Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

July 31, 2013
Boomers: Why you need the life-saving hepatitis C virus test

Baby boomers -- those born from 1945 to 1965 -- listen up.

You may be surprised to hear that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you be tested for the hepatitis C virus at least once.

The CDC's math says that boomers make up 75 percent of all those infected with the virus.

People with hepatitis C may have no symptoms, but is a so-called "silent disease."
It's a virus that inflames and scars the liver. If undiagnosed and untreated, these infections may lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis -- even death.

Read more about it in The Bee's 2012 article by Anita Creamer.

Photo: Former Sacramento gallery owner Spencer Baker, of Sacramento, was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Photo by Renee C. Byer.

July 30, 2013
Risk of heart disease is greater the longer people are obese

Like compounding interest in a bank account, your risk of getting heart disease compounds with each year you're obese, experts say.

This somber news comes to us by way of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was the AMA that recently declared obesity not just a condition but a disease.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health looked at 25 years of data on nearly 3,300 people. They drilled down to what's called subclinical heart disease, which is the buildup of fats inside arteries, starting in young adulthood.

Each additional year of obesity upped the risk of developing subclinical heart disease by two to four percent.

Photo: National Institutes of Health

July 29, 2013
Diabetics should know about this recall of glucose test strips

Diabetics, for your safety you should check the maker of your diabetes care strips.

If you are using a brand called Nova Max Glucose Test Strips and/or have them in your Nova Max Plus glucose meter kits, get rid of them. Toss them or return them to the store from which you purchased them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that Nova Diabetes Care is voluntarily recalling the test strips because they may give false results -- specifically abnormally high blood glucose results.

A false, abnormally high blood glucose could, under certain conditions, result in an insulin dosing error that could lead to a serious health risk.

Customers can call Nova Diabetes Care for information on the lot number of their test strips at 1-800-681-7390. Or, check online for the lot numbers being recalled.

July 26, 2013
Homemade blowguns are causing injury to teens

teens1.jpgIt seems that the latest trend for teens involves building homemade blowguns from instructions found on the Internet.

This is not all harmless fun.

Surgeons at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, report the blowguns may backfire. Darts can get lodged in teens' throats or airways.

The surgeons worked on three cases involving 15-year-olds in four months. Colleagues elsewhere in the United States said they've witnessed the same trend.

In the first case, a boy with a persistent cough was found to have a four-inch long metal needle stuck in his lower airway, Reuters Health reported. Two similar cases turned up -- and all required surgery under general anesthesia.

"Most of the time we're able to remove these in children without long term (complications). But there are other times when surgeons have to perform open surgery through the neck," Dr. Kris Jatana said.

The darts are apparently inhaled when teens suck in air before exhaling to launch a dart. Sucking in air opens the airways and vocal chords, exposing the lower airway.

Jatana said parents should keep a close eye on what their children are doing on the Internet. Researchers reporting the trend said they found about 20 websites that display instructions on how to build blowguns from household items.

Photo: National Library of Medicine

July 24, 2013
Which three hospitals in Sacramento are ranked the best?

Sacramento has an abundance of hospitals and is blessed with a robust health care industry.

But only three of the area's hospitals made it onto a U.S. News & World Report list of the best regional hospitals, ranked by specialty.

First comes UC Davis Medical Center, listed as No.1 in Sacramento.

UC Davis was ranked high in 12 specialties: cancer; cardiology and heart surgery; diabetes and endocrinology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics; gynecology; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; pulmonology; urology.

(It should be noted, though, that UCD's neurology and neurosurgery department came under fire last year for some controversial treatments involving placing fecal matter in patients' brains. Read The Bee's coverage here.)

Then, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center won recognition for its specialty field of gynecology.

And Mercy General Hospital was noted for its work in orthopedics.

July 23, 2013
Too little vitamin D may make you older, faster

Vitamin D, whether in its natural form -- manufactured by the body from exposure to sunlight or diet -- or as a supplement, is one of the most important vitamins to take for strong bones.

