WELCOME TO THE Women’s Health eNewsletter This newsletter is a monthly resource created especially for women. Each issue will bring you valuable information on various topics - news you can use to live a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. We hope you enjoy each issue. Inside this issue: • Do Healthy Adults Need Checkups, Screening Tests, and Shots? • Flu Prevention Important Information for You and Your Family September 2007 Do Healthy Adults Need Checkups, Screening Tests, and Shots? Have you ever put off having your medical checkups or screening tests and shots because you “feel perfectly healthy?” Checkups and screening tests, such as vision tests and cholesterol tests, can help find diseases or conditions early and when they may be easier to treat. Immunizations can help protect you from several different diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provide information about why and when you may need certain checkups, screening tests, and shots – even if you feel “perfectly healthy.” • Checking Up on Cholesterol • • Beware of Email Health Hoaxes According to the CDC, getting the checkups needed for teeth and gums, vision, and hearing is an important part of health care. Keeping teeth and gums healthy can prevent certain bacteria-related diseases. Serious vision problems can be treated if diagnosed early. • Pregnancy Pointers: Preventing Infections Dental, Hearing, and Vision Care Teeth and Gums The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends some tips for good dental health: • Visit a dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. • Brush after meals with a toothbrush that has soft or medium bristles. • Use toothpaste with fluoride. • Use dental floss every day. • Eat fewer sweets, especially between meals. • Do not smoke or chew tobacco products. Hearing According to the CDC, hearing loss is one of the most common health problems that people experience when growing older. The risk for hearing loss increases after age 50. How can you tell if you have a hearing problem? Here are some signs: • You may have to strain to hear a normal conversation. • You may find yourself turning up the volume of the TV and radio so loud that others complain. If you are concerned about your hearing, talk to your doctor. You may need to have a hearing test. Vision The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) informs us that people age 40 and older have more vision problems than younger people, and that poor vision may be more likely to result in accidental injuries. The AAO recommends talking to your doctor about when you should begin having regular eye exams. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are having trouble with your vision. • Tests/Screenings to Find Diseases or Conditions Early Certain diseases and conditions may be prevented or controlled if they are diagnosed early. The CDC describes some recommended tests that you may need. The frequency of these tests may be determined by your risk factors and/or family history. You and your doctor can discuss a screening schedule that is appropriate for you. High Blood Pressure High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. It is most common in African Americans and people over age 45. The USPSTF recommends blood pressure screening at least every 2 years. Being physically active and eating a healthy diet are two ways to help keep blood pressure under control. Some people may need medicine to keep their blood pressure at healthy levels. If you use medicine, be sure to take it as directed by your doctor. High Cholesterol Too much cholesterol can clog blood vessels and is a major cause of heart disease. To help lower cholesterol and keep it at a healthy level, eat the right foods, maintain a healthy weight, and be physically active. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help lower your cholesterol. The USPSTF recommends checking your cholesterol every 5 years if: • You are a man 35 or older. • You are a woman 45 or older. • You are a man between the ages of 20 and 35 or a woman between the ages of 20 and 45, and you have other risk factors for heart disease. Other risk factors include tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of heart disease. Your doctor may suggest you have it checked more often, especially if your cholesterol levels are high and/or you are taking cholesterol-controlling medication. Diabetes According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes can cause blindness, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and nerve disease. The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age. In the United States, almost one in five people between the ages of 65 and 74 have type 2 diabetes. Your risk for type 2 diabetes is higher if: • You are American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic, or black. • You have a family member with diabetes. • You are overweight. • You had diabetes during pregnancy. Exercise, a healthy diet, and controlling your weight may help lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about being tested for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or if you are overweight. If you already have diabetes, practicing healthy habits and getting the recommended diabetic screenings can help prevent or control many of the complications of diabetes. Osteoporosis The CDC warns that osteoporosis, or thinning bones, increases the risk of fracture. This condition is more common in