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Don’t let asthma ruin the holidays

(BPT) – With colder months arriving, there are a few things on everybody’s minds: festive treats, gift shopping and of course, time spent with family and friends. As many people look forward to the holiday season, asthma sufferers need to be aware and prepared for all the triggers this time of the year can bring. The change in weather, traveling or being in a relative’s home with new allergens can all trigger an asthma attack.

Charmayne Anderson has been living with asthma for as long as she can remember. Now, as Director of Advocacy at the Allergy and Asthma Network, she educates others on how to prepare for an asthma attack and enjoy life — and the holidays — unencumbered by their condition. After living with asthma through childhood, adolescence and now adulthood, she has witnessed an evolution of asthma medications and respiratory treatments firsthand.

“When I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, there were no inhalers or similar treatments for us to take home,” Anderson said. “My parents would have to take me for after-hours emergency care visits for an injection to help get my breathing under control.”

Anderson, along with the approximately 25 million asthma patients in the U.S., has more advanced and effective treatment options today to help manage symptoms and asthma attacks. For most people with asthma, having a rescue inhaler on-hand at all times is crucial, whether at home or on the go. Since asthma triggers may change frequently, it’s difficult to predict when an attack could strike. Particularly at this time of year, walking in the chilly winter air could be enough to cause wheezing and shortness of breath.

“For someone who has asthma, it can be a life-or-death situation. When you’re experiencing an attack, even if it’s minor, if you can’t get relief immediately it just escalates and becomes even greater,” said Anderson. “Having my rescue inhaler with me at all times and being able to check the dose counter is critical.”

One modern feature of asthma inhalers that has been especially helpful for Anderson and others areis dose counters integrated into rescue inhalers. For Anderson, dose counters serve as a forewarning that her inhaler is running low. Such a seemingly small reminder has certainly made a big difference; Anderson believes dose counters have helped her be more proactive in filling her prescription and being aware how much medication is left.

Every year, asthma accounts for 10.5 million doctor visits and 1.6 million emergency room visits in the United States. By utilizing dose counters and maintaining an asthma treatment plan, asthma sufferers like Anderson can help avoid emergency situations like these and travel with some confidence knowing they’re prepared.

Anderson said, “Prior to using a rescue inhaler with a dose counter built in, there were many times when I was away, out or not necessarily paying attention to how much medicine was in my inhaler. I’d get to a point when I would need it and I realized there was nothing in it, and I’d scramble to refill it.”

Now, when it comes time to travel for the holidays, the number one thing on Anderson’s to-do list is to make sure her and her children’s inhalers are filled.

“Before heading out of town I check everyone’s dose counter to make sure there is enough medication,” said Anderson. “Reaching out to a pharmacy while you’re traveling for the holidays is hard, especially when you’re experiencing an asthma attack and in an emergency situation.”

For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit KnowYourCount.com.

Ms. Anderson has been compensated for her time in contributing to this program.

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September 2017

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Moms-to-be: Forget pickles and reach for pistachios

(BPT) – Results of a new study among pregnant women with impaired glucose intolerance during gestation (GIGT) or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) — commonly known as gestational diabetes — show that eating pistachios may help manage blood sugar levels. The study is the first to evaluate the glucose response after consumption of pistachios in pregnant women with GDM or GIGT.

Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects more than 422 million people around the world. GDM develops in a pregnant woman who did not previously have diabetes. Like other types of diabetes, it affects how the body uses blood sugar. GIGT occurs when, during pregnancy, the body is unable to regulate blood glucose levels normally because of hormonal changes. The blood glucose levels rise beyond normal levels after a glucose challenge, but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. While resolved after the baby is born, women with either GDM or GIGT have a greater risk of developing diabetes.

According to the latest diagnostic criteria established by the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) in 2010, GDM prevalence was estimated at 9.8 to 25.5 percent worldwide.

“Our study is the first to show that eating pistachios may help women with gestational diabetes control their blood sugar levels after eating,” said Sheng Ge, M.D., lead investigator, Chief Physician and Director of Clinical Nutrition at the Sixth People’s Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, where the study was conducted. “The results highlight pistachios as a smart food choice for women with gestational diabetes as they aim to manage their illness.”

