The novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 has spread from the site of the original outbreak in China to affect 75 countries around the world. If effective controls aren’t put into place, COIVID-19 could ultimately infect between 40% and 70% of the population worldwide in the coming year, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch.
Most of those cases would be mild, and some people might show no symptoms at all. But the prospect of being infected with a new virus can be frightening. The symptoms to look out for, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually appear between two days and two weeks of exposure to the virus.
According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 98% of COVID-19 patients have a fever, between 76% and 82% have a dry cough, and 11% to 44% report exhaustion and fatigue.
The disease appears to become more severe with age, with the 30- to 79-year-old age range predominating the detected cases in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, according to a study in JAMA. Children seem to be at less risk of suffering noticeable symptoms of the disease.
In more serious cases of COVID-19, patients experience pneumonia, which means their lungs begin to fill with pockets of pus or fluid. This leads to intense shortness of breath and painful coughing.
Currently, testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 in the United States is limited to people with severe symptoms, according to Paul Biddinger, the director of the emergency preparedness research, evaluation and practice program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who spoke in a university webcast March 2. This means that it isn’t appropriate to be tested at the first sign of a fever or sniffle. Seeking medical care for mild illness can also potentially transmit that illness, or lead to catching new illnesses in the hospital or clinic, Biddinger added.
If you become ill with these symptoms and live in or have traveled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading, which now includes parts of the U.S., the CDC recommends calling your doctor first rather than traveling to a clinic. Physicians work with state health departments and the CDC to determine who should be tested for the new virus. However, the CDC also recommends that people with COVI-19 or any respiratory illness monitor their symptoms carefully. Worsening shortness of breath is reason to seek medical care, particularly for older individuals or people with underlying health conditions. The CDC information page has more information on what to do if you are sick.
The novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2, causes the disease COVID-19. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019. Since then, it has spread to every continent except Antarctica. The death rate appears to be higher than that of the seasonal flu, but it also varies by location as well as a person’s age, underlying health conditions, among other factors. For instance, in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, the death rate reached 2.9%, whereas it was just 0.4% in other provinces in China, according to a study published Feb. 18 in the China CDC Weekly.
Scientists aren’t certain where the virus originated, though they know that coronaviruses (which also include SARS and MERS) are passed between animals and humans. Research comparing the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 with a viral database suggests it originated in bats. Since no bats were sold at the seafood market in Wuhan at the disease’s epicenter, researchers suggest an intermediate animal, possibly the pangolin (an endangered mammal) is responsible for the transmission to humans. There are currently no treatments for the disease, but labs are working on various types of treatments, including a vaccine.
Fried chicken, french fries and chicken-fried steak might be delicious, but treating yourself to such fare regularly could be deadly, a new study warns.
Women who eat more than one serving a week of fried chicken or fried fish have an increased risk of heart disease and death, researchers report.
“Overall, we found that total fried food consumption is related to higher risk of all-cause death, and also death from cardiovascular disease,” said senior researcher Dr. Wei Bao. He’s an assistant professor of epidemiology with the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health.
The results are not surprising “given the association of fried food to weight gain and obesity, as well as elevation of cholesterol and triglycerides,” said Dr. Guy Mintz, who was not part of the study. He directs cardiovascular health and lipidology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
“Poor decisions lead to poor outcomes. We have the opportunity to help ourselves live healthier and longer with lifestyle changes,” Mintz said. “It is time we own what we eat and realize our dietary choices have consequences.”
For the study, Bao and his colleagues relied on data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-running federally funded study focused on heart disease, cancer and other health problems in postmenopausal women.
Nearly 107,000 women between ages 50 and 79 were quizzed on their diets and other health problems. These women enrolled in the study between 1993 and 1998, and researchers followed them up to February 2017.
During those two decades, 31,588 women died, including 9,320 heart-related deaths, 8,358 cancer deaths and 13,880 deaths from other causes.
The researchers found that women who ate a lot of fried foods also had other problems that could affect their heart health, Mintz said.
One-third of participants who ate one or more fried meals per week were obese, as were 44 percent of the patients who consumed more than one fried food meal per day, Mintz noted.
“More than half of these patients achieved less than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week,” Mintz continued. About 40 percent of the patients were former smokers.
