Aetna Latest Healthy Living News Latest Healthy Living News from Aetna en Aetna Latest Healthy Living News Latest Healthy Living News from Aetna TYPO3 - get.content.right Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:50:00 -0500 Pizza Days Boost Kids' Calories, Fat, Salt Kids eat a lot of pizza. And on the days when they do, chances are they take in more calories, fat...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? If we want to improve the diet of our children, especially our teenagers, we need to get them to eat less pizza. That's the bottom line of a study just published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers looked at data from several years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They wanted to find out how often children and teens ate pizza -- and how this affected their calorie intake and overall diet. They found that between 2003 and 2010, the amount of pizza kids eat fell. But the change was small. In fact, pizza is the second highest source of calories for children and teens. (The top item is desserts made with grains, things like cookies and cake.) Here are some other worrisome pizza facts:
  • About 20% of children and 23% percent of adolescents (ages 12 to 19) eat pizza on any given day.
  • On the days they eat pizza, it supplies about one-quarter of their total calories.
  • Eating pizza increases the intake of saturated fat and sodium, both of which are unhealthy.
When kids ate the pizza mattered. Youth who ate it for a snack, as opposed to a meal, had the biggest increase in their daily calories. And not all pizzas are the same. Restaurant pizza had the most calories. On the other hand, eating school pizza actually didn't have much of an effect on overall calories. What Changes Can I Make Now? If you are a parent (or someone who plans or prepares meals for a child or teen), it's worth paying attention to this study. Eating an unhealthy diet, especially one with too many calories, increases the risk of obesity. And that brings an array of health and social problems. Unhealthy eating also increases the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. The biggest and best change we could make would be to discourage eating pizza as a snack. Lots of teenagers stop by a pizza place after school, for example, and buy a slice or two. This is easy and cheap, and it tastes good. But it is very unhealthy. We need to help youth make better snack choices, and make those choices easier. For example, we could pack snacks for them to take to school. We also could encourage schools to have healthy snacks available for purchase. We also need to discourage buying pizza for lunch, another common practice, especially if they are able to buy it off-campus. Again, helping them come up with other low-cost, convenient choices would make this easier. It would also be very helpful if restaurants tried to make their pizzas healthier, with less sodium and fat. Most likely, this will only happen if regulation makes it happen. Laws that require display of nutrition information at restaurants might also help! This doesn't mean that nobody should ever eat pizza again. It does mean, though, that we should eat it sparingly. We can also be thoughtful about the pizza we eat. Instead of ordering pizza, families can try making their own. Premade pizza crusts are widely available. We can use them to make healthy pizzas with less fat and more vegetables and lean meats. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Obesity has reached epidemic levels in the United States, harming our health and our economy.  So need to do everything possible to make sure that all of us, especially our children, have the healthiest diet possible. Studies like this one help us take a closer look at our diet. I hope we will make changes that help us all.]]>
Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:23:00 -0500
Study: Vaccine Reduces Rotavirus Illness Young children whose doctors vaccinate most children against rotavirus are less likely to get sick...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? Vaccines work! Lots of parents do understand the value of vaccination. They want to be sure their children get all the vaccines they need. And they take steps to do it on time.   But many children still do not get them all. Every year children end up with severe illnesses from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines. Sometimes they even die. One example is the rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus causes vomiting and diarrhea, which can be severe. Only 2 out of 3 infants get the vaccine. How come more infants are not receiving it? Some suggested reasons include:
  • The tight schedule for first dose of vaccine (between 6 and 14 weeks of age)
  • Concerns about vaccine safety
  • Cost of the vaccine
  • Concern about how much health insurance will pay
More and more infants have received the rotavirus vaccine each year since it was first licensed in 2006. Fewer and fewer infants are being put into the hospital because of this infection. It seems to be working. But how well? A new study in the journal Pediatrics looked at this question. Researchers compared the rates of rotavirus vaccination and disease in infants from three groups of doctors' offices.
