Monthly Archives: June 2015

Study Suggests Surprise Measure for Controlling Asthma

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It’s not unusual to hear doctors promoting more aerobic exercise because according to the latest official data, more than 80% of adults aren’t able to meet recommended guidelines for aerobic or strength-based activities. But a new study suggests that exercise could hold benefits even for an unexpected group: those with moderate to severe asthma.

Although adults with asthma often abstain from physical activities for fear of triggering an attack, a group of Brazilian researchers has found that aerobic exercise improves both asthma symptoms and overall quality of life for asthma sufferers.

To measure the impact of exercise on asthma, the research team recruited 58 asthma patients, all between 20 and 59, and assigned them randomly to one of two groups. One group was assigned to do a 30-minute breathing exercise twice weekly for 12 weeks, while the other group was instructed to do the breathing exercise plus a 35-minute session on an indoor treadmill.

The researchers measured the bronchial hyperresponsiveness — which indicates how quickly the airway becomes constricted and inflamed during an attack — at the beginning and end of the three-month study period. They also measured the levels of certain proteins, called cytokines, that are created when the airway becomes inflamed.

Participants were told to keep a diary recording their symptoms and how often they used inhalers, and they filled out questionnaires designed to assess quality of life.

At the end of the study, the BHR of those in the exercise group had fallen, while it remained steady for those in the group who had only done breathing exercises. Cytokine levels also decreased for the exercise group, and those participants had more symptom-free days. Of the 22 people in the exercise group who completed the trial, 15 had significantly improved quality-of-life scores at the study’s end.

Moreover, the patients with the highest inflammation levels and poorest initial symptom control seemed to benefit more than the others in the group.

The researchers cautioned that exercise shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for medical treatment, but rather as a complementary one.

“These results suggest that adding exercise as an adjunct therapy to pharmacological treatment could improve the main features of asthma,” they concluded. The full study has been published in the journal Thorax.

Father Stunned After Louisiana Soldier Denied Burial At Arlington

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The family of a Louisiana National Guardsman who died in a tragic helicopter training accident says it’s a “travesty” that their son will not be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The U.S. Army says that because National Guard Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, died in a training mission, he does not meet the criteria for internment at Arlington. Unfortunately, the cemetery is increasingly crowded, and the Army must be selective about who receives plots. The army said there is room for the family in an above-ground memorial that holds cremation urns for ashes, but Florich’s family wants a burial plot for their beloved son.

Arlington isn’t the only cemetery struggling with overcrowding. Each year, there are 2.4 million funerals in the U.S., according to the National Funeral Director’s Association. At Arlington, army officials say that they must save room for eligible service members and veterans who die while in active duty, as well as their spouses. The cemetery is expected to run out of burial plots in the 2050s, despite a recent addition to the grounds.

A Tragic Accident And A Father’s Grief
The National Guardsman was flying a Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed off the Florida coast on March 10. Three more guardsmen and seven marines lost their lives in the training accident.

“He was killed in uniform doing his job, training for, not if, but when people went into harm’s way,” said Florich’s father.

But officials unanimously denied the Baton Rouge family’s request for an exception to the rules.

In a statement, cemetery officials said: “[Thomas Florich’s] record of service makes him eligible for inurnment, so he may be forever enshrined in Arlington National Cemetery; however, since at the time of his death he was on active duty for training only, he therefore does not meet the well-established criteria for interment in Arlington National Cemetery.”

The Louisiana National Guard and local politicians are joining with the family to appeal the decision.

Why You May Have a Potty Mouth Even if You Don’t Swear

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It’s no secret that everyday objects and surfaces are literally breeding grounds for bacteria. Research has shown that communal objects such as office phones, in particular, are teeming with an average of 25,000 bacteria per square inch alone.

Now, a new study has revealed that your toothbrush — ironically — isn’t much cleaner.

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans revealed the hidden — and gross — dangers of leaving your toothbrush in a shared bathroom.

Researchers from the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut examined the toothbrushes of students who shared a bathroom with at least nine others and found that the majority — 60% — were rife with potentially harmful bacteria as well as fecal matter, regardless of whether the toothbrushes were stored covered or uncovered.

Furthermore, of the contaminated toothbrushes, researchers also found that 80% were contaminated with fecal matter that belonged to someone else other than that of the toothbrush’s owner.

Even those who don’t share a bathroom are still at risk. The researchers also found that those who have a bathroom all to themselves may still be putting their own fecal molecules in their mouths when they brush their teeth. While that may be distasteful, it’s not especially dangerous; the main concern is using a toothbrush contaminated with another person’s fecal matter, which may be brimming with harmful viruses, parasites, and foreign bacteria not a part of one’s own natural flora.

Among the potentially harmful conditions that can be caused by using a contaminated toothbrush are salmonella, which is known to lead to typhoid fever, campylobacterosis, a gastrointestinal infection marked by bloody, loose stools, and of course E.coli, which can lead to anything from a urinary tract infection to a severe case of gastroenteritis.

Surprisingly, the American Dental Association (ADA) concluded there is not much you can do. While some people choose to keep their toothbrushes covered, such as in a case or holder, the ADA says that may actually encourage the growth of bacteria. In addition, dipping your toothbrush in antiseptic mouthwash has little to no effect, as the antiseptic properties of mouthwash simply aren’t strong enough to kill the bacteria on toothbrush’s surface.

Rather, the ADA recommends storing your toothbrush in an upright position, rinsing it thoroughly after each use, and most importantly, replacing it every three to four months. The ADA also recommends closing the toilet seat when you flush, as flushing with an open seat propels fecal bacteria into the air — and onto all the surfaces of your bathroom, including your toothbrush.

