Thursday, 16 August 2007

Days of our Lives stars to attend charity event for JDRF

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If you're a daytime tv addict- the upcoming JDRF event might be worth your time and money. And don't worry about missing an episode of Days of our Lives. The event is being held on Saturday, August 25t!

Several stars of NBC's hit daytime drama series, Days of our Lives, are heading to Massachusetts on August 25 to support a charity event for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). From 11am to 4pm, fans will get the opportunity to "meet and greet" their favorite Days of our Lives actors and actresses. There will also be photo opportunities and autograph sessions, as well as show novelties up for sale. However, food and beverages will not be served during the daytime reception, which has been priced at $80 per person.

Among the Days of our Lives stars that are slated to appear that night are James Scott (EJ Wells), Stephen Nichols (Steve "Patch" Johnson), Rachel Melvin (Chelsea Brady), Judi Evans (Adrienne Josephine Johnson Kiriakis) and Blake Berris (Nick Fallon). The JDRF charity event will be held at the Burlington Marriot. Fans who wish to attend the event can order tickets online. For those who will be coming from outside the Burlington area, a block of rooms have been set aside by the hotel specifically for the event. For room reservations, call 1-781-229-6565. Like sands through the hourglass... attend the fundraising event to enjoy the stars from Days of our Lives!

NY drug store chain expands free diabetes program

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Back in a February '07 post, I described an initiative by New York drug store chain Duane Reade. The chain had announced it was opening a free diabetes center. The idea was to drum up business by meeting customer demand for diabetes-related advice and services. At the time, I thought it was an interesting story - perhaps the sign of a new trend on the rise. And definitely a sign of the commercial clout wielded by diabetics.

A few months down the road and it looks like the concept has really taken off. A Duane Reade press release has announced that the center will be expanding its services to keep pace with demand. Yep. The Duane Reade Diabetes Resource Center will now be offering space in its support groups to anyone from the NY metro area, not just to those who had already enrolled in their education classes. Although registration is required, those educational and support group sessions are all totally free. Partial funding for the center comes from Novo Nordisk.

If you live in the NY area and are interested, call 1-866-913-8486 or email brodink@duanereade.com.

The undiagnosed: men benefit most as disparity evens out

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According to a RAND Corporation study, fewer and fewer diabetics are going undiagnosed these days. Specifically, the gap has closed dramatically over the last twenty-five years. So much so that Hispanics and African Americans are now no more likely than whites to be undiagnosed. Good news, to be sure.

And the news is especially good for men. James P. Smith, who authored the study, says that twenty-five years ago about fifty percent of men with diabetes did not even know they had the disease. Jump forward to 1999-2002, however, and the number drops to about twenty percent.

Smith concludes that even though ethnic and gender disparities remain, we are certainly doing a lot better at getting people diagnosed and into treatment. Diabetes programs that target minorities can take a lot of the credit for this shift, Smith believes.

On the down side, the less-educated people among us are much more likely to go undiagnosed and, when diagnosed, are less likely to successfully incorporate lifestyle changes required to manage the disease. Also of concern, Smith says, is the fact that even though obese people are at a high risk for diabetes, they nevertheless are more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes than are slimmer people.

The Bernstein Connection

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The renowned author of The Diabetes Solution, Dr. Richard Bernstein is now ready and waiting to answer your questions on The Bernstein Connection.

In 1946, at the age of 12, Richard Bernstein developed Type 1 Diabetes, and for more than two decades, he was what he calls, "an ordinary diabetic"-one who dutifully followed doctor's orders. Despite his diligence with maintaining the disease, the complications from his diabetes worsened over the years, and like many diabetics in similar circumstances, he faced death at a very early age. Though he was indeed still alive, the quality of his life wasn't good, and by the time he reached his twenties and thirties, many of his body's systems began to deteriorate. Now, beyond his best selling books, Dr. Bernstein is opening up the airwaves to those who wish to learn from his real world experiences and conquer the daily hurdles of diabetes. He's doing so through The Bernstein Solution, offering direct access to Dr. Bernstein's methods, latest advice on diabetes, best selling books, and regular live broadcasts where Dr. Bernstein answers your questions.

I was fortunate enough to listen to his last broadcast, from August 8th. I do own The Diabetes Solution but I'm strongly considering joining The Bernstein Connection. The broadcast I listened to was as informative, if not more so, than the book! For $80 a year - if it can help a diabetic reverse damage to their eyes and kidneys, I don't think it's unreasonable at all!

Airport security champs

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Last November, I forgot to take my Swiss Army Champ Knife out of my purse before going to JFK Airport. So, for being stupid, it cost me a kick-ass pocket knife I'd had since 6th grade. Live and learn. But this is pretty interesting - turns out a fellow blogger over at Gadling had an airport security faux pas, as well. Dare I suggest another forgetful diabetic was the culprit permitting the breach of security?

Jamie Rhein's husband was chosen for a routine safety inspection before the family boarded the Skybus. His carry-on was inspected. The goods included: liquid hand-cleaner, a pair of scissors and a mini-wine tasting kit. The kit, unopened at the time - was opened and the corkscrew was confiscated by security. There was a knife attached. The pair of full-metal scissors was allowed. The liquid gel wasn't given back. Red alert danger - I know how tricky soap can be. Watch out!

The irony of Jamie's experience is that halfway through the flight she found an unused hypodermic needle and syringe still in the packaging and two empty medicine vials under her 5 year-old son's seat. One of the crew said there had been a diabetic on board the previous flight. Good cleanup crews are hard to find. That's fine, but with all that security, it was an awakening to be on the lookout for a used needle when searching for her son's spilled crayons. Guess there's no avoiding being on incessant heightened alert. Speaking of -- I asked JFK security to donate my Swiss Army knife, after they told me I had to surrender it. Yeah right. I'm sure the dude who patted me down took it home. Keep it sharp, buddy!