In the study, 30 women with gestational diabetes (all between 24 and 28 gestational weeks) were randomly assigned to eat a breakfast of either 42 grams of pistachios (about 1/3 of a cup, or 1.5 servings) or 100 grams of whole wheat bread (two slices) after an overnight fast. The pistachios and whole wheat bread were matched for calories. Blood sugar and GLP-1, a key insulin-producing hormone, were measured every 30 minutes after the meal, up to 120 minutes. After seven days, the groups switched.

Blood sugar levels were significantly lower after consuming pistachios than they were after consuming whole wheat bread after 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes. In fact, blood sugar levels after eating pistachios were comparable to baseline levels. In addition, GLP-1 levels were significantly higher after consumption of pistachios compared to whole wheat bread after 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes.

The effect on insulin levels was even more dramatic. Blood insulin levels did not increase during the two hours after eating the pistachios. Again, both groups of women had a significantly lower rise in blood insulin levels at every time point measured after eating the pistachios than they did after eating whole wheat bread.

“Elevated blood sugar during pregnancy not only impacts the mother’s health, but it may also increase the baby’s risk of developing diabetes,” said Zhaoping Li, M.D., another study investigator and Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition, University of California, Los Angeles. “This study shows pistachios can be a useful addition to the diet in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels while providing essential nutrients to the mother and baby during this critical time.”

Dr. Li added, “It’s exciting to see solutions from whole foods that are also palatable to patients. They’re much more likely to comply with a prescribed diet as a result of a diabetes diagnosis when the food is something they enjoy.”

Pistachios have a low Glycemic Index (GI), are relatively high in fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, all of which can benefit people with diabetes. Eating pistachios has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels after eating a meal and, when added to a carbohydrate-rich meal, they help minimize any spike in blood sugar.

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Home cleaning routines for allergy relief

(BPT) – Many people turn to nasal sprays and antihistamines to combat seasonal nasal allergies or hay fever, but keeping the home clean to combat allergens, pollen and dust mite debris is just as important in the fight against allergies.

Vacuum often, and with the right filters and bags

One key to minimizing allergens at home is to vacuum at least twice per week. Start by using attachments to clean surfaces up high, working down to the floor. Make sure to vacuum curtains and upholstery as well as hard surfaces, and pay extra attention to entryways and areas around windows.

It’s also important to select vacuum accessories that have been designed specifically to capture allergens. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen vacuum bags are specially designed of synthetic material to capture even more allergens, dust and pet hair from the home’s surfaces. In addition, the brand’s HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mite debris, animal dander, molds and pollen.

Frequently replacing vacuum bags and filters will keep vacuums running smoothly to keep a clean home happening. New bags are needed every one to two months, and filters should be replaced every three to six months. Don’t be fooled by washable filters as they too should be replaced — after one or two washes they may become less effective at capturing dust and allergens.

Wash bedding with hot water

Vacuuming high and low can help with surfaces, but bedding also should be a focus when attempting to allergen-proof the home. Sheets, blankets and comforters all attract dust mites in even the cleanest environments. Wash bedding once a week in hot water to keep allergens at bay. It’s also smart to consider protective covers for mattresses and pillows to stop dust mites from getting in too deep.

Keep air dry

Too much moisture in the air can help dust mites thrive, and may also lead to mold. Using a dehumidifier, especially in humid climates or summer months, can help control the spread of mold and dust mites.

Minimize indoor plants

While plants can be a great way to build ambiance in the home, some indoor plants can amplify allergy symptoms by releasing spores and other allergens into the air. For those with a green thumb who can’t live without plants at home, make sure to research the plants that are least likely to increase pollen or mold exposure indoors.

Keep the outdoors out

While it is hard to control exposure to pollen and other triggers when outside, those with allergies can avoid bringing pollen into the house with them. Keep shoes and jackets limited to the entryway or mudroom, and shower and wash hair before bedtime to stop the spread of pollen.

There is a range of Arm & Hammer bag and filter styles made to fit nearly all brands and models of vacuum cleaners, sold at Wal-Mart stores and www.walmart.com.

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Depressed? Drug-free treatments can make life enjoyable again

(BPT) – The cloud of depression darkens many lives, affecting 300 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

While antidepressant medication works for some depression sufferers, research is increasingly revealing what those suffering from depression have said for years: Medication is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that a startling 4.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from depression don’t benefit from prescription antidepressants.

The good news is that research is uncovering new ways to treat depression without drugs and without invasive procedures, helping sufferers break free from the clutch of depression.

Magnetic pulses to the brain bring drug-free relief

One proven yet lesser-known treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has become an effective tool in bringing relief to thousands of depression sufferers.