This is especially true as you age. HealthDay, a publication of the National Institutes of Health, recently reported that a lack of vitamin D may hasten disabilities in older people.

In other words, a deficiency of vitamin D can make you older, faster by limiting your mobility and winnowing your lifestyle.

About 90 percent of older people do not get enough vitamin D, risking a loss of bone and muscle mass.

Those with the deficiency also had trouble completing daily tasks such as climbing stairs or getting dressed.

So be sure to get out in the sun -- when it's not too hot, that is. Dermatologists say you can soak in at least 10 minutes of rays a day without risking skin damage.

July 16, 2013
Know the five risk factors bullies look for
July 16, 2013
How to get more sleep: Put away that smartphone/tablet/laptop

Here's a catchy video by the folks on how to get enough sleep and what happens when you don't:

July 16, 2013
Workplace stress may be tough on your family, too

Therapy.jpgWhen stress from the workplace spills over into your home life, your family's well-being may suffer, too, new evidence from a recent Los Angeles conference indicates.

"Survey results vary, but you can find that large numbers of individuals report that work is the biggest stress in their life," Michael Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at the University at Albany-State University of New York told HealthDay, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

Health consequences are wide-ranging -- from mental health problems to depressive symptoms, to cardiovascular disease, obesity and general physical health complaints.

July 15, 2013
The recession's impact on teens? Greater social consciousness

The U.S. recession may have increased teens' social awareness and caring.

That's the conclusion of researchers at San Diego State and UCLA who looked at data collected from high school seniors between 1976 and 2010.

Students who graduated during the recession had more interest in social issues such as energy and the environment -- and had greater concern for other people, the study said.

About 63 percent said they had turned down the heat at home to conserve energy, compared to 55 percent prior to the recession. Thirty percent said they thought often of social problems, compared to 26 percent earlier.

And during the recession, teens said they'd be willing to use a bike or mass transit to get to work, up from 28 percent earlier.

"This is the silver lining of the Great Recession," Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA psychology professor said in a university news release.

Photo courtesy of HealthDay and Medlineplus/gov.

July 11, 2013
Five questions to ask the artist before you get a tattoo

We've been writing a bit lately about tattoo trends, and our friends at UC Davis Cancer Center in partnership with Sacramento State University shared a video with us:

Watch closely for five questions to ask a tattoo artist before you decide to get inked:
1. Do you use only new needles?
2. Do you use new ink caps for every client?
3. Do you sterilize all the equipment that may come into contact with blood?
4. Do you wear single-use latex gloves?
5. Do you cover fresh tattoos to prevent hepatitus C transmission?

(In case you are wondering, blue is toughest color to erase if you change your mind, according to the tattoo removal expert I wrote about earlier.)

July 11, 2013
One in five U.S. adults have tattoos; ink contamination a risk


When The Harris Poll first asked the question in 2003, 14 percent of Americans queried said, yes, they had a tattoo.

In 2008, 16 percent said they'd been inked with a tattoo.

By 2012, slightly upwards of one in five, or 21 percent of those surveyed had at least one tattoo.

The gender most likely to get a tattoo? Women. The age group with the most? From 30 to 39 years old.

On the reverse side of the equation; At least two in five without tattoos said people with the body art were less attractive.

As to regrets, or how difficult it is to remove tattoos, see my earlier story on dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Kilmer.

No matter your opinion, the New England Journal of Medicine warns tattoo customers they risk infections with various pathogens, some of which the authors said are serious and difficult to treat. In 2012, batches of ink were recalled after they contaminated a cluster of New Yorkers with nontuberculous mycobacteria infections.

July 9, 2013
Stave off dementia; Keep your brain active, researchers say

Use it or lose it. That's what researchers say about increasing your chances of staving off dementia in your advanced years.

It's actually possible to have all the signs of Alzheimer's in your brain but not exhibit any decline in mental ability.

