Trying to stay on top of health- and wellness-related news and events can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended). We saved you the trouble. Here’s what happened in May, WellBe-style.
DISEASES SPREAD BY TICKS & MOSQUITOES ON THE RISE
What: The number of illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016.
The Details: According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of reported cases of these diseases went from 27,388 in 2004 to more than 96,000 in 2016— and that’s just for the known cases, since a lot of them aren’t reported or recognized. In fact, recent data from clinical and lab results estimate Lyme disease infects about 300,000 in the U.S. annually, The Washington Post reported. Yea, that’s eight to 10 TIMES the number reported in the CDC analysis.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? More than 75 percent of the reported diseases were from ticks and occur throughout the continental U.S. but predominantly in the east and areas along the Pacific Coast. West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, is widespread across the country. That means it’s extra important to protect yourself from bug bites and know how to check for tick bites. We aren’t in favor of wearing chemicals on our skin, but if you’ve had Lyme, specially treated clothing may seem like the better of two evils, especially if you’ve done all the other things (wearing high socks, etc).
The WellBe Takeaway: WellBe has interviewed a number of people who’ve dealt with the challenge of getting a Lyme diagnosis and subsequent difficulties in finding the right treatment for them. WellBe founder Adrienne herself was diagnosed with chronic Lyme at age 11. Between this CDC announcement and The Washington Post article, it looks like it’s becoming an epidemic. We know it’s hard to stick with all the steps needed to protect against tick and mosquito bites, but, trust us, it’s worth it.
HAWAII BANS SUNSCREEN CHEMICALS & PESTICIDE
What: The Aloha State is the first in the country to approve a bill prohibiting the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that contribute to reef destruction. On top of that, Hawaii banned a pesticide that causes damage to children’s developing brains.
The Details: The sunscreen ban bill, if signed by Governor David Ige, will take effect on Jan 1, 2021. It will prohibit oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in at least 70 percent of sunscreens sold today, The Washington Post reported. A previous study found that oxybenzone leaches nutrients from coral and bleaches it white. In a separate bill, Hawaii banned the use of pesticide chlorpyrifos and restricted the use of pesticides within 100 feet of schools. Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic neurotoxin that causes significant damage to brain development in children, EcoWatch reported.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), oxybenzone is one of the most worrisome sunscreen chemical and can cause allergic skin reactions and mess with hormones. EWG recommends avoiding sunscreens with the ingredient. Check yours, you’d be surprised how many sunscreens it is in!
The WellBe Takeaway: We hope other states take this ban into consideration! The EWG recently released their latest sunscreen guide, so use that as a tool when you’re stocking up for the summer.
THE WHITE HOUSE AND EPA TRIED TO BLOCK WATER POLLUTION STUDY
What: Newly disclosed emails revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House intervened in the publication of a new government study on chemicals contaminating water nationwide.
The Details: The study, which is still unpublished, came from Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and would show that a class of toxic chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than the EPA previously called safe, Politico reported. These chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, are used in some nonstick coatings and firefighting foam and have been linked with thyroid defects, pregnancy issues, and certain cancers.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? The head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has said that dealing with contaminants is a national priority, but the emails revealed that they’re purposely withholding information from the public because it would be a “public relations nightmare.”
The WellBe Takeaway: Two words: water filter. If you’re not using one yet, start with our guide to find the best one for your home (and your shower!).
IN PREGNANCY & FERTILITY NEWS: DIET, HERBICIDE, AND CAFFEINE FINDINGS
What: Four unrelated studies looked at the relationship between fast food and infertility, herbicides and a link to shorter pregnancies, fossil fuel plants and a link to preterm births, and high caffeine use and overweight babies.
The Details: It’s kind of a lot, but here’s what we saw in the studies:
- Women who eat fast food regularly may take longer to get pregnant and may be more likely to experience infertility, compared to their peers who rarely, if ever, ate fast food. The study of 5,598 moms in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK also found that women who ate more fruit got pregnant a half a month more quickly than those who didn’t, Reuters reported.
- Drinking caffeine during pregnancy may increases the risk for obese children. The study of 50,943 mother-infant pairs followed the children over eight years and found that children of women who consumed 50-199 mg of caffeine daily were slightly more likely to be overweight, The New York Times reported. Note- one cup of brewed coffee = 100 to 150 mg of caffeine.
