Tag: Health

Will An App A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

health app

With a big assist from technology, Americans are driving a major transformation of the nation’s health care system.

Recent years have brought us the passage of the Affordable Care Act, technology advances in sensors and devices, cheaper personal genomics, and the growth of the mobile app market. And all these things are empowering consumers to take control and become CEOs of their own health.

The rapid adoption of connected mobile devices is enabling the shift from a sickcare nation to a preventative care nation with big potential savings at stake.

This monumental shift in the way Americans approach health care comes just in the nick of time: as a nation, we badly need a kick in the behind.

More than two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese. According to one forecast, by 2020 more than half of us will be pre-diabetic or diabetic, creating a $500 billion annual drag on the economy.

But solutions are coming. And it starts with your mobile phone.

Before long, all of those devices will be sending real-time data about you to your doctors, nutritionists and trainers. Subjective medical findings will be bolstered by cold, hard stats on the continuous state of your health.

health app

In short, we’re headed for a world of truly personalized medicine, practiced from a central hub in the cloud.

Today, mobile apps are already solving health problems and providing personalized advice and communities. It is early days but you can see the potential. Here are some examples:

HealthTap is creating a mobile “triage” system, where consumers can ask doctors questions and find out the most effective way to get specific care.

Diabetic? Welldoc recently rolled out BlueStar, a doctor-prescribed app that offers coaching.

health app

Have asthma? Try the Asthmapolis sensor which passively logs your data via Bluetooth LE and gives you personalized feedback and education on how to control your asthma.

Having trouble getting pregnant? Glow will help you track your cycle and tell you the exact best time and how to get pregnant increasing your odds of success.

MyFitnessPal is teaching consumers a new way to track their nutritional intake and lose weight. Personal trainers will tell you nutrition is 80% of the battle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle that can ward off diabetes, heart disease – even cancer.

The core of the digital healthcare revolution will be day-to-day tracking of personal stats, also known as the quantified self. Many companies are trying to be this central health and fitness hub, including insurance companies.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Forget About Shots, Allergy Sufferers Can Now Find Relief In Toothpaste

If you have bad allergies you’ve probably been told that allergy shots are the best way to get relief.

But most people don’t like needles, and going to the doctor for a shot every week can be time consuming.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, there is a new way to treat your allergies, and it’s toothpaste. Not just any toothpaste, but a custom blended toothpaste with the same extracts that are in allergy shots.

It turns out the mucus membranes of the mouth are a really good way to show allergens to the immune system so it stops over reacting to things like pollen or mold.

Daniel Siefring is a year round allergy sufferer. He reacts to pollen and lots of other things too.

It turns out you can add the same allergens in drops to toothpaste.

Reisacher, an allergy specialist, compared the two approaches in a recently published study and found that they produced similar allergy relief, but that toothpaste was used more consistently.

The prescription kit is completely customized, the doctor or pharmacy adds in exactly what you’re allergic to, blends it into the toothpaste, and puts it into a handy pump.

Peanuts: the ultimate frenemy.

Now, Siefring treats his allergies with his usual morning routine, and no the paste doesn’t taste like cat, mold, or pollen.

Users have to brush for two minutes, which is what dentists recommend anyway.

Unfortunately, the toothpaste is not covered by health insurance. The cost works out to about $3 to $5 a day, so skipping the mocha frappucino in the morning could make your miserable allergy symptoms get better.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Breakfast Is Not The Most Important Meal According To Scientists


It might be the biggest nutrition myth. Here’s why scientists now say breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, and what it means for your diet.

For years, people thinks that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Eat a big meal to start the day and everything will be okay.

Turns out the “right thing” really depends on whether you want to eat early in the morning. That’s because two recent studies found that eating breakfast has no direct impact on weight loss. From a physiological perspective, there’s nothing special about eating early in the morninga and triggering weight loss.

In the study, which looked at more than 300 people, participants were split into 2 groups. One ate breakfast and the other did not.

While there were some small differences, the bottom line was that there was no significant difference in weight loss between the breakfast eaters and the breakfast skippers.

eating breakfast

In fact, both groups lost weight and this occurred without the researchers telling participants what to eat (or not eat) for breakfast. The growing evidence should be a welcome relief for those who don’t like eating first thing in the morning.

Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. 

But neither is lunch, dinner, or snacks. This isn’t meant to be puzzling or a letdown to those of you trying to crack the weight loss code. Believing that one meal is the foundation of success can be detrimental to your healthy living goals.

The problem with the breakfast-is-best hypothesis is that it steers people into the “there’s only one way to eat” mentality.

Healthy breakfast

The truth is, it doesn’t matter when you eat your meals: Morning, night, or spread out through the day. If there are behavioral reasons why you want to eat breakfast, such as it energizes or improves focus, then those are good reasons to have an early meal.