The epidemic is over-exaggerated

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In my previous post, I looked at a RAND Corporation study of undiagnosed diabetes - something that continues to be a big problem. Now I want to zero in on one aspect of that study that really caught my eye. According to the sole author, James P. Smith, talk of a type 2 diabetes epidemic is over-exaggerated.

Hang on a minute. Aren't we always hearing about the so-called epidemic proportions of diabetes' spread in the US and globally? And aren't cities like New York taking steps to track the spread of diabetes, keeping tabs on its growth just as you'd do with a contagious epidemic outbreak of, say, tuberculosis? Well, yes. But Smith isn't buying it.

During the twenty-five-year period included in the study, Smith says diagnosis of men with diabetes more than doubled. However, it's a tricky thing to take diagnosis rates and translate them into prevalence rates. That is, more people being diagnosed with a disease may simply mean we're getting better at diagnosing the problem. We may think we're seeing astronomical growth rates in diabetes when in fact it's probably a combination of increased diabetes and more efficient diagnosis.

Which is not to say Smith is denying that the spread of type 2 diabetes is a serious issue: "Diabetes is one of the major health challenges faced across the United States," he says, "but these finding suggest that the prevalence of the disease is not growing as rapidly as often claimed."

James P. Smith is RAND's corporate chair of labor market and demographic studies. RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

VA shortchanged me, says diabetic

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Kingman, Arizona, resident Joseph Zarate made it into his local newspaper recently. Zarate was in the US Marines for four and a half years back in the day. He now depends on the US Veterans Administration for his health care services. Right now he believes he's being shortchanged.

Zarate has type 2 diabetes. The VA gives him Metformin and testing strips to do blood sugar tests. However, he says he thinks it's a double standard that he only gets fifty testing strips per ninety day period. He says he needs 180 per month so that he can test himself three times daily. He says his VA doc told him he should be testing himself that often. That's why he's upset. In the meantime, he's been buying extra testing strips from a local pharmacy at his own expense. Meanwhile, a VA spokeswoman says it's VA policy: type 1 patients get 200 testing strips per ninety day period, while type 2s get only fifty per ninety day period.

Check out the mean comments from readers responding to this article. Some readers criticize the VA, others Zarate, and one guy even takes the time to criticize the journalist who did the story. Why all this anger, people? I'm mystified. In the end, it looks like a simple case of institutional ineptitude. Does Zarate, a type 2 diabetes, really need to test his blood sugar three times daily? Probably not. And if not, why did his doctor tell him to do that? Or maybe he misunderstood his doctor's instructions. In any case, the VA has a responsibility to communicate better with patients about what their medical needs are. This guy was obviously trying to take care of his health, but was having a hard time getting answers. I felt sorry for him.

LOL Diabetes

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Things can get a bit stuffy sometimes in the medical world. This is probably for good reason, because in many cases the topic of conversation is someone's health. To help create a less "buttoned-up" medical environment, many people have taken up writing their own personal blogs. Such sites offer a look at what it's really like to live with a particular condition, rather than pouring through page after page of text or internet site that focuses almost entirely on the science behind it all. This, of course, is not to say that there isn't great value in the latter -- especially since that's primarily the type of blog we run here at TheDiabetesBlog. But, let's face it, sometimes you just need to take a step back from it all and laugh.

To that end, you may want to check out a new site called LOL Diabetes (www.loldiabetes.com). The site itself is an offshoot of the popular diabetes blog Six Until Me (www.sixuntilme.com). Following the design of the odd, but hugely popular, humor website that features cats and other small animals doing funny things, LOL Diabetes (LOL stands for Laugh(ing) Out Loud, by the way. Just in case you were new to...well, civilization) features photos, videos and stories that are two things: 1) Related in some way to diabetes, and 2) Funny!!

After viewing the site, don't be surprised if you feel compelled to submit a funny diabetes tidbit of your own. I'm even sort of tempted myself. If you choose to follow suit, you can go ahead and send your own humorous photo, video, or whatever to loldiabetes@yahoo.com Feel free to say that I referred you...it may get your stuff up on the site quicker ;)

Diabetes and heart disease. Why the link?

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It's common knowledge that diabetes and heart disease are linked. If you have diabetes, you are much more prone to heart disease than are your non-diabetic counterparts. I've sometimes wondered: why should that be? And here comes the answer, courtesy of a recent Netscape health article.

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been examining the issue. Their conclusion? It all comes down to how the body metabolizes fat. The heart cells of diabetics lose a lipid (cardiolipin) designed to provide the heart with energy to function properly. Says Dr. Richard Gross, "Diabetic hearts run mostly on fats for fuel because glucose isn't readily available to them." Problem is, the absence of cardiolipin screws up the heart's cell membranes, both in terms of structure and function.

It's all downhill after the cardiolipin disappears. For one thing, the heart muscle cells begin to be starved of energy. Second, harmful substances form in the cells. Both these factors contribute to heart problems down the road. Observes Dr. Gross, "The pieces of the puzzle of diabetic heart disease are now rapidly falling into place. We hope that these kinds of studies will enable physicians to diagnose diabetic cardiovascular disease sooner and treat it earlier."

Schizophrenia lower in type 1s

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My earliest memory of schizophrenia was while reading the book Sybil in high school English class. Written by Flora Rheta Schreiber in 1973, Sybil was a pseudonym for Shirley Mason, a woman who suffered from one of the most famous cases of multiple personality disorder on record. Hearing Sybil's story of 16 separate personalities was shocking enough -- then I read Sybil's mother was schizophrenic. My sensitive teenage disposition absorbed the sadness of this family's plight like a dry sponge to water. I was deeply affected by the book.

If type 1s don't have it hard enough, past studies have shown a possible link between type 1 diabetes and increased risk of schizophrenia. But a new study published in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry shows the opposite. 896,175 subjects born between 1950 and 1959 in Finland were followed from 1969 to 1991. The incidence of schizophrenia was diagnosed less than half as often in the 5,009 subjects with type 1 compared to people without diabetes. So often you read the phrase, "type 1s at higher risk for" -- frankly, it's nice to hear type 1s are not at higher risk for this serious mental illness. Unfortunately, patients with schizophrenia do have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Read more in Reuters.

