How to Help Your Kid Cope With Back to School Anxiety

Cute pupils running down the hall at the elementary school

Remember setting out your outfit for the first day back to school? You probably felt a mix of excitement, wonder for the year, and a little anxiety. That wasn’t unusual then, and it especially isn’t unusual for kids today, who many experts say experience greater levels of anxiety and pressures than kids even just 10 years ago. Longer school hours, less free play, more pressure (can anyone say, “kindergarten applications?”), and other factors in their daily lives today likely all contribute.

My daughter just entered preschool, but I worry about this, too. How can we, as parents, help our children feel more confident at school? Having mommy sit next to them in every class isn’t exactly an option. And how do you know when their anxiety is beyond the usual back-to-school jitters? Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: The FDA Statement on Ovarian Cancer Tests and How Exercise Can Help Lower Both Your Risk of Death and Healthcare Bills

The FDA announced that the current ovarian cancer screening method is not always accurate. The test, called CA 125, which is most commonly used to diagnose women with ovarian cancer, may lead to many false diagnoses. “While certain cancers, including ovarian cancer, may raise the blood level of CA 125, the test is far from foolproof. Many noncancerous conditions may also raise the level of CA 125, causing healthy women to undergo needless follow-up. According to the American Cancer Society, no major medical or professional organization recommends the routine use of CA 125 blood tests to screen for ovarian cancer. Still, the test has been used extensively. Based on the FDA’s review of available clinical data from ovarian screening trials and recommendations from health care professional societies and the US Preventive Services Task Force, the agency said, ‘available data do[es] not demonstrate that currently available ovarian cancer screening tests are accurate and reliable in screening asymptomatic women for early ovarian cancer.’” The statement applied primarily to asymptomatic women who have a risk for ovarian cancer. (Fox)


Exercising after a night out drinking could decrease your risk of an early death. A recent study found that while drinking alcohol can decrease your lifespan overall, supplementing it with physical fitness could keep your risk in check. “Not surprisingly, they found that drinking itself is linked to higher rates of early death from any cause, as well as death from cancer. And the more alcohol is consumed, the higher the risk of early death. But when Stamatakis layered in the amount of exercise people reported, he found that only those who weren’t physically active—meaning they did not meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise a week—showed similar patterns of higher mortality. Among those who reported getting the recommended amounts of activity, their death rates were slightly lower as long as they drank with recommended guidelines (one to two drinks per day). People who drank beyond these amounts, at levels considered dangerous for their health, showed higher rates of death from any cause or cancer regardless of how much they exercised.” But this finding does not mean you can drink as much as you want just because you exercise regularly. The lead researcher cautioned that drinking in excess leads to many other health problems that can increase your risk for death. (Time)


Working out could decrease your healthcare costs, especially if you have heart disease. Exercising for at least 150 minutes of a week was found to lower costs significantly. “Patients with heart disease who did moderate to vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes at least five times a week saved an average of more than $2,500 in annual healthcare costs, the study found…The research suggests that if just 20 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease who are not getting enough physical activity would meet exercise goals, it might save up to $6 billion a year in health care costs…” The study noted that even people without heart disease could reduce their bills by exercising because regular physical activity severely lowers the chance of illness and improves overall health. (Reuters)

Why We Need More Funding to Fight the Zika Virus

Congress came back from its summer break this week and once again, failed to pass funding for the fight against the Zika virus. The situation is getting more urgent, with mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland now carrying the disease. Florida has seen 56 infections from local mosquitoes and thousands have gotten Zika from traveling abroad. There have already been 16 infants born in the continental U.S. with Zika, a number that will only rise from here.

The debate over Zika funding has been raging since March, when the White House called for $1.9 billion to help fight the spread of the virus. Congress whittled that down to a $1.1 billion bill that’s gone nowhere due to a political stalemate. Republicans tacked a rider onto the bill that would block Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood from getting any of the funding to help stop sexual transmission of the virus, and Democrats won’t vote the bill through with this rider attached. Puerto Rico has been the hardest hit U.S. territory, with almost 14,000 cases so far.

