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Health Updates 25 May 2012

  • Germs lurk in office kitchens, break rooms: “Office kitchens and break rooms are germ ‘hotspots’, and sink and microwave handles in these areas are the dirtiest surfaces touched by office workers on a daily basis, according to a new study.  Researchers collected nearly 5,000 individual swabs over six months from office buildings with more than 3,000 employees.  The offices included law firms, call centers and manufacturing, health care and insurance companies.  High levels of germ contamination were found on 75 percent of break-room faucet handles, 48 percent of microwave handles, 27 percent of keyboards, 26 percent of refrigerator handles, 23 percent of water fountain buttons and 21 percent of vending machine buttons.  The Kimberly-Clark study was conducted in consultation with Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  Kimberly-Clark makes cleaning products.  ‘A lot of people are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention,’ Gerba said in a Kimberly-Clark news release.  ‘This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards’.” (HealthDay)
  • Preventing blood clots“A familiar staple in many people’s medicine cabinets may help prevent life-threatening blood clots.  Blood clots that develop in veins called deep vein thromboses can be dangerous.  They can break loose and travel to the heart, lungs, or brain, triggering a medical emergency.  In a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine researchers looked into whether aspirin can help protect people from having additional episodes of these problems.  They followed 402 people who’d had these blood clots.  Everyone took anti-clotting drugs for a time, then switched to either aspirin or a placebo.  People who took aspirin were about 40 percent less likely to have additional deep-vein thromboses.  But they didn’t seem to have a higher risk of major bleeding, which can be a problem with aspirin.  If you’ve had these types of blood clots, ask your doctor about the best way to prevent future episodes.” (MedlinePlus/HealthDay TV)
  • Really? Never brush your teeth immediately after a meal? “Is there ever a bad time to brush your teeth?  Most of us believe that proper dental care means flossing and brushing often – at a minimum, twice daily, as the American Dental Association recommends. Those who are particularly diligent may brush more often, after meals, snacks or sugary drinks.  But research shows that brushing too often after meals and drinks, especially those that are acidic, can do more harm than good.  Acid reflux poses a similar problem.  While it might seem like a good idea to brush after a reflux episode, doing so can damage your teeth.  Acid attacks the teeth, eroding enamel and the layer below it, called dentin.  Brushing can accelerate this process, said Dr. Howard R. Gamble,president of the Academy of General Dentistry.  ‘With brushing, you could actually push the acid deeper into the enamel and the  dentin,’ he said.  In one study, a group of volunteers were followed for three weeks as researchers examined the impact of brushing on their teeth after they drank diet soda.  The scientists found an increase in dentin loss when brushing in the 20 minutes after drinking soda.  But there was considerably less wear when brushing took place 30 or 60 minutes afterward.  ‘It is concluded that for the protection of dentin surfaces…at least 30 minutes should elapse before tooth brushing after an erosive attack’.  In the meantime, to get rid of acid,  Dr. Gamble suggested rinsing the mouth out with water or using an acid-neutralizing mixture: one part baking soda, eight parts water.  The bottom line: Never brush immediately after an acidic meal or drink.  Always wait at least 30 minutes. (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • States use only a fraction of tobacco revenues to fight smoking, study finds: “Only a small percentage of the billions of dollars states take in from tobacco revenues goes to anti-smoking efforts, a new federal report finds.  Under the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies agreed to reimburse states for Medicaid costs related to tobacco use.  According to background information in the new study, the intent of the agreement was to use the money to also help prevent youth smoking, although there was no stipulation that this must happen.  However, the new study finds that between 1998 and 2010, states collected a combined total of almost $244 billion in tobacco industry settlement payments and cigarette excise taxes, but have invested only about $8 billion in effective state anti-smoking, tobacco control programs.  The remainder of the money has been used to pay general expenses or to fund programs other than tobacco control….If states had followed the CDC’s published guidelines on using the funds, they would have invested more than $29 billion in tobacco control programs during that time….The researchers noted that although total state and federal investment in state tobacco control efforts did rise between 1998 and 2002, state investments in tobacco control have actually fallen steadily every year since.  One expert said the findings are disheartening.  ‘Not investing the money in tobacco control programs is shortsighted and demonstrates a lack of knowledge in the return on investment for tobacco control programs,’ said Dan Jacobsen of the Center for Tobacco Control…’If states funded tobacco control programs at the CDC recommended level, I feel the results would be dramatic and realized sooner than expected…By providing proper funding to these programs it would help prevent tobacco-related death and disease and greatly reduce the health care cost associated with them’.” (womenshealth.gov)
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