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 Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Study: Kids Don't Move Much in Preschool Young children may not get much physical activity in a day at preschool, a new study finds. The... Young children may not get much physical activity in a day at preschool, a new study finds. The study included nearly 100 preschool children from 10 child-care centers. Researchers spent 4 full days at each center, watching the children. The kids also wore devices to measure their physical activity. On average, kids spent only 48 minutes a day in active physical play. About 33 minutes of that was outdoor play. About 10 minutes was led by the teacher. In all, 73% of the children's typical day was spent sitting or lying down. About 13% was spent in light activity and 14% in moderate to vigorous activity. Experts recommend at least an hour of adult-led, structured physical activity each day for children this age. They also recommend another hour of unstructured free play. The journal Pediatrics published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it May 18.                      What Is the Doctor's Reaction?  When I ask parents about the exercise their children get, the most common answer I hear is: "They exercise in school."   Most children don't get much exercise in elementary school and above. With increasing academic demands, gym classes are getting squeezed out. They usually total just one or two hours a week, if that. But most parents of preschoolers, and most people in general, would assume that preschool is different. Given that there are relatively few academic demands, they would assume that preschoolers get lots of exercise.  They would be wrong.  The journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, just published a study about exercise in preschool. Researchers from Seattle observed 98 children from 10 child-care centers. They watched what the children did. They also had the children wear accelerometers. These devices measured how physically active they were.  It turns out that they weren't very active at all. Researchers found that the time spent at preschool was: 
  • 73% sedentary (sitting still or lying down)
  • 13% light activity
  • 14% moderate to vigorous physical activity 
The children had chances to be physically active about 48 minutes a day. That's much less than the 120 minutes recommended at this age. Even worse, though, they were moderately or vigorously active less than half that time.  On average, children spent about half an hour each day outside. That's unfortunate for two reasons. It's recommended that preschool children spend more time than that outdoors (about an hour). And being outdoors made a difference. The children were more active then.  What Changes Can I Make Now?  It is very important to choose preschools carefully. Ask lots of questions. Choose a preschool that gets children outside for a significant amount of time each day. The school also should have ample indoor and outdoor space for physical activity. Make sure that the school values physical activity and integrates it well into the school day.  Preschools need to make physical activity a priority. There is ample research to show that it helps to keep children healthy and prevent childhood obesity and other health problems. It even helps them learn. The brains of young children work best when their bodies are active -- and getting a break to run around and play is key.  It's also important that the physical activity be at least partly unstructured. The researchers found that when teachers led the activity, children were less physically active than when they were left to their own devices.  What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?  One-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese. This bodes poorly for their future health and success. Physical activity can make all the difference when it comes to healthy weight. So it's part of our job to be sure that our children get enough physical activity. I hope this study will be a wake-up call for parents of preschoolers as well as those who run or regulate preschools. I hope that people will listen to that call, and make the changes our children need.]]>
Mon, 18 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Poor Kids No Thinner after School-Food Law Since California started restricting foods sold from school vending machines and snack bars,... Since California started restricting foods sold from school vending machines and snack bars, students have become a bit less likely to be overweight. But almost all of the change occurred in high-income neighborhoods, a study found. The study spanned the years 2001 through 2010. In 2004, California banned the sale of sugary drinks and high-fat milk in schools other than high schools. Further restrictions took effect in 2007. This law set limits on fat and sugar content of snack foods sold in schools. The study included 2.7 million fifth graders. Researchers looked at their body mass index, a measurement of weight in relationship to height. The proportion of students who were overweight or obese rose slightly over the whole study period, from 43.5% to 45.8%. But the growth was halted or reversed in the years after the 2 laws took effect. The change was concentrated in high-income areas. For those students, the odds of being overweight or obese dropped about 1% a year. In other areas, the trends remained flat. The journal JAMA Pediatrics published the study May 4. The Los Angeles Times wrote about it.                     What Is the Doctor's Reaction?  Limiting the sale of junk food and soda at school can help fight childhood obesity. But it doesn't help all children.  