women than in men due to the loss of estrogen after menopause. After age 55, a woman’s bones become more porous. It is estimated that half of all women past the age of menopause will break a bone during their lifetime. A bone density test can help determine whether your bones are prone to breaking. If they are becoming thin, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce your risk for fractures. The CDC recommends that women age 65 and older be tested regularly, or earlier if you are at increased risk for fractures - for example, if you have a small body frame or have a family history of the disease. Ask your doctor when bone density testing is right for you. Tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection that affects the lungs and eventually other parts of the body. This infection can be passed from one person to the next. It may be treated effectively if caught early. The CDC advises that you may be at risk for TB and may need a TB test if: • You have been in close contact with someone who has TB. • You have recently come to the U.S. from Asia, Africa, Central or South America, or the Pacific Islands. • You have kidney failure, diabetes, HIV, or alcoholism. • You have injected or currently inject street drugs. • Tests and Screening Exams to Find Certain Cancers The American Cancer Society (ACS) advises that certain screening tests and regular exams may help increase the chances of finding some cancers early. Many cancers may be treated more easily if they are diagnosed early. The tests you get and how often you get them may depend on age, health history, and risks, such as family history and lifestyle. The ACS offers some guidelines about what screenings are recommended to detect certain cancers. Colorectal Cancer Screening According to the ACS, colorectal (colon) cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. However, if colorectal cancer is detected early, it can be treated. Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended beginning at age 50. There are several different types of tests. You and your doctor can determine which test is best for you and how often. Tell your doctor if you have had polyps or if you have family members who have had colorectal cancer, breast cancer, or cancer of the ovaries or uterus. If so, you may need to be tested more often and at an earlier age. Breast Cancer Screening The ACS reports that breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Mammography screening is a very important tool for early detection of breast cancer. The USPSTF recommends women age 40 and older have a mammogram every one to two years. Women with a family history of breast cancer should talk with their doctors about when to begin mammography screenings and clinical breast exams. Cervical Cancer Screening Regular pelvic exams and screening tests are the most accurate method for early detection of cervical cancer. The Pap test is a procedure that is done during a pelvic exam. The Pap test can detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix that may be treated before they progress. Check with your doctor about a Pap test schedule that is most appropriate for you. Current guidelines set by the USPSTF are: • Young women should have their first Pap test three years after they begin having sexual intercourse or at age 21, whichever comes first. • Women should have a Pap test annually until age 30. Women 30 and older with negative results on three consecutive pap tests may be re-screened every 2-3 years. • Because most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the USPSTF recommends an HPV vaccination for girls and women age 11-26 to prevent cervical cancer. Ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine. Your doctor may suggest stopping Pap tests if: • You are older than 65, have had regular, normal Pap tests, and are not at increased risk for other reasons. • You have had a hysterectomy. Prostate Cancer Screening Prostate cancer is most common in men over age 50. You also may be at increased risk for prostate cancer if you are African American or if your father or brother has had prostate cancer. Screening tests such as a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and a digital rectal exam may help detect prostate cancer. According to the ACS, screening can help doctors find and treat the cancer early. However, studies so far have not shown that screening tests reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer. Men should talk with their doctor about risk factors, and the pros and cons of screening for prostate cancer. Oral Cancer Screening Oral cancer includes cancers of the lip, tongue, pharynx, and mouth. According to the ADA, most oral cancers can occur in people over age 40 who use tobacco or alcohol. People who have more sun exposure may be at greater risk for cancer of the lip. You can help prevent oral cancer by not smoking or abusing alcohol, and by using an SPF 15 sun block on your lips. Your dentist can examine your mouth, lips, and tongue for signs of cancer during your regular exams. Talk to your dentist about risk factors for oral cancer. • Shots to Prevent Diseases Vaccines aren’t just for kids. The CDC warns that far too many adults become ill, are disabled, and die each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented by vaccines. Here are some of the important recommended immunizations for adults: Measles-Mumps-Rubella Shot If you have never had a measles-mumps-rubella shot or never