Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ProPublica exposes Big Pharma ripoff, Complete Eats rewards healthy choices, and dealing with hoops-related injuries

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:43 PM

Washington's Department of Health and Safeway have teamed up on a new program, called Complete Eats, that rewards healthy food choices by offering $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables. - WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Washington State Department of Health
  • Washington's Department of Health and Safeway have teamed up on a new program, called Complete Eats, that rewards healthy food choices by offering $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ripped off by Big Pharma
Say you’re a big pharmaceutical company looking for a way to make some fast cash. How about combining two over-the-counter medications, available to consumers for about $40 a month, into a new “specialty” medication that gets billed to insurance at more than $3,000 for a month’s supply? It happened, and the drug earned the company, Horizon Pharma, $455 million in sales. You won’t want to miss this installment in ProPublica’s series on wasteful spending in health care.

Healthy eating rewards
Safeway is teaming up to offer $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables for participants in the Washington State Department of Health's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new program, called Complete Eats, is aimed at rewarding healthy choices. “We are pleased to partner with Safeway to help our most vulnerable kids and families get fresh, accessible and healthful foods,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman in a statement. “Complete Eats exemplifies how much we can achieve when government and private industry work together.”

Read more about helping kids get a healthy diet in the current issue of InHealth!

Hoopin’ it up

As the ballers take to downtown Spokane's streets this weekend, there will be a lot of fun, but also some unfortunate ankle sprains, finger jams, and cuts. Here are tips on how to cope.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Investigating the 'wanderlust gene,' a perfect storm for allergies, and the return of Summer Parkways

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 11:35 AM

Summer Parkways returns to Manito and Comstock Parks on Wednesday, June 21. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Summer Parkways returns to Manito and Comstock Parks on Wednesday, June 21.

Traveling genes
Ever feel an near-unstoppable urge to hit the highway? To take that freeway exit for no good reason other than to see where it goes? A desire to explore faraway lands? That almost primal call to travel may actually be in your genes. A “wanderlust gene” — DRD4-7R — has been identified in about 20 percent of the population, and is more prominent in North and South American populations; in other words, people whose ancestors have immigrated to new lands. In a report in Conde Nast Traveler, biologist Dawn Masler notes that the wanderlust gene affects dopamine levels in the brain: “Dopamine is the 'liking' hormone, and when you want to get more, it doesn’t sate you — you get hooked.”

Taking advantage of the ever-expanding knowledge of our genetic make-up is the goal of a new form of medicine being dubbed “scientific wellness.” How does knowledge of our DNA impact the way health care is delivered now, and what does the future hold?

Read about it in the new issue of InHealth.

Our weird spring weather has created a perfect storm for allergies: tree pollens were delayed by the cool, wet spring, and are now overlapping with grass pollens. “For people who aren’t allergic, this means a gritty sensation in the eyes, nose and throat. For those who are allergic, they’ve got an intense concentration of tree and grass pollen giving them cold-like symptoms,” says Tim Kohlhauff of WSU’s extension program in Spokane. A WSU news release reports the situation may start to improve when tree pollinating ends in late June; grass pollination continues through mid-July.

Summer Parkways returns

Mark your calendar for next Wednesday’s Summer Parkways in Manito and Comstock parks, a glorious, once-a-year glorious when roads are closed to traffic and filled with bikes, skaters and other human-powered transportation. Neighbors enjoying al fresco dining on their front porches, as well as information booths lining the route, add to the festive atmosphere.
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Friday, June 9, 2017

Our new issue is out now! Get your fruits and veggies on, and enjoy a 'free day' at Washington State Parks

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 12:16 PM

Think you're getting enough vegetables (and fruits) in your diet? You're probably not. - FULL CIRCLE
  • Full Circle
  • Think you're getting enough vegetables (and fruits) in your diet? You're probably not.

Veg out!
Diet science is always evolving. Remember 2014’s 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse? Happily, that's behind us (no pun intended). But there is one thing scientists overwhelmingly agree on: Fruits and veggies are the foundation of a health diet, and we don't eat enough of them. Why is that? Find out in our new cover story, and also check out enticing, meat-free summer grilling recipes and tips.

Under pressure
A new study shows that blood pressure may be better controlled, with fewer side effects, by using small doses of two, or even four, medications. Worldwide, nearly 90 percent of people who are aware they have high blood pressure are treated with medication, yet only a third are able to get good control of their hypertension. Among the takeaways from a new Australian study that reviewed 42 other studies involving more than 20,000 people?

