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New Tech Lets Cholesterol-Tracking Smartphone Users Take Lifesaving Selfies

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

New Tech Lets Cholesterol-Tracking Smartphone Users Take Lifesaving Selfies

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Dec. 13, 2013 — With a new smartphone device, you can now take an accurate iPhone camera selfie that could save your life — it reads your cholesterol level in about a minute.

Forget those clumsy, complicated, home cholesterol-testing devices. Cornell engineers have created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or “smartCARD,” which employs your smartphone’s camera to read your cholesterol level.

“Smartphones have the potential to address health issues by eliminating the need for specialized equipment,” said David Erickson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author on a new peer-reviewed study. Thanks to advanced, sophisticated camera technology, Erickson and his colleagues have created a smartphone accessory that optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood, sweat or saliva. The new application then discerns the results using color analysis.

When a user puts a drop of blood on the cholesterol test strip, it processes the blood through separation steps and chemical reactions. The strip is then ready for colorimetric analysis by the smartphone application.

The smartCARD accessory — which looks somewhat like a smartphone credit card reader — clamps over the phone’s camera. Its built-in flash provides uniform, diffused light to illuminate the test strip that fits into the smartCARD reader. The application in the phone calibrates the hue saturation to the image’s color values on the cholesterol test strip, and the results appear on your phone.

Currently, the test measures total cholesterol. The Erickson lab is working to break out those numbers in LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol) and triglyceride measurements. The lab is also working on detecting vitamin D levels, and has previously demonstrated smartphone tests for periodontitis and sweat electrolyte levels.

“By 2016, there will be an estimated 260 million smartphones in use in the United States. Smartphones are ubiquitous,” said Erickson, adding that although smartCARD is ready to be brought to market immediately, he is optimistic that it will have even more its advanced capabilities in less than a year. “Mobil health is increasing at an incredible rate,” he concluded. “It’s the next big thing.”

Health Tip: When Sore Muscles Warrant a Call to the Doctor

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Health Tip: When Sore Muscles Warrant a Call to the Doctor

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(HealthDay News) — Muscle soreness can develop as you challenge yourself physically, but certain warning signs warrant a call to the doctor.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says you should contact a physician if you have:

  • Soreness in the muscles that persists for longer than one week.
  • Extreme pain that gets worse when youexercise.
  • Sore muscles or joints that feel warm to the touch, or are swollen or red.
  • A feeling of dizziness.
  • Trouble breathing.

— Diana Kohnle


Health Tip: Help Boost Your Immune System

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Health Tip: Help Boost Your Immune System

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(HealthDay News) — Eating a healthy diet can help strengthen your immune system to ward off illness.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends these nutrients and foods:

  • Protein to help the body defend itself. Sources include eggs, soy, unsalted seeds and nuts, lean meats, seafood, poultry, beans and peas.
  • Vitamin A to promote healthy skin and tissues. Sources include kale, spinach, red peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs, apricots and foods marked as fortified with vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C to help create antibodies. Sources include tangerines, oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, red bell peppers, tomato juice and vitamin C-fortified foods.
  • Vitamin E, found in vegetable oils, peanut butter, spinach, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and vitamin E-fortified foods.
  • Zinc, which helps with immune system function, via beans, nuts, milk, whole grains, poultry, seafood and lean meats.

— Diana Kohnle


Don’t Let Migraines Ruin Your Holidays

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Don’t Let Migraines Ruin Your Holidays

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THURSDAY, Dec. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) — The holidays can challenge the estimated 30 million migraine sufferers in the United States as they try to deal with crowds, travel delays, stress and other potential headache triggers.

Even if you don’t get the debilitating headaches, there’s a good chance you have loved ones who do. Nearly one in four U.S. households includes someone afflicted with migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

There are a number of ways to cope with migraines during the holidays, said David Yeomans, director of pain research at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Along with knowing and trying to avoid your migraine triggers, you need to be prepared to deal with a headache. Light sensitivity, changes in sleep patterns, and certain foods and smells — all common migraine triggers — might be harder to avoid during the holiday season.

