Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Truth About Hair, Skin and Nails Supplements

There’s no shortage of products on the market that are claimed to thicken hair, remove wrinkles, and fix dry, brittle nails. Among these are a slew of dietary supplements, some topping $100. But can a pill restore your hair, skin, and nails?

Here's what the research shows:

What the Science Says

Hair, skin, and nail supplements commonly contain antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, or Coenzyme Q10, as well as biotin, a B-­complex vitamin. The minerals manganese and selenium are often found in supplements marketed for healthy hair, along with fatty acids such as fish oil and flaxseed oil. Deficiencies of these nutrients, ­although uncommon, may cause a litany of hair—and, sometimes, skin and nail—changes. Over time, for instance, insufficient intake of vitamins A and E can cause rough, scaly skin patches.

A deficiency of biotin may cause eczema and hair loss. But for those with no clear deficiencies, experts say there's no good evidence that supplements can make a difference. “I’m not aware of any robust data suggesting that any supplements can treat natural, aging-related hair loss or nail damage, or give you healthier skin,” says Pieter Cohen, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on dietary supplements. Two 1990s studies did find that biotin supplements may help strengthen soft, easily breakable nails. But the studies were small and not rigorously conducted, and haven’t been replicated, Cohen says. “It’s nothing that would ever lead me to recommend it to any of my patients,” he adds.

What If You're Deficient?

Most people get enough of the nutrients mentioned above through diet, but in rare cases, a medical problem may cause a deficiency or affect your hair, nails, or skin. People who take antibiotics long-term or use antiseizure drugs, for instance, are more likely to be biotin-deficient. An over- or underactive thyroid may cause hair loss and dry strands. Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to brittle, oddly shaped nails. If you’re experiencing chronic hair, nail, and skin problems for no clear reason, talk with your doctor. “If nothing shows up after appropriate testing, because we don’t have a good blood test to detect biotin deficiency, it might be worthwhile to try a supplement for three months,” says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. “Since biotin supplements can interfere with thyroid testing, make your doctor aware.”

But remember that dietary supplements are not tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and might contain substances not listed on the label or have much less or more of an ingredient than promised. For example, in 2008, one brand of multivitamin was found to have 200 times the labeled concentration of selenium—after it had caused hair loss and discolored, brittle nails in about 200 people across 10 states. If you choose to take supplements, can you ensure that they are safe? Some carry one of four seals that might have some merit (U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International,, and UL). Here, more about what these seals really mean.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day

Join us in thanking all of our veterans for their service to our country! Wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day #veterans

Friday, May 26, 2017

How Can I Lose Weight? Best Diets Evaluated!

U.S. News evaluated 38 of the most popular diets and identified the best. Find which top-rated diet is best for your health and fitness goals.

Best Diets Overall
#1 DASH Diet
#2 Mediterranean Diet
#3 MIND Diet

Best Weight-Loss Diets
#1 Weight Watchers Diet
#2 Jenny Craig Diet (tie)
#2 Volumetrics Diet (tie)

Best Commercial Diet Plans
#1 Acid Alkaline Diet
#2 Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
#3 The Fast Diet

Best Diabetes Diets
#1 DASH Diet
#2 Mediterranean Diet (tie)
#2 Vegan Diet (tie)

Best Diets for Healthy Eating
#1 DASH Diet
#2 Mediterranean Diet
#3 MIND Diet

See the complete list

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

4 Styling Mistakes That Could Actually Make Your Hair Fall Out

We've all had those days where it feels like there's more hair on the floor of the shower than on our heads. And while some shedding is normal—the American Academy of Dermatology says we shed about 50 to 100 strands of hair daily—anything more than that constitutes actual hair loss. And while age, stress, and hormones can all contribute to hair loss, have you ever considered the fact that your favorite 'do might be affecting your shedding, breaking strands? So where exactly are we going wrong? Thankfully, it’s how a hairstyle is executed—rather than the style itself—that can hurt your hair, says Larry Sims, the hairstylist behind Victoria Beckham’s famous bob. We asked experts to share their insight, and how we can prevent our favorite looks from breaking up our tresses.

