Review Category : Health

Breast-Feeding Guidelines Tweaked for the Sake of Women Who Don’t

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is keeping its 2016 recommendations in support of breast-feeding nearly identical to those issued in 2008, with the exception of deleting one word: “promote.”

The independent panel of experts, who are funded and appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, recommended eight years ago that physicians “promote and support” breast-feeding among their patients. Only “support” survived this year.

The new guidelines still wholeheartedly recommend breast-feeding as the best choice for mothers and children but, as one of the authors explained, the change is meant to relieve pressure on women who cannot breast-feed, or make an informed choice not to do so.

“We felt that ‘supporting’ really emphasized that it’s about making sure that women have what they need when they make that choice,” Dr. Maureen Phipps said.

Phipps is chairwoman and Chace-Joukowsky professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island.

The panel recommendation makes it clear that breast-feeding has proven health benefits, from preventing infection and allergies to lowering risk of diabetes and heart disease. But the decision to drop the word “promote” raises intriguing questions about the lines between patient autonomy, physician empathy and evidence-based recommendations.

Dr. Karen Duncan, a New York obstetrician-gynecologist, explained that some women have a lot of trouble breast-feeding, or cannot breast-feed because they are taking certain medications. So, in her view, the rewording was a “positive step” to help alleviate some of the stigma those women might feel.

“We don’t want to shame or pressure women into doing something they are unable to do,” she said. “We do think breast-feeding is the best […] but we need to be understanding that there are many circumstances that go into a woman’s decision about how to feed her baby.”

She added that social media – like Pinterest boards where moms display elaborate baked goods and impeccably decorated birthday parties – have increased the pressure women feel surrounding motherhood.

Some breast-feeding advocates, however, take issue with the wording change.

“Women need to understand all of the risks of formula, and benefits of human milk,” said spokeswoman Diana West of La Leche League International, an organization dedicated to helping mothers worldwide to breast-feed through “mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education,” according to its website.

West noted a distinction between the “guilt” women may feel if they don’t breast-feed, and “regret” that they weren’t fully informed about the benefits.

“What we really come to understand is that far too often, women feel tremendous regret because they were not given adequate information and support [about breast-feeding] when they needed,” she said.

She worries the new guidelines will do women a “disservice,” and lead to fewer women getting comprehensive information about the benefits of breast-feeding.

While she understands the motivation behind the change, New York City obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Abigail Winkel finds the new wording “a little disappointing,” she said.

“It is an extremely important thing for doctors to be empathetic to their patients,” Winkel said. “But our patients need to be educated about something that has such a positive health benefit.”

It is crucial, she said, that doctors not avoid those tough conversations.

If breast-feeding is really not possible, Winkel advises patients to “let it go and move on,” she said. Being stressed about failure to breast-feed will only interfere with bonding, and there are “loads of other healthy behaviors” that mothers can engage in, like skin-to-skin contact, she added.

The guidelines call for further research into ways to decrease guilt and anxiety in women who cannot breast-feed. But regardless of linguistic nuances, the Preventive Services Task Force makes one thing crystal clear: when at all possible, breast is best.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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‘Little Pony That Could’ Gets Prosthetic Hoof

Shine/The Little Pony That Could(FORT COLLINS, Colo.) — He didn’t earn the nickname “the Little Pony That Could” for nothing.

Shine the miniature horse is quickly overcoming the loss of his foot, thanks to a veterinary team at Colorado State University and a prosthetic hoof.

Last December, Shine was mauled in what was believed to be dog attack. His owner, Jacque Corsentino, immediately knew something was wrong.

“Shine always met me at the gate and he wasn’t out,” Corsentino told ABC News. He was covered in blood when she finally found him, with injuries to his lip and back leg. Corsentino said that although Shine seemed to be recovering well initially, his leg soon became infected.

After consulting with a number of veterinarians, the 3-year-old mini-horse was referred to Dr. Laurie Goodrich at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. An evaluation in March determined that Shine was small enough for amputation and prosthesis. He underwent the procedure at the University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Now after six weeks of recovery at the veterinary hospital, Shine is back home in his barn in Florence, Colorado, with his new hoof. According to Corsentino, he is going through physical therapy and slowly adjusting to the prosthesis.

“He tries to chew the buckles, he tries to shake it off,” she said. “Once he gets used to it I think we’ll see a major turn around. We’ll be able to turn him out to pasture and let him be a horse.”

Shine’s inner “sock” of the prosthetic hoof needs to be changed every other day for the rest of his life. The medical expenses for the amputation cost nearly $9,000 according to Corsentino, and the family has set up a crowdfunding page to seek donations.

