Monday, October 29, 2012

Tips to Keep Your Food Safe during Hurricane Sandy


 October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is quickly approaching!  With her assault on its way, many may be wondering what they need to do to keep lifesaving supplies, especially if the power goes out.  One of the most vital supplies is food.  The USDA recently issued tips on how to keep perishables from spoiling. 

Be prepared with flashlights, batteries, medications, water, blankets, cash and food.  The top three foods that the USDA stresses are meat, poultry and eggs.  These need to be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in order to avoid foodborne illnesses.   If the power does go out, you have at least four hours that your food will be cold.  A full freezer can keep cold for 48 hours while a half freezer can keep cold for 24 hours.  Coolers can be used to extend foods life.  Remember than any frozen foods must be kept below 0 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe to consume.

Some other tips include:

·         Use a thermometer to test the temperature of food to ensure it is safe

·         Have ice handy in your freezer in case the power does go out

·         Fill containers with water and store them in your fridge and freezer.  This will help keep food long and can be used as a backup water supply in case of emergency.

·         Group foods together – it will keep them colder for longer

·         In  your pantry, store all items on higher shelves in case of flooding

For more tips and safety measures, check out the USDAs: A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety during Severe Storms & Hurricanes at:

Or visit their website at  You can also call them their toll- free hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

Beware Decorative Contacts!


 October 30, 2012

Halloween celebrations are often a time to dress like your favorite star or a creature of the night, which means altering your appearance.  Some choose to do this by wearing decorative contact lens to make sure they fit the role.  But choosing to change the look of your eyes can sometimes come with consequences, sometimes resulting permanent damage.  The FDA has recently released a notice cautioning users of decorative lenses.

Decorative contact lenses are meant to change the look of your eye, not correct you vision.  They are sometimes called:
  • Fashion contact lenses
  • Halloween contact lenses
  • Color contact lenses
  • Cosmetic contact lenses
  • Theatre contact lenses

While the names might not make it clear, these are medical devices!  The FDA oversees their regulation just like other medical devices.  Just as you would not purchase your regular contacts from anyone off the street, you should not purchase your decorative lenses from just any place.  You should not buy them at a street vendor, beauty supply store, flea market, novelty ship or Halloween store – you should see your doctor for a prescription.

Know the Risks

Just as regular contacts can cause eye problems, decorative contacts can cause problems too.  Risks include:
  • A cut or scratch on the top layer of your eyeball (Corneal Abrasion)
  • Allergic reactions like itchy, watery red eyes
  • Decreased vision
  • Infection
  • Blindness

When wearing any type of contact lenses, be aware of signs of possible eye infection, which include:

  • Redness
  • Pain in the eye(s) that doesn't go away after a short period of time
  • Decreased vision

If you have any of these signs, you need to see a licensed eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) right away! An eye infection could become serious and cause you to become blind if it is not treated.

You can avoid some of these risks by getting any type of contact lenses from your doctor. Be sure to follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses that your doctor gives you. If your doctor doesn't give you any directions — ask for them!

Dos and Don'ts

Do get an eye exam! A licensed eye doctor will examine your eyes to make sure the contact lenses fit properly. The fit of your contact lenses is very important. A wrong fit can cause damage to your eyes. Be sure to always go for follow-up eye exams.

Do get a prescription! Your eye doctor will write you a prescription for all contact lenses, including decorative lenses. The prescription should include the brand name, correct lens measurements and expiration date.

Do follow the contact lens care instructions! Follow the instructions for wearing, cleaning and disinfecting your contact lenses that come with your contact lenses. If you do not receive instructions, ask an eye doctor for them.

Do seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red, have ongoing pain or discharge! Redness, pain and discharge from the eyes are signs of an eye infection. If you think you have an eye infection from your contact lenses, remove them and see an eye doctor right away.

Don't share your contact lenses with anyone else! You wouldn't share your toothbrush would you? All eyes are not the same size and shape and your contact lenses are fitted just for you.

