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How barbershops can help trim high blood pressure in black men

Black men hoping to lower their high blood pressure may want to pay their favorite barber a visit — and bring a pharmacist along.

>> On AJC.com: Half of US adults now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines

That’s according to new findings from the Smidt Heart Institute published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, for which a team of scientists studied 319 African-American men at high risk of heart attack and stroke recruited from 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area.

>> Read more trending news 

For the study, the men were randomly assigned to two groups. Men in the first group met with barbers who encouraged them to speak with specially trained pharmacists during their monthly barbershop appointments.

During their visit to the barbershop, the pharmacists would assess the participants and prescribe appropriate medication. Any monitored blood tests and progress notes were sent to the patron’s primary care provider.

>> 7 ways to lower your blood pressure without medication

In the second group, barbers encouraged the men to seek advice from their respective primary care providers on treatment and lifestyle changes. Patrons were given pamphlets and blood pressure tips while getting their haircuts. There were no pharmacists involved inside the barbershop.

At the start of the study, the average top pressure number (or systolic blood pressure) averaged 154. After six months, it fell by 9 points for customers just given advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists.

Two-thirds of the men who met with both their barbers and pharmacists were able to bring their unhealthy systolic blood pressure levels into the healthy range at that six-month mark.

Only 11.7 percent of the men in the second group experienced a similar difference in the same time period.

>> On AJC.com: Is your medical provider taking your blood pressure all wrong? Experts say probably 

Black men have especially high rates of high blood pressure — a top reading (systolic) over 130 or a bottom one over 80 — and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. Only half of Americans with high pressure have it under control; many don't even know they have the condition.

Marc Sims, a 43-year-old records clerk at a law firm, was a participant of the barbershop and pharmacist group. He didn't know he had high pressure — 175 over 125 — and when he came into the barbershop, the pharmacist said he was at risk of having a stroke.

"It woke me up," said Sims, who has a young son. "All I could think about was me having a stroke and not being here for him. It was time to get my health right."

Medicines lowered his pressure to 125 over 95.

>> On AJC.com: Suffer from hypertension? Sauna baths could help reduce it, study suggests

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and author of the study, told the Associated Press. “And many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years. It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment" that makes it ideal for improving health.

Victor’s own hypertension was diagnosed by a barber in Dallas during his first barbershop-based study in the 1990s, he said in a news release. That study incorporated 17 Dallas shops, but no pharmacists. The results were modest at best.

But for the new research, the team “added a pharmacist into the mix" so medicines could be prescribed on the spot, he said. "Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes. It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years. With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier."

Victor and his team are now onto the next step: to determine if the benefits they found can be sustained for another six months and in black men with more moderate blood pressure levels.

Read the full study at nejm.org.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Heart attack sufferers more likely to survive if doctor is away, study says

If you are recovering from cardiac arrest, doctors are essential to the healing process, right? According to a new report, you’re more likely to survive if your cardiologist is away.

>> On AJC.com: You may be able to better avoid heart attacks with this common snack, study says

Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, to determine the possibility of survival for people who suffer heart attacks when their doctors are away.

To do so, they examined the 30-day survival rate of Medicare heart attack sufferers admitted to the hospital while their doctors were at the five-day Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting.

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, they found that 19.5 percent of patients died within 30 days of admission when the doctor was present. It was just 16.9 percent when the cardiologist was away.

Some heart attack sufferers require stents, which are tubes inserted into the heart blood vessels to help clear passageways. About 15.3 percent of heart attack patients, who needed stents and were admitted on meeting days, died within 30 days. About 16.7 percent admitted on non-meeting dates died within the month.

>> On AJC.com: You can avoid strokes and heart attacks with these two household fruits, study says

“Which doctor treats you does matter. The types of doctors who attend these meetings seem to provide different care, at least for a subgroup of patients,” coauthor Aunupam Jena said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate paradox given that professional conferences are designed to actually makes us better physicians and improve the care we deliver.”

The scientists said doctors who attend the conferences perform more stents. They’re also more focused on publishing research and more likely to run clinical trials, compared to their peers who do not go to the meetings.

“If doctors focus their attention on a particular kind of procedure, they might not develop other clinical skills that are as important to influencing outcomes as is knowledge of a specific procedure,” Jena said. “Treating a cardiac patient isn't just about cardiac issues—it's about other factors that the patient brings to the hospital.”

Although the researchers have drawn conclusions about cardiac specialists who attend conferences and those who don’t, they said the true differences are still unknown.

That’s why they hope to continue their investigations to explore how a variety of physicians develop their nonprocedural skills over time.