TMS is prescribed by a doctor to treat major depressive disorder, especially when sufferers do not experience relief from prescription medication. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recommends TMS as a second line of treatment.

How TMS works: The patient has magnetic pulses delivered to specific areas of the brain that are underactive during depression. Brain activity is reduced in depression, but TMS can help wake up asleep neurons. This treatment is drug-free and completely noninvasive, unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During the treatment, the patient is awake and alert sitting in a spa-like chair, and can resume daily activities afterward.

The results: Clinical trials performed with NeuroStar(R) Advanced Therapy have shown that a full 58 percent of people have responded positively to the treatment, reporting significant improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s even more astounding is that 37 percent saw full remission after their TMS treatment with NeuroStar, according to a Brown University study by Dr. Linda Carpenter, published in the Depression and Anxiety Journal in 2012. It treats depression at the source because of the precision of these magnetic pulses, making it effective exactly where it needs to be.

What about side effects?: With TMS, people don’t suffer the side effects they experience with medication. In fact, the side effects from NeuroStar are associated with mild pain or discomfort at the treatment site, which typically goes away after the first week of treatment.

Back in 2008, the FDA cleared NeuroStar as the first TMS treatment for major depressive disorder in the U.S., and in recent years it has become more accessible to patients.

For one, NeuroStar is widely reimbursed by most commercial and government health plans, including Medicare and Tricare. In fact, more than 300 million patients have insurance policies that cover NeuroStar through their health plans.

In tandem with that, there are more TMS systems in doctors’ offices and clinics across the U.S. Nearly 800 physicians nationwide are delivering transformative therapy with NeuroStar every day.

Life changes can also help keep the brain in balance

Doing your part to work with the treatment and supplementing it with a healthy lifestyle will only help your progress. In addition to clinical solutions and treatments, research has also found that some lifestyle changes can be helpful for mood and mind balance.

Keep a positive outlook: Research shows that optimism can affect health and well-being. Don’t lose hope in your struggle with depression and practice positivity. Tried and true methods, such as acts of kindness or keeping a gratitude journal, can lift some of the clouds.

Try something new: The Mayo Clinic cites trying new things as one of the habits of highly healthy people. New perspectives and experiences can be good for you, as trying new things can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem. Not all change is bad and you may surprise yourself.

Surround yourself with a strong support network: Many studies show that social support is important to maintain physical and mental health. In building your support system, connect with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind.

Sit outside and experience nature: Exposure to sunlight has been found to improve moods and serves as a mental health benefit. Additionally, Stanford University reveals that spending time outdoors may reduce the risk of depression.

Eat a healthy diet: Research shows that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium are all linked to improving depression symptoms, either by keeping brain chemistry in balance or enhancing mood.

Practice yoga: Research indicates a regular yoga practice can do a lot for both depression and anxiety. It not only helps you manage your body’s stress response systems, it also enhances mood and promotes relaxation.

Get moving: For some people, regular exercise is highly effective in staving off depression. In fact, people who are physically fit are less likely to receive a diagnosis of depression.

Depression brings a sense of dread and inertia to many areas of life, hitting your mood and energy level especially hard. The good news is that there are effective treatments for depression. By trying some of the above lifestyle changes and working with your doctor, you could find one that brings your world back into alignment, lifting those dark clouds and making life enjoyable again.

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5 tips for sharing your personal multiple sclerosis story

(BPT) – The tradition of storytelling — the social and cultural activity of sharing stories — extends as far back into human history as the ancient Greeks, and is valued across all cultures and communities. While the ancient Greeks wrote to express and alleviate the concerns of wars, plagues and famine, today, this cherished tradition can be used by many people, including those with chronic illnesses, to communicate their own struggles and moments of hope. My Story is an online platform offered through EMD Serono’s MS LifeLines that allows people impacted by multiple sclerosis (MS) to share strength through stories that speak to their experiences with the condition.

According to MS LifeLines Ambassador Carrie, “When I was first diagnosed with MS, there were so many emotions: denial, anger and depression. Once I reached acceptance with MS, I found that sharing my story with others who are going through similar experiences gives me comfort, as well as helps them.”

Storytelling can play a critical role in supporting the thousands of Americans affected by multiple sclerosis. MS can be a challenging disease to face and understand, and can leave the nearly 400,000 Americans diagnosed, as well as their friends and family, reeling with questions and frustrations about the impact that MS will have on their futures.

