Cancer health katie couric

Katie Couric reveals breast cancer diagnosis: ‘Why would I be spared?’

Katie Couric is a controversial figure, but she has done amazing work for health. She turned the tragedy of her first husband’s death from colon cancer into raising awareness about a subject that used to never get any mention due to the nature of the exams. Now people are having their colonoscopies filmed to support early detection. It looks like Katie’s going to do the same work with breast cancer. Unfortunately, this time it will be her own story. Katie revealed yesterday that she had been diagnosed with the disease. She said after putting off her mammogram for six months, they found an olive-sized tumor that came back cancerous. Now that it’s removed and she’s almost finished with radiation, Katie is making a plea to her followers to get checked regularly and to push for additional screenings if they think there is any reason for it.

Katie Couric revealed in a personal essay on Wednesday that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The legendary journalist and author, whose first husband Jay Monahan died of colon cancer in 1998, opened up about her health while urging her female followers to get their mammograms — something she said she had to be reminded of during a visit to her gynecologist.

“Please get your annual mammogram,” wrote Couric, 65. “I was six months late this time. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening.”

She explained in her essay that she learned she had cancer after her mammogram — and a breast sonogram she routinely undergoes to detect abnormalities that sometimes can’t be seen through her dense breast tissue — spotted something her doctor wanted to look at further.

A biopsy came back as showing cancer in her breast.

“I felt sick and the room started to spin,” the former Today anchor wrote of the moment she learned of her diagnosis. “I was in the middle of an open office, so I walked to a corner and spoke quietly, my mouth unable to keep up with the questions swirling in my head. ‘What does this mean? Will I need a mastectomy? Will I need chemo? What will the next weeks, months, even years look like?’ ”

She also considered her family’s history of cancer (he father had prostate cancer and her mother, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), which led her to think, “Why would I be spared? My reaction went from ‘Why me?’ to ‘Why not me?’ ”

Couric had a lumpectomy on July 14, doctors removing a tumor she wrote was “2.5 centimeters, roughly the size of an olive.”

Pathology results came back as showing that her cancer was stage 1A. She also learned that the likelihood of the cancer returning was “considered low enough to forgo chemotherapy.”

The former talk show host — whose husband John Molner had “a tumor the size of a coconut on his liver” surgically removed prior to their 2014 wedding — started radiation on Sept. 7, with her final round occurring just this past Tuesday.

[From People]

The article goes on to say that Katie will cover every aspect of breast cancer throughout the month of October, from the latest technology and diagnostic tools and tests to treatments and prevention strategies. She’ll also talk to other people who’ve battled the disease. It’s a great use of her platform and I hope it keeps the discussion on breast cancer moving forward. Katie touched on this in her essay, and we can never stop beating this drum, but screenings have to be made available to everyone. My insurance covers my annual mammograms and some additional screenings, but I pay through the nose for my insurance, so they get you one way or the other. I have friends, though, who don’t even get a full mammogram covered. One frequently skips hers as a result. That’s dangerous and yet, I would probably make the same choices she does if I was in her shoes. We have to do better for all women’s health in this country. Katie spoke of insurance companies reimbursing patients for breast ultrasounds, I’m talking about covering it in the first place so no one has to save up just to be seen.

I hope Katie’s at the end of her cancer story and I’m glad she got to forgo chemotherapy. I know not everyone is so lucky. If breast cancer has touched your life, I’m sorry. I know that’s not much but know we’re here if you want to share your story with us.

Photo credit: Instagram, Cover Images and Avalon Red

exercise fitness health

Working out in the morning may be more effective for losing fat in women

A new study from Skidmore College assigned men and women to workout times of either the morning or the evening. While everyone got in better shape over the three month study, the women who worked out in the morning lost more abdominal fat than women who worked out in the evening. The men in the different workout time groups didn’t have any measurable differences. I read about this in People Magazine and found it really interesting. Here’s part of their writeup:

Working out in the morning instead of the night can help women lose more fat around their waist as well as improve their blood pressure, according to a new study published in May in Frontiers in Physiology.

Researchers tested for health, strength and fitness in men and women, splitting them into two groups. One group exercised four times a week in the morning, between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m, and the other group worked out between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. There were 65 participants, and half were women.

