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December 9th, 2008
12:05 PM ET

Welcome to CNNhealth!

For over a year now, we at CNN have been busy working on a new Web site. Dozens of people came together to try and figure out what our Web users really wanted. You probably know CNN.com is already one of the most visited news sites in the world, and when it came to health, we knew we had to deliver something special. It had to be a place where you could not only get the latest news in the world of health, but also the knowledge that could improve your life every single day. It had to be a place where you could feel confident in the information you were getting, but also offered a way to communicate directly with experts, who are the very best at what they do. It had to rise above the clutter that has become a characteristic of so many health sites and it also had to appeal to your brain… and to your heart.  It had to become an essential part of your life.

The site you are about to open is essential, and we take great pride in knowing it could help improve the quality and length of your life.

You see every day, there is something happening somewhere in the world that could make your life better, sometimes in huge ways, sometimes in small. But, always better. So, here was our challenge. How do we find these new discoveries from places like Okinawa, Costa Rica and Sardinia and make them available to people everywhere in the world? How do we make sure the first sign of success in the treatment of  diseases such as Alzheimer's, spinal cord injury or ALS is brought to you the consumer immediately? How do we make sure the very best knowledge available anytime, anywhere would be immediately available at your fingertips? That was the challenge and we are pretty sure we got it right.

You see, CNN is a huge news organization with bureaus in major cities all over the world and a newsgathering operation that is second to none.

Just about every minute of every day, our reporters and producers are all over the world finding knowledge.

 Truth is, we gather more far more information and content than can ever be used on television alone. But we also recognize this information is valuable and should be made available to you, the consumer. So, part of our mandate is everything we learn and know – you will now learn and know. It is an incredible tool and we call it CNNhealth.com.

I will be your guide, and I could not be more delighted and honored to do it. Go on this journey with us – and together we will create a culture of wellness and prevention in this country. Together we will create a more fit America and together we will live better and longer for ourselves and for our loved ones.

Let's get started.


December 9th, 2008
12:04 PM ET

What supplement does Dr. Gupta take?

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

Question asked by J. Mizer, San Diego, California

"As part of CNN's programming, Dr. Gupta named the one daily vitamin supplement he takes, however, I can't remember what it was.  Can you  please advise?"

Answer:

Hi J,

First off, thanks for tuning in to CNN!  Your question is one I get often — the dilemma of whether to take a daily supplement can be confusing. The truth of it is Americans spend billions of dollars a year on a products that have no scientific proof they work.

In fact, 20 percent of Americans take some kind of an herbal supplement, but in about 2/3 of those cases the supplement isn’t clinically proven to provide benefit.

To answer your initial question, the one supplement I take everyday is fish-oil/omega 3. I have a family history of heart disease and there is evidence fish-oil, can help reduce my risk.    But this doesn’t mean, fish-oil is the only supplement that has benefits. 

Studies show calcium and vitamin D supplements can reduce your risk for osteoporosis. And folic acid supplements are beneficial for expecting mothers as they help prevent birth defects.

Here are a couple best-selling herbal supplements  that studies have proved have no benefit. Gingko biloba does not help your improve your memory or to ward of Alzheimer’s disease.  Studies say echinacea does not help fight off a cold and there is no evidence that St. John’s Wart works to treat depression.

I know it is harder than it sounds but the best way to get nutrients is through a well balanced diet.  Loading up on lots of vegetables, fish and leafy greens will provide you with a wide range of essential vitamins to keep your immune system up and your brain working at full speed.

 If you do chose to go with any type of vitamin or supplement, be sure to tell your doctor about it. Some herbal supplements can also cause harmful drug interactions with pharmaceutical drugs you might also be taking.


December 9th, 2008
12:03 PM ET

How can I work diet, fitness into my busy life?

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 Lillian, Washington, D.C.

"I go to school and work and never seem to have time to cook healthy meals or fit in a workout routine.  Can you give me some advice on how to get a program started?"

Answer:

Lillian, I can vouch firsthand that with a busy schedule, healthy eating habits and exercise routines are often the hardest to keep up 
with. 

One thing we know is that vegetables are one of the best foods for us to eat. They are filling, and packed with vitamins and nutrients. 

Look for vegetables at the store that are easy to prepare: pre-washed salads, carrots, grape tomatoes, celery. 

