Check in with us as we feature the latest trends, research and news in medicine, health and science. A team of Star Tribune staffers will aggregate updates from news wires, websites, magazines and medical journals.

Massive red tide threatens Florida

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: August 11, 2014 - 3:50 PM

The largest red tide bloom seen in Florida in nearly a decade has killed thousands of fish in the Gulf of Mexico and may pose a greater health threat if it washes ashore as expected in the next two weeks.

The patchy bloom stretches from the curve of the Panhandle to the central Tampa Bay region. It measures approximately 80 miles (130 km) long by 50 miles (80 km) wide.

Red tide occurs when naturally occurring algae bloom out of control, producing toxins deadly to fish and other marine life. The odorless chemicals can trigger respiratory distress in people, such as coughing and wheezing.

"It could have large impacts if it were to move inshore," said Brandon Basino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). "It has been killing a lot of marine species, especially fish, as it waits offshore."

The agency has received reports of thousands of dead fish, including snapper, grouper, flounder, crabs, bull sharks, eel and octopus. This is the largest bloom seen since 2006.

The phenomenon has existed for centuries, but such a large bloom is being closely monitored in Florida because it could impact beach tourism and commercial fishing.

A smaller red tide bloom, closer to shore, contributed last year to a record number of deaths among Florida manatees, an endangered sea mammal.


Cigarettes down, cigar smoking up

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: August 1, 2014 - 11:12 AM

In the United States, cigarette use declined from 2000 to 2011, but cigar smoking more than doubled during the same period.  

An analysis from the 2012–2013 National Adult Tobacco Survey found that more than one in 20 U.S. adults smoke cigars every day, some days or rarely. This report expands upon those findings, using data from the 2012–2013 NATS to further characterize cigar smokers by the usual type of cigar smoked using the following categories: little filtered cigars, cigarillos/other mass market cigars, and premium cigars. The findings indicate that among U.S. adult cigar smokers, 61.8% usually smoke cigarillos/MMCs, 19.9% usually smoke premium cigars, and the remainder (18.4%) usually smoke little filtered cigars.

For more information, go to the Centers for Disease Control.

Highest calorie Xtreme restaurant meals of 2014

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 31, 2014 - 11:40 AM

At 3,540 calories, it's the "single unhealthiest" meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed for the 2014 edition of its not-very-coveted Xtreme Eating Awards. The awards go to dishes and combos especially high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.

The group found it easier than usual to find nutrition offenders this year, says the center's Paige Einstein, a registered dietitian.

"In the past, our winners have usually had about 1,500 calories," she says. "Most of these dishes have at least 2,000." They often are on menus that feature new, lighter options, too — but "those are much smaller parts of the menu," Einstein says.

While Red Robin gets the top spot, the Cheesecake Factory gets the most — three — for its Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic (2,410 calories), Bruléed French Toast (2,780 calories) and Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (1,500 calories).

To burn off those calories, the center says, you would have to do:

• 12 hours of brisk walking for the Monster Burger meal
• 7 hours of lap-swimming for the French toast.
• 5 hours of jogging for the chicken pasta dish
• 4.5 hours of aerobics for the cheesecake.

The list also includes a spare rib plate from Famous Dave's; a combo plate from Chevys Fresh Mex; a seafood platter from Joe's Crab Shack; a steak dish from Maggiano's Little Italy; and a deep-dish chicken-bacon-ranch pizza from BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Read more from USA Today.

Three healthy habits could slow aging

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 29, 2014 - 11:47 AM

Exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep can protect the body against the negative effects of stress and slow down the aging process at a cellular level, researchers report.

A study involving hundreds of older women found that stressful events are linked to increased shortening of telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age.

"We found that over a one-year period, the more stressors a woman had, the more their telomeres were likely to shorten," said lead author Eli Puterman, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

But women who maintained active lifestyles, ate right and slept well appeared to shrug off the effects of stress, with their telomeres showing no significant additional shortening, the researchers said.

Dr. Michael Speicher, professor and chairman of the Institute of Human Genetics at the Medical University of Graz in Austria, said the study "addresses a really important biological question: why a healthy lifestyle is really helpful, especially if you are exposed to stressors."

"The hopeful message is if you engage in these healthy behaviors, you can decrease some effects that stress can have on your body," he said.

Read more from U.S. News.

Too few girls getting HPV vaccine

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 24, 2014 - 5:57 PM

More teenage girls are receiving the vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, the government reported. But the numbers still don't meet targets set by public health officials.

Last year's rise in HPV vaccine use followed a couple of years when vaccination rate was flat. For girls ages 13 to 17, about 57 percent received at least one dose in 2013, up from 54 percent in 2012. Just 38 percent received all three doses as recommended, up from 33 percent the year before.

"It was better than nothing. But we really need to do better moving forward," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccine protects against HPV, a sexually transmitted bug that can cause cervical cancer, genital warts and other illnesses.

A three-dose series of HPV shots hit the market in 2006. The government recommends the vaccine for girls ages 11 and 12 because it works best before they become sexually active.


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