Review Category : Health

Family Seeking Liver Donor to Save Twins Asks for Public’s Help

Bhakpong/iStock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) — A family desperately searching for a liver donor for their twin daughters have started a campaign in order to find a stranger willing to donate to save their girls.

Binh and Phuoc Wagner, 3, of Ontario, Canada, both need liver transplants because of a genetic condition called Alagille syndrome, which can affect bile ducts in the liver and lead to severe liver damage.

The twins were adopted from Vietnam in 2012 by Johanne and Michael Wagner, who were aware the girls’ livers were in trouble during the adoption.

“We knew they were very ill,” Johanne Wagner said. “Those girls knocked on our doors and they were supposed to be with us, and it just took a different path. As soon as we heard about them, we knew they were they were part of our family.”

Last year, the girls’ condition worsened to the point that they were able to be put on a transplant list. While the girls each need their own donor, the family was delighted to find out that Michael Wagner was a donor match.

Wagner can only give liver tissue to one child because of the way the liver regenerates. Doctors will determine which girl is sicker and she will undergo the procedure.

“We found ourselves to be very lucky that we qualified right away,” said Johanne Wager of her husband being a match. “[We’re] relieved but we need one more donor.”

The family has now turned to social media and public outreach in the hope that a stranger could be a match and also be willing to undergo rigorous medical procedures and an operation in order to save their daughter’s life.

After starting a Facebook page to draw attention to the twins’ story, Johanne Wagner said hundreds of people started flooding her Facebook page offering to be a living donor. Wagner is directing anyone interested to the Toronto General Hospital Living Donor Assessment Office to see if they fit the profile.

Dr. Les Lilly, the medical director of liver transplant at Toronto General Hospital, estimated that anonymous living donors account for a fraction of liver donations, but that with social media the practice could become more commonplace.

“We do have people who step forward and want to help out, and they’re considered anonymous donors,” said Lilly. “I think there’s a greater awareness,” of being a living donor through social media.

Lilly cautioned that becoming a living donor is not easy. A person’s blood type must be compatible with the recipient and they must pass a battery of tests to ensure they are healthy enough to donate. After the operation, they have to be out of work for weeks as they recover.

Lilly said hospital officials go slowly with tests so that donors are not overwhelmed and feel they still can change their minds.

“We’re very, very conscious of donor safety,” said Lilly. “We realize some people might go into process very enthusiastically,” but later decide it is not right for them.

Billie Potkonjak, director of health promotion and patient services at the Canadian Liver Foundation, said they’re seeing more and more anonymous living liver donor cases.

“Certainly, the proliferation of social media makes it easier for people to go public with their situation and to talk about it publicly,” said Potkonjak. “It definitely highlights the need for organ donation.”

Johanne Wagner said it’s likely her husband will donate his liver to one of the girls within the next few weeks.

In spite of the difficulties they’re facing, Johanne Wagner said they’re staying positive and thankful for the public’s support.

“We would travel this road all over again,” she said.

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Does Shaving Make Your Hair Darker and Thicker?

Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When faced with a patch of unruly hair on your body, it’s tempting to grab a razor and cut it down to size. But should you think again before reaching for the blade to solve your over-active follicles?

Dr. Debbie Yi, an Emergency Medicine and Neurology physician at the Hospital of UPenn, cuts this myth down to size. Dr. Yi asserts that our hair is a lot like grass: thick at the bottom and thinner towards the ends.

“So when we shave, all you’re doing is causing a cut, that makes the hair more coarse and more stubbly. So it might appear to be darker, and might appear to be thicker, but sadly, it actually isn’t,” Dr. Yi says.

So the next time you reach for that razor to get rid of unsightly hair, never fear, the hair that remains isn’t thicker or darker — it’s just an illusion.

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Paying Pregnant Women to Stop Smoking Pays Off

Wavebreak Media(ATLANTA) — Most women understand the perils of smoking while pregnant yet many women continue to light up anyway, which can affect their health and the well-being of their fetus.

The problem is more pervasive than one might imagine. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of 10 pregnant women still smokes within the last three months of pregnancy.

Smoking cessation programs directed at pregnant women have had some degree of success but a research team of scientists from the U.K. says that an especially effective approach is to bribe the women with shopping vouchers.

In their study of more than 600 pregnant smokers, one group received the equivalent of $600 worth of vouchers, provided they started cessation programs and/or stopped smoking. The other group signed up for programs and other therapies but weren’t given vouchers.

Ultimately, 23 percent of the voucher group quit right away and 15 percent were still off cigarettes a year later. The control group was not as successful with nine percent having stopped smoking and just four percent staying smoke-free 12 months later.

Ethical concerns aside, the researchers believe the cash incentive program should at least be considered as “an important preventive health care intervention strategy.”

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Half of Seniors Reluctant to Reveal Falls to Doctors

Purestock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — There’s no shame in falling down, particularly if you’re a senior. The real shame is not telling a medical professional about it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of the millions of people aged 65 and older who fall annually fail to tell their personal physician about it.

Penn State University internal medicine specialist Dr. Nicole Osevala says the reason is that many seniors are worried that revealing their unsteadiness is a precursor to getting put in assisted living or a nursing home. Another concern of the elderly is that they don’t want their family members fussing over them.

However, Osevala says that seniors need to get over their fears because their doctor might be able to treat the source of their unsteadiness, which could result from osteoarthritis and nerve damage or even infections of the skin or urinary tract. Some medications such as blood pressure drugs or antidepressants can also increase the risk of falls.

According to Osevala, seniors also need to recognize that they might have limitations that means fewer trips up and down stairs.

One other important point is that a fall can make older people more susceptible to another fall so they really need to come clean to their doctors.