This has researchers asking, in effect, "is it the chicken, or the egg that came first?"

Mental activity such as avid reading, problem solving and otherwise using your brain may be the key to avoiding dementia. Or, you may think clearly and on your feet because your brain is somehow protected from the disease. Reasearchers don't really know which is true yet.

But what is certain is that people who keep their minds active stand greater odds at dodging dementia, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's topic page on Alzheimer's.

July 8, 2013
Will your baby have flat head syndrome?

In the medical community, babies' flat head syndrome is called plagiocephaly. That sounds serious, but doctors say it's largely a cosmetic issue and your baby's brain is not a risk.

What is plagiocephaly? The flattening of a portion of the baby's head, usually the back of the head -- because that's how parents position their infants to sleep in order to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Canadian researchers in Calgary found that 47 percent of 440 two-month-old infants studied had flat spots on their heads. The results were published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

"It is still very important to put infants to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS," said study author Aliyah Mawji, assistant professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

For the past 20 years, experts have advised parents to put infants on their backs to sleep, on a flat crib surface. The practice seems to have worked: In the U.S. it's credited by reducing SIDS by 50 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Parents should not be alarmed by plagiocephaly. Babies skulls are very pliable, so fixing flat head syndrome is possible with non-surgical devices such as customized, corrective helmets and molding cups, sleep position changes under a watchful eye and special exercises, experts said.

July 5, 2013
Spray sunscreens can catch fire and cause burns, FDA says


It's grilling season, and that means taking safety precautions near the source of flames.

Of course, out of doors, you'll also need to take precautions to protect your skin from sun damage.

But if you are doing both -- applying sunscreen spray and grilling -- be aware that aerosol sunscreen sprays can catch fire.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, five separate incidents have occurred in which people applied spray sunscreen and caught fire, ending up with serious burns. The products used in these cases have been recalled and removed from store shelves.

So if you have spray sunscreen at home, be safe and don't apply it near a flame source.

July 5, 2013
How driving can cause cancer on the left side of your body


This might seem like an oddity, but it's actually scientific fact.

In the U.S., drivers who spend lots of time behind the wheel have a greater risk of developing skin cancer on the left sides of their bodies.

That's especially true if you drive with your windows down. Either way, no matter how fast you drive, you cannot outrun the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Not even on a cloudy day.

You could probably guess that, in Great Britain, it's the driver's right side that would be at risk.

So don't forget to use and reapply sun screen -- even when getting in the car for a drive.

July 3, 2013
Walking outside is important for physical, mental well-being

More and more, we hear we should move these physical bodies of ours -- to stay in shape, avoid obesity and difficult conditions such as diabetes.

But there's a new push to take that idea a step further -- out of doors, into your communities, where you can walk among others, in nature, parks and around city blocks.

My article on exercise and sharpening your brain touched upon the idea that physical activity can benefit your mental and overall well-being.

But here's a new take on the topic, a video from KCET's series called City Walk. Here, you walk outside and engage in a new model of talk therapy.

As Clay Cockrell, LCSW, founder of Walk and Talk Therapy, says in this recommended video: "Being physically active will release a lot of the tension of anxiety. It helps one see the world as a bigger place, and that life's not all about you and you're not alone in the world."

This video takes place in Cental Park, but it could just as easily take place in Sacramento's Capitol Park.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

July 2, 2013
CDC seeks HIV testing in campaign aimed at Latino gay men

Data show that in Latino communities gay and bisexual men may benefit by HIV testing because the population contracts the infections at a slightly higher rate than other groups.

So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a campaign aimed at encouraging Latino gay and bisexual men to find a reason to get tested and then follow through.

In this 60-second video, Latino men share their reasons for getting an HIV test.

HIV testing is fast, free, and confidential. Find a testing site near you by texting your zip code to KNOW IT (566948) or visiting the campaign website at

Visit the campaign website at
Join the conversation on Facebook at

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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