Review Category : Health

Iowa School District is Requiring Heart Rate Monitors in Gym Class

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBUQUE, Iowa) — Starting this school year, public middle and high school students in Dubuque, Iowa will wear heart rate monitors in gym class.

It’s all an effort to make sure students are actually getting some physical activity in P.E. class, and not just sitting on the sidelines.

Dubuque Schools Athletic and Wellness Director Amy Hawkins says this will also make writing report cards easier for teachers.

“It will be a large portion of their grade, because we want to grade them on what they’re actually doing in our class,” Hawkins said. “It really takes the opinion out of things. You know it’s not really ‘I think your kid is doing this and this in class.’”

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Woman Who Drank Toxic Tea Shows Signs of Improvement

iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) — The woman who was hospitalized in extremely critical condition after drinking iced tea laced with lye in suburban Salt Lake City is showing signs of improvement.

Jan Harding, who suffered severe throat burns, has reportedly whispered to her family and has gotten out of her hospital bed.

Police believe Harding drank a tea that had been mixed with the industrial cleaning solution lye.

Harding, who has ulcerated burns in her upper esophagus, hasn’t been able to speak for days– but now her breathing tube has been removed and she seems to be improving.

Lye is an extremely harsh chemical and is an ingredient in a cleaning product meant for de-greasing deep fryers. Investigators think it was mistakenly mixed into a bag of sugar, which a worker at Dickey’s Barbeque unknowingly added to the ice tea dispenser.

Harding, they think, was the only customer burned.

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Iowa School District is Requiring Heart Rate Monitors in Gym Class

iStock/Thinkstock(DUBUQUE, Iowa) — Starting this school year, public middle and high school students in Dubuque, Iowa will wear heart rate monitors in gym class.

It’s all an effort to make sure students are actually getting some physical activity in P.E. class, and not just sitting on the sidelines.

Dubuque Schools Athletic and Wellness Director Amy Hawkins says this will also make writing report cards easier for teachers.

“It will be a large portion of their grade, because we want to grade them on what they’re actually doing in our class,” Hawkins said. “It really takes the opinion out of things. You know it’s not really ‘I think your kid is doing this and this in class.’”

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Girl With Rare Disorder Has One Birthday Wish

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ali Najera is turning 10 next month and it’s a birthday that calls for a big celebration. Diagnosed at age 8 with a rare neurological disorder, making it to 10 years old is a gift in itself for this Texas girl, and Ali wants one thing to mark the occasion.

“She want cards from all over the world,” Tianna Morgan, Ali’s mother, told ABC News.

Ali, one of five children, was diagnosed with neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA) two weeks after her 8th birthday. The disorder is progressive and causes movement and communication difficulties.

“She has iron accumulating in her brain, and it’s actually destroying a part of her brain,” Morgan said. “As it accumulates, it affects her nervous system and her muscle tone, and eventually it will take away her ability to control any of her muscles.”

Though Ali has had the diagnosis for two years, her mother said, it has rapidly progressed within the last year. At the end of July, Ali found out she was going to have to stay in a wheelchair, but she continues to stay positive.

“Even through all this, she always has a smile on her face,” said Morgan.

On Sept. 9, Ali will turn 10, and it’s an important milestone to reach.

“It’s a double digit birthday,” Morgan said. “We don’t know how many birthdays she has left.”

Ali’s mother has worked to get out the word of Ali’s wish for birthday cards from all over the world to as many people as possible.

“That’s a wish we hope we can grant,” Morgan said.

Early birthday cards sent to Ali have instantly brightened her day, Morgan said. Though Ali stays in her room a lot because of how difficult it is for her to get around, when cards are delivered she always comes out to read them.

“She loves all of her birthday cards,” Morgan said. “Every single one is special to her.”

“It’s been very inspirational and touching to see how much love is being shown towards Ali,” Morgan said.

You can participate by sending a birthday card marked with “Ali’s Birthday” to P.O. Box 2586, Jasper, TX 75951.

Need some card-related inspiration? Ali loves princesses, music, coloring, reading and anything that falls under the category of “artsy stuff.”

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Minimizing Salt Intake Could Save Over One Million Lives Annually Worldwide

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers say that minimizing salt intake could help prevent upwards of 1.5 million deaths each year.

According to the study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, taking in less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day could reduce high blood pressure for most Americans. On average, the researchers say, Americans take in nearly twice the recommended amount of salt daily. Furthermore, approximately 58,000 Americans die each year due to diseases linked to high salt consumption.

Worldwide, researchers say, an estimated 1.65 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010 were attributable to excess sodium intake.

Researchers say further evidence must be collected to determine potential risks and benefits of low-sodium diets, but that adhering to existing World Health Organization recommendations of 2,000 milligrams per day is the best option until further investigation can be done.

