Review Category : Health

Therapy Dog Embarks on 375-Mile Hike for Hospice Care Awareness

Hachi the Wonderdog/Facebook(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Meet Hachi, a tiny therapy dog that usually spends his days comforting and snuggling up with patients at Advanced Home Health and Hospice in Sacramento, California.

But since Monday, the 16-pound pup has been trekking through California wilderness — navigating mountainous terrain and snowy trails with his owner, Jeff Douglas, who is also the hospice’s chaplain.

The duo are on a what Douglas has called “Hachi’s Hike for Hospice,” a journey and campaign to raise awareness about hospice care and dispel the negative misconceptions that come with the term.

“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of misconceptions about the purpose of hospice and that a lot of people come way too late to get the benefits of hospice care,” Douglas told ABC News Wednesday. “So, I thought, why don’t we leverage Hachi’s charm and personality and do a great feat that will be big enough to get more people to listen to our message?”

Douglas said he hopes he and Hachi can “start important conversations about end-of-life planning” with people they meet while adventuring from the California-Nevada border to the Pacific Ocean for the next three weeks.

“So many people think hospice care is about dying, when really, it’s about life and living the end of life on your own terms,” he said. “We want to plant the seed and help people see it’s important to have these conversations about end-of-life planning now. The ER is not the time to have those conversations.”

And though the chaplain is incredibly passionate about hospice care and the patients, Douglas said he also wants to use the hike for him and Hachi to enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company.

The chaplain explained he has been with Hachi since the Chihuahua-Shiba Inu mix was a puppy. Douglas said he first came across Hachi over five years ago when he caught sight of a group of girls playing with the “cutest little puppy” he had ever seen.

When he asked what the dog’s name was, the girls said, “Hachi,” which blew Douglas’ mind because he had just recently watched a movie inspired by the true story of Hachiko, a dog who became famous in Japan during the ’20s and ’30s for his loyalty.

Hachiko would meet his owner at a train station at the same time every day after he came back from work. Even when his owner died and didn’t come back, the story has it that Hachiko continued to go to the station every day at the same time for next nine years.

“When the girls said his name was Hachi, I just knew it was destiny,” Douglas said. “I asked their mother if they had any other pups from the same litter, and she said, ‘No, but you can have that one if you pay me.’ So I went to the ATM, got Hachi and the rest is history.”

Soon after, Douglas quickly noticed Hachi’s compassion and astute intuition when he witnessed the pup comfort a patient who had just lost a dog. He also took notice of Hachi’s athleticism.

Despite Hachi’s short stature and small body, the pup can walk for over 20 miles a day, Douglas said. He added that when he visited a veterinarian to make sure Hachi was in a good condition to do the 375-mile hike, the vet laughed and said he was more concerned about him than Hachi.

“The vet told me he’s like a K9 elite athlete,” Douglas said with a laugh. “Hachi is truly an amazing little dog.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Links Between Alcohol and Cancer

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Step away from the Chardonnay. A new study concludes that drinking is a direct cause of seven different kinds of cancer.

According to researchers, even moderate drinking can contribute to colon, breast, esophageal and liver cancer — and the more you drink, the higher your risk.

My medical take on this: Most things in moderation. This may be important for the subject of whether or not to drink because alcohol can be a part of our social fiber.

You have to ask yourself how much restriction you are capable of and whether or not it is worth it to you. You also need to assess your individual risk. For example, if breast cancer runs in your family, abstaining from alcohol completely may be right for you.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Use Water to Thaw Your Frozen Food

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Science Nordic reports that Susanne Ekstedt, a researcher at the Food and Bioscience unit of SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Gothenburg, says that while people tend to thaw meat slowly, in the refrigerator, quicker is better when it comes to thawing frozen food.

“This is something food scientists have known to be true for a long time now. Most people don’t seem to be aware of this,” she said.

While keeping meat cold is important to limit bacterial growth while thawing it out, it’s possible to do it quickly in water.