Amy's open letter to Steve Jobs

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For those of you who do not know her yet - consider today your lucky day!! She is Amy Tenderich and her site, Diabetes Mine, is a force to be reckoned with in the diabetes online community. What do I mean? When Amy speaks - anybody who's anybody in the diabetes online community listens.

A few months ago she posted an open letter to Steve Jobs, which was wildly discussed in the blogosphere and media. She invited gadget designers to rise to the challenge of creating sleeker, cooler, consumer-oriented medical devices for people with diabetes. Not only did she get the diabetes blogosphere stirring - but the minds of entrepreneurs storming, as well.

Amy motivated a San Francisco-based company to react in a universal remote control sort of way. Adaptive Path has designed The Charmr, a prototype of a continuous glucose monitor combined with an insulin pump, universally controlled by a device that looks to be no bigger than a USB stick! I strongly encourage everybody to checkout Amy's blog with all the details (including reader feedback) and the YouTube video on the Charmr. Bravo Amy!!

Sympathy absent in diabetes death

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A United Kingdom woman's death by diabetes made the news recently. But empathy had no place in the story. Instead, she was recorded as having died of natural causes, yet also convicted of her own murder.

The point of the story, which was reported nearly six months after she was found dead in her home, appears to be the fact that her boyfriend was found not to be responsible for her death. The death was originally ruled suspicious because the 41-year-old woman who lived alone was found partially disrobed in her home. Turns out, the boyfriend didn't kill her, but saw her dead through a window and decided to rob her. That's not all he did. He paved the way for her to be publicly ridiculed for struggling with a chronic illness and ultimately dying from it.

A coroner's examination "revealed that due to diabetes and a lack of its treatment, she had a chemical imbalance in her blood" and that she "failed to co-operate with doctors who advised her about how to control the condition" and then died "after she let her diabetes get out of control." The coroner recorded that the woman died of diabetic ketoacidosis, apparently considered a "natural cause."


I guess that proves the boyfriend's innocence. But I'm not sure what's natural about ketoacidosis or diabetes. Why wasn't dying of diabetic complications enough to get the guy off? Did the report have to go so far as to convict the dead woman?

I find society, people with diabetes included, quick to skewer those who suffer from a self-managed disease. I hear stories all the time:

"He had his leg amputated. He's diabetic, but he didn't take care of himself."

"She had a 9-pound baby. She's diabetic and I heard she ate ice cream when she was pregnant."

Where is the empathy?

Diabetes wasn't the only disease the dead woman suffered from, either. She reportedly had a history of addiction as well. Of course, the nature of both diseases requires intense self-management and the sufferer must take responsibility for their own care. But that's beside the point. If the story is true, this woman had lived with diabetes for 33 years. Clearly she was controlling her disease enough to stay alive for quite a while. Yet, being admitted to hospital four times in the months leading up to her death and having a slime ball boyfriend rob her afterward means she gets a big fat guilty stamp on her forehead?

Perhaps treating death by diabetes as the fault of the sufferer makes the accuser feel comfortably detached from the randomness of sickness and death and closer to the idea that we control our own destiny and can prevent dying. But death is death. And disease is disease. Anyone capable of living with diabetes for more than 30 years should be honored for bearing a burden that is the ultimate culprit cutting too many lives short. And, so, I am doing that here for Isobel Ackerley.

Diabetes trending like a shrimping net

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I'm having a blonde moment. The headline reads: cases of undiagnosed diabetes drop sharply. As if this is good news. The article continues - the number of men in the United States with undiagnosed diabetes has declined sharply over the past 25 years. Like I said, I'm blonde. Maybe somebody can help me correlate this to good news for us diabetics.

I have a larger than life question mark looming over my head. A recent news story alluded to the fact that the death toll for women over the last 30 years shows little to no improvement over diabetic men. I think I get it now. The net continues to harvest whole, healthy bodies. Shrimp caught in nets are complete animals. Only once they are dumped onto the boat (let's call the boat "diabetes") are their heads removed (i.e., no turning back to the sea now) Good old Charleston summers! Well diabetics are not shrimps, but as the holes in the net get smaller -- more shrimp are being caught.

So what's does this look like? The number of diabetes diagnosis is on the rise. The long-term complications are on the rise. The cost of treatment (you guessed it) is on the rise. U.S. sales of diabetes drugs reached $9.8 billion in 2005. Sadly, all this money isn't yielding better outcomes for the growing diabetes patient population. So where's the success in this story? Well, if you're in the business of diabetes - it's a jackpot. You didn't let too many get away.

Three markers may predict type 2

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Here's more diabetes research gleaned from the long-term Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHIOS). 82,000 postmenopausal women from varying ethnicities are part of WHIOS, which examines the influence of behavior, socio-economic status, diet and other factors on a woman's health.

University of California, Los Angeles researchers identified thee markers that could predict type 2 diabetes before development of the disease. The molecules are inflammatory cytokines (messenger molecules) -- tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a); interleukin-6 (IL-6); and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). Across all four ethnic groups, hs-CRP was the most consistent predictor for increased risk of type 2. Interestingly, associations with these cytokines were independent of obesity or elevated levels of glucose and insulin.

Lead researcher Dr. Simin Liu stated the study was a final confirmation of earlier research on the underlying biology of type 2. He also said the pro-inflammatory state is often linked to obesity which can lead to insulin resistance. A simple blood test to identify these markers before the disease begins could encourage prevention of type 2 diabetes through nutrition and exercise. Motivation is one tough nut to crack, but I wish I'd be reading more research on cracking the nut for a cure. The study was published in the August 15 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Why do more women die of heart disease?