However, Corsentino said it was all worth it for this “really special” little horse. After he’s done recovering, Corsentino plans to bring Shine to local hospitals as a therapy animal.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Father Writes Moving Obituary About Son’s Addiction

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the opioid epidemic continues, a Massachusetts man penned a moving obituary for his son in hopes of ending the stigma associated with substance abuse.

Bill Scannell wrote that Emmett, 20, was a “caring, funny, smart, young man with the potential for greatness,” but that he also struggled with addiction.

“Emmett had been in recovery and sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for 2 years when he went off to college in late August 2014,” Scannell wrote in the obituary. “Within 6 weeks, heroin came into his and our lives, stole him from us and Substance Use Disorder killed him in only 18 months.”

Scannell explained why it’s so important to not stigmatize addiction.

“You see Substance Use Disorder is not something to be ashamed of or hidden,” he wrote. “It is a DISEASE that has to be brought out into the light and fought by everyone. It continues to cut down our loved ones everyday.”

Scanell told ABC News he wanted to be honest about what happened with his son after seeing how pervasive the opioid epidemic had become in his hometown.

“The substance abuse disorder crisis and heroin epidemic is killing kids almost every day here,” said Scanell. “Parents here are afraid to speak out…they say their 22-year-old daughter or son died “unexpectedly.”

Heroin and opioid abuse have been a growing problem nationwide. In Massachusetts alone opioid-related overdoses have jumped to 1,173 in 2014 from 526 in 2010. In February, President Obama proposed devoting $1.1 billion to fight heroin and opioid abuse.

Scannell said his son, a member of the dean’s list and a “caring older brother,” is an example of how addiction can strike anyone.

“He loved to get to know people, he always fit in.” said Scannell. “I just know that he would want me to do this.”

The wake for Emmett Scanell is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but Bill Scannell was already working to raise awareness by speaking at a rally for opioid addiction Tuesday morning.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Zika Virus Updates: WHO Warns of ‘Marked Increase’ of Outbreak in Europe

iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) — The Zika virus outbreak continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, and concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been shown to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “global health emergency.”

Warming weather throughout Europe could mean the Zika virus will spread at a greater rate, a WHO official said this week.

WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny addressed the possibility of an expanding range for the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.

With mosquito season arriving in Europe, “the possibility of local transmission combined with the likelihood of onward sexual transmission could see a marked increase in the number of people with Zika and related complications,” she said, according to AFP.

“As seasonal temperatures begin to rise in Europe, two species of Aedes mosquito, which we know transmit the virus, will begin to circulate,” Kieny said, according to the AFP.

Currently, 42 countries are experiencing a first outbreak of Zika virus since 2015, with no previous evidence of circulation, and with ongoing transmission by mosquitoes, according to a WHO situation report last week.

Three European countries — France, Italy and Portugal — are among the eight countries that have reported person-to-person transmission of the virus via sexual contact.

Canada has reported its first case of person-to-person Zika transmission due to sexual contact.

An unnamed resident from Ontario is thought to have contracted the Zika virus from sexual contact with a partner. The partner was diagnosed with the virus after traveling to a country where the transmission of the virus is spread from mosquito to people, according to a statement from government officials on Monday.

There have been no confirmed cases if Zika spreading from mosquitoes to people in either Canada or the U.S. There have been a few cases reported of the virus transmitting through sexual contact in the U.S.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Puppy Born Without Back Paws Gets Adorable Booties to Help Him Walk

Kurt Budde/Best Friends Animal Society(KANAB, Utah) — These booties are made for walking!

The Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, provided adorable red booties to one special pup.

Justin the puppy was born without back paws, but managed to get along “fairly well” by putting most of his weight on his front legs.

The puppy arrived at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in early March after a good Samaritan rescued Justin and his siblings from under a house in Arizona.

Dogtown Operations Manager Christine Vergallito told ABC News that although Justin was a relatively happy puppy, the sanctuary staff could tell that Justin did experience some discomfort whenever he tried to run and play.

In order to help with his mobility, the sanctuary gave Justin a pair of red winter booties to improve his balance.

Vergallito revealed that the staff chose the red snow booties for Justin because the Velcro made it more difficult for the playful pup to take off.

Although the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary staff expected Justin to stay in the sanctuary until he was an adult, the cute puppy was adopted in just over a month of arriving at the sanctuary.

