• Is Sleep Apnea Making You a

    Morning Zombie?

    Do you wake up feeling like a zombie? Do you have trouble keeping your eyes open at work or school, or even while driving? You might be one of the 12 million-plus Americans feeling the effects of a disorder known as sleep apnea. Even though you may be getting to bed at a reasonable hour and assuming you’re getting a normal night’s sleep, sleep apnea can subtly interrupt the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired and lethargic in the morning. Sleep apnea has many other affects on the body, but this is certainly one of the most recognizable symptoms of a disorder you may not even be aware you have.

    Serious Consequences of Sleep Apnea

    Most people don’t know they have obstructive sleep apnea, usually caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses when sleeping, says Patrick J. Strollo, Jr., MD, medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center. That leads to a drop in oxygen levels, prompting the brain to send a surge of adrenalin signaling the person to wake and take a deep breath. That kick-start also leads to a spike in blood pressure.

    According to the National Institutes of Health, this common disorder causes breathing pauses while you sleep. These pauses can last a few seconds, or even minutes — as often as 30 times, or more, an hour.

    “It’s a burden on the cardiovascular system and affects the quality of your rest,” says Dr. Strollo. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems and even cause deadly accidents.

    10 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

    Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but it is a major clue. Since sleep apnea only occurs during sleep, a family member or bed partner might be the first to notice.

    Common signs and symptoms include:

    • Loud and chronic snoring — sometimes with pauses.
    • Choking or gasping following pauses
    • Feeling tired or sleepy, even after sleeping all night
    • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
    • Daytime sleepiness, or lack of energy
    • Morning headaches
    • Restless sleep, waking up during the night, or insomnia
    • Trouble concentrating or problems with learning and memory
    • Depression and irritability
    • Sexual dysfunction

    Consult your primary care physician or family doctor if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on your waking life and your health. For more information, visit the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center online or call 412-692-2880.

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  • What You Need to Know About

    Ebola

    Updated 10/24/2014

    On Oct. 23, 2014, Craig Spencer, MD, became the first person in New York City to test positive for Ebola. Spencer recently returned from Guinea where he treated those afflicted with the Ebola virus. He is currently in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Three people who were confirmed to have been in contact with Spencer are also isolated for observation. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were sent to NYC on Thursday and will confirm the test results.

    On the worldwide stage, the European Union (EU) met at a summit on October 24 and planned to contribute to aid to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The organization pledged $1 billion Euros (roughly 1.26 billion USD), in addition to the 600 million Euros (approximately $7.6 million USD) pledged by the European Commission.

    According to the World Health Organization, nearly a million doses of an Ebola vaccine could be available by the middle of 2015. Clinical trials are expected to begin on five other Ebola vaccines in January 2015 in the hopes of helping to stem the outbreak.

    Updated 10/23/2014 

    Beginning Wednesday, Oct, 22, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared that all international travelers coming from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone be given a health screening at one of five major U.S. airports. Travelers coming from these countries, which have been most heavily impacted by the Ebola outbreak, must make a stop at either Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

    These major hubs will serve as checkpoints where these travelers will undergo testing for Ebola, complete an interview, and have their temperature checked. In addition these travelers will be closely monitored for 21 days by public health officials through daily check-ins. The travel restriction was instituted as a result of demand from bi-partisan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, “We are continually evaluating whether additional restrictions or added screening and precautionary measures are necessary to protect the American people and will act accordingly.

    On October 20, health care providers at Emory University Hospital declared a patient Ebola-free after she tested positive for the disease on September 9 and was admitted to the hospital. The patient was one of four treated for the disease by experts at Emory. One patient was cleared to leave on August 19 and another on August 21. The fourth patient was admitted on October 15 and remains in the hospital.

    Updated 10/21/2014 

    Thomas Eric Duncan became the first casualty of the disease on U.S. soil. Duncan was exposed to the disease in Liberia before returning to the U.S. He died in a Dallas hospital on October 8, 2014, after being treated for the disease. By the time Duncan began an experimental treatment, his case of Ebola was too far advanced to respond. A deeper look at Duncan’s case shows that it is actually harder to catch Ebola than most Americans may believe.