With this in mind, EMD Serono created My Story, an online platform for people with MS, as well as patients’ friends and family, to read and share stories and experiences.

In her experience counseling people with chronic conditions like MS, Dr. Vered Hankin, a clinical health psychologist and internationally acclaimed storyteller, finds that “storytelling can be empowering for both the storyteller and the person hearing the story.” She shares her five tips for anyone starting to share their own story.

Dr. Hankin’s 5 tips for storytelling

* Write freely about your journey with MS. Don’t worry about it coming out perfectly — you can change it later.

* Decide what stands out and comes to the forefront from your journey with MS.

* Add the senses by incorporating the sights, feelings, smells, tastes and sounds associated with the moment you identified.

* Refine the story by putting the moment into context by defining the events that led up to it, the people involved and what makes it interesting.

* Reflect on your story once it is developed and what it means to you, as well as how it can touch others facing similar situations. Remember to keep your story simple, honest and open.

Incorporating the above tips into a personal story about your MS journey may be helpful for you as well as the person reading your story. You can share yours and read others’ stories through My Story and learn more about MS at MS LifeLines.

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How Bluetooth hearing aids are transforming the way we live

(BPT) – Bluetooth technology is steadily expanding the role of modern hearing aids from tiny marvels that make use of artificial intelligence to process sound into true, state-of-the-art multimedia hubs now capable of two-way communication.

The primary goal of hearing aids has always been to improve speech understanding. While this hasn’t changed, manufacturers are now building Bluetooth technology directly into the most advanced hearing aid microchips. This lets consumers directly connect to virtually any wireless electronic device, eliminating the need to wear a body-worn accessory.

Let’s take a brief look at how the latest Bluetooth hearing aids are transforming the way we live.

They can now directly connect to any Bluetooth-enabled phone

According to Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, director of business development and veterans affairs at Phonak, previous generations of hearing aids could only directly connect to an iPhone, which greatly limited people’s options.

Pew Research Center found only 33 percent of American smartphone owners used an iPhone while a whopping 66 percent used the Android operating system,” said Thompson. “Furthermore, another study showed 38 percent of all Americans over age 65 still use a classic flip phone. Until now, there has never been a Bluetooth hearing aid that was truly made for all devices and allowed universal connectivity — including the ability to directly connect to an iPhone, an Android device (e.g., Samsung, LG), or even a classic flip phone that is Bluetooth-ready.”

Bluetooth hearing aids enable truly hands-free calls

The latest Bluetooth hearing aids allow you to answer a phone call with a simple press of a button on the hearing aid. Built-in microphones on the hearing aids themselves feature automatic voice pickup, allowing people to have two-way conversations through their hearing aids. Thompson stated this is the first time this has ever been done with hearing aids.

“This is indeed the first time a hearing aid wearer can have a true hands-free conversation without having to touch the phone at all,” she said. “This is especially convenient in the car, where your phone may be in a pocket or purse, or if you need to have a conversation while leaving your phone on the table or countertop, for example if you’re cooking.”

They stream wireless stereo sound directly from your TV

According to research firm Statista, Americans spend an average of 4.5 hours per day watching TV. And if you are or live with someone who has hearing loss, you probably know that sometimes the volume of the TV can become an issue.

“With a card-sized TV Connector, hearing aid wearers simply plug the device into the back of the TV,” added Thompson. “The ‘plug and play’ TV Connector instantly pairs with Bluetooth hearing aids, allowing viewers to stream high-fidelity TV sound in-stereo at their preferred volume level, independent of other viewers. Wearers have reported a markedly better experience in understanding dialogue, especially when the person on TV is talking fast.”

Bluetooth hearing aids are available right now

While all of these new advances may sound like the future, hearing aids with built-in Bluetooth technology are available today. For more information, visit tryphonak.com or find a licensed hearing care professional who has been specially trained in fitting the latest hearing aid technology.

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A breath of relief for migraine sufferers

(BPT) – People who suffer from migraine know that they’re more than just bad headaches.

Migraine is a neurological disorder in which the nerves release inflammatory substances that cause signals to be sent to your brain, resulting in painful throbbing that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world[1], and more than 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches.[2]

Melissa H. has suffered migraine attacks for more than 15 years. Frequent migraines have greatly impacted the life of the 35-year-old teacher and mother of a toddler.

