Dhaka, Jan 22 (AP/UNB) -This is not a new trend. The rankings have changed little over the last quarter century. What’s causing residents of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana and other southern states to live such short lives, while experiencing higher rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease?
As a researcher who’s worked on state health promotion in Hawaii and Texas, it’s clear to me that there are a variety of factors behind people’s poor health in southern states – and none will be an easy fix.
People in southern states die earlier from a variety of chronic conditions than people in the rest of the U.S. Infectious diseases including whooping cough, salmonella and chlamydia are high across the south, particularly in Louisiana and the Carolinas.
According to America’s Health Rankings, an annual report by the nonprofit United Health Foundation, someone living in Kentucky is 55 percent more likely to die from cancer than a person living in Utah. A resident of Mississippi is 85 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than someone living in Minnesota. If you live in West Virginia, you are more than twice as likely to have diabetes as someone living in Colorado.
Overall, premature death occurs almost twice as often in many of the southern states compared to Minnesota and California.
A July study found a 20-year difference in life expectancy by county, with most of the counties with lower life expectancy located in the Southeast. The life expectancy gap is also growing year to year.
Health behaviors also contribute quite strongly to the development of chronic diseases.
People living in many areas in the south are twice as likely to be smokers and be sedentary than people living in Utah. Every southern state except Florida has an adult obesity rate higher than 30 percent. This lack of fitness has led to the highest rates of injury in the Army basic training across the region.
Poor lifestyle behaviors don’t explain everything, though. For example, West Virginia and Kentucky have very high rates of drug overdose deaths related to the opioid epidemic. However, rates in many southern states – including Mississippi, Georgia and Arkansas – are lower than the rest of the country.
What is causing these poor health outcomes? As a public health researcher, I look to the physical and social conditions in which people live, including education levels, access to health care, air and water quality, housing, culture and many other factors. These can be the root causes of health and illness.
All of these states are relatively poor, with Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas and Mississippi having the lowest household median incomes in the county. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Idaho, for example, is ranked 40th in household income and 14th in health.
Education is often viewed as an important indicator of health – but Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri are all in the top 10 for high school graduation rates.
Air pollution – which is linked to heart attacks, bronchitis and asthma – falls somewhere in the middle for most southern states. Violent crime tends to be higher, with the exception of Mississippi.
Of the 26 states have comprehensive statewide indoor air smoking bans, none are in the South.
According to Walkscore, a site that calculates the walkability of cities, nine of the least walkable cities in the U.S. are in the South. Only one, Miami, is in the top 10.
Limited access to care
It can be hard to find a health care provider in the South. Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi all fall in the bottom 10 for the number of primary care physicians per capita. Mental health providers and dentists are also in short supply across the South. In fact, Alabama only has 85 mental health care providers per 100,000 people. Compare that to 547 per 100,000 in Massachusetts.
Lack of routine health care can lead to an increase in preventable hospitalizations. For instance, a diabetic who is routinely seen by a physician can avoid more serious complications that lead to hospitalizations. Infant mortality and low birth weight babies are prevalent across the region.
Funding for public health differs across the region, with West Virginia providing more per capita than any other state and Missouri spending a fifth of that. The uninsured population is also a mix, with Kentucky and West Virginia having low rates and Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma having some of the highest.
In the end, the data is clear: Americans living in the southern United States live shorter, sicker lives. The region needs a comprehensive strategy to improve health.
At Texas A&M, we’ve banded together with 13 universities in the Southeastern Conference to discuss ideas that can reach communities outside the universities.
One of our initial ideas is to leverage the mass gatherings around football games to promote positive health activities. The largely rural makeup of these states along with attendance at football games exceeding 78,000 people per game provides a unique southern strategy to change health in these states.
However, no single intervention will change several decades of poor health.
Dhaka, Jan 17 (UNB) - Nearly everyone will experience some form of back pain in his or her lifetime. The low back is the area behind the belly from the rib cage to the pelvis and is also called the lumbar region.
Back pain is a major cause of missed work and poor physical movement. Most commonly, mechanical tissue and soft-tissue injuries are the cause of low back pain. Some lower back pain can also be the result of certain diseases.
Yoga is a naturopathy that can offer relief from pain and provide a great preventative care for the future. Here are five yoga poses to cure lower back pain and relieve that dull ache.
A twist to the spine relieves the stiffness from the entire back.
Lie on your back, bring your arms to a T-shape on the floor or mat. Bring your knees towards your chest. Slowly lower both knees to the left, keeping the neck neutral. Try to keep shoulders on the floor and palms facing downwards. Stay anywhere between 1-2 minutes and keep breathing normally. Repeat the process on the other side. Straighten your legs and rest for 30 seconds.