That's the bottom line of a study just released in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers looked at the rates of childhood obesity in public elementary schools, specifically among fifth graders. They compared rates before and after the schools implemented policies on "competitive foods and beverages," those sold in schools, but outside of the regular school meals.  Overall, rates of overweight and obesity rose, from 43.5% in 2001 to 45.8% in 2010. However, it did seem like the policies had a positive effect, though it was small. But here's the thing: this effect was seen only in upper-income neighborhoods. It wasn't seen among children living in lower-income areas.   There are many reasons that this could be true. One likely reason is that children living in lower-income areas had more access to junk food and sweetened drinks near their schools. This has been shown to increase childhood obesity. Schools in low-income neighborhoods have also had more difficulty creating chances for students to be active for the recommended one hour each day. This has been much easier for schools in higher-income areas.  Low-income families also may have more difficulties providing healthy meals for their children. It's well documented that fresh produce is harder to find in poor neighborhoods. Healthier diets also may cost more.  These families may also have difficulty affording after-school sports. Because of job schedules, they also may be less able to create chances for active play. Perhaps all of these factors overshadow any benefit from changing what foods and drinks are sold at school.  What Changes Can I Make Now?  Given the health effects of obesity, all schools and communities should take a good, hard look at what foods students can get in or near schools. We should do everything possible to ensure that children have the healthiest diets possible.  Communities may want to look at zoning laws as one way to reduce the number of places that sell unhealthy foods near schools.   We should also be doing everything possible to be sure that children are active, no matter what their income background. This is a social justice issue. No child should ever be condemned to obesity based on a ZIP code.  If you are a parent, be aware of what your children eat during the day. Many parents send money with their children and have no idea what they buy with it, or whether they go to a fast food restaurant after school. You can set rules about what your children are allowed to buy and eat during the school day. Consider sending them to school with healthy snacks and lunches whenever possible.  What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?  Obese children are more likely to grow into obese adults. Obese adults tend to have more health problems (including mental health) and economic problems. We owe it to our children to prevent childhood obesity. Given the economic impacts, we have a responsibility to our country as well.  Many factors contribute to childhood obesity. There is no silver bullet, no one simple way to prevent it from happening. That's why it's important to go at it from every angle, and not stop until we see progress.]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 14:19:00 -0400 More Newborns Treated for Drug Withdrawal The number of newborns getting treated for narcotic withdrawal has sharply increased in the last... The number of newborns getting treated for narcotic withdrawal has sharply increased in the last decade, a new study suggests. The study looked at neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is a group of symptoms that affect newborns who were exposed to narcotics in the womb. These can be illegal drugs such as heroin. They also can be prescription opioid drugs such as oxycodone. In 2004, 7 of every 1,000 newborns were treated in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for this condition. By 2013, that had risen to 27 of every 1,000. These newborns also stayed longer in the hospital. They accounted for 7 times as many NICU days in 2013 as in 2004. The average hospital stay rose from 13 to 19 days. The study was based on information from 299 NICU units in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study online April 26. Study results also were presented at a conference that day. HealthDay News wrote about the study.                     What Is the Doctor's Reaction?  Pregnant women should be very careful about which medicines they take for pain during their pregnancies.  In a study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at the records of almost 700,000 newborns. They found that more than 10,000 of them had neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS.  NAS is what happens to many babies who were exposed before birth to a type of medicine called opioids.  Opioids include medicines such as Oxycontin or Vicodin. They are commonly prescribed for pain. They also can be addictive and are often abused.  What is particularly worrisome is that NAS is on the rise. Between 2004 and 2013, it went from 7 cases to 27 cases per 1,000 newborns. That's nearly a fourfold rise. And the percentage of neonatal intensive care unit days that were used to treat babies with NAS went up sevenfold.  NAS is basically withdrawal from opioids. Babies suffering from NAS are stiffer and more irritable than normal babies. They don't feed well, and therefore don't gain weight well. Occasionally, they can have seizures.  