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March 16th, 2009
01:53 PM ET

Lead poisoning remains a household danger

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

This week you’re going to hear a lot about the dangers of poisoning, especially for children. It’s National Poisoning Prevention Week, and more than half of the 2.4 million calls to poison control centers involve children under age 6. One toxin that doesn’t usually prompt calls to a poison control hotline – a hidden toxin – may surprise you.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil. One substance you probably won’t hear much about this week is lead. After all, U.S. oil companies began phasing out leaded gasoline in 1975, and the government banned lead in paint in 1978. But lead poisoning remains a threat that can tragically lower the trajectory of a child’s life.

For an upcoming Dr. Sanjay Gupta special looking at toxic chemicals in the environment, we interviewed Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York. In the 1970s, he was a young field investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traveling around the country and around the world, often on a few hours notice, chasing epidemics. Dr. Landrigan flew to El Paso in 1971, at the urging of the county health department, to look into the potential dangers to children living near a lead smelter. At the time, lead was generally considered to be what Landrigan calls an “all or none” disease. If you weren’t exposed to levels that caused coma or death, you were fine. Researchers didn’t realize lower levels could have a profound consequence on a child’s life. Landrigan and his colleagues found children living closer to the smelter had higher the levels of lead in their blood. More troublesome still, they found higher blood-lead levels meant lower IQs, lower attention spans and more disruptive behavior. This and other groundbreaking work marked the beginning of the end for lead in paint and gasoline. Doctors now consider no amount of lead as safe.

Still, old paint remains. The CDC found one in seven children under 5 are at “high risk” of lead exposure because they live in older housing. And the risk isn’t limited to toddlers chewing paint chips. Sanding and scraping old paint on walls and old window as part of a home renovation can kick up lead dust, which can cause brain damage - even in the womb, a tragic outcome for parents trying to get a room ready for the new baby.

Have you taken any precautions against lead in your home?

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 13th, 2009
11:22 AM ET

Too much salt can be bitter for your health

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

If you're like me, going to the movies just isn't the same without a tub of popcorn. Although I don't douse it with butter, I do admit to shaking just a little salt on my bucket of munchies before entering the theater. It's that salty crunchiness that satisfies my movie-loving soul. It just takes the edge off while I moon over Daniel Craig.

The problem is, even that little shake could put me way over the number of milligrams of salt each of us needs every day. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans should limit their sodium intake to no more than 2,400 milligrams or 6 grams a day. That's about one and a half teaspoons a day. ONE AND A HALF TEASPOONS A DAY! Break out your measuring spoons. That's not much, considering most foods we eat, including that popcorn, are loaded with salt.

Although sodium plays an important role in regulating body fluids and blood pressure, most of us consume way more salt than our bodies need. And because of our fast-paced lives, a lot of those quick meals we throw in the microwave are the biggest sodium culprits. Processed foods, for example certain lunch meats and TV dinners, are brimming with salt, some over 1,000 milligrams a meal. That's almost half your salt intake for the day. In fact, many of the frozen diet meals we eat have lots of salt, because, according to health experts such as Jane Delgado from the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, "It's an inexpensive way to add flavor." She says better to season your food with spices, even lemon juice to keep it tasty. And look at nutrition labels

Expecting a baby? Watch your sodium. Most pregnant women should talk to their doctors about their salt intake, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, when the fetus is beginning to develop. Dropping sodium during pregnancy can cause problems for mom and her child, by disrupting the body's fluid balance. Edema, or excess water retention, that occurs during pregnancy is usually not harmful, unless the mother has high blood pressure But it can get out of hand. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I ballooned into a 200-plus pound mass of happy mama. Because of edema I took on a lot of water weight, but my blood pressure remained normal. In my ninth month all I could wear were my husband's flip flops and a huge muumuu. I was miserable. My OB/GYN advised me to limit my salt, because it causes cells to retain water. I tried, but I still grew. Two days after I gave birth to my baby girl, I had dropped 45 pounds. Needless to say, a good 75 percent of that was water weight.

So it's no surprise when it comes to salt, most doctors agree less is better. Although the debate on how much salt is needed continues, health experts agree a little goes a long way. Too much salt has been shown to lead to high blood pressure which can cause heart disease and stroke. For those with hypertension, certain physicians say lowering sodium intake to 1,800 milligrams would probably be healthier.

So the next time you're running to catch a flick and start to reach for the shaker at the concession stand , go easy. Think about how much salt you're consuming.

Do you watch your salt? How do you limit your salt intake?