>> On AJC.com: Got heart disease? You may have a better chance of survival if married

“The fact that mortality actually falls for heart attack patients during these conference dates raises important questions about how care might differ during these periods,” Jena said. “What we really want to know is how we can close the gap in outcomes and save more lives.”

Scott Baio's wife, Renee, says she has microvascular brain disease

Actor Scott Baio's wife, Renee, has microvascular brain disease, she tweeted Saturday.

>> Scott Baio denies sexual misconduct allegation by 'Charles in Charge' co-star Nicole Eggert

"Besides having 2 meningioma brain tumors, in Oct 2017 I also learned I have Microvascular Brain Disease," the former stuntwoman wrote in response to a question from a fan.

>> See the tweet here

Scott Baio added: "Unfortunately, this is true. Renee is forever my rock, my life & my soulmate! Toughest person I know."

>> See his tweet here

>> Read more trending news 

The condition refers to "changes to the small blood vessels in the brain" and, "if left untreated, it can contribute to mental decline, strokes, walking and balance problems, and dementia," HealthLine reports.

Read more here.

6th-grader sickened, suspended after unknowingly eating pot-laced cookie at school, family says

A DeKalb County, Georgia, father said his daughter was suspended from middle school for unintentionally eating a marijuana cookie in class.

>> Watch the news report here

Diamond Brooks, 11, said she felt disoriented at Columbia Middle School on Friday morning and couldn't figure out why. Then she said she remembered the cookie that she says a girl in her sixth-grade class offered her an hour earlier.

>> On WSBTV.com: Bus carrying Georgia college team overturns; driver arrested

"I didn't pay attention when I was getting it, so I just got it and ate it," she said.

Diamond Brooks father told WSB-TV's Matt Johnson that an ambulance brought her to a hospital where doctors told them she had marijuana in her system.

>> On WSBTV.com: Police, friends start new search for missing CDC worker

Brooks and her family claim the marijuana came from the cookie.

"If she told me what was in it, I never would have got it from her," Brooks said.

>> On WSBTV.com: Family of man accused of killing son says he should have been locked up before

The DeKalb County School District sent the following statement:

"The student ingested a dessert, but it cannot confirm if it was laced with a drug. Our investigation will shed more light on what occurred."

While the district investigates, Diamond Brooks' family said she will be at home because the district suspended her.

"She didn't know what it was. She didn't intentionally do no drugs," Gary Brooks said.

>> Read more trending news 

Gary Brooks showed Johnson the paperwork doctors gave him when they treated Diamond for confusion on Friday morning.

He said he remembers watching her throw up from her hospital bed.

"If something happened to her, I would have lost it," said Gary Brooks.

Now, he said he loses his temper when thinks about how he has to fight to get his daughter's suspension overturned.

"When you spike somebody's drink, they don't know, so they are supposed to get punished for what happened? That don't make sense," Gary Brooks said.

Seasonal allergies could be affecting your pets

The weather in some parts of the country is not helping people with allergies, and your pets could also be feeling the effects of the high pollen (and other allergens) count. 

>> Read more trending news 

Pets are often sniffling grass, other pets and the ground. They are also much closer to where the allergens can sit, so they could be more exposed to more allergens, such as pollen. 

>> On WFTV.com: More weather facts and hacks

Just like humans, dogs and cats can sneeze, get watery eyes and runny noses. Allergies can make these symptoms worse. According to the Humane Society, dogs often express pollen allergy symptoms by itching. The pollen gets on their fur, makes its way down to their skin and irritates it. 

>> On WFTV.com: Interactive: Common medications used to treat your cough

Here are some ways to help your pet cope with seasonal allergies:

  • Consult your veterinarian to make sure the irritation on the skin is not something worse. Your veterinarian can prescribe allergy medicine if needed. 
  • Try to limit activities outdoors, especially in the morning, when pollen levels are the highest.
  • After a walk, wash or wipe your pet's face and paws a wet towel. Just like in humans, the pollen can be washed out. 
  • When you bathe your pets, use warm water when applying shampoo and cool water to wash it off. Cold water helps with the itching. 

Women may be mistaking ovarian cancer symptoms for bloating, study says

According to a new research, women may be suffering from ovarian cancer without even knowing it.

>> On Rare.us: Jury hands down record award in lawsuit linking talcum powder use and ovarian cancer

A study completed by Target Ovarian Cancer (TOC) shared Monday found that instead of visiting a physician after feeling symptoms including bloating and fullness, women are more likely to simply change their diets. By just switching to eating probiotic yogurts or leaving out gluten from their diets, women are putting themselves at risk, because persistent bloating can be a sign of ovarian cancer. According to TOC, ovarian cancer symptoms include a bloated stomach, more frequent urination, continued feelings of fullness and stomach pain.