“My migraines were affecting every aspect of my life,” Melissa says. “There were times that I wanted to continue my workday or I wanted to spend time with my family, but instead, I had to go lie down in a dark, quiet room to deal with my migraine.”

For migraine sufferers like Melissa, pain relief cannot come fast enough, which often leads many to try a variety of medications.

In January 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ONZETRA® Xsail® (sumatriptan nasal powder), which uses the most prescribed migraine medication — sumatriptan — but takes a different route. ONZETRA Xsail is the first Breath Powered® nasal medication delivery system for the acute treatment of migraine. The device is activated by a user’s breath to propel medication to the back of the nose, an area that is rich with blood vessels, and provides targeted delivery with the potential for fast absorption.

“When it comes to migraine medication, patients often think of pills, but nasal delivery can offer fast pain relief — and that’s something my patients really appreciate,” says Dr. Anne Calhoun, headache specialist in Durham, NC. “The nose is well-suited to the delivery of migraine medication because of an extensive network of blood vessels that can absorb the medication very quickly.”

In clinical trials of ONZETRA, almost half of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief in as early as 30 minutes (42 percent vs 27 percent on placebo) and 68 percent experienced pain relief in 2 hours vs 45 percent on placebo. In addition, more than 90 percent of patients found ONZETRA Xsail easy to use. For more information about ONZETRA Xsail, talk to your doctor or visit www.ONZETRA.com.

Important Safety Information

What is ONZETRATM XsailTM (sumatriptan nasal powder) used for?

ONZETRA Xsail is a prescription medication approved for the acute treatment of migraine, with or without aura in adults. ONZETRA Xsail is used for people who have been told by a healthcare provider that they have migraine headaches. ONZETRA Xsail is not for the prevention of migraines or for other types of headaches, including cluster headache.

What important information should I know about ONZETRA Xsail?

ONZETRA Xsail may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Heart attack and other heart problems, which may lead to death. Stop using ONZETRA Xsail and get emergency medical help right away if you have any symptoms of a heart attack like shortness of breath or tightness, pain, pressure, or heaviness in your chest, throat, neck, or jaw that is severe or does not go away
  • Changes in color or sensation in your fingers and toes (Raynaud’s syndrome)
  • Stomach and intestinal problems (gastrointestinal and colonic ischemic events)
  • Problems with blood circulation to your legs and feet (peripheral vascular ischemia)
  • Serious allergic reactions (symptoms include hives; tongue, mouth, lip, or throat swelling; problems breathing)
  • Medication overuse headaches. Some people who use ONZETRA Xsail too many times may have worse headaches. If your headaches get worse your doctor may decide to stop your treatment with ONZETRA Xsail
  • Serotonin syndrome, a rare but serious problem that can happen in people using ONZETRA Xsail, especially if ONZETRA Xsail is used with antidepressant medicines called SSRIs, SNRIs, or TCAs. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms of serotonin syndrome: mental changes such as seeing things that are not there (hallucinations), agitation, or coma; fast heartbeat; changes in blood pressure; high body temperature; tight muscles; trouble walking; or nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Seizures. Seizures have happened in people taking sumatriptan who have never had seizures before

The most common side effects of ONZETRA Xsail are abnormal taste, discomfort of your nose or throat, runny nose, and stuffy nose. This is not a complete list of side effects. Tell your doctor about any side effect that bothers you or does not go away.

Who should not take ONZETRA Xsail?

Do not take ONZETRA Xsail or stop using ONZETRA Xsail if you:

  • Have heart problems or a history of heart problems
  • Have had a stroke, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or problems with your blood circulation
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Have hemiplegic migraines or basilar migraines. If you are not sure if you have these, ask your doctor
  • Have peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of blood vessels to the legs, arms, stomach, intestines, or kidneys)
  • Have taken other migraine medications in the last 24 hours, including other triptans, ergots, or ergot-type medications. Ask your doctor for a list of these medicines if you are not sure
  • Are taking a medicine called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). MAOIs cannot be taken within 14 days before or after taking ONZETRA Xsail
  • Have severe liver problems
  • Have an allergy to sumatriptan, the medicine in ONZETRA Xsail, or any of the components in ONZETRA Xsail

What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking ONZETRA Xsail?

Before you take ONZETRA Xsail, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions and all the medicines you take, including prescription medicines, especially antidepressants, and all over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

What should I avoid while taking ONZETRA Xsail?

