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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘health’

Another Massive Heat Wave Hits Israel, Middle East

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Israelis headed back to the beach on Sunday — at least, those who were not hiding out in buildings with air conditioning or beneath really efficient ceiling fans.

This is the third such unseasonably high heat wave to hit the region in less than a month.

In Egypt, where temperatures rose as high as 114 Farenheit over the past week, the heat-related death toll has risen to 93. Most of those who died were elderly.

Israel’s Health Ministry is urging the public to remember to drink plenty of water. The ministry is particular urges the elderly and those with chronic conditions during the current heat wave to avoid exposure to the sun and heat as much as possible, and to also avoid physical exercise in addition to drinking plenty of water.

Sweltering temperatures in Israel on Sunday are predicted for up to 99 F (37 C) in Jerusalem and 95 C (35 C) in Tel Aviv. But it will feel much hotter, due to the humidity – in Tel Aviv, for instance, it will feel like 113 F (45 C).

Temperatures are expected to soar as high as 104 F and above (40 F) on Sunday in other areas throughout the country — as high as 115 F (46 C) in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

At the Dead Sea, a haven for medical tourism in the skin care industry, temperatures are predicted to reach 111 F (44 C) but will feel more like 119 F (48 C) due to the humidity.

In the northern Negev, in Be’er Sheva, temperatures will climb to 108 F (42 C).

In the Jordan Valley, temperatures are predicted to hit 118 F (48 F); around Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the temperatures could climb to 113 F (45 C) – but because of the afternoon humidity, it will feel like 136 F (58 C).

In the north along the coast, as in Tel Aviv, in Haifa it will hit 95 F (35 C) and in the Golan Heights, the temperatures will also reach a relatively cool 102 F (39 C).

The current heat wave is expected to last at least into Tuesday, although the temperatures may drop a little by then.

Medical Marijuana to be Available at Pharmacies

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Israelis soon will be able to take a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to the local pharmacy, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Monday.

He noted that pharmacies issue prescriptions for other drugs that are considered narcotics and that procedures are well-supervised. A case in point is Ritalin. A person wanting to fill a prescription for the drug, which when ground up and sniffed can be extremely dangerous, has to wait at the counter until the pharmacist opens the safe.

“I will fight an aggressive war not to allow this to get out of control,” said Litzman, who in effect is the Health Minster, a title he does not accept because the Hareidi Yehadut Torah (United Torah Judaism) party does not want to be part of a “Zionist” Cabinet.

He said that making marijuana available at pharmacies awaits court approval concerning tenders for growers of “grass.”

Litzman said that there procedures overseeing prescriptions for marijuana will be issued either through law or administrative orders.

Health Ministry Prof. Boaz Lev added that officials will make it possible for more doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use.

Israeli Researchers: Smartphone App May Help Parkinson’s Patients [video]

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Many patients in the latter stage of Parkinson’s disease are at high risk of dangerous, sometimes fatal, falls. One major reason is the disabling symptom referred to as Freezing of Gait (FoG) — brief episodes of an inability to step forward that typically occurs during gait initiation or when turning while walking.

Patients who experience FoG often lose their independence, which has a direct effect on their already degenerating quality of life. In the absence of effective pharmacological therapies for FoG, technology-based solutions to alleviate the symptom and prolong the patients’ ability to live independently are desperately being sought.

CuPID is a project three years in the making and the product of an eight-member European Union-funded consortium including researchers at Tel Aviv University. It strives to provide personalized rehabilitation for patients with Parkinson’s disease who experience FoG or other gait disturbances.

CuPID is a home-based, personalized rehabilitation tool in the form of a Smartphone app that harnesses wearable sensors, audio biofeedback, and external cueing to provide intense motivational training tailored to each patient. The results are monitored remotely by medical professionals, who provide quality care while enhancing patient compliance.

The CuPID app just completed its pilot run and is being fine-tuned for more widespread use. It utilizes small sensors placed on a patient’s shoes that measure a person’s gait in “real-time.” If certain deviations from a pre-set norm emerge, an audio message alerts the patient to change his or her walking pattern immediately to avoid a dangerous situation.

Tel Aviv University Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff said:

FoG is a leading cause of disability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. It often occurs during ‘walking transitions’ associated with turning, starting, stopping, and moving in open spaces. It can also occur when people approach narrow spaces, such as doors or elevators, and in crowded places. Recognizing such situations is a very powerful key for prevention — and this is one of the features of this program.

