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March 30th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

Cycling my way into that new bikini

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical News intern

Just the other day I was looking through the Victoria’s Secret’s swimsuit section and I was reminded that summer is not far way. But luckily I have been taking advantage of fitness classes over the past few months, not only to feel better about my body image but also for my overall health and well being.

Among the treadmills, ellipticals and rowing machines, my favorite is the cycling class. I feel like Lance Armstrong racing to win the Tour de France except I’m competing against saddle bags, hypertension and diabetes risk.

The health benefits of group exercise classes, especially cycling, are numerous. Staying active minimizes the risk of coronary disease and ensures your blood pressure is under control. It helps to prevent the clutch of health problems that include strokes, diabetes and cancer. I may be young, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have the energy to carry out simple day-to-day activities. Studies show that cycling helps a great deal in building stamina.

But wait there’s more good news. Cycling is one of the most effective ways to burn those extra calories while getting rid of the tummy flab and thunder thighs. Dr. Arthur Frank, a weight-management physician from George Washington University Hospital, says not all activity is the same. In order for exercise to help you lose weight, you have to burn an awful lot of calories. On the average, a 45-minute cycling workout burns up to 600 calories. That’s a lot, but how many times a week should I be cycling in order to look nice in that new beautiful red bikini? The 2008 Health and Human Services guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, three times a week.

With those stats, I now think twice about hitting the snooze button and skipping my morning cycling class. I may not like to sacrifice sleeping in, but by not exercising, I know that I am sacrificing much more. So I’m up and out. Summer is just right around the corner. While my housemates are fast asleep I’m dripping sweat, and spinning my way to a healthy heart, mind, body and soul.

What are you doing to get in shape for the summer? We’d like to know.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 27th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

The secret is out – women lose their hair too!

By Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

I was on the phone with my friend the other night having ordinary “girl talk” when I heard an exaggerated gasp on the other end of the line. “Are you OK?” I immediately asked, worried something awful had happened. “I’m fine,” she said. “I was just looking in the mirror and realized my hair is getting so thin! I’m going to be bald before you know it.”

The truth is, my thirtysomething friend is not going to end up bald like her shiny-headed husband, but she is joining over 50 percent of women who’ll experience hair loss before age 50.

That number may seem high but doctors say “female-pattern balding” occurs all the time - but women just don’t like to talk about. “It can be embarrassing for some women so they’ll just style their hair differently try to hide it,” says Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.

Hair loss patterns in women are different from those you’d see in men. Most women experience thinning on the top of the head, or around the crown. Rarely do women experience receding hair lines or develop patches of total baldness, according to dermatologists.

It’s normal to lose about 100 strands of hair a day. If you notice your hair loss increasing, it’s important to talk to your doctor because while often hereditary, it can also be a sign of a serious medical condition, or a side effect from a prescription drug. (find a dermatologist in your area

I was surprised to learn not all 'hair loss' is created equal. Turns out, women can experience three different types:

Thinning:  This is the most common form of hair loss and it's hereditary. “You can pretty much look at either your mom or dad and determine if you’re at high risk,” says Mirmirani.

The normal growth cycle for hair is every two to six years. But as we age, the growth cycle shortens and the new strands of hair grow in fewer, and thinner. There is no prevention for hereditary hair thinning, but there are treatment options.

For those experiencing hereditary thinning, an over-the-counter topical medication containing 2 percent to 5 percent of the drug minoxidil will slow down the thinning process and help to re-grow new, stronger hair follicles. “This is a great treatment option but a women need to keep using it because if they stop, the same thinning pattern will develop all over again, “ notes Mirmirani.

Shedding:  Shedding occurs for a number of reasons, most often in women post-pregnancy. When pregnant, elevated hormone levels in the body cause your hair follicles to take a nap essentially and not shed the normal 100 hairs a day. “This is why you’ll often hear women talk about how great their hair looked during those nine months,” Mirmirani added. “Post-pregnancy, your hair’s natural growth cycle plays catch up and sheds a lot of hair at once, but in reality it’s the same amount you would have naturally lost if you never got pregnant.”

Over 290 medications can also cause hair shedding, according to the AAD. Most common medications to impact hair loss are amphetamines, beta blockers, antidepressants and blood thinners.

