• 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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  • 7 Health Benefits of

    Lemon Juice

    There’s more to lemons than meets the eye. This fruit may pair well with some of your favorite dishes, but it also offers incredible health benefits. Lemons are packed with nutrients, promote weight loss, and have even been linked to kidney stone prevention and cancer treatment! This tangy fruit has also been known to possibly help halt bad breath and get rid of dandruff when applied to the scalp. In addition to its properties as a beauty treatment and health aid, there are a number of uses for lemons. Whether you enjoy the fruit alone or with your morning tea, here are just a few reasons to embrace lemons and their juice:

    1. Relieves a sore throat: Warm water mixed with honey and lemon can soothe a sore throat during cold season.
    2. Cancer-fighting benefits: Studies have shown lemons may have anticancer benefits.
    3. Prevents kidney stones: Lemon juice is shown to help prevent kidney stones by raising the urine’s citrate levels.
    4. Aid in digestion: Lemon promotes the production of digestive enzymes in the liver, which help eliminate waste from your body.
    5. High in essential nutrients: Lemons are high in many vitamins like Vitamin C (promotes immunity and battles infection), calcium (important for muscle function, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion), potassium (helps muscles and nerves work properly), and folate (Fights against spinal birth defects and helps red blood cell formation).
    6. Promotes weight loss: The pectin in lemons and their juice helps you feel fuller for longer, which will make your weight loss much more manageable.
    7. Helps clear skin: Lemons have natural antibacterial qualities and alpha hydroxyl acids, like many over-the-counter acne medications. It brightens, exfoliates, and helps remove blackheads!

    So how will you incorporate lemons and lemon juice into your life? Have you already seen the benefits of lemon in your daily diet or personal care regimen? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Understanding

    Depression

    When you think of depression, you might think of being sad, or just down in the dumps. But in fact, it’s much more than that. It’s a clinical condition that can take control of your life and cause serious complications. According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 16 million people had at least one episode in the past year. To put that into perspective, that’s one out of every 10 people.

    depression graphic

    Symptoms of Depression and Treatment Options

    Depression symptoms may be different for everyone. One person may experience symptoms that seem to last for years, while others will only have moderate bouts and return to their normal life relatively quickly. However, depression can be treated, often with medication, psychological counseling or both. Other non-conventional treatments also may help. But before any type of treatment is initiated, the symptoms must be recognized. When people experience episodes of depression, they may suffer through:

    • Sadness, unhappiness, or an emptiness feeling
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Severe lack of energy where even the smallest tasks require extra effort
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or normal daily activities
    • Changes in appetite (some people may eat less and lose weight while some may overeat and gain weight)
    • Anxiety or restlessness
    • Fogginess, confusion, and slowed speaking or body movements
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide

    Causes of Depression

    Because depression is such a complex disease, the causes of it can greatly vary. One theory suggests that it may be caused from having too much or too little of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals communicate information throughout our brain and body. When the nerves that release these chemicals malfunction, too little or too much of these neurotransmitters may be released, which has been linked as a known cause of depression. Certain antidepressant medications work to control the release of these neurotransmitters.

    Yet, this information is not conclusive. Many researchers don’t agree that a simple increase or decrease of brain chemicals is the lone factor when determining that causes of depression. Rather, it’s a combination of factors, which may include:

    • Genetic vulnerability (depression may be more common in people whose relatives also suffer, or have suffered from depression)
    • Faulty mood regulation by the brain
    • Stressful life events (loss of a loved one, high stress, childhood trauma or recent trauma)
    • Medications or medical problems

    Depression Is Not Mental Weakness

    Often, people associate being depressed as a sign of weakness. In a recent study conducted by the National Mental Health Association, out of 1,022 adults interviewed by telephone, 43 percent said they believed depression is a personal weakness. However, this is far from the truth. Depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone of any ethnicity. Whether, you’re rich or poor, or old or young, depression can affect you.

    If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek help. It’s never too late talk to someone about getting better. There are an array of hot lines and helpful information where you can seek the help of professionals 24 hours a day. There is also helpful information on suicide awareness and prevention.

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  • Dont Get Beat By

    The Heat

    The temperatures are rising and the weather is warm! As with every season, the summer months bring a whole new set of health risks due to the changing weather. In the midst of all the summer fun, you may be too caught up in the excitement to recognize when your body has been negatively affected by the heat. We sat down with Matthew Synan, MD, of Pulmonary Consultants–UPMC to discuss two particular health risks that people encounter during the summer: heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

    While they are two different conditions, many people often get confused because of their similarities. Both conditions are on the spectrum of temperature related illnesses, but differ in severity.

    Heat Exhaustion

    Heat exhaustion occurs when the body temperature is less than or equal to 104 F (40 C).

    Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

    • Dizziness
    • Mild confusion (which normalizes within 30 minutes of treatment)
    • A faster heart rate with normal blood pressure
    • Mild to moderate dehydration.

    Heat Stroke

    Heat stroke can be the more serious of the two conditions. It occurs when the body’s core temperature is greater than 104 F (40 C), and is characterized by:

    • Abnormal mental status (such as delirium, hallucinations, or slurred speech),
    • A faster heart rate coupled with low blood pressure
    • Moderate to severe dehydration

    There are two distinct types of heat stroke and heat exhaustion: classic and exertional. Classic heat stroke and exhaustion can occur without any activity or physical exertion and is more common in individuals age 70 or older, or those who have a chronic medical condition. Exertional heat stroke and exhaustion occurs as a result of physical activity and is most common in young individuals who engage in heavy exercise during high temperatures such as athletes and military recruits.

