Monday, August 24, 2009

Pennsylvania and New Jersey: Winning By Quitting

Published on August 17, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

Smokers have more options than ever in the fight to kick the habit.

By Heather J. Chin
Inquirer Staff Writer

Nina Ball regularly walks by a row of smokers outside the charter school in North Philadelphia where she helps youths find jobs and get into college. A year ago, she might have bummed a cigarette there.

But today, after a series of group counseling and fitness sessions at a local health clinic, she hopes she has replaced her addiction to nicotine with another obsession: a drive to write and perform poetry.

"When I'm keeping busy with things I love, I feel less of a need to smoke," said Ball, who ditched her Marlboro Menthol 100s 10 months ago.

As Ball learned, the methods to stop smoking are growing. A few programs offer group counseling and fitness together - to counter fears of weight gain and encourage overall health - along with nicotine replacement products and drugs. Most sessions are free, courtesy of the money that tobacco firms pay yearly to states to cover smokers' health-related costs.

Insurers also may cover some prescription drugs for those enrolled in a state-sponsored cessation program.

Hospitals, in addition, are pushing smoking cessation to their patients. Studies suggest that they are likelier to quit when the health risks are high.

Each year about 443,000 people die from smoking nationwide, including about 20,000 Pennsylvanians and 11,000 New Jersey residents.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Personal Health: For Kids, Increased Screen Time Can Equal Increased Blood Pressure

Published on August 10th, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

Kids' screen time is linked to development of hypertension
More time plopped in front of a screen - computer, video, video game, and, particularly, television - may raise the risk of elevated blood pressure in children, according to a new study.

The researchers tracked activity levels of 111 children ages 3 to 8 - 57 boys and 54 girls - round-the-clock for a week via measurements from an accelerometer worn over the right hip as well as parents' reports of the average time their child spent sitting or engaging in activities that ranged from painting to watching TV. They also considered age, sex, height, percentage of body fat, and other differences.

Excessive TV time and total screen time were linked to elevated blood pressure - a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other health problems - even when possibly related measures, such as body fat, were separated from the analysis. Children who spent less than 30 minutes a day in front of a screen tended to have the lowest blood pressures, the researchers report in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. (The average was 90 minutes.)

Interestingly, the researchers did not find an association between blood pressure and sedentary behavior in general, leading them to suggest that factors specific to watching a screen - eating foods high in sugar, fat and salt, for example, or disruptive sleep patterns that have been associated with TV time - might play a role. - Heather J. Chin

Read the full article here.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Tweets Untweeted

As Twitter continues to defend against a hack attempt with "collateral damage," thus preventing me from tweeting important news, I am posting here the two tweets untweeted, in order from most recent backwards.

@alfranken Thanks for the Service Dogs for Veterans Act.

@Rick_Bayless Thanks for your fantastic, tasty and wonderfully gracious meal tonight on Top Chef Masters! It's a joy to have such respect!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Personal Health: Antipsychotic Drugs May Increase Risk to Older Diabetics

Published on August 3, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

A warning for older diabetics who take antipsychotic drugs
Older diabetics who start on an antipsychotic drug may face a greater risk of high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia, according to a study published in the July 27 Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings are based on a Canadian study of 13,817 diabetics aged 66 and older who took antipsychotics in a two-year period for dementia and other conditions, while also receiving insulin-treatment, oral hypoglycemic (blood-glucose reducing) agents, or no diabetes treatment. Eleven percent - 1,515 people - of patients were hospitalized for hyperglycemia or related conditions.

Those starting on antipsychotics were particularly at risk; after their first prescription, they were eight to 15 times more likely to be hospitalized than those not getting the drugs.

The connection between hyperglycemia and antipsychotic use has been studied in younger patients with schizophrenia, but research in older adults is limited, the researchers said. If the use of antipsychotics in older diabetics with dementia cannot be avoided, the study's authors conclude, then patients and relatives should be on the alert for signs of high blood sugar levels once treatment begins. The researchers recommend enhanced glucose monitoring for all patients starting antipsychotic drugs. - Heather J. Chin

Read the full article here.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Food News: Lobster In Need of New Marketing?

Hey, cheap lobster everybody!

What's most fascinating to me is the talk of down-marketing lobster from celebratory treat to everyday food. While a cool and clever idea, I'd think that if successful, it could backfire if and when prices go up again and they end up having to catch more lobster than they can, especially if the industry really is so well managed. Or lobster may not have the same appeal anymore.

Do people eat lobster because they like the taste or texture or because they think it's a special, once-in-a-while food that appeals to their desire to appear well-off and make a good impression?
Would the demand for lobster stay the same if it were stuck in the frozen food aisle along with similar-tasting shellfish like shrimp?

If so, then maybe they'd end up making more money than ever once prices rise again.

Pennsylvania: Pediatricians and Paperwork

Published on July 27, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

Summer's no vacation for pediatricians

Pediatricians know it's summer when the health forms start piling up.

For everything from day care and camps to college and driver's license applications, each form asks different questions and often requires handwritten answers.

"It's overwhelming, particularly in the summer" when camps, school, and sports seasons converge, says Jeffrey Bomze, a pediatrician whose Bryn Mawr practice sees around 3,000 patients a year. "It's not just a signature and out the door."

Every year, pediatricians typically see about 95 patients per week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. At nearly 5,000 patients per year, four health forms per child, and about eight minutes per form, that means one person could spend 333 workdays a year on health forms alone.

And it's getting worse.

Read the full story here.