If breakfast feels forced or makes you sluggish, then there’s no pressure to force feed just for the sake of eating. In fact, recent research also suggests that  it’s your choice if you want to eat three meals, six meals or anywhere in between, and that there is a meal frequency that’s ideal for weight loss.

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Does Hot Drinks Really Cool Us Down In Summer?

The last thing you probably want to do on a sweltering day is sit down with a mug of hot tea, but science tells us that this in fact is the best way to cool down. It seems counter-intuitive, we know, but the explanation makes sense.

It all has to do with sweat.

Drinking a hot drink increases the body’s heat load and the body responds to that by sweating. The output of sweat is greater than the internal heat gain, and this is where it all starts to make sense ― when the sweat evaporates from the skin, it cools us down.

The sweat increases heat loss and reduces body heat storage. Good info to know, and it’s all thanks to Ollie Jay ― a researcher at University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetic ― and the research he published in 2012.

Our bodies sweat when we drink something hot because of nerve receptors on our tongue. When our tongue receives the information that a hot beverage is being consumed, it sends that info along to the brain, which then sets about to cool down the body by sweating.

But, there’s a little caveat you should know about.

If you’re drinking a hot drink in an environment where the sweat won’t evaporate like somewhere hot and humid  that hot drink probably won’t do the trick. You might want to stick to a cold beverage if that’s the case.

The hot drink still does add a little heat to the body, so if the sweat’s not going to assist in evaporation, go for a cold drink,” Jay said.

We recommend iced coffee, of course.

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Glasswing Butterfly’s Transparent Wings Can Cave Glaucoma Patients Vision Some Day

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which can cause in damage to optic nerve and result in vision loss.

Inspired by small structures on transparent butterfly wings, scientists have developed a manipulating surface which promises to ease the lives of glaucoma patients.

The research published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology stated that the wings of a glasswing butterfly (Greta Oro) were perfectly transparent as light could pass through them.

The sections of glasswing butterfly’s wings are coated in tiny pillars, which average only 100 nanometres in diameter and are spaced about 150 nanometres apart; as per the findings by the researchers at California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Interestingly, the size of these pillars is 50 to 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which gives them unusual optical properties.

The pillars are able to redirect the light which strikes the wings so that rays pass through regardless of the direction. This means, there is almost no reflection of light from the surface of the wing.

This redirection property, which is known as angle-independent antireflection, caught the attention of Hyuck Choo.

Choo, who is an assistant professor at Caltech, has been trying to develop an eye implant which could improve the monitoring of intra-eye pressure in people suffering from glaucoma.

Though the exact mechanism by which glaucoma damages eyesight of a person is still under study, the leading theory has suggested that sudden spikes in the pressure inside the eye can cause damage to the optic nerve.

Medication is beneficial to reduce the sudden spike in eye pressure and can prevent damage, however, it must be taken during the first signs of increased eye pressure.

Hyuck has developed an eye implant which is shaped like a tiny drum and has the width of few stands of human hair.

When implant is inserted into a human eye, its surface moulds with the increasing eye pressure, thus narrowing the depth of the cavity inside the tiny drum.

As a matter of fact, one can measure the depth by a hand-held reader, which gives a direct measurement of the pressure the implant is under.

The implant, though is quite useful, but it has one weakness. The accurate measurement can be only taken when the angle between the optical reader and sensor is almost perfectly perpendicular, i.e. 90 degrees. In case of other angles, the risk of false reading increases.

According to researchers, this is where the glasswing butterflies come into handy.

Choo stated that the angle- independent optical property of Greta Oro’s nanopillars could be used so that the light would pass perpendicularly through the implant.

This would make the implant angle-sensitive and also provide an accurate reading regardless of how the reader is held.

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The Science Behind The Question: ‘Why Exercise Is Good for the Heart’

Even a single workout could be good for the heart. That’s the conclusion of a fascinating new study in mice that found that 30 minutes on a treadmill affects gene activity within cardiac cells in ways that, over the long haul, could slow the aging of the animals’ hearts.

Although the study involved mice, the results may help to explain just how, at a cellular level, exercise improves heart health in people as well.

There’s no question that, in general, physical activity is good for hearts. Many studies have found that people who regularly exercise are much less likely to develop or die from cardiac disease than people who are sedentary.

Still, researchers have remained puzzled about just how exercise alters hearts for the better. Exercise is known to improve our blood pressure, pulse rate and cholesterol profiles, all of which are associated with better cardiac health.

But many scientists who study the links between exercise and heart health have pointed out that these changes, considered together, explain only about half of the reported statistical reductions in cardiac disease and death.

Other, more complex physiological modifications must simultaneously be taking place within the heart itself during and after exercise, these researchers have speculated.

