Review Category : Health

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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Insomniacs Get a New Sleep Aid

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Move over Ambien, Lunesta and other sleep aids. There’s a new kid in town. The FDA has given its approval to a drug called Belsomra, which helps insomniacs get to sleep and stay asleep.

Belsomra, which should hit the market later this year or in early 2015, will be available in dosages of five, 10, 15 and 20 milligrams with doctors expected to prescribed the lower strengths to help patients avoid drowsiness the next morning.

Those taking Belsomra should do so within 30 minutes of going to bed with the expectation of sleeping seven hours.

Although the drug proved far more effective than a placebo in clinical trials, it wasn’t tested against the sleep aids already on the market.

It’s estimated that at least 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia.

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Adults’ Top Kid Worries: Obesity and Bullying

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Rightfully so, American adults are worried about all the problems that children face these days, but probably none more so than the obesity epidemic, which can put kids at a disadvantage as early as their toddler years.

Of the more than 2,000 adults surveyed in a University of Michigan poll on children’s health, 55 percent ranked obesity number one.

Meanwhile, bullying came in second place with 52 percent, followed by drug abuse at 49 percent.

Poll director Matthew Davis says one of the chief reasons for the poll was to give health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders a better understanding of how to deal with the problems affecting youngsters in their own backyards “to improve and safeguard our children’s health.”

Here’s the list of the top ten concerns and the percentage of respondents who listed them as their major concerns:

  1. Childhood obesity: 55 percent
  2. Bullying: 52 percent
  3. Drug abuse: 49 percent
  4. Smoking and tobacco use: 47 percent
  5. School violence: 44 percent
  6. Child abuse and neglect: 42 percent
  7. Alcohol abuse: 41 percent
  8. Internet safety: 40 percent
  9. Gun-related injuries: 39 percent
  10. Teen pregnancy: 37 percent

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Eye Movements May Be Key Marker of ADHD

iStock/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a serious behavioral disorder but as just as serious is the misdiagnosis of the condition, which can result in patients needlessly receiving the powerful stimulant Ritalin.

However, researchers from Tel Aviv University believe they have a foolproof way of knowing whether a child or adult is suffering from ADHD and that’s from observing involuntary eye movements.

Using participants diagnosed with ADHD and a control group without the disorder, the researchers had them take an ADHD diagnostic computer test.

The chief difference was that ADHD group was given the test both before and after taking Ritalin.

What Dr. Moshe Fried and his team observed was that those with ADHD were unable to suppress eye movements in anticipation of visual stimuli prior to their medication.

But once the Ritalin took effect, they could control their eye movement equally as well as the control group participants. According to Fried, “Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD,” making it a far more accurate gauge on whether someone is indeed afflicted with the disorder.

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Experts Weigh In on the Health Benefits of Hot Lemon Water

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Given the staggering number of freshly pressed juices, herb-filled supplements and complicated cleanses that have flooded the nutritional market, it is perhaps surprising that the most popular elixir in the wellness community of late is made of just two simple ingredients.

Nutritionists, celebrities and healthful eating enthusiasts all over the Internet seem to agree: A single glass of hot lemon water before breakfast can not only help you stay hydrated but may also improve digestion and regulate an overactive appetite.

Miranda Kerr told Net-a-Porter that she begins each day with warm water and lemon, which she claims cleanses the body. On her blog, Lauren Conrad termed the citrus fruit and still water a “match made in heaven.” And Stacey Kiebler confirmed in People magazine that she, too, relies on the beverage to jump start her day.

Between them, these imbibers have claimed that the brew has helped them lose weight, cleared up their skin, and even equipped their body to better absorb vitamins and minerals.

Celebrity nutritionist Keri Glassman, who launched Nutritious Life magazine, told ABC News that she often drinks water with lemon in the morning.

If for nothing else, she said, as a method to ensure that she stays hydrated. “Many people like the taste [of lemon] and if that gets you to drink water then that alone is positive,” she said.

As far as resolutions go, the habit is certainly not a difficult one to pick up. According to Melisse Gelula, the co-founder and editorial director of Well + Good, an online wellness bible, the ease with which enthusiasts can find hot water and lemon feeds its widespread appeal.

Unlike so many other fitness and health fads, this one does not require a substantial investment of time or money.

“You don’t need to be a member of the wellness cognoscenti to do it,” Gelula surmised. “It has become one of those ‘Health 101′ things that people all across the spectrum can do. … You don’t have to be a green juicing kind of person to enjoy it.”

And while the drink is most popular in the morning, Gelula recommended it as an after-dinner drink.

“Right after you’ve had something a little rich or a little indulgent, I kind of like lemon water,” she said. “If it’s post-Thanksgiving dinner, for example, have some lemon water.”

The warm citrus can settle your stomach, she said, and clear your palate.

Dana James, the founder of Food Coach NYC, said that though she thinks the trend is perhaps “over-hyped,” it is not without nutritional merit.

“What it does do is increase detoxification because the bitterness of the lemon activates the bile flow,” which, she said, “helps emulsify and remove fat soluble toxins.”

Furthermore, James said the habit often makes her clients “feel virtuous, which leads to better all-day eating habits.” Ultimately, the thrice-certified nutritionist concluded that there is “no reason not to be doing it.”

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