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According to Heart Disease survivor Katy Kastan, 8 million women are currently living with heart disease, and this number is expected to rise to 12 million within a decade. Heart disease kills about 367,000 women in America each year -- meaning it kills more women than men on average. Women under 50 are more likely to die after a heart attack than men. Moreover, women receive less referrals to heart specialists for diagnostic screening than men. Why is this? That unfortunate answer is that no one knows.

The National Health Institute has discovered that heart disease in many women is generally contained to small heart vessels, meaning it can often go undetected using traditional screening and tests. But that's just the beginning in understanding why men and women differ so greatly when it comes to matters of the heart. But knowledge is the first step to changing the system, so if you'd like to find out more about how to help, check out Kathy Kastan's blog.

Exercise of the Week: the French Press

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For many people, particularly women, the back of the arms is many times an area of physical concern. When waving goodbye to a friend, oftentimes this area of the arm will wiggle and jiggle long after your hand has finished turning. While having flabby arms isn't necessarily a sign of poor health, it is a clear indication that the tricep muscles (which are the muscles located on the backside of the arm) are a bit underdeveloped and in need of some attention.

Enter the solution: The French Press. No, this is not the same French Press that is used to make those fancy-schmancy coffees. Rather, it is an exercise; one that effectively targets all three "heads" of the tricep, therefore making it a great way to tighten and tone this portion of your arms. To perform the French Press, lay down on a bench or on the floor as if you were about to perform a bench press. Next, hold a barbell, with your arms fully extended, in a position that lines the bar up with your chin. From there, you want to bend your arms toward you, so that your hands and the barbell slowly make their way closer to your forehead. Once the bar has just about reached your forehead, you want to then extend your arms until they are straight again. This makes for one complete repetition. My suggestion is to perform 1 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions of the French Press one or two times per week.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I have no idea why this exercise is called the French Press. I'm sure if you searched hard enough, you can find the answer to that question. But, instead of wasting my time researching the etymology of the name of an exercise, I thought my time would be much better spent finding a video demonstration of this exercise that I could share with you. After searching for a whole 23 seconds, I came across this video right HERE.

Note: The content presented in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or fitness professional before starting a physical fitness program.

Stand up straight for low blood pressure!

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If you've got high blood pressure it could be about more than just your diet and your genes -- it might be going up because of your posture. Experts have long suspected a link between the blood vessels in the neck and back and a person's blood pressure and heart rate, and now they've found the proof. Due to a newly discovered neurological pathway it's now known that slouching at your desk, or neglecting to stand up straight, can end up raising your blood pressure and putting your health at risk.

So when your mom used to tell you to sit up straight she was helping you out with more than just good manners and appearance!

Massages can help prevent heart attacks

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Massages are one of my favourite ways to relax, though because I don't have any real back or neck problems, they often seem like a frivolous indulgence for me (albeit a worthy one.) But here's some great news if you're looking for an excuse to get massaged -- they can prevent heart attacks! It all comes down to a group of cells in your neck that are connected to the area in your brain that helps control your blood pressure and your breathing. This is according to a study done at the University of Leeds.

So next time you're in need of some serious de-stressing, instead of reaching for the comfort food, treat yourself to a massage.

Busting common fitness myths

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Physical inactivity is one of the major risks for cardiovascular disease, and the American Heart Association recommends we all get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week, in addition to at least two days per week of strength training. But there are a lot of myths and half truths out there, and fitness experts want to make sure that if you're going to take the time to exercise, you're doing it right. For instance, did you know that swimming isn't the best exercise for weight loss? Or that yoga isn't good for all types of back pain? WebMD recently busted nine common fitness myths, so take some time to read them over and make sure that you're getting the most out of every workout!







Is eating fish bad for the environment?

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Fish is becoming more and more popular these days as people look for both an alternative to other meats and a boost in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. But although fish like salmon and tuna are good for your heart, blood pressure, and countless other systems (as long as you watch out for mercury) is the sudden increase in demand straining the environment?

There is a pending issue with sustainable fishing grounds, especially as demand goes up and fisherman are driven to pull more and more fish up out of the sea. The key is to have controlled and sustainable fisheries, where the managers control how many fish can be caught based on biological factors and not price, but unfortunately many of them don't work that way and are subject to overfishing and collapse.

Wild caught Alaskan salmon is a good choice as there is documented and well managed sustainable fishing in that area, and as for other types of fish check out this list for your best bets as well as which to avoid.


Via That's Fit

Cholesterol: How to get an acurate reading

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For patients getting their cholesterol checked, the process is fairly easy and involves merely have some blood taken. But in order to get an accurate reading, there's much more to it than that. What you eat and drink prior to the test can have a major influence on the reading you get, so be sure to follow the rules given to you by your doctor, namely that you must fast for 12 hours prior to the exam.

What's more, other influences, like the test itself and biological factors, can influence the accuracy of your readings over time. To main consistency, try to get tested at the same time of day as your last cholesterol test to get a reliable idea of how much your levels have changed. Also, while it's recommended that you don't drink alcohol 24hours before the test, you can further improve your results by avoiding alcohol several days before the test. And, be sure you're sitting for at least five minutes before your blood is taken.

For more info, check out this article.

Odd treadmill helps stroke survivors

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Treadmills can be hard enough to master if you've never been on one, but over at That's Fit, Brian recently wrote about a new split-belt treadmill that's being tested as a new tool to help stroke survivors walk normally again.

The treadmill has two separate belts, which can be adjusted separately. One belt can move the leg backward, while the other belt moves the opposite leg forward. Researchers say that if you try to think about it, you'll fall right off this treadmill, but if you let your brain take over, it can master it pretty quickly. In fact, when healthy people were put on the treadmill and "taught" to lurch, they couldn't walk normally for 10 minutes after stepping off the machine! When stroke victims are put on the machine, it improves their gait for a similar amount of time.

Now researchers are looking into how the machine may help retrain nerve pathways in the brain so that those who have suffered a stroke can enjoy those physical benefits for a longer period of time. It's exciting news for those who suffer physical disabilities due to stroke.