Choosing Heavy Extensions And Weaves

Add-ons to your hair, like extensions and weaves, add extra weight to your hair. Choose styles that are too heavy, and your hair will come out, says Sims. That’s because the weight of extensions and braids can cause major stress and tensions to your hair, leading to breakage. “If you’re wearing a weave and it’s too tight, or you leave it in for longer than the recommended four to six weeks, that can potentially cause damage and take your hair out as well,” Sims adds. Your hair needs time to breathe freely in between these heavy, product-heavy styles. If not, it can potentially grow weak and break off.

Blow Drying Wet Hair

Even something as simple as a blowout can mess with your hair if done incorrectly. “Hair just isn’t that strong, especially if it’s highlighted and or color treated," says Peter Butler, hairstylist to Emma Stone and Claire Danes. “Trying to blow dry very wet hair with a brush is a form of hair torture, since your hair is only so elastic. If it is pulled and pulled with any kind of brush from wet to dry, you have the strongest chance of snapping the hair from heat and exertion,” he says. A great way to prevent breakage here is to make sure you remove excess water before styling. “Towel dry your hair first and then take the dryer and hand dry your hair, removing the most moisture first,” says Butler. “This frees up the natural texture and makes it easier to section and blow out with the brush.” This method actually helps you blow-dry your hair faster, says Butler—a win-win, in our book!

Using The Wrong Hair Ties Ponytails

Specifically the elastic that you use—can also lead to breakage, says Butler. “Using tight elastics that aren’t cloth covered or rubber bands to tie up your ponytail and then pulling them out will definitely tear out hair,” he says. “Repeat this and you get more breakage." Avoid rubber bands and go for hair ties like invisbobble ($8, or fabric-covered hair ties so that the hair easily slides off and doesn’t get stuck in the elastic. “I like Blaxx ($7 for 8, snag- free elastics” says Butler. “They slide off the ponytail.”

Using Heat Styling Tools All The Time

“Repeated use of heat-styling tools over time can destabilize the structure of hair, causing it to weaken and slip and eventually break off,” says Butler. This applies to any style that requires flat irons, curling irons, hot combs, and of course blow dryers. Womp womp. Thankfully, you don’t have to throw out your tools to protect your tresses. Instead, take preventative measures to strengthen your hair against heat damage. Butler recommends using a hair treatment with keratin, such as Schwartzkopf GLISS Hair Repair Ultimate Repair Anti-Damage Mask ($6, You can also try keeping things natural with your styling to give your hair a break from the heat, says Sims. “A twist up – or sleeping in braids overnight and unraveling them—is really beautiful too,” says Sims.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hospital Heroes: Knitters make thousands of hats for chemo patients

Dr. Edda Fields-Black worked at Carnegie Mellon University until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “As it is for many women, it was quite a surprise,” she told Fox News. Fields-Black has since taken a leave of absence to battle her illness, which she said has also been a tough journey for her two kids.

"One is a teenager one is in elementary school, and so they have their own takes on mom being sick,” she said. But there’s a silver lining, she said, at Magee-Womens Hospital where she’s getting treatment. Back in 2014, the hospital started taking volunteer knitters who made hats for patients. "We had originally made baby hats and we have switched to chemo caps because unfortunately there’s a great need for them,” Dena Chottiner, founder of the volunteer knitters, said.

Those involved believe the hats are important because of the need it serves. "I think the changes in body image with breast cancer—they’re really significant. You know, it’s hard, it’s hard," Fields-Black said of her treatment. Chottiner said the knitters have volunteered more than 1,000 hours since the initiative first started.

Organizers equated this to more than 3,000 hats made for patients at the hospital. Their efforts haven't gone unnoticed by the patients. “Just the outpouring of love and support that I’ve gotten from so many people--people I know, people I don’t know or didn’t know, people I’ve never met, like the knitters [is welcoming]", Fields-Black told Fox News. And for those who hesitate to take a hat, Chottiner said she knows exactly how to entice them.

