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WHO Declares H1N1 Flu Pandemic

World now at the start of 2009 influenza pandemic--first one since 1968.

Last Thursday, June 11, the World Health Organization declared the new influenza A H1N1 (formerly known as swine flu) a pandemic. This novel virus strain has not previously circulated in the human population. Although declared as "moderate", the speed at which it has spread, and the potential for a much more virulent form to develop spurred this declaration. No restrictions on travel or border closures have been declared.

The Challenge of Balance

Today we hear a lot about the dangers of cigarettes, too much fat, the wrong kinds of fat, excess sugar, too little sleep, too much sedentary living, etc., etc. We know these behaviors are bad for us! Could it be the cacophony of "nots" pushes us over the edge in the other direction sometimes?

When we discover something good for us, are we tempted to run with it to excess? I met a person recently who firmly believed in the virtues of eating slowly and masticating (chewing) thoroughly. He counted how many times he chewed each bite, and recorded it on a piece of paper along with what that bite contained. If he swallowed it all before he had reached 25 chews, he would exclaim, "Next time I need to chew more slowly!" He was disgusted with himself if he finished a meal in under 2 hours, also.

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Disease Risk Can be Programmed in Early Life

Rapid weight gain in early infancy raises risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in early adulthood.

Intuitively we know choices made today, may come back to roost sometime in the future, either to help or hurt us. The Bible said it long ago: "Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant" (Galations 6:7).

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A Self-Administered Memory Test for Dementia Screening

Predicting Alzheimer's disease just got easier!

The number of people with dementia is expected to double in the next 20 years! Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest form of dementia. Assessment of cognitive status is important for the physician in providing medical and social management to the patient and their family.

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Short Sleep Tends to Promote Hypertension

Turning out the lights earlier may protect you from hypertension.

Observational studies have reported an association between short sleep patterns and hypertension. Now a report comes from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort study finding shorter sleep duration and lower sleep maintenance (an indicator of the quality of sleep) predicted significantly higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. Those taking hypertensive medications were excluded, and results were adjusted for age, race, and sex. Research is needed to determine if more sleep would effectively treat hypertension.

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Good News for Weight Cyclers?

New study says weight cycling may not be as harmful as originally thought--but does increase weight gain.

Studies in recent years have suggested weight cycling may be associated with significant health risks, including a higher incidence of cardiovascular death.

A new study using data from the Nurses Health Study seems to suggest this is not necessarily so. Some 45,000 women were included in the study. Investigators classified those who lost 20 or more pounds at least three times as severe cyclers; those who lost 9.2 or more pounds as mild cyclers. During 12 years of follow-up, the cyclers had no higher risk of all-cause or cardiovascular mortality than the non-cyclers. However, the cyclers did gain more weight than the non-cyclers.

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Vitamin D May be Really Good for the Grey Matter!

Slow thinking may be linked to low Vitamin D levels.

Evidence is accumulating that Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to adverse cognitive performance. Research just released by University of Manchester (England) investigators has found that men with higher blood levels of Vitamin D performed consistently better in simple and sensitive neuropsychological tests that assess a person's attention and speed of information processing.

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An Important Lesson in Quality Control

Contamination of drugs and herbal preparations can kill!

We often hear or read criticism about the work of regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration. They are only human so sometimes mistakes are made. However, there is value in their work, as a frightening note in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine highlights.

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DASH Diets and Heart Failure

Can diet help you DASH away from heart failure?

 

Adherence to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been shown to lower blood pressure. This diet emphasizes high intakes of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.

New Swedish research reports from a large prospective observational study that women who most closely followed the DASH diet were 37% less likely to experience heart failure (HF) than those whose compliance was the poorest. Interestingly, the women with the lowest HF risk at significantly more daily servings of fruit (3.0 vs. 1.4), vegetables (3.5 vs. 1.8), and whole grains (5.1 vs. 3.3); and they consumed less sweetened beverages (0.1 vs. 0.4) and less red or processed meat (0.8 vs. 2.3).

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Are Your Eyes Fooling You?

Would you eat more unpalatable food from a small or large container?

You eat only for flavor and freshness, right? Think again! Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has discovered serving sizes do indeed make a difference--even when foods are not palatable!

Moviegoers in Philadelphia ate 45% more fresh popcorn when they received it in a large container compared to those who received the same popcorn in a smaller container. However, when given stale, 14 day old popcorn they disliked, people still ate almost 34% more when eating from a large container compared to a smaller one. That is amazing!