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Health Capsules: Jan. 23

Strive for imperfection – it’s good for your health

With the start of a new year, many people are likely to be facing a newly created list of to-dos. Whether your goals pertain to business, your personal life or everyday household tasks, the perfectionists among us may feel a strong desire to complete every one of them flawlessly.  But when perfectionists fail – or push themselves too hard to succeed – they often experience depression, anxiety and burnout.

Perfectionism as a personality trait also seems to be on the increase, especially among younger people. College students polled in a recent study reported perfectionism “scores” as much as 33 percent higher than previous generations. Experts say this increase is being driven by a number of factors, including social media which prompt constant comparisons with others in all areas of life, as well as pressures to graduate near the top of the class and achieve a high level of career success.

Of course, the reality is that nobody’s perfect – and at any age, when it comes to the drive for perfection, letting yourself off the hook in some areas is important. According to scientists at Harvard Medical School, a concrete way to do this may be to think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities using letter grades, as follows:

A [100 percent effort]: This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is your highest priority, your goals might be to put out excellent products at work, impress the boss and make sure clients are happy.

B [above average – about 80 percent effort]: Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis and want to become more competitive, but have no plans to go pro. In that case, occasional rather than intensive daily practice is good enough.

C [average effort]: Having a clean home is important to you – but people won’t actually be eating off your floors anytime soon. Reserve cleaning for a few hours on the weekend, or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic.

F [no effort]: This is for time-consuming tasks that, upon reflection, really don’t matter at all – for instance, lining up all your hangers, organizing clothing by color, or folding and storing things in a specific way. These deserve to be taken off the to-do list completely.

Infection after scope procedures may far exceed estimates

Rates of infection after scoping procedures may be higher than previously believed.

The rates of infection following colonoscopies and upper-GI endoscopies performed at U.S. outpatient specialty centers are far higher than previously believed, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers.

Each year in the U.S., more than 15 million colonoscopies and 7 million upper-GI endoscopies [EGDs] are currently performed. Both colonoscopies and EGDs utilize endoscopes, reusable optical instruments which are sterilized after every procedure.

Susan Hutfless, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, led a team that examined 2014 medical data from six states and determined that patients who underwent one of the common procedures at ambulatory surgery centers [ASCs] were at greater-than-expected risk of bacterial infections, including E. coli and Klebsiella.

Hutfless explained that post-endoscopic infection rates were previously believed to be in the neighborhood of 1 in 1 million. However, her research showed that on average, the rate of infection seven or fewer days after having a scope procedure was slightly higher than 1 in 1,000 for screening colonoscopies and about 1.6 per 1,000 for diagnostic colonoscopies. Rates for EGDs within that time frame were more than 3 per 1,000.

Patients who were hospitalized before having one of the procedures were at even greater risk of infection, she added. Almost 45 in 1,000 patients hospitalized within 30 days prior to a screening colonoscopy visited a hospital with an infection within a month. The rate of infection-related hospitalization for EGDs was more than 59 patients per 1,000.

The research also found that those ASCs conducting the highest number of procedures had the lowest recorded rates of post-endoscopic infections. And while the vast majority of ASCs follow strict infection-control guidelines, she and her team found infection rates at some facilities more than 100 times higher than expected.

Hutfless emphasized the importance of endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures, which have revolutionized the prevention and treatment of gastric diseases. But she also warned that patients should be aware that infection risk is associated with all endoscopic procedures, and advised that people who do develop infections report them to the facility know so they can improve their infection prevention measures.

Nail polish labels may mislead consumers about product safety

Due to consumers’ concerns about the potential health hazards of certain chemicals in nail polish, manufacturers have been removing potentially toxic ingredients and labeling their products as being “free” of those substances. But the reformulated products may not be much safer for frequent nail polish users and nail salon workers, according to recent research conducted by the American Chemical Society.

Ingredients called plasticizers are used to improve flexibility and chip resistance in nail polishes. Shortly after 2000, concerns began to grow about the use of one particular plasticizer called di-n-butyl phthalate [DnBP], which is known to be toxic. In response, nail polish manufacturers began removing DnBP from their polishes, along with other chemicals such as toluene and formaldehyde, and switching to other plasticizers such as triphenyl phosphate [TPHP].

Product labels on many nail polishes now tout the absence of as many as 13 different chemicals.

The American Chemical Society researchers examined 40 different nail polishes. They found that while manufacturers have mostly removed DnBP and are reducing the amount of TPHP they use, some are using similarly toxic substitutes, sometimes without disclosing them on product labels. The researchers also found that polishes with labels promoting fewer ingredients don’t necessarily have a reduced toxicity.

The American Chemical Society’s report was published in Environmental Science & Technology.

On the calendar

An American Red Cross Community Blood Drive is on Friday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 6 Jungermann Circle in St. Peters [in Suite 117 of the HealthWise Center]. Register online at redcrossblood.org or by phone at 1-800-733-2767.

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BJC offers Diabetes Self-Management Education Services for adults with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes on Tuesdays, Feb. 5 and 19, from 4-7 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. Sessions are led by a diabetes nurse educator and a registered dietitian. Individual consultations can also be scheduled during this time for adults with gestational, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. A physician order and advance registration are required. The services are free of charge. To register, call (636) 928-9355 or visit bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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