Her recommendation is based on experiments with freezing and thawing different kinds of foods at the institute. The researchers concluded that the best way to thaw frozen meat or fish is to put it in cold water because water conducts heat better than air. The food should be wrapped in plastic to keep the food dry, but water will thaw food quickly and effectively and the faster food is thawed, the better it tastes.

Bjørg Egelandsdal is a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences who specializes in meat, says, “There has never been any good scientific evidence behind the advice that food should be thawed in the refrigerator. Maybe the idea behind this advice is that refrigerator thawing is most hygienic but it is definitely better to thaw food quickly in water if you are going to use it right away.”

The reasons behind this have to do with ice crystal damage. When food stays below the freezing point for a long time, it creates opportunity for ice crystals to grow. Large ice crystals damage cells, reducing the food’s ability to hold fluids after thawing, which dries it out.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Simone Biles Addresses Leaked Medical Records and ADHD Misconceptions

Alex Livesey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — USA gymnastics superstar Simone Biles came under the spotlight on Tuesday after Russian hackers circulated confidential medical records from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database that showed her use of Methylphenidate, a stimulant for treatment of ADHD.

Biles, 19, was forced to publicly address her ADHD and the use of an approved medication after the leak.

The powerhouse gymnast was among three other Team USA star athletes involved in the illegal release of personal medical data — tennis players Venus and Serena Williams and basketball player Elena Delle Donne were also targeted.

The documents were illegally obtained from the WADA database and revealed that Biles tested positive for the medication, which the gymnast was given permission to use by the International Gymnastics Federation.

The gold medalist took to Twitter to address the situation and wrote, “I have ADHD and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid. Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so as fair play is critical to sport and is very important to me.”

According to ABC News senior medical contributor Dr. Jen Ashton, these medications “are thought to work by enhancing neurotransmitter function in the brain.”

Dr. Ashton said that in her medical opinion this kind of medication would not give an athlete an edge.

She added that the WADA requires an ADHD to be diagnosed by “experienced clinicians” and should be a “medical best practice treatment.”

WADA addressed the attack carried out by an alleged espionage group called “Fancy Bears,” who revealed the records, known as therapeutic use exemptions.

Biles followed their requirement to file for an exemption which allows athletes with medical diagnoses to use a prohibited drug.

“I think that athletes are so in-tuned with how their body feels during competition and how their mind focuses, that to add anything that will alter that is not a risk most will take,” said Ashton.

ADHD is commonly diagnosed during childhood but often lasts well into adulthood. At least five percent of children suffer from ADHD in the U.S., according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The final five phenom posted another tweet letting her fans and supporters know that this incident will not knock her down, “Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Christopher Duffley, a Blind Teen with Autism, Inspires Others with His Voice

Angel Canales/ABC News(NEW YORK) — Music has been significant for 15 year-old Christopher Duffley, who grew up in a house surrounded by it. “Music to me is for one thing, it brings joy to people. Singing is a gift that I share. Because I’m blind, I see people with my heart for who they truly are instead of what they look like on the outside,” Christopher told ABC News.

The journey to stardom was a hard one for Christopher, says his mom Christine Duffley. “I knew that my brother was expecting a baby and Christopher was born prematurely at 26 weeks, 1 pound, 12 ounces,” she told ABC News. “A period of time passed. When I called social services they told me that he was in foster care,” Christine told ABC News.

At the time she already had four children and says she was torn about bringing a new baby into the house. “I wasn’t looking to be a super mom, but what I wanted to do was do the right thing,” she said. Steve and Christine Duffley gained custody of Christopher in 2002 and in 2003 adopted him. “A lot of families with special needs can identify with the day-by-day survival. I didn’t know how to take care of a blind and autistic child. My kids loved Christopher and we want Christopher to be independent. We want him to thrive so we gave him as many things as we could,” she told ABC News.

As an autistic child, it was through his love of music and music therapy that Christopher learned how to communicate with others. “It was the music therapy where we realized that he really had talent, that he had perfect pitch, that the harmonies we heard were definitely a gift that he had,” Christine told ABC News.

