Posted by on March 25, 2015 - 4:15pm

Daughters of mothers who smoked during pregnancy enter puberty at a younger age.  As a result, these offspring start their periods earlier---a risk factor for uterine, endometrials and breast cancers later in life.  Study researchers from Australia say that maternal smoking could create health problems in daughters even before they are born.

Health risks children often have when a mother smokes during pregancy include low birth rate, asthma, type 2 diabetes and obesity.   This new study suggests that there are many more possible adverse effects that are just beginning to be  discovered and may evolve over a lifetime in the exposed fetus.  According to study author, Alison Behie, there are several factors that influence when a girl has her first period:  puberty age of mother, body weight of the girl at ages 8-9, and based on this study, mother's smoking habit.

This study only followed girls till ages 12-13 and the next study will look at girls 14-15 years.  This data will need to be teased out for confounding factors and other influences but it does suggest that mothers who smoke while pregnant may want to consider stopping the habit-at least while pregnant.

 

 

Posted by on March 24, 2015 - 1:37pm

 

Clinical guidelines related to calcium are being revisited.   For decades, calcium supplements have been recommended to prevent bone fractures, especially as we age.  However,  new safety concerns about this practice, especially on heart health have grown.   We know that excess calcium increases the risk of kidney stones.   Does too much calcium affect other organs like the heart as well?   On going research is trending toward this possibility.

The best current evidence supports a recommendation to get your calcium from dietary sources rather than supplements.   The problem?   Most western diets (including the U.S.) traditionally have not achieved the recommended goals of calcium and its companion, Vitamin D which helps absorb calcium.   However, this blogger has searched for the best sources of dietary calcium and believe it is surprisingly doable.  Many of these foods (listed below)  were not particularly popular a decade or so ago but if you consider the new "foodie" diet that is catching on among today's younger population, they are definitely on the increase.

Good sources of calcium:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt---especially low fat options)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach, greens of all kinds, okra, bok choy)
  • Beans (tofu, white beans, hummus, soy beans)
  • Fish (sardines/salmon canned with bones, tuna, perch, trout)
  • Fortified orange juice and cereal
  • Nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tahini)
  • Dried fruit (figs, apricots).

 Calcium supplements have not been proven to be alarming, but doubts exist and if you can reach your vitamin goal via diet, it is certainly a good habit to develop.

Posted by on March 21, 2015 - 8:17am

A father’s depression during the first years of parenting – as well as a mother’s – can put their toddler at risk of developing troubling behaviors such as hitting, lying, anxiety and sadness during a critical time of development, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

This is one of the first studies to show that the impact of a father’s depression from postpartum to toddlerhood is the same as a mother’s. Previous studies have focused mostly on mothers with postpartum depression and found that their symptoms may impact their children’s behavior during early, formative years.

“Fathers' emotions affect their children,” said Sheehan Fisher, lead author of the study. “New fathers should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, just as we do for mothers.”

Sheehan is an instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He conducted this study while he was a researcher at the University of Iowa.

The study was published online in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.

By Erin Spain, Northwestern News Center
Posted by on March 19, 2015 - 9:39am

It is generally accepted that it is a good idea to include fish, such as salmon and flounder, that are high in omega-3, in one's diet.   But what about shellfish (lobster, crab, mussels, clams, calamari, oysters, scallops etc)?   While they contain less omega-3 than fin fish, shellfish are a good source of protein (especially octopus), and if you avoid breading and frying, are low in calories.  

Other benefits of specific shellfish:   Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, clams have iron and Vitamin B-12, and crustaceans are a good source of choline, a nutritient that may be good for memory and muscle control.

But, there are some negatives that shellfish lovers need to consider.   Shrimp are high in cholesterol and if you are a 'cholesterol responder' (the cholesterol you eat overly impacts blood cholesterol) you might want to limit your shrimp intake.  While we know that large fin fish like sword fish contain mercury, shellfish more readily absorb toxins often associates with the "red tide".   Red tide is a bloom of plankton, especially dinoflagellates, that causes an usually reddish discoloration of coastal ocean waters. Certain dinoflagellates produce toxins that contaminate shellfish, making them unsafe to eat, and can kill fish. If you eat shellfish from waters with high concentrations of red tide present, you may risk a case of shellfish poisoning.  Symptoms could range from numbness, tingling, headache, dizziness, amenesia, etc.  depending on the specific type of toxin ingested.   Coastal towns often monitor the presence of red tide and post warnings when the levels are too high for swimming or eating local shellfish and fin fish.   This type of tide is more prevalent in warmer, more shallow waters than in cold, deep ocean areas. 

Allergies are another concern more prevalent in shellfish.  Some people are only allergic to one type of shellfish (crustacean vs. molluscan) or even just one specific shellfish.  My mother could not eat oysters and I cannot eat lobster but we both could eat other  seafood.  Go figure!

Overall, seafood is a good source of many nutrients and a good alternative to more fatty red meats. 

 

Posted by on March 17, 2015 - 12:08pm

This month, the French government is considering a bill that would ban the use of ultra skinny models with a body mass index (BMI) below 18 on the runway or in photo shoots.  Modeling agencies and fashion houses who do not comply could be fined up to $79,000 and may have to serve jail time.   Italy, Spain and Italy already have similar laws in place.

As of today, this blogger could not find any similar legislation or regulations in the United States.   The Council of Fashion Designers in America has formed a "health initiative" to address this growing concern but it focuses on health education and awareness and does not have any real regulatory power.  In fact, the organization states that this in not a policy initiative and does not recommend that the industry require any medical exam to assess the health status of its models.    The fact that 10 out of 100 young women are diagnosed with an eating disorder does not seem to bear any weight on their decision. 

