Review Category : Health

Negative Findings on Use of E-Cigarettes by Cancer Patients

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The debate over the health benefits of e-cigarettes rages on with a new study apparently debunking the notion that these electronic devices can help cancer patients kick the smoking habit.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City wrote in the journal Cancer that smokers diagnosed with cancer who supplemented their regular cigarette use with e-cigarettes became more hooked on nicotine than people who eschewed the vapor-form of smoking.

In a test of 1,110 cancer patients between 2012 and 2013, the numbers who used e-cigarettes jumped from 11 percent to 38.5 percent.

Furthermore, patients who used e-cigarettes were as likely or even less likely to have quit smoking altogether than those who never used the devices when the researchers followed up later.

Jamie Ostroff of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says more needs to be done to determine “the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential cessation approach for cancer patients.”

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Are You Living in the Best Small City in the US?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The results are in for the best small city in America.

The annual ranking of the 50 most livable small cities in the United States — based on more than 50 factors, including housing, property taxes, schools and safety — has been released by Money magazine, and the top spot goes to McKinney, Texas, for its Southern charm.

Rounding out the top 5 were Maple Grove, Minnesota; Carmel, Indiana; Castle Rock, Colorado; and Kirkland, Washington.

Below are the top 10:

  • McKinney, Texas
  • Maple Grove, Minnesota
  • Carmel, Indiana
  • Castle Rock, Colorado
  • Kirkland, Washington
  • Columbia and Ellicott City, Maryland
  • Clarkstown, New York
  • Ames, Iowa
  • Rochester Hills, Michigan
  • Reston, Virginia

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Danica McKellar Dishes on Her Fitness and Diet Routines

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images via ABC(LOS ANGELES) — Danica McKellar couldn’t be happier as she prepares for a wedding she says “perhaps” could happen later this year.

The Dancing with the Stars and Wonder Years star, 39, told ABC News that after getting engaged to Scott Sveslosky in July, she wants a small, intimate affair to celebrate their love.

McKellar added that her son Draco, 4, from her first marriage, would be involved, but she didn’t say how.

McKellar says wedding dress shopping has been “easier ’cause everything looks good,” after doing a show like Dancing with the Stars.

“Getting in the best shape of your life at 39 is amazing. I’ve been keeping it up pretty well,” she said after the show ended earlier this year.

She’s also “been doing Pilates twice a week with a trainer, which I’ve never done before and I love it.”

“It’s also diet, I eat really well. I eat really, really healthy food,” she said. “I don’t drink soda, I don’t drink coffee. I barely drink alcohol, I only drink water. I’m very paleo, very little processed food, I try to eat a lot of raw stuff. I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat very clean meat. I don’t eat sugar and white bread … like anything else, you are what you eat.”

McKellar spoke to ABC News on behalf of Colgate’s “Smile for Picture Day,” something dear to her heart, especially as she raises a son and teaches him proper dental hygiene.

McKellar shared her tips on getting the best photos — including visiting the dentist twice a year and even bringing a little toy or stuffed animal to the dentist so your child has fun, brushing together with your child, playing games and apps that help to “trick” your child into enjoying brushing his or her teeth, and practicing taking pictures before the actual day.

“Sit them down and act like you are taking a school picture,” she said of practice. “[Also] give them something funny to think about when the photographer takes their picture.”

She continued, “Everything educational can be a game … it should be fun, should all be games. You want to make sure they develop a love of learning … why not make things fun for your entire life…teaches him addition, math with games.”

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How New STD App Might Change Safe Sex Practices

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When it comes to sex with a new partner, safety can be a huge concern– but what if proving you’re free of sexually transmitted diseases could be as easy as showing your partner your results on a smartphone?

California-based company Healthvana’s goal is for people to have easy access to their own health records, including their STD results. They partnered with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to create a service that sends patients’ results from the laboratory right to your smartphone, via their website or an app.

“It’s no different if you went to the doctor and got a printout and showed [your partner] that,” Healthvana founder Ramin Bastani told ABC News.

The problem is that getting that hard copy from the doctor isn’t so easy, Bastani said.

“If I want to go back and get my record, it is such a nightmare,” he said. “It’s hard to get someone on the phone. And if I go back to the clinic, I wait in line for an hour-plus, just like everyone else, just to see someone and maybe get the records. And the whole time I am anxious and nervous.”

And many times when people get tested for STDs, they’re told they will only hear back if the news is bad.

“We want to eradicate that idea that no news is good news,” Bastani said.

Whitney Engeran, the head of public health at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told ABC News that the app, which delivers chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV results, helps both patients and their doctors.