Justin’s new owner Giovanna Piazza told ABC News that the puppy is doing “great” and is settling into his new home in Orange County, California. She and her family are working to make sure that Justin — now Jax — is comfortable and mobile in his new home.

“He has a magnetic personality and everyone is attracted to him,” Piazza said.

Piazza explained that Jax now goes to a veterinary rehab specialist every week where he learns to strengthen his core, and straighten and elongate his spine. Piazza’s hope is for Jax to become a therapy dog for the local children’s hospital.

“In the next few weeks we’ll add a wheelchair (cart with back wheels) and in a year or so prosthetics, once he’s grown to full height and size,” Piazza said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead but everyone on Jax’s Team is very hopeful for his increased mobility over time.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Is It too Late to Get a Flu Shot?

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

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, is it too late? And if not, is it worth getting one?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported preliminary overall influenza vaccine effectiveness of about 59 percent this season. That means that getting a flu shot this year reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by nearly 60 percent.

But it also means the vaccine didn’t work 40 percent of the time.

For me, I’ve had influenza three times — most recently, just last month. All three times, I have never been so sick in my entire life. It took me weeks to recover and all three times, I had received a flu shot.

If you do get the flu after having been vaccinated, the symptoms are less severe than if you hadn’t been inoculated. So bottom line: There’s still time to get a flu shot.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Leah Still Reveals Flower Girl Dress for Her Dad Devon’s Wedding

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Last year, Leah Still captured America’s hearts as she battled pediatric cancer, sharing her emotional journey through months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation on social media.

The hashtag #LeahStrong was used as a powerful message of courage, which finally paid off in January 2016 when she stopped by ABC’s Good Morning America, along with her NFL star dad, Devon Still, to announce she was cancer free at the age of 5.

Now, the family is celebrating another happy milestone. Devon Still is getting hitched on May 13 at the New York Public Library. Devon and his fiancée, Asha Joyce, were chosen as The Knot’s 2016 Dream Wedding couple, allowing the magazine’s fans to vote on every aspect of their big day, from the bridal gown to the cake and even the rings.

“We’re really excited,” Asha said on GMA Tuesday morning. “I’m excited to see Devon and his expression when I walk down the aisle.”

Little Leah, of course, is the flower girl.

“We created two different looks for her,” bridal designer Hayley Paige told Good Morning America. “She wanted something that was very playful and girlie, but also really strong and fearless.”

Paige designed two bespoke looks for Leah, who couldn’t have been more thrilled to collaborate on the dress creations.

“When she came into my office we were playing the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack and I think when she puts that dress on, she’s going to feel like Elsa,” said Paige.

The end result for the flower girl dress she’ll wear to the reception is a sparkly, pink gown covered in 3D appliques, one of the hottest new flower girl trends of the season. The one Leah will be walking down the aisle in is being kept a secret for the wedding day.

Leah revealed her flower girl reception dress Tuesday on GMA.

“I think it looks pretty,” Leah said. “I love the flowers and the sparkles and I love the diamonds inside it.”

Paige said the inspiration for Leah’s dresses “definitely came from a place of bravery and admiration.”

“She has such a profound effect on the world right now and her story is so inspiring, so I wanted to create something that really captured her bubbly charm and heroic sense of self,” Paige explained.

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Orphaned Puppy Adopted by Mother Cat and Litter of Kittens

Michigan Humane Society(DETROIT) — An adorable puppy who was orphaned days after being born has found a new family in a litter of kittens.

“They’re pretty young, so they’re growing into their personalities,” Ryan McTigue, of the Michigan Humane Society, told ABC News. “After he’s big enough, we are going to get him in foster care among dogs, so he can learn to be a dog. He’ll be a good ambassador for both species, that’s for sure.”

McTigue said that Bobby, a 5-week-old Chihuahua mix, was sent to the Michigan Humane Society in Bingham Farms on April 1 after being picked up by a local rescue group.

“The mother had gotten hit by a car, and, unfortunately, she passed away when he was a couple of days old,” McTigue said. “A puppy that young, needs his mother….”

Since Bobby was left an orphan, MHS staff decided to take a chance with Gwen, a mother cat who was already nursing a litter of five kittens.

Gwen accepted Bobby as one of her own — feeding and comforting the pup along with his kitten siblings.

“Gwen, she was very content with all her little guys running around, so it seems like a perfect fit,” McTigue said. “… We’re helping with their medical needs. They’ll be in foster care until they’re big enough to find loving homes.”