“When you’ve got family over or are at a loved one’s home, it can be tricky to adjust your normal habit or routine,” Yeomans said in a news release. “What I often suggest is putting together an emergency migraine kit just in case — anti-inflammatory drugs, prescribed migraine medicine, an eye mask or ear buds, and anti-nausea medication. Being prepared can perhaps save the day.”

It’s also important for migraine sufferers to rely on their support network of family and friends.

“Asking the host of the party or gathering if they have a quiet bedroom or place to let the pain subside for awhile may not be a big deal if you make sure they understand where you’re coming from ahead of time,” Yeomans said. “You don’t have to place so much stress on yourself worrying about what others may think if you have a strong support system in place that is flexible and understanding of your needs.”

Cuddling with loved ones can help too, he said.

“When you snuggle up to a loved one, your body naturally produces a hormone called oxytocin, affectionately nicknamed the ‘love hormone,'” Yeomans said. “The remarkable ability of oxytocin to ward off pain is still being explored, and there are treatments … that are currently being studied that utilize this hormone specifically for migraine pain.”

— Robert Preidt


What are anxiety symptoms and how you can deal with them

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

What are anxiety symptoms and how you can deal with them

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Every day is a challenge and for some people it is more so. Anxiety is common in today’s day-and-age but when is it too much? While common things like an important meeting or being in a place with unknown people can be unnerving, there are some symptoms that could mean you need to take cognizance of the situation.

Here are some of the most common ones:

  1. Feeling breathless
  2. Hot or cold flashes
  3. Feeling dizzy
  4. Racing heartbeat or pounding in the chest
  5. Tightness in the chest
  6. Obsessive compulsive or repetitive behaviour
  7. Pain in the chest
  8. Difficulty sleeping
  9. Constant thoughts of the thing that is causing the anxiety

If these symptoms persist for longer than six months, you are most likely suffering from an anxiety disorder. There are various types like

Generalised anxiety disorder – Where you are worried and anxious almost all the time.

Social phobia – Where crowds or meeting new people makes you anxious.

Specific phobias – Where you are afraid of a specific thing like water, fire, enclosed spaces, etc.

Obsessive compulsive disorder – Where you are anxious when you have not done a particular task the required number of times or exactly as you think is necessary.

PTSD – A type of anxiety that strikes people after they have experienced a traumatic experience.

Panic disorder – When you experience panic attacks frequently and repeatedly over a period of time.

Steps to help relieve anxiety:

Take a break

Often we are too close to the problem to solve it. Psychologists suggest you take some time off and move away from the problem to get your thoughts in order. Visit a new place; indulge in your favourite hobby or simply go out for a walk. You could choose to go at it alone or choose to be with someone you can confide in at this time. Talk to someone When anxious, try talking to someone about your anxiety. Confiding in a person is the best way to understand the situation and cope with it accordingly. If you do not have any friends or family, try talking to a counsellor or psychologist.

Face your fears

Most people fear the unknown. Therefore, it is essential you get to know what you fear and face it. Try finding ways to slowly inch towards beating the demon. For example, if you fear heights, try climbing up one floor at a time until you conquer your fear.


Meditation is a great relaxation technique; it helps calm the mind and body. It also helps you deal with stressors more efficiently. Indulge in meditation on a regular basis to manage your anxiety attacks. (Read: The 10-step meditation guide for beginners)

Deep breathing

When fear strikes remember to breathe in deep. The rush of oxygen helps your brain work more efficiently allowing your body to calm down and assess the situation. It also allows your body to make the shift from the sympathetic (the system that trigger the panic button – the fight or flight reflex) to the parasympathetic nervous system (one that calms the body and helps it relax). In order to help you manage your anxiety, you can also practise deep breathing techniques on a daily basis. Yoga exercises like pranayam and anulom vilom are great ways to calm the mind, helping you control it in the long run.

De-stress and detox

It is essential that you take a break from all the stressors in your life. Remember to take some time out to just de-stress. Go for a short trip or simply to the spa for a great massage. Whatever you choose, remember that it has to help you relax, so there is no point going on an expensive trip and worrying about the money spent, hotel booking or travelling arrangements.