Lack of a properly balanced diet, including getting enough iron, will also cause hair to shed. An over- or under-active thyroid is also a common factor.

“The good thing for a person experiencing hair shedding to know is that it’s absolutely not permanent–the hair will grow back the same as it was before.”

Experts say about six months after eliminating the reason for the increased shedding (example, after pregnancy, or once your thyroid is regulated), your hair will go back to normal.

Breakage: If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to frequently use an extra hot flat-iron on your luscious locks. But do you ever wonder where all the hair on your bathroom floor came from afterwards? Frequent use of flat-irons and hot rollers can cause damage and hair loss. “The root or hair follicle isn’t being impacted, but the actual hair strands are damaged and will break off from the root with frequent use.” Note to self: cut back on the flat-iron!

How about you? Have you noticed your hair thinning out as you age? Is hair loss really a “taboo” topic for women? Are there any treatments or shampoos that worked for you? Share your story below!

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 26th, 2009
12:57 PM ET

Is a cold sore always permanent?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Kaley, Tucson, Arizona

“Dr. Gupta,

My roommate has been getting cold sores around her mouth since she was a little girl. I have never had one until very recently. Is it true that once you get a cold sores, you’ll get them for the rest of your life? What can I do to avoid getting another one? Thanks.”

Answer:

Hi Kaley. Thanks for writing in. Cold sores – also known as fever blisters – are highly contagious. The virus can live on towels, razors, cooking utensils, cups among other everyday household places. So you can imagine how easy it is to pass to a roommate, as in your situation, or to a family member.

Fever blisters are the result of virus known as herpes simplex virus one (HSV-1). While the thought of the virus infecting your body may seem really serious, its actually relatively harmless and quite common. Eight in 10 Americans are HSV-1 carriers, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There is no currently no cure for cold sores. Once you have the virus, you have it for life. HSV-1 moves around your body and “sleeps” in your nerves cells until something triggers it to “wake up.” The virus will then move to the surface. Some people will go years without having an infection, while other people will experience them frequently.

You can limit your overall risk by identifying what triggers your cold sores. The most common reasons are exposure to the sun, stress, a low immune system or toothache. Even certain foods can be the trigger.

Some believe foods such as olive oil, citrus fruits, sea salt, garlic, asparagus as well as  soft drinks and chocolate can trigger a cold sore.   If your cold sore already is already formed, some of these foods may aggravate the infection. The best thing to do is eat a balance of these foods. Eating or drinking any of these items from time to time is not problematic, just be mindful of the triggers and eat a balanced diet.

And it’s worth noting that your body will give you warning signals when the cold sore is on the way. The infected area will feel warm, tingling, perhaps even itchy up to two full days before you see the physical signs. If you begin treatment during this early stage, you’ll limit the severity of the outbreak.

When the small red blisters bumps begin to surface on your lip, or corner of your mouth, it’s critical to not touch the area at all. This is most contagious stage and the fluid in those bumps will infect other areas of your body and the people around you.

The best treatment option in the early stages is a prescription antiviral medication. These come in pill or ointment form and will help limit the growth of the virus. There are some ointments to help relieve the pain and itchy senstations available over the counter. People often get relieve from a cool compress on the area for about 20 minutes.

So Kaley, although cold sores are often a nuisance phyiscally, there are several ways to limit the frequency or severity of a potential outbreak. Your doctor can help determin the best treatment option for you.


March 25th, 2009
03:48 PM ET

Why the red face? Alcohol flush could mean increased cancer risk

By Madison Park
Writer/Producer CNNhealth.com

Immediately after taking a few sips of an alcoholic drink, I have an almost cartoonish reaction. I burn up and turn scarlet – my whole face, forearms and neck.

My response to alcohol is so strong that a martini is enough to make me vomit, and half a bottle of beer makes me ill. Don’t even get me started about wine.

The facial flush, also known as “the Asian glow,” is a fairly common reaction to alcohol amongst East Asians. They turn red, feel nauseated, get swollen and their heartbeats race. I liken the experience to turning into a bright red disco ball. Some people get so embarrassed about this reaction to alcohol, they pop in Pepcid AC, which many people say helps mask the red face.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and Japan's Kurihama Alcohol Center found that individuals who get the redness after drinking alcohol are at greater risk for developing esophageal cancer.

