a person feels a sharp pain in their heel as they step down after being at rest.

Standard treatment can involve a mix of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, stretching exercises, steroid injections, rest, orthotics, improved arch support, shockwave therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

The new study focused on 36 patients (16 men and 20 women), aged 21 to 74, struggling with a severe and chronic form of plantar fasciitis. None had experienced any relief following standard nonsurgical treatments.

The participants were divided into two groups. One received an ultrasound-guided injection of methylprednisolone (a steroid) at the injury site, while the other was treated with platelet-rich plasma.

While the steroid group showed notable improvement within the three months following treatment, foot function started to decline by the sixth month and continued on a downward trend through to the one-year mark.

The platelet-rich plasma group experienced better initial improvement and maintained increased function throughout the following year.

"Pretty much, if the patient treated with [platelet-rich plasma therapy] saw function go up by the four-week mark, then that function was maintained," Monto said.

"But, of course, one study doesn't change patterns of treatment," he noted. "So this should be viewed as a beginning point that raises awareness of the potential of [platelet-rich plasma therapy] for this type of treatment, and hopefully initiates more research."

Dr. Howard Luks, chief of sports medicine at Westchester Medical Center and N.Y. Medical College, both in Hawthorne, N.Y., described the platelet-rich plasma therapy exploration as "worthwhile," but added that questions remain.

"The reason there has been such an interest in [platelet-rich plasma therapy] is because cortisone is degenerative," he said. "It doesn't heal tissue. It actually can damage tissue with repeated injections. So we never, as orthopedists, really had a regenerative injection option available to us."

However, platelet-rich plasma therapy "is somewhat of a controversial subject, because at this point not all [platelet-rich plasma therapy] is equal," Luks added. "Different manufacturers take a different level of the blood. Some take the white cells, some don't; some exclude platelets, some don't. So the orthopedics community at large is still sort of saying that before we adopt this widely, let's figure out exactly what we're doing and what's the best preparation. And those studies are now under way."

Unlike cortisone treatments, platelet-rich plasma therapy is not covered by insurance. Luks said that, in his experience, costs for the new treatment can range anywhere from $270 an injection to as much as $3,000.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Health News Health Tip: Before You Start an Exercise Program

(HealthDay News) -- Although exercise should help improve your health, a medical checkup before you start an exercise program can help ensure a safe beginning.

The website offers this list of potential risk factors that should be evaluated by a doctor before you start exercising:

  • If you are at increased risk of cardiovascular problems, especially if you've had a stroke or heart attack.
  • If you're at increased risk of developing or worsening diabetes.
  • If you're overweight or obese.
  • If you're pregnant.
  • If you've recently become injured or have had chronic pain.