>> Read more trending news 

The research, which took place in the United Kingdom, found that 50 percent of women opted to change their diets, while only 34 percent would see their doctors over concerns about bloating. Additionally, women over age 55, who have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, were more likely to look up their symptoms online instead of seeing a professional.

After TOC published the findings online, one woman responded with a story of her own mother, who had believed her symptoms of ovarian cancer were caused by Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) or urinary tract infections.

>> On Rare.us: Julia Louis-Dreyfus has defiant message for cancer in post-surgery Instagram photo

The newly released report is meant to raise awareness for the disease, which, according to the American Cancer Society, is the fifth-ranking cause of death among women. Women have a 1 in 79 chance of developing ovarian cancer and a 1 in 108 risk of dying as a result, although the rate of women being diagnosed with it has fallen over the past two decades.

Flu kills 15-year-old Georgia high school student

A DeKalb County, Georgia, student died from the flu on Sunday, the second teenager in metro Atlanta killed by the virus.

>> Watch the news report here

School district officials are reminding students and staff to continue taking precautions as flu season may not have reached its peak.

District officials confirmed Monday afternoon that the 15-year-old Cross Keys High School student died Sunday. Principal Jason Heard sent a note Monday morning, shortly after classes started, to inform staff of Miguel Jaimes Martinez’s death.

>> Texas teacher dies from flu after spurning medicine that cost $116

Heard said counselors would be making classroom visits and students who needed immediate attention could receive it at the school’s media center.

“The entire DeKalb County School District is saddened by the news that one of our own has passed away due to illness,” Superintendent Steve Green said Monday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family, loved ones and peers in this unfortunate and trying time.”

>> How does the flu kill healthy people?

The teen, a sophomore, is survived by his mother and three siblings.

His death is one of only a handful of confirmed flu deaths of children in metro Atlanta. Coweta County officials confirmed that 15-year-old Kira Molina died in late January of a flu-related illness. Five-year-old Elijah Snook died in late January after being hospitalized Jan. 13 with flu-like symptoms, WSB-TV reported.

At least 66 Georgians have died during this flu season, and schools have seen absences spike in recent weeks. Some districts have asked teachers to help clean common areas to limit contamination and spreading the virus.

This season’s predominant flu strain is H3N2, which causes the worst outbreaks of the two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

>> When can you go back to work or school if you have the flu?

“Of the viruses we hate, we hate H3N2 more than the other ones,” said top CDC flu expert Daniel Jernigan. “This strain, which has been around for 50 years, is able to change more quickly to get around the human body’s immune system than the other viruses targeted in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine.”

JoAnn Harris, DeKalb Schools’ lead nurse, said the district is using guidelines from the county’s health department and advising parents to keep children at home as symptoms present themselves. In the case of a fever, officials suggest keeping the student home at least a day after the fever breaks and a day after using fever-reduction medication.

The number of flu hospitalizations in Georgia surpassed 1,000, with 120 of those patients hospitalized last week alone, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Public Health. In Georgia, flu had killed two people between ages 5 and 17; seven between 18 and 51; eight between ages 51 and 64; and 49 people 65 and older.

>> 5-year-old Georgia boy dies from flu complications

Although this year’s flu vaccine is far from perfect, experts urge people to get it if they haven’t yet. Although it’s believed to be less effective than those from other years, it can lower the severity of the flu if you do get sick.

Hospitals, swamped with flu patients, are asking people to be prudent.

Some people need to be in the emergency room, but some just need a doctor or clinic, and some need home treatment.

A group representing Georgia hospitals on Monday cautioned people to check their symptoms for real emergency signs before they drive off to the emergency room.

“Those who do not have the flu, but go to the ER, risk catching it from those who do,” the Georgia Hospital Association said in a press release Monday. “However, anyone who is concerned about a serious or life-threatening illness should go to the ER.”

>> Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

The state Department of Public Health has been getting calls from hospitals that they’re inundated, a GHA spokeswoman said. People are crowding hospital ER’s that don’t have the warning signs for ER treatment. The hospitals, in turn, are having to spend money and work staff more to deal with the influx.

Emergency warning signs for people to go to the ER include:

• trouble breathing

• chest pain

• persistent vomiting

• flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with fever and worse cough

There is more information listed on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

>> Read more trending news 

“There is, I don’t want to say panic, but extra concern out there this year,” said the spokeswoman, Erin Stewart. “Of course, always be safe. Go to the CDC website, assess your symptoms.”