About eight percent of the world’s population has this genetic condition (Thanks, Mom and Dad), where the body lacks an enzyme that properly breaks down alcohol.

This missing enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 metabolizes alcohol into acetate, which is non-toxic - so the remaining 92 percent of the world can drink with normal facial color.

But when I drink, the alcohol turns into acetaldehyde, which is a chemical that causes DNA damage and has cancer-promoting effects. That causes the facial flush, according to scientists from NIAAA.

Researchers whose work was published this week in PLoS Medicine say that people who have the facial flush and continue to drink are six to 10 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared with someone without the genetic condition who is drinking the same amount.

And esophageal cancer carries a five-year survival rate of 12 to 31 percent.

For Lent, I gave up alcohol and I don’t miss the headaches, redness, or vomiting. So this might become permanent, because I think my body is trying to tell me something.

Do you have strange reactions to alcohol? How do you deal with it? And has this deterred you from drinking?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 24th, 2009
01:34 PM ET

Holy cow: the wide impact of eating red meat

By Shahreen Abedin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Last weekend, as a special treat for my family, I grilled up some lovely filet mignon steaks for dinner. To my surprise, our 16-month-old LOVED the beef, which we cut up into thin juicy slices for him. He literally gobbled it up. Beaming, my husband made some comment about the baby being a true Texan like his daddy.

Flash-forward to this morning’s medical news headline: Red meat will make you die sooner.

National Cancer Institute researchers studied 500,000 people and found those who reported eating the highest amounts of red meat (about a steak a day) had a 30 percent greater risk of dying compared to those who ate the lowest amounts of red meat (which was on average about a kid’s hamburger a day). The study considered ‘red meat’ to mean all forms of beef and pork products, including processed forms like sausages and yes, bacon.

The point of the study was not necessarily to eliminate all red meat from your diet, but to enjoy it in moderation. No prob.

But aside from the health argument, I’ve been more troubled about what Barry Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist, discussed in his editorial published alongside the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. He focused on the environmental impact of how much meat we eat, an argument that’s starting to make me less comfortable about chomping down on a cheeseburger for lunch today.

Primarily, we’re talking about the toll on our planet resulting from mass raising livestock in the giant, assembly-line meat factories where animals are fed then processed before they show up in the grocery store, all neatly packaged and ready for the grill. And it’s not just an issue here in the U.S., where total gross consumption of meat and dairy foods is double or even triple of what people in lower-income countries eat. Elsewhere in the world, industrial livestock production is growing more than twice as quickly as the traditional methods, where cows just graze on grass out in the fields.

These animals consume huge amounts of energy and water. We use two to five times more water to grow grain for these animals than just to raise the crops that we eat ourselves. One source estimates almost a quarter of the world’s water goes to livestock use. Amidst global food shortages – where 800 million people on our planet go hungry every day - the majority of corn and soy grown on this earth go to feed these animals.

On top of that, there’s the issue of water pollution. In the U.S., raising livestock accounts for more than half of the erosion of our soil, half the antibiotics consumed, a third of pesticides used, and a third of the total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus into surface water, says the editorial.

Plus, these animals generate massive volumes of greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere. The U.N. estimates that livestock are responsible for almost a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions – much more than what the cars and trucks on America’s roads account for.

Despite these facts, I know I’m still going to be looking forward to our first big “grillfest” of the season, just as soon as this weather gets a bit warmer. However, on a daily basis, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be going easier on the red meat, for reasons that go beyond my own family’s health.

Just wondering – are you just as bothered as I am about the environmental consequences of our meat eating habits? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 23rd, 2009
03:24 PM ET

Am I really allergic to penicillin?

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical News Managing Editor

About 20 years ago, when I was barely out of college and a struggling journalist, I developed a horrible sore throat. I didn't have a regular doctor, so I had my throat examined in a small clinic in a strip mall. The doctor figured I had strep throat, but the test came back negative. Still, she prescribed antibiotics and sent me on my way. The next morning, I woke up with little red dots all over my body, so I went back to the clinic. The same doc looked at me, said I had hives, harrumpfed that I was allergic to penicillin and gave me a prescription for a different antibiotic. The sore throat eventually went away, but every time since that I've gone to a doctor or dentist and I’ve listed penicillin as one of my allergies. Still, I always wondered if I really had an allergy; I took penicillin frequently during my childhood and never had an allergic reaction.