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WHO Provides Update on Ebola Outbreak, Warns Against False Treatments

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The World Health Organization released an update on Friday acknowledging about 150 new cases of Ebola and nearly 100 more deaths after saying on Thursday that the existing figures may have “vastly underestimate[d] the magnitude of the outbreak.”

On Friday the WHO acknowledged again that their numbers still were unlikely to paint a final picture of the degree to which the disease has spread. After airlines expressed concern over the possibility of air travel being a high-risk activity for the transmission of the disease, the United Nations health agency noted, yet again, the that disease cannot be transmitted through the air and simply traveling on a plane with an individual who has Ebola would not put passengers or crew at a severe risk.

The WHO also released a country-by-country breakdown of the outbreak, which noted 152 new cases and 76 new deaths within the last two weeks. In total, the agency says there have been 2,127 cases of Ebola and 1,145 deaths.

The release also paralleled a U.S. Food and Drug Administration release from Thursday, which warned consumers about the danger of products marketed on the Internet that claim to treat or prevent Ebola. The WHO notes a pair of people in Nigeria who died after drinking salt water, which was rumored to be protective against Ebola.

“Decades of scientific research have failed to find a curative or preventive agent of proven safety and effectiveness in humans,” the WHO said, “though a number of promising products are currently under development.”

Even those products, however, are far from ready for widespread use in humans.

“Evidence of their effectiveness is suggestive, but not based on solid scientific data from clinical trials,” the WHO noted. Pointing out that the safety of using experimental drugs is not known, and while they have approved the use of the experimental drug in exceptional circumstances, supplies are limited or exhausted.

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American Doctor with Ebola Is ‘Recovering in Every Way’

Courtesy Samaritan’s Purse(ATLANTA) — An American doctor who contracted Ebola said he’s “continuing to heal” in an isolation ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, contracted the deadly virus while working in a Liberian Ebola ward with the aid agency Samaritan’s Purse. He was evacuated to the U.S. earlier this month along with coworker Nancy Writebol.

“There are still a few hurdles to clear before I can be discharged, but I hold on to the hope of a sweet reunion with my wife, children and family in the near future,” Brantly said in a statement Friday.

Brantly is the first-ever Ebola patient to be treated in the U.S. and the first human to receive the experimental drug known as ZMapp. According to reports, Brantly’s condition deteriorated so quickly that doctors in Africa decided to give him the drug in a last-ditch effort to save him.

Brantly’s condition started to improve dramatically within an hour after getting the drug, according to Samaritan’s Purse, but it’s unclear if the improvement was directly related to the medication. After his health stabilized, Brantly was evacuated on a specially outfitted plane to Atlanta, where he has spent almost two weeks in a hospital isolation ward.

Writebol, 59, also survived after getting the drug and is recovering at Emory University Hospital.

At least 1,145 people have died in the worst-ever Ebola outbreak, which spans Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.

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Synthetic Pot ‘Smacked!’ Prompts State of Emergency in NH

iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) — New Hampshire officials have declared a state of emergency after a string of synthetic pot overdoses in Manchester and Concord.

The state is working to quarantine the bubblegum flavor of “Smacked!” — a product chemically engineered to mimic marijuana but sold as potpourri at some convenience stores, according to a statement from Gov. Margaret Hassan.

“These products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses,” Hassan said. “I have declared a State of Emergency so that we can move quickly to stop the sale of this dangerous substance that has caused an outbreak of serious overdoses.”

“Smacked!” has hospitalized at least 20 people in Manchester since Aug. 11 and triggered “serious medical reactions” in 21 more, according to the governor’s office. Concord police reported another three overdoses in the last 24 hours alone.

“It’s very important that individuals be made aware that use of this product poses serious and immediate danger to their personal health,” said New Hampshire Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. “We strongly recommend the public avoid any use of this product, and we will work with local police departments as quickly as possible to put the quarantine into effect.”

Synthetic pot products are engineered to act like tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They’re labeled as “herbal incense products” that are “not for human consumption,” according to Hassan’s statement. But people are known to smoke them or brew them into tea for a high.

The spice brands “Crazy Monkey” and “Green Giant” have also tested positive for controlled substances, according to Hassan’s statement.

“We are strongly recommending that merchants who have similar products remove them from their shelves and destroy their current inventory,” said Attorney General Joseph Foster. “Retailers that continue to knowingly sell these dangerous or illegal products are placed on notice that they could be held responsible for harm caused to a user of the product.”

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Why These Kids Can’t Stop Eating: Life with Prader-Willi Syndrome

Hannah Wilkinson, 14, pictured. (Courtesy Tonya Wilkinson)(NEW YORK) — Every waking minute of Hannah Wilkinson’s day is filled with intense hunger.

“Even if she’s just eaten, we can … sit down, have dinner, finish, I can take her plate away, and she’ll look at me and say, ‘Mom, I’m hungry,’” Wilkinson’s mother Tonya Wilkinson told ABC News’ 20/20.