ONZETRA Xsail can cause dizziness, weakness, or drowsiness. If you have these symptoms, do not drive a car, use machinery, or do anything where you need to be alert.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 800-FDA-1088.

For additional Important Safety Information about ONZETRA Xsail, please see the full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information, and Instructions for Use.


[1] Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine Facts. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/. Accessed August 18, 2016.

[2] Migraine.com. Migraine Statistics. https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/. Accessed August 18, 2016.

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A message for parents: School eye screenings don’t replace a comprehensive eye exam

(BPT) – With the academic year in full swing, many schools across the country are administering vision screenings to students. Parents mistakenly breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing that their children “passed” the screening. What parents don’t know are the significant limitations of school-based screenings. School vision screenings fail to detect a range of potentially harmful vision issues, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports.

Unfortunately, nine out of 10 parents think that school-based vision screenings are all their children need to confirm good eye health. But screenings miss up to 75 percent of dangerous eye conditions in children, according to AOA’s new Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline: Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination. What’s more, when a vision screening does indicate a possible problem, only 39 percent of children receive the care they need from an eye doctor.

One of the biggest hurdles to detecting poor vision is the child’s awareness of the problem. Most children with vision problems don’t know that other children see better than they do; they think their poor vision is “normal.”

“Healthy eyes and good vision are essential for every child’s development,” says AOA President Christopher Quinn, O.D. “Parents need to know that school vision screenings can miss potentially severe eye or vision problems. They cannot replace a comprehensive exam by a doctor of optometry.”

The AOA, which represents more than 44,000 optometrists, optometric professionals and optometry students in communities across the country, recently issued a new, evidence-based guideline for vision care in children that informs parents and caregivers about protecting their children’s eye health. The guideline, which is based on a three-year review of the latest research, concludes that children should receive a comprehensive eye exam during their first year of life and again between the ages of 3 and 5, before entering first grade and annually thereafter.

“Regular, comprehensive eye exams not only contribute to helping children succeed, they prevent and diagnose serious eye problems that can be more expensive to treat and cause permanent vision impairment if left undetected,” Quinn says.

Vision and academic performance

Multiple studies have linked vision problems with poor academic performance and behavioral issues. In fact, children with undetected and untreated vision problems can exhibit some of the same symptoms as kids with attention-deficit disorders, leading to false diagnoses.

“Good vision is more complex than just being able to see clearly,” Quinn says. “In order to see well enough to perform to the best of their academic abilities, children’s eyes need to focus, track, work together and judge distance and depth. Typical school vision tests only screen for nearsightedness.”

Eye health problems

A comprehensive eye exam by a doctor of optometry can help detect serious eye health and vision problems that in-school screenings simply aren’t designed to catch. These problems include amblyopia, a condition that impairs vision in one of a child’s eyes because the eye and the brain are not working together properly.

According to AOA, parents should keep these four tips in mind when it comes to their children’s eye health and safety:

1. Know that pediatric eye exams with a doctor of optometry are most likely covered by your health insurance plan. Most health insurance plans, including those sold in health insurance marketplaces, cover comprehensive pediatric eye exams.

2. Look for indicators of vision and eye-health issues in your children. Common signals that your child may have a vision problem include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, a short attention span and complaining of headaches or other discomfort. Remember, most children don’t know they have a problem, so they are unlikely to say anything, even if they are struggling.

3. Prevent eye strain by monitoring use of digital devices. Increased exposure to electronic devices in and out of the classroom can cause digital eye strain, including burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision and exhaustion. AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child’s computer screen to prevent glare.

4. Make sure your kids wear proper eye protection for sports and outdoor activities. Well-fitting, protective eye wear and quality sunglasses that offer UV protection are critical to maintaining key visual skills and preventing injuries.

To learn more about vision health, visit www.aoa.org.

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Debunking the ‘seasonal’ allergy myth and reducing exposure year-round

(BPT) – Seasonal allergens are a popular scapegoat for a multitude of reactions: sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes. During the summer months, pollen – one of the most common allergens – is floating around, even visibly so in some places. Researchers approximate that some 50 million in the U.S. alone believe themselves to be victims of seasonal allergies, and spring to be the season that most affects them.