According to the Washington Post, the research was designed to reflect real-world demographics, said Paul Arciero, the director of the Human Nutrition, Performance & Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the study’s lead author.

The workouts were the same at both times of day and consisted of either lifting weights, interval training for 35 minutes, yoga or Pilates, or running or other aerobic exercise. The study lasted 12 weeks, and all volunteers came back in generally better shape regardless of when they worked out.

But there was a noticeable difference in women: Those who worked out in the morning saw their total body fat drop an average of 3 percent more than the evening exercisers. They also shed an average of 7 percent more abdominal fat, and their blood pressure lowered significantly more.

The women who worked out at night saw an increase in upper-body strength, nearly 7 percent more than the morning group.

“Based on our findings, women interested in reducing belly fat and blood pressure, while at the same time increasing leg muscle power should consider exercising in the morning. However, women interested in gaining upper body muscle strength, power and endurance, as well as improving overall mood state and food intake, evening exercise is the preferred choice,” Arciero shared in a release. “Conversely, evening exercise is ideal for men interested in improving heart and metabolic health, as well as emotional wellbeing.”

[From People]

Overall the difference doesn’t seem that dramatic and the important thing is that everyone benefitted from working out. Again, this is People’s writeup of The Washington Post’s interpretation of this study. WaPo did not mention any information about controlling for diet whatsoever. It’s also worth noting that everyone did the same type of workouts, they just rotated them. Plus they didn’t account for whether people typically woke up early or stayed up late.

I get so hungry when I work out at night and I typically eat junk after dinner like popcorn and ice cream. I would guess that women who work out later eat more at night. When I work out in the morning it helps me stay on track with my food for the rest of the day and it’s a reminder to eat healthy. It helps set the tone for the rest of the day. It’s hard to work out in the morning though! I typically am working at this job at that time. I’ve heard that working out in the early afternoon is best for your circadian rhythm, like between 1 to 4pm. As that linked article states though, whenever you’re most motivated to work out is the best time for you. I feel that way about the type of workouts you do too – it should be something you consistently enjoy and want to keep doing.

Photos credit: Victor Amenze and Anastase Maragos on Unsplash and Blue Bird on Pexels

aging exercise health Paulina Porizkova

Paulina Porizkova: Staying in shape after menopause is a lot of work

I, for one, am enjoying Paulina Porizkova rewriting the handbook on how to be a woman over 50. She’s not only posting her selfies and nearly nudes, she’s talking about cracks, crevices, aches, pains and menopause. I love that more women are allowing aging and sexiness to co-exist. Paulina’s latest IG post is one that’s close to my heart because it’s about maintaining body strength after menopause. The video, above, is of Paulina working out and her caption talks about how she’s had to change her workout since the Big M came ’round. Because it aggravated former injuries, she was unable to do her old routines. Between that and the other issues that come with age, as Pauline said,

“staying in shape after menopause takes a lot of frickin’ work.”

Paulina Porizkova is not letting her age get in the way of her fitness journey.

On Tuesday, the actress and model, 57, posted a video on Instagram showing off her workout routine, detailing what exercise looks like for her since going through menopause. In the clip, which was paired with Sia’s “Unstoppable,” she hits the gym with her trainer and works on arm and back exercises.

“Staying in shape after menopause takes a lot of frickin’ work. Especially when you have wonky hips,” Porizkova wrote in the caption. “I’ve had to cut down on my Pilates since I came back for the jungle shooting #beyondtheedge because my hips won’t cooperate. What I’m doing instead, for now, is some serious PT. I found an amazing personal trainer at my local Crunch, Shelly, who alternates hip PT with strength training.”

The former supermodel admitted that because of her constant traveling, her results are inconsistent — but she’s going to continue doing the work.

“So, yes, there are drawbacks to aging,” Porizkova said. “One has to work a lot harder on things that were taken for granted. On the outside. On the inside, however, all the hard work already done is finally paying off.”

She adds, “I may not be as strong or as supple or as smooth as in my youth, but I am comfortable with my vulnerabilities, conscious of my weaknesses, proud of my strengths – and best of all, have the wisdom to put it all together and delight in the results. #betweenjloandbettywhite #workingout #unstoppable #strength #agingaintforsissies.”

