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In the News, Parenting, Pediatrics, Sleep

Study: Baby sound machines may be too loud for little ears

Study: Baby sound machines may be too loud for little ears

DSC_0293Sound machines that help babies sleep more soundly are a staple on many new parents’  baby registries (I had a little sheep that mimicked the sounds of rainfall and ocean waves). Well, as you may have read about elsewhere today, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds those soothing sounds may actually do more harm than good. Researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that infant sleep machines can reach sound levels that are hazardous to infant hearing and development. Writer Michelle Healy outlines their findings in an article in USA Today:

When set to their maximum volume:

– All 14 sleep machines [studied] exceeded 50 decibels at 30 cm and 100 cm, the current recommended noise limit for infants in hospital nurseries.

– All but one machine exceeded that recommended noise limit even when placed across the room, 200 centimeters away.

–Three machines produced outputs greater than 85 decibels when placed 30 cm away. If played continuously, as recommended on several parenting websites, infants would be exposed to sound pressure levels that exceed the occupational noise limits for an 8-hour period endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

It’s important to note that the researchers only tested the maximum output levels produced by the sound machines, and not their direct effect on infants. But Nanci Yuan, MD, tells Healy that the study does raise some important concerns:

​Parents “can feel desperate and want to try anything” when a baby has difficulty sleeping, says Nanci Yuan, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

But this research highlights the potential for a previously “unknown harm that can occur,” Yuan says. “We’re getting more and more concerned about issues related to sound and noise and hearing-loss in children because it’s progressive.”

Photo by Margarita Gallardo

Behavioral Science, Mental Health, Stanford News

Study: Bulimics may have difficulty perceiving their own heartbeat

Study: Bulimics may have difficulty perceiving their own heartbeat

3408225331_ce15c66c6b_zNew research published in the December issue of Eating Behaviors shows a possible link between bulimia and the ability to detect one’s own heartbeat. The study found that women who suffered from the eating disorder were less likely to accurately detect their own heartbeat, and thus, may have difficulty detecting other internal cues such as hunger or fullness. From an Inside Stanford Medicine story:

A growing body of literature shows that heightened or suppressed interoception [which is the ability to sense internal body cues] is either a contributor to or a product of many psychiatric disorders. For example, anxiety patients tend to be particularly sensitive to their own heartbeat. They are more likely to accurately detect their own heartbeat than those without anxiety.

This is the first study to use the heartbeat detection task to assess interoception in recovered bulimia nervosa patients, [Megan Klabunde, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research], said. Previous studies have asked participants to rate their own ability to detect hunger and satiety.

Klabunde said it is unclear whether diminished interoception is a contributing factor to the development of the bulimia, or a consequence of repeated binging and purging.

However, she feels that bulimia and other eating disorders are not purely driven by a vain desire for thinness. “I come from a philosophy that, in terms of psychiatric disorders, symptoms are there for a reason. And if we don’t understand the symptom, it means we need to research it better,” Klabunde said.

Klabunde plans to continue to study interoception in the context of eating disorders and says this work could lead to potential new therapies for eating disorders. “The body is clearly involved in emotional processing,” Klabunde said. “We might have to be more creative in terms of how we address the body in treating psychiatric disorders.”

Previously: Possible predictors of longer-term recovery from eating disorders and Exploring the connection between food and brain function
Photo by sunshinecity

Aging, Health and Fitness, Stanford News

Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary death

Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary death

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There’s nothing positive about a sedentary lifestyle. Little or no physical activity can lead to worrisome health conditions, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and to premature death. With more people living longer than before, the value of exercise is a message that needs to be reinforced, especially among the aging population.

In a Q&A for the current issue of Stanford Medicine Newsletter, Carol Wingard, MD, former clinical director of the Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center at Stanford, discusses why it’s important for older adults to stay active and prevent age-related decline. She also explains:

We all start adult life with a certain amount of muscle, though men start out with more than women because of testosterone.