“I’d I say ‘You have to take a hat. I have to keep these ladies off the street and out of trouble,’” she joked. And the knitters don’t plan to stop anytime soon, Chottiner said. "I’m just so happy that people, you know, use them, wear them, like them, comment on them, and that’s all part of it,” Chottiner said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why the 80/20 Rule Is the Gold Standard of Dietary Balance

What Is the 80/20 Rule for Eating?

The gist: you eat clean, whole foods for about 80 percent of your calories of the day, and you #treatyoself for about 20 percent of the calories for the day. (ICYMI it's recommended by health pros like Jillian Michaelsand many dietitians as a way to teach moderation.) "The 80/20 rule can be a fantastic way to enjoy the foods you love and keep your weight in check," says Sarah Berndt, RD for Complete Nutrition and owner of Fit Fresh Cuisine.

The Good & Bad of the 80/20 Rule It's something you can do forever. "It's a more livable diet style, which allows you to enjoy a few special treats without feeling guilt," says Sharon Palmer, R.D. and author of The Plant-Powered Life. When you feel guilty about eating something that doesn't fit into the "healthy" category, it can lead to binging and disordered attitudes about eating and body image. (After all, it helps you avoid the worst weight loss mistake there is.) It's not great for weight loss. If you are eating large portions of even healthful foods, like whole grains, fruits, nuts, healthy fats, lean proteins, you can exceed your body's energy needs (read: calories) and gain weight. Calories still count, even healthful sources of them. "The 80/20 rule is very loose guidance and could be applied to a diet lifestyle that's already in balance when it comes to calorie needs," says Palmer, meaning it may be best for weight maintenance rather than dropping lbs.

How to Implement the 80/20 Rule the *Right* Way "It’s still important to practice moderation and portion control with the 80/20 rule," says Berndt. "Your indulgences need to be a reasonable portion rather than a free-for-all to gorge." Just because that 20 percent is for "treats" doesn't mean you can go ham with the Oreos or a bag of chips. "Try to consider this more as a general rule of thumb," says Palmer, rather than specific numbers to meet every day. For example, if you're aiming for 2,000 calories a day (here's how to figure out how many calories you need), then the rule indicates you'd have about 400 to "play" with. But just because there's wiggle room for some indulgences (a glass of wine with dinner, a slice of a coworker's birthday cake), doesn't mean those are "throw-away calories" to be wasted on food with zero nutritional value—and you certainly don't need to use all 20 percent. In fact, it's probably best to shoot lower than 20 percent, since "people are really bad at estimating how much food they eat and consistently underestimate calories and portions," say Palmer.

Keep in mind: "Every meal is an opportunity to nourish your body," says Palmer. "For many of us, every bite should count in order to reward us with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound)." If you learn to love the 80 percent—to crave peanut butter instead of cake, and roasted Brussels sprouts instead of chips—then you won't be dying for the 20 percent. Instead of thinking of it as a reward, think of it as some wiggle room to just ~live your life.~ (Because #balance is the essence of life—and the most important thing for your health and fitness routine.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Shocking Diagnosis: Breast Implants ‘Gave Me Cancer’

Raylene Hollrah was 33, with a young daughter, when she learned she had breast cancer. She made a difficult decision, one she hoped would save her life: She had her breasts removed, underwent grueling chemotherapy and then had reconstructive surgery.

In 2013, six years after her first diagnosis, cancer struck again — not breast cancer, but a rare malignancy of the immune system — caused by the implants used to rebuild her chest. “My whole world came crumbling down again,” said Ms. Hollrah, now 43, who owns an insurance agency in Hermann, Mo. “I had spent the past six years going to the oncologist every three months trying to keep cancer away, and here was something I had put in my body to try to help me feel more like a woman, and it gave me cancer. I thought, ‘I’m not going to see my kids grow up.’”

Her disease — breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma — is a mysterious cancer that has affected a tiny proportion of the more than 10 million women worldwide who have received implants. Nearly all the cases have been linked to implants with a textured or slightly roughened surface, rather than a smooth covering. Texturing may cause inflammation that leads to cancer. If detected early, the lymphoma is often curable.

