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Parenting

Calming Kid’s Pre-Surgery Anxiety: iPads or Drugs?

1:00

Once you think about it, it makes a lot of sense; a new study shows that iPads work as well as sedative drugs to calm anxious kids before surgery.

Researchers assessed 112 children between 4 and 10 years old in France who had day surgery requiring general anesthesia. Twenty minutes before receiving the anesthesia, 54 kids were given the sedative midazolam and 58 were handed an iPad to distract them.

Guess what they found. The anxiety level for both groups was about the same. However, iPads conferred none of the side effects of sedatives, the researchers said. Also, they said the kids given iPads were easier to anesthetize.

"Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad," said Dr. Dominique Chassard and colleagues at Hospital Femme-Mere-Enfant in Bron, France. "However, the quality of induction of anesthesia, as well as parental satisfaction, were judged better in the iPad group."

As any parent knows, iPads and other tablets offer an endless amount of entertainment to help children relax. From music to cartoons to games, there are plenty of programs available to take a child’s mind off of the current situation.  It’s not surprising they would work to help alleviate anxiety before something as scary as surgery. 

The study was to be presented this week at the World Congress of Anesthesiologists meeting in Hong Kong. Researched presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary.

Story source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20160830/ipads-calm-surgery-bound-kids-as-well-as-sedatives

 

Parenting

Pregnancy May Actually Modify a Mom’s Brain

Baby, motherhood, health

Moms often feel like they have a “sixth sense” when it comes to their newborn’s needs and survival. What they may really be experiencing are the physical changes that pregnancy can have on the brain.

Researchers in Spain wanted to know if pregnancy could actually change the structure of a woman’s brain, impacting how she reacts to her newborn. What they found was that long-term changes to the brain do occur and that they may have evolved over time to improve a mother’s ability to protect and nurture her child.

The researchers used information gathered from MRI scans that compared the brain structures of 25 women before and after their first pregnancies.

After giving birth, the women had significant reductions of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with social interactions, the findings showed. Those brain regions overlapped with ones that activated when mothers watched images of their own babies.

“The changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood," study co-lead author Erika Barba said in a news release from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Some women feel like they have trouble remembering things during and after their pregnancy, sometimes referred to as having “baby brain.” The good news is that researchers reported the participants had no changes in memory or other thinking functions during pregnancy. That means the loss of gray matter does not lead to problems in those areas. The brain changes, which lasted for at least two years after the women gave birth, probably help them adapt to motherhood, the study authors suggested.

According to study co-director Oscar Vilarroya: "The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn's emotional state. Moreover, they provide primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general."

Researchers also found that they were able to use the brain changes to predict a mother’s attachment to her baby. The changes were similar whether women got pregnant naturally or through fertility treatments.

This is the first research to show that pregnancy involves long-lasting changes -- at least for two years postpartum.

The term “mama bear” has often been used to describe the fierceness that some mothers’ exhibit when they feel their child is in danger or has been wronged. Now science may have found out why that is.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Story source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20161219/pregnancy-may-spur-mothering-changes-in-a-womans-brain

Your Baby

Does Your Unborn Baby Hear You?

2.00 to read

More than twenty years ago I remember reading that fetuses can learn to recognize their mothers and father’s voices and then respond to those voices as newborns. I thought… well maybe… but it seemed to me that voices from outside of the womb would sound muffled from inside. Of course, I don’t remember my in utero experience so I don’t really know how words sound.

Over the years though, scientists have continued to examine how and what babies learn before they are born.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have determined that fetuses not only hear and recognize voices but they can become familiar with different words and different pitches used when saying those words.

The study involved 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with (2), four-minute sequences of the made-up words “tatata” or “tatota.” The words were said with several different pitches. The moms-to-be listened to the recordings beginning at 29 weeks of pregnancy -about 7 months along- until birth. They heard them around 50 to 71 times.

Following birth, researchers tested the babies for normal hearing and then performed an electroencephalograph (EEG) brain scan to see if the newborns would respond to the made-up words and different pitches. And sure enough, the brain scans showed increased activity from the babies who had been listening to the CD in utero when the words were played to them after birth. Not only did they respond to the words, but also seemed to recognize the different pitches used when they heard them.  

The babies born to the mothers who had not listened to the CDs while pregnant showed little reaction to the words or pitches.

 “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.

“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”

Some experts believe the finding shows that not only can a third-trimester fetus hear and recognize voices; he or she can also detect subtle changes and process complex information.

“Interestingly, this prenatal exposure also helped the newborns to detect changes which they were not exposed to: the infants who have received additional prenatal stimulation could also detect loudness changes in pseudo words but the unexposed infants could not,” Partanen says.

“However, both groups did have responses to vowel changes (which are very common in Finnish, and which newborns have been many time previously been shown to be capable of).”

You may be wondering why is it even important that scientists know if fetuses can recognize voices or words.  Partanen says because sounds heard in utero may shape the developing human brain in ways that affect speech and language development after birth.

