Preparing for Zika Virus as Mosquito Season Looms

Mosquito sitting on the skin

If you’ve been terrified by the evolution of the Zika virus story, you’re not alone. What started as a questionable link between rising viral infections and birth defects has turned into a growing realization that Zika virus could be the next big danger for pregnant women and their unborn children. On top of that, the rapid appearance of the virus has left many of those who are most threatened by the virus uninformed about Zika infection and how to prevent it. As the summer weather starts to kick into gear across the United States, I want to spend some time walking through what you should know about this new virus and what you can do to protect yourself.

MORE: Dr. Oz Answers Your Zika Virus Questions

Who should worry about infection?
In theory, everyone is at risk for infection, but some will suffer more serious consequences. The link between birth defects in the babies of mothers infected with Zika gets stronger on an almost daily basis. Pregnant women have to be very careful. Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, which means those most at risk for being infected are those who live in areas where infected mosquitoes might be found. Fortunately, not every mosquito carries the virus. A specific species of mosquito, called the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is the main carrier for Zika (as well as other diseases like yellow fever, dengue fever, and Chikungunya). The CDC also reports a lower risk of transmission from the Aedes albopictus mosquito.

Read more  »

The Relationship Between Health and Consciousness

women friends smiling laughing

In Slow Medicine, we optimize the seven spokes of the Slow Medicine Wheel of Health: the physical body, mental-emotional state, connection to nature, involvement in community, relationships with people and planet, relationship to the Divine, and life’s purpose — the latter of which drives all the other spokes, by giving us the reason and motivation to be healthy.

Truly, everything and everyone is interconnected. So while singing in a band, playing with one’s grandchildren, attending religious services, or participating in a social movement may seem like abstract, even irrelevant, ways of responding to chronic health issues, those steps, along with medical care, may in fact be the lynchpin for bringing us back into balance and making us well, through the ripple effect they cause in our lives. The objective, then, is figuring out what makes us feel the most vibrantly alive and healthy, and pursuing those things with a passion. Read more  »

Keeping Weight Off Likely Easier After First Year

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If you’re someone who’s trying to lose weight, you’ve probably seen your body yo-yo back and forth between weight loss and gain. In fact, keeping weight off after it’s gone is often the hardest part of cutting pounds in the long run. Research has shown this is likely because the body fights weight loss efforts by using clever tactics to bring that weight back even if  you don’t boost your calories. But new research soon to be published has found that keeping weight off in the long run isn’t a struggle forever. Their findings indicate that making it to a year without putting pounds back on may be enough to make lost pounds stay that way. Read more  »

Sharecare Top 5: Beat Spring Allergy Sniffles and Sneezes, 5 Ways Your Job May Be Hurting Your Health, and More

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Outdoor. Freedom concept. Beauty Girl

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Outdoor. Freedom concept. Beauty Girl

Get Sharecare’s roundup of this week’s most popular health tips and news:

1. It’s that time of year again: The flowers are blooming — and so are your spring allergies. But you don’t have to suffer all season long. Check out these 6 ways to put the brakes on spring allergy symptoms — starting today.

2. Workaholics, listen up! From over-the-top stress and anxiety to increased risk of heart attack, your health may be taking a toll if you work long hours. Discover how else your health may suffer, and get tips to improve your work-life balance.

3. Trying to get those blood pressure numbers down — but not really sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Find out how these 7 BP-friendly habits can help get hypertension under control.

4. Would you know what to do if a friend or loved one had a stroke? Would you know what to do if you were having one? Learn how to recognize the signs and get a doctor’s advice on fast-thinking moves that could save a life — including your own.

5. You already know which foods are unhealthy — but some are worse than others, especially if they contain one of these three ingredients. Darria Long Gillespie, MD, explains why — and how to suss them out on labels.

What You Should Know About Oral Cancer

healthy teeth

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s what you should know about this all too common cancer and what can do to help reduce your risk.

According to the American Dental Association, approximately 39,000 Americans annually are affected by oral and pharyngeal cancer and about 8,000 people die per year. Men are about twice as likely to contract oral cancer as women, and one in 92 adults will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime.

Some of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, or even worse — the combination of the two. Additionally, HPV 16, a strain of human papillomavirus that can be prevented with the HPV vaccine, can spread through oral sex and lead to oral cancer. Increased age, diet, and sun exposure are also believed to be factors.