Prof. Hausdorff and his team at Tel Aviv Medical Center conducted a pilot study on 40 subjects: 20 patients with Parkinson’s disease who used the CuPID app and 20 patients who carried out conventional exercises and did not use the app. The results are promising and the investigators are currently exploring the possibility of a larger follow-up study to further demonstrate the app’s efficacy. Tel Aviv University Dr. Anat Mirelman, who co-directed the project, explained that FoG episodes resemble a short-circuit in the brain, rendering it unable to generate the appropriate stepping pattern, often leaving the patient in an untenable and frustrating situation. The app is designed to circumvent that difficulty. She said:

FoG reduces patients’ independence. Patients become afraid of walking by themselves and this leads to self-imposed restrictions in mobility. When their feet get stuck to the ground, their bodies lunge forward — it’s very frightening. People often end up in wheelchairs, and this is a vicious cycle, as it places more reliance on the assisted-living infrastructure.

“The program now integrates the expertise of a patient’s physical therapist, who establishes what is considered a patient’s ‘normal’ or ‘strong’ walking pattern,” said Prof. Hausdorff. “It’s unobtrusive and has the potential to reduce dependence on Parkinson’s medication that has detrimental side effects. How much or how often the app is used depends on how advanced the disease is, but since the system is so small and non-invasive, it can be used just about anywhere.”

Israeli Mental Health Services Moving to HMOs

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

More than 25 years after legislators recommended the change in one of “those committees,” Israelis might actually be able to obtain timely local mental health care.

Responsibility for mental health services is being transferred from the Health Ministry to each of the four Health Maintenance Organizations (kupat holim services).

The decision was announced Monday by Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman, who had opposed the very same move the last time he served in the post. This time, he told reporters at a news conference held on the sidelines of a health conference at the Dead Sea, “the situation is not good and the alternatives are worse.”

In 1989, the State Commission to Improve the Health System headed by then-Justice Shoshana Netanyahu (Supreme Court) recommended the change.

The National Health Insurance (Bituach Leumi) Law of 1994 was intended to carry it out, adding both geriatric and psychiatric care to that year’s “basket” of health care services.

It didn’t happen, however, because the well was dry: there was only enough money for general medical care. Geriatrics and mental health were placed on the back burner.

With the change taking effect July 1, there will also be an annual budget of NIS 1.9 billion available to address mental health care. Patients will be asked to pay a 25 percent co-pay for specialist services, and if they prefer to see a private mental health professional, the cost will be NIS 130.

The four HMOs will offer mental health diagnostic services, psychiatric assessment, counseling, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, individual, family and group care, home visits and other needed care. Collateral family sessions will also be available to help family members learn how to deal with disturbed loved ones.

As usual, the Histadrut Labor Federation has announced a dispute over the action. Various groups in the mental health field are also expressing their concerns over the way the change is being carried out.

But Litzman said the move is absolutely necessary in order to improve the quality, accessibility and availability of mental health services in the nation.

Under the new structure, mental health therapy will be recognized as part of medical treatment and family practitioners – pediatricians for children – will make referrals for care to existing or new mental health clinics. Those in need of acute services will still be able to go directly to outpatient clinics and hospital or psychiatric emergency rooms when necessary, Litzman said.

Litzman Dumps Predecessor’s Policy, Returns Fluoride to Israeli Drinking Water

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman says he is planning to return fluoride to Israel’s drinking water.

It is believed that adding fluoride to water helps strengthen the teeth of children as they develop and grow.

The decision is another reversal of the policies made by the previous health minister, MK Yael German. Despite the advice of public health and dental experts – and against the requests of numerous mayors and heads of local authorities – MK German removed the supplement from potable water soon after she entered office two years ago.

The issue has long been a controversy in the United States as well, where fluoride was added to the nation’s potable water many years ago as well. Parents and others who oppose the addition of any form of supplement to food or water in the U.S. also rallied against fluoride as well.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that protects teeth from decay. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the levels of fluoride in drinking water. The agency notes the mineral “may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standards” set by the agency.

The maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) set for fluoride in the U.S. is 4.0 mg/L, or 4.0 ppm. The secondary standard (SMCL) for fluoride is at 2.0 mg?l or 2.0 ppm – the non-enforceable guideline regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects, such as skin or tooth discoloration, or aesthetic effects such as taste, odor or color in the drinking water. Such a level might be found in areas where high levels of of naturally occurring fluoride are found.

Hebrew Univ. Study Links Fear of Terror with Risk of Death

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

A new study of over 17,000 Israelis has found that long-term exposure to the threat of terrorism can elevate people’s resting heart rates and increase their risk of dying.

This is the first statistics-based study, and the largest of its kind, which indicates that fear induced by consistent exposure to the threat of terror can lead to negative health consequences and increase the risk of mortality.