So over time there is a gradual loss of muscle that begins in the 20s. Men and women lose muscle at the same rate, but women start at a lower level. Because women start with less muscle mass, they tend to arrive at the disability threshold—the point at which it becomes difficult to carry groceries or go up the stairs—much earlier than men. That is part of why so many women are frail.

There also is a certain amount of age-related decline. A 60-year-old super-elite trained athlete may be able to run as fast as a 20-year-old, but that crossover happens physiologically between 60 and 70. However, all of us can reverse the degree of decline through exercise. Cardiovascular, strength, balance and flexibility exercises also can help prevent falls.

Wingard recommends to start slowly, especially for older patients who haven’t exercised for a while. “For someone who is able to walk, I suggest walking five minutes three times a day for a week or two. Then add one minute every week. That’s a very cheap, readily available way of doing it.”

Previously: Is standing healthier than sitting?How sedentary behavior affects your healthStudy shows frequent breaks from sitting may improve heart health, weight lossSeries looks at the physiology of sedentary behavior and Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior
Photo by .v1ctor Casale

Medical Education, Stanford News

Free, online Stanford course on science writing opens this week

Free, online Stanford course on science writing opens this week

The School of Medicine has launched its fourth free MOOC (massive open online course), this one called SciWrite: Writing in the Sciences. The eight-week course is being taught by Stanford’s Kristin Sainani, PhD, and aims to turn scientists into more effective writers. Topics range from issues in publication and peer review to communicating science for lay audiences, and this week’s focus is on “principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter).”

You can join the class through its webpage.

Previously: Can massive open online courses change health care?, A call to fix the “crisis of communication” in science, Challenging scientists to better communicate their ideas to the
public
, Want to become a better science communicator? Try explaining science to a child and A conversation about the importance of conveying complex scientific concepts to broad audiences

Aging, Medicine and Society, Public Health, Stanford News

Soliciting young minds to help older adults

Soliciting young minds to help older adults

The young helping the elderly is not a new practice, but designing products aimed at the aging population might be a novel idea. An article in today’s Stanford Report highlights the Stanford Center on Longevity’s Design Challenge, a contest “focused on cognitive impairments – trouble with remembering things, concentration, learning new things or making decisions,” and is aimed at encouraging students to “work toward solutions that help keep people who are affected by these issues independent as long as possible.”

As Brooke Donald reports:

According to most surveys, more than 80 percent of older adults want to “age in place,” meaning they want to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

“It’s a hard topic to solve for, but we hope to get really unique designs that can eventually be put into the marketplace,” said Ken Smith, director of the Mobility Division at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Smith said challenging twentysomethings to come up with solutions for an older generation puts the students in a different mindset than usual – “one they may not necessarily jump to when they think about designing products” – but one they will definitely need to think of at some point in their lives.

“The aging of our society is going to affect younger people as much as older people, so we think there’s an educational value to getting design teams engaged in this issue,” Smith said.

The design competition will have its formal kickoff event on Tuesday and is currently accepting submissions for Phase I of the challenge.

Previously: A look at the benefits of an aging society and The effects of an aging planet

Humor, Research

A flowchart for debating scientific studies?

A flowchart for debating scientific studies?

Nerd alert: I love flowcharts. They can be used to learn the structure of an organization, find a solution to a problem, or determine if all connections really do lead back to actor Kevin Bacon. I’ve even used them as a self-diagnosis tool (allergies or sinus infection?). Well, it turns out flowcharts may also be useful when it comes to research. Dylan Matthews at WashingtonPost.com’s Wonkblog has come up with one for scientific studies called “How to argue with research you don’t like.”

The argument guide provides readers with a range of reasoned responses in a debate, from “This is a major contribution of unparalleled rigor” to “I urge you to tell the thousands this program has helped that it has failed to make their lives better.” You might want to put a few in your pocket.