But his blindness and autism didn’t stop him from singing and spreading his message of hope. His career took off after he published a now-famous Youtube video clip of the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart” in 2011. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place and the ovation was crazy. It was just a beautiful experience because the choir was behind him,” Steve Duffley told ABC News. That video has been translated into multiple languages and viewed millions of times.

Christopher’s popularity has led him to perform for NASCAR, the Red Sox, at national political debates and even during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in 2015. “I like singing because when I’m at an event I know that it brings joy to people,” Christopher told ABC News.

Another thing Christopher enjoys is his “Mission Possible” podcast. He started the podcast as a way to send a message of hope to other people with disabilities and to encourage them to do more. “Christopher does all his own editing and engineering,” Steve told ABC News.

While Christopher’s parents’ goal is for him to be independent, he understands how important the people around him are to him and for people with disabilities. “He is needing people to help him all the time, much more than you or I as far as guidance or direction. It’s almost like he is helping you to achieve and understand what life is about. He wants to advocate for people. He wants to move other people to action. I see that in him. That’s a leadership quality I think he has,” says music coach Michael Shaughnessy, who started coaching Christopher in 2014.

“And that’s the message that Christopher brings to schools when he talks to other schoolchildren. He has a nice presentation. He does it all himself and the kids really respond well. The kids get learn things about blindness so that when they meet a blind person they’re more comfortable and they realize these are our future employers of America that Christopher has the same dreams and aspirations. He’s no different, he just does things differently,” Christine told ABC News.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Six New Zika Virus Cases Reported in Florida, Bringing Outbreak Total to 70

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — The ongoing outbreak of locally transmitted Zika virus continues with six new cases reported Tuesday. These new cases bring the total number of people infected with locally transmitted Zika virus in southern Florida to 70.

This outbreak first reported in July is the first time the virus has spread via mosquitoes in the continental U.S.

The Florida Department of Health officials said they still believe there are only two small areas in the southern part of the state where Zika transmission is ongoing. Those locations in the Wynwood neighborhood in northern Miami and in the town of Miami Beach are currently being sprayed with insecticide in order to diminish the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.

However, the department reported they are investigating one of the six new cases to see where that person was exposed to the virus. The other infections were associated with exposures in the Miami Beach and Wynwood area.

“One case does not mean ongoing active transmission is taking place,” officials from the Florida Department of Health said in a statement Tuesday.

There have been 634 cases of travel-related Zika infections in Florida and a total of 86 pregnant women have been reported infected with the virus since the start of the outbreak, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told ABC News in an earlier interview that health officials will likely look at past outbreaks of dengue fever to understand how long a Zika outbreak will last. The dengue fever virus is in the same family of viruses as the Zika virus and spread by the same mosquito species, though it causes different symptoms and is not sexually transmitted.

“If dengue is any indication, [the outbreak] will wind down in a few weeks to months,” Morse said, emphasizing that researchers are still learning about the Zika virus every day.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Reid Takes on Trump’s Health: ‘He’s Not Slim and Trim’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, took on Donald Trump’s health, jabbing the candidate for being “not slim and trim” and bragging about eating fast food “every day.”

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Reid also defended Clinton, whose health has become a matter of intense scrutiny since she abruptly left a 9/11 commemoration event Sunday.

“She’s been treated unfairly,” Reid said of Clinton.

“She has pneumonia,” Reid continued. “She’s off the campaign trail for a few days. She probably needed the rest anyways.”

The retiring Nevada Democrat, who has used his podium in the Senate to rail against the GOP presidential nominee, urged reporters to “take a look at this character that is running for president.”

“He complains about her health. What does he do? He’s 70 years old, he’s not slim and trim,” Reid said.

“He brags about eating fast food every day.”

Both Trump, 70, and Clinton, 68, have revealed far less about their medical history than previous Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.

In July of 2015, Clinton’s doctor released a two-page statement on Clinton’s health, describing her as a “healthy 67 year old female whose current medical conditions include hypothyroidism and seasonal pollen allergies.”

“She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States,” Dr. Lisa Bardack wrote.

Trump’s doctor released a one page statement in December that said the New York developer would be the “healthiest individual” ever elected president.