This gentle backbend stretches your abdomen, chest and shoulders and strengthens your spine. It also helps to relieve stress and fatigue.
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders and fingers facing forward. Draw your arms in tightly to your chest. Do not allow your elbows to go out to the side.
Inhale and push your hands to slowly lift your head, shoulder, and chest. You can lift partway, halfway or all the way up – depending on your flexibility. Hold the pose for 1-2 minutes while breathing normally. Now, exhale and release your chest, shoulders and head. Bring your arms by your side and rest for 30 seconds.
This pose strengthens the muscles of the spine and the buttocks and improves blood circulation in back area.
Lie on your stomach with chin on the floor, put your legs together and arms to the side of the hip with your palms on the floor. Now inhale. Use the back and leg muscles to lift the right leg as high as possible keeping the toes pointing backwards. Make sure that your hip stays on the ground and the pelvis remains in a neutral position.
Stay in this posture for 30 second to 1 minute and breathe normally. Try to keep the shoulders broad. Exhale and lower your right leg. Inhale and repeat the same process with your left leg. Take rest for 30 seconds.
This pose improves the strength and flexibility of the back muscle, stretches the front of the body, improves stamina and makes a strong core.
Lie on your stomach, keeping arms under the hips and chin on the floor. Lengthen your lower back by gently pressing your pubic bone into the floor.
Inhale, lift your head, chest and legs off the floor, firming your shoulders blades onto your back and opening your heart, to come up as high as possible. Only abdominal area will touch the floor at this point.
Breathe normally and stay in this posture for 1-2 minutes. Exhale, drop your chest, head and legs and rest for 30 seconds.
This pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs and lower back while reducing stress and fatigue.
Begin by sitting on your heels and then slowly bend forward. Bring down your chest to your thighs and let your forehead touch the floor. Keep your hands on the ground. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes while breathing normally.
(Saldin Yogi is a registered Yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, USA. To learn more about him, please visit www.saldinyoga.com)
New York, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — A hamburger a week, but no more — that's about as much red meat people should eat to do what's best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world's diet.
Eggs should be limited to fewer than about four a week, the report says. Dairy foods should be about a serving a day, or less.
The report from a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems. It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.
John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report's recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.
"The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be," Ioannidis said.
The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a "Great Food Transformation" is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.
Overall, the diet encourages whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables, and says to limit added sugars, refined grains such as white rice and starches like potatoes and cassava. It says red meat consumption on average needs to be slashed by half globally, though the necessary changes vary by region and reductions would need to be more dramatic in richer countries like the United States.
Convincing people to limit meat, cheese and eggs won't be easy, however, particularly in places where those foods are a notable part of culture.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, systems analyst Cleberson Bernardes said as he was leaving a barbecue restaurant that letting himself eat just one serving of red meat a week would be "ridiculous." In Berlin, Germany, craftsman Erik Langguth said there are better ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and dismissed the suggestion that the world needs to cut back on meat.
"If it hasn't got meat, it's not a proper meal," said Langguth, who is from a region known for its bratwurst sausages.
Before even factoring in the environmental implications, the report sought to sketch out what the healthiest diet for people would look like, said Walter Willett, one of its authors and a nutrition researcher at Harvard University. While eggs are no longer thought to increase risk of heart disease, Willett said the report recommends limiting them because studies indicate a breakfast of whole grains, nuts and fruit would be healthier.
He said everybody doesn't need to become a vegan, and that many are already limiting how much meat they eat.
"Think of it like lobster — something that I really like, but have a few times a year," Willett said.
Advice to limit red meat is not new, and is tied to its saturated fat content, which is also found in cheese, milk, nuts and packaged foods with coconut and palm kernel oils. The report notes most evidence on diet and health is from Europe and the United States. In Asian countries, a large analysis found eating poultry and red meat (mostly pork) was associated with improved lifespans. That might be in part because people might eat smaller amounts of meat in those countries, the report says.
Ioannidis of Stanford noted nutrition research is often based on observational links between diet and health, and that some past associations have not been validated. Dietary cholesterol, for example, is no longer believed to be strongly linked to blood cholesterol.
The meat and dairy industries also dispute the report's recommendations, saying their products deliver important nutrients and can be part of healthy diets.
Andrew Mente, a nutrition epidemiology researcher at McMaster University, urged caution before making widespread dietary recommendations, which he said could have unintended consequences.
Still, the EAT-Lancet report's authors say the overall body of evidence strongly supports reducing red meat for optimal health and shifting toward plant-based diets. They note the recommendations are compatible with the U.S. dietary guidelines, which say to limit saturated fat to 10 percent of calories.