Via i09.com

Global Health, Nutrition, Stanford News

Hoping to end hidden hunger through food fortification

Hoping to end hidden hunger through food fortification

3513915682_5fddf68c11_nHidden hunger is defined as a “chronic lack of vitamins and minerals that can lead to mental impairment, poor health and productivity, or even death.” A story in the summer issue of Stanford Business highlights the efforts of David and Stephanie Dodson, both alums of Stanford GSB, in bringing fortified foods to developing countries, where hidden hunger is an epidemic. In 2000, the Dodsons visited Honduras and were aghast by the number of  children suffering from neural tube defects – one of the common consequences of micronutrient deficiency. That trip led to the creation of Project Healthy Children:

Today, PHC’s small staff is on the ground in five countries, where they conduct research, assist governments in passing food-fortification laws, help food manufacturers find financing, and offer advice on how to create reliable nutrient-monitoring systems.

These efforts have helped combat nutritional deficiencies in the urban locations where PHC operates. But conventional food fortification does not reach rural areas, leaving the populations there at risk. “You can pass all the laws you want, but you’re not reaching the most vulnerable people,” says Stephanie Dodson.

So six years ago, PHC began developing technology that they hope will help reach the 1 billion people with no access to centrally processed foods. The new device, created in collaboration with students from Stanford’s Design for Extreme Affordability class and currently being field-tested in Nepal and East Africa, is an automated, one-size-fits-all dosifier that dispenses iron, folic acid, and vitamin A into cereal grains, and fits into any type of mill hopper. It costs just $500.

Thanks to a grant from FARM Fund, a social-entrepreneurship investment vehicle started by fellow Stanford GSB alum Thomas Bird, PHC is in the process of creating for-profit entity Sanku to commercialize the technology. If successful, it could fund PHC’s food-fortification expenses — and the technology itself could reach more than 100 million people. “I know the number sounds incredible, but that’s only 10% penetration,” says David Dodson, who is president of PHC.

The Dodsons say they plan to expand their efforts to reach more populations in need:

By 2017, PHC hopes to have reached 70 million people in seven countries through conventional food fortification, and as many as 100 million through small-scale fortification. It is well on its way. By year’s end, PHC will have completed its mission in Rwanda and Malawi, where its food-fortification efforts have reached 15 million people. “That’s our biggest success yet,” [David] Dodson says. In other words, PHC is halfway home.

Previously: Malnourished infants grow into impoverished adults, study showsBetter school lunches – in China and New photography exhibit casts light on what starvation and abundance look like
Photo by TheFutureIsUnwritten

Infectious Disease, Pediatrics, Public Health, Stanford News

Tips for parents on back-to-school vaccinations

Tips for parents on back-to-school vaccinations

7737220200_ca6e4dfe0c_nAs summer winds down, parents will soon be scrambling to get their kids ready for a new school year, and Yvonne Maldonado, MD, chief of infectious disease at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, is encouraging parents to get vaccinations checked off their list before school starts. In a hospital news release, Maldonado answers vaccination questions and discusses the importance of getting children up to date on their shots. She says:

The major danger is that children will be exposed to diseases that the vaccines protect against. These are diseases that can be deadly, or can keep children at home and unable to go to school or after-school activities. And, they can be transmitted to other children as well.

…..

I believe the whole vaccine schedule is very important, not only to protect a child from infection during the first few years of life, but also as he or she grows. More information on immunization schedules can be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. These recommended vaccines are carefully reviewed by the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration several times per year. Follow your pediatrician’s recommended vaccine schedule to be sure that your child is up to date on all of his or her immunizations against these dangerous diseases – for example, measles and whooping cough – which can cause major sickness and death in children. It is a well-established schedule, which is published every year and is also built into all well-child visits.

Maldonado’s comments follow a recent report showing that measles is on the rise in the U.S.

