Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Average American Male's Body Compared To Bodies Of Men From Other Nations (PHOTOS)

This is the average American male in his 30s.
usa body
He doesn't look too bad, right? Well, here's how he stacks up against his international peers from Japan, the Netherlands, and France.
country measurements
America's expanding waistline may not be new news, but throwing the average American male's body into a line-up spotlights America's obesity epidemic, which is exactly what Pittsburgh-based artist Nickolay Lamm did when he created these visualizations (which obviously deal only with body size and not ethnicity or skin color).
"I wanted to put a mirror in front of us," Lamm told The Huffington Post in an email. "Americans like to pride ourselves on being the best country in the world.However, it's clear that other countries have lifestyles and healthcare better than our own."
Here's a look from the front.
country measurements
And a side angle -- Oof, not the most flattering comparison for the American.He's second on the left.
country measurements
Lamm constructed the 3D models based on body measurements collected from thousands of men by universities and government agencies -- including the CDC, the Netherlands' RIVM , and France's ENNS . The average American male has a body mass index (BMI) of 29 -- significantly higher than Japanese men (who have a BMI of 23), men in the Netherlands (who have a 25.2 BMI), and French men (who have a 25.55 BMI.)
Lamm said he used BMI charts and photos for visual reference, and ran the models by Dr. Matthew Reed , an expert on body shape measurement, for accuracy.
"I chose the Netherlands because they are the tallest country and are clearly doing something right there," Lamm said. He chose Japan because it is well-known for its longevity , and France because, he said, "a lot of Americans like tocompare themselves to that country ."
So what are the Dutch and Japanese doing right?
Experts suggest it has to do with a complex combination of genetic, environmental and social factors. A good healthcare system, better nutrition, and more active lifestyles have been cited as reasons for the towering Dutchmen and long-lived Japanese.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Study Shows the Benefits of a Brisk Walk Over a Slow One

Study Shows the Benefits of a Brisk Walk Over a Slow One
We all know that walking is one of the easiest things you can do to keep yourself healthy, but if you want to increase those benefits without a lot of work, The New York Times suggests picking up the pace. P
It has generally been assumed that walking, no matter how fast, is beneficial. If you're walking slowly, you just need to walk further to get the same benefits as someone walking at a pace of around 15 minutes per mile. However, according to one large scale study , it looks like the pace might actually matter more than we initially though:P
Unexpectedly, the death rate remained high among the slowest walkers, even if they met or exceeded the standard exercise guidelines and expended as much energy per day as someone walking briskly for 30 minutes. This effect was most pronounced among the slowest of the slow walkers, whose pace was 24 minutes per mile or higher. They were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who moved faster, even if they met the exercise guidelines.
One important inference of these statistics is that intensity matters, if you are walking for health. "Our results do suggest that there is a significant health benefit to pursuing a faster pace," Dr. Williams said. Pushing your body, he said, appears to cause favorable physiological changes that milder exercise doesn't replicate.P
The solution? Walk faster:P
So check yours, your spouse's or perhaps your parents' pace. The process is easy. Simply find a 400-meter track and, using a stopwatch, have everyone walk at his or her normal speed. If a circuit of the track takes someone 6 minutes or more, that person's pace is 24 minutes per mile or slower, and he or she might consider consulting a doctor about possible health issues, Dr. Williams said.P
So, maybe even when you're not in a hurry it's worth picking up the pace a bit to get where you're going. P
Why a Brisk Walk Is Better | The New York TimesP

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Control Cholesterol

Fortify your HDL by pumping iron. Staying fit turns good cholesterol into greatcholesterol, according to research from UCLA.
As a reminder, there are two key types of cholesterol: 1) "good" HDL, which is responsible for cleaning your arteries; and 2) "bad" LDL, which gunks those arteries up in the first place. In the study, the scientists discovered that men who strength-trained were more likely to have HDL that did its job well than those who didn't hit the gym.
Why? The quality of those good guys is more important than the total amount of HDL in your bloodstream. “Just because someone has naturally high levels of HDL doesn’t mean it’s working better. When you exercise, your HDL gets more efficient, and it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your bloodstream clean of bad cholesterol and artery-clogging fats,” according to lead author, Christian K. Roberts, Ph.D.
And though researchers don’t know how exercise improves the quality of your cholesterol, they also observed that the lifters had lower levels of triglycerides, a marker of reduced heart disease risk. That's a direct effect of powerful HDL, according to Dr. Roberts. So if you want your HDL to do its heavy lifting, you have to pick up some weights first, which the researchers found to be true for both normal weight and overweight subjects. 
Target your body’s biggest muscles. In an Ohio University study, men who added lower-body exercises, like weighted squats, twice a week for 16 weeks saw a 19 percent improvement in their HDL. Try some of these supercharged squat variations to get started.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Herbal Treatments for PMS: Chasteberry Extract, Evening Primrose OIl, and More