Taking a one-quarter dose of two meds may be as effective as a single full dose of a single med; four quarter-doses of four medications were nearly twice as effective as a single drug at a standard dose. Research is still preliminary, so don't go changing your meds without talking to your doctor.

From our archives: a blood pressure primer.

Free parking for a day
Just three days a year are “free days” at Washington State Parks, and this Saturday, June 10, is the first for 2017. (The other free days, when a Discover Pass isn’t required to use the parks, are Aug. 25 and Sept. 30.) Consider a day trip to Palouse Falls, especially spectacular in the spring and early summer, with water cascading nearly 200 feet. Be aware that the parking lot at the Falls can fill up quickly on busy weekends.

If you want a real workout, try the strenuous Three Peaks Loop, taking in Mt. Kit Carson, Day Mountain, and finishing, after nearly 13 miles, with a spectacular view of from the top of Mt. Spokane. If you've got other plans for Saturday, annual Discover Passes cost $33 and a one-day pass will set you back $11.

For more health-related information, check out the new issue of InHealth.
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Study: Music can make you nicer to be around; plus, pushback against opiates and a cautionary health-care tale

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 12:25 PM

It's Volume weekend!
It's the new Issue! Look for our June/July issue of InHealth, on stands soon!
  • It's the new Issue! Look for our June/July issue of InHealth, on stands soon!

Need an evidence-based excuse to invest in a wristband and attend the Inlander’s jam-packed Volume Music Fest this weekend? Try this one: Listening to music you like lights up areas of the brain involved in “internally focused thought, empathy and self-awareness.” That’s right: Music that you enjoy — whether rock or Bach — may just make you a nicer person to be around.

Meanwhile, New York magazine reports on research that shows sex, drugs and music all activate the same brain circuits, suggesting an “evolutionary origin for music.” What more do you want?

Medication malfeasance?
"This pain population with no abuse history is literally at no risk for addiction,” stated a letter from a respected Boston physician that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine almost 40 years ago. That reassurance, cited in more than 600 subsequent papers, gave skeptical doctors the confidence to begin prescribing opioids for all varieties of aches and pains. According to an NBC News story, "It's difficult to overstate the role of this letter," said the University of Toronto's Dr. David Juurlink, who led the analysis. "It was the key bit of literature that helped the opiate manufacturers convince front-line doctors that addiction is not a concern.”

On Wednesday, Ohio’s attorney general announced that the state is suing opiate manufacturers because they "helped unleash a health care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the State of Ohio.”

Learning from history
As Congress grapples with repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Los Angeles Times offers a cautionary tale from our own state. Washington was a pioneer in health care reform in the early 1990s; those efforts culminated in the Health Services Act, signed into law by Governor Mike Lowry in May 1993. It guaranteed coverage for everyone and required employers to offer health insurance. By 1995, problems enforcing the law’s requirements led to a hasty GOP-led repeal, which sent the insurance market into a downward spiral that lasted five years. “Many state leaders, including former insurance executives, caution that congressional Republicans rushing to roll back Obamacare risk sowing the same kind of chaos that crippled Washington state’s insurance market two decades ago.”

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Omega-3 fatty acids and better brain function, the power of cinnamon, and 'oral allergy syndrome'

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 11:05 AM

Better brains with omega-3s
Want a great source of omega-3 fatty acids? Look no further than seeds and nuts.
  • Want a great source of omega-3 fatty acids? Look no further than seeds and nuts.
By now you’ve heard that omega-3 fatty acids are implicated in better metabolism and improving our heart health. But a new study shows they may also be implicated in warding off a decline in brain function. “This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia,” said the study’s lead author. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, tuna and flaxseed oil.

Here's a list of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Natural help for high blood sugar?
Millions of people are considered “pre-diabetic” meaning their blood sugar runs a little too high, but not quite high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Exercise and diet can often help prevent that progression, and so can some common herbs, and one spice in particular: cinnamon.

Read more about the Spice of Life in this story from our InHealth archives.

Runny nose and itchy mouth?

If you have seasonal allergies, you may find some fruits produce a weird sensation in your mouth during certain times of the year. This “oral allergy syndrome” is the result of ingesting a food that contains a protein similar in structure to the pollens that provoke an individual’s sneezing and red eyes. This cross-reactivity occurs in predictable patterns: spring tree allergies are linked with cherries, apples and pears, while summer grass allergies go with reactions to watermelon and cantaloupe. Cooking or peeling a fruit before eating may help, but check with an allergist if symptoms occur when eating nuts.