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 12th, 2009
11:21 AM ET

Can you explain frontal lobe dementia?

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

Question

A lifelong friend of mine, a "young" 58-year-old, has just been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. She was told she's had it for 20 years, but there have been no noticeable symptoms until the last two years. Can you please shed some light on this disease?

 

Answer

Thank you, Kathy, for sharing you friend’s story and for the question. While there are many potential causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s is something that often springs to mind and accounts for about 50 percent of all dementia cases. It is often thought of as an older person’s disease, but it can occur in people that are relatively young, like your friend was. Having never seen your friend or examined her, let me instead talk a little about Alzheimer's. It is a tough thing to understand because we don’t quite know what causes it, or how to cure it.

 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative problem. You develop these plaques that deposit themselves into the brain. They start to cause memory problems that advance to cognition problems.  

But there is no question it’s one of the fastest-growing diseases in America. Over 5 million people have it and millions of others experience memory loss because of depression, dementia, or just the normal aging process.

We've come to learn that Alzheimer’s does probably have a genetic component.  This may have been the case with your friend, who doctors say has had the disease for 20 years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a person may go three to 20 years without ever getting a firm diagnosis.  But truth be told, rarely are two patients’ experiences the same. People often have different rates of progression and severity of symptoms.  

 We know you can’t prevent or even cure Alzheimer’s disease but there are ways to boost your memory and possibly lower your risk. Start by making simple lifestyle changes. Studies people who exercise daily are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease versus those who don’t. And don’t stress the small stuff!  Reducing stress protects the brain. Stock up on brain foods like those rich in antioxidants. Blueberries, prunes, nuts, salmon as well as the spice turmeric can help boost your memory.

 

It's important to remember that memory loss is a normal part of aging. In fact we all begin losing brain cells little by little at age 20.  So forgetting part of a story once in a while is completely normal. A possible warning sign of Alzheimer’s is if you forget an entire experience. Do you misplace your keys? Well, that’s normal. In fact, I'm not quite sure where mine are right now. However someone with Alzheimer’s may misplace things in unusual places, such as putting the keys in the freezer.

 

Bottom line is if you spot unusual symptoms in yourself or a loved one, its important to get a properly diagnosis as soon as possible. Alzheimer’s disease may not be the reason for the memory lapses, and many dementia-like symptoms can be treated with medication.

 

Final thought Kathy – Alzheimer’s disease is said to be often harder for friends and family than the patient with Alzheimer’s because it changes relationships.  The Alzheimer’s Association provides a 24-hour hotline for caregivers or family members looking for information, or just someone to talk to.  To find out more information, click here.

 

 


March 11th, 2009
01:27 PM ET

There's more to exercise

By Leslie Wade
CNN Medical Producer

I don't think I ever walked much as a kid. I mostly ran. I was a tomboy with an older brother and running and playing outdoors was my MO. So why am I finding it so hard to exercise now that I'm over 50? Maybe it's because an ankle injury has limited me to walking. We all know that exercise is the key to living a longer healthier life. Why don't these words propel us out of bed each morning reaching for the running shoes? It helps me to know WHY something is so before I do it, and exercise is no exception. Let me take you through a rudimentary physiology lesson. I promise I won't get too nerdy.

Sticky and yucky, no thanks – You probably know, there are 2 types of blood cholesterol, the good, called the HDLs, and the bad, the LDLs. If the bad-guy LDLs hang around in your bloodstream too long they help form gunk in your arteries called plaques. If a piece of plaque breaks off, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke. This is where exercise can help. When you work up a sweat your body goes into garbage-removal mode and actually carries some of the bad cholesterol out before it has a chance to wreak havoc.

Better snugglin' with your honey – OK, so most of us would like to keep having sex as the years go by. And one of the best ways to ensure that your love life stays in synch is to get your blood moving through exercise. Experts say regular cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, running, or other aerobic fitness of your choosing – three to five days a week for about 30 minutes - should do the trick. As we become fit, the heart muscle becomes more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body, and our blood vessels, which have a tendency to get stiff and brittle from lack of exercise, become more flexible. Exercise also helps keep those pesky LDLs from forming plaques, aiding blood flow. And better circulation means less chance of impotence or erectile dysfunction. But men aren't the only ones whose sex drive can suffer from lousy blood flow. Ladies, if the blood isn't getting to where it needs to go, well, you get the picture.