[From People]

I realize some of this is unrelatable. I, for example, have not just returned from the jungle shooting a campaign. Nor was I ever beautiful enough to get printwork, let alone in my 50s. But the concepts of body changes and old injuries coming back to haunt us are a consistent theme in aging. It is hard to stay strong. Especially when old workout routines or habits either don’t work or prove too difficult to perform. It’s easy to say, ‘get a trainer to find a routine that work for you.’ But it’s certainly not easy to afford a trainer.

The takeaway from Paulina’s comments is to be understanding with yourself. If the old ways aren’t working, listen to your body and look for some new exercises. Maybe it’s time for yoga over Pilates or Zumba over spin. Maybe you can’t push the same weights you did before so start incorporating more exercises that use your own body’s resistance. And, because nature is so very cruel, your goal might take longer. Be patient. The whole point of getting stronger is to allow you the time to enjoy it.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

health Science

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declares state of emergency due to rise in polio

Oh great, another virus. On Friday, the governor declared a state of emergency in New York because five counties — Nassau, New York, Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan — detected the poliovirus in their wastewater. The samples of the virus found are the type that can cause paralysis. Unvaccinated people in the aforementioned areas are at high risk, but the vaccine is said to be 99-100% effective.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday, following the news that several counties outside of New York City had poliovirus in their wastewater.

Unvaccinated people living, working or spending any time in Orange, Rockland, Nassau, New York City and Sullivan are at a high risk, officials said. The disaster emergency declaration serves to expand the network of vaccine administrators to pharmacists, midwives and EMS workers as well as traditional healthcare providers.

The executive order of emergency will also launch a reporting system for healthcare providers to send polio immunization data to the New York State Department of Health. This will help the organization redouble efforts to vaccinate individuals in communities that need it most.

“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all. Polio immunization is safe and effective – protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses. Do not wait to vaccinate. If you are unsure of you or your families’ vaccination status, contact a healthcare provider, clinic, or local county health department to make sure you and your loved ones receive all recommended doses.”

The vaccination rate is 60% in Rockland, 58% in Orange, 62% in Sullivan and 79% in Nassau, according to the health department. The statewide average for polio immunization is about 79%.

The virus was found in wastewater in all five areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested samples in August, reporting they are samples of concern — meaning they are the types of poliovirus that can cause paralysis in humans.

Officials said their goal is to reach a rate of “well over 90 percent” of vaccinated individuals in the state, also reminding New Yorkers that washing their hands with soap is an effective way to avoid the spread of the virus.

“Alcohol-based sanitizers do not work on some types of germs, like polio,” the release said.

The series of vaccinations to be fully protected against polio varies depending on the age and health of the individual receiving it, but the statement by the governor’s office emphasizes its effectiveness.

“The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), the only vaccine available in the United States, is safe, and contains no live virus. It protects 99 – 100 percent of people who get all recommended doses,” officials said.

The state is also recommending that certain New Yorkers who have previously completed their polio vaccine series should receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV, especially if they are healthcare workers.

Polio is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect the nervous system and cause muscle weakness and, in some cases, paralysis or death. It is most often transmitted through contaminated water or food, or sometimes through a person’s saliva.

[From People]

Very important note (especially for me because I love the stuff) alcohol-based sanitizers don’t work on the polio germs. Washing hands with soap and water is the way to avoid the spread of this virus. Well… my gosh, it’s like there is always a new virus or illness to be afraid of contracting. This one, with the potential paralysis, is particularly scary. I think the polio vaccine was standard as part of childhood vaccinations, but the vaccination rates stated in the article are lower than I expected, at 79% statewide and as low as 58% in one of the five counties where it was found. The state is aiming for a 90% vaccination rate and has also said that certain New Yorkers who are already vaccinated should get a lifetime booster, especially if they are healthcare workers. Hopefully the potential for paralysis will shake some sense into any holdouts and this can be neutralized fairly quickly.

Photos credit: Cover Images, CDC via Pexels and Kristine Wook on Unsplash

Births health

US hospitals are offering laughing gas to laboring women as an epidural alternative

People Magazine had this news in their health section and I hadn’t heard of it before. Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, commonly used for dental procedures, was approved in the United States for use during labor in 2012. It’s only gradually gaining popularity and being offered to women in labor as an alternative to epidurals. It is of course more flexible than an epidural, which supposedly can be given during any stage of labor according to my research but are usually only offered in the first stage, and are long-lasting. Laughing gas is self administered and wears off quickly.