While people in some poorer counties may benefit from getting more of the nutrients in meat and dairy products, the report says they shouldn't follow the path of richer countries in how much of those foods they eat in coming years.
Though estimates vary, a report by the United Nations said livestock is responsible for about 15 percent of the world's gas emissions that warm the climate.
Robbie Andrew, a senior researcher at CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Norway, said farming practices that make animals grow faster and bigger may help limit emissions. But he said cows and other ruminant animals nevertheless produce a lot of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
"It's very difficult to get down these natural emissions that are part of their biology," Andrew said.
The environmental benefits of giving up red meat depend on what people eat in its place. Chicken and pork produce far fewer emissions than beef, Andrew said, adding that plants in general have among the smallest carbon footprints.
Brent Loken, an author of the EAT-Lancet report, said the report lays out the parameters of an optimal diet, but acknowledged the challenge in figuring out how to work with policy makers, food companies and others in tailoring and implementing it in different regions.
Sydney, Jan 15 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Researchers at Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) have made a major breakthrough in ultrasound technology which they believe could greatly improve technologies, from medical imaging, to unmanned aerial vehicles.
The team described on Monday how they used modern nanofabrication and nanophotonics to make extremely precise ultrasound sensors, small enough to fit on a silicon chip.
"We've developed a near perfect ultrasound detector, hitting the limits of what the technology is capable of achieving," Prof. Warwick Bowen, from UQ's Precision Sensing Initiative, said.
"We're now able to measure ultrasound waves that apply tiny forces, comparable to the gravitational force on a virus, and we can do this with sensors smaller than a millimetre across," Bowen said.
With ultrasound being used across a range of technologies, the team believe that the development could lead to any number of exciting breakthroughs.
"Ultrasound is used for medical ultrasound, often to examine pregnant women, as well as for high resolution biomedical imaging to detect tumours and other anomalies," Bowen explained.
"It's also commonly used for spatial applications, like in the sonar imaging of underwater objects or in the navigation of unmanned aerial vehicles."
Research leader Dr. Sahar Basiri-Esfahani says the accuracy of the new technology, sensitive enough to hear the random forces from surrounding air molecules, could change how scientists understand biology.
"This could fundamentally improve our understanding of how these small biological systems function," Basiri-Esfahani said.
"A deeper understanding of these biological systems may lead to new treatments, so we're looking forward to seeing what future applications emerge."
Las Vegas, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — Many of the hottest new gadgets are also the nosiest ones.
This week's CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that livestream the living room, bathroom mirrors that offer beauty tips and gizmos that track the heartbeats of unborn children. All will collect some kind of data about their users, whether photos or monitor readings; how well they'll protect it and what exactly they plan do with it are the important and often unanswered questions.
These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and their workers to peek into your private life. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave a variety of employees and executives access to recorded and sometimes live video footage from customers' homes.
Our data-driven age now forces you to weigh the usefulness of a smart mirror against the risk that strangers might be watching you in your bathroom. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data, or your ex might hold onto a video feed long after you've broken up.
"It's not like all these technologies are inherently bad," says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington computer security and privacy researcher.
But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy in the process.
AMAZON'S VIDEO FEEDS
Like other security devices, Ring cameras can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home; a phone app lets you see who's there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file.
In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing.
At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into the peepholes in apartment or dorm-room doors. Though it doesn't appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, records show that Amazon recently filed a patent application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras.
LIVING ROOM LIVESTREAM
It's one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but Alarm.com wants us to also put them in other people's houses.
Alarm's Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to "peek in" anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.
The notion of placing a camera in someone else's living room might feel unsettling.
Wellcam says video streaming isn't started until someone activates it from a phone and then it stops as soon as the person turns it off. Chazin says such cameras are "becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe."
Just be sure you trust whom you're giving access to. You can't turn off the camera unless you unplug it.
French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you "try on" different hairstyles. Facial recognition helps the mirror's camera know which person in a household is there, while augmented-reality technology overlays your actual image with animation on how you might look.
CareOS expects hotels and salons to buy the $20,000 Artemis mirror - making it more important that personal data is protected.
"We know we don't want the whole world to know about what's going on in the bathroom," co-founder Chloe Szulzinger said.
The mirror doesn't need an internet connection to work, she said. The company says it will abide by Europe's stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives. Customers can choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after they've explicitly agreed to how it will be used.
The same applies for the businesses that buy and install the mirror. Customers can choose to share some information — such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon — but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.
Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.
Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there's a button for sharing details with a doctor.
Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren't regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and policy premiums.