Finally, if your symptoms continue to persist or become more severe, please do visit your doctor. He/she will perform certain simple psychological tests to determine the degree of your illness and accordingly prescribe treatment. Remember, there is no shame in visiting a psychologist, your life is more important than anything else out there.

Exercise May Help Ease Depression in Teens: Study

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Exercise May Help Ease Depression in Teens: Study

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images (62)

Experts note a similar effect has long been noted in depressed adults

Teens can suffer from depression like everyone else, but a small new study hints that exercise might help ease the condition.

The British study included three boys and 10 girls with depression who were enrolled in trainer-led workouts three times a week for 12 weeks. The teens were also encouraged to exercise 30 minutes a day on the other days.

According to the researchers, the workouts were linked to significant boosts in mood, with depression severity cut by 63 percent. Eighty-three percent of the teens who completed the exercise program were no longer as depressed by the end of the study, which was slated for presentation Saturday at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.

“Exercise has so many advantages as a therapy: It is non-drug, has few side effects and has countless other health benefits. But it has never been tested in youth as treatment for depression,” study author Robin Callister, of the University of Newcastle, said in a Society for Neuroscience news release.

“Evidence that exercise can lift mood in young people is a huge step forward in treatment of this delicate population,” she added. “We are now conducting a larger trial to further evaluate the effects of exercise in depression and are hopeful that it could be used as a treatment in addition to other treatments for depression without potential problems.”

Two experts in the United States said the findings made sense.

“It is no surprise that exercise reduces depression, regardless of age,” said Mark Solms, co-chair of the Neuropsychoanalysis Association in New York City. “It is well established that vigorous and protracted exercise raises endorphin levels, and that endorphins [brain chemicals linked to lowered stress] reduce the mental pain of depression no less than they reduce physical pain.”

Victor Fornari is director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He noted that depression is a “serious medical condition associated with suffering” and also a major contributor to suicides among young people.

“Although the evidence suggests that the most effective treatment to date for adolescents with depression is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with antidepressant medication, exercise may also be valuable in the recovery of depression,” Fornari said. “In addition to being associated with a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise may have positive benefit in terms of psychological relief, as it does with some depressed adults.”

Still, the study is very small and experts noted that findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Fornari agreed that “further studies are needed in order to determine the role of exercise in the recovery from depression during adolescence.”

And Solms pointed out another potential hurdle when using exercise as treatment for depression: “The only problem is that it is very difficult to motivate depressed people to exercise,” he said.

New method for treating pancreatic cancer on the cards

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

New method for treating pancreatic cancer on the cards

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British researchers have developed a new method for treating pancreatic cancer which enables the body’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. The method developed by the researchers at the Cambridge University’s Cancer Research Institute uses a drug to break down the protective barrier surrounding pancreatic cancer tumours, enabling cancer-attacking T cells, a type of white blood cells, to enhance the immunity.

The drug is used in combination with an antibody that blocks a second target and improves the activity of these T cells, a Cambridge University press release said on Friday.

Pancreatic cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Tumour removal is the most effective treatment but it is suitable for just one in five patients. ‘By enabling the body to use its own defences to attack cancer, this approach has the potential to greatly improve treatment of solid tumours,’ Professor Douglas Fearon, who leads the research, said.

How often should diabetics use a glucometer to monitor blood glucose levels?

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

How often should diabetics use a glucometer to monitor blood glucose levels?

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If you are a diabetic, or have a family member who suffers from the disease, you must know the pain that goes with constantly checking one’s blood glucose levels. Although, keeping a tab on one’s glucose levels at regular intervals is important, there is something as too much checking. We asked Dr Rajiv Kovil, leading diabetologist, about how often and why one should check their blood glucose levels.


Checking one’s blood glucose using a glucometer is known as SMBG (Self Monitoring of Blood Glucose). This is where a person monitors their blood glucose level using a portable device known as a glucometer in the comfort of their home. This machine takes a small drop of blood, collected on glucometer strip (a strip of paper specially designed for the device) and checks it for the amount of glucose in the person’s body. Dr Kovil says, ‘SMBG (Self Monitoring of Blood Glucose) is tool to find out a patient’s glycaemic variability. It should be used to guide patient and his/her doctor.’

