Doctors routinely prescribe the medications required to get you back to a healthy state, but are you aware of the proper dosage for those meds?

When you get a report back from the lab that is confusing, are you comfortable with asking your doctor about the results?

When you read the Nutrition Facts Label when grocery shopping, do you really know what all the information means?

Being able to answer “YES” to those questions means that you have a high health literacy, according to the good folks at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Jodi Duckhorn serves as the Director of Risk Communications for the FDA, and it is her job to ensure that the average person is able to understand all the messages sent out by the FDA. This ensures that more people will be health literate, and therefore able to make better health decisions.

Health Literacy Explained

When asked to explain what health literacy is, Duckhorn responded that it is the ability to understand the basics of health issues and medical services so that making an informed health decision is that much easier.

Unfortunately, it is estimate that only about 12% of the adult population in the U.S. an be described as having high health literacy, as per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. The remaining 88% of the population may not have the essential knowledge required to make informed decisions about their health.

The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, believes that health literacy begins with a basic knowledge of subjects such as heart health and nutrition. Your doctor will pass on all the information you need to make good health decisions, but too many people fail to ask questions when they do not fully understand what they are being told.

Duckworth is of the belief that it is those lack of questions that can lead to confusion and poor health choices. For example, a patient being told that their test results are “negative” may think that negative means a bad result as opposed to a good one. If they fail to seek further information, they may leave the doctor’s office believing that they are in poor health when they are actually fine.

The Negative Consequences of Low Health Literacy

The most obvious negative consequence of having reduced health literacy means that you feel ill-equipped to ask pertinent questions and make important healthcare decisions. It also makes it close to impossible to interpret even the most basic lab results, or to understand things such as dosages and information on nutrition labels.

Being unaware of the healthcare options available to you also means an increased risk of hospitalization. Prevention is one of the best ways to stay healthy, but if you are unaware of the services that are out there, prevention often goes out the window, leading to higher health costs.

The FDA and the Promotion of Health Literacy

The FDA takes health literacy extremely seriously, which is why they go out of their way to communicate complex health topics in a manner that the layman can understand. They use a variety of different techniques to get accurate information out to the patient, as well as to the healthcare providers who look after them.

 

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Get Vaccinated

November 6, 2017

Forgot to get your vaccine back in the fall and think it’s too late to get one?

Well according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can still get your flu vaccine while the virus is still going around. So even though the flu season begins most of the time at the start of October, it peaks during the first two months of the year and can go on as far as May

The FDA ensures the vaccines produced every year are safe and actually work, and this work begins long before the next flu season begins because it often occurs while the current flu season is going on. Thus, the task of assuring vaccines are safe and effective is a year-round endeavor.

Why do we need new vaccines every year?

Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the Office of Vaccine Research and Review for the FDA states that there are sound reasons for why the flu vaccine has to be new each year.

Gruber tells us that because the virus mutates each year, a vaccine has to be created that closely resembles the new strain going around because the previous year’s vaccine loses effectiveness as time passes by.

Identifying likely virus strains

During the month of February—the peak of the current flu season—the World Health Organization, FDA and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) gather worldwide data to determine the next flu season’s makeup. Their findings will determine which strains are used to produce the next US vaccine.

Studying the virus strains allows the makers of the vaccines to create a matching vaccine that provides better protection.

The FDA also examine the companies making the vaccines regularly to assist in making sure these companies vaccines are effective. Reagents are prepared by the FDA and distributed to these companies to standardize the vaccines and ensure they have the right dosage strength. Each year, the manufacturing facility has to undergo an approval process to verify each lot of vaccines is appropriate for use.

The people impacted the most by the flu

According to the studies conducted yearly by the CDC, children and the elderly are the two populations that are impacted the most by the flu even though other populations may be greatly affected as well (for instance young and middle-aged adults).

Dandruff Prevention

November 1, 2017

Dandruff

Dandruff is a common, non-contagious skin condition that affects the scalp (the skin that covers the top and back of the head) and causes flakes of skin to appear. Non-contagious means that you cannot catch dandruff from someone who has the condition. Dandruff can vary in severity- it can be mild, moderate or severe.

Mild dandruff can affect anyone, although it tends to affect men more than women. Dandruff often occurs after puberty and is most common in people in their early twenties. Puberty is the period of life when the body reaches sexual maturity and causes physical, psychological and behavioral changes. In adults, dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis may return at any time.

There is not much you can do for dandruff prevention. However, using an antidandruff or antifungal shampoo once a week (or as prescribed on the bottle) after the scalp is clear may help to prevent dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp.

