Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wellness Blogging to Inspire Healthy Behavior

The competition for your participants' time and attention has never been greater. You've done the table tents, the lunch 'n learns, and maybe even an online wellness campaign. Are you ready to take your message to the masses in a way that can capture even more eyeballs?

Start a blog -- and join the millions of people and businesses who have entered the blogosphere. What began as a way to maintain an online personal journal has become a wildly popular way for the like-minded to gather, families to connect, and businesses to reach a wider audience. According to the Pew Internet Study, data from July 2008 showed that 33% of US adults read blogs regularly, while 11% read blogs daily.

What could a health promotion blog do for your population? As long as your content is crisp, fresh, and engaging -- and updated regularly -- readers will come back for more. Your wellness campaigns will stay in front of them, and you can drive home behavior change messages disguised as entertaining blog posts. Here's how:

    Know your audience. Design your blog with the user in mind. What topics would be most interesting and compelling for your target population based on your workplace culture and demographics? What are your top healthcare cost drivers, and how can you approach blog posts that address related behaviors?

    Plan your blog presence. Some blogs are more formal and news oriented; others are more personal and chatty, while still others include a variety of posting styles. Because they're self-published, blogs have a more direct tone to them than most print articles. Position yourself as an authoritative voice on the topics you write about, but bring the message close to home -- something your readers can relate to. Make your blog the go-to place for:

        Details about upcoming events
        Commentary on breaking news and research findings
        Success stories
        Perspectives and insights on healthy living
        Latest wellness team standings.

    Identify key bloggers. Decide whether one person will do all the writing, or if team members will take turns. Invite others to serve as guest bloggers.

    Read other blogs. Head to Technorati, Bloglines, or other blog indexes to search health-oriented blogs, and take notes. What engages you? What annoys you? What distracts you? What do you like best? The insights you gain as a blog reader will be extremely valuable as you develop your own.

    Keep it brief. A blog isn't a place to post a 3-page article. Readers want snippets of useful, entertaining, or thought-provoking content -- they don't have the time or patience for much more. Link to a news item and add your own commentary to help your readers make sense of headlines related to their health and well-being.

    Focus on specifics. The Huffington Post is the most-read blog today, with millions of hits every day. In their how-to book on blogging, Huffington Post editors recommend focusing on 1 nugget from a research finding, a quote, or news item. Because the nature of blogging is so immediate, you don't need to bore your readers with the whole context or background of an issue each time you post, the way traditional media do.

    Relax. The thought of putting your opinions and musings out there for the world -- or at least your coworkers -- may feel intimidating. But many health promoters have a wealth of wisdom to share, from personal and professional experience. Modern participants don't want to only hear about what they should do, they need support in actually doing it. Your point of view on making sensible choices in a Thai restaurant or cultivating a more active family life may be just what they need to take the next step. Write conversationally, clearly, and concisely -- as if talking with friends or family; you'll get better with every post.

    Cultivate community. Some bloggers allow readers to comment on posts and engage in conversation on a given topic -- but depending on the volume of feedback, you may not have time to address each question personally. Instead, post on a hot topic you see frequently in reader questions and comments. Invite reader input (on how they've overcome barriers to staying active, for example) and share it in a post to inspire others to do the same.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Diabetic Glucose Monitor News, Will We Be Testing Without Blood?

Diabetic glucose monitor research is moving quickly. There is hope that soon we will have ways to test our blood sugar without using test strips and drops of blood. Every diabetes doctor knows that testing more often will improve the health of a type 1 or type 2 diabetic.

The problem with testing has always been the pain and inconvenience. Convincing teenagers on the go and older folks on tight budgets to do more frequent blood tests isn't easy.

From the first home testing glucose monitor to the ones we use today, drawing a drop of blood has been the only foolproof way to know your blood sugar. A type 2 diabetic who is not on insulin may test once a day while a type 2 on insulin ought to test at least four times every day.