And recently, researchers at the University of Maryland in College Park and other institutions have begun to wonder whether some of these changes might involve telomeres.

Telomeres are tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes, often compared to the tips of shoelaces, which help to prevent fraying and damage to our DNA.

Young cells have relatively long telomeres. As a cell ages or undergoes significant stress, its telomeres shorten. If they become too abbreviated, the cell stops working well or dies.

But while shorter telomeres indicate biologically older cells, the process is not strictly chronological, scientists have found. Cells can age at different rates, depending on the lifestyle of the body that contains them.

Aerobic exercise, in particular, affects telomeres.

In past studies, masters athletes have been shown to have longer telomeres in their white blood cells than sedentary people of the same chronological years, suggesting that at a cellular level, the athletes are more youthful.

But while it is easy to obtain and look inside white blood cells, far less has been known about telomeres within cardiac cells.

So for the new study, which was published this month in Experimental Physiology, the Maryland researchers and their colleagues turned to young, healthy female mice.

The researchers wished to see what happens inside heart muscle cells after a single workout.

So they taught some of the animals how to run comfortably on small treadmills and then returned them to their cages for several days so that their bodies would lose any aerobic conditioning.

Other mice remained sedentary as a control group.

Then the runners were placed back on the treadmills, where they ran at a tolerable intensity (in mouse terms) for 30 minutes, a workout designed to simulate moderate exercise in people.

Researchers took tissue samples of the animals’ hearts either immediately after they had finished running or an hour later, and also gathered samples from sedentary mice.

The scientists looked for changes within the animals’ cardiac cells in the levels of certain proteins that are known to directly prevent telomeres from shortening.

They also looked at the activity of other genes that help to keep DNA in good repair.

These genes release proteins that are thought to help cells adapt to the physiological stress of exercise and, in the process, also indirectly maintain telomere health.

It turned out that immediately after a single, 30-minute jog, the runners’ heart cells were noticeably different than those of the animals that had not moved.

In particular, they showed higher levels of the proteins directly related to telomere length. These increases were slight but consistent.

The runners’ cells also had markers of greater activity in the genes that respond to DNA stress than the nonrunners’ cells.

These findings indicate that a single, moderate workout beneficially alters telomere biology in the heart, says Andrew Ludlow, who was a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland and lead author of the study.

He currently is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Presumably, such changes would accumulate with repeated training, he says, and over time help to keep cardiac telomeres longer than without the exercise.

That process could be slow, though.

In this study, many of the effects seen in the animals’ hearts immediately after the run were beginning to dissipate an hour later, with protein levels dropping back almost to those seen in the sedentary mice.

So it may be necessary, Dr. Ludlow says, to stick with an exercise routine for some time in order to realize the cellular benefits for the heart.

It is also worth repeating that this study involved mice, not people.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Alternative Medicine For Cancer More Than Doubles Death Risk

Crystal healing stones are evidently a less effective way of beating a tumor.

Going the route of alternative medicine to treat a form of curable cancer instead of undergoing conventional treatment more than doubles a person’s risk of dying, according to a new study from Yale University researchers.

One in three Americans has engaged in some kind of alt-therapy with varying results, but when it comes to cancer, the data suggests that herbs and crystals will not save a life.

We now have evidence to suggest that using alternative medicine in place of proven cancer therapies results in worse survival,” lead researcher Skyler Johnson told the Yale News.

The researchers looked at 10 years’ worth of records from the National Cancer Database and found that 281 patients within that time who had early-stage breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancer who decided to take an alternative approach to their treatment.

Those patients were then compared to 560 others with the same diagnoses who chose more scientific approaches like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

Patients who chose alternative medicine approaches that include things like “herbs, botanicals, homeopathy, special diets or energy crystals — which are basically just stones that people believe to have healing powers,” Dr. Johnson said.

To account for disparities that people face in the medical world the researchers placed biases in favor of the alternative medicine group — they were all younger, more affluent and were otherwise healthy.

These patients should be doing better than the standard therapy group, but they’re not,” researcher James Yu told MedPage Today.

That’s a scary thing to me. These are young patients who could potentially be cured, and they’re being sold snake oil by unscrupulous alternative medicine practitioners.

With this data and the urging of oncologists and all of their cancer expertise, the researchers are hopeful that doctors can educate their patients and communicate to them all of the drastic risks of alternative medical approaches.

Because of patient autonomy, they can do whatever they want,” Yu said. “We’re always advising them (but) we can’t make them do anything.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Throw The Perfect Punch

If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to defend yourself through physical violence. But if that time ever comes, or if you’re ever enrolled in a Fight Club against your will, would you know what to do?

You’ve seen punches thrown on TV plenty of times, but do you actually know how to throw one correctly?

