Health

Flu Shot Could Help Your Kid Avoid Hospital

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — There’s an easy way for parents to help cut their child’s chances of ending up in the hospital with the flu — get them vaccinated, researchers say.

For the new study, the Canadian researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly 10,000 children, aged 6 months to under 5 years, over the four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014. All lived in the province of Ontario.

Among children fully vaccinated against the flu, those aged 2 to 4 years had a 67 percent reduced risk of hospitalization due to the flu. Those 6 months to 23 months old had a 48 percent reduced risk, the study found.

Even those who were partially vaccinated (one dose of flu vaccine during their first flu season) had a 39 percent reduced risk of flu-related hospitalization, according to the study.

“Influenza can cause serious illness, especially in young children, but there hasn’t been a lot of research that has examined the magnitude of the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing kids from getting really sick and being hospitalized,” said study senior author Jeff Kwong, a scientist at Public Health Ontario.

“This research paper helps fill that gap by showing how effective the influenza vaccine can be at protecting young kids against serious complications from influenza infections,” Kwong said in an agency news release.

The study contributes to the evidence that children should receive their seasonal vaccine annually to prevent serious flu complications, said the study’s lead author, Sarah Buchan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.

Children, especially kids younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.

The study was published online Nov. 17 in the journal PLoS One.

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Poor Prognosis for Diabetic Foot Sores

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — New research underscores the need for early treatment of diabetic foot ulcers to guard against infection.

Foot ulcers are open wounds that develop because of diabetes-related damage to the nerves of blood vessels in the feet. They’re prone to infection and heal slowly.

Researchers at the University of Leeds in England evaluated nearly 300 patients with infected foot ulcers. They found that 17 percent needed part or all of their foot amputated within one year. Among the others, only about 45 had healed in that time.

“The key point is that people need to be seen quickly if an ulcer begins to form — that gives health workers the greatest chance of trying to treat the condition,” study co-author Dr. Michael Backhouse said in a university news release. He’s a podiatrist and senior research fellow.

The findings show the prognosis for infected diabetic foot ulcers is worse than previously thought, Backhouse and his colleagues said.

“Foot ulcers are painful and debilitating,” said study leader Andrea Nelson. “People with foot ulcers have limited mobility, and that brings with it a whole set of other risk factors — obesity and heart disease, for example.”

Backhouse said he hopes the study results “help clinicians caring for patients with diabetes to identify those most at risk for poor outcomes so that we can look to provide further support.”

The findings were published recently in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

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Could New ‘Brain Training’ Program Help Prevent Dementia?

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — In what is being billed as a first, researchers report that healthy seniors who tried a new brain-training program were less likely to develop dementia down the road.

“Everyone with a brain is at risk of dementia,” noted study author Jerri Edwards. But “this is the first treatment ever shown in a clinical trial to make a difference.”

Edwards is a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at the University of South Florida.

In essence, the program, called BrainHQ, tries to speed thinking by giving seniors the task of distinguishing between a series of ever-changing objects on a computer screen — both in the center and periphery of their vision. Over time, the objects appear more quickly, and look more similar to one another. This makes the task increasingly difficult, with the aim being to boost the individual’s ability to rapidly and accurately identify the objects at hand.

Based on tracking more than 2,800 seniors, the team found that it appears to do just that. Over a 10-year period, the speed-of-thought-processing program lowered dementia risk by nearly 30 percent, the study team said, when compared with seniors who didn’t have such training.

In the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, dementia-free seniors (all aged 65 and up) were divided into four groups.

One group received no brain training of any kind. Over a six-week period, three other groups underwent at least 10 sessions of different types of brain training that lasted 60 to 75 minutes each. Some participants received additional training sessions beyond the initial six weeks.

One group was offered strategic advice on how to improve their verbal memory skills, while a second group was offered strategies on improving their capacity to reason and problem-solve. The third group, however, underwent the computerized speed-of-thought-processing program.

In the end, investigators determined that neither memory training nor reason training appeared to lower long-term dementia risk.

But speed-of-thought-processing training appeared to cause dementia risk to fall by 29 percent over a decade.

What’s more, the more speed training sessions a senior got under his or her belt, the lower their dementia risk was going forward.

In fact, among those seniors who completed 15 or more such sessions, the 10-year risk for dementia was pegged at just 5.9 percent. This compared with a roughly 10 percent risk seen among those who underwent either memory or reason training. Those who underwent no training of any kind had a nearly 11 percent risk.

The program was developed by Karlene Ball of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and Dan Roenker, of Western Kentucky University.