With the current bill looking unlikely to pass, Congress has until the end of the month to figure out another way to fund the fight against Zika before it breaks for election season. In the meantime, the Zika crisis continues and the agencies’ funds are dwindling.

Public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health, are currently running on fumes to fight the growing Zika crisis. The CDC has moved $38 million over from Ebola funding and $44 million from emergency response funds. Of the total $222 million the agency had allocated for Zika, it’s already spent $200 million of that, according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.

I spoke with Dr. Frieden today about the consequences if the CDC doesn’t receive the funding it urgently needs.

“If we don’t get the money we need from Congress it means we won’t be able to support state and local governments to test women and others for Zika virus,” he told me. “We won’t be able to learn more about the disease. We won’t be able to control mosquitoes more effectively.”

So far the CDC has been trying to track every pregnant woman with Zika, which it estimates is up to 584 in the U.S. states and 812 in the U.S. territories, with the majority in Puerto Rico.

CDC’s anti-Zika efforts aren’t the only programs that will suffer if Congress isn’t able to find money for the issue. The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will have to put efforts to develop a Zika vaccine on hold. The agency already has several promising candidates, including one that’s currently in Phase 1 of human trials. But if the agency doesn’t get funding by the end of September, it won’t be able to move on to Phase 2 of the trials, according to Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID.

Funding to fight Zika has broad support from the public, with a new survey from March of Dimes showing that 74 percent of Americans favor increased federal funding for research to prevent the spread of Zika. If you’re one of these people, don’t be afraid to let your representatives in Congress know that you support an urgent solution to Zika funding. I’ll be calling my representatives.

For more information on the virus and to find out who is at risk and how to protect yourself, visit the CDC’s Zika Virus page, which is updated daily.

Look out for our big show on Zika, with interviews with Dr. Frieden of the CDC, Anthony Fauci of NIAID, and all the information you need to know to stay safe, next week.

Today’s Headlines: The Ban on Antibacterial Soaps, Acupuncture and Yoga May Help Alleviate Pain, and Why Your Commute Could Lead to Poor Health

The FDA announced today that some antibacterial soaps will no longer be sold to consumers. This statement comes after careful assessment and evaluation of antibacterial soaps in comparison to regular soaps. “Antibacterial soaps and washes…are no more effective than conventional soap and water in preventing illnesses and may not be safe to use over long periods of time. The rule applies to products — such as liquid soaps, bar soaps and body washes — that contain one or more of 19 active ingredients, including the most commonly used, triclosan and triclocarban. Manufacturers will have one year to reformulate their products or take them off the market, the agency said.” The new mandate doesn’t apply to antibacterial soaps and washes used in hospitals and other medical centers. (Washington Post)

An analysis of numerous studies concluded that alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage therapy can help manage pain. Although studies done on these methods usually have low participation and are less common, government researchers were able to analyze enough of them to draw probable conclusions. “[Researchers] found evidence that: Acupuncture and yoga can help back pain. Acupuncture and tai chi can help osteoarthritis of the knee. Massage therapy gives short-term relief for neck pain. Relaxation techniques can ease severe headaches and migraine.” Americans spend over $14 billion annually on pain management, and these natural methods may help individuals save money. (NBC)

Your commute could be making you more stressed, less active, and heavier. A new study from the UK found that commuting could be hurting your health. “For one, there’s the added stress of traveling. Of the 1,500 commuters polled, the majority said stress was a major issue for them. Delays, overcrowding, uncomfortable temperatures, and a long journey were some of the frustrations they listed as detrimental to their well-being.  A longer commute may also lead to weight gain. Almost 38% of people polled said they had less time to prep healthy meals at home… Workers estimated that because of their commute, they were consuming an average of 767 additional calories a week. And of course, sitting in a car or on a train or bus leaves less time for exercise. Forty-one percent of commuters reported reduced physical activity, which can contribute to a higher body mass index and elevated blood pressure levels.” Walking, biking, or adopting more active commutes is not a realistic option for everyone so experts recommend taking on healthier habits such as standing rather than sitting on long commutes. (Time)

Should You Eat a Low-Sodium Diet?

spice blend

As a cardiothoracic surgeon, I know how heart disease can affect an individual and his or her loved ones. That’s why I’m a strong advocate when it comes to preventing disease in the first place. Prevention can be as simple as adopting healthier eating habits, illustrating how proper nutrition can make all the difference when it comes to your wellbeing.