  • One group where almost all infants get rotavirus vaccine (high coverage)
  • Another group where hardly any infants get this vaccine (low coverage)
  • A third group where some infants do and some do not get it (medium coverage)
Researchers checked how much laboratory-confirmed rotavirus was seen in infants and toddlers from these three groups between 2009 and 2011. Rotavirus was found to cause vomiting and diarrhea in:
  • 10% of the high coverage group
  • 13% in the medium coverage group
  • 32% in the low coverage group
The more infants who got the vaccine, the less rotavirus disease was found. The researchers showed that this vaccine clearly does work. What Changes Can I Make Now? The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the rotavirus vaccine for all babies. It will protect them from this serious disease.It also will help stop the spread of rotavirus to others. The vomiting caused by rotavirus leads to water loss (dehydration). This can be very dangerous, especially to infants. Some need hospital care. Some even may die. But the vaccine is very good at preventing vomiting and diarrhea caused by rotavirus.
  • Almost all babies who get the vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus diarrhea.
  • Most babies will not get rotavirus diarrhea at all.
  • The vaccine does not prevent diarrhea caused by other germs.
Rotavirus vaccine is taken by mouth. It is not given as a shot. Two brands are available. One requires 2 doses for protection. The other requires 3 doses. There are no other major differences between these 2 vaccines. Your baby gets the doses at these ages:
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months (if needed)
Infants must receive all recommended doses of this vaccine in their first 6 months of life. It can be given at the same time as other recommended vaccines. Some parents may not vaccinate their young infant because of concerns about the safety of this vaccine. Do not worry! This vaccine was carefully studied in large numbers of infants for years before it was licensed for routine use. Health officials continue to keep track of any side effects that occur each year. Most side effects are mild. Rotavirus vaccination has been linked with a slight increase in bowel blockage. This type of blockage naturally occurs in about 1 out of 3,000 infants. Another 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 infants develop such a blockage soon after receiving rotavirus vaccine. The benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh this small risk. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Both families and doctors need to learn more about this vaccine, to be sure everyone knows how well it works. All infants also must get this vaccine at the right ages.   When all babies get all recommended doses, there should be less rotavirus spread around communities. Then we can expect fewer cases of serious rotavirus disease each year.]]>
Mon, 12 Jan 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Study: Kids with Bedroom Cellphone Sleep Less Cellphones and other "small screen" devices in the bedroom may be just as likely to...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? If your child has a cellphone or a device such as the iPod Touch, keep it out of the child's bedroom at night. That's the bottom line of a new study. It was just released in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A group of researchers wondered whether "small screens" have the same effect as "big screens" (TV) when it comes to disturbing sleep. We've known for some time now that children who have TVs in their bedrooms get less sleep than those who don't. This is a problem because lack of sleep is linked to all sorts of problems. It increases the risk of obesity, mental health problems, school problems and risk-taking behavior in teens. Sleep plays a role in our immune system, too. And not getting enough sleep can put children at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease as adults. The researchers were concerned that small screens might actually disrupt sleep even more than big screens. They had a few reasons for this worry:
  • Youth interact with small screens. They don't just watch them passively as they do with TV.
  • Youth may want to interact with the screens more, since they are "portals" for talking with friends, watching videos and reading content.
  • They are held close to the face. Therefore, the light effect that can delay melatonin release and make it harder to fall asleep might be stronger with a small screen than with TV.
  • Small screens can make noises even when they aren’t actively being used, such as when there is a new text message.
To study small screens and sleep, the researchers looked at on questionnaires filled out by more than 2,000 fourth and seventh graders in some Massachusetts public schools. They asked about use of these devices, how long people slept and whether their sleep was disrupted. They also asked about use of TV and DVDs. Here is what the researchers found:
  • More than half of the youth slept with a small screen nearby. Broken down by grade, it was 65% of seventh graders and 46% of fourth graders.
  • Three-quarters of both groups had a TV in the bedroom.
  • Sleeping with a small screen nearby led to 20 minutes less sleep per weekday night.
  • Having a TV in the bedroom led to 18 minutes less sleep per weekday night.
  • Youth who slept with a small screen nearby were 39% more likely to feel that they didn't get enough rest or sleep than those without small screens in the bedroom. 