Have a happy and healthy retirement

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All of us in midst of our career are eagerly anticipating the carefree days of our retirement. But to avoid disappointment, it's important to take certain steps to make sure that you're retirement goes smoothly. Here are some tips courtesy of Health Day:
  • Make a list of what you want to accomplish
  • Try new things. Hey, now that you have the time, why not? Take up a hobby you've always wanted to try but never had time to.
  • Set aside 30 minutes a day for physical activity to make sure you have many more years to enjoy your retirement
  • Get involved in your community. Keep yourself busy with volunteer work
  • Work on friendships that have come second to work and family in the past. Establish new ones
  • Get a pet. But only if you don't want to travel
I think these are great suggestions -- if you have time. Most retired people I know claim to be busier than ever before ... do you agree? Make sure to put your health first though. You'll miss it once it's gone.

The 5 things that could save 100,000 lives

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North America isn't a place that's interested in preventing problems, particularly those that are health-related. We're more concerned with fixing the problems afterwards. But a new study shows that just 5 steps can help save over 100,000 lives in the years to come. These 5 steps are:
  • Taking 1 low-dose aspirin a day, which can save 45,000 lives
  • Quitting smoking, which can save 42,000 lives
  • Getting screened for colorectal cancer regularly after the age of 50, which can save 14,000 lives
  • Getting a flu shot each year, which can save 12,000 lives
  • Getting screened for breast cancer after the age of 40 can save 4,000 lives
These are pretty basic healthcare steps, so if you meet the criteria and are not doing them, the only question is: Why not?

Possible cancer scare on Australian beaches examined

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It's quite a scary proposition to think that a cluster of cancer cases could end up being connected to a stretch of beach, but that is precisely what has happened in Australia.

According to Australian medical experts, there is most likely no connection between carcinogenic chemicals being produced in the area near Sydney, Australia's northern beaches and reports of above-normal cancer cases coming from that area.

After a medical supply company was found to have dumped carcinogens like ethylene oxide in the northern beach area, several concerned residents requested tests in local children to see if in fact cancer was brewing inside some of them. However, the exact amount of confirmed cancer cases from the direct area was not available in the source story. Maybe that kind of incriminating or dismissive information will become shortly available? Let's hope.

Experimental test looks at cancer stem cell development in mammals

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Actually and intentionally creating cancer cells sounds like an odd proposition to me, but that's what is being done by Harvard medical scientists. Why? Well, they are trying to initiate tumors -- breast cancer stem cells to be exact -- in mice to determine how to detect cancer stem cells early and effectively.

With cancer stem cells being very rare, knowing about them very early and with precision would be quite a boon to the breast cancer testing field. Outside of petri dish experiments, researching cancerous stem cells inside mammals has been a very unexplored area of oncology -- until now.

Green tea boosts detox enzymes

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According to reseachers at the Arizona Cancer Center, a concentrate from green tea boosted the production of key detoxification enzymes in people with low levels of these proteins.

In the study, which consisted of 42 people, the green tea concentrate boosted production of enzymes in the glutathione S-transferase (GST) family by as much as 80 percent in some individuals. The concentrate contained a component of green tea, catechins, equal to that of 8-16 cups of tea.

GST enzymes are believed to change cancer-causing molecules to inert molecules that cannot react with DNA.

Previous studies have shown that populations that consume green tea, such as the Chinese and the Japanese, have lower rates of cancer. The National Cancer Institute is sponsoring a series of scientific studies involving green tea, including this one.

Thought for the Day: Fighting the system for the right to live

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Fighting cancer is physically and mentally draining. Getting better should be the main focus of cancer patients, but often, it's not, because cancer can also be draining on your bank account. Even if you have health insurance, some drugs aren't covered, and they're not cheap.

I started thinking about this when I read this article on breast cancer patients in New Zealand who have gone to court to all but beg the local drug-governing body, Pharmac, to cover their treatment, Herceptin, in their fight against their aggressive cancer. A 12-month course costs upwards of $70,000, and they just can't afford it. Really, beyond the ridiculously wealthy, who can comfortably afford $70,000 a year? Certainly not I. Apparently the women don't meet certain criteria that would make them eligible for coverage, and I hope they can sort it out before it's too late for these women.

Since when did the right to live become a matter of money, an issue to be debated in court? It's heart-breaking to see money win out over the chance at life, but that's the reality of our world, it seems. It's a complicated issue that has no clear answer.

ABCs Robin Roberts' doctor takes your questions

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Good Morning America coanchor Robin Roberts returned to work on Monday, a little more than one week after her breast cancer surgery. Some think her return was a bit hasty. Some think it was the absolute right thing to do. I'm of this camp -- the jump-back-into-life approach. It's exactly what I did after my surgery and throughout every step of my treatment. And while there were surely days I could have cut myself some slack, I tried to keep on my toes. It was the only way I knew how to manage the chaos of cancer.

In the spirit of helping women cope with their breast cancer diagnoses, Roberts' very own doctor offers some insightful words of wisdom. Click here for guidance about returning to work, managing through surgery and radiation, maintaining emotional health, and the importance of mammograms and self-exams.

What is your take on how Roberts is handling cancer and how her doctor is handling the topics that become critical in the fight against this disease?

Cancer By The Numbers: Basal Cell Carcinoma

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My sister has skin cancer -- the basal cell variety. She has two spots, both on her chest, each one scheduled to be surgically removed in a few weeks. If it were me with this new diagnosis, I'm sure I'd be freaking out, maybe because I've already had breast cancer and tend to panic about any cancer or maybe just because I'm a worrier by nature. But my sister is taking her cancer news in stride, and I am too -- because now that I've done a little research, it seems this type of cancer is pretty easy to beat.

Here's a little refresher lesson on the skin: The skin is the largest organ in the body, and is made of three layers -- the epidermis (top layer), dermis (middle layer), and subcutis (deepest layer). For the purpose of this post, let's focus on the epidermis.