The Food and Drug Administration first reported a link between implants and the disease in 2011, and information was added to the products’ labeling. But the added warnings are deeply embedded in a dense list of complications, and no implants have been recalled. The F.D.A. advises women only “to follow their doctor’s recommended actions for monitoring their breast implants,” a spokeswoman said in an email this month. Until recently, many doctors had never heard of the disease, and little was known about the women who suddenly received the shocking diagnosis of cancer brought on by implants. An F.D.A. update in March that linked nine deaths to the implants has helped raise awareness. The agency had received 359 reports of implant-associated lymphoma from around the world, although the actual tally of cases is unknown because the F.D.A.’s monitoring system relies on voluntary reports from doctors or patients.

The number is expected to rise as more doctors and pathologists recognize the connection between the implants and the disease. Women who have had the lymphoma say that the attention is long overdue, that too few women have been informed of the risk and that those with symptoms often face delays and mistakes in diagnosis, and difficulties in receiving proper care. Some have become severely ill. Implants have become increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2016, the number of breast augmentations in the United States rose 37 percent, and reconstructions after mastectomy rose 39 percent. Annually, nearly 400,000 women in the United States get breast implants, about 300,000 for cosmetic enlargement and about 100,000 for reconstruction after cancer, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Allergan and Mentor are the major manufacturers. Worldwide, an estimated 1.4 million women got implants in 2015.

Read more from the New York Times here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When Cancer Patients Should Ask For Genetic Sequencing

Cancer DNA can provide important clues about the best way to treat the disease, finds a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine. Doctors can genetically profile tumors by sequencing the DNA from a person’s cancer cells, revealing which mutations are responsible for causing the cancer. By comparing the tumor’s DNA to DNA from the same person’s healthy cells, the scientists can pinpoint which genetic changes were unique to the cancer cells.

In the new research, scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) sequenced more than 10,000 tumor biopsies and found that 37% of the people had at least one mutation that could be addressed, either with a prescription for an existing cancer drug or by taking part in a clinical trial testing new therapies. Other patients learned that they could take advantage of some of the newer immune-based therapies that are showing great promise. These findings are especially encouraging, says Michael Berger, associate director of the Center for Molecular Oncology at MSKCC, since the people in the study all had advanced cancer. That means they had tried traditional therapies that hadn’t worked and needed new options.

“What’s unique about our data set is that we collected samples from patients with advanced, metastatic cancer,” says Michael Berger, associate director of the Center for Molecular Oncology at MSKCC. “A lot of the other large-scale genomic databases look at untreated tumors [when patients are first diagnosed], and they provide a different genomic landscape and makeup than advanced cancers which are collected after several rounds of therapy.” Genetic testing is available at many major cancer centers, but it is still not a routine part of care for all cancer patients. And not all genetic tests look at so wide a swath of genes as the one used by MSKCC in the study, which analyzed more than 340 genetic changes. Another barrier is that not all insurance companies cover the cost of tumor sequencing, since they aren't yet convinced that it's a critical part of cancer care.

Berger and his colleagues hope that more data, like the kind provided by this study, will change that. For now, the technology is most useful for people with advanced cancers that have spread and those who have exhausted all of their treatment options. (For many people with early-stage cancers, existing therapies work well in controlling the disease.) Some hospitals offer commercial tests, but these often look at a limited number of cancer-related genes; the current study shows the value of doing a more comprehensive analysis. Doctors at MSKCC offer the test to people who might benefit from the genetic information, and it is either paid for by their insurance or covered by the hospital's philanthropic efforts, in most cases. The main advantage of the database, says Berger, is the fact that it is connected to patients who are currently receiving care at the hospital.

That means their tumor profiles are linked to the treatment options they chose and how well they did. This helps other doctors start to identify which treatment options lead to longer survival and better outcomes for people.That’s why the database is also being made available for free to any cancer doctor who is interested in learning from the information. Berger and his colleagues say that the database will only become more helpful for doctors treating patients, since the information will include how well they did on their various therapies.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How assembling the right cancer team may save your life

Moments after Eve Bender was told that a suspicious spot on her breast was cancerous, she phoned her brother, Lew Bender, who runs a cancer research company. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s like an in-grown toenail, you just fix it,’” the sales executive recalls. His blithe response helped Bender sleep that night, but by 7 a.m. the next morning, she was back on the phone. Her doctor friend, Hara Schwartz, advised her not to be emotional, to get a couple of opinions and treat it.