I came across a recent study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that said 80 to 90 percent of people who report being allergic to penicillin are really not.

This new study sought to determine how many patients who came into an Emergency Department (ED) and said they are allergic to penicillin really were allergic. Using two back-to-back skin tests, doctors in the ED at the University of Cincinnati tested 150 patients who reported having a penicillin allergy. 91 percent of these patients tested negative for the allergy.

For Dr. Joseph Moellman, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Emergency Medicine, who conducted this study, finding out that taking the additional 30 minutes to conduct these two tests has several important implications. "We see a lot of patients with pneumonia, with sepsis, for which penicillin is a great drug...It's also a lot cheaper." Moellman says the average cost saving is $71. So if, for example, a pneumonia patient is in the hospital for a week, and possibly needs antibiotics every six hours – significant savings can add up very quickly. Plus, using penicillin where it's known to work allows doctors to save the few newer antibiotics we have for illnesses that have become resistant to penicillin.

"This is good information," says Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy expert and spokesperson for the American Academy for Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "The fact that the test is fast and inexpensive is helpful." But he did point out that there has been a shortage of proper testing agents for penicillin. Once these testing agents become more widely available again, Bassett says that this test could be done in other settings too, not just in an emergency room, but also in a regular doctor's practice.

He adds that some previous research suggests that some people who genuinely were allergic to penicillin could lose their allergy if they don't come in contact with this drug for 10 years or more.

Of course neither doctor could explain whether I really am allergic to penicillin. But Moellman explained that sometimes a virus itself can cause hives, and Bassett told me that usually it takes more than 24 hours for a penicillin allergy to become evident. I, for one, plan to get tested to determine whether I truly am allergic to penicillin.

Have you been told you're allergic to penicillin? Would you consider getting tested?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 20th, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Darius goes West

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Darius Weems wants you to know about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). It's the number one genetic killer of children worldwide and it's a disease that, as of now, has no known cure. It's also a disease most people have never heard of, something that Darius, who has DMD, and his crew of best friends, are working to change.

According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly one of every 3,600 male infants is born with a defective gene for dystrophin, a protein normally found in the body's muscles. It's that lack of dystrophin that causes DMD, a progressive muscle disorder that eventually results in a loss of muscle function. Boys are primarily affected by the disease.

Four years ago, Darius and his crew set out on a cross-country journey to raise awareness of DMD. They filmed their trip and turned the footage into the award-winning independent film "Darius Goes West." Since the movie's release, the guys have traveled across the country on countless road trips, hosting screenings, and educating the public. Their mission is to find a cure for DMD. Remarkably, they have already raised more than $2 million for Duchenne research.

Recently I had the honor of watching "Darius Goes West" with Darius, who is now 19 years old, film director Logan Smalley, and producer Daniel Epting. Their passion is as tireless today as it was when they first started out four years ago. Not only do they educate their audiences about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy but the crew also tackles the greater issue of equal rights for people who have physical disabilities. As Darius said to me while we were having lunch, he can do anything in his wheelchair that anyone else can do without one. DMD is not his obstacle: the only thing that ever stands in his way is a building or an area that is not accessible.

It is unlikely that Darius will see a cure for DMD in his lifetime. For him, the goal is to find a cure for DMD so someone else's life can be prolonged. That's why he travels, that's why he went West, and that's why he wants you to know about it.

Have you ever been inspired by someone? Had you ever heard of DMD before this?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 19th, 2009
05:39 PM ET

Head trauma is nothing to be taken lightly

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

The death of actress Natasha Richardson is tragic. A beautiful, vital 45-year-old goes for a ski lesson and falls. She gets up, declines medical care and goes back to her hotel. From there, the story takes a terrible turn. She becomes ill, and is transported to one hospital, then another and then finally to a third hospital near her home, where she dies two days later from brain injuries caused by an epidural hematoma. Her family, friends and fans are shocked. How can something as innocent as a ski fall  kill you? Because, neurologists say, the brain, although complex, is a delicate organ. It's very vulnerable and it needs to be taken seriously. And even a bump on the head can take its toll. Unfortunately, I know this all too well.