Don't buy any contact lenses without a prescription! If you don't see an eye doctor and get a prescription, then the contact lenses you get may not fit properly and may not work well. They could even damage your eyes. Sometimes wearing contact lenses can damage the top layer of your eyeball (cornea). Even if you aren't having any problems now, the lenses still could be causing damage to your eyes. By having regular check ups and buying contact lenses with a prescription, you will reduce the chances of any undetected damage to your eyes.

Buying Decorative Contact Lenses

You can buy contact lenses, including decorative contact lenses, from an eye care doctor, on the Internet or from a mail-order company. It's very important that you only buy contact lenses from a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and requires you to provide a prescription.

Anyone selling you contact lenses must get your prescription and verify it with your doctor. They should request not only the prescription, but the name of your doctor and their phone number. If they don't ask for this information they are breaking federal law and could be selling you illegal contact lenses.

Remember — Buying contact lenses without a prescription is dangerous!

Right now there are a lot of products that you can buy without a prescription but they may not be safe or legal. Never buy contact lenses from a street vendor, a beauty supply store, flea market, novelty store or Halloween store.

It's your job to make sure you protect your eyes by having an eye exam, getting a prescription and buying contact lenses from a legal source.


Content from the FDA  -


Looking for a quick “pick-me-up?” You might want to think twice before reaching for a Monster Energy Drink


 October 29, 2012

If you are drinking a Monster energy drink while you are reading this post, it could be your last drink.  Fox News has recently reported that there are 5 deaths linked to this popular energy drink.  The deaths have been reported to be from heart attacks.  One survivor of a non-fatal heart attack has cited Monster energy drink as the source of his illness.  The FDA is reportedly investigating these occurrences, which go back as far as 2004.  The FDA is currently reporting that the reports don’t necessarily prove that the drinks caused the deaths or injuries.  However, people are beginning to take notice of what drinks they are consuming.

The story became public about the FDA’s search for the truth about the deaths when parents of a 14-year-old Hagerstown girl, filed a wrongful death suit in Riverside, California.  The girl passed away shortly after she drank two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks.   An autopsy performed on the girl showed the cause of death as cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.  This impeded her heart from pumping blood.  Prior to the consumption of the Monster energy drinks, the girl did suffer from an inherited disorder that can weaken blood vessels.  The girl’s parents state that, “it [Monster[ failed to warn about the risks of drinking it’s products.”

Monster Beverage Corp. refers to their energy drinks as “killer energy brew” and “the meanest energy supplement on the planet.”  They did not immediately respond to calls about the lawsuit until last week.  They stated they were, “unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.”  Monster Beverage Corp. currently puts labels on their drinks that warn that they are not recommended for children or those who have caffeine sensitivity.  Monster drinks popularity reached an all-time high last year, but has plummeted since the news of the FDA’s investigation.  The Associated Press has reported that the company’s shares have dropped 14.2% and now at about $45.73.  The FDA is continuing its investigation into the reported deaths and injuries.  They have subpoenaed energy drink makers, including Monster, as part of their state wide investigation.

Energy drinks contain caffeine, a diuretic.  The FDA currently puts a limit of caffeine in soda at 0.02 percent.  There is no such limit on energy drinks.  If you choose to consume these products, do so cautiously.   Be careful not to become dehydrated and risk negative effects.  Energy drinks contain between 2 and 3 times the amount of caffeine in coffee.  Studies have shown that students who consume moderate amounts of caffeine before participating in physical activity experience increased blood pressure.  Energy drinks are also loaded with sugar and other herbal stimulants.  Doctors instead recommend salted pretzels and orange slices with water to increase energy.


Adapted from:. The Racquette. “Dying for a buzz: energy drinks that kill.” October 26, 2012.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Preserve your brain with exercise rather than games!


October 24, 2012

A sad reality of Alzheimer’s disease is that we currently do not have a way to prevent it.  We know that some people are biologically or genetically at a greater risk than others, but researchers want to find out how people can fight it off or, at the least, delay it.

Past researchers has shown that the strongest evidence for a lifestyle choice associated with Alzheimer’s prevention is incorporating exercise.  A new study published in the journal, Neurology, supports this past finding that working out is more effective at protecting the brain then doing cognitive challenges such as games or puzzles.
The researchers conducted a study that included nearly 700 participants from Scotland that were all born in 1936.  The participants reported their leisure and physical activity levels at age 70.   They rated their physical activity on a scale that ranged from “moving only in connection with necessary (household) chores” to “keep-fit/heavy exercise or competitive sport several times per week.”  They were also asked to rate how often they took part in social and intellectual activities.