She then called four breast-cancer survivors in her network, and battered them with questions: Where do I start? Who’s the best surgeon? What’s the timeline for surgery? In quick succession, the native New Yorker had assembled her “cancer team”: two top cancer doctors, one at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), the hospital that diagnosed her, and another at Memorial Sloan Kettering for a second opinion; her boyfriend, Derek Bensen, for emotional support; Amy Cole, a close friend who would attend some appointments with her; Eileen Z. Fuentes, a patient navigator at CUMC; her boss, Jane Seo, who offered her immediate support at work; and, for post-surgery, Luana DeAngelis, a holistic practitioner who helps during treatment and recovery through her You Can Thrive! organization in Manhattan. “I realized that I couldn’t do this alone,” says Bender, 55. “The way to win is to be the quarterback of your own team.”

People diagnosed with cancer often choose to keep a low profile — they don’t want pity, they want their privacy and for their lives to operate “business as usual.” But by creating a team — experts, friends, patient advocates, wellness practitioners and therapy group members — the road to recovery can be less bumpy, and even transformative. “Our job as doctors is to prevent sickness, but it’s not just about getting through the operation and radiation and chemotherapy,” says Sheldon M. Feldman, director of breast cancer services at Montefiore Medical Center. “It’s about offering complete care so a patient can live a long, healthy, normal life for decades to come.” He believes that “having a healing team should be a standard part of any cancer patient’s health plan.” Fuentes, from Bender’s team, knows the value of this firsthand.

At age 34, the patient advocate — a service offered at most cancer centers — was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Now cancer-free for nearly two years, she feels a special connection to her patients, and says having a strong caregiving team is as important as having a good clinical one. “[Patients] talk more openly to me than to their doctors,” says the integrative cancer care and wellness coach. “I’ll listen to their story and then my job is to say, ‘Bring your daughter, bring your friend, bring a notebook and write down these questions.’” Fuentes helps figure out the people patients need on their teams, and does everything from assigning tasks to scheduling appointments with different doctors on the same day. She’ll even arrange free hotel rooms if needed. “I tell my patients, ‘When all of this gets too confusing, I’ll be there.’” Clinical social worker Tammy Rosenthal, diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer at age 72, assembled a “virtual team.” With local support groups, says the Millington, NJ, resident, she ran “the risk of bumping into my patients.” Instead, she sent a mass e-mail to friends and family, and added the ones with generous responses to an e-mail chain. Within weeks, Rosenthal had around 50 people with whom she kept in touch. Ten people on her team were cancer survivors, including one who “had the same surgeon, the same oncologist, the same radiologist — and she was two years ahead of me, so she would help walk me through her experience without overdramatizing it or making it sound too small,” says Rosenthal, who now shows no evidence of the disease.

Her chemo and radiation teammate was her husband, Dave, and she eventually joined a Livestrong group at the YMCA in Basking Ridge, plus got into spinning and Zumba with eight others in the group. Two years on, Rosenthal is chasing after her 6-month-old grandson and is loving her new pixie cut. “My hairdresser rooted for me all along, too,” she says. “We were making lemonade out of lemons.” Brooklyn-based psychologist Paulette Sherman, 46, also kicked cancer with the help of a team. “I wanted a plan for success so I could keep working and seeing my clients, be there for my two kids and handle a 90-minute train commute to the hospital,” she says, five years after her diagnosis. “I actually had 34 people on my healing team playing different roles.” Her high-school friend (also a doctor) gave Sherman medical advice; a neighbor provided nutritional guidance; and a “cancer friend” whom she met at a cancer yoga class traded tips and tricks for coping with her. In addition, she says, “My spiritual teacher Christopher Dilts, a counselor and ‘angel intuitive’ who is based in California, spoke with me weekly and offered ways to remain centered,” Sherman says. Her “wellness practitioners” also included family: Husband Ian took her on weekly date nights during the course of her chemotherapy; her dad gave her car-service and massage vouchers; and her mother-in-law baby-sat whenever necessary.