The epidermis has three layers -- an upper, middle, and a bottom layer. This bottom layer is comprised of basal cells. This is where basal cell cancer begins.

Skin cancers are divided into two groups -- melanomas and non-melanomas. Basal cell cancer is one of the most common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer. The other is squamous cell cancer. Basal cell cancers usually begin on areas exposed to the sun, such as the head or neck (or chest, in my sister's case) and while once found mostly on middle-aged and older people, it is now seen more and more on younger people, probably because they are spending more time in the sun without protecting their skin.

The Numbers

Skin cancers are the most common of all cancers, and it's estimated there are at least as many non-melanoma skin cancer cases found each year as all other cancers combined (about one million each year). Most of these cancers are basal cell and number about 800,000 to 900,000 annually. About three out every four skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.

People do not typically die of basal cell cancer. About 1,000 to 2,000 people die of non-melanoma skin cancer each year, nearly all of them older and characterized by a lack of early treatment.

After treatment, basal cell carcinoma can return in the same place. New basal cell cancers can also start on other places on the skin. Within five years of diagnosis, about 35 to 50 percent of patients develop a new skin cancer.

Risk Factors

Ultraviolet (UV) light is the major risk factor for skin cancer. Sunlight, tanning beds, and tanning booths account for most UV damage. Those who live in places with year-round, bright sunlight are most at risk -- the highest rate of skin cancer in the world in Australia -- and people with fair skin are more at risk than those with darker skin. Men are twice as likely as women to develop basal cell cancers, and exposure to chemicals may also increase risk. People who have received radiation treatment and anyone who has had one or more skin cancers are also at increased risk. Smoking is not a risk factor for this type of cancer -- but some rare skin conditions and HPV infection are.

Prevention


It's easy -- just limit UV exposure, protect your skin with clothing, wear a hat and sunglasses, slather on sunscreen, seek shade, protect children, and avoid harmful chemicals and you'll keep pretty darn safe.

Detection

Basal cell skin cancer can be caught very early. Unlike some cancers, buried in the body and without symptoms for extended periods of time, this cancer can be seen. Many will discover these suspicious lesions on their skin during self-exams; others will learn of their existence during clinical self exams. Basal cell cancers are usually flat, firm, and pale. They can be pink, red, even translucent and are shiny, waxy areas that can bleed and hurt. Larger ones may have oozing and crusted spots.

To determine if a suspicious area is basal cell cancer, a doctor will complete a surgical biopsy. If the biopsy reveals cancer, treatment will follow. Typically, this type of cancer is not staged because it is so rare for basal cell cancer to spread to other organs. If it has spread (lymph node biopsies and lymph node removal will be necessary in this case), the Roman numerals 0-IV are used for staging. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.

Treatment

Most basal cell cancers can be completely cured by fairly minor surgery. There's a simple excision where the skin is numbed and the tumor, along with some healthy skin around it, is removed. The remaining skin is stitched back together. This surgery leaves a scar.

The cancer can also be scraped with a long, thin tool called a curette in a process called Curettage and Electrodessication. The area is then treated with an electric needle to destroy remaining cancer cells. This process, often done more than once, also leaves a scar.

Mohs surgery involved removing a layer of skin that the tumor has spread to and checking the sample under a microscope right away. If it's cancer, more pieces of the tumor are removed and examined until the skin samples come up clean. It's a slow process but but allows normal skin next to the tumor to be saved, ensuring the skin looks better after surgery. Only doctors with special training should perform this procedure.

If it's not possible to stretch the remaining skin after surgery, skin grafts and reconstructive surgery may be necessary.

Sometimes, traditional surgery is not necessary. Cancer cells can also be frozen and killed (cryosurgery) or can be destroyed using laser surgery. Chemotherapy lotions are available -- 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is often used -- as are chemicals that can be applied to the skin or injected into the blood. Chemicals make the cancer sensitive to light and then a light source is used to kill cells.

Finally, radiation therapy can be used to kill or shrink cancer cells. Older individuals who cannot tolerate surgery might use this method.

About Vitamin D

It only takes 15 minutes per day, three days per week, to capitalize on the vitamin D made by our skin when we are in the sun. This is the maximum amount of time the American Cancer Society recommends we spend in the sun.

Source: American Cancer Society

No evidence that statins protect against prostate cancer by lowering male hormone production

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A large study from the New England Research Institutes found that men using statins had lower blood levels of androgens such as testoterone, however, it was more likely due to poor health than the use of the statins. This finding refutes previous findings that statins might cut prostate cancer risk by reducing the production of such male hormones that fuel cancer growth.

According to Susan A. Hall, Ph.D., this finding doesn't mean that statins aren't lowering prostate cancer risk through other pathways, but they are not lowering the risk through the reduction of male hormones.

A large, recent study found that men using statins were at lower risk of developing metastatic prostate cancer, especially if the statins were used long-term. Other studies have had mixed results according to Hall. Statins lower cholesterol and since cholesterol is required to produce male hormones, some researchers have theorized that statins may reduce production of these hormones, and hence prostate cancer.

FSU chemists use light-activated molecules to kill cancer cells

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Florida State University researchers are working on ways to induce apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells by damaging their DNA strands with light, in a field of chemistry known as photochemistry.

According to Igor V. Alabugin, "We have found that a group of cancer-killing molecules known as lysine conjugates can identify a damaged spot, or 'cleavage,' in a single strand of DNA and then induce cleavage on the DNA strand opposite the damage site. This 'double cleavage' of the DNA is very difficult for the cell to repair and typically leads to apoptosis."

In an example of this technique, doctors treating an esophageal tumor might first inject the tumor with a drug containing these lysine conjugates and then hit the tumor with a specific light, activating the drug and leading to double-strand DNA damage and then cell death.

