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Study questions the value of annual physical exams

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 @ 8:44 PM

Regular physical exams are annual rituals for many Americans.

Now a new research review finds that these kinds of checkups don’t help people live longer, and they don’t cut the risk of dying of cancer or heart disease.

“We did not find any signs of benefit,” on death risk, says researcher Lasse T. Krogsboll, a PhD student at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Despite the dim light the review casts on annual exams, researchers and independent experts say it’s not necessarily time to give up on regular physicals. For the study, researchers pooled data from 14 studies that included more than 180,000 people. All the studies randomly assigned people to one of two groups: The first group was asked to get regular checkups; the second group only saw a doctor as needed.

Tests done during the checkups varied from study to study, but most included measures of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rhythms, vision, and hearing.

Studies included in the review followed people for as little as four years and as long as 22 years.

Benefits and Harms of Annual Physicals

When researchers compared the number of deaths between the group that got regular physical exams and the group that only saw a doctor as needed, there was essentially no difference.

On average, about 7% of people died in each group over the course of the studies. That was true even when researchers looked at deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease, which are thought to benefit from early detection and treatment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who saw a doctor on a regular basis were more likely to be diagnosed with conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Some studies found they were more likely to be treated for those conditions, too. Out of four studies in the review that looked at drug use, two found that people who got regular physicals were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat high blood pressure, for example.

There was a trend among studies for people who got regular physicals to feel healthier than people who did not, but researchers say that finding is unreliable. There were no apparent differences between groups on hospital admissions, worry, referrals to specialists, or disability.

“In the absence of documented health benefits, we would say there’s a risk of overdiagnosis from this,” Krogsboll says.

Should We Leave Wellness Alone?

“One of the questions that arises from this study is, ‘Why didn’t an annual physical work?’” says Michael LeFevre, MD, MSPH, co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of government advisors that weighs the evidence behind different kinds of preventive services and makes recommendations about their use.

One reason may be that most of the studies included in the review were done in the 1960s and '70s, an era when doctors ordered many tests during wellness exams.

Some of those tests, like electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs), have since been shown to have little value for general screening.

In contrast, only some of the studies asked people about smoking. In one study, people were only offered help to cut back if they were smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day.

Quitting smoking, LeFevre points out, has enormous benefits for health.

“It emphasizes the importance of doing what works. Just showing up for a check-up isn’t going to make you live any longer,” he says.

Another reason there may have been no difference between the two groups, researchers say, is that people who were going to the doctor might have been getting good preventive care on the side during those visits.

“So adding systematic health checks did not add any health benefit,” Krogsboll says.

But other experts found the findings solid and even similar to the results of other reviews showing limited benefits for annual physicals.

“This study adds to growing evidence about the limited role of the periodic health examination in healthy adults,” says Timothy J. Wilt, MD, MPH, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Medicine in Minneapolis.

Wilt just finished another review of annual physicals for the Department of Veterans Affairs. His conclusion? They don’t do much for healthy adults.

Despite that, he says many people just like to get regular physicals and feel reassured by checking it off their list.

In those cases, he says, “We and others recommend that patients and providers should focus on areas of demonstrated health benefits and address concerns if patients notice any abnormal signs or symptoms.”

SOURCES: Krogsboll LT, The Cochrane Library, 2012 Issue 10.Lasse T. Krogsboll, PhD student, The Nordic Cochrane Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.Michael LeFevre, MD, MSPH, professor, Future of Family Medicine, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, Mo.; co-vice chair, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Rockville, Md.Timothy J. Wilt, MD, MPH, core investigator, Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, Minneapolis VA Medical Center; professor, University of Minnesota’s School of Medicine, Minneapolis, Minn.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Doctor: Popular charcoal masks could cause permanent skin damage

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 3:47 PM

A popular “do-it-yourself” charcoal mask that has been trending all over the internet could cause serious damage to your skin, according to a dermatologist.

"It might be dangerous if you like all three layers of your skin," Dr. Seth Forman, a dermatologist in Tampa, Florida, said in an interview with WFTS

Many people have taken to YouTube to show users the painful process of peeling off the charcoal mask. Many of these products are sold from “unregulated vendors,” WFTS reports. Forman said that some of these products are mixed with a foreign charcoal powder and super glue, and will “most likely” be illegal soon. 

If certain layers of skin are peeled off, it can lead to scarring and infection “especially when you get down to the second layer (of skin),” according to WFTS

The good news is that there is a large variety of FDA approved facial masks that are safe, Forman said.

WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 4:49 PM

A 3-year-old girl in Oregon awoke on May 13 to find herself unable to stand or use her arms.

>> Read more trending news 

Evelyn Lewis’ mother, Amanda Lewis, filmed her daughter’s failed attempts to stand with help from her husband. 

WGHP reported that the parents took Evelyn to the emergency room, where a doctor discovered a small but dangerous reason for her condition.

After combing through Evelyn’s hair, the doctor discovered a tick, diagnosing her with a condition called “tick paralysis.”

