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Health Capsules: Walking at work

In a study, Michael Sliter (pictured) and his colleagues found walking workstations provided workers psychological as well as physical benefits.         (IUPUI School of Science photo)

In a study, Michael Sliter (pictured) and his colleagues found walking workstations provided workers psychological as well as physical benefits. (IUPUI School of Science photo)

Walking at work

Besides providing the physical benefits one might expect, working at a walking workstation can give mental health a boost, too.

Faculty and students in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) recently evaluated 180 people who were working on computers either while seated, standing, cycling or walking. Researchers looked at workers’ levels of boredom, task satisfaction, stress, arousal and performance in each workstation scenario and found those working at walking workstations had better satisfaction and arousal and less boredom and stress than those at sitting and standing workstations. Comparatively, those at the cycling workstation reported a reduction in satisfaction and job performance.

“We found that the walking workstations, regardless of a person’s exercise habits or body mass index, had significant benefits,” study author Michael Sliter said. “Even if you don’t exercise or if you are overweight, you’ll experience both short-term physical and psychological benefits.”

Sliter’s paper on the study, which he wrote entirely from his walking workstation, was published online in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.


Not allergic after all

Many people who have been told they are allergic to penicillin were given bad information, according to two studies presented at the recent American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting.

In one study, 384 people believed they had a penicillin allergy, but when tested, 94 of them tested negative for the allergy.

“They may have had an unfavorable response to penicillin at some point in the past, such as hives or swelling, but they did not demonstrate any evidence of penicillin allergy at the current time,” said Dr. Thanai Pongdee, lead author of the study.

In another study, 38 people who thought they were allergic to penicillin tested negative to the drug when given a skin test.

The studies are significant because people who think they have a penicillin allergy are given alternative antibiotics, which can be limited, more toxic, more expensive and less effective.

The bottom line, according to James Sublett, allergist and ACAAI president-elect: “When you are told you have an allergy to something, it’s important to be seen and tested by an allergist, who has specialized training needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you’re truly allergic to a medication, your allergist will counsel you on an appropriate substitute.”


Getting rid of readers

Reading glasses soon may be unnecessary for the many Americans who rely on them to see things up close.

According to information released last month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), a corneal inlay device currently being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks like a promising remedy for presbyopia, the near-vision blurriness many people experience after age 40. In one study, about 500 non-nearsighted adults aged 45-60 wore the devices for three years, and more than 80 percent of them enjoyed 20/40 or better vision with the devices, which is standard vision for being able to read a newspaper or drive a car without corrective lenses.

“This is a solution that truly delivers near vision that transitions smoothly to far distance vision,” said John Vukich, ophthalmology and vision sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The devices can be implanted in about 10 minutes and can be removed if necessary, according to the AAO. They currently are available in parts of Asia, Europe and South America.


Generic meds

In a consumer update issued last month (“Generic Drugs Undergo Rigorous FDA Scrutiny”), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that anyone who thinks generic drugs are not as effective as the brand-name drugs for which they may be substituted is wrong.

The update explains that brand-name drugs often are patented so manufacturers can recoup development costs, but when a drug’s patent expires, other drug companies can copy that drug and seek FDA approval for a generic version.

According to the FDA, an FDA-approved generic drug that a pharmacist would substitute for a brand-name drug will contain the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug; be identical in strength, dosage form and route of administration (i.e., capsule, tablet, etc.); treat the same medical condition; be absorbed into the bloodstream at a similar rate and over the same time period; meet the same requirements for identity, strength, purity and quality; and be manufactured under the same strict standards the FDA demands of brand-name drugs.

More than 80 percent of prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic drugs, which in most cases are substantially less expensive than their brand-name counterparts.

To find out if a generic for a particular brand-name drug is available, visit the Drug Information section (Drugs@FDA) at fda.gov.


Medicare scam alert

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Missouri Department of Insurance have issued a warning for seniors, urging them to be alert for scammers who may try to take advantage of them during the Medicare Open Enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7. According to a BBB news release, scams could come in the form of a phone call, door-to-door salesperson or via online communication. Medicare does not telephone consumers to enroll them in insurance plans, so seniors should hang up on anyone who calls claiming to be from Medicare and asking to verify personal information.

The BBB and Missouri Insurance Department offered several tips for seniors:

• Verify that a salesperson is a licensed insurance agent by calling Missouri’s Insurance Consumer Hotline at (800) 726-7390.

• Be wary of door-to-door salespeople, as Medicare has no sales reps, and agents cannot solicit Medicare plans at residences without an appointment.

• Avoid salespeople who offer free lunches for listening to a sales presentation. Federal law prohibits offers of free meals in exchange for signing up for a plan or listening to a presentation on Medicare.

• Do not give personal information to an unlicensed agent. Salespeople are not allowed to ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers during marketing activities. (When enrolling, such information may be required.)

• Be aware that insurance salespeople cannot ask for online payments; they must send a bill.

• If you find the process confusing or need help, ask a relative or trusted friend to join you when talking with a sales representative or searching for plans online.

Missouri offers seniors assistance with enrolling in Medicare plans. Help is available through the CLAIM program (missouriclaim.org), which offers counseling by phone at (800) 390-3330.


Cosmetic dermatology safety

Noninvasive and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures performed by dermatologists rarely have adverse effects, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Northwestern University looked at data on common cosmetic procedures performed by 23 dermatologists during a 13-week period in 2011. The procedures involved laser and energy devices as well as injectable neurotoxins and fillers. Among the more than 20,000 procedures performed, 36 were associated with at least one adverse event, and 48 adverse events were reported overall, none of which was serious.

Adverse events – usually lumps or nodules, persistent redness or bruising, skin darkening, erosions or ulcerations – happened most commonly after procedures on the cheeks, followed by procedures on “smile lines” and eyelids.

The study authors concluded: “In the hands of well-trained dermatologists, these procedures are safe, with aggregate adverse event rates of well under 1 percent. Moreover, most adverse events are minor and rapidly remitting, and serious adverse events were not seen. Patients seeking such procedures can be reassured that, at least in the hands of trained board-certified dermatologists, they pose minimal risk.”

The study was published online in JAMA Dermatology.


On the calendar

“Legal Matters and Goals of Care” is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 12634 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur.  An attorney presents information on advance directives, power of attorney and qualifications for assistance. A facilitator leads the group in ways to engage a loved one in conversations about his/her goals of care.  Admission is free, and no registration is required.  For more information, call (314) 542-9378.


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