How often should one check their glucose level?

The frequency of the checks vary, depending on the type of diabetes one suffers from.

Type 2 diabetics

According to Dr Kovil, ‘A type 2 diabetic should measure his/her glucose levels once before a meal and once two hours after a meal. This should be done on different days at different times, also known as scattered checks’. These checks help your doctor know how well your body is responding to a particular medication, and if any  changes in the dosages are required. It also gives him/her a fair idea about how your body is coping with the disease and if you are at any further risk from associated conditions like heart disease, eye disorders and vascular disorders.

Type 1 diabetics

In the case of type 1 diabetics, Dr Kovil says, ‘Such diabetics should have a 7 point check, before and after meals, along with a 3 am reading.’ A 7 point check is where the person checks their glucose levels over a varying period of time, and the doctor can plot a graph of how well the person is doing on their current insulin replacement therapy. It is also a good way to know how well their body is tolerating the earlier dose of insulin and how much they need as their next dose.

 Gestational diabetics:

According to Dr Kovil, ‘In women suffering from gestational diabetes, SMBG must be done before meals and 1 hour after meals. Since this is when one’s blood sugar levels are likely to be the lowest and highest respectively.’ Therefore, monitoring one’s level is essential to the health of the mother and baby.

For those with unstable diabetes:

Dr Kovil says, ‘For those suffering from brittle diabetes (unstable diabetes) along with Type 1 diabetes,  should use the CGMS (Continuous Glucose Monitoring System) of monitoring their blood glucose.’  ‘Unlike traditional meters that provide a one-time snapshot of one’s blood glucose levels, continuous glucose monitors (CGMSs) measure one’s glucose levels  every few minutes. This system is essential for people suffering from this kind of diabetes since they need to keep a tab on their blood glucose levels at all times.’ Explains Dr Kovil.

Finally, don’t keep pricking your fingers whenever you deem fit. Instead, just follow instructions based on the type of diabetes you suffer from, and you should be on your way to well managed diabetes and not to mention less sore finger tips.

Hear! Hear! Before It’s Too Late…

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Hear! Hear! Before It’s Too Late…

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While most of us know that loud noise can damage the ears, very few of us are aware that a host of other situations too can affect the delicate mechanism that makes hearing possible. Foreign objects or sudden blows can damage the eardrum, resulting in temporary, or in some cases, permanent loss of hearing.Causes And Prevention Of Ear Damage
Inserting Objects: One of the most common causes of ruptured eardrum and other ear damage is putting an object into the ear. All too often, people use the earbud in an attempt to completely clean the wax, or to relieve an itch. Most of the time it’s best to just Before It’s Too Late… leave earwax alone. It’s in your ear for a good reason: to trap dust, bacteria, and other particles that might cause injury, irritation, or infection.

  • Refrain from using buds. Ears are self-cleaning for the most part.
  • Jaw movements, when you eat and talk, eventually push wax to the outer ear, where you can easily remove it by wiping with a damp piece of cotton.
  • If earwax is truly bothering you, have a doctor remove it for you.
  • Steer clear of using over-the-counter drops to soften wax until you check with a doctor. If the problem is something other than earwax, the drops may exacerbate it.

The old folk wisdom about not putting anything in your ear smaller than an elbow, though exaggerated, isn’t such bad advice!

Loud Noise: Loud noise can harm hearing by damaging the sensitive, tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Certain conditions can make these hair cells even more sensitive than usual. During aerobic exercise our blood diverts from our ears to our legs, arms, and heart. This altered blood flow makes the hair cells more vulnerable to noise. Thus, many fitness experts warn that you double your risk of permanent hearing loss when you jog while wearing headphones with loud music, or dance to blaring music at a rock concert.

The solution is obvious: Stop the noise and use protective devices including acoustic earplugs or muffs.

Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

This condition can crop up when bacteria nestle in the outer ear canal that is warm and moist. Being in the water a lot also tends to wash away the natural oily, waxy substance that normally lines and protects the ear canal. Bacteria can then get the upper hand, and cause infection. Water can also be left over in your ear after taking a shower. Poking around with a bobby pin or cotton-tipped swab can scratch the delicate skin in the ear canal and break down the barrier against bacteria, resulting in an outer ear canal infection also called otitis externa. Resist the urge to scratch; that will make the problem worse. To prevent infection:

  • Don’t let the water sit in your ear.
  • Shake the water out after a shower or swim.
  • The best way to dry the ear is to roll the corner of a soft cotton handkerchief and use it to mop the canal.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

Middle-ear infection (known medically as otitis media) is the most common illness in babies and young children. The outer ear is connected to an aircontaining space called the middle ear. The air pressure in the middle ear is equalized more than one thousand times a day, every time you swallow, through the eustachian tube, which also carries fluid away from the middle ear.

Due to a cold or an allergy, the eustachian tube swells and air isabsorbed by the lining of the middle ear, creating a partial vacuum, and fluid seeps from the lining of the middle ear. Bacteria or viruses infect the stagnant, warm fluid in the middle ear. To prevent infection:

    • Keep your child away from other kids who have infections.
    • Take care of nasal allergies and teach your child to blow the nose gently.
    • Do not expose your child to cigarette smoke.
    • Avoid giving a bottle of milk or formula to a baby who is lying on his or her back, because the nutrient-rich liquid can flow into the eustachian tube during swallowing and pool there, creating a breeding ground for infectious organisms. Prop the child’s head up on pillows.

Earphones, Headphones and Cellphones!Sounds over 140dB can cause pain, and prolonged exposure to noise over 85-90dB can result in permanent hearing loss. There are certain preliminary studies that say that people who use cellphones for more than an hour can develop hearing loss in the long term.
If you experience fullness or warmth in the ear where the phone is constantly used, it is probably time for a checkup with your doctor!

Meditation can help you overcome addictions

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Apollo Health Blog | Comments Off

Meditation can help you overcome addictions

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Rehabilitation therapies that use meditation are likely to have a higher success rate when it comes to helping trying to overcome addiction. This is the conclusion of a new survey of animal and human studies by a computer scientist who used a computational model of addiction, a literature review and an in silico experiment.

The findings of the survey — by computer scientist Yariv Levyof the University of Massachusetts Amherst, neuroscience researcher Jerrold Meyer, and computer scientist Andrew Barto — has been published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

‘Our higher-level conclusion is that a treatment based on meditation-like techniques can be helpful as a supplement to help someone get out of addiction. We give scientific and mathematical arguments for this,’ said Levy, who was a doctoral student when he undertook the survey.

According to Levy, the survey aimed to use learnings from existing animal and human studies to better understand addiction and seek new approaches to treatment.

The researchers explored the allostatic theory, which describes changes in the brain’s reward and anti-reward systems and reward set points as substance misuse progresses. They used two existing computational models, one pharmacological and a more behavioural-cognitive model for the study. The allostatic theory says that when someone takes a drug he or she stresses the reward system and it loses its equilibrium state.

‘We smoke one cigarette and go out, come back in again, and out with another cigarette, always trying to return to equilibrium,’ Levy says. ‘The reward system tries to change its structure with neural adaptations to get back to equilibrium. But if I continue to smoke, even with such adaptations, I can’t make it back. Equilibrium is broken as long as I continue to smoke.’

As the reward system is stressed, the anti-reward system steps in and says, ‘I’ll try to help,’ and the person enters what is known as an allostatic state. Other brain structures are affected by the addictive substance, impairing the addict’s evaluation of drug use compared to other reinforcers, Levy said.

To bind the two theories and test how they could work together in silico, the authors follow three virtual case studies, each representing a different trajectory of allostatic state during escalation of cigarette smoking.  ‘This investigation provides formal arguments encouraging current rehabilitation therapies to include meditation-like practices along with pharmaceutical drugs and behavioural counseling,’ the authors wrote.