But even after researchers controlled for these risk factors, fried foods were independently associated with an increased risk of death:
- Women who ate one or more servings a day had an 8 percent higher risk of death compared with those who didn’t eat fried food.
- One or more servings of fried chicken a day was linked to a 13 percent higher risk of death from any cause and a 12 percent higher risk of heart-related death.
- One or more servings of fried fish or shellfish a day was linked to a 7 percent higher risk of death from any cause and a 13 percent higher risk of heart-related death.
The researchers found no evidence linking fried food to an increased risk of cancer death, and the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link between fried foods and early death.
The findings were published Jan. 23 in the BMJ.
Even though the study focused on women, Bao said it’s very likely that men would be similarly affected by a diet heavy in fried foods.
Obesity probably plays a part in the increased risk of death, he said. Women who ate fried food regularly had a much larger daily calorie intake than those who didn’t eat fried food.
But other factors could play a role as well, Bao said.
People in Spain often eat fried foods, but a previous study found that fried foods were not associated with an increased risk of death in that country, he noted.
Spanish fried food lovers regularly use olive oil for their frying, and more often they cook their fried foods in their own kitchens, Bao explained. By comparison, people in the United States tend to eat fried foods from restaurants, where they are often cooked in deep fryers using peanut or canola oils.
“The frying process at home could be different from the frying process away from home,” Bao said. “A notable thing is when we fry at home, we don’t reuse the oil many times.”
In the meantime, people shouldn’t downplay the affect high fat intake has on heart health, said Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He was not part of the study.
“Heart attacks occur from cholesterol plaques building up in the coronary arteries,” Bhusri said. “Consuming fats from fried food directly impacts the burden of this disease. A cholesterol plaque rupture in the artery will cause a heart attack.
“This study emphasizes that there is no ‘maybe’ — fried food and fat have a direct relation to heart disease,” he said.
MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Widespread mammography screening and big advances in breast cancer treatment have saved hundreds of thousands of American women’s lives since 1989, a new study estimates.
Researchers tracked 1990-2015 U.S. data on breast cancer deaths, along with general data, on women aged 40 to 84. They found the number of breast cancer deaths prevented during that time ranged anywhere from 305,000 to more than 483,000, depending on different approaches to interpreting the data.
They then extrapolated those results out to 2018, and calculated the number of breast cancer deaths prevented since 1989 at anywhere from 384,000 to 614,500.
In 2018 alone, between 27,000 to almost 46,000 breast cancer deaths were prevented, the investigators said.
The findings should help reassure women who wonder about the value of mammograms, said study author R. Edward Hendrick, of the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine in Denver.
Recent studies “have focused media attention on some of the risks of mammography screening, such as call-backs for additional imaging and breast biopsies,” he said. But those reports have also often neglected “the most important aspect of screening — that finding and treating breast cancer early saves women’s lives,” Hendrick said.
Mammography screening first became widely available in the mid-1980s. The new study estimates that regular screening plus improved treatments cut the expected rate of breast cancer death in 2018 by between 45 to 58 percent, according to the study published Feb. 11 in the journal Cancer.
“Our study provides evidence of just how effective the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment have been in averting breast cancer deaths,” Hendrick said in a journal news release.
One breast cancer physician applauded the new research.
“We have new immune therapies and improved surgical techniques that are important advances against breast cancer,” said Dr. Alice Police, who directs breast surgery at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
“However, the biggest factor in literally centuries to lower the mortality rate from this devastating and extremely common disease is the humble screening mammogram,” she said. “Nothing else in detection or treatment has even come close.”
But Hendrick noted that only about half of U.S. women older than 40 get regular mammograms.
“The best possible long-term effect of our findings would be to help women recognize that early detection and modern, personalized breast cancer treatment saves lives, and to encourage more women to get screened annually starting at age 40,” Hendrick said.
Dr. Kristin Byrne is chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that, in keeping with guidelines from the American Cancer Society, women aged 40 and over should consider getting regular mammograms.
Byrne said the new study “is further evidence that early detection and improved treatment saves lives.”
“Over 335,000 women were diagnosed with new breast cancer in the United States in 2018,” she noted, and “eight out of ten of these women have no family history of breast cancer. “
According to current American Cancer Society guidelines, “women ages40to44should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms [X-rays of the breast] if they wish to do so. Women age45to54should get mammograms every year. Women55and older should switch to mammograms every2 years, or can continue yearly screening.”
