Stories tagged health

Several major news outlets (Washington Post and NYTimes) are reporting on new findings released today that show we simply don't know enough about the safety risks associated with many new nanotechnologies. Learn more about this new science.

Sep
21
2006

The CDC has more than 100 million doses of this year's flu vaccine available--enough so that anyone who wants one can get one. (Doctors and clinics will start receiving the vaccine next month.)

Last year 86 million doses were available, but 4.8 million went unused. Yet 200 million Americans are either considered high risk themselves or have close contact with someone at high risk and should consider getting the shot.

People on the CDC's priority list include:

  • Health care providers,
  • Children between 6 months and 5 years old,
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease,
  • And people older than 50.

It's best to get vaccinated in October or November so there's time for immunity to develop before the flu season hits. But numbers of influenza cases usually peak in February, so even a late shot offers some protection.

Every year somewhere between 5 and 20% of the US population catches influenza. 200,000 of them need hospital care, and 36,000 die.

So...will you be getting a flu shot this year? Vote in our poll, and tell us why or why not.

Sep
21
2006

Today the CDC announced its new recommendation that all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 be routinely checked for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Why the change? About one million Americans are infected with HIV, but 25% of them have no idea that they're carrying the virus. Routine testing should help check the spread of the disease and preserve health as infections are caught earlier.

The CDC's recommendation isn't binding, but it does influence what doctors do and what health insurance covers. And the blanket recommendation might help reduce the stigma associated with HIV testing.

What do you think? Will you get screened for HIV at your next physical? Why or why not?

Neurologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study the brain function of a woman who'd been in a coma for five months. To their surprise, when they asked her to respond to commands or imagine things, her brain "lit up" in the same way that the brains of healthy subjects did. The scientists caution that this is likely not the situation for many vegetative patients.

Sep
08
2006

Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy  Wikipedia
Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy Wikipedia

Have you ever been sunburned? Did you wear sunscreen? A recent study published in New Scientist might change your mind on how frequently an individual should reapply sunscreen.

Researchers at the University of California Riverside stated, “if you apply sunscreen anything less than once every two hours, you might be better off not using any in the first place.”

Kerry Hanson and colleagues exposed human skin samples grown in a lab to UV radiation. The samples were covered with three common UV filters found in many sunscreens (benzophenone-3, octocrylene and octylmethoxycinnamate). Findings suggested the protective compounds sunk into the skin resulting in its protective capability being greatly reduced.

Researchers also found the skin samples tested contained more reactive oxygen species (ROS) when compared to skin exposed to UV without sunscreen application. ROS are free radicals that damage skin cells and increase the odds of skin cancer. At low levels, ROS are able to assist in cell signaling processes. However, at higher levels ROS damage cellular macromolecules and could lead to apoptosis (programmed cell death).

For now the researchers advise to use sunscreens and reapply them often. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Active individuals are advised to reapply even more frequently due to sweat washing away sunscreen.

Aug
24
2006

Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.Coutesy lissame
Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.
Coutesy lissame

One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.

Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?

Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's Anatomy
Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's AnatomyCourtesy Gray's Anatomy

I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.

A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.

So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.

In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.

The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?

Aug
23
2006

Bubblegum: Courtesy of anva
Bubblegum: Courtesy of anva

Wouldn’t it be great if chewing gum could actually help your teeth? Well it may soon be possible.

The German company, BASF, has developed a chewing gum with helpful bacteria that can prevent tooth decay.

Dental cavities are caused by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. When S. mutans attaches to our teeth, it converts sugars into harmful acids that eat away at our tooth enamel.

The friendly bacteria in the chewing gum, Lactobacillus anti-caries, causes the S. mutans bacteria to clump together and thus prevents them from sticking to the teeth.

Research of the effectiveness of this gum has shown that it is able to reduce the presence of S. mutans to one-fiftieth of its original level.

Dentists emphasize that the chewing gum should not be a substitution for brushing our teeth. L. anti-caries targets only one type of plaque causing bacteria. There are many types of bacteria that cause plaque. We should still brush our teeth, use fluorides, and reduce our sugar consumption to help fight tooth decay.

In addition to including the friendly bacteria in chewing gum, BASF is proposing to use L. anti-caries in other oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Dental benefits are not the only positive effects of Lactobacillus bacteria. A different stain of Lactobacillus has long been used in yogurt and is known to help with digestive problems. Scientists at BASF are also looking into using different strains of Lactobacillus to help eliminate body odor and help repair damaged skin.

The first Lactobacillus products will likely hit stores in 2007.

Adding yet another piece of evidence to the modern debate, the NY Times reports on some science that shows that coffee's positive side. There is one annoying point about this article though. The author regularly refers to a "cup of coffee." How much is that? 12oz? A travel mug full? 5oz.? Need some unit here folks.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently drew a correlation between drinking excess amounts of soda or sugary drinks and weight gain. Researchers stated an extra soda or sugary drink a day can pile on fifteen extra pounds in a year.