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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Reducing Ozone Limits Would Save Lives

Enforcing the current federal ozone standard would significantly reduce ozone-related illnesses and deaths in the United States, and introducing tighter restrictions on ozone would lead to even greater reductions, a new study suggests.

There’s ample evidence that exposure to ozone is linked with health issues such as lung problems, asthma exacerbation, more hospital and emergency department visits, and increased risk of death, according to study author Jesse Berman, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The current Environmental Protection Agency’s eight-hour average ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) is often exceeded, Berman noted.

Ozone is commonly referred to as smog.

The researchers analyzed ozone monitoring and health data for 2005-07 and estimated that 1,410 to 2,480 ozone-related premature deaths would have been prevented during that time if the current ozone standard had been met.

A lower standard of 70 ppb would have prevented 2,450 to 4,130 deaths and a standard of 60 ppb would have prevented 5,210 to 7,990 deaths, the study contended.

If the current standard would have been met, there would have been 3 million fewer cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 1 million fewer lost school days a year, the study said.

The research, supported in part by the American Thoracic Society, was published online July 18 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

“The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has recommended adoption of an ozone standard in the 60 to 70 ppb range. Our analysis shows that implementing such a lower standard would result in substantial public health benefits,” Berman said in an American Thoracic Society news release.

Can Stress Making You Fat ?

 If you don’t keep your stress levels in check, it may be tougher to stay slim.

That’s the takeaway from a study published Thursday in the journal Obesity, which suggests chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can increase the risk of being overweight or obese.

Researchers tracked about 2,500 men and women ages 54 and older for four years, periodically taking hair samples to analyze their cortisol levels. Previous studies have linked spiked cortisol levels to weight gain, but samples involved blood, saliva and urine, which are less reliable than hair because they can change day to day. Study authors also recorded participants’ weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference.

Although the authors said their findings are limited due to the restrictive older population, all of who were white men and women, they noted that there was a clear association among elevated cortisol and a larger waistline, heavier weight, and higher BMI — a scale to measure body fat based on weight in relation to height.

“People who had higher hair cortisol levels also tended to have larger waist measurements, which is important because carrying excess fat around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and premature death,” lead study author Dr. Sarah Jackson, an epidemiology and public health professor at University College London, said in a news release.

While genetics, diet and lifestyle can have an impact on our weight, if you want to achieve your dream body — and simply reduce your risk to the aforementioned diseases — regulating your stress levels is key, the research suggests.

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips to better manage your stress:

1. Exercise, as the practice can have physical and mental benefits, several studies suggest

2. Take a break from the thing that’s stressing you out, and prioritize self-care

3. Spend time with friends and family, or simply call or email a loved one to express your concerns

4. Meditate because research suggests being mindful can alleviate emotions that may be causing physical stress

5. Crack a smile and laugh, as those actions can relieve pent-up tension

The 7 best foods to help you shed pounds

 To get the scoop on the foods that can help you get to that target weight, Fox News talked to Lauren Blake, RD, LDN, manager of sports nutrition at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to find out how to eat your way to the body of your dreams.

Avocado

Despite previous attitudes toward fat, the healthy kind shouldn’t be your foe, a 2016 study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology suggests. Avocado contains healthy fats that can help you stay full and satisfied, Blake said. “I like to call avocado nature’s butter,” Blake, who recommended smearing it on a piece of whole-wheat toast, told Fox News. “If I don’t have avocado in my house, it’s time to go to the store!”

Berries

A 2015 study published in the journal BMJ found that people whose diets were rich in flavonoids — which are present in foods like berries, onions and even wine — tended to gain less weight as they aged. Blake is also a fan of them for their high fiber and water content. “They’re a bit lower on the glycemic index, so they’re not gonna spike your blood sugar as quickly,” she said.

Lentils and beans

Fibrous foods like lentils and beans help you stay fuller longer, Blake explained. “Fiber comes from all plant foods, and typically, plants have more calories so you can eat more of them,” she said. “I’d rather be told I can eat more of something than less of something!” Research backs up that notion: A 2015 study published in theAnnals of Internal Medicine suggested simply focusing on fiber may offer more benefits than following a more restrictive diet plan.