Common Causes of Blood Sugar Spikes
Because you have diabetes, you know it’s a must to keep your blood sugar levels under control. But do you know what makes them spike?
Check this list of common culprits, plus ways to help you stay healthy and feel great.
1. Your Diet
Watch what you eat since that’s one of the most important things you can do to control your blood sugar, also called blood glucose.
That’s because of the impact that carbohydrates — the sugars and starches in foods — can have.
It’s fine to eat them in moderation. But choices that have too many carbs can cause your blood sugar to soar — white rice, pasta, and highly processed or fried foods are examples. Some fruits are high in sugar, such as bananas. It’s OK to have fruit, just not too much.
Choose good carbs, like whole-grain bread and cereal, unprocessed grains such as barley or quinoa, beans, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruit, yogurt, and vegetables.
Fiber helps because it lowers blood sugar. Good choices are whole grains, fruits that are lower in sugar (apples and blueberries), veggies, and legumes.
2. Too Little Sleep
Not getting enough rest does more than make you groggy. It also affects how well your body can control and break down blood sugar.
In one study, researchers asked healthy adults to sleep just 4 hours a night for 6 days. At the end of the study, their bodies’ ability to break down glucose was 40% lower on average. Why? Doctors believe that when you enter deep sleep, your nervous system slows down and your brain uses less blood sugar.
Get your shut-eye. Remember all the things that help: Stick to a regular schedule, don’t use your phone or tablet close to bedtime, and relax before you hit the hay.
3. Too Much (or Too Little) Exercise
Even a mild workout, like walking or doing light housework, can lower your blood sugar and improve how your body responds to insulin.
When you don’t move around enough, your glucose levels can rise. Too much exercise can have the same effect. Tough activities, like bench-pressing weights, or competitive ones, like running a race, can raise your blood sugar.
That doesn’t mean you can’t sweat it out. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your whole body. But ask your doctor what changes you may need to make in your treatment plan to keep your blood sugar in the right range.
This is your fight-or-flight response. It prompts your body to act like it’s under attack.
When this happens, your hormone levels go up. Your body burns its stored energy sources — glucose and fat — to meet the threat. When you have diabetes, insulin can’t break through the cells to break down the glucose, and your levels rise.
Stress can also cause blood sugar to rise indirectly. You may be less likely to take care of yourself by eating right, exercising, or taking your medicine when you’re stressed out.
Learn to relax. Try meditation, yoga, or massage.
5. Some Medications
You know that insulin can bring your blood sugar down. But if you miss a dose or take the wrong dose of your medicine, you could cause your levels to spike. Some drugs, such as corticosteroids, can have the same effect. Other meds that could raise your glucose include:
- Diuretics (“water pills”)
- Drugs used to treat depression
- Blood pressure medicines
If you’re on any of these medicines and you notice your blood sugar is high, talk to your doctor. He may adjust your diet or medications.
6. Not Brushing and Flossing
If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to get gum disease. And serious gum disease can make it harder to keep your blood sugar under control. Like all infections, it may cause your glucose to rise. That, in turn, can make other infections more likely. Make sure you not only brush and floss your teeth but also rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash daily.
Keep up with your dentist visits, work on managing your blood sugar, and, if you have gum disease, treat it — and any other infection in any part of your body — ASAP.
If you light up, you raise your chances of getting diabetes. If you already have diabetes, you’re more likely to have trouble finding the right dose of insulin and controlling your blood sugar. Smoking makes it harder to keep your blood sugar levels down.
The lesson here: If you smoke, quit.
Blood sugar levels go up from time to time. But knowing what can cause these spikes can help you control them — and avoid health problems down the line.
As you write up your health to-do list this year, find out from your doctor which cancer screenings you should have. These tests can help you catch the disease early, when it’s easier to treat.
A test can often find this type of cancer when a lump is too small for you to feel, and before the disease has spread to other parts of your body.
Mammogram. This is the main way doctors check for breast cancer. It uses X-rays to create pictures of the inside of your breasts.
A 3D mammogram takes several pictures so your doctor can see your breast from different points of view.