Many women are turning to a new option for pain relief while in labor.

As an alternative to epidurals, some hospitals across the United States are offering nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide is a tasteless and odorless gas that “reduces anxiety and increases a feeling of well-being so that pain is easier to deal with,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Laughing gas, which is more commonly used in a dentist’s office, has long been offered to women giving birth in other countries like England, Canada, Sweden, Finland, but wasn’t introduced in the United States until 2012, when the FDA approved it for laboring women.

Use of nitrous oxide is sometimes preferred to an epidural, which relieves pain but can cause minimal feeling and limit mobility in the legs. With nitrous oxide, which is typically mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a mask, a woman can hold the mask herself and control when to inhale. Once the mask is removed, the effects of nitrous oxide quickly wear off.

“We are the second hospital on Long Island to offer this. It’s becoming more available,” Laura Jabbour, a certified nurse midwife at Northwell Health Huntington Hospital, told the outlet. “More women are becoming interested in having more control over their birth experience.”

“It doesn’t take the pain away, but it does give you a sense of euphoria that helps with anxiety that a lot of women experience,” Jabbour added. “It takes the edge off.”

[From People]

A doctor quoted in the piece said that laboring women on nitrous are aware of everything that is happening and have the option to stop taking the drug at any time. It also doesn’t restrict movement or feeling in your legs like an epidural. I did a poll on Twitter early this morning asking if anyone had been offered nitrous while giving birth in the hospital. A woman from the UK answered that she had, but that it made her vomit and she had to stop using it. At that point she was too far dilated to get an epidural, but said it was a positive birth experience overall. A US-based source who just had a baby told me that she was informed that nitrous would be available, but that it was never offered to her in labor.

I wish this was available when I had my baby! It was over ten years ago and I didn’t get an epidural, but it was mainly because I was afraid of hospitals and used a birth center. Everyone should have the birth experience that they and their doctor agree on and I mean that very broadly.

Photos credit: Isaac Hermar on Pexels and Jimmy Conover and Alexander Grey on Unsplash

health Science

Tufts University’s ‘Food Compass’ rates ice cream more nutritious than a bagel

People Magazine ran a story with the clickbaity title “Ice Cream Is Better for You Than a Multigrain Bagel, New Study Suggests.” Of course I opened it and am running a story with essentially that same title, so it worked. I don’t know if it’s a study so much as an analysis of the nutrient quality of popular snack food. It also might be promotion for a service Tufts is offering, which I’ll discuss more in a minute. First here’s People Magazine’s writeup.

A new study from Tufts University in Massachusetts suggests that ice cream is a healthier choice than a multigrain bagel and other foods like saltine crackers.

In the research, experts at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts developed a “Food Compass” to rank any type of food from 1 to 100 based on nutrition; the higher the number, the healthier the food.

When comparing foods, the study gave an ice cream cone with nuts and chocolate ice cream a 37, while a multigrain bagel with raisins received a 19 and saltine crackers a 7.

While chocolate-covered almonds and sweet-potato chips might not be surprising healthy choices, other options that ranked high are plain Fritos chips, which were given a 55, and whole grain frozen french toast, which was scored at 35. Nonfat cappuccino was ranked at 69.

“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s lead and corresponding author, dean for policy of the Friedman School. “Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”

[From People]

They go on to say that the healthiest meat is seafood, unsurprisingly, followed by chicken then beef and that fruits and vegetables scored highest. The article author claims that this food scoring algorithm is “publicly available,” but the website for Food Compass at Tufts, is just a promotional blurb with the ending sentence “Interested in learning more about how your organization could benefit from a partnership with Food Compass? Email us at [email protected]” This seems like a press release for an app add-on, essentially. I’m not saying they’re wrong, just that this sounds like a program they’re trying to license. I read the press release and the article abstract and Tufts claims to have the “most comprehensive and science-based [nutrient profiling system] to date.” I don’t really understand all of it but it’s based on different food attributes and health outcomes.