What Changes Can I Make Now? It can be hard to get children or teens to part with their cellphones at night, but that's exactly what they need to do.  Sleep is too important to physical and mental well-being to put at risk. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, phones and iPods simply do not need to be nearby while youth sleep. Make sure they are charging elsewhere. While you are at it, get the TV out of the bedroom. There's no good reason for that, either. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Cellphone and smartphone use has become so widespread in such a short period of time that it is changing our lives. Most of the changes are good. But many, such as sleep deprivation, are not. We need more studies like these to help us understand the effects of technology on our daily lives and our health -- and help us find the best and safest ways to use our devices.]]>
Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:14:00 -0500
Study: Mom's Depression Linked to Risky Behavior in Teens Teenagers whose mothers were depressed when the teens were between 6 and 10 years old are more... What's the Doctor's Reaction? Mothers of school aged-children who are depressed should get help. Not just for themselves, but to keep their children from getting into trouble as teenagers. That's the message from a study just released in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers from Canada looked at data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. They followed almost 3,000 pairs of mothers and their children starting in 1994-1995, when the children were in preschool, until 2008-2009, when they were 16-17 years old. Every 2 years, the researchers asked the mothers about symptoms of depression. They also asked the parents and children themselves about risky teen behaviors, such as using drugs, drinking alcohol, getting into fights or getting in trouble with the police. The researchers found that when mothers were depressed during their children's mid-childhood years (6 to 10 years old), their children were more likely to engage in risky behaviors as teenagers -- and to start them at an earlier age. Any exposure to maternal depression had some effect, but the exposure during mid-childhood had the biggest effect. The authors of the study point out that middle childhood is a crucial time in the cognitive, social and emotional development of children. This is when they are starting school, building relationships and finding their way in the world. When mothers are depressed, not only does this create stress for the child, but it gets in the way of the mother's ability to support and nurture the child at this important time. What Changes Can I Make Now? It's common and understandable for parents with depression to think of it as just their problem. This study underlines what we've known for a while: depression is absolutely their child's problem as well. We know that when mothers of infants are depressed, it affects the development of their babies. This isn't surprising, as so much of infant development depends on the interactions between caregivers and babies. Depressed mothers don't interact as much as mothers who aren't depressed. We've also known that teens of depressed mothers are more likely to get into trouble. This new study shows us that middle childhood is a crucial time, and that what happens then has a big influence on what happens in the teen years. All of this makes the point extremely clear: mothers (and fathers) who are suffering from depression need to get help. They should talk to their primary care doctors and get a referral for treatment. This could be therapy or medication or both. If treatment isn't helping, they should let their doctor know. Although it can take a little while to get the treatment right, depression is a treatable illness. Another big message of this study is that while taking risks is part of being a teen, parents have everything to do with whether that risk-taking gets dangerous or harmful. Parents truly can be the anti-drug, not just by taking care of their own mental health, but by communicating with their teens, building a strong relationship, and by being a good role model. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Hopefully this study, and others like it, will not just spur depressed parents to get help, but also help increase awareness that we need to have enough mental health resources to get them that help. We owe it to those who are suffering from depression, as well as their children.]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:04:00 -0500 Study: Moms Using Devices Talk to Kids Less Mothers who use their smartphones and tablets at the dinner table are less likely to interact with...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? The next time you are with your children and start thinking about reaching for your phone to check your e-mails or look at Facebook, think again. While it might not seem like a big deal, it actually could be. Researchers from Boston University watched mothers and their children at the dinner table. They measured the mothers' mobile device use, and also their interactions with their children. Compared with mothers who didn't use their devices during dinner, mothers who did use them:
  • Talked with their children 20% less often
  • Had other interactions with them 39% less often
  • Showed less encouragement of their children
  • Talked with their children 26% less often when new foods were introduced, which can be stressful for children
  • Interacted with their children in other ways 48% less often when offering new foods