    Some medications, such as allergy, heart, or psychiatric prescriptions can put you at an increased risk because these medications may limit the body’s ability to sweat.

    In the event that you should develop any symptoms of heat exhaustion, take actions quickly to cool yourself down by:

    • Removing clothing
    • Spraying yourself with cool water or taking a cool bath
    • Using fans
    • Applying ice packs to the armpit, neck, and groin.

    If not taken care of quickly, both of these conditions may evolve and result in:

    • Kidney, respiratory, and liver failure
    • Muscle breakdown
    • Blood disorders
    • Death

    Some ways to prevent the onset of these conditions is to limit your physical activity outside when the temperatures are highest or perform them in the evening when it is coolest. Also, wear loose clothing and take frequent breaks. Dr. Synan stresses that by far the most important thing to do is to drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated!

    If you or someone you know has been hit with a heat-related illness, please follow these tips to help them recover. Do not hesitate to pay a visit to the Emergency Medicine at UPMC center for immediate treatment.

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Women’s Preventive Health Screenings Under ObamaCare

by Health Care Reform

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One of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, is that every American woman with a new, ACA-approved health care plan or non-grandfathered private plan will receive preventive health screenings. Under the ACA, these screenings do not require a copayment or deductible. Even if a woman has not yet met her plan’s deductible, she will not need to pay out-of-pocket costs for these preventive screenings.

What Are Preventive Health Screenings?

Preventive health screenings help healthy individuals to stay healthy. These screenings are routine, diagnostic medical tests that are conducted on healthy individuals to detect health issues while they’re in their earliest stages.

What Women’s Health Screenings Are Provided Under ObamaCare?

There are a number of preventive health screenings and services that are offered to women without cost-sharing as a result of the ACA. These preventive screenings include:

  • Annual well-woman visits – Well-woman visits cover a wide range of preventive and screening services for women under age 65. Adult women can obtain recommended preventive screenings and services if their health care provider deems it necessary for them to get screened for certain health concerns depending upon age, family history, or other risk factors.
  • Contraceptive methods and counseling – Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 30, 2014, all plans were required to cover FDA-approved contraceptives, as well as emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and “ella.” However, the highest court in the nation that declared that some privately-held companies can refuse to cover contraception for female employees. The ruling, which appeared on the Supreme Court’s website, stated that “as applied to closely held corporations, the HHS [Health and Human Services] regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993].” As of this ruling, for-profit companies that have a religious or moral objection to contraception are not obliged to offer contraceptives to female employees.
  • Pap smear – A pap test is recommended for women over the age of 21 annually or every three years if pap test results are normal.
  • Cervical cancer screening - A pap test includes screening for cervical cancer, which, if detected early, is highly and successfully treatable.
  • Breast cancer screenings and mammograms – The ACA extends a number of preventive screenings and services to women to help detect breast cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage possible. These screenings include mammograms for women over 40, and BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 testing for women with a family history of breast cancer, as well as genetic counseling.
  • DNA testing for specific strains of HPV – Every three years, women over the age of 30 should be screened for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus which, if left untreated, may develop into cervical cancer.  
  • HIV screenings - All sexually active women can receive annual screenings for the human immune-deficiency virus (HIV). Screening for the virus can help women to manage their condition before it morphs into AIDS.
  • Screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV - All sexually active women can receive screening and counseling for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Counseling and screening for domestic or interpersonal violence – A study by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) notes that one out of every four women will suffer domestic violence in her lifetime and that each year, 1.3 million women are victims of physical abuse at the hands of a partner or spouse.  Under the ACA, this provision encourages women to seek counseling and screening for violence in the home or within a current or former relationship.
  • Prenatal screenings – Women face specific preventive health needs as adults, especially if they become pregnant. Certain supplements and screenings will be recommended for pregnant women, such as infection screenings, Hepatitis B screenings, folic acid supplements, and others. Pregnant women can also receive an Rh incompatibility screening for a condition that results if the mother-to-be has Rh-negative blood and her baby is Rh-positive.
  • Gestational diabetes screening - Gestational diabetes has been identified as one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases. Pregnant women who are between 24 and 28 weeks along with their pregnancy can be screened for this disorder. Additionally, women who have been identified as high-risk for diabetes can be screened for diabetes during their first prenatal visit.
  • Osteoporosis screening – Women over the age of 60 can receive bone density testing and screenings for osteoporosis.

Women who take advantage of the preventive screenings offered by ACA-approved plans are better equipped to take charge of their health. Regular, recommended screenings offer allow women to be more knowledgeable about their bodies and in-tune with when they feel something may be wrong.

Sources

http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/

http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf

http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-womens-health-services.php

https://www.healthcare.gov/what-are-my-preventive-care-benefits/

http://www.nwlc.org/resource/women%E2%80%99s-preventive-services-affordable-care-act-frequently-asked-questions

http://www.gbophb.org/assets/1/7/4434.pdf

https://www.healthcare.gov/what-are-my-preventive-care-benefits/#part=2

https://www.harvardpilgrim.org/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/MEMBERS/WELLNESS/PREVENTIVE/PREVENTIVE-CARE-CC4297.PDF

http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html

http://hrc.nwlc.org/policy-indicators/pap-smear

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/14/health/brawley-cervical-cancer-screenings/index.html

http://www.yourhealthcaresimplified.org/news/women-and-health-care/

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/06/30/326926331/companies-can-refuse-to-cover-contraception-supreme-court-says

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About Health Care Reform

Health care reform. What are the facts? How does it affect you? Learn about ObamaCare, patient protection and the Affordable Care Act. Visit Health Care Reform Simplified to find out more.

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