Lean protein

Fatty fish like salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and lean, non-dark meat like chicken or turkey can also help ward off unwanted pounds, Blake said. Its protein, whether from plants or animals, can help keep you full, she explained. Part of the Mediterranean diet, lean proteins have long been hailed as powerful weight-loss tools, several studies suggest.

Non-starchy veggies

For weight loss, Blake advises her clients to fill half of their plates with non-starchy vegetables like bell peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Starchy veggies, on the other hand, include potatoes, peas and corn. In a 2015 study published in PLOS One, Harvard University researchers found that, after 24 years, men and women who consumed non-starchy produce, which is higher in fiber and lower in carbs, tended to lose weight. Like berries, non-starchy foods are lower on the glycemic index, meaning they lead to fewer blood sugar spikes and less hunger.

Whole grains

Although wheat and bread alone have become topics for debate in holistic wellness circles, Blake said whole grains — which are also rich in fiber — are an important part of a healthy diet. That doesn’t mean you should binge on bread, though! “I love things like brown rice and oatmeal,” Blake said, “[because] those are really great whole grains that typically have a little more fiber than bread.” If you’re going to opt for bread, Blake recommended looking for the 100 percent whole-wheat variety.

Dark chocolate

Also rich in flavonoids and healthy fats, dark chocolate has become somewhat of a superfood for weight loss in recent years. Research has linked its consumption to everything from curbed sweet cravings to reduced blood sugar spikes. Blake suggested enjoying a piece of the treat in bar form or mixing dark cocoa powder into a protein-packed smoothie with almond or peanut butter.

Kidney damage diagnosis may be inaccurate

 In a related Comment published today in The Lancet, Jonathan Barasch, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pathology and cell biology at CUMC, and colleagues Drs. Joseph Bonventre (Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Richard Zager (University of Washington Medicine) explain that the blood test, which measures serum creatinine — a waste product that is removed by the kidneys and excreted in urine — only offers a snapshot of the kidney’s function at a given moment, which can vary depending on individual factors such as body size and muscle mass.

Each year, an estimated 5-7 percent of patients admitted to hospitals in the U.S. and 30-50 percent of patients in critical or intensive care settings, are diagnosed with acute kidney injury (AKI). However, the true degree of injury cannot be known for many days because creatinine tests only provide a retrospective look at the kidney’s response to possible injury. In addition, the blood test can register “positive” for AKI even when the kidney may not have been injured.

“Nephrologists are trained to evaluate a constellation of factors in determining whether or not a patient has a condition that may temporarily affect kidney function, such as dehydration or heart failure, and to distinguish these temporary conditions from true kidney cell damage,” said Dr. Barasch, one of the authors of the study. “But in a busy, time-pressured setting such as the emergency room or intensive care unit, doctors rely to a greater extent on the blood test used as a proxy for measuring kidney function in order to make an immediate diagnosis. Unfortunately, the initial creatinine tests can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment.”

Misdiagnoses appear to be common, according to the researchers’ review of the electronic health records of 3.8 million emergency and intensive care patients. The researchers detected more than 61,000 diagnoses of AKI, as defined by rising creatinine level. Within three days, however, 73 percent of patients with an AKI diagnosis had creatinine levels that returned to normal, suggesting that many of these patients may not have had kidney damage.

“Previous studies have shown that a small but persistent change in creatinine level is a greater predictor of morbidity and mortality than a large, but transient, increase,” said Dr. Barasch. “But because the course of creatinine cannot be known when first seeing a patient, it is possible to deliver the wrong diagnosis. An initial misdiagnosis can lead to mistreatment, with potentially dangerous consequences.”

Failure to treat dehydration can quickly lead to irreversible kidney damage. In patients who already have kidney damage, rehydration therapy can cause pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

In the study, the investigators sought a more precise and timely method of identifying patients with kidney damage. They looked for biomarkers to distinguish between kidney damage and a transient condition, both of which activate a rise in the creatinine blood test. The researchers performed genomic analyses of mice with kidney damage and those with dehydration and a similar rise in creatinine levels. Their analyses revealed more than a thousand biomarkers (proteins) distinguishing these two conditions, with minimal overlap.

“Our ongoing studies may help to determine if these biomarkers can be deployed in the emergency or intensive care setting to improve the initial diagnosis and treatment plan when kidney damage is in doubt,” said Katherine Xu, a PhD candidate in Columbia’s Institute of Human Nutrition and lead author of the study.