Thirteen years ago, my husband, daughter and I were in a terrible car accident on the Florida Turnpike. On our way to Orlando, our vehicle was hit by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel. Although we all had our seat belts on, our car swerved and hit a bridge embankment. My husband's head went out the side window, hitting the windshield and the concrete. When EMS workers got to us, it looked as if a battle had taken place: burning cars, debris. And because my husband had a major slice to his head, blood was everywhere. I was not hurt, and my daughter had a minor cut from flying glass. They loaded us into ambulances and took us to two different hospitals, my husband headed for the local trauma unit. He stayed two days in the hospital. They stitched up his forehead and sent him home, mentioning that he may want to see his doctor once he got back to Washington, D.C. And although the whole thing was terribly traumatic, we left Florida three days later, with my husband behind the wheel of a rental car.

Because he felt fine and there seemed to be no urgency to his injuries, my husband went back to work and made an appointment with his doctor to have a CT scan two months later. When he got off the table, the radiologist asked him to sit down and immediately called a neurologist. As the doctor viewed the images, his face turned pale and he asked my husband how long had it been since he was in the accident. My hubby shrugged and said, "A couple of months." The physician then told him not to move - he was going to schedule surgery immediately. It seemed my husband had developed a subdural hematoma that covered his entire brain. According to MayoClinic.com it's usually formed from head trauma that causes the brain to be shaken severely. Many children who suffer from shaken baby syndrome have these type of injuries. And unlike epidural hematomas, which bleed in the brain fairly quickly, my husband's injury developed slowly, causing a massive bruise to form. One false move could have given him a stroke, or caused permanent brain damage.

Although my husband made it through brain surgery without incident, there is a lesson here. Never take a head injury for granted. When doctors looked at his scans in the ER in Florida, they obviously did not see the bruising that later formed over his brain. Because the brain is loaded with large and small blood vessels, head injuries can cause all sorts of serious problems. Studies have shown that athletes who suffer even minor concussions can develop neurological problems later in life. The brain is nothing to be messed with.

Ironically, March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. And although brain injuries are not as common as, say, broken bones, they do happen and many have serious consequences. They need to be treated immediately. In this story, my husband got treated, before suffering brain damage. He was fortunate. God bless her, but Ms. Richardson was not.

Have you ever faced head trauma? Know someone who has? What happened? We'd like to hear about it.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 19th, 2009
11:39 AM ET

Explain the factor V Leiden genetic mutation and blood clot risk

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Sharon, Montgomery, Texas

"I just heard that this month is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness month, and that Heidi Collins has had DVT. My question is, does she also have factor V Leiden? I know she has celiac disease and just wonder if that was the cause of her blood clot or was it factor V? Did the news anchor who passed away in Iraq have factor V Leiden? Thank you for asking her this for me. I am curious because while I haven’t had DVT, I do have factor V Leiden."

Answer:

Thank you Sharon for being such a loyal viewer of CNN and for this question. Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT develops in over 2 million Americans each year. Yet many people are not familiar with DVT, or the signs and symptoms. And getting treatment early can be the difference between life or death.

Simply put, DVT is a blood clot that develops in a vein in your leg. This clot restricts blood flow to the heart. In serious cases, the it can break apart, travel through the circulatory system and end up in the lungs. This often-fatal condition is known as a pulmonary embolism. DVT develops in seemingly healthy people of all ages, however, certain factors do increase your risk. Blood clots are most prevalent in smokers, during pregnancy, after undergoing an operation, and after sitting for long periods during air travel.

Genetic factors can also play a role. Factor V Leiden is a genetic mutation that increases a persons risk of developing a blood clot. Up to 40 percent of people who develop DVT are carriers of the gene.

People often don’t know they have factor V because doctors don’t regularly screen for it. Former NBC correspondent David Bloom, who died from a blood clot while covering the war in Iraq, was a carrier of the factor V Leiden mutation.

