Diabetes Self-Care Improves Slowly, U.S. Report Finds

ImageMore Americans are meeting diabetes care goals, but nearly half still aren’t achieving major targets for controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, government health officials say.

Just 14 percent of people with diabetes hit all the recommended health targets during the first decade of the 21st century, according to the new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that between 1999 and 2010, the number of people with diabetes who achieved their blood sugar goals improved by about 8 percent. That same time period saw a nearly 12 percent improvement in the number of people meeting their blood pressure goals.

And 21 percent more people lowered their LDL cholesterol (the bad type) to less than 100 milligrams per deciliter during the study time period.

Tobacco use was one area where the numbers didn’t move.

“The overarching theme is slow and steady improvement. Just a 1 percent improvement in hemoglobin A1C [a long-term measure of blood sugar levels] in 19 million people with diabetes is tremendous,” said report author Dr. Mohammed Ali, an assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a consultant in the CDC’s division of diabetes translation in Atlanta.

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Blood Test May Catch Deadly Fungal Infection Quickly

ImageAn experimental test could help doctors catch a deadly type of fungal infection in the blood within a few hours, rather than the few days it currently takes, a new study suggests.

The test, which is not yet on the market, looks for Candida infection in the blood. The fungus is best known for causing common vaginal yeast infections, but when it gets into the bloodstream it can cause serious infections of organs and tissue throughout the body.

Candida blood infections — known as candidemia — are very rare in healthy people, but they are the fourth most common type of blood infection among U.S. hospital patients, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infection is typically transmitted through contaminated catheters, and seen in seriously ill patients — such as those in the intensive care unit, or with weakened immune systems.

The symptoms of candidemia are vague, and include fever and chills, so doctors use blood cultures to diagnose it. That means putting a blood sample in a special broth that feeds the yeast organism until it grows enough to be detected.

But Candida “is a slow grower,” and it takes a few days to get blood culture results back, said Thomas Lowery of T2 Biosystems, the Lexington, Mass.-based company developing the new test.

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Easy, Everyday Tips to Get You Ready for Bikini Season

ImageSpring has officially sprung, which means it’s time to start thinking about bathing suit season. Are you ready?

The thought of slipping into a bathing suit right now might make you feel a little uncomfortable, but some pre-summer planning can get you bikini-ready without much stress. If you start incorporating these easy tips and tricks into your everyday life now, you’ll look and feel great in your bathing suit when the summer weather rolls around!

Start your day with a protein-packed breakfast: One of my favorite breakfasts is a big plate of scrambled eggs with a handful chopped spinach and a little bit of low-fat cheese mixed in. Eating a protein-filled breakfast like this one satisfies me until lunchtime, so I don’t end up mindlessly snacking, which sets a healthy tone for my entire day.

Divide your plate in half: When eating a meal, try dividing your plate in half, so fruits and veggies take up one half while lean protein and healthy fats take up the other. For not a lot of calories, all of that brightly-colored produce (and fiber) will fill you up and pack a ton of nutrients into your diet.

Increase your workouts by 5 minutes each week: Five minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but, if you start now, those minutes (and calories!) will definitely add up when it’s time to wear your swimsuit!

Add frozen berries to your water: This is such an easy thing to do, but it adds some subtle sweetness and vibrant color to your water, which will entourage you to drink more throughout the day. Just buy a bag of frozen berries and pour some into your glass or water bottle!

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Many Americans Breathing Cleaner Air

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Although many Americans are now breathing cleaner air, others are living in cities that are more polluted than they were a decade ago, a new report shows.

“The long-term trend is positive and headed to much cleaner air,” said report author Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association. “[However], there is an uptick in some areas that are a concern and some areas where the problem remains very, very serious.”

The report, conducted by the American Lung Association, measured the levels of ozone and small particles in the air, known as soot, in almost 1,000 cities and counties in the United States between 2009 and 2011. About half of the 25 most polluted cities had improved since last year’s report, and many of those cities were the cleanest they had been since the association began the research in 2000.

Unfortunately, the other half of the 25 most polluted cities was worse off. Even among the cities that improved, many were still near the top of the most-polluted list, including Los Angeles, which had the most ozone pollution, and Bakersfield, Calif., which had the highest level of particle pollution.

In total, there were 254 counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution, and about 132 million people (42 percent of the U.S. population) live in these areas. The previous report had found that 127 million people (41 percent of the U.S. population) resided in areas with poor air quality.

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Recipe of the Day: Immunity Boosting Juice

ImageThis vitamin-packed juice, which contains oranges, grapefruit, and kiwis, can help you keep your immune system in tip-top shape and is a good choice if you’re trying a juice cleanse.

The kiwis alone supply nearly twice your daily vitamin C—and the citrus delivers another boost of the cold-busting vitamin.

With only 156 calories, 1 gram of fat, and no cholesterol we know you’re going to love it!

Ingredients: Grapefruits, oranges, kiwis.

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‘Gut Reaction’ May Predict Cardiovascular Risk

ImageA blood test that assesses levels of a compound produced in the stomach appears to be a strong indicator of whether there will be heart trouble down the road, researchers report.

The higher the levels of the compound — called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) — the greater the risk for cardiovascular problems, said the Cleveland Clinic team. Eventually, TMAO could be a target to help prevent or reduce the risk of heart problems, the researchers suggested.

“A new blood test measuring something in the blood that is generated by the bacteria in our gut actually predicted in a strong and powerful way the future risk of heart attack, stroke and death,” said lead researcher Dr. Stanley Hazen, from the Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute.

Measuring TMAO predicted heart risk better than other blood tests or the usual risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking, he noted.

“This is a potentially new target we can go after to prevent heart disease,” Hazen said.

In a preclinical study, the researchers found that dietary choline — found in egg yolks — is metabolized into TMAO. Carnitine, found in red meat, is another potential source of the compound. According to Hazen, TMAO changes how cholesterol is metabolized. “It’s not changing the cholesterol in your blood, it’s changing how the cholesterol is being managed,” he said.

More specifically, TMAO helps cholesterol attach to blood vessels. It also makes it harder for the liver and the intestines to get rid of cholesterol, he explained.

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Ingredient in New MS Drug Linked to Serious Brain Disease

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The active ingredient in a drug that’s expected to become a popular treatment for multiple sclerosis has been linked to four European cases of a rare but sometimes fatal brain disease called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

The ingredient, dimethyl fumarate, is used in a drug called Fumaderm that was approved in Germany in 1994 to treat the skin condition psoriasis. It is also in a different but closely related medication called Tecfidera, which was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is known as a fumaric acid ester, which is commonly used as a food additive and has been used to treat psoriasis in Germany for 30 years.

According to reports published in the April 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, however, four patients who were taking Fumaderm to treat their psoriasis developed PML.

In a letter responding to the reports, Biogen, the company that makes both drugs, said Tecfidera may be safer because it contains only dimethyl fumarate, while Fumaderm also contains three other fumaric acid esters.

The company also noted that none of the patients taking Tecfidera during clinical trials (then known as BG-12) developed PML. Since Tecfidera is a pill rather than an injection, and was effective and well-tolerated by patients in clinical trials, analysts have predicted it would soon become the top-selling multiple sclerosis treatment.

But the German doctor who treated one of the psoriasis patients who got PML thinks there is still cause for concern.

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