For more health-related information, check out the current issue of InHealth.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Creating organs with 3-D printing, be wary of common heartburn remedies, and a senior health assessment

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 2:44 PM

3-D print an organ
A team of Northwestern University 
A team from Northwestern has used 3-D technology to produce a prosthetic mouse ovary, with real implications for humans.
  • A team from Northwestern has used 3-D technology to produce a prosthetic mouse ovary, with real implications for humans.
researchers has successfully created a mouse ovary structure using a 3-D printer. The bioprosthetic ovary was created from a 3-D printed "scaffolding" into which immature eggs were placed. The ovary was implanted into an infertile mouse and the mouse ovulated, became pregnant and delivered healthy pups.

"This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function," said Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine."

Do commonly used heartburn remedies damage your kidneys?
People taking photon pump inhibitors, such as Nexium or Prilosec, for heartburn may find themselves at risk for kidney disease. In fact, “The risk of chronic kidney disease is as much as 50 percent higher in people who’ve taken the drug compared with those who’ve not — although no causative link has been proven and manufacturers insist they are safe,” according to a new report by Kaiser Health News. But while the FDA approved the drugs only for short-term use (a few weeks or months) many Americans are staying on them for years.

Are we better with age?

A new report on the health of Washington's seniors contains some good news: the state ranks 9th in the nation, up one place from a year ago. But the report identified challenges, including a 10 percent uptick in the number of seniors who smoke and a high prevalence of excessive drinking. On the plus side, there was a low prevalence of physical inactivity. The top three states for healthy seniors? Minnesota, Utah and Hawaii.

That uptick in smoking is a bummer, because smoking is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In fact, strokes are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. according to the American Stroke Association. The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest in Post Falls is offering stroke education and risk assessments at a free Stroke Awareness Fair on Wednesday, May 24, from 1:30 to 4 pm. Dr. Madeleine Geraghty, stroke hospitalist at Deaconess Hospital and Rockwood Neurology Center, will discuss heart health and stroke prevention in a presentation at 1:30 pm. For more information, call 208-262-8700 or email

Looking for more health-related information? Check out the current issue of InHealth.
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Learning to live with dandelions, Spokane's infectious-disease response plan, and why do we lie?

Posted By on Thu, May 11, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Maybe dandelions aren’t so bad…
2,4-D: Bad for your pets, bad for your kids, bad for you.
  • 2,4-D: Bad for your pets, bad for your kids, bad for you.

The chemical compound 2,4-D that dispatches weeds without hurting your grass may, unfortunately, be hurting your pets, you or your kids. Originally developed as a chemical weapon to “starve” Axis powers  in World War II by destroying their potato and rice crops, 2,4-D was a failure. Potatoes and rice were untouched by it. But weeds weren’t. Now it is widely used on farms, and is the most common herbicide found in suburban areas. But there are serious doubts about just how safe it is.

According to a report from public radio station KCET in Burbank, California, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health organization, classifies 2,4-D as a possible human carcinogen, mainly due to the chemical’s ability to cause genetic damage. Exposure has been linked to low sperm counts and male reproductive damage in animals, as well as reduced litter sizes. Dogs who lay on lawns treated with 2,4-D have a significantly higher risk of developing cancers.”

Might be better to just learn to live with dandelions.

Practice makes perfect
What if a plane lands in Spokane carrying a passenger suspected of having a highly infectious disease like Ebola? You’ll be happy to know that the city has a response plan for just such an event. The plan will be put to the test next Wednesday in what’s described as a “full-scale exercise” involving multiple players including the fire department, sheriff’s department, state and local departments of health, LifeFlight, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A “patient” will be transported from the airport to the “Special Pathogens Unit” at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, established in response to the Ebola epidemic in 2015.

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
Fake news, alternative "facts"… why do people lie? Explore the psychology of not telling the truth in the current issue of InHealth.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Shop around for an MRI, avoid foodborne illness, and get some free vitamin D

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 10:25 AM

How much for an MRI? 
Consider shopping around for your next MRI exam, or other costly test or procedure.
  • Consider shopping around for your next MRI exam, or other costly test or procedure.

While Congress debates what to do about health care, life goes on for the rest of us. If you need a costly test or procedure  — for example, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan — and are stuck with a high deductible insurance plan, you may want to consider shopping around. Kaiser Health News has specific instructions on how to do that, just as you'd look to get the best deal when purchasing any other big-ticket item.

