August 2005 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.

Now hear this: You can keep cool and avoid swimmer's ear

Keep cool from the Texas heat this summer with a refreshing dip in a swimming pool - just remember to take care of your ears. Excess moisture can lead to swimmer's ear, which is an inflammation in the outer ear canal.

"Don't stick anything into the ears to get the water out - cotton swabs, keys, etc. You can dry the ear canal using a hair dryer set on low heat," advises Dr. Ravi Samy, assistant professor of otolaryngology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Otherwise, the skin in the canal can become flaky and allow harmful bacteria into the tissue. The result is an infection that's itchy and painful.

Swimmer's ear usually clears up in a few days with the use of an ear drop containing hydrocortisone to stop the itching and an antibiotic to stop the infection.

Media Contact: Kara Lindsley

To help those with Alzheimer's disease, make your home safe and forgiving

If you are living with a person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, you can make life better for them by making your home safer. Dr. Peggy Higgins of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center says the key is to "simplify, simplify, simplify."

Falls are one of the main culprits of injury, says Dr. Higgins, assistant professor of health care services. Remove clutter, add adequate lighting and night lights, and have the patient wear shoes, not slippers, with a good grip. Remove throw or scatter rugs.

Alzheimer's disease gradually takes away a person's ability to reason or to sense danger, so you need to be diligent in keeping your home safe and forgiving. Child-proofing tools are handy throughout the house - for instance, to lock up knives and cleaning solutions in the kitchen, and to keep medication secured in bathroom cabinets.

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Media Contact: Aline McKenzie
Dental implants something to chew on, smile about 

Dental implants can help denture wearers eat the foods they love once again, laugh spontaneously, and smile with confidence.

"Implants secure dentures to the jaw with metal screws so it's guaranteed not to move, unlike conventional dentures, which stay in because of suction," says Dr. Kathia Steel, a dentist and assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

With conventional dentures, the jawbone can deteriorate over time from the lack of stimulation and the suction. Dental implants, which look and feel like real teeth, stimulate the bone and help withstand the forces applied to the jawbone, thus, preventing bone loss.

Implant-supported dentures can be permanent or removable. The removable ones connect to implants using special attachments and are easy to get in and out.  Permanent bridge-like dentures are attached to the implants with screws.

"Much of the success of dental implant treatment depends on keeping your new teeth clean and plaque-free. Just like natural teeth, implants require regular check-ups and meticulous oral hygiene," Dr. Steel says.

Media Contact: Kara Lindsley

Stress in the time of war - here's how to deal with it

The war with Iraq, recent terrorist bombings in London and the threat of further terrorist attacks at home can create varying levels of stress for many people, particularly military families. Not letting that level of stress get out of hand and result in mental and physical problems is important.

"War is an unusual experience for most of us, often bringing on feelings of vulnerability, anxiety and helplessness," says Patrick M. Tiner, faculty associate in psychiatry and director of UT Southwestern Medical Center's Employee Assistance Program. "These are normal reactions. Knowledge and information help us gain mastery over sources of fear and the unknown. However, with the media technology available today, sometimes we experience sensory overload and our level of stress increases."

Mr. Tiner offers the following tips for managing such stress:

  • "Reduce exposure to the news - stay informed, but don't become obsessed with coverage. Stay connected with friends and family who may be experiencing similar feelings of stress, and share your thoughts. Develop and maintain a regular exercise routine. Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • "Take back some control by participating in routine activities. Take reasonable safety precautions such as making an emergency communications plan with family and friends. Be optimistic about challenges ahead, and seek professional help if stress levels become too high.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Ketchup, tomato sauces provide powerful health benefits

It might be a good idea to put an extra squirt of ketchup on that sandwich. Lycopene, a pigment that gives red color to many fruits and vegetables, has powerful antioxident properties that may help protect against various cancers - particularly prostate cancer - cardiovascular disease and macular degenerative disease.

Lycopene reddens crops like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava. Since our bodies do not naturally produce the pigment, it must be obtained from food sources. But unlike many other natural nutrients, the pigment is best ingested outside its natural state. Research has shown that lycopene is most easily and efficiently absorbed from processed tomato products like sauces, juice and ketchup.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide, most adults should eat at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily, says Dr. Jo Ann Carson, professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "This level of intake may help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease," she says. "If you are looking for health food, try the produce section in the supermarket."

Food sources with high levels of lycopene include tomato sauce, tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato puree, vegetable juice cocktail. Other sources of lycopene are raw tomatoes, watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales



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