Without her cancer team, Sherman says, “I would have gotten through the experience, but it might have felt like a nightmare instead of a healing spiritual journey.” Batya Reckson, an oncology social worker at Mount Sinai, says the spiritual component is crucial. “Everything happens so quickly that often patients don’t prioritize their mental health,” she says. That’s why she always works closely with patients — especially those who seem isolated, such as new immigrants or non-English speakers — to find people in their lives or their community to help them feel cared for. Treating cancer, Reckson says, intrinsically takes a village. “A hospital team, a network of friends and family, and community resources should always be a part of the cure.” Bender is grateful that she had a network of friends, family and even friends of friends to guide her. But even if you don’t have family, says the cancer survivor, “you can reach out to other people with your disease. Trust me: They will stop their lives and help you.”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

10 Ways Women Can Stay Healthy

May is Women’s Health Month. Experts from the UConn Health Women’s Center are urging all women to take action each and every day to maintain their overall health and prevent breast and other cancers by keeping these health tips top of mind:

Exercise 30 Minutes a Day: “The number one thing women can do to maintain their health and keep disease at bay is exercise daily,” says Molly Brewer, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UConn Health, who recommends all women exercise 30 minutes per day. It will not only improve your cardiovascular health but also help you maintain a healthy weight, body mass index, and lower your risk of developing endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer, which are all linked with obesity. “With rising rates of obesity in America there has been a parallel increase in cancer diagnoses, especially for uterine cancer,” Brewer says. In addition, exercise can lower excess hormones in the body, which in turn lowers cancer risks, along with stress levels.

Make Time for Your Health: Women generally lead busy lives. In addition to making time to exercise daily, make sure you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including seeing your OB/GYN annually. “A simple chat with your doctor is key for maintaining your overall health, whether for cancer prevention, a healthy pregnancy, or managing menopause – make time for you,” says Danielle E. Luciano, a gynecologist and minimally invasive surgeon at UConn Health’s Women’s Center.

Listen to Your Body: Over the course of a woman’s lifetime, a host of conditions can arise. The most common issues can be endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, or gynecological cancers such as endometrial, cervical, or ovarian. “It is very important to see your OB/GYN annually for preventive screenings, potential early cancer catches, and also to report any warning signs or worrisome health changes,” says Luciano. Warning signs are changes in your menstrual cycle, abnormal bleeding and bloating, fatigue, and any health change leading you to just not feel like yourself. Alerting your doctor right away can help the physician identify the culprit and offer a minimally invasive solution to treat your condition and potentially save your life.

Eat Healthy Every Day: Similarly to preventing heart disease, eating a healthy daily dose of nutritious, colorful fruits and vegetables is key to preventing and lowering your risk of developing breast and other women’s cancers fueled by obesity. “Women should minimize the processed foods they eat from a box,” says Alex Merkulov, a radiologist at the Beekley Imaging Center of the Women’s Center at UConn Health. “Natural, whole, and fresh foods are always the best choices. Also, avoid fried foods, which often contain trans-fats, and reach for foods and snacks low in saturated fats, sugar, and salt.”

Quit Smoking: More than 13 percent of women are still smoking cigarettes in the U.S., even though the evidence is clear that it leads to premature death, heart disease such as hardening of the body’s arteries, heart attack and stroke, and lung and other cancers. In fact, lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. “If women are currently smoking, they need to quit the habit now to lower their future health risks,” says Brewer. “Cancers caused by smoking are preventable if you put the cigarettes down. Seek a smoking-cessation program to help you quit for good.”