had measles, mumps, and rubella, the CDC advises receiving at least one dose of this vaccine if: • You are a woman and able to become pregnant. • You were born after 1956. This shot is especially important for women of child-bearing age. If a pregnant woman gets rubella, she could have a miscarriage, or her baby could have birth defects. Tetanus-Diphtheria Shot Tetanus (lockjaw) and diphtheria are serious diseases. The CDC explains that diphtheria spreads when germs pass from an infected person to the nose or throat of others. Tetanus is caused by a germ that may enter the body through a cut or wound in the skin. To prevent the potential serious health complications of these diseases, most people need a booster shot every 10 years. Flu Shots See article on influenza and flu shots in this issue. Pneumococcal Disease (Pneumonia) Shot Pneumococcal Disease (Pneumonia) is an infection caused by bacteria that can affect the lungs, your bloodstream, and the brain. This disease is very serious and is the cause of death for many thousands of Americans every year. According to the CDC, the majority of deaths occur in people over 65 and those with chronic heart or lung disease, or diabetes. The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccine for all adults over age 65. Those with a chronic disease or depressed immune system may need this shot sooner. Some people may need a booster shot, depending on age and certain medical conditions. Talk to your doctor about getting a shot to prevent pneumonia. Hepatitis B Shots Viral hepatitis is the most common of all the serious contagious diseases that affect the liver. Hepatitis B is the most widespread of the viruses that cause hepatitis. The CDC advises talking to your doctor about hepatitis B shots if: • You have had sex with more than one partner or with someone infected with hepatitis B. • You are a man and have had sex with a man. • You have had any other sexually transmitted disease within the last 6 months. • You have injected street drugs or have shared needles. • You have a job that involves contact with human blood or blood products. • You travel to areas where hepatitis B is common. Shingles (Zoster) Shot Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. According to the CDC, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus can stay in the body for many years in an inactive state. It can reappear later in life and cause a case of shingles. Shingles is seen more frequently in people who are older or who have weakened immune systems. • A single dose of Zoster vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older, including those who have already had shingles. • Those who should not receive this vaccine include individuals with a weakened immune system and those with active, untreated tuberculosis. Note: This is a relatively new vaccine and may not be a covered benefit under your health plan. Check with your customer service representative and talk to your doctor about the Zoster vaccine. Keeping regularly scheduled checkups and getting recommended screening tests and shots can help keep adults healthy. For a complete schedule of adult immunization recommendations, visit the following website: http://www. cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/default.htm. Flu Prevention – Important Information for You and Your Family It’s that time of year again - upper respiratory viruses are beginning to spread in schools, in the workplace, and at home. It’s hard to avoid catching the common cold, but the flu is more serious and has a greater risk of health complications. Fortunately, we can protect our families and ourselves from the flu virus. What is the Flu? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) in humans. The CDC reports that millions of people in the United States get influenza – about 10%-20% of the population – every year. Most people who get the flu will recover in one to two weeks, but some people can develop life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. The CDC estimates that about 36,000 Americans die from the flu every year and another 200,000 are hospitalized as a result of flu complications. When is Flu Season? According to the CDC, winter is flu season in the northern hemisphere. In the U.S., the flu season can range from November through March, and sometimes into early spring. What Are the Symptoms of the Flu? The CDC states that flu symptoms usually occur suddenly and may include the following: • Fever • Headache • Fatigue (can be extreme) • Dry cough • Sore throat • Nasal congestion • Body aches How is the Flu Spread? The CDC explains that flu germs can spread before symptoms even begin to appear. Adults can spread the virus to others for another three to seven days after symptoms have developed. Children can spread the flu virus to others for more than seven days. Some people can be infected with the flu and have no symptoms; however, they can still spread the virus to others. According to the CDC, flu viruses are most commonly spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes. This “droplet spread” occurs when droplets of mucous from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are carried through the air (usually up to three feet) and come in contact with the mouth or nose of another person. The viruses can also be spread when people touch droplets on another person or an object and then touch their own eyes, mouths, or noses before washing their hands. Am I at Risk? ANYONE