“The doctor talked to us for a minute and said over the past 15 years he had seen about seven or eight children her age with identical symptoms and more than likely she had a tick,” Amanda Lewis wrote on Facebook. “It can affect dogs also and can be fatal. I’m glad we took her in when we did and that it wasn’t something worse and that we found it before it got worse.”

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, tick paralysis attacks a person’s muscles and results in symptoms like muscle pains and numbness of the legs. These begin after a tick has attached itself to a host, generally on the scalp.

>> Related: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals

Fortunately, Evelyn is now doing much better, as her mother wrote on Facebook that she “is now pretty much completely back to her feisty little self. She complains a lot about her head itching but otherwise, she’s just fine.”

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Here’s how much fruit juice children should drink, according to new guidelines

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 12:19 PM



KidStock/Getty Images/Blend Images

Next time you're grocery shopping for your kids, think twice before adding a carton of fruit juice to your basket. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines on all juices, advising parents to pull back on how much they serve their little ones.

» Related: What Atlanta dietitians feed their kids 

Previous recommendations said parents should wait to give their babies juice until after six months, but its latest update is suggesting that they wait one year. 

In fact, infants should only be fed breast milk or infant formula for the first six months. After six months, moms and dads can then introduce fruit to their diet, but not fruit juice. 

>> Read more trending news

“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” said Melvin B. Heyman, MD, FAAP, co-author of the statement. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1.”

» Related: Should we slap a tax on sugary drinks? 

Scientists laid out instructions for older children, too. Toddlers who are ages 1 to 4 should only have one cup of fruit a day. Four ounces of that can come from 100 percent fruit juice, but it should be pasteurized and not labeled “drink,” “beverage” or cocktail.” 

For children ages 4 to 6, fruit juice intake shouldn't exceed four to six ounces a day. 

The amount increases just slightly for children ages 7 to 18. They can have up to two and a half cups of fruit servings, but only eight ounces of it should be juice. 

Top 15 crusaders for health in America's food industry

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 10:59 PM

Wondering how this year's list stacks up against the last? Check out Top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry 2012.

Amongst all the junk food commercials and donut sandwiches, there are a handful of health heroes. These aren’t just people who eat organic greens for lunch and free-range eggs for dinner; they’re moving and shaking the way we think about our food, including where it comes from, the implications it has on our environment, and what our meals mean for our bodies. Here, we recognize 15 superstars (in no particular order) that have devoted themselves to improving American’s relationship with food.

 

1. Marion Nestle
Nestle has got her hand in nearly every facet of America’s food industry. Her blog, Food Politics, covers topics from nutrition and biology to health policy and food marketing. She’s been teaching nutrition for nearly four decades and currently teaches sociology, food studies, and public health at NYU. Nestle is the author of many books, but her latest — “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics” — is all about understanding the intersection of health and food amidst all the mass marketing and misinformation put forth by major food manufacturers. Currently, Nestle updates her blog regularly and presents at universities and conferences on topics such as genetically modified foods and the role food companies play in our food system. (Photo: www.foodpolitics.com)

 

2. Michael Pollan
As one of the foremost activists for change in the overwrought food industry, Pollan is an outspoken and often controversial figure in the food and farming space. Though probably best known for his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which hung out on The New York Times Bestseller list for more than three years), Pollan has continued to write. In his most recent book, “Cooked”, Pollan explores how cooking connects us to plants, animals, farmers, and culture (amongst other things). (Photo by Ken Light)

 

3. Michelle Obama
After launching the Let’s Move! campaign at the start of 2010, the First Lady has made healthifying America’s eating habits (especially for kids) her job. The ultimate goal is to eliminate childhood obesity and help kids live healthier lives with good food and a little extra physical activity. This year, Obama held the second annual “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” where she asked children ages eight to 12 to whip up nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes. Unfortunately, we weren’t invited to the White House kids’ “State Dinner” with the winner of this year’s challenge. (Photo: www.whitehouse.gov)

 

4. Mark Bittman
As an author and New York Times writer,Bittman likes to weigh in on what’s wrong with the American diet. A part-time veganhimself, Bittman is an advocate for the “flexitarian” diet — which means eating vegan during the day, but allowing for more flexible consumption after 6 pm. His super popular book, “How to Cook Everything”, is a go-to resource for basic kitchen skills. Not only does he push for humans to stay healthy, Bittman relentlessly encourages us to keep the environment happy and healthy, too. Oh, and in his spare time, he runsmarathons(Photo: www.markbittman.com)

 

5. Mike Bloomberg
As the mayor of New York City, Bloombergtakes his role seriously, making waves in the name of public health. From smoking bans tosoda bans, Bloomberg’s initiatives aren’t without controversy and backlash. Passionate about combating obesity, he’s pushed for salad bars and healthier menus in school cafeterias. Plus, he’s managed to eliminate trans fats from tons of restaurant items, and make it mandatory for chain restaurants to clearly post calorie counts on menus. We’re excited to see what goals Bloomberg sets (and reaches) next. (Photo: www.nyc.gov)

 
For the full list of 2013's top health crusaders in the food industry, go to Greatist.com.