Better thinkin' noggin – Working up a sweat is one of the best ways to stay mentally sharp as we age. Brain cells called neurons need a lot of support to ensure that we continue to think clearly and remember things. And when you increase your heart rate through physical activity, more blood gets to the brain, bringing with it valuable brain food called glucose and oxygen. Studies in animals have also found that exercise stimulates the release of proteins (called nerve growth factors) that act like fertilizer keeping neurons healthy. Scientists are beginning to think this may be the case in humans as well. And another bit of good news, aerobic exercise two or three times a week cuts your chances of getting dementia later in life in half.

The other night when I was walking on the raised track at the local YMCA, I was ready to say the heck with it and head home. I was tired from a long week at work, not sleeping well because of my husband's cold and just plain bushed from worrying about the economy. But I kept going. I looked down at the basketball court under the track and watched as about a dozen 5-year-olds struggled to heave basketballs up toward the net. They shoved, grunted, stumbled and giggled, which got me laughing and thinking. Though those little guys were moving differently, they were running and chasing rebounds. I was simply putting one tired foot in front of the other. Yet we shared something very important. We were doing something good for our minds and bodies and, with luck, making our lives a little better.

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 10th, 2009
11:54 AM ET

Jumping in head first to health care policy

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent

 

All this week, we are going to jump into something that is hardly ever covered on television. There is no question that health policy, full of its obscure terms and wonkish numbers, may have a better home in newspapers or long-form magazine pieces. But over the last few months, I have been thinking about this non-stop.

Health policy has been debated over and over again since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, and most recently in the mid ’90s, under the leadership of then first lady, Hillary Clinton.

As you may know, I worked as a White House fellow during President Clinton’s second term and I most recently was considered for the post of surgeon general. While I chose to continue my neurosurgical practice at the local county hospital and help my wife prepare for the birth of our third child, I did have a unique chance to independently evaluate some of the Obama health care plan components.

As we sat down as a production team, we tried to focus on some of the key issues those plans seek to address. I emphasized a couple of points: First, let’s remember there are real people and stories behind all these numbers. All of our segments will reflect that. Second, do not bite off more than we can chew. We will pick a specific topic on any given day, and see to it that you can understand it fully, before moving on to the next topic. This week, we picked five areas of the health care discussion that will help inform your thinking. While there will be many more topics to come, we found these essential as starting points.

We start off with a discussion of universal health care. Turns out you don’t have to travel to Canada or France to get a glimpse of how it might work. We have a model right here in this country, in the state of Massachusetts. What are the lessons learned?

Next will be a look at “pre-existing condition.” If you hear that term from your insurance company, it feels like the kiss of death. But, aren’t those with pre-existing conditions the ones who need insurance most?

Countries like India can offer very good health care at 10 percent of the cost of the United States. How?  (Watch Video)

Preventive care is another term you will hear a lot. As a doctor, I can tell you, of course it makes sense to keep people from getting sick in the first place. Are more screenings the answer or will they cause more anxiety and higher costs in the long run? (Read More).

And, finally this week, we will give you a segment we’re calling the “Young Invincibles.” When you are young, you feel immortal and perhaps don’t feel you need to worry about such mundane things as health insurance. So, what if something catastrophic happens to you while you are uninsured? How will it shape the rest of your life?

Over the weeks and months to come, I will strive to be your independent and objective guide as we explain this complicated but important world. You will not find a more passionate and committed translator. Let’s start the conversation.

Programming Note: Tune in to hear more from Dr. Sanjay Gupta every night this week on AC360 at 10 PM eastern.
 
 
 

 

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 9th, 2009
11:59 AM ET

Stigma still hindering campus mental health care

By Jamie Guzzardo
CNN Medical Intern

As I sift through my final semester of college, I realize what an exhilarating, yet incredibly stressful, experience the last four years have been. Students’ lives are jam-packed with papers, exams, hectic schedules, conflicts with roommates, and newfound sexual and social freedom. Living in an environment filled with all-nighters, parties and alcohol can undermine any student’s focus, but for those with a psychiatric disorder, the challenges can prove exceptionally difficult.

According to the American College Health Association’s 2007 National College Health Assessment, stress is the No. 1 reported impediment to academic performance. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the Top Ten. The survey also found that nearly half of all college students reported feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning, and depression was diagnosed in 24.8 percent of students within the past school year alone.

Depressed students, fearing they will be stigmatized or labeled “crazy,” may further fuel their isolation by not sharing their feelings with a friend, roommate or an on-call clinician. They may also hesitate to speak with a professor, fearing a negative impact on their grades. It often becomes easier for a student to retreat further into his or her depression, rather than turning to parents and siblings who are often far away. The results can be tragic. According to the American College Health Association, suicide remains the second leading cause of death for college students.