In 2008, Sen. John McCain, who was 71-years-old at the time, released nearly 1,200 pages of health records.

Both candidates’ campaigns have said they plan to release additional medical records.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Husband Speaks Out About Postpartum Depression After Losing Wife

Raul Martinez(NEW YORK) — Raul Martinez and his wife Kelly welcomed their daughter into the world on Nov. 24, 2009.

Three months later, Raul received a call from his mother-in-law that his wife, who had been struggling with postpartum depression, had committed suicide.

“I remember having a discussion with her a week before when she came out of a fog and she said ‘I can’t control my own thoughts and I hate it,'” Martinez recalled his wife saying. “I want to be myself again. And I was lost.”

Raul Martinez, whose daughter is now 6 years old, is speaking out now in honor of National Suicide Prevention month.

He said that his wife “was very type A, driven, wanted the best for our daughter,” Martinez told ABC News. “That meant taking all the prenatal classes, birth classes, getting the room ready.”

But after giving birth, Martinez said his wife was stressed out and had difficulty sleeping.

The couple sought help from a psychiatrist and she was diagnosed with postpartum depression after which she started to take anti-depressants, Martinez said.

“She couldn’t nap when our daughter was napping,” said Martinez, adding that about a month after the birth, she started to say that something was wrong.

Despite multiple medications and seeing two doctors, her symptoms persisted.

Kelly Martinez died just three months after giving birth and her battle with postpartum depression, a condition affects 15 to 20 percent of new mothers, according to Dr. Shari Lusskin, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Lusskin said that half of all postpartum depression cases actually begin during pregnancy with symptoms including lack of energy, inability to experience pleasure, excessive anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

Signs of postpartum depression may appear similar to postpartum blues or “baby blues” but have one very important difference -– the symptoms do not spontaneously resolve. Postpartum blues can occur in up to 90 percent of women, but because of the frequency of symptoms, a more severe diagnosis can be missed.

“The doctor sometimes can also minimize symptoms and call it postpartum blues…but it’s important that it resolves in two weeks,” said Lusskin.

Not all women have the same risks, said Lusskin. Instead, those who have a history of mental illness and those who have suffered domestic violence, or are cut off from family support are at high risk, Lusskin said.

“It is important to assess the situation for each patient because mood disorders arrive in a social context,” she said.

Geraldine O’Keefe, had a history of depression and immediately recognized the symptoms of postpartum depression in 1996 after giving birth to her daughter. She said the stigma of a mental health diagnosis or lack of knowledge in mothers can prevent many sufferers from seeking help.

“I was having panic attacks, but I forced myself to take care of my baby. I felt like I was in a daze,” she said. After seeking help, starting medication, and having a supportive husband, O’Keefe said she still felt lost. “I was ashamed.”

O’Keefe later authored her story entitled “The Stork’s Revenge,” which chronicles her treatment of postpartum depression and encourages awareness.

When it comes to prevention Martinez, O’Keefe, and Lusskin recommend to be educated, speak up to your family members, and seek professional help.

It’s important to not minimize it and talk to your doctor, said Lusskin.

“Be educated and recognize the signs,” she said. “If you’re concerned friend, family, or anybody, encourage them to seek help. Neither the patient or her support system should be complacent. With help you will get better.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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CDC Still Stumped by Mystery Zika Case in Utah

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — More information on a mysterious case of Zika virus in Utah has come to light, health officials said Tuesday.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the case of a Utah man who contracted a Zika infection, although he was not exposed through a mosquito or sexual transmission. Their findings were published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The man had been caring for an elderly family member, who contracted the virus while abroad in June. The original elderly patient was extremely ill and developed septic shock, according to the CDC. Further testing found his levels of virus were “approximately 100,000 times higher than the average level reported in persons infected with Zika virus.”

The elderly patient died on June 25 and, less than a week later, the family member started to exhibit symptoms of the virus even though he had not traveled to an area with Zika transmission. After a thorough investigation, health officials remained unclear about how the virus spread.

The Zika virus is known to spread through mosquito bites, sexual transmission and blood transfusions. But none of those circumstances were documented in this case.