Why does this matter? Well, talking with children at mealtime matters. In fact, family dinners where parents and children talk to each other have been linked to:
  • A lower risk of obesity
  • Fewer risky behaviors among teens
  • Bigger vocabularies for young children
Other interactions matter, too. They are part of building strong relationships. And strong relationships with parents make all the difference for children. They are the biggest protective factor against psychosocial stress. Children need to feel like they can rely on and talk to their parents, and feel like their parents support them. This helps to prevent depression, anxiety and other such problems. What Changes Can I Make Now? The change is simple: put down the phone. Not that you can't pick it up at all, but it shouldn't take your attention from your child.  If you really need to check something in that moment, explain to your child what you are doing, do what you absolutely need to do, and then put the phone down. Most of the things parents do with their phones around their children can wait until later. Most of the time, it's boredom or habit or compulsion that has people reaching for their phones. And that's something our children need us to stop doing. Instead, talk with your children. Ask them about their day. Talk about what you see around you. Talk about whatever it is they would like to talk about. Talk about anything -- but talk. And give them your full, loving attention. That is what they want and need most of all. If you have older children with cell phones, make sure that mealtimes and other family times are cell-phone-free -- because older children need their parents, too. And that makes it all the more important that parents put their cell phones down, in order to set a good example and keep things fair. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? People use their mobile devices, including smart phones, everywhere. That's why we need to pay attention to this study and others like it. We need to be careful and thoughtful about the effects mobile devices can have on our children and our relationships -- because they matter more than any device.]]>
Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:59:00 -0500
More Young Children Getting Flu Vaccine The proportion of children under age 5 getting flu vaccine each year increased sharply after the...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? Starting in 2008, the flu vaccine was recommended for all children 6 months of age and older every year. What was the impact of this new policy? The results of a new study help to answer this question. The journal Pediatrics published the article. The study focused on children ages 6 through 59 months in Davidson County, Tennessee. Researchers looked at this age group for each year between 2000 and 2011. That was both before and after the flu vaccine was recommended for nearly all children. The pandemic during the 2009-2010 influenza season was accounted for as an exception in the analysis.  This study looked at how many children each flu season:
  • Got the flu vaccine
  • Went to the emergency room because of the flu
  • Ended up in the hospital with the flu
The researchers found that the number of children who:
  • Got the flu vaccine went up from 6% (in 2000-2001) to 38% (in 2010-2011)
  • Had a visit to the emergency room went up
  • Had to stay overnight in a hospital went down slightly
It was encouraging to learn that so many more children got the flu vaccine. But more than half were still not vaccinated in any given flu season during the study years. There is much more room for improvement in protecting as many children as possible from the flu. This study also raised a question. If more children got the flu vaccine, why did flu-related ER visits actually go up? Maybe the ER was used more often because flu viruses that are common in some years cause more severe flu illness than others. Parents also may have learned more about the risks of the flu. This may have worried them enough to bring their children to the ER just to be safe. Flu still causes a large amount of illness among young children. The authors point out that with more children getting the vaccine, less flu illness is likely. Of course, this depends on several factors, including:
  • How much flu is around
  • How many people in an area are protected
  • Whether the virus strains circulating in a community match those covered by the vaccine
What Changes Can I Make Now? The flu season is here. Everyone must take steps to prevent flu-related illness. I hope that your children (and you) already have received the flu vaccine. Being vaccinated is the best way to be protected against the flu. Ask your doctor about the different types of flu vaccines. Check which one is best for you and your children. Flu vaccine should be given to:
  • All children 6 months of age and older. This includes infants born early (preterm) and children with medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from the flu.
  • All women who are pregnant, are thinking about pregnancy, have recently had a baby or are breastfeeding during the flu season. Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant.
  • All people who take care of any healthy child younger than 5 or a child of any age with a high-risk condition. This approach also helps protect all infants less than 6 months of age, since they are too young to get flu shots.
Keep in mind these day-to-day tips that can prevent the spread of the flu:
  • Wash hands often with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your hands.
  • Wipe noses with disposable tissues.
  • Try not to touch eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Keep sick children away from others.