“It allows us to move faster with our patients and gives them a lot of quick information,” he said. “Because right now if they’re negative, we don’t necessarily call them –- because we see so many people, we really only call them if they’re positive.”

He says the app complies with patient privacy regulations known as HIPAA because users must enter into a secure portal through the app before receiving their results, and no private information is sent through email. Patient records are “located in a secure data center” and only a limited number of Healthvana employees have access to the information, Engeran said.

The Healthvana app launched earlier this summer without the instant record feature. That’s being tested in three locations in Florida, through the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Engeran said the foundation wants to roll out the updated app nationwide within the next two months.

Bastani estimates that a few thousand people are already using the instant record feature.

Through the app, users will also be able to easily share their medical records with new doctors, or they can share their results electronically with a potential sex partner who also downloads the app.

Michael Kaplan, president of the charity AIDS United, told ABC News he thinks any app that helps people share their STD results is a great idea.

“What I can tell you as someone who tested HIV-positive back in 1992, with clarity that I wanted my past partners to know, is that my only option back then was calling them — it wasn’t even Facebook or social media,” he said.

But he cautions that the app will have to be secure.

“There’s always a concern, with credit cards, with other apps, of data getting out,” Kaplan said.

Art Caplan, head of the medical ethics department at New York University, said he agrees privacy concerns are an issue, and also worries the app could lead to careless decisions.

“You don’t want something like this to make people feel like they don’t have anything to be worried about,” Caplan said, pointing out that lab results aren’t always 100% accurate, and users have no way of knowing what someone has been up to since their last test.

Bastani says he knows the app can’t definitively prove a user is “clean,” as it will only reveal the results of your most recent test. But, he said, it does show a potential sex partner that you care about your sexual health.

The app is free and does not have ads. It is funded by investors. Healthvana sells the platform to health care providers like the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

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TB Testing for Families of over 700 Babies Begins at Texas Hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(EL PASO, Texas) — Testing for Tuberculosis (TB) begins Monday for the families of more than 700 infants born at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas.

The babies’ parents were informed their children may have been exposed to the highly infectious bacterial disease after an employee in the hospital’s nursery tested positive last month during a routine annual screening.

The El Paso Department of Public Health will conduct the free testing, according to the El Paso Times. Sierra Providence Memorial Hospital will test more than 40 employees believed to have been exposed.

TB can be a serious risk for infants too young to be vaccinated. It generally requires close contact over an extended period of time for spreading, and can remain dormant for months or years before symptoms appear.

“This is an unfortunate incident that we’re going to get through and we’re going to help these babies and their moms and dads,” El Paso Public Health Director Robert Resendes said.

Chief Medical Officer at Sierra Providence, Dr. Enrique Martinez said it’s difficult to say that every hospital employee will be free of any communicable disease, but “we do the best that is out there in terms of recommendations.”

The infected employee no longer works at the hospital and is receiving treatment, say officials.

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TB Testing for Families of over 700 Babies Begins at Texas Hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(EL PASO, Texas) — Testing for Tuberculosis (TB) begins Monday for the families of more than 700 infants born at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas.

The babies’ parents were informed their children may have been exposed to the highly infectious bacterial disease after an employee in the hospital’s nursery tested positive last month during a routine annual screening.

The El Paso Department of Public Health will conduct the free testing, according to the El Paso Times. Sierra Providence Memorial Hospital will test more than 40 employees believed to have been exposed.

TB can be a serious risk for infants too young to be vaccinated. It generally requires close contact over an extended period of time for spreading, and can remain dormant for months or years before symptoms appear.

“This is an unfortunate incident that we’re going to get through and we’re going to help these babies and their moms and dads,” El Paso Public Health Director Robert Resendes said.

Chief Medical Officer at Sierra Providence, Dr. Enrique Martinez said it’s difficult to say that every hospital employee will be free of any communicable disease, but “we do the best that is out there in terms of recommendations.”

The infected employee no longer works at the hospital and is receiving treatment, say officials.

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Homework Time Is a Stressful Time for Many Families

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Many kids are back at school, and for a lot of families that means Mom and Dad are hitting the books as well.

A new survey by the National Center for Families Learning reveals that more than 60 percent of parents with children in kindergarten through grade eight admit they have trouble helping with their children’s homework. That’s up from 49.1 percent in 2013.

For 41 percent of the parents, pushback from their kids is the main reason, while over 33 percent cite difficulty understanding the subject matter. More than 25 percent admit the main reason is they’re too busy, up from just over 20 percent in 2013.

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Doctor Explains Why Death at 75 is Right for Him

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Citing the increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease among other quality of life factors, one doctor says he wants to die at 75.