It is well-documented that international terror outbreaks involve mass psychological trauma, leading to long-term mental health risks to the exposed population. Previous studies have also shown that in the short term, sudden stressful situations such as earthquakes can increase a person’s heart rate and their risk of having a heart attack.

However, whether long-term exposure to the threat of terror can lead to physical health risks in the exposed population has until now remained unknown.

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the factors affecting basal (resting) heart rates, and studied how these rates changed over the years during annual checkups of healthy Israeli subjects. Israel has been exposed to the repeated stress of multiple wars and terror attacks for over 60 years, with a major impact on the entire society.

The research used a study of 17,300 healthy subjects who underwent an annual general medical exam including blood tests, heart rate and stress tests at the Tel Aviv Medical Center each year.

The 10,972 men and 6,408 women in the study were apparently healthy employees attending periodic routine health examinations during the years 2002–2013.

The questionnaire covered a wide range of occupational, psychological, and physical factors, including body mass index, blood pressure, fitness, smoking, psychological well-being, anxiety, and fear of terror.

“We wanted to test whether fear of terrorism can predict an increase in pulse rate and increased risk of death,” explains Prof. Hermona Soreq, who conducted the research,

The research was conducted by Prof. Hermona Soreq, who conducted the research.

By combining the medical exam data with the questionnaire responses, the researchers found that basal heart rate was affected by physiological characteristics, such as level of physical fitness and inflammation index reflecting the activity of the immune system.

In contrast, an ongoing increase in heart rate was also influenced by psychological characteristics such as fear of terrorism. Through a statistical analysis of 325 different parameters, the researchers found that fear of terror was a major contributor to annual increases in resting heart rate, with 4.1% of study participants suffering from an elevated fear of terror that predicted an increase in their resting heart rates.

While a heartbeat of 60 beat per minute is normal, an increase of up to 70-80 beats per minute was observed in subjects who exhibited an increased fear of terrorism. In other words, for people with an elevated fear of terror, the heart beats faster and the associated risk of heart disease is higher.

Elevated resting heart rate is a predictor of death from cardiovascular disease and death across all causes. As people age, the resting heart rate typically decreases from year to year, and people whose heart rate actually increases annually are more susceptible than others to heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers also examined how the brain alerts the body to the expectation of danger. They administered a blood test to examine the function of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in responses to stress and which acts as a brake to the inflammatory response.

The results showed that the fear of terror leads to a decline in the function of acetylcholine, and thus reduces the body’s ability to defend itself from a heart attack, leading to a greater chance of dying.

Israeli Scientist Finds Omega-3 Reduces Smoking

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Want to stop smoking, for real, and you just can’t seem to manage it on your own but hate the thought of patches and “chemicals” ?

A new study conducted by an Israeli scientist  has found that Omega-3 reduces a smoker’s craving for nicotine, thereby making it easier to quit the unhealthy habit.

The study was headed by Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at University of Haifa’s school of criminology and the department of psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar Ilan University.

Subjects participating in the study were asked to take five capsules per day for 30 days of Omega-3 950 produced by Solgar. A second group, used as controls, received placebos. Neither group was asked to stop smoking.

The groups included 38 smokers ages 18 to 45 who somked at least 10 cigarettes per day during the past year, and an average of 14 cigarettes per day. The average subject had been smoking for at least 11 years.

Levels of nicotine craving and consumption were measured using a series of scales at the beginning of the study, after 30 days of treatment and after 60 days (30 days after stopping the Omega-3 capsules.)

“The substances and medications currently used to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with,” Shenkar observed.

“The findings of this study indicated that Omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” she added.

Among myriad other health problems, smoking also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain – especially that of Omega-3. When the body is deficient in Omega-3, the cellular structure of nerve cells is damaged, and it interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction, Shenkar explained.

These areas are essential in reward and decision-making, and are very important in the process of the development, maintenance and relapse of the addict and inability to stop smoking.

“In simpler terms, Omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker’s body to deal with its craving for another cigarette.

The findings of the new study show that while no difference was found between the groups at the beginning of the study, after thirty days the smokers who had taken Omega-3 reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an eleven-percent decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. After another thirty days of not taking anything, cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than their initial level. In other words, the craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping to take the supplement. The group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked a day during the sixty days.

“Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in Omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress,” Shenkar emphasized. “Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke. It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking. Despite all this, this connection between all these factors had not been studied until now.”

The finding that people who were not interested in stopping to smoke showed such a significant change reinforces the assumption that taking Omega-3 can help smokers to regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking, Shenkar pointed out.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-scientist-finds-omega-3-reduces-smoking/2014/11/10/

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