  • Regularly wipe down all surfaces, including toys, with a virus-killing disinfectant.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
Watch out for symptoms of the flu in your family. These include cough, runny nose or sore throat and fever. If symptoms start, please ask your doctor early on whether an antiviral medicine might help. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Experts will continue to recommend the flu vaccine for all children beginning at 6 months of age. They will keep tracking how many children actually receive the vaccine each season. Getting the vaccine lowers the chance a child will have a serious problem with the flu. Public health experts also will look into how and why some flu viruses can be so severe in even healthy children. Researchers continue to count the number of children going to the ER. They also count how many are admitted to the hospital with the flu. This helps show the impact of getting the flu vaccine.   Advice for the public may need to be adjusted from time to time. Flu viruses often change from one flu season to the next. Therefore, flu vaccines are made each year to match the flu viruses expected to cause illness. Expect doctors to talk with you about the latest updates in flu viruses and vaccines.]]>
Mon, 08 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0500
Despite Risk, Half of Babies Use Soft Bedding More than half of families use soft bedding for sleeping infants, despite warnings that the...                    What Is the Doctor's Reaction? The number of babies dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is going down. But the number of babies dying from other sleep-related causes has gone up. The use of bedding over and under an infant for sleep is unsafe, but still very common. A new study in the journal Pediatrics looked at whether and how often parents used bedding. Almost 19,000 parents were surveyed by telephone between 1993 and 2010. They were asked about:
  • How their babies slept
  • Where their babies slept
  • The type of bedding used
The authors found that the use of bedding went down from 86% to 55% during the 17 years studied.  But many parents still use blankets or pillows with their babies today. When parents were asked about bedding, the authors found that:
  • It was used the most for babies who slept
    • In adult beds
    • On their sides
    • In a shared sleeping place
  • Thick blankets, quilts and comforters were used most to cover the baby
  • Blankets and cushions were most often placed under the baby
  • Pillows and sleeping bags were used less often than other bedding
The researchers also found differences based on age, race and education. Mothers who used bedding were most likely younger than 20, not white and not college educated. Some mothers have heard that bedding is unsafe for a baby. Yet many still use it because they:
  • Think the baby would be more comfortable with it
  • Do not think bedding under a baby can be as dangerous as bedding over a baby
  • Use pillows to block the baby's fall from a bed or sofa
  • See ads in magazines showing babies with blankets
  • Think it is okay if blankets are used only below the baby's neck
  • Think that blankets with regular holes (crocheted) are safe
The researchers point out the importance of all parents knowing safe sleep habits for their babies. Soft objects or loose blankets should NOT be anywhere near where babies sleep. What Changes Can I Make Now? Do not use any bedding under or over your newborn when he or she sleeps. It is very dangerous. Soft objects, such as a pillow, can block the airway. So can loose bedding, such as a blanket or quilt.They increase the risk of:
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Choking
  • Strangling
  • Smothering
Be sure to follow advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help prevent baby injury or death.
  • Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. The AAP recommends that babies sleep only on their backs. Never on the side. Never facedown on the tummy. This protects babies from being smothered or dying from SIDS.
  • Share your room, but not the bed. The AAP recommends that parents share a room if they want, but NOT a bed. When sharing a bed, parents can roll onto babies. The baby can get tangled in the blankets.
  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface. Never put your baby to sleep on a chair, sofa, waterbed or cushion. Car seats and other sitting devices also are not recommended spots for sleep.
  • Keep the crib clear of any objects. Put the baby in a safe sleeping place without any objects nearby. Cover the mattress with a fitted sheet. Do not put pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, crib bumpers or toys in the crib. They can smother or choke a baby.
  • Do not let your baby get overheated. Avoid covering the baby's head.Use clothing that keeps your baby warm without covering the head. Do not dress your baby in extra layers.
  • Do not use special products that are marketed to lower the chance of SIDS. Heart monitors, wedges, positioners and special mattresses have not been proven to lower the risk of SIDS.
Keep these important tips in mind, too:
  • Breastfeed your baby. This lowers the risk of SIDS.
  • Consider letting your baby suck on a pacifier when sleeping. This also may lower the risk of SIDS.
  • Keep your home and car smoke-free.
  • Stay away from smokers and places where people smoke.
  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy and after delivery.
  • Let your baby play on her tummy only when she is awake and you can watch her closely.
  • Stay up to date with all of your baby's vaccines.
  • Make sure all caregivers -- Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, babysitters -- know how to prevent SIDS and other sleep-related injuries.
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Expect your pediatrician to talk with you about ways to prevent injury or death from bedding. Educating parents will lead to safer sleep practices for babies and prevent many deaths. More programs to spread awareness about safe sleeping for infants need to be developed and studied. One good resource is the Safe to Sleep campaign from the U.S. government.]]>
Mon, 01 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0500