At age 73 the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure certain biomarkers in the brains of the participants.   The study findings appear to show that people who participated in more physical activity typically showed less brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions, both of which can be indicators of Alzheimer’s.  Grey matter is made up mostly of nerve cells, neurons, and is primarily associated with processing and cognition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  Alternately, white matter is composed mainly of nerve fibers, and coordinates the communication between various brain regions.

The researchers that conducted the study found that intellectual and social engagement were not as beneficial to the brain, but they did show some signs that they might also carry benefits.  According to Heather Snyder, senior associate director for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association (but was not involved in the study), she is not surprised by the results.  Physical activity is linked to promoting a healthy heart and the well-being of the brain and the heart are linked.  An unhealthy heart is not as efficient at pumping the blood the brain needs. 

"In terms of the exact mechanism, there's a lot that we don't know," she said.

Snyder also said that the strongest evidence from research suggests that exercise helps to prevent Alzheimer’s later in life, but cognitive exercises do not hurt.   Snyder also said that researchers aren’t sure as to how much exercise is beneficial or whether it is too late to increase activity after a certain age.

One of the small studies presented showed that women between the ages of ages of 70-80 benefited from walking, balance exercises and weight-lifting.  Those who did weight-lifting showed the most improvement.  The researchers also found that people who began with the highest baseline benefited the most form exercise. 

Adapted from “Exercise may preserve brain better than games.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

'Tis the Season...for the Flu

Fall is in full swing and that means influenza (flu) season is here, too. The flu is caused by viruses that infect your nose, throat and lungs. It's easily spread from person to person, so be sure to follow these tips to protect yourself and your family: 

  •   Wash your hands frequently
  •   Keep your home and office clean and disinfected
  •   Get a flu vaccination
  •   Know when to stay home from work or school

Want more details? Keep reading to learn more about how to avoid the flu this season.

Wash Your Hands
Proper hand washing can prevent the spread of colds, flu and other common illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests using this technique when washing your hands: Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Rinse well under running water.

Stay healthy this season by washing your hands in these instances:

  •   After sneezing or coughing
  •   After handling pets
  •   Before eating or touching food
  •   After using the bathroom/toilet
  •   When they are filmy, sticky or visibly dirty

Disinfect Your Home and Office
It's important to keep your home and workplace clean and disinfected to avoid spreading germs. Cleaning with soap and water removes dirt and most germs, but disinfecting actually kills germs.

Use antibacterial wipes to kill germs from commonly used spaces in your home or office. Examples include countertops, faucet handles, doorknobs, desktops, phones, computer screens and keyboards.


Get a Flu Vaccine
Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine. It's especially important for certain people to get the vaccine, including:

  •   People with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes and
      chronic lung disease.
  •   Pregnant women.
  •   People ages 65 and older.
  •   People who live with or care for those at high risk of developing serious
      complications, such as caregivers of people with certain medical
      conditions, including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

Even if you've received a flu vaccine in the past, you should get one each year. That's because flu viruses are always changing and it's possible that a new flu strain will appear each year. By getting a vaccination each year, you are getting the best protection.

Learn more about the seasonal flu vaccine by visiting the CDC website.


Know When to Stay Home
If you have symptoms of the flu, stay home from school or work until you are fever-free (without the help of fever-reducing medicine) for at least 24 hours.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Study Finds Teens’ Poor Sleep Tied to Heart Risk Factors