If people are unsure whether they need more care, they can contact their doctor or a clinic.

“Hospitals are working diligently to make sure each patient receives timely and efficient care,” said GHA President Earl Rogers.

5-year-old Georgia boy dies from flu complications

A 5-year-old Georgia boy who died from complications of the flu was remembered on Wednesday morning.

>> Watch the news report here

Eli Snook of Marietta died Saturday at a hospital. His parents first took him to the emergency room Jan. 13 with flu-like symptoms. 

His family told WSB-TV's Chris Jose that a doctor gave the boy Tamiflu. His parents kept him home for a week then sent him back to day care on Jan. 22.

Last Thursday, Eli’s parents got a call that the boy had a 101 degree fever. His parents said they brought him back to urgent care.

>> How does the flu kill healthy people?

"We prayed for a miracle Friday night. He got an infection in the brain. His brain swelled past the point of no return, and he went brain dead," said his father, Aaron Snook.

The parents were told by doctors to take him to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Due to a weakened immune system from the flu, doctors told the parents the virus quickly attacked his body. 

"It was a shock to me. It was shock," said the boy's mother, Leota Snook. "It's the aftereffects of the flu that's killing these babies."

>> Read more trending news 

Georgia has been hit hard by the flu this season. On Wednesday, officials with Georgia Department of Public Health said at least 37 people have died from the virus.

The flu outbreak is so bad that Grady Memorial Hospital brought in a mobile emergency room unit to treat the excess number of patients visiting the hospital with flu-like symptoms. 

This is the healthiest nondairy 'milk,' study says

There are a ton of nondairy milks to choose from, but which one is the healthiest?

>> Milk in the fridge? Someone may owe you money

To find out, researchers from McGill University recently conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, to determine the nutritional value of plant-based milk beverages

To do so, they compared the health benefits of the four most popular alternative milks, including soy, almond, coconut and rice. They examined the number of calories and amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates found in each. They also looked into the vitamins and minerals the substitutes contained. 

>> Read more trending news 

While they said cow’s milk still has the most nutritional value, with 8 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 11.5 grams of carbs, soy is the most comparable for overall balance. It’s “a clear winner,” they wrote in a statement. It has more protein than all the other milk options analyzed, with 7 to 12 grams and 95 calories a glass. Scientists also credited soy milk for its phytonutrients, which have been linked to reducing cancer risk. 

Almond milk is low in protein and carbohydrates, but it has fewer calories, with 36 per serving. It also is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help with weight loss and management. Previous studies have also shown that it can reduce cholesterol.

As for coconut milk, it’s low-calorie, too, but has no protein. Plus, the calories are mostly from saturated fats. And rice milk also has few nutrients. In fact, the researchers said “consumption of rice milk as an alternative to cow’s milk without proper care can result in malnutrition, especially in the case of infants.”

>> On AJC.com: When to buy organic & when to save your money

Dairy is one of the most common allergens among infants and children, the study explained, so many parents steer away from cow’s milk. Furthermore, lactose intolerance affects up to 75 percent of all adults, and those with the condition look to other alternatives. 

Although the researchers believe their findings are strong, they said want to continue their investigations “to understand the effects of various conventional and novel processing methods on the nutritional profile, flavor and texture of these alternative milks.”

How does the flu kill healthy people?

How does the flu cause death? According to Scientific American, the way the flu kills its victims can be summed up simply: “The short and morbid answer is that in most cases the body kills itself by trying to heal itself.”

>> On MyAJC.com: Flu season to be worst in a decade: Death toll rises to 37 children

As the virus spreads in the lungs and respiratory system, the body unleashes a counterattack, in which T-cells destroy the tissues that harbor the invading virus.

“In most healthy adults this process works, and they recover within days or weeks,” the magazine reports. “But sometimes the immune system’s reaction is too strong, destroying so much tissue in the lungs that they can no longer deliver enough oxygen to the blood, resulting in hypoxia and death.”

>> On AJC.com: Do you have the flu? 17 things to know about flu symptoms, flu shot side effects and more

Sometimes the lungs, weakened by the flu, become prey to another infection, often streptococcus, and the body is felled by bacterial overload, as happened to a New Hampshire mother of four earlier this month.

Worldwide, the flu causes up to 640,000 deaths annually.

Doctors have long known that contracting influenza can be dangerous for the elderly, for infants and for those already in a weakened state. But flu can kill others as well, depending on the virulence of the particular strain that spreads during flu season.

>> Read more trending news 

This year’s strain is the most severe in a decade.

A chart from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta can help parents determine when to seek help.

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