My friend uses an app called Yuka to help him chose more healthy snacks. The company states that they don’t accept any sponsorships and that all their food recommendations are honest and based on nutritional value. You enter food you’re eating and it gives it a point value. It’s pointed him toward nut-based chips and other substitutions. As someone who counts calories and just tries to eat more vegetables, I’m skeptical of food ranking systems, especially when they claim that ice cream is healthier than a bagel. Maybe the ice cream is a serving of a specific brand. I know that bagels are empty carbs for the most part. It’s hard to tell with these sensational stories that don’t give access to the full scientific article for context. Plus you know people are going to read the headline and go “screw it, I’m eating ice cream, it’s healthier than crackers,” not that some of us need an excuse to eat our favorite dessert.

photos credit: Mieke Campbell, Amy Vann, Jiroe Matia Rengel and Tuva Mathilde Loland on Unsplash

Coronavirus health

CDC’s latest guidelines on covid: do whatever you want, it’s cool

CDC director Rochelle Walensky. They sent someone else out to make this latest announcement

It was clear early in the pandemic, when the CDC was recommending gloves but not masks, that they were not to be trusted. They relaxed then reinstated the mask recommendations when variants were raging, fudged their own metrics so that they could claim that the spread was waning when it wasn’t and put countless people and kids at risk. They also reduced the quarantine time in a clear nod to business interests over people’s health. So now that they’re doing it yet again, is anyone surprised? They’re going to be telling us it’s cool to eat stuff off the floor next. “The five second rule is kind of strict, as long as it’s the same day and there’s no visible feces on the floor, it’s fine.”

Last week the CDC eliminated quarantine time for close contacts regardless of vaccination status. They also got rid of the “test to stay” program for schools, which allowed unvaccinated children to go to school only if they tested negative. Now it doesn’t matter if a child is unvaccinated, vaccinated or tests negative, they can all come to school – f’ck it and f’ck teachers and school workers. The CDC’s Greta Massetti said that 95% of the population has either had covid or been vaccinated so that could be why they’re not differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people who are exposed to the coronavirus no longer need to quarantine, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The revised recommendation, released Thursday, serves as a modification “streamline”, health officials said, aligning with guidance for those who are up to date on shots. Previously, the American public health agency recommended that unvaccinated people, or those not up to date on boosters, quarantine for five days after exposure.

In addition, people no longer need to stay six feet away from others, the agency said in a memo.

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” Greta Massetti, a senior epidemiologist at the CDC, said in a news release. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation.”

“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” she added…

The CDC now advises that those exposed to the virus should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days, and to get tested for the viral disease on day five.

If a person tests positive for COVID, they should stay at home for at least five days and isolate from others inside their home.

“We know that COVID-19 is here to stay,” Massetti said at a news briefing on Thursday, per The New York Times. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools that we have available to protect people from severe illness and death, have put us in a different place…”

Two and a half years after the pandemic began, an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have gained some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, the CDC said, the Associated Press reported.

[From People]

It’s not a “severe disruption” to wear a mask in public. I get that they’re specifying between people who are actively sick and asymptomatic cases. Plus, in their official, extremely detailed and somewhat confusing statement, they’re recommending masks for people who were exposed and vaccinations for everyone. However, so many people are going to ignore this, go out without masks and send their kids to school sick. Again and again, we’ve seen the CDC try to make subtle and nuanced recommendations when lives are at risk. All they’ve had to do was tell people to wear masks and isolate after exposure. This point they’re making in the press that 95% of the population has either been vaccinated or had covid is sh-tty. Unvaccinated people can die from a second bout of covid, and a previous infection doesn’t provide enough immunity to avoid hospitalization and severe illness.

The CDC capitulated to the anti-mask anti-vax crowd and tried to play both sides. Plus, by the CDC’s own admission, a past covid infection is associated with a much higher incidence of diabetes in children. Long covid is real, it’s devastating, and chances are increased the more times you catch it. In the US, there’s almost no consideration of or accommodations for people with disabilities. Everyone has to fend for themselves. I’ll probably wear a mask most places in public for the rest of my life. I’ll take some calculated risks, but my general distrust in people and organizations has been more than confirmed these past couple years. I’ll use a classic mom line – it’s disappointing, but not surprising.