October 9, 2012

Researchers studied 4,100 teenagers and found that the one-third with the poorest sleep quality were more likely to be overweight or have unhealthy eating habits or cholesterol.  Those teenagers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be affected by conditions that impact heart health. 
Poor sleep problems included issues falling asleep and staying asleep, bedtime “restlessness,” and bad dreams.  The findings of the study, according to researcher Dr. Brian McCrindle at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, do not prove that the sleep problems are to blame.  In an interview he stated:
"It's hard to get at the causal pathway.”
Sleep problems are often linked to a number of poor life style habits.  People who did not get enough sleep tend to exercise less, spend more time watching television, and eat a unhealthy diet than those who get enough sleep.  The study found that this was true in sleep-deprived teens.  Even when the research did add in poor lifestyle habits, poor sleep was still linked to a potential for heart disease.  This would indicate that it is possible that disturbed sleep may also play a role.  Researchers say that even if the link between them is indirect with daytime drowsiness keeping kids from being active, it is still important for kids to get enough sleep.
"When people think about cardiovascular risk, sleep doesn't usually come up," McCrindle said. "These findings give some more evidence that sleep is one of the things people should think about."
 The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  It included 4,100 Ontario teens who were asked to answer questions about their sleep patterns.  All of the participants in the study were healthy, but the one-third of those teens with the worst sleep scores showed signs of possible heart trouble later in life. 48 percent of those teens were either overweight or showed elevated blood pressure or high levels of “bad” cholesterol. In comparison with 39 percent of those who were more well-rested.
Researchers looked at other factors such as teen’s diet, exercise and television habits.   Findings showed that one-third of teens that had the worst sleep quality were 43 percent more likely to show risk factors for heart disease than those who had better quality of sleep.  Teens do not show signs of poor heart health yet, but that could change later on.
"These risk factors tend to track into adulthood," McCrindle said. "And they tend to get worse."
Other studies in adults have linked poor sleep habits to heart disease and diabetes.  Researchers still are not sure of the exact reason, but one theory is that not getting enough sleep could negatively affect hormones, specifically those that regulate metabolism and appetite.  Another reason may be that those who are awake into the late night/early morning hours are more likely to snack.
"I think the importance of sleep hygiene cannot be overemphasized," said Dr. Indra Narang, the lead researcher on the study.
"In general, we recommend that teenagers get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night," Narang said.
But in reality, she noted, studies suggest that half of teenagers get fewer than 7 hours of sleep on weeknights.
Weekends tell a different story, when most teens take advantage of being able to sleep in.  Narang noted, this will not make up for poor sleep and late nights during the week. 
"You don't repay your sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekends," she said.
Both Narang and McCrindle said parents should help to encourage their teens to keep a consistent sleep schedule and remove “stimulants” such as TVs, computers and cell phones from their bedrooms.
Another tip to help teens is to cut down on caffeine intake throughout the day.

 Adapted from "Teens' poor sleep tied to heart risk factors." Amy Norton/ Reuters/ October 2, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Rare Meningitis Cases Continue to Rise; 4 Dead and 22 Sick

October 5, 2012

Health officials warn that a rare form of meningitis is likely to continue to spread.  This was reported after four people died and 26 have fallen ill in five states. 

All of those currently infected received steroid injections, primarily for back pain.  The steroid was made by a specialty pharmacy located in Massachusetts.  The pharmacy issued a recall on the drug last week and has since shut down operations.

The type of meningitis is not a contagious one as the more common forms are.  This type is found in leaf mold, which is what health officials suspect may have been in the steroid.

18 of the reported cases are in Tennessee, where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid injections.  Investigators are still trying to confirm the source of the infection. 

Three cases were reported in Virginia, two cases in Maryland, two cases in Florida and one in North Carolina.  Two of the four reported deaths were in Tennessee.  One death was reported in Virginia and one in Maryland.  The case information has come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the coming days, it is feared that new cases will be reported.  The Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzeher has confirmed 5 new cases on Wednesday and is calling the situation, “a rapidly evolving outbreak.”

Although Tennessee is reporting this, the federal health officials are not confirming that this is the case.  They have found that the illness has been occurring for the last two to three months.

Tennessee health officials have reported that some of the affected patients have experienced slurred speech and difficulty walking and urinating.  Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Other symptoms of meningitis include:  severe and worsening headache, dizziness, nausea, and fever. The incubation period is estimated to be anywhere from 2 to 28 days, which means that people may not yet have fallen ill that were exposed.  Tennessee officials are contacting over 900 patients that received the injections.

"Some are doing well and improving. Some are very ill — very, very seriously ill and may die," Tennessee health official Dr. David Reagan said of the state's patients.