Why should we care what the fashion industry does?   According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders:

  • The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.
  • 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner 
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat

As young people follow the trends for fashion and glamour on social media 24/7, isn't it time we step to the plate?

 

Posted by on March 12, 2015 - 1:00pm

Teens who were heavy marijuana users – smoking it daily for about three years -- had an abnormally shaped hippocampus and performed poorly on long-term memory tasks, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.  

The hippocampus is important to long-term memory (also known as episodic memory), which is the ability to remember autobiographical or life events.

The brain abnormalities and memory problems were observed during the individuals’ early twenties, two years after they stopped smoking marijuana.

Young adults who abused cannabis as teens performed about 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused cannabis.

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,” said senior author Dr. John Csernansky, the Lizzie Gilman professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The study was published March 12 in the journal Hippocampus.

Read more HERE.   Source:  Northwestern News
Posted by on March 11, 2015 - 3:49pm

coffee

Vasomotor symptoms, mainly in the form of hot flashes, are the most commonly reported menopausal symptom.  While many people assumed a connection, data was inconsistant, it was only recently that cross sectional survey using the Menopause Health Questionnaire from Mayo Clinic  was conducted that compared users and non-users of caffeine beverages.  A total of 2,507 surveys were completed and after adjusting for menopause status and smoking (caffeine users smoked more than non-users), the researchers found that caffeine users reportied higher vasomotor symptom scores. 

There was some evidence of a decrease in neurocognitive symptom bother in premenopausal (not post menopausal women) with caffeine use but more study is need to determine if this is true.  Interestingly, other menopausal symptoms (sleep, blowel/bladder function, sexual function, and general/other symptoms) did not show an association with caffeine use.

To read more on menopause, visit menopauseNU.org or read the full report HERE

Posted by on March 6, 2015 - 3:59pm

Roughly 44% of Americans unknowingly assume sex education is part of the Common Core curriculum, but it is not. In reality, the lack of adequate sex education in high school could lead to incorrect knowledge later on about reproductive health. Beyond the biology of sex education, there's a feeing that "most adults don't tell the real truth about sex," in the classroom and at home, perpetuating the taboo of sex education. Often when schools do provide sex education, it is conflated with having sex, rather than an understanding of reproductive anatomy and function. Understanding the biological fascets of sex education as well as the social and health-related repercussions better inform students to make more holistic choices regarding their health. Indeed, Dr. Teresa Woodruff is currently planning a Reproduction 101 MOOC to launch later this summer to better educate a network of students on reproductive health from the biological perspective.

Source: Pacific Standard

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 - 11:37am

Someone once reminded me that our healthcare system is really the "practice of medicine", implying that as technology improves and ongoing studies are completed, our knowledge base continues to grow.  In other words,  what we knew yesterday may change tomorrow.   Like many aspects of life,  there are many shades of gray in medicine.

This week, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee  recommended several changes  to the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans  that is updated every five years by the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Agriculture.   These guidelines are used to set national policies related to diet.  The new recommendations take aim at current cholesterol intake guidelines, suggesting that current available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and the serum cholesterol circulating in one's blood.    Does this mean eggs are back on the menu?  After all, they are high in protein and low in saturated fats!   There will be more debate on this issue before a final recommendation is entered into the official guidelines and we may end up agreeing that everyone metabolizes cholesterol differently resulting in different levels of risk.

Another well-known "shady"  example is hormonal therapy for menopause symptoms.  Forty years ago hormone therapy was  the panacea for all menopause symptoms and many women believed it to be the 'fountain  of youth'.   Then the bombshell from  the  Women's Health Initiative--one of the largest studies done in women-- was released in 2002 and told us hormone therapy (HT)  could cause great harm.    The pendulum swung, and many women suddenly stopped HT and many women found their symptoms return.    Today, we now know that there are many variables in hormone therapy, including dosage, delivery method, timing, etc  and for some women, HT is a viable treatment and could benefit their health.   In other cases, we better understand who is at greatest risk for complications due to hormone use.    New data leads to new knowledge.....and better options!   There are now many formulations of hormone therapy and new non-hormonal options that have changed the way we practice medicine.   To learn more about menopause, visit menopausenu.org

The lesson:   the practice of medicine is constantly changing and the risks and benefits we know today may be altered tomorrow.

What do we do to be sure we get the best treatment available?

  • Find a provider who stays current and is willing to accept new options.
  • Seek second opinions for complex health issues.
  • Recognize that every medicine has risks and benefits   (What would happen if you did not take that drug?   Will side effects be worse than the cure?")
  • Review your treatment plan at least once a  year to determine if newer therapies may be more effective.
  • Report unpleasant side effects (it advances knowledge!)
  • Consider lifestyle changes that can compliment your treatments.

 

 

 

 

Posted by on February 18, 2015 - 12:28pm

A nationwide survey reported that more Americans are using mind and body approaches to improve health and well-being. Interest in yoga is particularly on the rise.   The 2012 survey, developed by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the CDC, compared results with versions from 2002 and 2007.  Survey highlights:

Approximately 21 millions adults (nearly double the number from 2002) and 1.7 million children practice yoga.
Nearly 20 million adultw and 1.9 million children had chiropractic care.
Nearly 18 million adults and 927,000 children practiced meditation.
Children whose parents use a complementary health approach are more likely to use one as well.

The high rates of yoga are particularly interesting and may have been influenced by the growing number of yogo studios in the U.S.

To view more on this report, click HERE.

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