- After eight coal and oil plants were closed in California, the preterm birth rate dropped 20 to 25 percent in neighboring communities, HealthDay reported. A separate study found that fertility improved in communities living around power plants after they closed.
- High concentrations of glyphosate (the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup) were associated with earlier deliveries in a small study of 71 pregnant women in Indiana, Reuters reported.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? If weren’t already convinced that the choices you make (and some that you have no control over, except maybe where you live!) may contribute to your child’s immediate and future health, these studies should clear things up. While getting a power plant closed in your area is a daunting task, skipping on fast food, coffee (or just having a little bit) and not using herbicides with glyphosate on your lawn are pretty do-able.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re keeping these findings in mind when we talk to our pregnant friends or those who are trying to become moms.
PRESIDENT TRUMP PLANS TO LOWER DRUG PRICES
What: Trump announced his proposals for lowering healthcare costs including lowering drug prices for older adults and examining ways to discourage and prosecute drug company kickbacks.
The Details: Trump’s blueprint outlined a number of proposals with the support of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. While some of these make sense and are steps towards reining in arguably the most profitable industry in the U.S. (which spends the most by far on lobbying of all industries), it ignores efforts to curb the rising chronic disease crisis through prevention and non-pharmaceutical therapies.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? We know that the U.S. spends roughly double that of any other high income nation on healthcare per person, and the U.S. prescription drug rate is at an all-time high, and yet we have shortest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate of any other high income country, as well as the highest obesity rate. So we don’t think the drug prices are the main issue here.
The WellBe Takeaway: We believe these proposals miss the point and don’t fix the larger issue— medications are overprescribed and we, as a country, aren’t focused enough on preventative medicine, the cheaper, more sustainable way to improve health. Plus, when health issues arise, most people are not trying more natural therapies, which are generally cheaper and don’t have side effects or addictive properties. We’re focused on living in such a way that we rarely, if ever, have to take prescription drugs.
CALIFORNIA LAUNCHES FOOD AS MEDICINE STUDY
What: Over the next three years, a study in California will assess whether providing nutritious meals to chronically ill, low-income patients will affect their outcomes.
The Details: The California study will include 1,000 patients from Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, and California who have congestive heart failure or Type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford will compare their outcomes to 4,000 similar patients who don’t get the daily home-delivered meals, The New York Times reported. Bonus, the Ceres Community Project in the North Bay, one of the meal providers, uses organic and local foods for their program.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? This California study is modeled after similar work in Philadelphia, which resulted in patients’ healthcare costs dropping about $10,000 a month each. Money matters and proving how healthy meals can positively affect patients’ health while reducing costs can motivate hospitals to serve health-promoting meals to patients.
The WellBe Takeaway: We think about the food we eat as our daily medicine, keeping us healthy to avoid chronic disease, and we know food is even more important for people who are already ill. Food heals!
TWO NEW INTEGRATIVE HEALTH CENTERS OPENING IN NY
What: New York is about to have two new integrative medicine centers— Northwell Health’s Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine in Roslyn and the Integrative Health and Wellbeing program at NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City.
The Details: Northwell’s facility opened in May as part of the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. New York-Presbyterian’s center will open in June in the NYP David H. Koch Center.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? The more integrative centers in hospitals, the better! When a major health system like Northwell Health (with 23 hospitals in NY) recognizes that integrative medicine is the future, it helps all the smaller, less established medical centers and systems make the case for similar investments.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re urging our friends and family that use Northwell Health or New York-Presbyterian’s services to visit the new integrative medicine and wellness centers, and see how much of their care can be with integrative doctors and practitioners.
Other news worth noting:
- VA study finds hospitals that offer alternative pain treatments had lower rates of starting patients on long-term opioid therapy (The Denver Post)
- Kourtney Kardashian advocated for safer cosmetics on Capitol Hill (Glamour)
- Post Shredded Wheat cereal can’t say “natural” on packaging anymore (Organic Consumers Association)
- Vancouver becomes first city in Canada to ban plastic straws and foam containers (Global Citizen)