What's popular -- and what the research shows -- about herbal remedies for PMS.
Herbal remedies for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are among the vitamins and supplements women spend billions on each year.
Of women who buy supplements, 4% do so to alleviate symptoms of PMS, according to one report. Some of the things they turn to include chaste tree extract (chasteberry), evening primrose oil black cohosh , and St. John's wort to chase away the premenstrual blues.
Do they work? Maybe.
There isn't conclusive scientific research about their effectiveness in curbing PMS symptoms. In the U.S., herbal supplements aren't required to prove their efficacy and aren't regulated by the FDA in the same way as prescription drugs .And there doesn't seem to be a consensus about the amounts to take to get the maximum benefit from any of these herbs.
WebMD asked doctors who specialize in treating PMS what they think about herbal treatments and other natural approaches to treating PMS.

What Is Premenstrual Syndrome and What Causes It?

PMS refers to physical and psychological symptoms that typically occur between 7 and 14 days before a woman's period starts and can last through her period.Those symptoms include headache , mood swings, irritability, bloating , cramps, sadness, indigestion, carb cravings, breast tenderness and pain, and sleep problems.
Every woman is different. Most, but not all, have experienced PMS symptoms to some degree, at some point. But not all get the same symptoms, and those symptoms range in severity between women, and even from month to month.
About 75% of menstruating women have some symptoms of PMS occasionally, while 5% report symptoms that are severe enough to mess up most of their month.
The exact cause of PMS is not known, but it is thought to be related to changes in hormone levels related to the menstrual cycle. Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) experience symptoms such as depressed mood, tension, and other symptoms that are typically more severe than those seen with PMS. PMDD is usually treated with antidepressants and in some cases birth control pills.

Herbal Supplements for PMS 

Of the herbal supplements mentioned in connection with PMS symptoms, chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) has gained the most traction with scientists for easing PMS-related breast pain . Chasteberry is a shrub that grows in southern Europe and Central Asia.
A few studies have shown that women treated with chasteberry extract reported less breast pain, bolstering the theory that chasteberry suppresses the release of prolactin, a hormone involved in breast milk production that's been linked to breast pain. It may also help with swelling, cramps, and food cravings. Another small study showed that chasteberry, combined with St. Johns' wort, lowered levels of depression anxiety , and cravings.
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis), which contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is often mentioned as an antidote to breast pain, but there's insufficient evidence that it works.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Salt and Snoring | Health News | The Daily Meal

Salt and Snoring: A survey found a link between increased salt intake and sleep apnea. Perhaps the cure to your sleeping woes is simply reducing the amount of salt you're eating? [HuffPo ]
The Huffington Post UK  |  Posted: 05/11/2013 11:07 GMT
Could avoiding salt-laden takeaways and crisps be the answer to curing your snoring ?
That's what a new study by Brazilian researchers is attempting to find out. The team, based at the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, is trying to uncover any sort of connection between salt and the more extreme version of sleep disorders - sleep apnoea.
SEE ALSO: How To Cope With Your Partner's Snoring (It Doesn't Involve Smothering Them With A Pillow)
How to Stop Snoring
One in 20 people in Britain currently suffer from sleep apnoea, which is the disorder where a person temporarily stops breathing because their throat closes repeatedly. It can lead to heavy snoring and tiredness during the day and often people aren't aware they have it until a partner who points it out.

The Daily Mail reported: "54 patients will take a diuretic pill every day, switch to a low-salt diet, or have no treatment. The number of apnoeas the patients suffer will be compared after one week.
"The diuretic pill and low-salt diet will both reduce the patient's salt levels. It's thought excessive salt intake leads to a build up of fluid in the body - when the patient is lying down, this fluid shifts into the neck during sleep, leading to a narrowing of the upper airways, and sleep apnoea."

For standard snoring, the NHS advises losing weight if you are overweight, not drinking alcohol a few hours before you go to bed and giving up smoking.
For sleep apnoea, being overweight is one of the key problems, and it is not unreasonable to assume that a diet high in salt is also likely to be high in fat. Junk food, for instance, tends to have high quantities of both.
It is also a condition associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), which high salt diets are associated with. Recently, a study revealed that people with sleep apnoea are far more likely to develop cardiovascular disease .
A report by the BBC revealed that sleep apnoea is treated differently across the country , and that it is on the rise because obesity is on the rise.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem -

Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.
Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.
Consumer advocates and scientists say the research provides more evidence that the herbal supplement industry is riddled with questionable practices. Industry representatives argue that any problems are not widespread.
For the study, the researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. To avoid singling out any company, they did not disclose any product names.
Among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes , nausea and flatulence .
Two bottles labeled as St. John’s wort, which studies have shown may treat mild depression , contained none of the medicinal herb. Instead, the pills in one bottle were made of nothing but rice, and another bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative. Gingko biloba supplements, promoted as memory enhancers, were mixed with fillers and black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies .
Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.
Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.
In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author, Steven G. Newmaster , a biology professor and botanical director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine , follow a number of smaller studies conducted in recent years that have suggested a sizable percentage of herbal products are not what they purport to be. But because the latest findings are backed by DNA testing, they offer perhaps the most credible evidence to date of adulteration, contamination and mislabeling in the medicinal supplement industry, a rapidly growing area of alternative medicinethat includes an estimated 29,000 herbal products and substances sold throughout North America.
“This suggests that the problems are widespread and that quality control for many companies, whether through ignorance, incompetence or dishonesty, is unacceptable,” said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest , an advocacy group. “Given these results, it’s hard to recommend any herbal supplements to consumers.
Representatives of the supplement industry said that while mislabeling of supplements was a legitimate concern, they did not believe it reached the extent suggested by the new research.
Stefan Gafner, the chief science officer at the American Botanical Council , a nonprofit group that promotes the use of herbal supplements, said the study was flawed, in part because the bar-coding technology it used could not always identify herbs that have been purified and highly processed.
“Over all, I would agree that quality control is an issue in the herbal industry,” Dr. Gafner said. “But I think that what’s represented here is overblown. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks according to this study.
The Food and Drug Administration has used bar-coding technology to warn and in some cases prosecute sellers of seafood found to be “misbranded.” The DNA technique has also been used in studies of herbal teas , which showed that a significant percentage contain herbs and ingredients that are not listed on their labels.
But policing the supplement industry is a special challenge. The F.D.A. requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proved otherwise.
Under a 1994 federal law, they can be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight, and they are pulled from shelves generally only after complaints of serious injury. The F.D.A. audits a small number of companies, but even industry representatives say more oversight is needed.
“The regulations are very appropriate and rigorous,” said Duffy MacKay of theCouncil for Responsible Nutrition , a supplement industry trade group. “But we need a strong regulator enforcing the full force of the law. F.D.A. resources are limited, and therefore enforcement has not historically been as rigorous as it could be.
An F.D.A. spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
DNA bar coding was developed about a decade ago at the University of Guelph.Instead of sequencing entire genomes, scientists realized that they could examine genes from a standardized region of every genome to identify species of plants and animals. These short sequences can be quickly analyzed — much like the bar codes on the items at a supermarket — and compared with others in an electronic database. An electronic reference library at Guelph called the International Barcode of Life Project, contains over 2.6 million bar code records for almost 200,000 species of plants and animals.
The testing technique is not foolproof. It can identify the substances in a supplement, but it cannot determine their potency. And because the technology relies on the detection of DNA, it may not be able to identify concentrated chemical extracts that do not contain genetic material, or products in which the material has been destroyed by heat and processing.
But Dr. Newmaster emphasized that only powders and pills were used in the new research, not extracts. In addition, the DNA testing nearly always detected some plant material in the samples —just not always the plant or herb named on the label.
Some of the adulteration problems may be inadvertent. Cross-contamination can occur in fields where different plants are grown side by side and picked at the same time, or in factories where the herbs are packaged. Dr. Gafner of the American Botanical Council said that rice, starch and other compounds were sometimes added during processing to keep powdered herbs from clumping, just as kernels of rice are added to salt shakers.
But that does not explain many of the DNA results. For instance, the study found that one product advertised as black cohosh — a North American plant and popular remedy for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms — actually contained a related Asian plant, Actaea asiatica, that can be toxic to humans.
Those findings mirror a similar study of black cohosh supplements conducted at Stony Brook University medical center last year. Dr. David A. Baker, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, bought 36 black cohosh supplements from online and chain stores. Bar coding tests showed that a quarter of them were not black cohosh, but instead contained an ornamental plant from China.
Dr. Baker called the state of supplement regulation “the Wild West,” and said most consumers had no idea how few safeguards were in place. “If you had a child who was sick and 3 out of 10 penicillin pills were fake, everybody would be up in arms,” Dr. Baker said. “But it’s O.K. to buy a supplement where 3 out of 10 pills are fake. I don’t understand it. Why does this industry get away with that?”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Kinds of Hospital Patients: Admitted, and Not