Given medicines and time, babies who have NAS get better. But they have to spend longer in the hospital, which costs a lot. They also get a rough start in life. This can set them back and possibly have long-term effects. In the study, the most common reason (31%) for NAS was that the mother was taking methadone during the pregnancy. Methadone is used to treat drug addiction, especially heroin addiction. Indeed, NAS is often linked with drug addiction. But the second most common reason (24%) was that the mother had been taking opioid painkillers.  The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers has skyrocketed in recent years. Unfortunately, some of them are written for pregnant women. In fact, a survey in Tennessee found that 28% of the pregnant women with Medicaid received at least 1 prescription for an opioid pain reliever during their pregnancies. What Changes Can I Make Now?  If you are pregnant, please do not take opioid medicines unless it's absolutely necessary. If you are having pain, or will be having surgery, talk to your doctor about how to manage your pain in a way that is safest for your baby.  Because these medicines are so addictive, many people become dependent on them. If this has happened to you and you are pregnant, talk to your doctor. Addiction isn't something that people like to talk about, let alone admit, but the health of your baby is at stake.  It's also important that the partners, family and friends of pregnant women be aware of this problem. Sometimes they are the best ones to speak up, give support -- and make a difference. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?  With opioid addiction on the rise, it's likely that the number of babies with NAS will rise, too. Studies like this one draw attention to the youngest, most vulnerable and totally innocent victims of opioid addiction. Perhaps they will help galvanize us to fight this addiction and end it.]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Ideas to Help Children Swallow Pills It can be hard to teach kids to swallow pills, but a few techniques can be helpful, a study shows.... It can be hard to teach kids to swallow pills, but a few techniques can be helpful, a study shows. The study looked at previous research on pill swallowing among children. Few studies had been done. Researchers found 5 small studies with successful results. Two studies worked on teaching or showing kids how to swallow pills. In one, 17 of 29 children were able to take large capsules for at least 6 months. The other study reported success for all but 1 of 23 children. Another study included 67 children who could not swallow pills at first. Of these, 47 learned with the use of specific instructions. Nine others succeeded with the instructions plus a small pill cup. A study of 11 children helped 7 of them to swallow small candies with the aid of a throat spray. Another study taught 33 children the best ways to hold their heads to take pills. After 2 weeks of practice, all were able to swallow pills. The journal Pediatrics published the research review. HealthDay News wrote about it April 20. What Is the Doctor's Reaction?  "That's a hard pill to swallow." There's good reason for that old saying. Swallowing pills can be hard. This is especially true for children. Children may have trouble swallowing pills because they:
    • Get nervous 
    • Are scared 
    • Do not like the way the pill tastes
    • May not know how important it is to take the pill  
The journal Pediatrics just published a review article about different ways that can help children swallow pills. The authors looked at all of the research that has been done on this topic since 1987. They found only 5 studies that included more than 10 children each who had trouble swallowing pills.  The studies looked at different ways that have been tried. They include: 
    • Changing behavior by teaching, showing or reminding children the right way 
    • Using flavored spray that makes the back of the mouth and tongue more slippery 
    • Telling the child simple ideas for swallowing pills 
    • Using a special cup that makes it easier to swallow pills 
    • Teaching children five different ways to hold their heads 
In all of the studies, these different ways worked well for most of the children. Some even helped children as young as 2 years old. These younger patients may learn to swallow pills more easily because they do not have bad memories of taking pills in the past.  These studies show that most children can beat their pill-swallowing problems. This is very important. Children who need medicine must be able to follow the doctor's advice.  The authors point out that they found only a handful of studies published during the last 26 years. Plus, these were not the best study designs. The studies also had only small numbers of children. What Changes Can I Make Now?  It is perfectly normal if your child has trouble swallowing pills. The good news is that there are ways you can try to make it easier. 
    1. Place the pill far back on your child's tongue.
    2. Have your child quickly drink water or a favorite drink. Swallow large amounts. This helps focus on the liquid. Drinking quickly through a straw can also help.
    3. Keep the head up straight or bent slightly forward. It can be hard to swallow if the head is bent backward. 
Your child may not like the taste or smell of the pill. Try putting it in something sweet, such as ice cream, applesauce or another soft food.  Sometimes it is OK to split the pill in half. You also might crush it into powder. It depends on the type of medicine. Make sure to check with the doctor first. 
    • To turn a pill into powder, crush it in between two spoons. It might be easier to crush the pill if you wet it with a few drops of water and let it soften for five minutes. Once crushed, mix the powder with syrup, yogurt, applesauce or any sweet food that does not need to be chewed. 