Meat and potatoes and everything else
Food safety is a boring topic. Until you get a foodborne illness. Then there are suddenly few things more important than making sure the food you're currently enjoying won't be coming back to haunt you in a few hours. To assist with decisions on safe storage and preparation of food, the USDA has announced extended hours at its consumer hotline. Don't be shy — more than 3 million people have called the line since its inception. You can speak with a real live person at 1-866-674-6854,  Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3 pm. Or log on to the USDA website to submit a question or review a rather exhaustive list of FAQs.

Get your free vitamin D!
A new study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association hows it may be beneficial to skip the sunscreen for short outings in the noonday sun — think 5 to 30 minutes — a couple of times a week to encourage your body to produce vitamin D. While the importance of using sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin cancer can't be denied, researchers say sunscreen may decrease your ability to produce vitamin D by 99 percent. "From their review, the researchers conclude that sunscreen use and diseases involving malabsorption of vitamin D — including Crohn's disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease — play a part in almost 1 million cases of vitamin D deficiency worldwide."

Read more in the current issue of InHealth.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Look out, Congress! Here come the moms (and babies); plus, addiction assistance and teaching therapy

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 2:24 PM

Strolling Thunder in D.C.
  • Photo courtesy of Zero to Three

Hundreds of parents, caregivers and little ones in strollers will march in Washington, D.C., on May 2 as part of Strolling Thunder, an event to draw attention to the need for government policies that support families. Spokane mother Katie Zobell will be there, along with her 21-month-old daughter. “My husband and I are doing everything we can to provide for our growing family, but finding quality, affordable child care is a challenge," she says in a statement.

The event is organized by Zero to Three, a global nonprofit organization that works to ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the early connections that are critical to their well-being and development, with the goals of raising legislators' awareness of brain development during a child's first three years of life, and how legislation and investment in early childhood pays big dividends down the road.

Addiction assistance
Washington state will receive $11 million in federal funds to combat opioid addiction. The funding, which will go toward strengthening the state's program for monitoring prescription drugs, as well as expanding treatment programs, is part of the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law by President Obama in December. The grants were announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week. All 50 states and six territories received some funding; awards were based on the rates of overdose deaths and the number of people who needed treatment, but were unable to get it.

Read more about opioid addiction in Spokane in the current issue of InHealth.

Teaching therapy
A new outpatient therapy teaching clinic at the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic on Front Avenue opened today (Thursday, April 27). The 5,400-square-foot clinic, a partnership between St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute and Eastern Washington University, will offer clinical experience for physical and occupation therapy students, as well as "state of the art" rehab equipment. Initially, an occupational therapist and physical therapist will provide evaluation and treatment as students look on from a clinic observation room.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Testing future doctors, running risks and getting a boost from meatless protein

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 10:47 AM

Future doctors tested at WSU med school

As WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine prepares to greet 60 first-year medical students this fall, they’ve added a perk to the program. The future doctors will be able to enroll in a “Scientific Wellness” program offered by Seattle biotechnology company Arivale, featuring assessment of their DNA, blood and even saliva — all aimed at discovering potential areas of health vulnerability. Arivale dietitians and nurses will then follow up with monthly coaching based on “actionable” information the tests uncover.

“We are going to be the first medical school in the country to offer a scientific wellness program (to our students) so that they can learn firsthand what it means to be involved in precision or personalized medicine,” says the medical school’s founding dean, John Tomkowiak. The goal is to produce physicians who are not only proficient in the use of cutting-edge technology to optimize wellness, but also empathetic to the struggles of making lifestyle changes based on the findings. The Arivale program is also available to the public; the first year costs $3,500.

Marathon risks aren't just for runners
Runners in marathon races face fatigue, blisters and dehydration, but for people in the vicinity of the race, the risk of death from a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest is increased simply because of the crowds. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that ambulance times were increased by four minutes on average in neighborhoods near a marathon, and the rate of death within a month was 28 percent, versus 25 percent for other days. The study examined marathons in 11 cities, including Seattle: “Any event that draws a crowd and causes traffic detours — parades, ballgames, concerts, fairs — may cause similar problems, researchers warn.”

Delicious recipes feature nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast offers 3 to 6 grams of complete protein per tablespoon and as a bonus, it is a “great flavor booster,” says Alison Collins of Spokane’s Boots Bakery. Find recipes for Boots Bakery’s Power Salad Dressing and Versatile Vegan Cheesy Sauce in the newest issue of InHealth.
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