    Sunday, October 19 marked the completion of the 21-day incubation period that health officials observed, monitoring individuals who Duncan had been in close contact with since his return to the U.S. October 20 marks a full month since he took several flights from Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia.

    To date, and as expected since he was not contagious at the time, no one on Duncan’s flight has fallen ill. Duncan’s family and fiancé – whom he lived with while he was experiencing the symptoms of Ebola,such as sweats, a fever, and vomiting – have not shown signs of the disease either and have been declared free of the virus.

    In addition to Duncan’s family having been given a clean bill of health, a Texas health worker who was traveling aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean also tested negative for the disease. Once she and her husband had been tested for Ebola, they were given clearance to drive home. The remaining 4,000 vacationers on the ship were also allowed to leave a few hours after pulling back into port.

    Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC and a senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security, says the risk of it spreading in the U.S. is very low because it can only be transmitted under specific conditions.

    Ebola is a deadly disease, it’s a scary disease, but it’s not very contagious. It doesn’t spread through the air; it only spreads through intimate contact with blood or body fluids,” says Dr. Adalja.

    “It is far less contagious than the flu — a respiratory virus easily spread by sneezing and coughing. Also, Ebola is only contagious when a person has symptoms. With the flu, a person is contagious the day before symptoms appear.”

    Although the risk of Ebola spreading is low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies have taken steps to prevent that from happening in this country. That includes increased airport screenings before and after entering the United States from Ebola-affected countries. In addition, the CDC has issued Level 3 travel warnings urging U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa. The West African nations of Nigeria and Senegal have recently been declared Ebola-free. The country has not registered any new cases of Ebola in 41 days.

    Protocols also have been established to ensure health care facilities are prepared to properly detect and handle the disease. UPMC facilities are ready, says Dr. Adalja. Each hospital in our system has comprehensive and detailed action plans in place.

    “We know how to stop the spread of Ebola. But it’s crucial for hospitals to prepare in advance,” he says. “UPMC has easily accessible protocols from the moment a patient arrives in the Emergency Department through their hospital stay — how we screen that person, how we isolate that person, how we test for it, who we communicate with — it’s all laid out.”

    About the 2014 Epidemic

    According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak is the largest in history and the first documented appearance in West Africa. About half the people who contracted the virus have died. In the U.S., the Texas patient who had recently traveled from Liberia died on Oct. 8.

    Ebola Facts

    • A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.
    • Symptoms of Ebola may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, but the average is eight to 10 days.
    • Early symptoms include:

    o Fever (higher than 101.5° F)

    o Headache

    o Diarrhea

    o Vomiting

    o Stomach pain

    o Muscle pain

    o Unexplained bleeding or bruising

    How Ebola Spreads

    Ebola is spread through direct contact with:

    • Blood and body fluids (urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) from a person sick with the disease; and
    • Items contaminated by blood or body fluids from an infected patient, like needles, medical equipment, clothing, or bedding.

    Are You at Risk?

    If you’ve traveled to an area with an outbreak, or had close contact with someone sick with the disease, you may be at risk. The CDC recommends that you:

    • Check for signs and symptoms for 21 days.
    • Take your temperature every morning and evening.
    • Call your doctor — even if you do not have symptoms — to evaluate your exposure level and consult with public health authorities to determine if any actions are needed.
    • Continue normal activities, including going to work, while you are symptom-free.

    If You Get Sick after Travel to an At-Risk Area

    • Get medical care immediately if you develop a fever (higher than 101.5° F).
    • Alert your doctor about your recent travel to West Africa, or contact with a person sick with Ebola, and symptoms before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency department. Calling ahead will help the doctor or emergency department care for you — and protect others.
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  • Recipe: Homemade

    Pumpkin Spice Latte

    Fall is finally here and we are officially excited about EVERYTHING pumpkin! Instead of buying the famous coffeehouse drink, skip out on the saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sugars by crafting your own version of the pumpkin spice latte in the kitchen. You may be used to waiting in a long line for this tasty treat, so you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you can whip up this recipe in half the time. Better yet, this version uses real pumpkin, not syrup! Pumpkin is low in fat and calories, and also packs a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as iron. Pumpkin is also a great dietary source of fiber.