Judith Stein got a call from her mother recently, reporting that a friend was in the hospital. “Be sure she’s admitted,” Ms. Stein said.
As executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy , she has gotten all too savvy about this stuff.
“Of course she’s admitted,” her mother said. “Didn’t I just tell you she was in the hospital?”
But like a sharply growing number of Medicare beneficiaries, her mother’s friend would soon learn that she could spend a day or three in a hospital bed, could be monitored and treated by doctors and nurses — and never be formally admitted to the hospital. She was on observation status and therefore an outpatient. As I wrote last year, the distinction can have serious consequences.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tried to clarify this confusing situation in the spring with a policy popularly known as the “two-midnight rule.” When a physician expects a patient’s stay to include at least two midnights, that person is an inpatient whose care is covered under Medicare Part A, which pays for hospitals. If it doesn’t last two midnights, Medicare expects the person to be an outpatient, and Part B, which pays for doctors, takes over.
It’s rare to have hospital and nursing home administrators, physicians and patient advocates all agreeing about a Medicare policy, but in this case “there’s unanimity of dislike,” said Carol Levine , director of the Families and Health Care Project of the United Hospital Fund. Despite protests , the rule took effect on Oct. 1, but Medicare agreed to delay penalties for 90 days.
Meanwhile, administrators at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore have taken to calling the policy the Cinderella Rule, said Amy Deutschendorf, senior director of clinical resource management: “If you cross two midnights, you’re an inpatient. If not, you’re a pumpkin.”
Being a pumpkin can cost patients a lot of money. Under Part B, they’re billed separately for every procedure and visit and drug, and the co-pays can mount until patients owe hundreds or thousands of dollars — which they may only discover upon receiving the bills. “People are shocked,” Ms. Levine said. “Nobody is required to tell them they’re outpatients.” (Except in New York State, where the governor just signed legislation requiring that Medicare beneficiaries be informed of their observation status and be able to appeal it.)
More expensive, though, are the fees at rehab places or nursing homes, which Medicare will pay for after three days of inpatient care. Those who’ve been outpatients don’t qualify for that benefit and can find themselves on the hook for five-figure sums.
So patients are complaining, and so are hospitals. Older people in emergency rooms often have complex problems, and they are strangers to the physicians who must decide whether to admit them or not. “Nobody looking at the patients who come through the door can predict who’s going to be here for two midnights,” Ms. Deutschendorf said. Yet a hospital that admits patients who don’t need two midnights’ worth of care may face Medicare audits, denied payments, fraud accusations and financial penalties.
Johns Hopkins at least gives observation patients an information sheet telling them they’re outpatients, to forestall later shock. But “it causes them angst and results in deteriorating patient-physician relationships,” Ms. Deutschendorf said. She estimated that under the new rule, observation stays will double. “We don’t want to be the bad guys here,” she said.
Hospitals will lose money, too, it appears, since Part A reimburses at higher rates than Part B. An 18-month study of observation patients at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that they accounted for more than a quarter of adult general medicine stays. The hospital lost about $500 for each adult general medicine inpatient (the difference between cost and reimbursement); for observation patients, it lost nearly $1,400. Other studies have found that observation costs less, however.
Money matters, of course, but opponents of the two-midnight rule also point out that it lacks logic. “Hospital care is hospital care,” Ms. Deutschendorf said.But not always.
Say Patient X arrives at the emergency room complaining of chest pains at 11:58 p.m. on Tuesday and gets discharged from the hospital on Thursday morning after breakfast. Patient X will have stayed for two midnights, so he was an inpatient, covered by Medicare Part A.
Say Patient Y arrives with the same condition five minutes later, at three minutes past midnight on Wednesday morning, and also leaves Thursday.Patient Y stayed only one midnight, so even if he received precisely the same care, he’s a pumpkin, facing higher Part B co-pays.
Moreover, if Patient X receives medically necessary services and gets discharged Friday morning instead of Thursday, he will have stayed three days, and so Medicare will cover rehab care if he can’t safely go home. Patient Y has been an outpatient, so even after three days, he’ll have to pay for rehab himself.
What patient advocates really want is to get rid of that three-day hospitalization requirement for the Medicare nursing home benefit. But the odds don’t look encouraging. Last month, a federal court in Connecticutdismissed a class-action suit brought by the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Senior Citizens Law Center, seeking to overturn the rule. They have decided to appeal. (Therefore, federal officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will not comment.)
Legislation to allow any time spent in a hospital — as an inpatient or outpatient or both — to count toward the three-day requirement for skilled nursing coverage has gone nowhere in two Congresses, but it has acquired more than 100 House sponsors from both parties and more than 20 in the Senate. That may be the more likely situation, someday.
Meanwhile, families should at least ask, as the staff members fasten the plastic ID bracelet around a relative’s wrist: Is she an inpatient? Or an outpatient?