Check Your Breasts: One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. But the good news according to Merkulov is that if breast cancer is caught early, it can be treated effectively. “It is critical that, starting at age 40, women come in for a baseline mammogram so their breast health and any abnormal changes can be monitored annually as they age.” While more than 90 percent of abnormal mammogram findings in the end turn out to be benign, Merkulov stresses than an early mammogram is the only tool available to help reduce a woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer. In between yearly mammograms, women should perform monthly breast self-exams.

Get a Pap Smear: Once a woman becomes sexually active, experts say she should be going to the OB/GYN for regular pelvic exams and pap smear screenings. The pap smear tests for signs of vaginal and cervical cancers, along with sexually transmitted diseases such as human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts. “Some HPV strains place a woman at higher risk of cervical cancer,” says Shannon DeGroff, an OB/GYN at UConn Health Canton. “HPV infection is very common in both women and men who are sexually active. However, the virus doesn’t always cause symptoms, which is why screening is so important, especially for high-risk cancer-causing strains.”

Prevent HPV: High HPV prevalence is leading to increased rates of cervical cancer, and also a rise in head and neck cancer from oral sex transmission. In 2006, a vaccine to prevent HPV became available. However, data shows that only 25 percent of eligible young women ages 11-26 are actually getting the vaccine. “The HPV vaccine is only effective in preventing the spread of the disease if male and female youth are vaccinated,” says Brewer. Brewer says studies in Australia, where the HPV vaccine was mandated for school-aged children more than a decade ago, show it is working to prevent the disease’s spread and reduce the country’s cervical cancer rates.

Prenatal Care to Prepare for Pregnancy: A healthy pregnancy and baby starts with a healthy mom-to-be. “The most important focus is on a woman’s overall health and wellness before pregnancy in order to have a healthy pregnancy,” says Christopher Morosky, an OB/GYN at UConn Health. If you’re hoping to become pregnant for the first time or again, make sure to visit your OB/GYN for a pre-conception visit. Early prenatal care – including taking folic acid, getting to a healthier pre-pregnancy weight, practicing a good daily diet, and following an exercise routine are all critical for both fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It is also important to avoid drinking alcohol and ingesting tobacco, and to take a close look to see if your medication list needs to be adjusted for pregnancy. “If you are struggling to become pregnant don’t worry,” says Morosky. “There are OB/GYN and fertility experts and technology available to help you and your significant other find out why and help you succeed.”

Get a Colonoscopy: Colon cancer is the third largest cause of cancer death among women. “At age 50, women need to make sure they start getting their regular colonoscopy screening,” says Brewer. Catching any abnormal colon polyp growths early with colonoscopy can prevent cancer from further developing or spreading. Also, practicing a healthy lifestyle and diet can help prevent the disease.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Powering good nutrition with plant-based foods

Choose plants instead of pills. Such is the nutrition-based health strategy for members of the Eating Real Food Society in Abilene, which started about a year ago. ERFS promotes eating only plant-based foods that are whole and unprocessed. They avoid any foods that are from animals, including dairy and eggs. The food plan is along the lines of vegan, with a stronger “line in the sand” about not eating processed foods. For example, home-cooked dried beans instead of canned and olives instead of olive oil. Why? “Because there is so much in animal foods that is destructive to your health,” said Marsha Carter, an organizer of the group. She is a registered nurse who operates Abilene Nutrition to educate others on how to eat to support optimal health.

“Animals are produced in a way that is stressful to them, and we eat those stress hormones,” she said. She listed cardiac disease, compromised immune system and cancer as some of the consequences of an unhealthy diet. “Medicine is good for emergency care but is a dismal failure in chronic care,” Carter said. Members of ERFS enjoy a diverse diet full of flavor, as indicated by their potluck in March to celebrate the students who completed a five-week class taught by Carter. The class covers the scientific research that shows which foods support good health compared to those that compromise health. A new class starts May 11.