His wife, Melanie Bloom, revealed in a CNN interview, that it wasn’t until after her husband’s death that they discovered he had the mutation. However she believes it was a combination of risk factors that lead to his death–not just factor V. “Along with the restricted mobility and dehydration and the long-haul flights leading up to embedding with the troops, we found, after doing David’s autopsy, that he had a gene–factor V Leiden that did predispose him. But it just added to his other risk factors,” Melanie Bloom said.

My friend, and CNN Newsroom anchor, Heidi Collins discovered she had a serious blood clot after experiencing a cramp in her leg. We sent Heidi your question, here is her response:

“The doctors in the emergency room at the Air Force Academy found my clot back in 1997 after I experienced severe leg pain. Four months later after arterial bypass surgery I was out of the hospital and was cured. Literally. No more clot, and no more complications. Unfortunately, to this day, none of the team of 20 doctors at the Mayo Clinic could determine what caused my clot. I was tested for factor V and I did not have the gene. The only thing my blood continued to show was a positive ANA (anti-nuclear antibody). It usually indicates there is something going on with the immune system; typically an indication of an autoimmune disease. Sadly, even after that continuous finding, I was not tested for celiac disease. Lupus was one of many diagnoses but no mention of celiac disease, which I knew nothing of until about eight years later. As far as I know, there is no connection that can be proven between celiac and DVT. But I can say that I have now met four other people with celiac disease that have had clots. Personally, it sure would explain a lot about why I got so sick all those years ago. I will be watching very closely to see if a link can be made.”

Sharon, I was happy to read that, despite being a carrier of factor V, you have not developed DVT. By knowing you’re genetically predisposed to clots, you can make lifestyle changes to lower the risk of it occurring in the future.

Anyone who experiences unusual leg cramps, swelling, redness or skin warm to the touch should seek medical attention immediately. It could be an early sign of DVT.

To learn more on how to prevent DVT and about factor V Leiden, click here.

Heidi Collins is the spokesperson for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Find out more by clicking here.


March 18th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

Healthy eating on a student budget

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical Intern

Like most college students, I'm on a tight budget, which means my eating habits sometimes suffer. Nutritionists aren't kidding when they say young people can pack on a few pounds when they go off to school. I did it. Eating out and nibbling on junk food affected my health as well as my bank account. Those quick stops at convenience stores to pick up a candy bar or swing through the fast food drive-thru to satisfy my hunger, didn't help my waistline.

Luckily I became a campus peer health educator in my freshman year and found a healthy alternative that would leave me feeling energized and better about myself. I learned to plan ahead. I began to make a grocery list and avoid the greasy spoons. And that's good. Dietitians say people who plan ahead and cook at home often find they eat more nutritious meals with more fruits and vegetables.

I also found that grocery shopping has saved me hundreds of dollars over the past year. Not only do the store chains provide those great money saving cards, but I found myself eating out less and having dinner at home with my housemates. Now we cook healthier meals filled with eggs, fish, turkey, even whole grains. On the weekends, I enjoy cooking meats and pasta that usually lasts the whole week. It is simple and easy. I come home and pop my chicken or fish in the microwave. While that's heating up, I cut up veggies and toss a piece of bread in the toaster. My dinner is ready in less than five or 10 minutes, the same amount of time it would've taken to get dinner if I ate out.

What happens between classes? One of the worst feelings is sitting in lecture hall while the professor is babbling on and on, and feeling my stomach growl so loudly that it seems like the 374 other students in the classroom can hear it. So I pack healthy snacks to munch on while walking to the next class. I love assorted nuts, fruit, peanut butter, low-fat cottage cheese, sugar-free pudding or Jell-O, and even fresh veggies like carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group for nutrition, health, and food safety, suggests looking for whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugars to help ward off hunger. If you choose carefully, you can even find satisfying snack bars that aren't loaded with sugar. And it's good for my study habits. Even the American Dietetic Association says eating small meals throughout the day helps keep you alert.

Before I started cooking at home, I would jump in my car and make a quick dash to the local pizza place or sub shop.. Now eating out is a treat for me. And I've got hundreds of dollars in my pocket to spend on more important things...like shoes!!!!!

Are you a college student having a tough time with your eating habits? What do you do to stay healthy and save money? We want to know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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