The study was published Nov. 16 in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

“It is important to understand that this intervention is not a game, that it’s not just doing something on the computer,” stressed Edwards. “It’s a very specific training program that shows these benefits.”

Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations with the Alzheimer’s Association, said the organization believes that “this is the first time a cognitive training intervention has been shown to protect against cognitive impairment or dementia in a large, randomized, controlled trial.”

But Snyder added that, “these results need replication and confirmation in other populations with the same and similar tools.”

Adam Woods, assistant director of the Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory at the University of Florida, suggested the findings are “extremely exciting,” while also noting that “not all cognitive trainings are created equal.

“Some may interpret this as meaning that all cognitive training has the potential to slow the onset of dementia,” he noted. “However, this study makes a clear case that a specific type of training demonstrated this effect.

“Regardless,” said Woods, “the fact that a computerized cognitive training program for speed of processing has the potential to impact dementia onset is an incredibly important finding that may provide hope to those concerned about developing dementia in the later years of life.”

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Hey, Single Folk: Adopting a Dog Could Lengthen Your Life

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Here’s to keeping your health on a tight leash: New research suggests that having a dog might boost a single person’s life span.

The study tracked more than 3.4 million Swedes, middle-aged and older, for 12 years. All were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study.

The researchers reported that dog owners who lived alone were 11 percent less likely to die of heart disease and a third less likely to die from any cause, compared with those who lived alone and didn’t have a dog.

The study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, but its lead researcher said there are many reasons why having a pooch might do a body good.

“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results,” said Tove Fall, an associate professor in epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

“Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” she said in a university news release.

A person’s “bacterial microbiome” consists of the trillions of “good” microbes living within the body that help keep it healthy.

Experts in the United States agreed that the findings made sense.

“Stress relief through companionship has an inherent benefit to people’s overall health, so it is not surprising that dog owners display a lower risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein directs geriatric care at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She agreed that Fido or Rover can force their humans to get more active.

“The responsibilities associated with dog ownership impose mandatory daily exercise — a schedule which cannot be impacted by adverse weather conditions, personal commitments or mood swings,” Wolf-Klein said.

That may be especially important for single folks, said study junior author Mwenya Mubanga, a graduate student at Uppsala. Prior research has shown that living alone raises the risk for heart disease.

“Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mubanga said in the news release.

Wolf-Klein believes that whatever the reasons behind the health benefit shown in the study, adopting a furry companion from a nearby shelter might be just what the doctor ordered.

“The findings of the largest ever investigation of the association between dog-ownership and human health should encourage all of us to add a four-legged friend in our family circle,” she said.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Office Workers Don’t Like Being Chained to Their Desks

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FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — People with desk jobs want to move more, a new study suggests.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate how long desk-based workers actually want to sit, stand, walk and be physically active,” said study lead author Birgit Sperlich. She’s a postdoctoral researcher at German Sport University Cologne.

Sperlich and her colleagues interviewed 614 people with desk jobs in Germany and found that they spent an average of 73 percent of their working day sitting down. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of the day was spent standing, 13 percent was spent walking and a mere 4 percent was spent doing physically demanding tasks.

But the workers said they wanted to spend 54 percent of their work day sitting down, 15 percent standing, 23 percent walking, and almost 8 percent doing physically demanding tasks.

The workers spent about 5.4 hours per eight-hour day sitting, but they wanted to spend an additional 46 minutes walking and an additional 26 minutes standing, on average, the researchers said.

The findings were published Nov. 16 in the journal BMC Research Notes.

“So far, plans to increase physical activity in the workplace primarily focus on health outcomes without asking the target group what they prefer,” Sperlich said in a journal news release.

“Interventions to reduce sitting time may need to include more options for walking rather than only for standing,” she added.

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Dog owners have lower mortality, study finds

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Golden RetrieverImage copyrightGetty Images

Dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, a study of 3.4 million Swedes has found.

The team analysed national registries for people aged 40 to 80, and compared them to dog ownership registers.

They found there was a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in owners of dogs, particularly of hunting breeds.

While owning a dog may help physical activity, researchers said it may be active people who choose to own dogs.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner’s bacterial microbiome.

The microbiome is the collection of microscopic species that live in the gut. It’s thought a dog may influence its owner’s microbiomes as dogs change the dirt in home environments, exposing people to bacteria they may not have encountered otherwise.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The researchers said dogs had a particularly protective effect for those who live alone.

“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of heart attack,” compared to single non-owners, said lead study author Mwenya Mubanga of Uppsala University.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

Dr Mubanga said: “Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households.”