    So, save yourself some calories, money, and time spent in line by adopting this version of a fall favorite!

    Pumpkin Spiced Latte

    Ingredients

    2 cups skim milk

    2 tablespoons canned pumpkin

    2 tablespoons Stevia

    2 tablespoons vanilla extract

    1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

    1/2 cup hot brewed coffee

    Whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice and ground nutmeg, optional

    Directions

    Combine milk, sugar, and pumpkin in a small pan over medium heat until steaming.

    Remove heat, stir in pumpkin pie spice and vanilla

    Transfer the mixture to a blender. Process for 15 seconds or until foamy

    Pour into two mugs, add ¼ cup coffee

    Top with whipped cream and a pinch of pumpkin spice

    Nutritional Facts

    1-1/4 cups (calculated without whipped cream) equals 307 calories, 0 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 33 mg cholesterol, 346 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 22 g protein

    Do you have any favorite healthy fall recipes you enjoy with seasonal fruits and vegetables? Share them with us in the comments!

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  • Infographic:

    Colors of the Eye

    From the famous lines of beloved songs to the stories of ancient legends, eye color has captivated audiences throughout time. The origins and genetic makeup associated with eye color makes the color of one’s eye more complex than a simple collection of aesthetic traits, however. Genes and pigment concentrations are two important factors in determining eye color. Some eye colors are more rare than others and can be linked to genetics or family origins and heritage.

    Hannah Scanga, MS, a genetic counselor at the UPMC Eye Center, explains, “The two primary genes that influence the color of the eye, primarily brown and blue eyes, are OCA2 and HERC2. Additional genes influence other eye colors and specific variations, including green or hazel eyes and gold rings.” The scale of eye color from most to least common is brown, blue, hazel, green, and silver.

    According to Ellen Mitchell, MD, “Concentrations of the pigment melanin in the iris of the eye is the primary determinant of eye color. Higher amounts of melanin lead to darker colors while lower amounts result in lighter eye colors.” Dr. Mitchell continues, “The pigment lipochrome also plays a role in determining eye color, specifically green eyes.”

    Eye color can also change due to factors like pupil size, emotions, and age. However, if these changes are drastic or only occur in one eye this may indicate a medical condition and you should discuss symptoms with a doctor.Eye Color Infographic

    Are you still curious about some of the fascinating facts behind blue (green, or brown) eyes? Visit the UPMC Eye Center website to learn more about the latest breakthroughs in the field of optometry and the different eye conditions we treat. Call 1-800-446-3797 to schedule an appointment today.

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  • 5 Ramen Noodle

    “Health Hacks”

    It’s that time of year again. The time when college students flock back to campus, ready to ace their tests, reunite with friends, and feast on the infamously unhealthy Ramen Noodles. Unfortunately, the beloved college-food was the subject of a recent health study, which linked it to series health issues. Even more disheartening? These issues were gender specific. Women who ate the noodles at least twice per week saw a 68 percent increase in their risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, while men saw no notable difference in their risk. But with all-nighters and deadlines looming, it’s not easy to toss the prepackaged delicacy into the trash for good. So what’s a busy college kid to do?

    Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, commented on the story and assured students that it doesn’t take much effort to make Ramen healthier. So next time late-night hunger strikes, try these simple steps to save your wallet and your health:

    Ramen Graphic

    1. Ditch the Seasoning

    The sky-high sodium content is the biggest health issue, so try adding flavor another way! Use water or broth and flavor it with garlic, ginger, herbs, chili, or sesame oil.

    2. Add Veggies

    If you live on campus, grab some vegetables from the salad bar to use in your Ramen. Otherwise, break out the frozen veggies to give your noodles an extra kick of nutrients!