The human society posted a video of Bobby and his blended family onto their Facebook page on April 22. Over 50,000 people have viewed the footage and many have already inquired about adopting the animals.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Music May Help Infants Learn to Perceive Language Patterns

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For growing babies, playing a waltz may help strengthen their ability to perceive speech and music, according to a new study published Monday.

Researchers investigated how listening to music in a social environment could impact infants’ cognitive ability and neural processing. The small study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences medical journal studied 39 infants at 9 months of age. Twenty of the infants were assigned to listen to a triple meter waltz while their parents or caregivers interacted with the babies and synchronized their movements with the beat.

The other 19 infants went to 12 sessions to play with non-musical toys and interact with their parent or caregiver. After 12 sessions, the researchers used a special device called a magnetoencephalography that can map brain activity through magnets to see if the infants’ brains were better at recognizing patterns in the music and if they could identify if the music was disrupted. Foreign speech was also used to see if infants could tell the language pattern of what they normally heard day-to-day had changed.

They found that the 20 infants who had gone through all 12 music sessions already had increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with auditory function.

The music “intervention improves infants’ detection and prediction of auditory patterns, skills important to music and speech,” the researchers concluded in their study.

While more study is needed, the researchers said listening to music may help babies be more perceptive about the world around them.

Dr. Joanne Loewy, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine and associate professor at the Icahn school of Medicine, said she thought the study was interesting.

“There’s evidence that the fetus responds to sound,” Loewy explained. The researchers “are looking at neurological evidence, which is exciting. Very young infants that neural processing of speech…is musical.”

Loewy said going forward it would be important to build on this kind of research to ensure that that music really does affect a child’s development and ability to recognize patterns.

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The More Rice Infants Eat, the Higher Their Arsenic Levels, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The more rice products they consume, the more infants are at risk of developing increased levels of arsenic, according to a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

The study examined the dietary data on 759 infants, and researchers found that 80 percent of them were introduced to rice cereal during their first year of life. They examined arsenic levels in infants’ urine to gauge whether there were differences between the babies who ate rice products and those who did not.

Researchers found that infants who ate rice cereal had more than three times the amount of arsenic levels in their urine compared with the infants who ate no rice products of any kind.

Arsenic is naturally occurring and found in soil and water. Rice grains are particularly adept at concentrating both organic and inorganic arsenic levels, leading to concerns that rice products may result in infants being exposed to elevated amounts of arsenic.

Infants are often given rice cereal and rice snacks as the first solid food they eat because there is a low chance of allergic reaction and it helps them learn to eat. Rice intake for infants, primarily in the form of rice cereal, is three times greater than adults in relation to body weight, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Lolita McDavid, a pediatrician and medical director for Child Advocacy and Protection at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said rice cereal is used to teach children — 4 to 6 months old — how to eat, but that parents concerned about arsenic can use other kinds of food as well.

“The reason most of us start with rice cereal, it’s very, very rare to find a child who can’t tolerate rice,” McDavid explained. “You don’t have to have any cereal. You can just start the baby with [pureed] fruits and vegetables” when they’re older, she added.

The FDA announced earlier this month that it will propose a limit on “inorganic arsenic” in infant rice cereal because of concerns about the potential long-term effects of exposure to arsenic in food. It put a target limit of 100 parts per billion level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. A similar level has been set by the European Commission for rice products aimed at infants and young children.

The new proposal comes after a 2016 FDA risk assessment, which found an association with inorganic arsenic exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurological effects in early life for children.

The FDA said many rice products on the market were below or close to the target limit posted.

“Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science,” said Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a statement earlier this month. “The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants.”

The FDA didn’t point fingers at any one baby food company, but Gerber Products still sought to reassure customers after the FDA announcement that its rice cereal was safe to eat. Company officials said they use rice grown exclusively in California that, they said, had the lowest arsenic levels in the United States.

“Gerber monitors and controls for arsenic in our rice ingredients, as arsenic can occur naturally in rice through the growing process. Any ingredient that does not meet our high standards for quality is rejected,” the company said in a statement. “It is not possible to completely eliminate arsenic in food and it has not been determined that there is any safety concern.”

McDavid said parents can continue to feed their children rice as experts wait on the FDA to make official recommendations.

“Until the FDA tells us what is an unhealthy level of arsenic, I think people will probably continue to have parents use rice cereal,” she said.

Researchers called for more study to examine whether elevated levels of arsenic actually translate to measurable health effects in the long term.

“Our results indicate that consumption of rice and rice products increases infants’ exposure to [arsenic],” the study authors said, “and that regulation could reduce [arsenic] exposure during this critical phase of development.”

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