    • Capsules that work slowly over time should not be crushed. Instead, ask your doctor if the medicine inside of them can be opened and put into a sweet food. Make sure the food does not need to be chewed. 
Swallowing pills can get easier with practice. Do this at a time when your child is not sick or cranky. It helps to teach children to swallow pills before they really need them to treat a health problem. One way to practice is with swallowing candies. Start with a tiny one and slowly move on to bigger ones. Try to use candies that will melt quickly if they get stuck. You can also try coating them with butter first.  If none of these tips work, talk with your child's doctor. The doctor might be able to prescribe the medicine in liquid or chewable form. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?  Swallowing a pill is a common problem for children. Expect the doctor to tell you and your child different ways to try doing it. The doctor will share why your child needs to take the medicine.  More research is needed on how to know which children will have a hard time swallowing pills. Children who have a hard time swallowing whenever they eat anything have not yet been studied. I hope that future studies also will be done using larger groups of children.]]>
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Study Links Alcohol in Films, Teen Drinking Teens who have seen a lot of alcohol drinking in movies may be more likely to drink themselves, a... Teens who have seen a lot of alcohol drinking in movies may be more likely to drink themselves, a new study concludes. Researchers used information from a long-term study of British children. When they were 15, about 5,000 of them were asked about how often and how much alcohol they drank. They also were asked about which of 50 popular movies they had seen. Teens were put into groups based on how much alcohol drinking they had seen in these movies. Overall, drinking was common. About 86% of the teens said they had tried alcohol. Nearly half had participated in binge drinking. About 40% said they had had some sort of problem with school, work, friends or police that was related to alcohol. Researchers adjusted their numbers to account for factors other than movie exposure that might make teens more likely to drink. Compared with teens who saw the least drinking in movies, teens who saw the most were about twice as likely to drink at least weekly or have problems linked to alcohol use. They were about 75% more likely to binge-drink. The journal Pediatrics published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it April 13.  What Is the Doctor's Reaction? When youth see people drinking alcohol in movies, it has an effect on them. And that effect may not be one that parents want.  That's the bottom line of a study just released in the journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers from the United Kingdom looked at data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study has kept track of more than 14,000 children since their births in 1991 or 1992.  For this study, researchers looked at answers the youth gave to questions when they were 15 years old. They were asked if they had seen any of 50 popular films. The films included varying amounts of alcohol use. They were also asked about:
  • When they started using alcohol (if they had)
  • Their current alcohol use
  • Whether they did any binge drinking
  • Whether they had problems coming from alcohol use (such as getting into arguments, trouble with police, interfering with work or school etc.)
This study had one particularly useful feature. Researchers controlled very carefully for "confounders." These are other factors that might make youth more or less likely to use alcohol. Some of them include income of the family, behavior problems, whether parents use alcohol and whether parents monitor teens' alcohol use.  Researchers compared youth with very little exposure to alcohol in films to youth with a lot of exposure. Those with a lot of exposure were: 
  • 25% more likely to have tried alcohol
  • 75% more likely to have binged
  • Twice as likely to be drinking weekly or have had problems related to drinking 
What Changes Can I Make Now?  Youth are easily influenced. This is hardly news. And yet, we are not always careful about what they may be exposed to.  What this study underlines is that we do need to be careful.  As the researchers point out, parents really do need to do their homework about alcohol use in films. Then we should be thoughtful about whether or not we want our child to watch the film.  To make this easier, the researchers suggest that films with alcohol use be classified as for adults, not youth. Too often, this is not the case. In fact, the article says that between 1989 and 2008, about 72% of the most popular films in the UK showed alcohol use. But only 6% of them were classified as being for adults only.   It may take a while for movie ratings to change. But in the meantime, parents can use This terrific website offers much more information than ratings do about movies and what is in them. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Media of all types are playing a bigger and bigger role in the lives of our youth. So it's crucial that we think long and hard about the effects.  Studies like this one can help us to make sure that the effects are as positive as possible.]]>
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:47:00 -0400