Today’s Headlines: Updates on the Zika Virus and The EpiPen Problem

Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus can pass it onto their offspring. Researchers have found that it’s possible for female mosquitoes to both transmit and inherit the Zika virus although occurrences are rare. “The Zika virus can be transmitted by a female mosquito to her eggs, eventually infecting her adult daughters, researchers reported on Monday. But mother-daughter transmission happens so rarely among mosquitoes that it is probably not an important factor in the global Zika epidemic, according to the lead author of the study …In the case of Zika, only one daughter Aedes aegypti mosquito out of 300 inherits the virus from an infected mother, Dr. Tesh’s team estimated.” While this may not create a larger threat for the virus, it does mean that the Zika virus has a higher chance of surviving the winter. (NYT)

The Zika virus may cause hearing loss. A new study was released that said the virus could affect babies’ hearing. “Scientists report that out of 70 kids with Zika-related microcephaly, four had hearing loss that was caused by damage to the inner ear or damage to the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. The hearing loss couldn’t be attributed to any other cause.” Hearing loss joins microcephaly in the list of growing risks associated with the Zika virus.  (Time)

Mylan, the company that manufactures and sells EpiPen, announced they will be making a generic version of the drug. The company will sell the generic epinephrine medicine at a 50 percent discount than the branded drug, that skyrocketed to $600 for a pack of two recently. “The company said Monday that its U.S. subsidiary will put out a generic version of the EpiPen that will have a list price of $300 for a two-pack — about half the current price. It will be available in both 0.15 mg and 0.30 mg strengths.” Meanwhile, two other drug companies are looking for government approval to sell their epinephrine products to rival EpiPen. (NBC)

Today’s Headlines: Why You Should Snack on Nuts, The Link Between Obesity and Cancer, and How Your Coffee Cravings May Be Determined by Your DNA

Adding nuts to your daily diet may significantly reduce inflammation in your body. A new study has shown that eating a handful of nuts several times a week is beneficial. “Nuts may lower inflammation because they contain fiber, magnesium, antioxidants and other health-boosting ingredients, the researchers write. People who ate nuts at least five times per week had 20 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) compared to people who never or rarely ate nuts. They also had 16 percent lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), another inflammatory marker.” The type of nut did not seem to matter, although researchers noted that peanut butter did not have the same beneficial results. (Reuters)

Watch: How to Make Lisa Oz’s Not-Too-Spicy Nuts

A higher BMI may put you at risk for cancer. In a new analysis of more than 1,000 studies, researchers found that being overweight or obese could increase your risk of eight types of cancer. “While previous studies have found obesity can increase the chances of developing health issues like diabetes and heart disease, which can also raise the risk of early death, study authors noted excess weight can specifically drive cancer growth by promoting inflammation…Being overweight or obese leads to an overproduction of estrogen, testosterone and insulin, which can further fuel the progression of cancer.” Researchers identified the eight diseases as liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer, stomach cancer, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer, brain tumor meningioma, and multiple myeloma. (Fox)

More: The Plan to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Whether or not you crave coffee may be related to your genes. Researchers have found that a variation of a gene may determine why you need your daily coffee fix. “Those with a gene variant called PDSS2 drank one cup less a day on average than those without the variation, the investigators found… The findings suggest that PDSS2 reduces cells’ ability to break down caffeine. That means it stays in the body longer. The upshot: People with the gene variant don’t need as much coffee to get the same caffeine hit as those without it, the researchers said.” More research needs to be done to confirm these new findings and establish the biological cause and effect. Learn more about the pros and cons of drinking coffee. (CBS)