For their study, published in Scientific Reports, the team looked at data from 2001 to 2012. In Sweden, every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases – while dog ownership registration has been mandatory since 2001.

Owning a dog from breeds originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disorder.

Image copyrightNick Triggle/Amber Evans

Dr Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Owning a dog is associated with reduced mortality and risk of having heart disease. Previous studies have shown this association but have not been as conclusive – largely due to the population size studied here.

“Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them.

“However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy.

“Whether you’re a dog owner or not, keeping active is a great way to help improve your heart health.”

Tove Fall, senior author of the study, said there were some limitations: “These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease.

“There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health.”

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Dog owners lowers early death risk, study finds

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Golden RetrieverImage copyrightGetty Images

Dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, a study of 3.4 million Swedes has found.

The team analysed national registries for people aged 40 to 80, and compared them to dog ownership registers.

They found there was a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in owners of dogs, particularly of hunting breeds.

While owning a dog may help physical activity, researchers said it may be active people who choose to own dogs.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner’s bacterial microbiome.

The microbiome is the collection of microscopic species that live in the gut. It’s thought a dog may influence its owner’s microbiomes as dogs change the dirt in home environments, exposing people to bacteria they may not have encountered otherwise.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The researchers said dogs had a particularly protective effect for those who live alone.

“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of heart attack,” compared to single non-owners, said lead study author Mwenya Mubanga of Uppsala University.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

Dr Mubanga said: “Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households.”

For their study, published in Scientific Reports, the team looked at data from 2001 to 2012. In Sweden, every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases – while dog ownership registration has been mandatory since 2001.

Owning a dog from breeds originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disorder.

Image copyrightNick Triggle/Amber Evans

Dr Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Owning a dog is associated with reduced mortality and risk of having heart disease. Previous studies have shown this association but have not been as conclusive – largely due to the population size studied here.

“Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them.

“However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy.

“Whether you’re a dog owner or not, keeping active is a great way to help improve your heart health.”

Tove Fall, senior author of the study, said there were some limitations: “These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease.

“There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health.”

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Dog ownership lowers early death risk, study finds

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Golden RetrieverImage copyrightGetty Images

Dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, a study of 3.4 million Swedes has found.

The team analysed national registries for people aged 40 to 80, and compared them to dog ownership registers.

They found there was a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in owners of dogs, particularly of hunting breeds.

While owning a dog may help physical activity, researchers said it may be active people who choose to own dogs.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner’s bacterial microbiome.

The microbiome is the collection of microscopic species that live in the gut. It’s thought a dog may influence its owner’s microbiomes as dogs change the dirt in home environments, exposing people to bacteria they may not have encountered otherwise.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The researchers said dogs had a particularly protective effect for those who live alone.

“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of heart attack,” compared to single non-owners, said lead study author Mwenya Mubanga of Uppsala University.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

Dr Mubanga said: “Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households.”

For their study, published in Scientific Reports, the team looked at data from 2001 to 2012. In Sweden, every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases – while dog ownership registration has been mandatory since 2001.

Owning a dog from breeds originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disorder.

Image copyrightNick Triggle/Amber Evans

Dr Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Owning a dog is associated with reduced mortality and risk of having heart disease. Previous studies have shown this association but have not been as conclusive – largely due to the population size studied here.

“Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them.

“However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy.

“Whether you’re a dog owner or not, keeping active is a great way to help improve your heart health.”

Tove Fall, senior author of the study, said there were some limitations: “These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease.

“There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health.”

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Autism concern over home schooling rise in Wales

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Father helping his daughter with homeworkImage copyrightGetty Images

The number of pupils being taken out of school to be taught at home has doubled in four years – with many of them believed to be autistic.

Some 1,906 pupils were removed in 2016-17, up from 864 in 2013-14, according to council data.

National Autistic Society Cymru said many were autistic children who were struggling to cope in school.

The Welsh Government said it was committed to creating an inclusive education system for all learners.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, said she was concerned some schools wanted autistic children removed to improve their results.

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Media captionMeleri Thomas: “A lot of parents have no option”

Erika Lye, who has three autistic sons, runs a home education group in Rhos, Neath Port Talbot.

She said 80% of the children who attended were on the autistic spectrum and many were not there through choice.

“It’s easier to send your child to school,” she said.

“Nobody would choose this if there was a better system. If the state worked then we would be putting our children into school.”

By law, a child has to receive an education but it does not have to attend school or follow a set curriculum.

