October 2004 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.

Halloween goodies can be good for your kids

If entertaining young ghosts and goblins this Halloween, why not try some healthy alternatives to all those chocolate bars and candy treats?

With only a limited amount of preparation time and creativity, parents can offer such goodies as: apple wedges dipped in caramel sauce, celery sticks with peanut butter, ants on a log (frozen bananas topped with raisins), pretzels dipped in chocolate, or snack cereal drizzled with melted chocolate or peanut butter and lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar.

"Try something that's nutritious, but presented with a little extra twist so as to make it more appealing to kids," says Terry Brown, clinical instructor in UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas' Department of Clinical Nutrition.

For healthier handout treats, she suggests small packages of raisins, goldfish crackers, pretzels, trail mix, nuts, fruit roll-ups or granola bars.

In addition, it's a good idea to ration the amount of candy a child eats at one time, Ms. Brown says. Placing a small amount of candy in a plastic bag for a special treat can help kids determine how much is enough, she says.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Calcium intake may help reduce risk for colon cancer

When you drink milk or eat a slice of cheese, you may be helping fight colorectal cancer.

Recent research suggests foods high in calcium, as well as calcium supplements, help prevent polyp formation in the colon, a risk factor for colorectal cancer. The supplements also may protect against the advanced polyps most associated with the invasive form of the disease.

"Results from studies are still coming in, but indications are calcium does help prevent polyp formation," says Dr. Clifford Simmang, director of colon and rectal surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. More than 106,000 new cases of colon cancer and about 40,500 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Combined, they will cause nearly 57,000 deaths.

To reduce your risk for the disease, Dr. Simmang suggests adhering to current daily dietary recommendation for calcium - 1,000 milligrams for people age 19 to 50 and 1,200 milligrams for those over 50. That's equivalent to between three to four (8 oz.) glasses of skim milk a day.

"There really is no 'best dose' to recommend," says Dr. Simmang, associate professor of GI/endocrine surgery. "Most people, though, should stay on the high side of the daily recommended dose."

Media contact: Scott Maier

Flu shots especially important for people 65 and older and those with chronic illness

It's that time of year again - time to get your flu shots.

"The flu can be particularly dangerous for people over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses," says geriatrician Dr. Craig Rubin, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "These individuals should all get flu shots, and the people who live with them should also be vaccinated."

The vaccine can be administered with a shot or nasal spray. The vaccine won't guarantee that you will completely avoid the bug, but it will help prevent a worsening of fever, aches, chills and headache, says Dr. Rubin. The vaccine also decreases the risk of complications that can arise from flu, like pneumonia. Vaccines need about two weeks to become effective.

People with Medicare Part B can usually get a shot for free from their doctor, local health department or from other health-care providers - as long as the provider agrees not to charge more than Medicare pays.

Media Contact: Kara Lenocker

A key to slowing the flu bug - making sure kids get their vaccinations

Flu immunizations are not only important for elders and the chronically ill but also for children, who are frequently responsible for spreading the virus, says Dr. Octavio Ramilo, associate professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"By focusing on school-age kids, we can have a tremendous impact in the community," says Dr. Ramilo, an infectious diseases specialist. "We need to make a huge effort to immunize everybody over six months of age."

Kids spread the virus because they may not always remember to wash their hands after sneezing or coming in contact with a sick playmate, and they tend to have closer physical contact with other people than adults, who often are more mindful of personal space. Kids who become sick with the flu expose infant siblings, elderly relatives and others at high risk of getting the virus.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

Calcium, potassium citrate supplements can check risk of kidney stones

Healthy post-menopausal women who take calcium citrate supplements are not at an increased risk for developing kidney stones, a research study at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas shows. Adding a potassium citrate supplement provides even more protection.

"Post-menopausal women who need calcium to prevent bone loss but are at risk of or afraid of forming kidney stones might take both calcium supplements and potassium citrate," says Dr. Khashayar Sakhaee, program director of UT Southwestern's General Clinic Research Center and senior author of the study.

"When you give both together, the combination provides additional protection against both calcium oxalate and uric acid stones."

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

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