It’s no surprise that research suggests gum disease also contributes to oral cancer, considering the many other health concerns it has been linked to. Research published in 2014 indicates that byproducts of the bacteria that cause gum disease may play a role in the development of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the mouth. Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer that can occur in several areas of the body, including the mouth. The results of the study suggest that the fatty acids produced by pathogenic oral bacteria can cause the Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus to switch from latency to expression. Yet another reason to take care of your gums! Read more  »

Poor Health for Some Means Problems for Us All

beautiful medical student close to becoming a doctor

One of the things that first drew me to medicine was that health problems touched all people. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, black or white, college-educated or didn’t finish high school, everyone gets sick at some point. As a doctor, I focus more on diseases than demographics. But over the course of my career, I’ve come to see how much your income, race, and education can matter in determining whether you get sick and what treatment you get as a result. The perfectly equal care I dreamed of providing as a medical student isn’t the reality for most patients in most health systems. It’s National Minority Health Month and I want to spend a few minutes talking about why minority health is so important, even if you don’t fall within a minority group yourself. Read more  »

3 Food Ingredients to Avoid No Matter What

mom and daughter

My toddler likes “Blue Cookies” (so called because they’re fluorescent blue and likely have nothing remotely natural in them). And, she prefers them over my homemade peanut butter cookies (Seriously. Does she realize I used the blender for the first time, like, ever?).

Sometimes getting your kids to eat healthy food seems like an epic battle. Many times, it’s just not worth the fight —  but sometimes, it is. While letting your child eat Blue Cookies (or their equivalent) every once in a while won’t cause her to grow an extra ear or make you #World’sWorstMom, some ingredients are worse than others. Here are three worth the effort to minimize in your children’s diet — and your own.  Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: New Stem Cell Research on Alzheimer’s Disease, Why Vegetable Oils May Not Be Helping Your Heart, and When Thyroid Cancer Isn’t Cancer

Researchers from the University of Miami are set to begin a stem cell clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The research trial is the first time the stem cells will be tested on humans to determine effectiveness. “[R]esearchers…are using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in an attempt to slow or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The team is aiming to enroll 30 patients who will be tested and observed for cognitive function, memory, quality of life and brain volume over the course of a year. Baumel and his team began investigating MSCs because of their anti-inflammatory properties and because they have shown the ability to develop into many different types of cells. The cells are also thought to promote neurogenesis, which allows the brain to produce new cells in the hippocampus, which is where new memory forms and Alzheimer’s disease begins.” The point of this study is to prove that this stem cell therapy is safe for people and could potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (Fox)

While vegetable oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, it may not help extend your lifespan. Most advice in recent years has been to reduce saturated fat intake and replace it with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils in order to boost heart health. “The new report, which analyzed 40-year-old data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, found no association between lower cholesterol levels and longer life, suggesting that reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet isn’t enough to reduce risk of death from heart disease. While the diet rich in vegetable oil did lower cholesterol levels over the 4-5 year study period, compared to a control group (who continued to eat saturated fat daily), the researchers found no change in the rate of death from heart-related ailments.”  Even though this particular study did not indicate that cholesterol and longevity are linked, “many studies show the benefit of statin medications to lower blood cholesterol, that are highly associated with a reduced risk of death.” (NBC)

A certain type of thyroid tumor is no longer considered cancerous. Doctors have renamed the tumor, “encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma” to “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features, or Niftp” – a change that could help many patients today and in the future. “[Doctors] have officially downgraded the condition and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat…The reclassified tumor is a small lump in the thyroid that is completely surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue. Its nucleus looks like a cancer but the cells have not broken out of their capsule, and surgery to remove the entire thyroid followed by treatment with radioactive iodine is unnecessary and harmful, the panel said.” This adjustment is projected to “affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States.” (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: New Aspirin Guidelines, Updates on the Zika Virus, and Which Foods May Help You Lose Weight

Older adults with a risk for heart disease may want to add an aspirin regimen to their diets. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released new guidelines for adults. “Adults aged 50 to 59 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade can benefit the most from taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day…” Daily aspirin past the age of 60 was not recommended for health reasons. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other indications of heart disease you may want to talk to your doctor about whether this new regimen may be for you. (NBC)

The Zika virus may be worse than previously thought. A representative from the CDC revealed that as they continue to learn about the virus, they grow more concerned. “A wider range of birth defects has been linked to the virus…And the mosquitoes that carry the virus could travel to more US states than previously thought…There were also reports of rare neurologic problems…” While more information was not provided at the time, the CDC said trials for a vaccine will likely start in 2017 and might be available to the public by 2018. (BBC)

Eating beans may help you lose weight. Analysis from many research trials showed that people who ate one serving of legumes a day lost weight. “…participants who ate about three quarters of a cup of legumes every day lost about three quarters of a pound more than those who didn’t eat legumes, regardless of whether the diets were geared to weight loss. Six of the trials also suggested that eating legumes was linked to slightly lower body fat, though there was no evidence of a difference in waist circumference.” Some of the trials were short and therefore not conclusive, but the correlation may still be substantial. (Reuters)