The good news for students is that many colleges are keenly aware of the health impacts of stress and depression, and the majority of schools around the country provide free and confidential mental health counseling services. But according to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, getting students to actually use these resources can be a problem. They found that while almost half of all college-age students meet the criteria for substance abuse, personality disorders or other mental diseases, only one-fourth actually seek treatment. But since counseling services are free and confidential, how can we ensure that students will actually use them?

Reducing the public stigma surrounding mental illness is one place to start, and this is something the American Psychiatric Association has long pushed for. A 2006 study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that while most Americans believe that mental illness has genetic causes, they are no more tolerant to the disease now than they were 10 years ago. Both Tipper Gore, wife of former vice-president Al Gore, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, have been a longtime advocates for mental illness, and each has stressed the importance of reducing the mental health stigma. While their work is important and has begun to make a significant impact, it is not enough. Young people need more role models to look up to – they need to know it is OK to talk about mental illness and to ask for help. Seeing a high-profile star speak openly about the issue could show young people that open dialogue is nothing to be ashamed of.

Another way to impact college mental health is through early preventive measures. According to a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the weight of research is currently shifted towards treatment programs. However, since the first symptoms of a disorder usually occur two to four years before full-blown onset, these preventive programs could create a window of opportunity and make a long-term difference. With health care costs exploding and, according to this report, mental disorders costing the U.S. an estimated $247 billion annually, preventive measures could help ease the financial burden placed on the health care system by repeated hospital stays, long-term therapy and even some rehab costs.

Some of these preventive programs have already been implemented and have seen some success. The Clarke Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention Intervention helps adolescents at risk for depression learn to deal with stress. In several controlled experiments, this has been beneficial in helping prevent major episodes of depression. Likewise, TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University works towards early detection and suicide prevention by making evidence-based mental health checkups a more routine part of adolescent health care. These checkups ask teens about common issues in their lives and can identify potential problems, granting teens and their families access to professional services that can improve their prognosis or even save their life.

It is my hope that the next generation of college students will benefit from these types of preventive programs and that the stigma surrounding mental health will be significantly reduced so that they have a happy, healthier college experience.

Have you experienced stress or depression, or do you have a friend or family member who has? How did you manage 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 5th, 2009
03:18 PM ET

The tangles of domestic abuse

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

For four years, I dated a man who beat me. The first time was around Christmas of my freshman year of college. I had known him a couple of months. He was the first guy I had ever had a physical relationship with, and I was madly in love. But he had a dark side, a short fuse, and I was very vocal and told him what I thought. The problem was, instead of arguing with me, he just beat me up.

The episodes continued throughout our relationship. At one point, he actually put me in the hospital with a concussion, my face and body covered with cuts and bruises. My friends begged me to leave him. His fraternity brothers did an intervention of sorts and told me he was a no-good, nasty, SOB. But for some odd reason, which took hours of therapy years later to figure out, I just stayed with him.

It wasn't that I was unpopular or lonely. I had lots of friends, men and women. I was a good student, a leader on campus. I came from a loving home, with a father who never hit my mother, or me. But for years, I had a secret that only the closest of my friends knew about. I was an abused girlfriend.

According to a National Violence Against Women Survey, 22 percent of women are physically assaulted by a partner or date during their lifetime. I was one of them. The question was, why did I stay? The American Psychiatric Association finds that many women remain in abusive relationships for many reasons, lack of finances, poor self-esteem, children and even religious and cultural values. In my case, I felt I had done something wrong and deserved it.

It also might be because I was also raised in a family and at a time, when sex was a little taboo.  It was the ’70s and I was in school on a large rural campus. You just didn't do it unless you were married. So when I had sex at the age of 18 with this young man, I had pretty much made up my mind he was my future husband. So I put up with it. There was a strange bond I had with him, because when he wasn't beating me up, he was very nice to me. He treated me well, sent me flowers, took me places. We laughed, had a great time together. But periodically when we argued, he would just lash out with his fists. It was horrible. But what was even more horrible was that I blamed myself for mouthing off. I thought if only I could keep my opinions to myself, the beatings wouldn't happen anymore. How naive of me. How foolish.

The ironic part of this story is he ended our relationship because I graduated from college and he didn't. He threw me out. I guess he was jealous. He was definitely a jerk.