The 14-year-old’s hunger rules her family’s lives. At their home in Phoenix, the kitchen is on full lockdown, with a padlock on the refrigerator, no food in the cabinets, and a constantly locked pantry door.

“When we got a dog, I did not even think about dog food. It didn’t even cross my mind that I had to lock up the dog food,” Tonya Wilkinson said. “I have caught her…eating dog food.”

Hannah Wilkinson was born with a rare condition called Prader-Willi syndrome, caused by a chromosomal flaw. Prader-Willi syndrome, which strikes only one in 15,000 people, can cause learning issues, muscles weakness and a slow metabolism.

But the condition mostly creates an insatiable appetite, which has pushed Hannah Wilkinson to almost 350 pounds, her heaviest weight ever.

“The hypothalamus, the part of our brain that controls our hunger, with children or adults with Prader-Willi Syndrome, is pretty much shut off, so they don’t know that they’re not hungry,” Tonya Wilkinson said.

For Hannah Wilkinson’s mom, this means constant vigilance. Tonya Wilkinson recalled a time when she was cleaning the kitchen after dinner and her daughter shoved a huge piece of pot roast into her mouth.

“I turned around, and she was choking. They do not chew. They swallow. And a lot of deaths, unfortunately, with Prader-Willi, you know, is the choking,” said Tonya Wilkinson.

Like Hannah Wilkinson, 12-year-old Alexis Shapiro from Cibolo, Texas, also suffers from an intense desire to eat.

After a surgery to remove a rare brain tumor in 2011, Shapiro developed the disorder when she was 9 years old, unlike Hannah Wilkinson, who was born with the syndrome.

“As soon as she woke up from surgery, she immediately started asking for food,” Ian Shapiro, Alexis Shapiro’s father, told 20/20.

Even before she was released from the hospital, Alexis Shapiro gained eight pounds. Once they got home, things only got worse.

“She was 52 pounds at surgery, and then it went up to 75, and a 100,” Alexis Shapiro’s mother Jenny Shapiro told 20/20. “She’d wear something twice and then she would outgrow it.”

It turned out Alexis Shapiro’s surgery had altered the part of her brain that regulates appetite, giving her similar symptoms to Hannah Wilkinson. The 12-year-old topped out at 203 pounds.

Obesity experts, like Dr. Robert Lustig, are looking at cases like Alexis Shapiro’s to better understand weight gain in the rest of the population. They say the key is the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that, when damaged, releases insulin causing an insatiable appetite. Controlling that insulin might be a solution to fighting obesity.

“The same thing occurs in people without brain tumors,” Lustig told 20/20. “When we get the insulin down, they feel better. They lose weight, and their lives turn around, so the target is not calories. The target is insulin.”

But Lustig’s work is still in the experimental phase. Desperate to stop Alexis Shapiro’s weight gain right away, her parents turned to surgery.

“After doing lots and lots of research, I found that some patients have had success with gastric bypass surgery, and after the very first consultation, I felt like I had hope,” said Jenny Shapiro.

Since the surgery, Alexis Shapiro’s appetite has returned to normal. She is more active and has lost 50 pounds.

For Hannah Wilkinson and others born with abnormal chromosomes causing Prader-Willi, these kinds of surgeries are not an option because they do little to suppress appetites.

Tonya Wilkinson says her only hope now is to get her daughter to a specialized facility that offers around the clock monitoring and meal planning. But for now, even that is a fight because Tonya Wilkinson said she can’t get her insurance company to cover it.

“Insurers consider it to be your own fault. They consider it to be a matter of gluttony and sloth,” Lustig said. “And Prader-Willi patients are the proof that that is not true. So because insurers still view obesity as a behavior, Prader-Willi sometimes gets swept under the rug.”

“It is a life or death issue,” Tonya Wilkinson said. “And if I don’t get help, I will lose her.”

Watch the full story on ABC News’ 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

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Utah Woman Critical After Drinking Sweet Tea with Lye

iStock/Thinkstock(SOUTH JORDAN, Utah) — A Utah woman remains in extremely critical condition after having drunk contaminated sweet tea at a South Jordan restaurant last Sunday.

Police believe that an employee at Dickey’s Barbeque Pit inadvertently mixed a toxic cleaning agent in the tea that resembled a bag of sugar. The substance, used to clean fryers, is predominantly lye.

According to her husband, 67-year-old Jan Harding had just sipped the beverage when she immediately complained of drinking acid.

Attempts at spitting out the liquid were unsuccessful and Harding was immediately rushed to a local hospital and then airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital’s burn center to treat severe burns to her mouth and throat.

An attorney for the family suggested it was unconscionable that a “toxic, poisonous material would be in the food prep area.”

No other customer was injured. Harding was the first to drink the tea that day and the employees dumped the rest of the vat out following her injury.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing their investigation of the incident in an effort to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

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