    3. Pack in the Protein

    Chicken, shrimp, tuna, tofu, grilled salmon, eggs…the list goes on! Any protein you choose will make your Ramen healthier and keep you feeling full longer than Ramen alone.

    4. Use your Leftovers

    Have extra food from last night’s dinner? Combine it with ramen noodles (sans seasoning) for a delicious reworking that makes you forget you’re eating leftovers.

    5. Go Dry

    Cook the noodles, drain, and lightly toss in your favorite dressing or sauce! Think low-sodium soy sauce, Italian dressing, vinaigrette, or teriyaki sauce.

    6. Get Creative

    There are dozens (if not hundreds) of Ramen recipes for you to try. There are even Ramen Noodle cookbooks! So don’t settle for boring noodles, spice it up with a creative recipe.

    Eating habits tend to change when entering college mode, as campus life warrants an active and hectic lifestyle. Quick, convenient and unhealthy meals often take center stage, landing healthy eating and cooking in the bleachers. When you’re looking to get creative with regular old Ramen, check out some of our health hacks. Think of it as teaching an old dog new tricks, but this time you’re the dog and the tricks are disguised as noodles. Bring your dorm room dining to a new level while also becoming more conscious of the ingredients your putting in your body!

    How do you make your Ramen healthier? Share your ideas below!

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Brain Cancer vs. Benign Tumors

by CancerCenter

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May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month, a time to brush up on the facts. Here’s what you should know about brain tumors:

What Are Brain Tumors?

When you hear of a brain tumor, you may automatically think of brain cancer. While brain tumors are scary, they are not always malignant. There are two types of brain tumors:

  • Benign tumors:
    • Noncancerous
    • Slow growing
    • Grow locally in the region they originated from
    • Are often cured if they can be surgically removed
  • Malignant tumors:
    • Cancerous
    • More difficult to treat
    • Grow rapidly
    • Usually invade surrounding brain and nervous tissue

Brain tumors are classified as primary or secondary tumor. Secondary brain tumors originate from another part of the body. They most often occur in people who have a history of cancer. But in rare cases, a metastatic brain tumor may be the first sign of cancer that started elsewhere. Any cancer can spread to the brain, the most common ones being breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma.

Primary brain tumors originate in the brain and are named according to the type of cell they originate from. The most common primary brain tumors are astrocytomas, also known as gliomas (these tumors come in different grades according to their aggressiveness) and meningioma (a most often benign tumor arising from the coating of the brain).

Treatment

There are several standard treatments for brain tumors, depending on the type:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy including stereotactic radiosurgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Anti-angiogenic therapy targeting tumor blood vessels leading to tumor starvation

Many new cutting-edge treatments are currently being studied, including vaccines, and other personalized, targeted therapies that are directed at the molecular changes of one’s individual brain tumor.


Risk Factors

  • Occupation: some types of brain tumors are more frequent among workers in certain industries, such as oil refining and rubber manufacturing and workers exposed to ionizing radiation.
  • Age: The risk of a brain tumor increases with age. Brain tumors are most common in older adults. However, a brain tumor can occur at any age. Certain types of brain tumors occur almost exclusively in children.
  • Radiation exposure: there has been some connection between ionizing radiation and brain tumors. This type of radiation typically comes from cancer treatment. Survivors of childhood cancer who have received radiation therapy involving the brain or spine are at an increased risk of brain or spine tumors.
  • Family History: While most brain tumors are not familial, a small percentage of tumors occur in patients with certain genetic syndromes that increase the risk of brain cancer.

Currently, it is not believed that head injuries cause brain tumors to develop. There is also no conclusive evidence linking cell phone use, microwaves or electromagnetic fields related to power lines to brain tumor development.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of brain or spinal cord tumor can happen suddenly, or may become worse over time, which include:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting/Nausea
  • Balance problems
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures

These symptoms are not always caused by brain tumors. However, if any of these increase over time or become unbearable, or concern you consult your doctor.

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