Category: Recommendations

Get Outside to Absorb Vitamin D

Some 75% of US teens and adults are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D, also known as the sunlight vitamin, is associated with obesity, heart disease, and cancer. People with low Vitamin D are more likely to deal with these issues and many more than those with normal or above normal levels.

What can you do to increase your Vitamin D levels?

Scientists say that getting just 10 minutes of exposure to the sun is enough for most people to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels. But it’s not enough to sit in front of a window on a sunny day. Our bodies use UVB light to help us process vitamin D, and unlike UVA light–the light associated with aging– this light doesn’t make it through windows. So take advantage of any sunny days we get this spring and spend a few minutes basking in the sunshine. Your body will thank you.

 

Additional Resources:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/vitamin-d-deficiency-united-states/

FDA Crackdown on Misleading Dietary Supplements

The United States is in the midst of a scientific wave. We are lucky to live during a time where new and effective medicines have changed the way we can prevent and treat chronic disease. However,  we have begun to see that fraudulent claims and products accompany this innovation. Amongst these deceptive products, dietary supplements are amongst the guiltiest parties.

The dietary supplement industry is extremely prosperous, with a market size of nearly $112 billion. Although some dietary supplements are effective, there are many which provide no benefit or can even cause harm to a consumer. Many false products make sweeping claims which have absolutely no backing evidence – such as dietary supplements which advertise that they can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Dietary supplements do not have to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before hitting the market. They can only be taken down afterwards if they have shown to cause adverse health outcomes or if the product is fake/misleading.

Just this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a statement regarding just this. This press announcement calls for a new, massive regulation of dietary supplements. The FDA is addressing this issue because they believe ineffective dietary supplements can cause a great deal of harm when people take them as alternatives to approved treatments. This new statement provides a hopeful potential of establishing a more honest and less misleading supplement market.

 

https://www.jillcarnahan.com/2018/02/17/fake-supplement-issue-no-one-talking-beware-amazon/

https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm631046.htm

https://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/UsingDietarySupplements/ucm109760.htm

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm631065.htm

 

 

Blame it on the Alk(aline)?

These days, it’s hard to keep up with what’s truly “good” or “bad” for your health. However, through all the changing trends, one thing has been steadfast: water. Water is one of the most necessary and obvious components for healthy living. Now, people are turning their eyes towards alkaline water, wondering if there’s a way to make drinking water even more healthy.

Alkaline water is just like regular water, except it has a higher pH level. pH levels dictate how acidic or non-acidic (basic) your water is. If it has a higher pH level – like alkaline level – it’s more basic than regular water. Alkaline water has salts and metals which make it unique from normal drinking water. It’s more common than you think, brands like Smart Water and Essentia offer alkaline water products.

So why drink it? Many sources claim drinking alkaline water has a number of health benefits. According to those who support it, alkaline water is rich in antioxidants, can help balance pH levels, lead to better hydration, boost the immune system, and many more benefits. However, like many nutritional fads, there is still not conclusive evidence these claims. And like anything going into your body, it’s important to consume everything in moderation.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/29/health/alkaline-water-benefits-explainer/index.html

https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-alkaline-water-does-to-your-body/

https://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis

 

Online and IRL: Let’s Talk About Health Advocacy

Our smart phones deliver more than just answers to our Google questions. Mobile phones make communicating with each other easier than ever. About 95% of people in the United States own a cell phone of some kind; 77% own a smart phone. Nationally, the Pew Research Center estimates that seven out of ten people use at least one social media platform to connect with one another, read news, or for entertainment.

Combined with the availability of mobile phones, social media is the perfect avenue for advocacy on today’s public health problems.

By enabling its users to share experiences or expertise about issues, social media helps inform broad audiences about topics like mental health or diet and exercise. Influencers–people who have amassed large audiences on social media–inspire audiences to take action with just one photo or video. They donate to causes or make phones calls to elected officials about pertinent issues. Other times, the influence of messages shared through social media is more subtle. Among other things, they can help us feel more comfortable talking about difficult topics in our everyday conversations with colleagues or friends.

While “likes” and reposts serve as one way to advocate, it is crucial that we have conversations about public health in real life.

Get involved in local advocacy efforts in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) by connecting with the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NC NAACP) and Minority Health Caucus who host their signature advocacy events in February. The NC NAACP follows a long tradition of social justice advocacy via the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J) on February 9th and the Minority Health Caucus will lead it’s 40th Annual Minority Health Conference on February 22nd. Both events are great ways to learn about local issues and take action both in person and by raising visibility of issues using social media.

 

By Maribel Sierra

 

Statistics from:

Pew Research Center. (2018, February 5). Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

Pew Research Center. (2018, February 5). Demographics of Social Media Users and Adoption in the United States. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/

 

Brown Fat is Good Fat

Picture this: near-freezing temperatures, more darkness than daylight, and the pain of breathing in brittle, cold air. These conditions sound pretty terrible for exercise, right? Think again. Taking the time to exercise outside during winter can have a range of benefits, as long as one is also mindful of the risks.