 One thing my family does is create vegetable snack-packs.  We get zip-lock bags and mix up the vegetables so they are easy to grab and eat on the road or bring for lunch.   Also, give grilling a try! It is an easy way to add a healthy, gourmet touch to dinner. Season vegetables-like asparagus, mushrooms, green peppers-with low-sodium seasonings and grill for about 5 to 10 minutes.

As for exercising, since your time is limited, try to find an activity that you can do socially while gaining health benefits.   One example is joining a dance group.  You can burn up to 500 calories dancing an hour.   Have a dog? Look for dog-walking group in your area.  It’s a great way to meet people, and help you..and Rover get in shape. 

The bottom line is you have to make health a priority.  Even if you have just 30 minutes a day of free time to exercise -make it happen! You will end up having more energy for your daily tasks at work and school.  Good luck, Lillian!


December 9th, 2008
12:02 PM ET

How common are peanut allergies?

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

Question asked by Jennifer, Ellijay, Georgia

"Our 17-month-old son was recently given peanut butter during snack time and he had a very severe allergic reaction. How common are peanut allergies, what causes them and what steps can we take to ensure we avoid peanuts?"
 
Answer:
 

Jennifer, food allergies are quite common among children. About 8 percent of kids have some sort of food allergies, the most common allergen being peanuts.   Peanut reactions can cause dizziness, constricted breathing and in some cases loss of consciousness.  What’s happening is your child’s immune system can’t process the protein found in peanuts.  As a defense mechanism, it identifies it as harmful and causes the reaction. 

To avoid trouble, you need to read food labels very carefully. If you are at a restaurant, be sure to alert the server of your peanut allergy.  There are often hidden sources of peanuts in certain foods. For example, arachis oil is actually peanut oil.  And it's common for sunflower seeds to be sorted on machines shared with peanuts.  Also, many ethnic foods, including Thai, African and Chinese dishes contain peanuts. 

 As your child gets older, inform him of the allergy and the risks. Discourage him from sharing foods with other children or at school, which will help limit any surprise attacks.  Also, inform all the key people in your child’s life about the allergy.  Never assume an aunt, a family friend, a baby sitter, or the day care or school knows about his allergy.

 Finally, be prepared: Carry and epinephrine shot on you at all times.  You can also leave a dose with the school or day care in case of emergency.  Epinephrine will increase blood pressure and the open airways in the lungs.

I know it seems like a lot to process but know you aren’t alone! There are many resources on the Web and as well as food allergy support groups to offer more tips to make the transition in diet easier.


December 9th, 2008
12:00 PM ET

What's this wartime brain injury?

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 Elizabeth,  Lawrence, Massachusetts

"My cousin is a marine that fought in Iraq.  Just recently, he was told he had an injury that caused his brain to actually "rattle" around in his head! What is the name of this condition and could you tell me more about it?"

 Answer:

 First of all, thanks to your cousin for his brave service. As someone who has reported from the frontlines in Iraq, I have witnessed, firsthand the dangers and the unimaginable sacrifices servicemen and servicewomen face on a daily basis. I’ve also met, and even operated on,  soldiers who suffer from your cousin’s condition. 

 It’s called “traumatic brain injury” or TBI. It’s a blow, jolt or penetration to the head that can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain.  It can happen anywhere and at anytime – during a fall, car crash or even rough sports. Concussions are a milder form of TBI.  

We now know, though, that traumatic brain injury has become one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of  the biggest causes are unexpected blasts from improvised explosive devices or IED’s.  Their sheer force can literally rock the brain, even when wearing a helmet.  The skull strikes a hard surface and the brain goes back and forth, like jello wiggling, and then begins to bruise from the swelling. 

It’s important to remember that there’s a broad range of severity for TBI. Common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders, nausea or memory problems. In mild cases, a traumatic brain injury may present as headaches or occasional dizziness. More severe cases can involve complete memory loss, personality changes or even persistent vegetative state.

Today, the Army checks soldiers before and after deployment to identify TBI cases. But unlike an obviously severed limb, traumatic brain injuries are difficult to diagnose, sometimes only noticeable years after leaving the battlefield. 

Unfortunately, there is no one way to treat TBI. Recovery depends on the severity of the case and varies from person to person. 

Everything from talk therapy to rehabilitation to the use of drugs to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety are used.  The good news is that mild cases often require little more than rest and over-the counter pain reliever.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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