The council figures – received by BBC Wales by all but one council following a freedom of information request – found the highest number of pupils leaving school to be home educated was among older secondary school pupils.

In 2016-17 there were 332 children aged 15 taken out of school, compared to 156 children aged 11.

The figures do not include children who are home schooled but who have never been registered.

Meleri Thomas, from the National Autistic Society Cymru, said the school environment often proved too challenging for some autistic children.

She said: “A lot of parents are finding themselves in positions where they have no options and the only thing they can do to help their children is to educate them at home even though they might not feel fully equipped to do that or want to.”

Sally Holland said she was also concerned: “Some parents have told me they have been encouraged to home educate because their child might be affecting the school or local authority’s performance data around exam results or attendance figures.”

‘Lack of support’

The latest report by the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales showed families with autistic children lodged more appeals about the lack of support their child is receiving in school than those with other learning needs.

National Autistic Society Cymru has called for mandatory training on autism awareness in schools.

A Welsh Government spokesman said if passed, its Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Bill would overhaul the system for supporting learners with additional learning needs.

The spokesman added it had agreed extra funding for the collection and analysis of local authority data on elective home education to investigate why some parents choose to do it.

He said it hoped this would identify trends so councils could consider what measures, if necessary, could be put in place to support families when children are still in school.

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Calm Parents Help Calm Kids with ADHD

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THURSDAY, Nov. 16, 2017 (HealthDay News) — As challenging as it can be to raise a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research offers biological evidence that calm, positive parenting may help these kids master their own emotions and behaviors.

The study was conducted with parents of preschool children with the developmental disorder. The physiological effects of using compliments and praise instead of yelling and criticizing were almost instant, the researchers found.

“We were surprised at how fast it happened,” said study author Theodore Beauchaine, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. “We evaluated moms and their kids before the intervention and after the intervention, which took a couple of months. Then we did a one-year follow-up.

“We expected that we may find some of these outcomes at one year, but not at two months, and we found them at two months,” he added.

The study was conducted by monitoring and evaluating the results of a group of parents and children who were part of a special intervention program.

This program provides separate small-group sessions for parents and children where parents learn how to best respond to their children’s behavior and children learn anger management, emotional awareness, emotion regulation and appropriate social behaviors, the study authors said.

Therapists worked with 99 kids aged 4 to 6 who were diagnosed with hyperactive/impulsive or combined types of ADHD. Those with only attention issues were excluded from the study.

Beauchaine explained that the children chosen for this study were in the top 2 percent of those who displayed ADHD behavioral issues. Seventy-six percent were boys.

Often, he noted, these children have strained relationships with their parents, peers and teachers.

“We taught parents to use better discipline practices, as these parents tend to be overreactive and sometimes even physical in their discipline practices,” Beauchaine said.

Dr. Alexander Fiks, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, said parents often slip into negative parenting when they are tired or frustrated by their child’s actions.

“Screaming, nasty comments, threats, ultimatums that may be unreasonable, pushing kids away, hitting, getting in their face or holding your child down are all negative parenting techniques,” explained Fiks, who was not involved with the study.

“Most parents know positive parenting when they see it, which includes praise, flexibility, smiling, hugging, rewards, focusing on privileges, engaging kids in activities where they can succeed, setting achievable goals and making wishes and expectations that are reasonable for the child and developmentally appropriate,” he said.

As parents learned effective problem-solving, adaptive emotional regulation and positive parenting responses, the children began to demonstrate improvements in behavior.

“What this research found was that in these kids, following this intervention, their heart rates slowed down, they were breathing more slowly and they were more calm,” Beauchaine explained.

Fiks said: “It’s interesting to see that when behaviors improve, there can actually be physiologic differences that are noticed in these kids, reflecting that it’s not just the outward behavior, but that there is something fundamental about their physiology that is actually changing concurrently.”

To guarantee that these improvements were the result of the intervention, Beauchaine and his team divided the families into two groups, one that began the program approximately 20 weeks after the first group, and only participated in 10 sessions — half of what the first group received.

The changes in parenting among those in the initial group exceeded the changes among those in the delayed group, as did the changes in the children’s physiology.

Beauchaine hopes this study will help convince parents to begin ADHD treatments earlier.

For preschool children diagnosed with ADHD, primary treatment is not medication, according to Fiks — it’s behavioral therapy and counseling.

“When people see that there are biological changes that go along with an intervention, it increases the status and reduces stigma,” Beauchaine said.

“If people think kids act with impulsivity and hyperactivity because they want to, they will think about those kids a lot differently if they attribute it to something that they can’t help,” he said.

The study was published recently in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

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