But the idea that we’re more exposed to allergens during one time of year versus another is something of a myth, as the most common allergens are actually found indoors. Pollen is indeed lowest in wintertime, and this is especially true in colder climates. But we’re exposed to allergens throughout the year, mainly because many of the most common allergens are actually related to indoor villains like dust mites, animal dander and mold.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce your exposure to allergens, including some pretty unique ones, like washing your hair before bed! But the majority of effective measures focus on the circulation and quality of the air around you. While we can’t do much in the short term to improve the quality of the air outside, the most powerful means of tackling our exposure to allergens comes from addressing the air inside, which is up to five times more polluted than the air outside.

To reduce your allergen exposure throughout the year, consider the following steps:

Not all filters are created equally. The “filter triangle”, the amount of air flow a filter allows and how well it traps particles, must be in balance if the device is to do its job properly. If the filter blocks air flow, that will cause problems, as will one that doesn’t catch enough particles. A high efficiency particulate filter will improve the clean air delivery rate, or the amount of air (in cubic feet) stripped of all particles of a given size per minute. Make sure this measurement matches up with the size of the room, and of course take care to switch out filters in your furnace and air conditioning units as often as possible.

Adjust the humidity level indoors, ideally to less than 50 percent, via a humidifier. Dust mites and mold are the most common allergens indoors, and both thrive in humid environments. Dust mites eat the dead skin cells that we shed, and when the environment is damp, those softened skin cells provide a feast. To reduce dust mites, and the conditions in which they’re most comfortable, it is important to keep humidity levels below 50 percent, according to the AAAAI. The good news is that once an effective humidifier is up and running, most dust mite populations will disappear within a few days.

Purchase an air purifier. Air purifiers help improve the quality of air flow in the rooms of your home by filtering out pollutants, allergens and irritants like cigarette smoke. A purifier like the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System, which uses state-of-the-art technology to effectively remove 99.99 percent of particles as small as 0.007 microns as they pass through the unit, lessens exposure to these pollutants, allergens and irritants.

Consider your car. Allergens can enter through your car windows and sunroof, so roll everything up and set the vent setting to recirculate as often as possible. Allergens can also accumulate in your car’s air filters over time, so be sure to have them switched out frequently. Vacuum the seats and any other upholstered surface regularly, as dust mites can settle into the fabric. Be sure to clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly to prevent the accumulation of mold as well.

While it’s nearly impossible to completely rid the environment of pollutants, allergens and irritants, taking proactive, preventative measures can significantly reduce your exposure to common culprits like dust mites, pet dander and mold. Arm yourself with quality filters, the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System and a clean car to reduce your exposure to allergens year-round. After all, quality of air is quality of life.

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Feeling fatigued? 3 ways women can boost iron intake

(BPT) –

If you’re a woman who feels like you’re constantly fighting fatigue, there could be a physical reason for that sluggishness.

In the US, 1 in 10 women, between 12 and 49 years old, are dealing with the results of low iron, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and that can easily lead to extra fatigue and muscle weakness. Unfortunately, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), particularly affecting menstruating women, pregnant women, vegans and vegetarians, athletes (especially women) and recent blood donors.

“Many women have low iron levels and simply don’t know it,” reports Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, herbal medicine and dietary supplementation, and author of National Geographic’s “Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More.” “Iron is absolutely critical to some of our most basic functions, like energy production, oxygen circulation and healthy brain function.”

The good news is, low iron stores can be easy to correct. Scientists at Mayo Clinic suggest the following remedies:

* Eat more foods rich in iron; these include meat, eggs, soybeans, seafood, beans, peas, peanuts, dark-green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, oatmeal and/or iron-fortified breads, cereals and pastas.

* In conjunction with high-iron foods, eat foods high in vitamin C that promote iron absorption. This group includes citrus fruits and juices, melons, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, leafy greens, peppers and tomatoes.

* After talking to your doctor, choose an iron-boosting supplement that doesn’t cause unpleasant side effects such as nausea, diarrhea or constipation. Blood Builder, made by MegaFood using nutrients with farm-fresh whole foods, is clinically proven to increase iron stores in women without upsetting your stomach and digestive tract. To support healthy red blood cell production and iron bioavailability, Blood Builder also includes food state folate, B12 and vitamin C delivered through Uncle Matt’s Organic whole oranges.

In addition to fatigue, the most common symptom of low iron, symptoms can also include muscle weakness upon exertion; heart palpitations; pale skin; decreased focus; occasional sadness and/or an inability to stay warm.

Seeking more information about addressing an iron deficiency? Learn more at BloodBuilder.com.

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