FDA Issues Warning on Magnets in Cell Phones and Smart Watches

May 26th, 2021

CellphoneThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that strong magnets in some cell phones and smart watches can interfere with pacemakers and other implanted medical devices.

Magnets and Implanted Devices

Studies have shown that these high strength magnets may cause some implants to switch to “magnet mode,” stopping normal functioning until the magnet is moved away from the device. Implanted devices are designed to aid heart rhythm disorders, such as fast or slow heart rates. If the device stops working, a patient could get dizzy, lose consciousness or even die.

Many implants have a “magnet mode” so they can safely be operated during medical procedures, such as MRIs. Doctors typically activate these features by placing a high-strength magnet near the implant. Removing the magnetic field restores normal operation of the medical device.

The warning was issued May 13, coming roughly four months after Apple put out a similar warning back in January.

Taking Precautions

The FDA said patients with implanted medical devices should take these precautions:

  1. Keep cell phones and smart watches six inches away from implanted medical devices. Do not carry these devices in a pocket over the medical implant.
  2. Check your device using a home monitoring system. Talk to your doctor if you are having any symptoms or have any questions about magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.
  3. When near high-strength magnets, devices with a magnetic safe mode could stop working or change how they work.

The FDA conducted its own testing on some products that use the high field strength magnetic feature and says it considers the risk to patients low. The FDA did say the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time.

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Microchip Allows Paralyzed Man to Communicate Via Text

May 19th, 2021

BrainA microchip implanted in the brain has allowed a paralyzed man to communicate by text. The speed approaches that of a typical smart phone user.

Advancement in BCI Systems

This is the latest advance in “brain-computer interface (BCI)” systems.

The technology works like this: tiny chips are implanted in movement-related areas of the brain, where they tap into electrical activity in cells. When a person imagines executing a movement, the relevant brain cells start firing. Those electrical signals are then transmitted by wires to a computer where they are decoded by algorithms and translated into action, allowing people to control assistance devices with their own mind.

This technology is confined to the research lab for now.  Each chip is the size of a baby aspirin and contains electrodes that pick up signals from neurons involved in moving the hand.

New Study

Previously, researchers have used BCI to enable a small number of patients to mentally control robotic limbs or move computer cursors to “type” text. 

In the new study, researchers managed to speed up “typing” text in one man with full body paralysis.

Instead of him mentally moving a computer cursor, the researchers asked him to imagine handwriting. This approach allowed him to create text at a rate of roughly 18 words per minute or double what he achieved with the mental-typing tactic.

The study participant referred to as T5—lost nearly all movement below the neck after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2007. Nearly a decade later, two microchips were implanted in the man’s motor cortex, an area of the brain’s outermost layer that governs voluntary movement.

For this study, researchers tried a new approach—where computer algorithms decoded mental handwriting.

First T5 pictured himself writing individual letters using a pen on a yellow legal pad. Through repetition, the computer software “learned” to recognize the brain signals associated with T5’s efforts to write a given letter.

T5 then graduated to mentally writing sentences and over time, the algorithms got better at reading his neural firing patterns.

It turns out that visualizing handwriting, with its curves and speed changes—provides a “rich signal” that is easier to decode than the straight line movement of a cursor. 

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Your Blood Type Could be Risk Factor for Health Issues

May 13th, 2021

 Test tubes filled with bloodCertain blood types may increase a person’s risk of different health problems, a new study suggests.

Your Blood Type and Your Health

 Researchers investigated the link between blood types and more than 1,000 diseases.

The analysis of health data from more than 5 million people in Sweden identified 49 diseases linked to blood types.

The findings show that people with type A blood were more likely to have clots; those with type O blood were more likely to have a bleeding disorder; and women with type O blood were more likely to develop pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. The investigators also found a new link between type B blood and a lower risk of kidney stones.

More research is needed to confirm these findings and to learn more about the links between blood types and disease risk, according to the study authors.

The study was published in the journal “eLife”.

