Wednesday, July 10, 2013

US Assists Tanzania in Fighting Trafficking of Wildlife

Maria Abaca discusses the United States government’s pledge to assist the nation of Tanzania with its efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. 

President Obama declared that the United States government will help support efforts to end the devastation of Africa’s wildlife by poachers and traffickers.

During his state visit to Tanzania, the president pledged $10 million for the purpose of creating a task force specifically for combatting the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife. Said the president:

Poaching and trafficking is threatening Africa’s wildlife, so today I issued a new executive order to better organize U.S. government efforts in this fight so that we can cooperate further with the Tanzanian government and others. And this includes additional millions of dollars to help countries across the region build their capacity to meet this challenge, because the entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa's beauty for future generations.” 1

The trade in illegal wildlife produces more revenue for the traffickers than narcotics or the international sex trade. Conservationists have been eager for President Obama to address the wildlife issue in Tanzania, since the Tanzanian government has itself earmarked funds for the construction of a highway that would connect the Indian Ocean coast through the Serengeti to outposts in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the site, if the Serengeti Highway is constructed, the disruption of the natural ecosystem would be catastrophic. It would not only include the obstruction of the natural migratory route of the indigenous animals in the area, but would also introduce fatal diseases to the wildlife vegetation and create an optimum environment for poachers.

More than 10,000 African elephants are killed in Tanzania every year, accounting for one third of the total poaching deaths throughout Africa. The rhinoceros is also a valuable commodity for its horn, and has been dwindling since the turn of the 20th century (there were more than 500,000 at the start of the 20th century, and only 29,000 in the world today).

The illegal international wildlife trade does more than just threaten species of endangered animals; the traffickers also have ties to terrorist cells and illegal arms dealers. The poachers are armed with far more than machetes and the occasional rifle; they are equipped with military issued automatic weapons, night vision goggles and even helicopters. The wildlife agents assigned to protect the animals from poachers are often outgunned and nearly powerless against airborne snipers shooting down at the rhinos and elephants from the skies.

It is extremely important that the rest of the world gets involved in the eradication of wildlife trafficking, not only in terms of aid, funding and awareness, but also by refusing to fund these organizations by purchasing the wildlife contraband. Is a tiger rug or a carved piece of ivory worth the threat to not only an entire species of animals, but also human kind?

1 Obama Pledges Support to Stop Wildlife Crime in Africa 7/1/2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

FDA Reviewing Caffeinated Foods

Maria Abaca  discusses findings that food manufacturers are sneaking caffeine into more than just energy drinks. The Food and Drug Administration is concerned about what this could mean for young consumers. This new phenomenon, as well as the effects of too much caffeine in the human body, are covered by Maria Abaca.

There is a new mania for caffeine-laced products. Items such as chewing gum, candy, and snack foods are being processed with caffeine for the purpose of providing a fast energy boost.  However, the Food and Drug Administration has not previously evaluated the safety of including caffeine in food products, and has launched an investigation on the resulting health effects on children and teenagers. [1]

The concern was born from the recent rash of hospitalizations of children from the over-consumption of energy beverages, many of which are very large in size (some over 24 ounces).  These energy drinks boast of energy-raising herbal ingredients, but it is the caffeine content that is found to be the real cause enhanced feelings of alertness.

Chewing gum, marshmallows, candy, potato chips and brightly packaged snack foods are by their very nature appealing to children. By incorporating caffeine into these treats, processed food manufacturers are essentially including a potentially addictive element into products that children are, frankly, better off without.

For growing children, it is best to limit the consumption of processed snack foods and soft drinks, which offer negligible nutritional value and are at the root of the nation’s obesity epidemic. The inclusion of caffeine could only exacerbate the issue. Recent studies have shown that insufficient sleep can cause the body to produce an excess of stress hormones, causing a spike in blood sugar, effectively mimicking type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, sleep deprivation raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and depression. Even though caffeine is not inherently harmful (in moderation), consuming large amounts of caffeine in beverage or food form before the body has had a chance to wind down for the night could inhibit the ability to fall into a restful sleep.

The best energy booster is a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise coupled with a nutrient-rich and low calorie diet will help you to feel sufficient energy throughout the day. It is also critically important to achieve 8 hours of sleep per night in order to maintain proper brain function during waking hours.

By Maria Abaca

[1] O’Connor, Anahad: Caffeine-Laced Foods Spur F.D.A. Investigation New York Times 5/3/2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Dangers of Salt and Benefits of Potassium

The American diet is doing more harm to its citizens than almost any other environmental or behavioral factor; overindulgence in foods high in sugar, salt and fat is sickening and killing more people than infectious diseases, alcohol/drug abuse, or firearms.

Maria Abaca discusses new research indicating that the reduction of sodium coupled with an increase in potassium could significantly reduce blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Although most of the recent dietary news has been about the devastating health effects from the overconsumption of sugary sodas, we can’t ignore our sodium intake, which is significantly higher than the recommended daily amount, and can lead to just as many disastrous health problems later on.[1]

A recent study indicates that lowering dietary salt intake while increasing potassium intake (in the form of fruits and vegetables) could lead to a longer, healthier life.  The study, which was published in the medical journal Hypertension, analyzed data from numerous international sources relating to the effects of sodium and potassium on blood pressure.  The researchers found that even moderate reduction in sodium for one month lowered systolic pressure, and blood pressure in people with hypertension was also significantly reduced, but the numbers were even more impressive when the salt reduction was combined with increased potassium intake.

It is estimated that more than 2 million deaths worldwide could be prevented by the reduction of salt in the diet.  Roughly 67 million adults suffer from high blood pressure in the United States.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 70 percent of people who suffer from their first heart attack also have high blood pressure, as do 74 percent of people with chronic heart failure and 77 percent of people who suffer from their first stroke.