Breast Milk Bought Online May Not Be Pure Breast milk bought online may contain some cow's milk, a new study finds. In the study, about 10%... Breast milk bought online may contain some cow's milk, a new study finds. In the study, about 10% contained cow's milk. Researchers bought 102 samples of human milk advertised online. They tested the DNA in each sample. DNA in 10 samples showed that they contained at least 10% cow's milk. The authors said sellers could have added the cow's milk to stretch out the amount of breast milk they could sell. A prior study by the same researchers found that milk bought from online sites also may contain germs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend buying milk online. It has not banned the practice, however. Milk banks are another way to obtain breast milk. They test and pasteurize the milk. But they can't supply everyone. They usually are restricted to babies with medical issues. The journal Pediatrics published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it April 6. What Is the Doctor's Reaction? The Internet is great for buying lots of things online. But human breast milk should not be one of them. Some mothers are not able to make enough breast milk. Some mothers just think they are not making enough. These may lead mothers to turn to "milk banks" to get breast milk for their babies. What is a milk bank? Women who make lots of breast milk sometimes donate their extra milk to a milk bank. There, it gets pasteurized. This kills any harmful germs that may be in the breast milk. Unfortunately, there also are websites that sell breast milk. The seller sends the breast milk to the buyer and gets paid for it. This is NOT a safe way to share breast milk. Breast milk bought online can contain bacteria or viruses or chemicals. Breast milk bought online also may be mixed with milk from a cow. Cow's milk is not recommended for babies younger than 1 year old.
  • Babies cannot digest it easily.
  • It does not have the healthy fat that babies need for brain growth.
  • It can be harmful for babies with milk allergies.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at whether breast milk bought online was pure human breast milk. The researchers also checked to see if any cow's milk was mixed into the breast milk. Researchers used about 100 samples of breast milk. They bought the milk from people who advertised on a popular milk-sharing website. The researchers tested each sample for human milk and cow's milk.
  • All 102 samples tested positive for human milk.
  • Eleven out of 102 (11%) samples were mixed with cow's milk.
  • Of these 11 mixed samples, 10 contained at least 10% cow's milk or formula.
The cow's milk found in the samples did not come from what the mother who sold the breast milk had eaten. Data suggest some sellers took human breast milk and mixed in cow's milk-based formula or store-bought cow's milk. The researchers could not find out whether or not it was done on purpose. Mothers (and doctors) should be aware of the risks of online milk sharing. Buyers are not able to check what is in the milk they buy. Mothers who buy from websites may not be getting pure breast milk. This means their babies may not be getting all of the expected benefits of breast milk. What Changes Can I Make Now?  Breast milk sold online is not safe. It can have cow's milk in it. There are other risks, too. A previous study found that most of the breast milk samples bought online had germs in them. Germs could make your baby sick. This is especially dangerous for babies who were born preterm or have immune systems that don't work right. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend feeding your baby breast milk that you buy on the Internet or get from another person. Breast milk should still be the major source of nutrition during the first 12 months of life. Many good things pass from mother to baby with breastfeeding. Breast milk has the perfect balance of nutrients for the baby. Formula is the next best thing. It also can provide these good nutrients. Whenever possible, feed your baby with your own breast milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on how to properly express and store your breast milk. If you have trouble making enough breast milk, speak with your doctor. The doctor can give you advice and also may refer you to a lactation (breastfeeding) specialist. If you do choose to feed your baby human milk other than your own, be careful. It is up to people who buy (or receive) the milk to protect themselves and their infants. 
  • Check first with the doctor about all the nutrients your baby needs.
  • Use only milk from a milk bank that screens its donors.
Milk banks take important steps to make sure the breast milk is safe. Donors are told how best to collect, store and ship milk. The milk also is pasteurized before it is given out. Some states have their own safety guidelines for human milk banks. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America also has safety guidelines for its members. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Expect your doctor to advise you on the risks of:
  • Sharing milk online
  • Giving your baby cow's milk before the age of 1 year
As always, doctors will continue to encourage breastfeeding. It is best to use your own breast milk as much as possible. More research is still needed on the risks of milk sharing. Besides cow's milk, babies may be exposed to germs, toxins and drugs, too.]]>
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0400