Different Blood Types

People are born with a specific blood type. The different blood types are:

  • A Negative: Only one in 16 people have A negative blood. If you have A negative blood you can donate to anyone with a blood type of A or AB regardless of the positive or negative. However, if you have A negative blood, you can only receive A negative or O negative.
  • A Positive: One in three people are A positive, which is why it is one of the most common blood types. 
  • B Negative: Less than two percent of the population has B negative blood. B negative red blood cells can be given to both B and AB patients. B negative patients can only receive from other B negative donors or from type O negative donors.
  • B Positive: About nine percent of the population has B positive blood. B positive red blood cells can be given to both B positive and AB positive patients. B positive patients can receive blood from B positive, B negative, O positive, and O negative donors.  
  • AB Negative: Less than one percent of the U.S. population has AB negative blood, making it the least common blood type among Americans. Patients with AB negative blood can receive blood cells from all negative types.
  • AB Positive: Less than four percent of the population has AB positive blood. AB positive is known as the “universal recipient” because AB positive patients can receive red blood cells from all blood types.
  • O Negative: O negative is the most common blood type used for transfusion when the blood type is unknown.  O negative can only receive O negative blood.
  • O Positive: 38 percent of the population has O positive blood making it the most common blood type. O positive red blood cells are not universally compatible to all types, but they are compatible to any red blood cells that are positive. Those with O positive blood can only receive transfusions from O positive or O negative blood types.

4.5 million Americans receive a blood transfusion each year.

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Your Favorite Food Combos Might Pose Health Risk by Middle Age

May 5th, 2021

Woman standing in front of open fridge with pastries in her handA new study tries to answer the question, “what food combos put you at greatest risk for heart disease and death in middle age”?

New Study Focuses on Food Combinations

Chocolate, butter and soda pose risk to health by middle age, a new study says.

The research team decided to look at diet and health outcomes not in terms of specific nutrients to limit, but specific foods.

Researchers found that diets heavy in chocolate and pastries, butter, table sugar, sodas, and fruit juices—and low in fresh fruit and veggies are the worst food combination.

Also risky (though less so) are diets high in sugary drinks, chocolates and candy, table sugar, and preserves, even though those diets were lower in foods like butter and cheese which are high in saturated fat.

Researchers used the UK Biobank, a database of nearly 117,000 adults from Britain. They were recruited between 2006 and 2010 when they were between the ages of 37 and 73.

Participants self-reported their diets between two and five times. Researchers identified food groups and nutrients. Hospital and death registry records were used to calculate rates of heart disease and death.

Participants were grouped by foods they ate. Those people whose diets were heavy in chocolate, candy, butter, and white bread had a 40 percent higher risk of heart disease and 37percent higher risk of early death.

Those in the sugary beverage group had a 14 percent risk of heart disease and 11 percent higher risk of death. But these links were less clear than in the other group.

The data came from 24 hour assessments and may not be representative of participants’ lifetime eating habits, researchers said.

Finding a Balance

 According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes a variety of protein foods, such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods, even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while and balancing them with healthier foods and more physical activity.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be in the best shape possible. While IAA knows it can be tough to find a balance between your favorite foods and fruits and vegetables, it is important for your overall health. 

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Milk Overtaking Nuts as Common Children’s Food Allergy

April 28th, 2021

Carton of milkA new study shows that severe allergy symptoms in children were most often linked to milk, rather than peanuts or tree nuts.

Milk Allergy Rises in Children

The rate of children hospitalized for food induced anaphylaxis rose by 25 percent from 2006 to 2012. It went from 1.2 to 1.5 per 100,000, according to a 2019 analysis of data from pediatric hospitals in the United States. Severe symptoms were most often linked to milk, rather than to peanuts or tree nuts the study showed.

Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in children younger than five years, and accounts for about half of all food allergies in children younger than one. Most children grow out of it, but when milk allergy persists into the teenage years and adulthood, it is more likely to cause severe reactions.

On average, children with a milk allergy had their first reaction before age two.

It is unclear why milk allergy is becoming more persistent. One theory is that the body’s natural defense against noxious substances includes an immune response, but this is disrupted in the modern world with processed foods, chemical additives and hygienic surroundings.

In a milk allergy, the body treats certain proteins such as casein and whey in milk as invaders, mounting an immune system response. So the very thing that makes milk a healthy choice, its high protein content, can cause serious reactions in a small portion of children and adults.

The mechanisms of a milk allergy are complex. It can be detected through testing, but some people have positive results, even when not allergic. To complicate matters even further, people can have a milk allergy that cannot be detected with testing and can lead to symptoms that emerge hours or days after exposure.

Food Allergy Symptoms

The immune system produces substances known as antibodies. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn’t. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways, or digestive system. A food allergy can cause:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
  • Tingling in the mouth

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that having a food allergy can make life complicated. IAA hopes that one day there will be a treatment to help eliminate food allergies.

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