Dandruff Prevention

Try the following steps for dandruff prevention:

  • Try not to scratch your scalp when using shampoo. Gently massage your scalp without scratching as this will not damage your scalp or your hair.
  • Brush your hair daily and wash it at least three times a week. After washing your hair, rinse it thoroughly to get all the shampoo out. Using a shampoo that contains tea tree oil daily may help reduce dandruff. It contains an antifungal and antiseptic and can be bought in health shops.
  • Avoid using chemicals on your scalp, such as those used in hair colouring products. The chemicals reduce the number of bacteria on the scalp that are needed to fight against yeasts.
  • Using hair products, such as hair gels and hair sprays, can build up oils and can irritate the scalp in some people. You may want to stop using a product for a while to see if your dandruff improves, or change products completely.
  • Spending time outdoors can help reduce dandruff. However, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can damage your skin, as well as increasing your risk of developing skin cancer. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun by using a sun screen with the appropriate skin protection factor (SPF) for your skin type.
  • Managing stress can reduce your risk of getting dandruff. Stress can have an adverse effect on your overall health and can increase your risk of becoming ill. Stress can also trigger dandruff or make existing dandruff worse. If you feel stressed or under pressure, your GP can recommend a variety of different ways to help treat your stress.

You have to be careful when purchasing dietary supplements from flea markets, swap meets, online, ethnic stores and international stores because some of these products are nothing more than health fraud scams. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) representative Cariny Nunez (Public Health Advisory in the Office of Minority Health) warns us that health scams tend to lurk in nontraditional shopping locations and are highly attractive to non-English native speakers and people in remote locations where health care facilities and information are few in number or nonexistent.

“Natural” Does Not Automatically Equal “Safe”

According to FDA representative Dr. Gary Coody (National Health Fraud Coordinator), products marketed as natural are not always safe. Some products marketed as natural can contain other medical ingredients that are not only unnatural, but they are also unsafe to consume.

Also, harmful (and often unlisted) chemical ingredients and contamination may also be present in these products.

For instance, a substance in the FDA-approved drug Meridia called Sibutramine may still be present in some of these natural weight loss products. The problem with this is Sibutramine caused Meridia to be banned in 2010 because of the potential for the chemical to cause strokes and heart conditions.

Coody also warns us that FDA-approved ingredients can prove to be still unsafe if the prescription dosage or ingredient portion is in unsafe proportions.  As Nunez already mentioned, health scams tend to target nontraditional populations like ethnic societies and people with persistent health issues like obesity, cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS because these populations are often seeking more affordable and convenient ways to treat their conditions.  However, when people in these populations use these questionable products, they often experience a setback in real medical treatment for their conditions.

How Can You Determine if a Marketed Health Product is a Potential Scam?

Be alert for claims like these:

  • FDA-Approved. There are no imported or domestic or imported dietary supplements that are FDA-approved.
  • “All natural.” As stated earlier, some natural products have other additives that are unsafe to consume. Also, not all plants are safe to consume even if they are found in a supplement.
  • Quick fixes. There just aren’t any products out there that can treat a serious illness or condition quickly—no matter if it’s FDA-approved or not. So anything promising drastic results for a condition like obesity or cancer in a short period of time (like days or weeks) should be treated with extreme caution.
  • Personal testimonials. Just because someone says the product works doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact there is no scientific verification of these claims.
  • Miracle cure. Buzz words like “scientific breakthrough” or “new discovery” are often signs of an exaggerated claim. Our common sense should tell us that if this supplement provided the real cure for a serious condition, the media would already have this supplement featured on the radio, TV, internet or print publications.
  • One product does all. Always be cautious about products claiming to cure a host of health conditions.

Finally, consult your physician if you are still considering a drug that has questionable claims or is not FDA-approved. To determine if a product is already banned by the FDA, just go to their website to see if there are any existing legal issues concerning the product.

Beware of products (like foods or dietary supplements) claiming to improve your sexual performance because a lot of these products contain hidden ingredients that are not fit for human consumption and have the potential to be unsafe.

According to the FDA, about 300 of the products out there on the market for sexual performance have been found to have ingredients not reported on the label. These products may include ingredients found in FDA-approved drugs like Levitra, Viagra and Cialis, but the amount may be extremely high (especially in dosage quantity). Also, some products have a combination of hidden ingredients that may prove to be very unsafe regardless of the amount found.

Dr. M. Daniel Dos Santos, representative of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs for the FDA, tells us that even if you read labels to determine the safety of a product, you may still select a product that is unsafe because some of the ingredients may not be listed. Despite a product label boasting of having only natural or herbal ingredients, the product could still contain unnatural herbal ingredients and chemicals, which means the label is deceiving people into believing they have a natural product when in actuality, they do not.