Alabugin collaborated in separate test with Dr. John A. Copland of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida. In these tests, the drug plus the phototherapy activation killed more than 90 percent of metastatic human kidney cancer cells with a single treatment.

Thanks to KidneyCancerResource.com for the tip.

Diet and colon cancer reoccurrence go hand-in-hand

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In another study on the affects of diet on cancer, those colon cancer patients who indulged in diets containing meat, desserts, fat and refined grains were three times more likely to have a colon cancer recurrence than those who shifted their post-cancer diet away from these unhealthy items.

Surprised? Shouldn't be -- diet and cancer are so closely related that eating foods with tons of saturated fats and chemicals can take a genetic predisposition to cancer and speed it along.

What's important here is that after cancer treatment (hopefully, successful), one should change their diet to one full of healthy options instead of bad nutritional choices. It's all up to each individual patient.

Cancer research blog carnival

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The Bayblab weblog is proud to host the first ever blog carnival on cancer research. A blog carnival is an event where a community of bloggers come together to explore a common subject of interest.

Not only does it create a tool to exchange ideas, but it is a good way to exchange links and increase readership. The rules are simple, write a post about any aspect of cancer research, for example where you see your field contributing to cancer treatment in the future, and submit a link to your story.

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Report: breast cancer drop due to hormones, not mammograms

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Are breast cancer rates declining? If so, it may not be due to a decrease in mammography screening. Sounds logical, right? How about a drop in postmenopausal hormone use as a possible contributor?

That's the conclusion of a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This, to me, is an interesting development if true. I'm not sure what other factors were looked at in the study, however. Was this correlation backed by valid statistical data? I may have to go further with this one, with a possible update later.

The study mentions that postmenopausal hormone treatments have declined in use since 2002 -- and that the risk of breast cancer has dropped along with it in the U.S. Hmm, hot flashes or an increased risk of breast cancer. Weird choice there.

UT Southwestern researchers discovers clues as to why reflux can turn cells cancerous

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Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center report that people with acid reflux disease, particularly those with Barrett's esophagus, have changed cells in their esophagus containing shortened telomeres. Telomeres are the ending sequences in DNA. This report along with other studies suggests that these shortened telomeres might allow cells more prone to cancer to take hold.

With acid reflux, acid splashes from the stomach up into the esophagus. Over time, this acid can cause normal cells in the esophagus, which are like skin, to change into tougher, acid-resistant cells like those found in the stomach and intestine, a condition called Barrett's esophagus. These acid-resistant cells are more prone to cancer.

According to Dr. Stuart Spechler, once the telomeres in the normal esophageal cells get too short, they can't regenerate themselves and then the change to these acid-resistant cells can take place.

Jaclyn Smith sounds off about her battle cancer

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Jaclyn Smith, the former Charlie's Angels star, was recently in Seattle to talk about her struggle with breast cancer at an event for Strength in Knowing, a nationwide educational campaign. Though she hasn't been known to speak much on the subject previously, Farrah Fawcett's recent diagnosis has ended her silence. After interviewing her, the Seattle Times had this to say about the strong survivor:

Smith's tone turns serious when discussing the illness. Five years ago, her reaction to finding out she had the disease was "fear beyond fear," she said. "The world stops ... you go to the darkest place."

In addition to a lumpectomy and radiation, the "power of girlfriends" was her saving grace, she said. Her former colleague and friend, Farrah Fawcett, who is being treated for cancer herself, lives down the street.

Smith prides herself on being outside the Hollywood scene, spending much of her time close to home. "It's my family that makes my world go round," she said.


I think Smith, like so many amazing cancer survivors, is an inspiration.

Baseball steroid investigator George Mitchell has cancer

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George Mitchell, the man leading an independent investigation of steroid use among Major League Baseball players -- he's also a former U.S. Senate Majority Leader -- has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"The cancer is small, low grade and localized, and can be effectively treated and cured,'' says Mitchell's physician, The prognosis is very good for Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine.

Mitchell, 73, said in a statement that he expects his treatment will not interfere with his investigation that began in March 2006 when he was appointed by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to interview hundreds of people and review thousands of documents.

"The investigation, which is in its final phases, will be completed in the coming months and neither the substance nor the timing of the report will be affected in any way,'' Mitchell said.

Italian town to pay residents to lose weight

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According to the NCI, in 2001, experts concluded that cancers of the colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium, kidney and esophagus are associated with obesity. Additional studies have reported links between obesity and cancers of the gallbladder, ovaries and pancreas. Obesity can also contribute to other diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

In the Italian town of Varallo, Mayor Gianluca Buonanno is taking matters into his own hands. Men in town will receive 50 euros ($70) for losing 9 lbs in a month. Women will get the same amount for losing 7 pounds in a month. If they can keep the weight off for five months, they will get an extra 200 euros ($280).

About 35 percent of Italians are overweight or obese and the rate is rising as the country's traditional diet is slowly changing to include more and more processed foods.

I think Mayor Buananno has a great idea here. Since lifestyle choices can be so critical in the development of some illnesses, including some cancers, I'm all for paying people to make the right ones.

What do you think?

Stomach cancer to fall 25% in a decade

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According to a new study from the Netherlands, new cases of stomach cancer are expected to drop off by as much as 25% in the next decade in Europe. The reason? Better living conditions.

Stomach cancer is one of the most fast-acting and deadly forms of cancer, and it's thought that one's odd of stomach cancer are increased when they contract the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. The Helicobacter pylori bacterium is passed on between people sharing small spaces, and I think the indication here is that new housing in Holland, where living spaces are notoriously cramped, is allowing people more space and they're therefore passing on less illnesses. That having a bit of space could make such a vast difference on stomach cancer is pretty amazing. I am glad I live in a land of seemingly endless space.

I AM THE CURE is new Susan G. Komen battle cry

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I AM THE CURE is the Susan G. Komen new rallying cry. Intended to urge us to take an active role in our own breast health and remind us that we all play an important part in finding a cure, these are words to live by. I think I won't soon forget them -- because I have a new key chain inscribed with all four of them.