Though he makes it clear he does not believe in euthanasia, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, raised some eyebrows when The Atlantic published an article written by him discussing the issue.

“I look at the data on disability, I look at the data on Alzheimer’s disease, I look at the data on loss of creativity. And 75 seems to be the right moment where the chance of disability, physical disability is low, you’re still not in the high Alzheimer’s risk of 30% or 50% and creativity has sort of come to an end,” Emanuel, who also serves as Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser during an interview for This Week.

“I coined this term called ‘American immortals,’ people want to do everything crazily to live as long as possible. Take these protein concoctions, change their diet, exercise like mad, that’s trying to put it off, that’s trying to say I am going to live as long as possible,” he said.

“I am trying to say alright you’re going to live in this amount of time. What are you going to do in that amount of time that is meaningful to you, meaningful to your family, meaningful to your community? That’s what I want people to think about,” Emanuel added.

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Swedish Man Acquitted of Rape Due to ‘Sexomnia’

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(SUNDSVALL, Sweden) — A Swedish man who was convicted of rape had his charges overturned after an appeals court found the man could have been asleep during the attack and cited “sexomnia” as a reason he should be released.

Mikael Halvarsson was acquitted of rape this month after experts said he was asleep during the attack and had no memory of the incident, according to a translated court ruling from the Sundsvall appeals court in Sweden.

Halvarsson was accused after the victim woke up as Halvarsson allegedly assaulted her on April 2, 2014. They had been sleeping in the same bed, but they each had their own blanket, according to the translated court documents, which also noted that she called the police the next morning, and they found Halvarsson still asleep in her bed when they arrived.

In the appeal, Halvarsson’s previous girlfriend testified that he had previously tried once to have sex with her when she was sleeping. When she stopped him, he then acted confused and asked what had happened.

His mother also confirmed that he had disturbed sleeping patterns before.

While the term sexomnia may seem made up for the purposes of getting away with a crime, Dr. Kingman Strohl, a professor of medicine and director of research at the Sleep Center at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, confirmed it’s an actual medical diagnosis that includes unintentional sexual behaviors during sleep.

Strohl, who has no connection to the case in Sweden, said that sexomnia is one kind of parasomnia or undesirable behavior or experience during sleep. More common parasomnias can include sleepwalking or sleep talking.

“Usually people are very scared and also quite confused as to what’s going on,” Strohl said of patients who report sexomnia. “We look for signs,” of the behavior in the patient’s past, he said. That it has “gone on before and occurs in context of sleep walking and sleep talking.”

Strohl said in cases of parasomnias, a person isn’t usually dreaming but instead they are undertaking an automatic action, such as walking across a room, drawing a bath, or even driving around the block. According to Strohl, these kinds of sleep behaviors are more common if a person is very tired or has taken sleep aids.

Even though sexomnia is rare, Strohl said there are clear questions and diagnosis tools to figure out if a person suffers from the sleep disorder.

If a person is on trial and wants to claim they were asleep when they allegedly committed a crime, Strohl said doctors had to be particularly careful that people aren’t trying to lie about their symptoms.

“You want to know how people react to it. You want to know what the people look like and want to know how each partner reacts to it,” said Strohl of diagnosing a sexomnia incident. “You don’t want to encourage unwanted sexual advances.”

A person who is actually asleep will not have very refined actions or be responsive to their surroundings, Strohl said. For example, a sleepwalker will start walking into a chair and make no move to get around it.

Red flags that could signal a person is faking symptoms would include actions that are more refined and responsive, Strohl said. For example, a person might try to bake a cake in their sleep, but they won’t finish baking the cake and then ice it if they are asleep.

Dr. Mark Eric Dyken, a professor of neurology and director of the sleep disorder clinic at the University of Iowa, said he’s seen people who attempted to blame parasomnia for their actions.

Dyken said doctors have to be careful to remember that while sexomnia is a real and studied sleep disorder, it is also very rare.

“There are bad people and there are sociopaths,” said Dyken, who was also not involved with the case in Sweden. “You worry about people utilizing this diagnosis.”

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Researchers Call for Improved End-of-Life Care

drpnncpp/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers at the Institute of Medicine released a report on Wednesday calling for improved end-of-life care.

“For patients and their loved ones, no care decisions are more profound than those made near the end of life,” the study reads. Researchers point out that factors including barriers to access for certain groups, a mismatch between services needed and available, inadequate palliative care and a fragmented delivery system leave significant room for improvement.

The IOM calls for “a person-centered, family-oriented approach, that honors individual preferences and promotes quality of life through the end of life.” The need for such changes, researchers say, “should be a national priority.”

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