The federally recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams, about 1,200 less than what the average American consumes.  However, the American Heart Association now recommends only 1,500 mg per day.
 Sodium reduction is difficult in our society, where processed foods and takeout restaurant fare make up a high proportion of the standard American diet.  In fact, the only way to gauge salt intake with any accuracy is to prepare all meals and snacks by hand from scratch.  It may be difficult to reduce the salt content in foods so drastically at first since many of us have grown up consuming meals and snack foods with extremely high amounts of salt, but as the taste receptors grow accustomed to the adjustment, the desire for salt will decrease.

Hopefully, the demand for low-sodium products will cause processed foods industries to yield, and cut back on the amount of salt in their products.  Already, the food companies in the United Kingdom are reducing salt levels in the foods distributed throughout the Great Britain.  According to study author Graham MacGregor, if companies in the United States want to follow suit, it could be beneficial for everyone. “People who eat less salt will live longer so the food companies will be able to make more money.”

[1] Hellmich, Nanci: Cut Salt, Add Potassium, Live Longer, Researchers Say USA Today 4/4/2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Patients Losing Lives to Alzheimer's Rises

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that more people are dying or are at risk of dying as a result of Alzheimer's disease than in previous years. Maria Abaca looks at this trend and what it means for the aging US population. 

Alzheimer's disease deaths have seen a significant increase over the last decade, a trend that has been noticed as more and more scientists and researchers attempt to halt the progression of the disease among those who initially exhibit few or no symptoms. [1]

In two separate studies the increased risk of death associated with the degenerative disease was show to have increased between 2000 and 2010, however the two studies differed on their findings of how much mortality has risen. A study directly from the CDC found that risk of death rose 39%, while the Alzheimer's Association, using data from the CDC, measured that mortality had risen 68% over the span of a decade.

While there are currently a number of medications and treatments that address symptoms of the disease such as memory loss, behavioral and sleep changes, and other cognitive issues, there is currently no cure for the disease. Researchers are working to develop more effective treatments and to help diagnose Alzheimer's earlier in its progression.

Currently, it is estimated that roughly 450,000 people living in the United States will die with the disease. Hopefully better treatment, earlier diagnosis, and even a cure will come with information garnered from studies like these.

By Maria Abaca


Monday, February 25, 2013

Maria Abaca, RN Examines Glaucoma Testing and Treatment

Maria Abaca, RN examines new reports that look at testing and treatment for glaucoma. As Maria Abaca, RN explains, there is still much confusion regarding the effectiveness of current testing and treatment options.

There are many different types of glaucoma, including angle-closure or acute glaucoma, open-angle or chronic glaucoma, congenital and secondary glaucoma, but in general the term glaucoma refers to a group of conditions of the eye that cause damage to the optic nerve and is the second-most common cause of blindness in the US.

Recently the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) examined a plethora of studies and reviews to evaluate the effectiveness of current testing and treatments for glaucoma. What they discovered was that inadequate evidence exists to fully determine if certain methods of treatment and testing are effective. [1]

In terms of testing the study looked at whether screening was effective for adults that did not exhibit vision problems and found that they could neither say that early screening was or was not helpful in prevention. In terms of treatment, the USPSTF determined that while they could say that treatment methods such as surgical, laser, and other medical procedures were effective, they could not determine if one treatment was more effective than the other.

Roughly 2.5 million residents of the United States suffer from open-angle glaucoma, which is the most common form of glaucoma.

An expert not associated with the study, Dr. Louis Pasquale of the glaucoma center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, had this to say about the findings:
"What this study is saying is there are many ways of lowering eye pressure and we don’t know which one is best for minimizing visual disability and maximizing patient happiness while they’re being treated for glaucoma.” [2]
What is clear from the study is that more evidence will need to be collected by the task force in order to determine what methods are most effective for treatment and prevention.

Maria Abaca, RN

[2] Salamon, Maureen. "Best Glaucoma Treatments Still a Puzzle, Task Force Reports." Health News / Tips &Trends / Celebrity Health. Health Media Ventures, 18 Feb. 2013. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Affect Does Sleep Have On Your Diet?

Maria Abaca discusses the affect that diet has on sleeping habits. Maria Abaca cites new research that indicates that good eating habits are imperative to getting enough sleep. 

The importance of a balanced diet are well-known; a balanced diet will help you in maintaining a healthy weight and assist in preventing heart disease, diabetes, and many other diseases and disorders. It has also been known that getting enough sleep contributes to better overall health. Now, research is suggesting that diet may also be linked to sleep patterns.

Researchers from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania investigated information culled from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which encompassed data from over 4,500 individuals. What they found was a correlation between separate groups of individuals who had varying sleep patterns. [1]

The findings broke down in this manner:
  • Short sleepers (those who received less than five hours of sleep per night) consumed the most calories.
  • Long sleepers (those who slept for nine hours or more each night) consumed the least number of calories in a given day. 
  • Those who slept for what was qualified as a "normal" period of time (between 7 and 8 hours each night) had a diet that was the most varied, an indicator of good health due to its inclusion of several sources of nutrients. Short sleepers additionally had the least varied diet on top of consuming the most calories.
 Additional findings of the study included the discovery that those who slept for very short periods of time consumed less tap water and fewer total carbohydrates, and that long sleepers consumed more alcohol.

While the study posed a good deal more questions than it answered about the correlation between diet and sleep, it is being looked at as a stepping stone to discover aid scientists in one day discovering the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote better sleep.

By Maria Abaca

[1] Sifferlin, Alexandra. "Does Your Diet Influence How Well You Sleep?" Time. Time, 07 Feb. 2013.