Hummus: Healthy Snack or Secret Junk Food?

hummus dip plate and lemon on wooden table

Americans are used to eating hummus primarily as a side dish or snack. But some experts say that it can be eaten in different ways, but those who are calorie-conscious need to be careful.

Washington Post writer Ellie Krieger said she enjoyed hummus primarily as a snack until friends from Israel introduced her to the hummus plate. This dish is hummus topped with just about anything: “sliced hard-cooked egg, chickpeas or fava beans, chopped herbs, pine nuts, seasoned ground beef or sauteed mushrooms and onions, plus a finishing drizzle of good olive oil.”

Hummus plates aren’t served as sides but as main dishes, along with pita bread. Krieger also suggests roasting carrots and placing them atop hummus as an alternative to hummus and baby carrots as a snack.

But is hummus really as healthy as it’s made out to be?

According to the Healthy Eating Index, those who eat hummus on a regular basis tend to have lower body mass index and a smaller waist circumference than those who do not. That includes traditional hummus and other flavors, such as spicy chipotle or roasted garlic hummus dips.

Yet one blog, TakePart.com, went as far as to include hummus on a list of “healthy” snacks that are actually unhealthy. The reason? There are 560 calories in one cup of hummus — several times the typical serving of two tablespoons.

WGNO in New Orleans examined several hummus options on the market and found most of them to be healthy. However, they warn that eating a whole container of the stuff could be hazardous to one’s waistline: although one serving of hummus contains just 70 calories, that’s 560 to 700 calories in an 8 to 10 serving tub.

But Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian who appeared in a news feature for the station, said that hummus is made from good, “pure” ingredients: chickpeas, tahini, oil, and seasoning.

The issue, said Kimball, is that “It’s all about portion control” for those watching their weight. In other words, those reaching for a snack shouldn’t just polish off an entire tub of hummus in one sitting.

As for Krieger, she says nothing of health in her recipe for roasted carrots on hummus, but she does refer to the dish as “luxurious.” Perhaps the shift in thinking about how hummus is eaten, rather than what it contains, is what’s needed to make healthy choices.

Yelp Review Causes Lawsuit

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Footprints Floors provided Matt White and his fiancée, Amanda Jameer, with poor service, so he did as most other scorned consumers do nowadays. He left a scathing review on Yelp.

“Absolutely horrible experience,” White wrote back in 2013. “I have 4,000 square feet of sandpaper on the floor and Footprints believes there is nothing wrong. I have shoe prints in the stain, dust, debris and filler trapped under my stain…. The quality of the work is absolutely deplorable.”

One year later, Denver-based Footprints Floors slapped him with a defamation lawsuit, which cost him about $65,000 in legal fees — twice what he claimed to have given two companies to fix his floors. In the lawsuit, Footprints Floors estimated that White’s review cost them 167 projects, and $625,000 in revenue between January 1, and August 1, 2014.

The lawsuit, White said, was a blatant attack on free speech.

“Extortion by way of the court system to try and get money out of somebody and punish somebody for having spoken the truth,” said White.

“I feel like we’re being bullied. It’s still unbelievable to me even though we’ve been going through this for a year,” said Jameer.

Bryan Park, president of Footprints Floors, declined an on-camera interview with Denver’s FOX 31, saying Footprint Floors would respond to questions via email. However, the company ignored the questions, instead releasing a lengthy statement.

“We recently had an experience that I hope to never go through again. One of our customers expressed dissatisfaction with our work. We offered to fix all of the problems. I personally did everything I could to meet his needs. He still wasn’t satisfied and made online comments that, in our view, were not true,” read the statement. “After a drawn-out legal process, the case was settled last month when this client ultimately paid us for the floor we installed.”

At the end of it all, White settled his case for $15,000, saying it was cheaper than going to trial. Perhaps next time White might do what 70% of Americans do — go with carpeting instead of hardwood flooring.

In the agreement, Footprints Floors tried to get White to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would have prevented him from discussing the case.

New Roof Tech Could Keep Homeowners and the Planet Cool

suburban house
Two materials scientists from Sydney say they’ve had a breakthrough in cool roof technology that could have major implications for cutting energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas.“[In our study] we demonstrate for the first time how to make a roof colder than the air temperature around it, even under the most intense summer conditions,” University of Technology Sydney Professor Emeritus Geoff Smith told science news site Phys.org May 28.Smith and colleague Angus Gentle say they accomplished the task by creating a novel roofing surface made of a “coated polymer stack”: certain polyesters on a silver layer.

Dark roofs, such as those covered in asphalt shingles, absorb heat. Asphalt shingles are the most common choice across North America largely because they’re affordable and durable — lasting between 15 and 30 years — but that heat absorption can become a major problem in densely populated urban areas or in areas that are already quite hot. And even the white roofs that are more common elsewhere absorb enough sunlight to heat up quite a bit, Smith explained.

When they tested their polymer stack roof, however, they found that it absorbed only 3% of sunlight and radiated heat at infrared wavelengths that aren’t absorbed into the atmosphere. That could keep homeowners more comfortable, reduce the amount of energy needed to cool buildings, and ultimately reduce environmental warming as well.

“Much of the world’s population lives in warm climates. Keeping a roof cool saves energy and makes building interiors comfortable in summer. If enough roofs in a precinct are kept cool then the local climate can also be beneficially influenced,” Smith summarized.

And although it’s not known when the technology could break into the competitive roofing and roof coating market, Smith noted that the plastics they used were readily available and may be well suited for general roofing tasks.

The full study was published in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Science.

As the Washington Post recently reported, the Australian pair’s technology isn’t the only approach to creating cooler roofs. Green roofs — ones covered with living grasses and other plants — can reduce heat retention, cool buildings, lower energy use and even reduce carbon dioxide concentration. Plus, new research has shown there may be significant psychological benefits for urbanites who are exposed to even such small “doses” of nature.