Category: Uncategorized

What’s Actually Bad For Our Skin?

In today’s age, it’s hard to keep up with what things are good for our skin, bad for our skin, or don’t affect it at all. Skin care is tied into beauty, and thus many people are often searching for a “secret trick” or “hack”. Due to this, many different products and techniques have been recommended. Many of these approaches have are rumored to provide drastic improvements in one’s skin clarity, texture, and overall health. Alongside these claims, we see many people generating fear around certain exposures, and it’s important to examine what can actually harm our skin.

There are many negative things in our lives that can have unexpected side effects. Stress, for one, can play a large role in the health of one’s skin. Experiencing excessive stress can prompt new outbreaks or aggravate pre-existing conditions, like psoriasis, eczema and hives. As many already know, smoking is a habit with many negative health outcomes. However, few often attribute smoking to skincare, and are unaware of the damage it can cause. Nicotine reduces blood flow to one’s skin, and thus smoker’s often have skin which is more wrinkled, thin and less likely to heal if injured.

Alongside these negative factors, there are those which are a bit more complicated. UV rays – coming from sunshine – are a mixed bag. A little sunlight is good for you, it prompts one’s skin to make Vitamin D, which is essential to many bodily processes. However, without proper protection , sunlight can be extremely damaging to skin. Excess exposure to UV rays can cause mutations in your DNA, which can later lead to cancer. Because of this, it’s important to wear protective sunscreen, clothing, and protective gear when exposing oneself to strong sunlight for long hours.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/27/health/skin-myths-truths-partner/index.html

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/the-effects-of-stress-on-your-skin

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/bad-skin-habits#1

https://www.cancer.net/blog/2015-07/10-tips-protecting-your-skin-sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture of the North Carolina State flag in the shape of the state

NC Medicaid Expansion- A quick look at pros and cons

In North Carolina’s State of the State address Monday night, Governor Roy Cooper encouraged the state legislature to expand Medicaid.  Among other reasons,  he cited that North Carolinians federal tax dollars pay for Medicaid expansion in other states, so our residents should have access to those services as well.  Medicaid expansion has been on many people’s minds since the Affordable Care Act made it possible in 2014.  In honor of this, let’s highlight some of the arguments for and against it in North Carolina.

Against Expansion

For Expansion

These are some of the main pros and cons to Medicaid expansion.  What are some other arguments, both for and against, that you’ve heard?

 

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/ABC11/videos/261495221441061/

http://www.fiscalhealthnc.com/to_expand_or_not_to_expand_the_pros_and_cons_of_medicaid_expansion_in_nc

https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article224597675.html

https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2018/05/implications-of-state-medicaid-expansion.html

https://www.ncdp.org/our-values/health-care/

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1202099

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Movement Can Go A Long Way

In today’s society, we can access so many resources without having to put in any real effort.

Everything is available in an instant via our smartphones.  We used to have to go to the store to buy household goods, now we can have them delivered to our doorstep the same day by Amazon.  We used to have to go to the bank to deposit a check, now we can take a picture of a check on our smartphone and the money will be deposited moments later.

We barely have to move a finger anymore, but it’s actually in our best interest that we do keep moving (fingers, toes, arms, legs, etc.).

It is estimated that 322 million people worldwide live with depression.  Pulling yourself away from society’s convenience tools and getting in a little physical activity daily can help to protect your mental health.

While previous research only showed physical activity and depression were linked, a recent New York Times article highlighted an innovative study by Choi et. al (2019) found that simple physical activities — jogging for 15 minutes or simpler activities like walking, gardening, or doing housework for closer to an hour — can actually protect against developing depression.

If you are considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by phone 24-hours per day by just calling 1-800-273-8255.

If you’re a UNC student struggling with depression, UNC offers counseling and psychological services through the UNC CAPS program.

 

We all deserve the ability to be happy without depression getting in the way.

– Alex Kresovich

For more information, check out:

Choi, K. W., Chen, C. Y., Stein, M. B., Klimentidis, Y. C., Wang, M. J., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2019). Assessment of bidirectional relationships between physical activity and depression among adults: a 2-sample mendelian randomization study. JAMA psychiatry.

Debate Over Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is one of the newest and most powerful medical advancements of our time. With this privilege, comes promising opportunities to predict, diagnose, treat and even cure certain diseases. One of the most common applications of this testing is in breast cancer patients. Understanding a patient’s genetic lineage can tell doctors a lot about the cancer they are treating.

Some sources  insist that all breast cancer patients should be genetically tested – although there is still quite a bit of debate over this stance. Although there are a lot of perks to genetic testing, some believe it’s an elaborate standard to adhere by, and don’t believe that all providers can or will offer this option.