My aunt just participated in the Aspen Race for the Cure, and she sent me all the goodies she picked up at the race. She gave me the Ford Warriors in Pink scarf -- I've always wanted one and can't wait to wear it on October 20 when I run in my local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. She also passed on to me a race t-shirt, the sign she wore on her back -- in celebration of my beautiful niece Jacki, it read -- and pink ribbon magnets, sunscreen, a Warriors in Pink temporary tattoo, and all sorts of other little trinkets. The key chain was one of them.

My new key chain features four different sized pink metal circles, each one dangling from the key ring. On each circle, there is one word. From the smallest circle to the largest, the words I -- AM -- THE -- CURE appear. All on their own, these circles are pretty powerful. But there's more. On an insert that came with the key chain is an explanation for each circle.

The smallest circle represents the average size lump detected by yearly mammogram when past films can be compared. The next tag shows the average size lump found by a first mammogram. The next one: the average size lump found by a woman doing her regular breast self-exams. The largest tag, about the size of a half-dollar, represents a lump found by accident. Now this sizing chart may not be entirely accurate -- my lump, found by me, was far smaller than the third largest circle on my key chain. Still, these tags are a nice visual of the varying sizes of lumps. And they serve as a good push, I would imagine, for those not up-to-date on their screenings. Seeing the difference between a tumor detected in its earliest stages and one found by accident is quite sobering.

The key chain insert reads: Did this giveaway educate you about breast cancer?

Yep, it sure did. And I hope this post educated you.

Are we misinformed or uninformed about the risk factors for cancer?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a recent ACS study that showed that many Americans believe scientifically unsubstantiated claims about cancer. Such beliefs include claims that cell phones, underwire bras, shampoo and deodorant can increase cancer risk. Richard Day Gore responded with a compelling question in his comment on the piece:

My questions are: where is all this mis- and dis-information coming from, and why do Americans so readily believe it? Are we misinformed or uninformed?

I believe that the biggest problem is that we are uninformed about the nature of cancer and risk factors. This creates an information vacuum that allows misinformation to seep in. This effect was seen in the study, as males were more likely to be misinformed than women as they tend to research health issues less. People with lower levels of education were also more likely to be misinformed.

Also, many of these unsubstantiated claims at one point or another had some traction in the media. Perhaps people latch onto these types of beliefs as they offer hope that cancer can be easily understood, and easily eliminated?

What do you think? Are we misinformed about the risk factors for cancer, or uninformed?

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Discovery: bones help regulate insulin production

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Far from being inert and unchanging, a mere scaffolding to which the body's muscles and organs attach themselves, bones change constantly. Old bone cells die. New ones are born. But that's not all. According to an exciting new discovery, bones play a role in regulating blood sugar levels and fat deposits.

How is this possible? Bones act like a kind of endocrine organ, releasing osteocalcin, a hormone that influences bone formation. This hormone also increases both insulin production and the body's insulin sensitivity. It also reduces fat stores. Basically, osteocalcin levels in the bones are linked to blood sugar and body fat levels, and there is some sort of interaction back and forth.

It's a surprising finding for the uninitiated. However, some scientists are saying it makes sense when you think about it. Says Ronald Kahn, director of Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center, "Obviously there does need to be some coordination between skeletal growth and body mass. If you carry around extra weight, your bones need to hold up under the extra pressure, so it's not surprising that your bones have a sense of body fat."


Next question for diabetics: how does this help us? Well, in theory, more osteocalcin in the bones could control or even reverse type 2 diabetes. The next step will be experimenting with that concept by raising osteocalcin levels in mice.

A research team led by Columbia University Medical Center's Gerald Karsenty is responsible for this discovery. A full report has been published in the journal Cell. Both Time and The Economist have published summary reports on this new finding, so check 'em out. It's fascinating reading.

Diabetes and schools: a thorny ethical problem

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As Bev observed in a post yesterday, California schools will now be required to ensure that diabetic kids get their medical needs met during school hours. Parents are relieved by the settlement, which was reached between the California Department of Education and two school districts (on one side) and four families with diabetic children, working in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

It's a thorny issue. If you require by law that kids be in school during specified hours, you'd better make darn sure you can meet their needs while they're there. As Michelle Ferry, mom of a seven-year-old boy with diabetes, observed "If I had a child in a wheelchair, they wouldn't expect me to come in and take them out of a wheelchair" as necessary throughout the school day. Michelle, you see, was required to drop everything and come running to the school when her son needed a shot because there was no one at the school willing/qualified/permitted to administer it.

While she has a point, you could also argue that helping a (developmentally normal) child in and out of a wheelchair doesn't require special training. Helping a child monitor and adjust his or her blood sugar level most certainly does. Understandably, school administrators were, and remain, concerned about legal liability. Teachers also have a right to be concerned.
I agree with Bev: this sort of agreement has been too long in coming. Parents of diabetic children: I take my hat off to you. I cannot imagine the stress and strain involved in sending your child off to school each day, hoping that if they need special care that it will be available, pronto. But hat's off, also, to the CA school administrators who agreed to create the new policy. They accepted there is a problem and they are trying to fix it.

Insulin Murders - True Life Crimes

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Read all about it. Professor Vincent Marks, a world expert on insulin who has assisted in some high profile cases of insulin murder, has written a book - the 'Insulin Murders - True Life Crimes'.

The first recorded incident of insulin used for murder was in 1957, and since then there have been about 50 cases globally of insulin being used for murder. Although insulin can be used to kill, Professor Marks said it was actually a very poor murder weapon. Detecting its use was difficult, but not as many assumed...impossible.

It is not a very good weapon especially nowadays. More tests are available to prove the misuse of insulin. If a non-diabetic is dead on arrival without a usual suspect - I suggest the coroner check the patient's blood sugar. If that's hovering around absolute zero I'd put a request in for the insulin antibody kit!