July 2002 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

FOCUS AND COMMON SENSE CAN REDUCE LAWN-MOWER INJURIES

Every year, many Americans are seriously injured - and some are killed - in lawn-mower accidents. In 2000, doctors reported 80,000 mower-related injuries, most involving children, to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Dr. Maureen Finnegan, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says there are a number of ways to stem the summer increase of mower-related injuries that involve partial or complete amputations to the fingers or toes.

"Many of the injuries that I treat could be prevented, if people concentrated on the task at hand and used common sense when operating machinery," Finnegan says.

This means always wearing sturdy shoes with grip soles; not allowing children younger than 14 to operate the mower; shutting off the mower before working on it or emptying clippings; keeping bystanders out of the mowing area; using a stick to remove debris from the mower, and clearing away objects that could be projected by the blade.

"In case of an accidental toe or finger amputation, it’s important to cleanse the amputated part with saline water, wrap it in gauze and put in a watertight bag," Finnegan advises. "Place the bag over ice and take it with you to the emergency room."

Media Contact: Ione Echeverria

NEW FITNESS WATERS SATISFY MORE THAN JUST YOUR TASTE BUDS

The new, flavored fitness waters that recently hit grocery store shelves may be pleasing to your taste buds, but some of these new beverages also provide energy to working muscles and replenish nutrients lost through sweating.

"Many athletes experience alterations in taste preferences during heavy exercise and won’t drink adequate fluid if it is water alone," says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "The sweet or salty taste of these fitness waters helps them to drink adequate fluids."

The most beneficial nutrients added to most fitness waters include carbohydrate, sodium and potassium.

"The added carbohydrates help maintain the glycogen, or energy stores in the muscle," she says. "Someone who exercises daily must constantly replace these muscle glycogen stores. The added sodium and potassium work mainly in the body to maintain water balance within the body’s cells to prevent dehydration."

But not all fitness waters are created equal, Sandon says.

"You must read the label to determine which will be best for your active lifestyle. Some brands may only contain potassium and no carbohydrate or calories. If electrolyte and water replacement is all you need after a short workout then it is OK, but if it is endurance and energy you are looking for, this will simply not do."

Media Contact: Amy Shields

TAKING THE CONFUSION OUT OF BREAST-CANCER SCREENING

The array of possibilities for breast-cancer screening can confuse women.

Dr. David Euhus, associate professor of surgical oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, reiterates the basic guideline of beginning screening mammograms at age 40 for women with no personal or family history of breast cancer. Younger women with symptoms such as lumps should have diagnostic mammograms.

"For women with a family history of breast cancer, we recommend starting screening mammography 10 years before the youngest age at diagnosis in the family," he says. "For instance, if you have an aunt who was diagnosed at 38, start screening mammograms at 28."

Screening may progress to ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging if better pictures are needed. Genetic counseling and testing may be utilized for women considered to be at high risk. Euhus recommends researching family history and discussing it and other risk factors with a doctor.

Media Contact: Wayne Carter

HOW SENIORS CAN KEEP COOL IN THE SUMMER

Older citizens are often unaware they face special risks in summer, says Dr. Myron Weiner, professor of psychiatry with geriatric expertise at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Friends and family members should encourage seniors to drink sufficient fluids to decrease the risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

"It’s important," he says, "that alcoholic or caffeine-loaded beverages, such as tea, coffee and many soft drinks, are limited and are not substituted for water. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body." Besides water, Weiner suggests seniors drink fruit juices, lemonade and other citrus punches, and herbal teas.

Other cool tips: Wear lightweight clothing and curb long walks and other outside activities during the heat of the day. If a senior has no air conditioning, an electric fan is a perfect gift.

Media Contact: Ann Harrell

THOSE VIDEOS YOU’RE WATCHING MAY BE HAZARDOUS

A researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is interested in unraveling the impact that electronic media - e.g., movies, television, video games - can have on people.

Dr. Vicki Nejtek, assistant professor of psychiatry, recently conducted a study in which she had college students watch auto-racing videos including accidents, injuries and death and rated their stress levels before, during and after viewings.

"Although we tell ourselves what we see on TV or at the movies is fake, our biological hormone responses still react as if it were real," she says, adding that it is not known whether such exposure influences our mind and body responses.

But given how children are so exposed to media, she says: "It’s scary. That’s why I hope to do more research."

Media Contact: Ann Harrell

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