“The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know about early development of language,” Partanen says. “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].” 

An abstract for the Finnish study is published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.

Does talking and singing to your baby before it’s born actually stimulate his or her brain activity and increase language learning? Some experts say definitely yes, others say it has no impact. But really, most moms and dads enjoy baby bump bonding whether it’s productive or not. And who knows, maybe your pre-born hears you loud and clear. 

Source: Meghan Holohan, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/unborn-babies-are-hearing-you-loud-clear-8C11005474

Your Baby

Kids of Obese Mothers at Higher Risk for Autism, ADHD

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A new study points out another reason that obesity and pregnancy can be a bad combination not only for the mother but for her future child as well.

Researchers found that six-year-olds whose mothers were severely obese before pregnancy are more likely to have developmental or emotional problems than kids of healthy-weight mothers.

The lead author of the study, Heejoo Jo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and her team reviewed data on 1,311 mother-child pairs collected between 2005 and 2012, including the mothers’ body mass index (BMI, a height-to-weight ratio) before pregnancy and their reports of the children’s psychosocial difficulties at age six.

The researchers also incorporated the children’s developmental diagnoses and receipt of special needs services.

Kids of moms who were severely obese, with a BMI greater than 35, were twice as likely to have emotional symptoms, problems with peers and total psychosocial difficulties compared to kids of moms who had a healthy BMI, between 18.5 and 25.

Their children were three times as likely to have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and more than four time as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as reported in the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies have shown a connection with autism and maternal diabetes and obesity.

Researchers took into account pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding duration, postpartum depression and infant birth weight. None of these explained the apparent association.

“We already do know that obesity is related to health problems during pregnancy and throughout the lifetime,” Jo said. “I think this adds to that by suggesting that not only does severe obesity affect a woman’s health but the health of her future children.”

This study could not analyze the mechanism linking severe obesity and later risk for developmental problems, Jo noted.

“One theory that we could not look at and needs further research was some small studies have linked maternal obesity to increased inflammation, which might affect fetal brain development,” she told Reuters Health by phone.

While it sounds cliché because we’ve heard it so much; obesity in America has reached epidemic status. Almost 30 percent of Americans are obese and the prevalence of maternal obesity has risen rapidly in the last two decades.

In the USA, approximately 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% obese.

Women’s health specialists recommend that obese women considering pregnancy lose weight before they conceive to help reduce health risks for themselves as well as their child.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delay or disability at nine, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age.

Health experts strongly suggest that women who were obese or severely obese when they became pregnant make sure that their children receive these developmental screenings.

Sources: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/28/us-obese-pregnancy-adhd-kids-idUSKBN0NJ2FC20150428

James R. O'Reilly, Rebecca M. Reynolds, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776504

Your Child

New Flu Vaccine for 2015-2016

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Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t as effective as previous vaccines, but this year’s vaccine should be a much better match according to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

Typically, the vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective, making your chances of getting the flu reduced by as much as 60 percent if you get a flu shot.

This year’s flu vaccine contains the H3N2 strain, Frieden said. Last year's vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. As a result, "more seniors were hospitalized for the flu than ever before."

What's more, 145 children died from the flu, Frieden said, adding that the actual number was "probably much higher since many flu deaths aren't reported."

About 50 percent of the American population gets vaccinated every flu season. That includes pregnant women. More people, including pregnant women, need to be vaccinated, Frieden said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year.

Frieden said there's an adequate supply of flu vaccine this year. Companies are expected to make 170 million doses of vaccine, of which 40 million have already been distributed, he said.

People at risk of flu-related complications include young children, especially those younger than 2 years; people over 65; pregnant women; and people with chronic health problems, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, as well as those with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

The CDC encourages people to get a flu shot preferably by October. Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.

During this flu season:

•       Intramuscular (IM) vaccines will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations. (High dose vaccines, which are IM vaccines, will all be trivalent this season.)

•       For people who are 18 through 64 years old, a jet injector can be used for delivery of one particular trivalent flu vaccine.

•       Nasal spray vaccines will all be quadrivalent this season.

•       Intradermal vaccine will all be quadrivalent.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

It’s hard to believe that we’re about to head into the flu season, particularly with so many states still experiencing summer like weather. But we are, and getting a flu shot early can help protect you and your family from a virus no one wants to get.

Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/flu-news-314/no-embargo-this-year-s-flu-vaccine-better-match-703392.html

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm

Your Child

Healthier Choices for Students in School Lunch Lines

1:30

School lunches have changed over the years and in many school cafeterias, food options are healthier than ever before, according to a new study.

Elementary school cafeterias are offering more vegetables, fresh fruit, salad bars, whole grains and more healthy pizzas, while the availability of high-fat milks, fried potatoes and regular pizza has decreased, researchers report.

"School food service programs have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, and largely have been very successful," said lead researcher Lindsey Turner, director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools at Boise State University, in Idaho.

Although in some schools food choices are improving, that’s not the case everywhere. Turner noted that more work needs to be done to make sure every student has the same healthy choices in the lunch line.