The colorful spread of homemade dishes and store-bought veggie and fruit trays included a kale and quinoa salad, a mango and avocado salad, soup, chili and desserts, such as one featuring oats, almonds, dried cherries and cacao nibs. Many of the members shared their recipes. Karin Richardson, who also helped organize the group, said she always has a bowl of fresh-cut carrots, radishes and other salad fixings in her refrigerator ready for a quick, easy meal. Richardson started following a plant-based diet in earnest about a year ago. “I’ve now gotten to where I don’t eat other things because I don’t feel good when I do. Eating this way, I feel good,” Richardson said. Since switching to a whole-plant diet, member Susan Condry said she has eliminated many of the 65 supplements she was taking daily. And, she has seen her cholesterol and blood pressure numbers improve. Carter is not strident when talking about nutrition. She simply wants to share the science-based information she has gleaned through the years. She cites scientific studies and recommends the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and his son Thomas M. Campbell, who are featured in the documentary film “PlantPure Nation.” “There are physicians all over the world who teach their patients how to eat this way. And they see them get better,” Carter said. That focus on the science is what drew Condry to the eating plan. “She (Carter) looks at scientific studies and who sponsors them,” Condry said. When people consult with Carter about pursuing a food plan for better health, she often provides transitional strategies.

For example, ideally dried beans should be cooked at home, but canned is better than selecting animal proteins. “Dry beans are cheaper and you know exactly what’s in them,” Carter said. he more food is processed, the more it losses its nutritional value. “To put something in a can and put it on a shelf, you have to take out the nutrients because they will break down. Processed foods have oils and other additives you don’t want," Carter said. "Canned tomatoes are not the same as the tomatoes in the produce department.” Part of Carter’s class involves strategies for making preparation of fresh and minimally processed foods an easy part of a daily routine, such as cooking dry beans in a digital electric pressure cooker or InstaPot. “I recognize that people don’t always eat this way. But when they stray and feel bad, I want them to know why,” Carter said.

Sometimes the journey is an amusing one. “Some people don’t realize that fish is meat. They’ll tell me they are vegetarian, and I’ll ask them, ‘So where do you get your omega-3 fatty acids?’ They’ll tell me fish,” Carter said with a laugh. She instead recommends freshly ground organic golden flaxseed for omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, among other benefits. “I would like them to eat healthy so they can reduce their health problems and their health risks,” Carter said. “My heart is in education.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Girl with hair loss condition puts unique twist on 'Crazy Hair Day'

A 7-year-old girl who lost her hair from Alopecia celebrated "Crazy Hair Day" at school-- with bling. In January, Gianessa Wride of Salem, Utah, began to lose her long brown locks. Her mother, Danielle Wride, first noticed a bald spot on the right side of her head.

Extremely concerned, she scheduled an appointment with dermatologists. But before they could see a doctor, almost all of Gianessa's hair had fallen out. Danielle ended up cutting off the remaining bits. So when Crazy Hair Day-- now called Crazy Head Day-- came around at school, Gianessa's mom came up with a creative way to help her daughter celebrate. Gianessa doesn't wear wigs because they make her head itch. She usually rocks beanies, hats, and scarves. But for the spirit day, her mom had something better in mind.

Danielle got fancy with jewel stickers and decorated her head with pretty floral and owl designs. The bling bling was a major hit with her classmates. Danielle tells FOX 5 DC Gianessa even won the award for best look in her class-- which we think was well deserved. Gianessa suffers from an autoimmune disease called Alopecia areata. The disorder causes the immune system to attack hair follicles, which results in hair loss. Danielle told FOX 5 they stopped seeing the dermatologist, mainly because there are not many treatment options and the side effects aren’t something they want to subject their 7-year-old to. "When she gets older, she's welcome to go down that road, and we will support her just like we are now," her mom said. When Gianessa was first diagnosed, she didn't fully understand that all her hair would fall out, but her supportive parents helped her see that she is just like any other kid. "Some people have blonde hair or black hair, some have curly hair, straight hair, short hair, long hair. She just doesn't have any hair. And she is still fabulous!" her mom said.

Bald is beautiful! We admire Gianessa for rocking her confidence so beautifully. For other parents or anyone going through a situation that makes you feel like you're less of yourself, Danielle says to keep going. "You are still amazing. Whatever you want to do put all of your effort into it, have a positive attitude, and you can obtain whatever goal you wish. Don't let it hold you back. Just put your best self forward and everything else will fall into place."