“Patient A was known to have had close contact (i.e. kissing and hugging) with the index patient while the index patient’s viral load was found to be very high,” researchers from the CDC said in the report. “Although it is not certain that these types of close contact were the source of transmission, family contacts should be aware that blood and body fluids of severely ill patients might be infectious.”

Now, CDC health officials are investigating if bodily fluids in some patients with extremely high levels of virus could also transmit the virus in a mway that has not been previously documented.

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Sugar Industry Paid for Medical Review in 1960s, Report Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Potential conflicts from industry-sponsored medical research have been an ongoing concern among public health officials, and a new report looks at how undisclosed funding could have had a major impact on medical findings and decades of research that followed.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine reviewed a case from the 1960s when three Harvard researchers were paid by a sugar industry group to do research looking at heart disease and sugar consumption. The paper resulting from that research found “limited” evidence for the link between sugar consumption and heart disease, contradicting previously published studies, according to the JAMA report, published Monday.

The sugar industry “protected their interest for half a century, which points to the importance of truly independent science,” study co-author Stanton Glantz told ABC News.

“Industry research tends to publish information that supports their own endeavors,” said Glantz, professor of medicine and director for Center of Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

Three Harvard researchers, now deceased, were paid by a sugar industry group and subsequently published an article in a major medical journal in 1967 examining sugar and its relationship with heart disease, according to the report published Monday. That article found “limited” evidence for the link between sugar consumption and heart disease, contradicting previously published studies.

Glantz and other researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found correspondence between the Harvard researchers and the sugar industry in the 1960s and realized they had been paid $6,500 — the equivalent of $48,900 today — to conduct a review on medical literature focused on sucrose consumption and coronary heart disease.

The Sugar Research Foundation, a trade group, approached Dr. Frederick Stare, then the chair of the Harvard University School of Public Health Nutrition Department, in 1965 to review multiple medical studies examining the relationship between sugar, fat and coronary heart disease, according to the JAMA report. At the time, some published studies had found a link between sugar consumption and the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Stare, joined by his Harvard colleagues D. Mark Hegsted and Robert McGandy, reviewed multiple medical studies, according to the JAMA report. An executive from the Sugar Research Foundation provided the medical studies that the foundation wanted to be reviewed, according to correspondence between the researchers and the foundation.

In the 1967 review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Harvard researchers found the evidence for connecting sucrose to coronary heart disease was “limited.” They also concluded that sucrose consumption should not be considered in a patient’s risk assessment for developing heart disease.

Instead of drawing attention to sugar consumption, they concluded that more studies should be done examining cholesterol levels and the relationship with coronary heart disease. As a result in this review, the researchers influenced the focus of subsequent research by others to the risks of consuming saturated fats rather than the risk of consuming sugar, according to the JAMA report.

The Harvard researchers did not disclose they had been paid by the Sugar Research Foundation since the New England Journal of Medicine did not require researchers to disclose their funding until 1984.

Glantz said the 1967 review helped sidetrack any discussion of the link between heart disease and sugar consumption.

“In the review, there was double standard — anything that was written against sugar was hyper-critical while research against fat had a free pass,” Glantz told ABC News of the 1967 review.

Study co-author Dr. Cristin Kearn, a dentist and a post-doctoral fellow a the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies UCSF School of Medicine, said she initially looked into the subject after she asked about research on sugar and its impact on health at a dental conference. She said she hopes the new report will highlight the “implications for conflict of interest and industry-funded research.”

“Current risk assessment studies, WHO, U.S. government agencies, should be sure to look at the scientific evidence and put less weight on industry funded research,” she told ABC News.

The Sugar Research Foundation, which is now called the Sugar Association, admitted it should have been more transparent about its research funding in the 1960s, but noted the “last several decades of research have concluded that sugar does not have a unique role in heart disease”

“We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today,” the group said in a statement on Monday. “Beyond this, it is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen.”

The American Heart Association now advises limiting added sugars in a diet to help avoid obesity, which can reduce heart health. The association cited a 2014 JAMA study that found a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease from high added sugar intake.

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