A Drug Cocktail

The FDA has discovered there are a lot of high doses of hidden ingredient mixtures in a lot of supplements sold for Erectile Dysfunction (ED). One supplement had a dosage amount that contained 31 times more of the ingredient Tadalafil than what is contained in Cialis. Also, this supplement had a high amount of a non-FDA-approved antidepressant called Dapoxetine.

A lot of dietary supplements are legitimately marketed and are not approved by the FDA like many other prescription and non-prescription drugs. The FDA usually examines dietary supplement that are legally sold by either doing facility inspections or by responding to consumer reports of negative responses to using the product. It is required for a company to ensure the products they market for human consumption are safe and actually work.

Unknown Contaminants

Alternative ED products are often marketed as sexual enhancement supplements because a dietary supplement can’t claim legally that it will diagnose, prevent, treat or cure an actual medical condition. Even though they are legally available for sale, it does not guarantee they are safe.

Risky Interactions

Many of these sexual enhancement supplements for men create adverse interactions with heart medications and certain other drugs.

For instance, if you use a supplement that has Sildenafil (an ingredient found in Viagra) and also take drugs with Nitrates, you could risk your blood pressure dropping at an unsafe level. Keep in mind that a lot of people with ED often have conditions that require medications with Nitrates (like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease).

The FDA works hard to prevent the sale of unapproved products by issuing recalls and having these types of medicines destroyed. The organization also sends out several warnings to be cautious about these types of products. Advisory letters are often given to manufacturers that market these products to cease production and/or sale of these products. After the advisory is given, a refusal to stop marketing the illegal product could result in import alerts (where the FDA can seize and physically examine all products deemed to be in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act), seizures, recalls, injunctions and criminal prosecutions.

Bone is a living tissue that reacts to increases in loads and forces put upon it by growing stronger. It does this all the time but any increase in ‘loading’ above normal levels has the best chance of increasing bone strength.

It’s never too late to start a bone-healthy exercise program, even if you already have osteoporosis. You may worry that being active means you’re more likely to fall and break a bone. But the opposite is true. A regular, properly designed exercise program for osteoporosis prevention may actually help prevent falls and fractures. That’s because exercise strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility. That’s key for people with osteoporosis.

Best Exercises for Osteoporosis Prevention

  • Weight-Bearing Exercises. These are exercises you do on your feet so that your bones and muscles have to work against gravity to keep you upright. Your bones react to the weight on them by building themselves up and getting stronger.
  • Muscles Exercises. Working your muscles matters just as much as building up bone. It can slow the bone loss that happens with osteoporosis and may help prevent fall-related fractures.
  • Balance Exercises. These moves don’t directly strengthen your bones. They can, though, improve your coordination, flexibility, and muscle strength. That will lower the chance that you’ll fall and break a bone. You can do these every day.
  • Yoga Exercises. Routines such as yoga and Pilates can improve strength, balance, and flexibility in people with osteoporosis.

Sources:

  1. www.webmd.com
  2. www.yourwebdoc.com
  3. nos.org.uk

Injectable products are becoming a popular alternative for those desiring to alter their skin color for the purpose of lightening or whitening their complexion. Despite the popularity of these products, they have yet to be FDA-approved (Food and Drug Administration) and are considered to be unsafe for use. These products are also believed to not have a significant effect on altering skin color.

One FDA representative noted that injectables contain mystery substances that may be extremely harmful to one’s body. Also, because no one knows how these injectables are made, it adds to the uncertainty of their safety.

A Costly Promises

Like most skin brightening and whitening products on the market, injectables promise to even skin tone, remove blemishes and lighten skin tone. You can find these products online and in some retail and health stores. Most products come with instructions on how to inject the product under the skin, in a vein or in a muscle. However, most people fail to realize that while these products are being marketed, they are not approved as safe by the FDA. Some injectable products claim to treat conditions like Parkinson’s or liver disease, which is also not able to be proved or verified by the FDA. Because it is not known how these products are made, no one can vouch for the safety of these products.

What Consumers Should Do

If you are having adverse reactions to using an injectable product in the past, contact your health care provider immediately.

Also, contact your health care provider if you want to try a safer way to deal with your skin problems (like melisma or hyperpigmentation). That way, you can use a topical product that is known to be approved by the FDA.

Unlike the injectable products for skin condition, FDA-approved drugs are verified to be safe and effective in doing their intended purpose. Also, if a product is FDA-approved, the manufacturer has also meet specific qualifications that verify the product was produced in a safe way.