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Money Is Not the Root of All Happiness

iStock/Thinkstock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) — You’ve heard the cliché a million times: money can’t buy happiness. Well, maybe there’s something to it after all.

Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of British Columbia aren’t saying that having money is a bad thing since it can make life easier. However, they contend that fewer money worries doesn’t necessarily equate to a happy life.

After reviewing data from 12,300 people who answered a 2010 Census survey that recorded levels of their happiness and income, the researchers discovered that “higher income is associated with experiencing less daily sadness, but has no bearing on daily happiness.”

In other words, happiness and sadness, while different emotions, are not opposite emotions.

So, while money can get people out of predicaments that make them sad, it won’t make them any happier.

As leader author Kostadin Kushlev explains, “People limit their own ability to experience happiness if they let money take over.” Instead, they need to focus on making better choices that will bring them true contentment.

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One in 12 Americans Don’t Follow Prescription Medication Directions in Effort to Save Money

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in 12 Americans choose not to take prescription medication as directed to save money.

Eight percent of Americans, the CDC says, do not take prescription medicine as directed in an effort to save money. An even larger 15 percent said they have asked their physician for a lower-cost medication than what was prescribed for them.

The CDC also notes that alternative cost-reducing strategies including alternative drug therapy and purchase of prescription drugs from another country were also tactics employed by between 1.5 percent and 4.2 percent of American adults.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 were nearly twice as likely — 8.5 percent to 4.4 percent — to report not taking medicines as prescribed as seniors were, a figure that jumped when looking at uninsured adults.

Perhaps just as staggering is almost 20 percent of the $263 billion spent on prescription drugs each year in the U.S. was paid for out of pocket.

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Organ Transplants Could Provide Two Million Extra Years of Life, Researchers Say

targovcom/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Organ transplants in the United States may lead to as many as two million extra years of life, researchers say.

Looking at data since the FDA first approved solid-organ transplants in 1983, researchers say they determined the survival benefit of organ transplants by comparing patients on the transplant list who received a transplant to those who did not receive a transplant over a 25-year span. During that time frame, kidney transplants were most common, followed by liver, heart, lung, pancreas and intestine transplants.

Researchers attributed 1.4 million life-years saved to kidney transplants. In their measurements, they determined that kidney, pancreas-kidney, liver and heart transplants give recipients an extra four to five years of life. Comparatively, lung, pancreas and intestine transplants provided patients with two to three more life-years.

Overall, all transplant recipients lived significantly longer than those who did not receive a transplant, researchers say.

The researchers did note that transplant recipients are intentionally selected to prioritize those who could benefit the most from available organs. They say they attempted to account for that statistical bias with their analyses.

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Study: Insurers May Be Using Drug Costs to Discriminate

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A study in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that insurers may be using the costs of certain drugs to discriminate against “high-cost patients.”

Researchers analyzed “adverse tiering” in 12 states using the federal health insurance marketplace. Of those 12 states, six states included insurers cited in a complaint submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2014 (Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina and Utah), and the six most populous states with none of the mentioned insurers (Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia).

Adverse tiering, the researchers explain, is an approach that aims to deter specific patients from enrolling in health insurance, for example, by ensuring that “enrollees with HIV will incur high costs regardless of which drugs they take.”

In each state, researchers looked at the plans with the lowest, second-lowest, median and highest premiums for the “silver” level health insurance, assessing the cost sharing for the most commonly prescribed class of HIV medications. In 12 of the 48 plans analyzed, the researchers say they found evidence of adverse tiering.

This problem, the researchers say, “will most likely lead to adverse selection over time, with sicker people clustering in plans that don’t use adverse tiering for their medical conditions.”

The researchers recommend mandating a percentage of drug costs paid by the plan to be set at a percentage threshold.

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California Dept. of Public Health Calls E-Cigarettes a ‘Community Health Threat’

scyther5/iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — A report issued by the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday calls electronic cigarettes a “community health threat.”

CDPH Director and State Health Office Ron Chapman wrote the introduction to the report, highlighting his concerns regarding marketing methods that “may…mislead consumers into believing that these products are harmless and safe for consumption.” Chapman noted that there were 154 e-cigarette poisonings among children age five and under in 2014 — well up from the seven such poisonings in 2012.

Chapman also mentioned the $2 billion, 25-year investment in efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use in California.

According to the report, e-cigarettes contain products that produce aerosol — not just water vapor — to be inhaled by the user. That aerosol can contain chemicals like formaldehyde, lead, nickel and acetaldehyde, which are found on California’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

The CDPH made several recommendations to restrict the sale and use of e-cigarettes, among them were the prohibition of e-cigarette sales to minors around the U.S., prohibition of free samples or e-cigarette vending machines in facilities where minors may spend time, and required registration of e-cigarette products with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The CDPH also aims to require a nicotine health warning on all e-cigarette products, while also mandating manufacturers disclose the ingredients of their product.

The CDPH further says it will create an educations campaign to impart the health dangers of e-cigarettes.

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Some Commonly Used Drugs Could Spur Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Thinkstock/Getty Images(SEATTLE) — Seniors are being warned to cut back on the use of certain over-the-counter medications as well as older antidepressants as they may hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says that the sleep-aid Nytol and anti-allergy drugs Benadryl and Piriton contain ingredients that block the key chemical messenger acetylcholine, which is essential to healthy cognitive functions.

Study leader Shelly Gray of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy says the antidepressant doxepin also falls into this category of anticholinergic drugs, which can cause sleepiness and poor memory.

After studying 3,434 men and women age 65 and older, those taking high dosages of these drugs compared to those who didn’t had a 63 percent risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a 54 percent higher risk of developing dementia.

Still, Gray cautions seniors who might be on these meds to consult their physicians before they stop taking these drugs.

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