can get the flu – even healthy people. However, some individuals are more likely to develop complications, such as pneumonia. Persons at high risk include those age 65 years and older, people of any age with a chronic illness, and very young children. In addition, a recent study reported in the European Heart Journal found that flu can worsen heart disease, and that deaths from heart attacks and heart disease increase during the flu season. How Can I Protect Myself From Getting the Flu? According to the CDC, the best method of protection from the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Beginning in early Fall, the flu shot is offered to people at high risk. For those who are not high risk, the best time to get vaccinated is from October to December. You should get the vaccine annually because flu viruses are different every year. The vaccine is usually available at your doctor’s office, local clinics, certain community centers, workplaces, supermarkets, and some drugstores. Types of Vaccines • The flu vaccine contains 3 dead or inactivated influenza viruses and is usually given by an injection in the arm. • In 2003, the Food and Administration (FDA) approved a nasal spray flu vaccine called FluMist®. This vaccine contains weakened, live influenza viruses and is recommended for healthy people, ages 5 to 49 years. It is not recommended for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor if you would like more information about FluMist®. (Be sure to check if FluMist® is a covered benefit under your health plan). Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine? The CDC recommends that you get a flu shot every year if you are at higher risk for getting the flu or developing flu complications. You are considered to be at higher risk if: • You are age 50 or older. • You have one or more chronic diseases involving your heart, lungs, or kidneys. • You have diabetes. • Your immune system does not function properly. • You have a severe form of anemia. • You are pregnant during the flu season (November-March). • You are living in a nursing home or other chronic-care housing facility. • You are living in a household with any of the above. • You are a household contact or an out-of-home caregiver of babies 0-6 months. Note: You should NOT get a flu shot if you have any of the following conditions: • History of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. • History of allergy or hypersensitivity to eggs. • Previous allergic reaction to a flu shot. • A fever. Talk to your doctor about postponing your flu shot until you are well. Should My Children Be Immunized Every Year? In 2006, the CDC added the recommendation that children 6 months to 59 months of age be immunized each year. The CDC recommends that adults have a flu shot if they are in close contact with children in this age group. Children and teenagers (ages 6 months to 18 years) should get the flu vaccine if they are taking long-term aspirin treatment. Children should also be immunized if they live in a household with someone in the groups listed above. Children who are under 9 years of age and have never had a flu shot will need 2 shots, one month apart, before the flu season begins. Note: For recent updates or changes in vaccine recommendations, check with your doctor or the CDC’s website: http://www.cdc.gov. Taking Care of Yourself The CDC recommends additional ways to prevent the flu: • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water; this will help protect you from germs. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; this is how germs are spread. • Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. The CDC advises taking the following precautions if you get sick: • • • • Get plenty of rest. Drink a lot of fluids. Avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medications. Remember, antibiotics cannot treat cold and flu viruses. Note: Never give aspirin to children or teenagers to relieve the symptoms of flu. A serious neurological condition called Reyes syndrome may develop in children who take aspirin to relieve fever and other flu symptoms. • • • Stay home and avoid contact with other people to prevent spreading the virus. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent others from getting sick. If you are high-risk, contact your doctor immediately. Watch for Warning Signs If you have the flu, the CDC lists warning signs that would require immediate medical attention: Children: • • • • • • • High or prolonged fever Fast breathing or difficulty breathing Bluish skin color Not drinking enough fluids Changes in behavior or mental state such as extreme lethargy or not interacting, extreme irritability, refusing to be held, or seizures Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and severe cough Worsening of any chronic medical conditions Adults: • High or prolonged fever • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath • Pain or pressure in the chest • Feeling faint, or fainting • Confusion • Severe or persistent vomiting If you or anyone in your family experiences any of these signs, call your doctor or go to an emergency room immediately. If you have questions or concerns about the flu and the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor. You may also visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ or call the CDC influenza hotline at 800-232-2522. Note: For health benefit eligibility, check your Evidence of Coverage and/or contact the customer service number located on the back of your ID card. Checking Up on Cholesterol Every September, the Centers for Disease Control’s National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) sponsors National Cholesterol Education Month to increase cholesterol awareness. This important health campaign stresses the importance of understanding your cholesterol levels and learning how to achieve or maintain healthy levels. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 100 million American adults have high cholesterol. What Is Cholesterol? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) describes cholesterol as a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body needs some cholesterol to function well, but according to the NHLBI, too much cholesterol in the blood, or high blood cholesterol, can lead to serious health problems. Checking Your Cholesterol There are usually no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. Many people may not know that their cholesterol level is too high. That is why it is important to have regular cholesterol checks. High blood cholesterol can be diagnosed by a blood test that measures the levels of cholesterol in your blood. The CDC and the NHLBI recommend that everyone age 20 and older have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. You and your doctor can discuss how often you should be tested. What are the Recommended Cholesterol Levels? According to the NCEP, desirable or optimal blood cholesterol levels for persons with or without existing heart disease are: • Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL. • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol): Less than 100 mg/dL. • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol): 40 mg/dL or higher. • Triglycerides (another form of fat in the blood): Less than 150 mg/dL. Unfortunately, of the 100 million American adults who have high blood cholesterol (total blood cholesterol levels of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher), an estimated 34.5 million persons have levels of 240 mg/dL or above. What Causes High Blood Cholesterol? There are several factors that can affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. The NCEP lists some of the factors you can control and others you cannot control: You Can Control: • What You Eat. Many foods have certain types of fats that may raise cholesterol levels. • Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. The American Heart Association (AHA) warns that saturated fat can raise your LDL cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet. Saturated fats are mostly found in foods that come from animal sources, such as beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, cream, whole milk, hard cheeses and other dairy products made from whole milk. Saturated fat is also found in some plant products including coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. • Trans-fatty acids (trans-fats) are found in various animal products such as beef, pork, lamb, and the butterfat in butter and milk. Trans-fats are also found in foods (especially fast foods) cooked with hydrogenated vegetable oils. Hydrogenated vegetable oils provide about three-fourths of trans-fats in American diets. Margarine, shortening, cooking oils and the foods made from them are a major source of trans-fats. According to the AHA, clinical studies have shown that trans-fats tend to raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and can increase total blood cholesterol levels even more than saturated fats. Note: Read food labels! Since January 2006 the FDA has required trans-fats to be listed on nutrition labels. • Your Weight. Being overweight tends to increase your LDL cholesterol level, lower your HDL cholesterol level, and increase your total cholesterol level. • Your Activity. Lack of regular exercise can lead to weight gain, which could raise your LDL cholesterol level. Regular exercise can help you lose weight, lower your LDL cholesterol level, and raise your HDL cholesterol level. You Cannot Control: • Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families. • Age and Sex. As women and men get older, their LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise. Most young women have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men, but after age 55, women’s LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise higher than men’s. How Is High Blood Cholesterol Treated? The AHA explains that the main goal of cholesterol treatment is to lower cholesterol - in particular the LDL level – to normal limits to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. The higher the LDL level and the more risk factors you have, the greater the risk may be for developing a serious health problem. Cholesterol levels can be lowered through lifestyle changes including dietary improvement, increased physical activity, weight control, and by prescribed medications. Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol The NHLBI recommends the following lifestyle changes to help lower your cholesterol: Diet • Limit the amount of saturated fat, trans-fats, and cholesterol in your food. • Eat only enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. • Increase the soluble fiber in your diet. For example, oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples are good sources of soluble fiber. Weight Management • Losing weight if you are overweight can help lower cholesterol. • Weight management is especially important for persons with several risk factors that include high triglyceride and/or low HDL levels, and being overweight with a large waist measurement (more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women). Physical Activity • Regular physical activity is recommended for most people to control cholesterol. • Exercise can help raise HDL levels and lower LDL levels, and is especially important for those with high triglyceride and/or low HDL levels and are overweight with a large waist measurement. • For exercise ideas, check out: September 24 - America on the Move Day http://www.americaonthemove.org September 29 - Family Health and Fitness Day http://www.fitnessday.com Talk to your doctor about what lifestyle changes you can make to help lower and maintain optimal cholesterol levels. Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines Along with diet and physical activity changes, your doctor may prescribe drugs (statins or other types of drugs) to help lower your cholesterol. Even if you take these medications, you will always need to continue your healthy lifestyle modifications. Drug treatment may control, but does not “cure” high blood cholesterol. The AHA advises that you always take your medication as directed to keep your cholesterol level in the recommended range. When you are under treatment, you may be checked regularly to make sure your cholesterol level is controlled. When trying to lower your cholesterol or keep it low, it is important to remember to follow your treatment recommendations for other conditions you may have, such as high blood pressure. Get help with quitting smoking and losing weight if they are risk factors for you. A Note about Healthier Dieting….. If you think that classic high-cholesterol dishes such as macaroni and cheese can’t be modified for a heart-healthy diet, see below. The NHBLI offers a variety of yummy low-cholesterol recipes on its “Stay Young at Heart” website link. Check it out at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/syah/index.htm. CLASSIC MACARONI AND CHEESE Low fat cheese and skim milk help to make this favorite dish heart-healthy. 2 cups 1/2 cup 1/2 cup 1 medium 1/4 tsp 1 1/4 cups macaroni chopped onions evaporated skim milk egg, beaten (or egg substitute) black pepper sharp low fat cheddar cheese (4 oz), finely shredded nonstick cooking oil spray 1. Cook macaroni according to directions. (Do not add salt to the cooking water) Drain and set aside. 2. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray. Preheat oven to 350° F. 3. Lightly spray saucepan with nonstick cooking oil spray. 4. Add onions to saucepan and sauté for about 3 minutes. 5. In another bowl, combine macaroni, onions, and the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. 6. Transfer mixture into casserole dish. 7. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings--Serving size: 1/2 cup Calories 200 Fat 4 g Saturated fat 2 g Cholesterol 34 mg Sodium 120 mg For more information about high blood cholesterol: National Heart Lung Blood Institute (NHLBI) High Blood Cholesterol - What You Need to Know http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/hbc_what.htm. Beware of Email Health Hoaxes Improved technology and the wide use of the Internet has made gathering information easier than ever before. With the help of one of many search engines available, you can quickly and easily obtain information on everything from a recipe for chocolate chip cookies to the causes and treatments of a multitude of medical conditions. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that not all information found online is accurate, especially medical information in forwarded emails. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC), increased worldwide use of the Internet and email has given rise to a proliferation of “urban legends” and misinformation in the form of email hoaxes. For example, email “scares” about poisoned food products have increased since 9/11. Many email hoaxes appear very credible and are often forwarded by well-meaning friends and family members. The CIAC tracks and archives email hoaxes on their Hoaxbusters website. This website contains information about hoaxes, chain letters, urban myths, and other bogus information that is routed around the Internet. Here are some examples from the CIAC of the most widespread health-related hoaxes: Legend: Plastic Wrap in the Microwave Causes Toxins to Enter Your Food! Status: FALSE The Truth: According to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, there is no evidence to suggest that using plastic wrap to heat food in the microwave poses any kind of threat. Legend: Freezing Water in Plastic Water Bottles Transfers Deadly Toxins to the Water! Status: FALSE The Truth: Freezing actually works against the release of chemicals, according to Johns Hopkins. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic In general, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that there is no evidence that plastic food and beverage containers contain dangerous toxins. In fact, the FDA posted an article in 2002 in response to this misinformation, and is still receiving inquiries today. To view the entire article and more information on microwave container safety, visit this FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2002/602_plastic.html. Legend: Bananas Cause Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh Eating Virus)! Status: FALSE The Truth: Necrotizing fasciitis is a real disease, and very serious. This rare bacterial infection can destroy skin and the soft tissues beneath it (fascia). Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by several kinds of bacteria, including Group A Streptococcus. However, the email is a hoax. The CDC and the FDA released a joint statement regarding this hoax: “The bacteria which most commonly cause necrotizing fasciitis frequently live in the human body. The usual route of transmission for these bacteria is from person to person. Sometimes they can be transmitted in foods, but this would be an unlikely cause for necrotizing fasciitis. The CDC and the FDA agree that the bacteria cannot survive long on the surface of a banana.” According to the CDC, the spread of all types infections can be reduced by good hand washing, especially after coughing and sneezing and before preparing foods or eating. For more information on Group A streptococcus, please visit the Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases page on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/ dbmd/diseaseinfo/groupastreptococcal_g.htm Legend: Status: Want to Know How to Survive a Heart Attack if You are Alone? Give Yourself CPR by Coughing! FALSE The Truth: Both the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross say this method of CPR is highly unlikely to save anyone. If your heart has stopped you are going to pass out in a matter of seconds. If you have not passed out, your heart has not stopped and you do not need CPR. You will have a much higher survival probability if you dial 911 immediately at the first signs of a possible heart attack. To learn the warning signs of a heart attack, visit the American Heart Association website at http://www.americanheart.com. Legend: Aspartame Causes Cancer in Humans! Status: FALSE The Truth: Aspartame is a safe and approved artificial sweetener. The FDA issued a statement denying these rumors back in 1996 – and again in 2007 - standing behind their decision to approve Aspartame for use in the United States. You can read the FDA statement by visiting the following website: http://www.aspartame.net/OnPagePDF/FDA%20Statement. pdf. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), aspartame’s safety has been documented in more than 200 studies. Regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries, including the FDA, the World Health Organization, and the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food, have confirmed the safety of aspartame. You can read the entire ADA statement by visiting the following website at: http://www.aspartame.org/APMJADA_factsheet_ 2006.pdf. Legend: Status: Antiperspirants Clog Sweat Glands and Cause Breast Cancer! FALSE The Truth: Plugging up the sweat glands under your arms cannot cause breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has debunked this message. Legend: Tampons Contain Asbestos and Dioxin (a Toxic Chemical) to Increase Bleeding! Status: FALSE The Truth: While there may be risks with using tampons, these risks are not associated with any possible asbestos or dioxin content in the tampons, according to the FDA. Legend: Canola Oil is Hazardous to Your Health! Status: FALSE The Truth: According to the Mayo Clinic, negative reports circulating on the Internet about canola oil are unfounded. This misinformation may stem from the fact that, years ago, oil was produced from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil is high in erucic acid, a compound that does have some adverse health effects. For this reason, plant breeders developed a new plant that is similar to the rapeseed plant but contains very low levels of erucic acid. The new oil was called “canola” oil and contains well below the 2 percent limit set by the FDA. It is approved for cooking and salad dressings. Canola oil has a balanced blend of omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats, and has the least amount of saturated fat of all the cooking oils available. When in Doubt, Check it Out Because most email pranksters are very good at what they do, spotting a hoax can be difficult. The CIAC warns us to be especially wary of any health-related information received in an email. Most importantly, never act on “medical information” without first verifying its accuracy. Visit the CIAC Hoaxbusters website at http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ for information on email hoaxes - how to recognize them, and how to report them. Do NOT spread misinformation by forwarding non-validated emails to others. Remember, your doctor is your best source for medical advice. If you use the Internet to obtain medical information, make sure you use a reliable source, such as the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov, and the FDA at http://www.fda.gov. You can find valuable information, tools for managing your health, and support for those who seek information on your health plan’s website as well. Pregnancy Pointers: Preventing Infections During Pregnancy Infections can be dangerous when you are pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers10 tips to help you prevent infections that may harm your unborn baby: 1. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when: • Using the bathroom • Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables • Preparing and eating food • Gardening or touching dirt or soil • Handling pets • Being around people who are sick • Getting saliva on your hands • Caring for and playing with children • Changing diapers (If soap and running water are not available, you may use alcohol-based hand gel) 2. Try not to share forks, cups, or food with young children. Wash your hands often when around children. Their saliva and urine may contain a virus that can be dangerous for you and your unborn baby. 3. Cook meat until it’s well done. The juices should run clear and there should be no pink inside. Undercooked meats and processed meats may contain harmful bacteria. Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are steaming hot. 4. Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from raw milk. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria. Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized. 5. Do not touch or change dirty cat litter. Dirty cat litter may contain a harmful parasite. If you must change the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. 6. Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings. Some rodents can carry a harmful virus. If you have a pet rodent such as a hamster or guinea pig, have someone else care for it until after your pregnancy. 7. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, and protect yourself from STDs. Knowing whether or not you have an STD is important. If you do have an STD, talk to your doctor about how you can reduce the chance that your baby will become sick. 8. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations (shots). Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having life-long health problems. 9. Avoid people who have an infection or virus. Stay away from people who are sick. Wash your hands often. 10. Ask your doctor about group B strep. About 1 in 4 women carry this type of bacteria, but do not feel sick. A simple test can determine if you have this bacteria. You won’t always know if you have an infection—sometimes you won’t even feel sick. If you think you may have an infection or think you are at risk, see your doctor. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Important News! Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia announces Future Moms, a prenatal education program designed to help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Please call 800-814-1508 or contact your customer service representative for more information. Smoking Facts Did you know….. The sooner you give up smoking, the better it is for your blood vessels and arteries. Hardened arteries due to smoking can increase blood pressure and boost the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. However, smoke-stiffened arteries may slowly regain healthy flexibility if smokers kick the habit, according to a new study published in the March 2007 issue of Hypertension, a clinical journal. What researchers found was that blood vessels regained their flexibility in direct proportion to the length of time passed since that last cigarette. Be aware that if you have smoked for a long time, it will take a longer time for your blood vessels to get back to more normal function. Another clinical study, published in the March 2007 Archives of Dermatology, reported that smoking adds years to the skin, even skin that is not normally exposed to sunlight. The researchers found that the total number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and the total number of years a person has smoked were linked with the amount of skin damage a person experienced. There are lots of reasons for giving up smoking – these are just two of them. Sources: Archives of Dermatology, March 2007 Hypertension, March 2007 For information to help you quit smoking, please visit the following website: www.smokefree.gov, or call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) TTY 1-800-332-8615. This information is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health. Trade names of commonly used medications and devices are provided for ease of education but are not intended as particular endorsements. Your doctor may choose to use items not represented here. Some services may not be covered under your health plan. Please refer to your Health Plan Group Certificate and Schedule of Benefits for details concerning benefits, procedures, and exclusions. This newsletter and your health plan company are not affiliated with or responsible for information provided by resources cited in the articles. Women’s Health e-Newsletter Managing Editor Cherri Straus, MPH Contributors Cherri Straus, MPH Marcy Donley Design Coordinators Brian Macrenaris Rhonda Wolberd Physician Reviewer Lora Abell, MD For more information about Women’s Health or other products and services offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, visit our Web site at http://w3.bcbsga.com/healthyLiving/womensHealth/. To UNSUBSCRIBE from this mail list, simply click on the link below and then click send. [email protected] Please Note: Unless otherwise stated in the linked Web sites, the entities delivering the referenced linked Web sites are not affiliates of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia exerts no control over the linked Web sites and assumes no responsibility for any information or other content located on the linked Web sites, or any subsequently linked Web sites. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia makes no endorsement of the entities sponsoring the linked Web sites. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
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