Research has shown that exercising outside in cold weather (50°F or colder) can actually be beneficial for your health in a number of ways. This experience has been shown to boost one’s metabolism. Exercising in cold weather increases the production of brown fat by 45%, which is a type of fat that is highly calorie-burning. Having more of this type of fat generally aids metabolic function, and can contribute to active weight loss. Alongside this, it has been shown that outdoor recreation is in general a healthier choice than the indoor alternative. Studies have found that those who exercise outdoor regularly have lower risks for cardiovascular disease.

These studies are promising, but it’s always important to keep in mind the risks of exercising in frigid weather. Those who have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and/or sedentary lifestyle should be extra careful during these conditions, as exercising in cold weather can lead to higher risk of heart attacks.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423363

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27089974

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/25/health/winter-exercise-jampolis/index.html

 

A Lack of Vacc’s in this “Mild” Flu Season

Every year, our immune systems are exposed to a new strain of the flu. The flu evolves and changes constantly. This is why we have to get a new vaccine or “flu shot” every year. However, as the viruses change, so does the severity of their disease.

The impact of the flu virus is unpredictable, and that is why the CDC (and many other public health professionals) will always advise people to get their flu shot.  However, this year, a majority of adults are refusing to get their shot. A survey from mid-November showed that only 43% of 18+ adults have gotten their flu shots in the US.

From this survey, many of the people who have not been vaccinated claim they do not intend to get vaccinated. People seem to believe this is a “mild” flu season – as the death toll is not comparable to the high burden from the previous year. However, there is no way to know if the flu itself is actually “mild” this early in the season.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

http://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/Pages/41-percent-of-americans-do-not-intend-to-get-a-flu-shot.aspx

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/07/health/flu-season-vaccination-november-30-cdc/index.html

 

 

 

Vaping on the Rise

In 1965, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began tracking cigarette smoking in the United States. Although it is still a widespread and serious problem in the US, the rates of traditional cigarette smoking have steadily declined. Now, in 2018, our nation is faced with a new tobacco use: vaping.

A new statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that adolescents are vaping at a dangerous level. From 2017 to 2018, the FDA found an 80% increase in the number of high schoolers vaping, and a 50% increase in middle schoolers. In total, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control found that one out of five high schoolers have vaped in the last month.

Many people worry that the spike in adolescent vaping is a result of youth-targeted branding by e-cigarette companies. In particular, many people have pointed fingers at the e-cigarette brand “Juul”. In the recent past, Juul’s advertising campaigns contained images full of young faces, bright colors, and several fruit-flavored vaping options. Now, due to a series of initiatives from the FDA, Juul has recalled many of these campaigns and suspended sales of untraditional flavors.

Evidence does suggest that e-cigarettes should be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, these products are still new to the market and health-associated risks have not been fully evaluated.  In addition, when adolescents vape they are still being exposed to nicotine. This is a dangerous and addictive substance which can be harmful to a developing brain.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0118-smoking-rates-declining.html

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm625884.htm

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/health/juul-ecigarettes-vaping-teenagers.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110871/

https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html

 

 

 

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)

 

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

meet the new, self-lubricating condom

It’s no secret that the U.S. still has a long way to go in the field of contraceptives and STI prevention. According to the CDC in 2017, only about one-third of sexually active Americans use condoms, and it has been a long-term public health issue. Abstaining from condom use (or other forms of protection) during sex can lead to a myriad of health concerns, including unwanted pregnancies, bacterial and viral infections. These new troubling statistics beg questions as to why condom use is so low, especially amongst those who aren’t opting for other birth control or protective options.

Scientists at Boston University have acknowledged this issue, and have responded with a new, friction-lowering self-lubricating condom that may up condom usage. Some of the reasons people abstain from use is due to complaints that condoms are uncomfortable, painful and detract from sensation and sexual pleasure. The team at BU has found a way to eliminate some of these negative qualities with their new technology. This new condom has the ability to self-lubricate when it comes into contact with moisture – such as bodily fluids – making sexual experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.

Their study showed that 73% individuals surveyed preferred the texture of their new condom, and also noted that they would be more inclined to use condoms such as this one. The condom still has to be tested during sex, but if introduced to the market, it could increase the prevalence of safe-sex behaviors and contraceptive use.

 

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr105.pdf

https://consumer.healthday.com/sexual-health-information-32/condom-health-news-154/only-about-one-third-of-americans-use-condoms-cdc-725436.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/health/condoms-self-lubricating-prevent-stds-intl/index.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1258/ijsa.2008.008120?journalCode=stda

http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/10/180291