A technician will place one breast at a time on a special platform. Then a clear plastic paddle will press on your breast to spread it out. This is done to make sure the X-ray gets all your tissue in the picture. You may need to change positions so the technician can take pictures from different views. You’ll have to hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
Sometimes, mammograms can find something that isn’t cancer, which might cause women to get more tests or even treatment they didn’t really need. This is one reason why different groups have different recommendations.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says women ages 50 to 74 should have mammograms every other year. Women in their 40s may choose to get one every other year.
- The American Cancer Society says women ages 45 to 54 should have it done once a year, although you could start as early as 40 if you want to. Those 55 or older should get them every 2 years.
If you’re more likely to get breast cancer because of a family history or other reasons, check with your doctor. You might need to have mammograms earlier and more often than these guidelines recommend. You may also need to add other screening tests, such as an MRI.
Breast self-exams. Most health groups don’t recommend that women do these anymore. If it’s something you’d like to do to be familiar with your breasts, talk to your doctor about what you should look and feel for.
It’s the deadliest cancer in women, and it’s no secret that smoking is the major cause. If you’re a regular tobacco user, you may want to talk with your doctor about getting a screening test if you haven’t already.
Doctors check for lung cancer with a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan. It uses X-rays to make pictures of your lungs.
It’s an easy procedure. You lie on your back and raise your arms over your head as the table moves through the scanner. You hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds while it’s done.
You should probably get an LDCT scan once a year if you:
- Are 55 to 80 years old, and
- Have smoked one pack a day for 30 years (or an equal amount, such as two packs a day for 15 years), and
- Smoke now, or you quit within the past 15 years
Your doctor will let you know if and when it’s OK to stop getting annual scans.
It’s the third most common cancer in women. Since the disease usually starts with growths called polyps in your colon, a part of your digestive system, some screening tests look for them. The goal is to find them before they can turn into cancer or while they’re still in the early stages.
Colonoscopy. Your doctor will check your entire colon and rectum with a flexible tube that has a camera on the end. You’ll need to do some prep work. A day or so before it’s done, you’ll only be allowed to drink liquids, and you’ll take a laxative to clean out your colon.
The procedure, which takes about 30 minutes, shouldn’t hurt. You’ll get numbing medication as well as medicine to make you drowsy or put you to sleep. Your doctor will usually remove any polyps and perhaps bits of tissue from your colon. Then he’ll send them to a lab to get checked for signs of cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy. It’s a lot like a colonoscopy, but not quite as thorough. Your doctor can only check about a third of your colon. On the positive side, you don’t have to do as much prep, and you can usually stay awake. This test takes about 20 minutes.
Fecal tests. Both the guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) look for tiny amounts of blood in your poop because cancers in the colon and rectum sometimes bleed.
You use a special kit that lets you collect a small amount of your poop at home. You send the kit to a lab, where technicians check the samples. You may have to avoid certain foods and medicines beforehand.
A stool DNA test is similar, but the lab will also check for traces of cells from polyps or cancer with changes in their genes.
You should get your first colorectal cancer screening test when you’re between 50 and 75 years old. You may need to do it earlier if you’re more likely to get colorectal cancer. If you’re older, ask your doctor whether you need to.
How often you should get tested after that depends on which type of screening you get. The USPSTF recommends:
- Colonoscopy once every 10 years, or
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years plus FOBT every 3 years, or
- FOBT every year
It starts in cells that line the cervix, the lower part of your uterus. With one of these tests, your doctor can often spot these slowly changing cells before they cause trouble.
Pap test. You lie on a table with your feet in leg rests. Your doctor puts a tool called a speculum into your vagina to widen it enough to see your cervix.
Then she’ll use a special scraper or brush to remove a sample of cells. You might feel a little discomfort. The cells go to a lab, which tests them for cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) test. It can be done along with the Pap test, using the same collected cells. The lab checks to see if you’re infected with HPV, a virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer.
Generally, women should get a Pap test every 3 years. Some may have the option to get both a Pap and HPV test every 5 years. Your doctor will recommend the best strategy for you, based on things like your age, test history, and likelihood of getting cancer.
The USPSTF doesn’t recommend for or against skin exams, but the American Cancer Society says regular checks by your doctor are a good way to find skin cancers early. If you’ve had the disease in the past or you have family members who’ve had it, ask your doctor how often you should get a skin exam.
Your doctor will look for any moles or other growths on your skin that might be cancer. You can also check your skin for changes yourself at least once a month.