Officials are also investigating the antiseptic and anesthetic that is used along with the injections and has not yet ruled these out.  However, the main suspicion is the steroid injection, which is commonly given for back pain and administered along with anesthetic.

The Food and Drug Administration has identified the maker of the steroid as the New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy located in Framingham, Massachusetts. The company issued a recall of three lots of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate.  The company issued a statement saying that it had voluntarily suspended operations and was working with regulators to locate the source of the infection.  Specialty, compounding pharmacies, such as the New England Compounding Center, mix ingredients for customized medications that are not commercially available and are regulated by states individually.

The outbreak was uncovered about two weeks ago when Vanderbilt University Dr. April Pettit was treating a patient who was not doing well and doctors could not figure out why a patient was not doing well.  The lab discovered the fungus when they tested the patient’s spinal fluid and this caused Dr. Pettit to ask questions and uncovered the patient’s steroid injection treatments. 

"When it became clear that the infection-control practices at the clinic were up to par, the steroid medication became implicated," according to Dr. William Schaffner, chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Preventative Medicine.

Federal officials have not released details or the condition of any of the patients.  Fungal meningitis is usually treated with intravenous anti-fungal medication.  Of the 26 currently known cases, 17 were treated at Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville, TN.  The clinic had 2,000 vials of the steroid and voluntarily closed to handle the investigation.

For more information, you can look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:



Adapted from:, “Rare US Meningitis Outbreak Grows; 4 Dead, 22 Sick.” Mike Stobbe and Travis Loller. Nashville, Tenn. October 4, 2012.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Common Cold Prevention May Not Come from Taking Vitamin D



October 4, 2012

Looking for a quick and easy way to prevent the common cold in the upcoming winter season?  A recent study indicates that you may not be able to turn to a previous remedy of taking Vitamin D.

The average American adult will catch anywhere from 2 to 4 cold per year whereas a child can catch up to 10.  Past studies have shown that taking Vitamin D may provide a boost to your immune system.  Other studies have also shown that those with lower levels of Vitamin D are more susceptible to catching colds or other upper respiratory infections (URTIs).

The Vitamin D theory was recently done over an 18 month period in New Zealand.   In the study, a group of 322 healthy adults were instructed to take a either a Vitamin D supplement or a placebo.  Those who were in the vitamin supplement group were given 200,000 international units (IU) each month, or about 6,600 units a day for two months and 100,000 IU once a month or about 3,300 a day for the remainder of the study.  The recommendation by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies located in Washington, DC is 600 IU of vitamin D daily and 800 IU daily for those over 70.

Participants in the study were instructed to tell the researchers when they felt like they were having upper respiratory symptoms.  At that time, a swab of their nose was taken to see if they have the cold virus.  At the end of the study, it was that there were 593 incidents of respiratory infections with an average of 3.7 colds per participants in the Vitamin D group.  In the placebo group there were 611 incidents of URTIs, with an average of 3.8 per person.  The average number of missed days of work was 12.  In terms of statistics, there was no noticeable difference between the two groups.

"The main finding from this study is that a monthly dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D3 in healthy adults did not significantly reduce the incidence or severity of URTIs. This result remained unchanged when the analysis included winter season or baseline [vitamin D] levels," the authors wrote.

Dr. Jeffrey Linder, an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical school and a practicing specialist in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston stated that he believe Vitamin D should be added to the list of other cold remedies considered to be harmful or ineffective.  Others on the list include: Chinese herbs, asthma intranasal drugs, nasal irrigation, antiviral drugs, zinc, garlic, and Vitamin C.

In contrast, Ronald Eccles, the director of the Common Cold Center and a professor at Cardiff School of Bioscience at Cardiff University located in Wales, told BBD that this study does not necessarily prove that Vitamin D is not effective.  He stated that it does help to boost your immune system and he personally takes it every day.

"There is sufficient information to indicate that vitamin D is a vital vitamin for the immune system," he said.

The study was published in the October 2, 2012 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association.


Adapted from “Vitamin D may do nothing to prevent common colds” Michelle Castillo / CBS News / October 3, 2012