These conflicting messages are confusing, and creates dynamics which are difficult for patients to navigate. Despite some disagreement, a number of well-respected scientists and clinicians insist that these tests can save cancer patients’ lives.  Dr. Mary-Claire King is a renowned geneticist who discovered the BRCA gene mutation in 1990 and its links to breast cancer. She is one of the many scientists who has come out to speak about the importance of genetic testing in cancer patients. She advocates for the utility of these tests, and insists they are necessary to help prevent and reduce risk of cancer threats.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/genetic-test-guidelines-breast-cancer-bn/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/health/brca-genetic-testing-recommendation-study/index.html

https://www.gs.washington.edu/faculty/king.htm

 

 

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/

 

Designer Babies: Questions of Ethics

Imagine a world with no disease. No one gets cancer, birth defects are a thing of the past, and STDs like HIV have been eliminated. At the end of 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced that we were one step closer to this reality. He had successfully created genetically altered babies, who were, he claimed, resistant to HIV. This announcement threw the scientific community into an uproar. It reignited a decades old debate over the role of eugenics amid our increasing ability to alter—and select—the human genome to create the “perfect” human. Some countries banned all gene-editing in response, pending review. The ethical implications of gene-editing are complex, and we can no longer delay discussing them. These are some of the questions that you should be asking:
 
1) Does creating “designer babies” increase disadvantages or discrimination within a society? In other words, if we can create the “perfect” human, how are the less than perfect humans affected?
 
2) When should we allow gene-editing in humans? Gene editing that removes a devastating disease may be acceptable. What about gene editing that determines eye-color or intelligence? Where do we draw the line?
3)What are the population-level implications of gene-editing human embryos?
4) What are the potential benefits of gene-editing in humans? Beyond addressing illness, could gene-editing also be used to change personality traits?
 
5) Who gets to decide whether gene-editing is permissible? What gives them the authority to do so? Who else deserves a say?
 
6) What are the appropriate legal measures in favor or against gene editing in humans?
 
Check out these links for more in-depth discussion of these issues:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46943593
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/dr-caitlin-dunne/designer-babies-and-human-gene-editing_a_23637685/
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/designer-babies-gene-editing-genetics-genome-nuffield-ethics-disease-a8449971.html
https://jme.bmj.com/content/30/6/e5
https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/statement-claim-first-gene-edited-babies-chinese-researcher

Raw Beef Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Outbreak

First it was romaine lettuce due to an E.coli outbreak, and now raw beef is being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. It seems like consumers, retailers, and restaurants everywhere cannot catch a break when it comes to foodborne outbreaks.

Earlier today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a statement announcing that JBS Tolleson, Inc., an Arizona-based establishment, has recalled over 5.1 million pounds of raw beef products due to a possible salmonella outbreak. This comes after their first recall, which took place in early October of this year. In total, that is over 12 million pounds of raw beef products that JBS Tolleson, Inc. has recalled since October. The USDA states that those raw beef products, including ground beef, being recalled “bear the establishment number ‘EST. 267’ inside the USDA mark of inspection.” The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is concerned that some people may have these contaminated raw beef products in their freezers and recommend that individuals that do throw them away.

Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning in the United States. It can be found on products such as contaminated eggs, poultry, raw fruits and vegetables. Consuming foods contaminated with salmonella can cause symptoms within 12-72 hours after consumption. These symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. It is important that one drinks plenty of fluids and gets adequate rest if infected with salmonella. Illness from salmonella exposure typically lasts 4-7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

The FSIS advises that individuals practice safety when handling and cooking raw meat products. Ground meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71.1 degrees Celsius. Other beef products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 62.8 degrees Celsius and left to rest for at least 3 minutes. Proper temperature can be confirmed with a food thermometer.

For more information about the recall and to read USDA’s official statement about it, please click here.

References

United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2018, December 4). News Release: JBS Tolleson, Inc. Recalls Raw Beef Products due to Possible Salmonella Newport Contamination. Retrieved from   https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-case-archive/archive/2018/recall-085-2018-EXP-release

Salmonella. FoodSafety.gov. (2018, December 4). Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/salmonella/index.html

United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2018, October 19). Safe Minimal Internal Temperature Chart. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/safe-minimum-internal-temperature-chart/ct_index

Asian Longhorned Tick Spreading Across U.S.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement announcing that the Asian Longhorned Tick population has spread across the country. The tick, which is not typically found in the Western Hemisphere, was first reported on a sheep back in 2017 in the state of New Jersey. Today, a total of nine states have reported finding this tick. The CDC reports that a single female tick can reproduce offspring without mating.

The Asian Longhorned Tick has been discovered on livestock, pets, wildlife, and people. The tick is known to spread pathogens in other countries, and is a major threat to livestock such as cattle in New Zealand and Australia. They suggest that if you think you have found the tick, to remove it as soon as possible from the animal or person and keep it in rubbing alcohol in a jar or ziplock bag, and to contact your state agriculture department for tick identification. A complete CDC fact sheet with more information can be found here.

The CDC is still investigating the impact and threat of the Asian Longhorned Tick spread. They recommend individuals take several steps to prevent against tick bites, such as:

  • Using EPA-approved insect repellants containing substances like DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus (more information about these repellants can be found here)
  • Wearing permethrin-treated clothing and gear
  • Checking your body for ticks when returning from areas where ticks may be present
  • Showering within two hours after being outdoors to help reduce the risk of tickborne diseases

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, November 29). Asian Longhorned Tick Spreading Widely in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1129-tick-spreading-widely.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (N.d.). What you need to know about Asian longhorned ticks—a new tick in the United States [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/pdfs/AsianLonghornedTick-P.pdf