Six months after we broke up, I was coming home to my little apartment, carrying decorations for my first Christmas tree as a working woman, and I found him sitting on my doorstep. I have no idea how he found me. He asked to take me to dinner so we could talk. I reluctantly went. While chatting over the meal, he said he wanted to come back and that he "didn't realize how good he had it." I quickly answered back, "I didn't know how bad I had it, but now I do!" For once he didn't whack me. He got up and left me at the restaurant, never to see me again. I had to take a cab home. As I sat in the back seat I felt a sense of relief but also shame that I had let it go on so long. But I was no longer a victim: I was free. As I look back on it now, It was the best cab ride I ever took.

Are you the victim of domestic abuse? Do you know someone who is? How did you help? 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.


March 5th, 2009
12:20 PM ET

Can low blood pressure be dangerous?

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 Bella, Buffalo, New York

"Dr. Gupta,
Everyone always talks about high blood pressure, but I have a question about low blood pressure. I am 21, female, eat very healthy, not intensely athletic, but I do cardio every morning and my blood pressure is 90/60. I am dizzy every morning when I wake up, and if I sit for too long, I am dizzy when I stand up. Is this a problem, and is there something I should be doing differently?"

Answer:

Thanks Bella for writing in. I am a little concerned about what you are writing. Blood pressure can be a tricky thing to understand because levels categorized as “too high” or “too low” in one person, may be normal for someone else.

Once a person establishes his or her baseline number, it’s important to consult with a health-care provider to evaluate its specific impact.

A normal blood pressure is essential to your heart because it promotes and allows healthy blood flow. And you are right–typically you hear people talking about the dangers of HIGH blood pressure because it can lead to heart disease. But low blood pressure, known as hypotension, can be dangerous as well.

What’s too low? Anything below 90/60mm. Experts say that if you have a low BP level and are experiencing dizziness, fatigue, nausea it could be a sign of serious underlying conditions such as a heart condition, blood infection or damage to your nervous system. It is best to be evaluated to determine what could be the trigger.

For those not experiencing symptoms, a low BP level is rarely of concern. You can boost your blood pressure levels naturally by staying hydrated throughout the day and increasing the amount of sodium in your diet.


March 4th, 2009
01:20 PM ET

Using your ears as a second set of eyes

ALT TEXT

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 3rd, 2009
01:40 PM ET

Teaching kids and adults about differences

By Andrea Kane
CNNhealth.com Producer

The other day, I stumbled across an article about Cerrie Burnell, the co-host of a British TV show for toddlers. Turns out she has an incomplete right arm, which some parents fear might scare their children. Other parents thought that the BBC was trying to be too politically correct, too inclusive, in the name of diversity by featuring her so prominently.

After my initial flash of incredulity (what, scare kids??!! pish!) it got me thinking: How would my children react?

If past experience is any indication, their first response would be wide-eyed amazement: Are they seeing what they really think they are seeing? This would be followed by intense curiosity (What happened to that person? Why is she like that? How does she tie her shoelaces?). If they could, they would (much to my embarrassment) certainly want to touch, examine and ask.

Last summer, there was a boy with one arm (or, rather, like Burnell, an incomplete arm that ended just below the elbow) who appeared at their day camp. While he was not in either of their groups, the girls (who are 7 and 9) got plenty of chances to peer at him as their paths crossed throughout the day. By the time that same boy showed up at another camp they attended later that summer, he was old news. They didn’t much like him, my youngest confided - not because of his missing arm, but because he was mean.

Their eventual comfort with him is not to say that my eldest didn’t struggle. She would get a bit haunted at night when he popped into her thoughts. I think it was equal amounts of fear and pity and empathy. But she and I talked about him, and how he looked to be happy and to be enjoying himself, despite his “disability” (which I suspect didn’t stop him much). And we talked about how he is loved by his parents, just as she is loved by hers.

I think this struggling is good for her. It allowed her to work through uncomfortable feelings – of pity, of fear, or fascination, or whatever - and eventually came to peace with them - and with the boy, and with his difference.

At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I think it is good for kids and grown-ups to struggle against what they fear just because it’s different. It helps us grow and grow-up as human beings. Think about the strong public reaction, 50 years ago, to interracial couples. Or 10 years, ago to gay couples. The more visible they are, the less unusual - and less threatening - they become. It's about perceiving others, including their differences, as ordinary people, just like you and me, which is what they are, after all, aren't they?

Some may think that making Burnell co-host is a bold move. But it is only by making such a move that we can show kids that people who are “different” have just as much right to be visible as anyone else.

Should people be forced out of their comfort zone? I’d like to hear what you think.

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.


Filed under: Body Image • Parenting

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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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