We’ve asked a few experts to help us learn the proper method of punching.

Our pros will show you the right way of making a fist, the proper way of orienting your wrist, what part of the person you should hit and what you should do after the punch.

The goal is to throw an effective punch without injuring yourself in the process.

When you’re punching, the fundamental thing you should know is that your thumb needs to be on the outside of your fist, between your first and second knuckles on your index and middle finger.

If the thumb is on the inside upon hitting a hard target you WILL break your thumb,” says Aiman Farooq, a Martial Artist.

Keith Horan, also a Martial Artist recommends a linear punch, which most martial artists do, that looks like a “cross” punch in boxing.

Chris Waguespack, also a Martial Artist says that the main reason why people hurt their hands when they punch someone is “because they punch with the flats of their fingers instead of their knuckles.

When you see people shaking their hands after a punch, it is usually because they impacted, more often than not, with the wrong part of their hand. Many people think that you punch with your fist straight. The truth is, you aim to punch with the first two knuckles. In order to achieve this, you need to slightly tilt your wrist down (which actually strengthens your punch as well). By tilting your wrist down slightly, you put your knuckles in front of your fingers. You also align your wrist with your forearm, so you are less likely to bend your wrist back or down and break it.

Where should I aim?

Because you want the fight to end as quickly as possible—you’re not fighting just to fight—you want to incapacitate your opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible so you can escape. So where should you aim to do so?

Keith Horan says that, unlike what you might think, you should not punch the face. “You’ll either miss, or commonly punch wrong and hit the jaw and break your hand.

The punch for the beginner is best used on the body, towards the chest, or if you’re on the side, to the ribs.”

Pete Carvill suggests a slightly different tactic, but also advises against the head.

Warning: Although knowing the fundamentals of punching is useful, it’s also not enough to properly defend yourself without practicing. It’s definitely not for you to go out and pick fights, but you all should be smart enough to figure this out on your own.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Could This Trick Make You Like Your Vegetables More?

Could we learn to like our vegetables more!? It’s a question that many of us may have wondered, as we struggle to get through a plate of broccoli.

Now, an experiment done with a group of UK school children thinks it might have the answer!

The study wanted to see if it was possible to train ourselves to like a food that we didn’t like before.

To find out, a group of young scientists aged 9 to 11 were split down into two groups.

Half of them were asked to eat a piece of the green vegetable kale every day for 15 days, while the other half ate raisins – and there were some very interesting results!

Most of the kids who ate kale every day found that they did like it more by the end of the experiment.

So, by making yourself eat something you may not really like over a period of time, you could learn to not hate it as much!

However, there were still some in the kale group who really didn’t like it – even after the 15 days was up.

It was discovered this was because they had more fungiform papillae on their tongue, which contain our taste buds.

The more fungiform papillae a person has, the more strongly they will taste flavours – especially bitter ones – so these children are known as ‘supertasters‘.

About one in four people could be ‘supertasters‘, which makes them more sensitive to strong foods, like lemons, spices and bitter vegetables, like Brussels sprouts

Therefore, these people may need to eat kale for slightly longer before they learn to love it.

Jackie Blissett, professor in health behaviour and change at Coventry University, said: “It’s been wonderful to work with these young scientists, and they’ve helped shed some light on one of the great mysteries: why some of us might not like our Brussels sprouts!

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Chocolate Production Generates A Lot Of Pollution

For decades, commuters and tourists have delighted in the mouthwatering smells radiating from the Blommer Chocolate Co.’s factory near the Chicago River downtown.

But following a federal agency’s complaint, the aroma will soon disappear.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently cited the family-run business for alleged clean-air violations, and officials are hurrying to install equipment that will reduce emissions — and stop the smell.

It’ll start to go away as we put pollution abatement equipment in place,” the company’s vice president, Rick Blommer, told The Associated Press.

The company that makes chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and other products for bulk sale is trying to resolve allegations that its cocoa-crushing process causes air pollution.

Still, the demise of the rich, brownie smell spilling from the 66-year-old Blommer plant will be a bitter loss, said odor researcher Alan Hirsch, head of the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.

Chocolate smells put people in a relaxed state,” said Hirsch, who likened the effect of chocolate vapors on the brain to an antidepressant.

It’s been shown bad odors increase aggression; pleasant ones make people more docile. So you could say the chocolate smell is a real service to Chicago.

Smells are a big deal in this city once closely associated with the stench of slaughtered cows and whose very name etymologists say comes from the American Indian words for skunk or onion.

But a pleasant smell to some is pollution to others.

In citing the company earlier this month, the EPA said inhaling the plant’s emissions in high concentrations can harm children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases.

But within smelling range of the factory, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t rave about the chocolate aroma.

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