In the study of more than 4,600 elementary schools that are part of the U.S. National School Lunch Program, researchers found that school lunches improved significantly between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.

Despite improvements in food choices, disparities were still found. For example, schools in the West were more likely to offer salad bars than schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South, the researchers found.

Schools with a majority of black or Hispanic children were less likely to offer fresh fruit than schools with a preponderance of white students.

Also, schools in poor areas were less likely to offer salads regularly.

Over the course of the study, Midwestern schools slightly reduced offering pre-made salads in favor of salad bars, but Southern schools were more likely to offer pre-made salads and less likely to have salad bars, the researchers found.

On the other side of offering healthier foods is choosing to eat those foods. Just because there are better food options available, doesn’t mean that kids will eat them. One expert noted that it takes time and effort for kids to change their eating habits. It not only has to look good, it has to taste good.

"It is not only important to improve the quality of school lunches but to make these foods attractive, tasty, easily seen and accessible," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

Studies have found that putting fresh fruit in a nice bowl, in a conveniently located, well-lit area in the school cafeteria increased sales of fruit by 102 percent, she noted.

"A brightly lit, hot-and-cold salad bar filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, mushroom and spinach pizza, and veggie tacos center-stage in the lunchroom would be very attractive to students and staff alike," Heller said.

This approach works well at home, too, she added.

"Kids are more likely to grab healthy foods like cut-up melon, carrots, peppers, edamame and hummus when they are upfront and easy to grab in the fridge," Heller said.

The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/america-s-school-lunches-getting-healthier-study-709097.html

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Fight the Flu

The Facts About Flu Season

Daily Dose

Fit Foods for a Healthy Lifestyle

1:15 to read

Wherever you are on your healthy lifestyle journey, you are not alone.  I tell my patients that the key to being healthy is being disciplined in eating the right foods, staying active and getting enough sleep...and that’s for both you and your kids.

Committing to your overall health and wellness should start early on.  When you’re pregnant, it doesn’t always mean you’re eating for two. A growing baby needs nourishment from their mother’s diet throughout the day but experts say nutrition during pregnancy should be about adding extra nutrients and not extra meals. Moms to be need to be eating foods that are good for them and their baby.  You just need to choose the right ones.

Avocados are a power food loaded with critical vitamins and minerals pregnant moms need to pass along to their unborn baby.  Nutrients like folate which helps prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Avocados contain powerful antioxidants like lutein an ingredient found in breast milk which is known to protect important cells in a baby’s eye. 

It’s so important for pregnant moms to consume a host vitamins and minerals and avocados are a great resource.  You might say avocados are a very similar to a prenatal vitamin!  And avocados may even help reduce morning sickness!

And the health benefits of avocados don’t stop once your baby is born.  If you’re breastfeeding…avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which are good fats and are important for a baby’s weight gain, growth and brain development. 

Avocados are the perfect first food for your baby.   Between 4 and 6 months you can introduce avocados into your child’s diet.  They work perfectly because they are easily mashed and slightly sweet.  This is a good time to introduce new food textures as well.

What’s the foolproof way to know that your family’s favorite fruit is ripe?  Push lightly near the neck and feel for a gentle yield.  If you’re still not sure it’s ready to eat? Pop the stem button.  If the stem button pops off easily, then the fruit is ready to eat.

Moms and dads…we always put our children first…so don’t forget about yourselves.  Avocados are a fit food fruit.  Studies show avocados may reduce total cholesterol levels while they lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Avocados are also loaded with dietary fiber which may help you lose weight and reduce blood sugar spikes.

The next time you’re grocery shopping, make sure you add a few avocados to your cart.  They’re nutritious, heart healthy and taste delicious.  They’re good for you and everyone in your family! What more could you ask for in a fruit?

For more information, visit worldsfinestavocados.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Track Your Family's Heart Health

1.00 to read

It is the end of Heart Health Month and I found a great way to help everyone with their healthy eating initiative.  Supertracker can help “plan, analyze and track” you and your family’s diet as well as physical activity.  Just go to www.choosemyplate.gov and click on SUPERTRACKER.   

As we all know, the desire to keep our families healthy is what all parents really want.  It is just sometimes overwhelming as to where to start and how to make simple changes.  This website has incorporated the original My Pyramid Tracker and My Pyramid Menu Planner as well, which were taken down in 2012. 

Go to the website and take a look at how user friendly it is!  The website has all sorts of information on nutrition as well as easy ideas for making simple changes in a recipe or ingredients to make it healthier.  This is not just about counting calories, but rather about portion control and little changes to a meal that may make a big difference. 

The site is interactive and can help parents decide what portions are age appropriate for their children based on age and activity level. Even a younger child can start to look at plates and get ideas about portion size. (Even healthy meals should have portion control). 

Since we just finished talking about healthy eating and exercise, thought this was the perfect ending or rather beginning to some lifestyle changes to keep all of us “heart healthy”.  Keep up the good work!

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