Previously: Washington state starts school year with tougher requirements for vaccine exemptions, Vaccination could eliminate chicken pox-related deaths in the U.S., How to save $83 billion? Vaccinate, A look at the causes and potential cost of the U.S. measles outbreaks and Unvaccinated children may pose a public health risk
Photo by Redcorn Studios [Matt]

 

 

Public Health, Research, Technology

Study highlights social media’s potential as a public-health tool

Study highlights social media's potential as a public-health tool

We’ve written before about the use of social media to raise awareness about health-related issues or bring people together for a common cause. Today’s Health Care Communication News offers a look at a recent study that adds evidence to the power of social media as a public-health tool. In the study, Johns Hopkins University researchers showed how Facebook, after offering users a way to share their organ-donor status and adding links to make it easy to sign up as a donor, saw a 21.2-fold increase in new online donor registrations in one day.

From the article:

“It’s the power of social networking as a source for public good,” said study leader Dr. Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon and Johns Hopkins University associate professor of surgery.

There certainly is a need for organ donors. According to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are about 120,000 people on organ waiting lists, and 96,000 are waiting for kidneys alone. The Johns Hopkins University researchers said average daily organ donor registrations total 616 nationwide.

It is a great gift to sign up as an organ donor in the event of death, no doubt. But now the power of social networks, including Facebook, can help increase the number of live organ donations, like giving a kidney to a friend or relative.

“In that area, it will be a game changer,” said David Fleming, CEO of Donate Life America, which is based in Richmond, Va.

Previously: Using Facebook to prevent HIV among at-risk groupsCan social media improve the mental health of disaster survivors?, Facebook may grant researchers access to study data, Recognizing mental health problems through FacebookFacebook application aims to raise awareness, prevent cervical cancer and Stanford faculty and students launch social media campaign to expand bone marrow donor registry 

Patient Care, Pregnancy, Stanford News, Women's Health

A reminder that prenatal care is key to a healthy pregnancy

A reminder that prenatal care is key to a healthy pregnancy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back on my two pregnancies, I feel fortunate to have had such great prenatal care, especially since I developed gestational diabetes the second time around. Through early detection, I was able to get the education and counseling I needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy and carry my daughter to full term.

In a new BeWell Q&A, Daychin Campbell, childbirth educator and coordinator at the Stanford Center for Continuing Medical Education in the School of Medicine, highlights the importance of prenatal care and its significance in helping women reduce the risk of premature births and other pregnancy-related complications, such as diabetes and preeclampsia. As noted in the piece, one in eight babies in the U.S. is born prematurely, and premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death and long-term disability.

Campbell points out there have been many great advances in prenatal care over the last several decades:

When receiving prenatal care, pregnant mothers can get advice and information on nutrition and exercise for a healthy pregnancy, control pre-existing conditions or pregnancy-related conditions that can complicate pregnancy, and make sure that the baby is growing and developing appropriately. Pregnant women/couples should feel that they can ask their healthcare provider any questions during these visits. Parents-to-be, especially first-timers, should know that no question or concern is stupid or unreasonable. I was pregnant with my daughter 32 years ago and I can’t recall anything special I did other than a glucose test to check for gestational diabetes and giving up coffee. By contrast, today there are numerous tests and procedures about which women/couples may have questions!

She also says there are many available resources for expectant mothers, but women often don’t know they exist:

I also believe that pregnant women often need support during pregnancy, but perhaps don’t even know where to find it. Taking a prenatal yoga or other exercise class during pregnancy is a great way to meet other pregnant women, plus it can help with handling stress and preparing for labor. For those women with depression or anxiety during pregnancy (either brought on by pregnancy or a woman’s pre-pregnancy clinical condition), there are options for finding help. Locally, there is El Camino Hospital’s Maternal Outreach Mood Services program, as well as Pregnancy as Postpartum Moods and Challenges weekly group at Blossom Birth in Palo Alto.

Previously: Researchers develop new method for predicting preterm labor, New research center aims to understand premature birthDevice designed to better detect preterm laborAre women getting the message about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?Could exercise before and during early pregnancy lower risk of pre-eclampsia? and Expectant dads could benefit from support, attention
Photo by Daquella manera

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