The First Continuous Glucose Monitor

Brittle type 1 diabetics need to test as often as every 15 minutes to watch for hypoglycemia. It's the only way to ensure they don't enter a diabetic coma. Many parents set their alarms to wake up several times a night and check on their diabetic children, who would not wake up from a dangerously low blood sugar on their own.

The answer is a continuous monitor worn day and night. And there are some on the market right now. They use a special sensor needle inserted under the skin that is connected by wire or wirelessly to a receiver. Some receivers are as small as a cell phone, and some sit on a bedside table at night.

The needle has to be recalibrated every day and replaced every few days because scar tissue forms around it and makes it useless. But the continuous diabetic glucose monitor works, and teamed with an alarm system it gives parents of type 1 diabetic children a chance to sleep.

Another option made by Sleep Sentry will wake you from sleep if it detects two of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. It does not test blood sugar but it sounds an alarm if your temperature drops or you begin to sweat, two of the signs of hypoglycemia.

This would be a help for diabetics who have had too many hypoglycemic events and become unaware of low blood sugar. And older diabetics might find strapping on this sensor give them some peace of mind, especially if they live alone.

But older diabetics with autonomic neuropathy might not get any benefit since they may not sweat with low blood sugar. They need something that actually reads their blood sugar levels.

Glucose Monitors Without Test Strips

A true wireless implantable glucose sensor has been made by GlySens. It is pretty small, about the size of a sandwich cookie. Their plan is to implant it in the torso of a diabetic and get continuous readings on something like a cell phone.

So far the implant has lasted about 500 days without having to be replaced, but as of 2010 it had only been tried on pigs. Human trials were set to begin that year, so it may be several more years before we see them on the market.

Lightouch Medical is making a monitor that uses light sensors on your fingertip to measure glucose. OrSense is doing the same, but their monitor is planned for use only in hospitals right now.

Sensys Medical has a monitor that uses near infrared. You would lay your arm on the device to let it sense your blood sugar. Right now the monitor is having accuracy problems because of skin variations and changes. But they plan to make a home glucose monitor some day.

At MIT, a famous U.S. college, they are using an implanted tattoo with what they call nano-ink. When the ink is exposed to glucose it flouresces (sends out light). A sensor that measures the changes is worn like a watch and gives blood sugar readouts.

So far they have found the tattoo lasts about six months before it stops working. And others are working on tiny implantable detectors that use the flourescing idea, but nothing is even nearly ready for FDA approval.

The University of Western Ontario is making contact lenses that change color as they detect the rise and fall of blood sugar. These use nanotechnology, using particles the size of molecules imbedded in a contact lens.

It won't give you an accurate blood sugar reading, but it will warn you of low and high blood sugar during the day.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Good News for Hormone Replacement Therapy

News flash! You can safely get rid of your hot flashes! Estrogen is not so bad after all. A study in JAMA Journal of the American Medical Association April 2011 found that estrogen alone had a reduced risk of breast cancer and their risk of stroke declined after stopping the medication.

There is so much confusion regarding hormone replacement therapy. When evaluating the studies, you should consider a few things. The type of hormone (synthetic versus bioidentical), the route of administration (oral, transdermal or through the skin or other), the age when started and other therapies. These are just a few considerations.

This study cited in the media was done on women with hysterectomies using oral synthetic estrogen alone without any synthetic progestin. They began using the hormone in there 50's. There were 3 important findings:

• The first one is when you stop taking oral synthetic hormone therapy the increased risk of stroke and blood clots in the legs and lungs go down and so does the benefits on decreased hip fracture. Note: only oral estrogen produces blood clots and increases risk of stroke. Bioidentical estrogen given through the skin does not increase stroke or cardiovascular disease risk.

• The second major finding was a decreased risk of breast cancer. When we followed for another four years, that decreased risk of breast cancer persisted, so that, over the entire follow-up period, we saw a 23 percent decreased risk of breast cancer. Note: it was the oral, synthetic progestin that was implicated in increasing the risk of breast cancer.

• The third finding is that the risks and benefits of hormone therapy differ importantly by age for several types of chronic disease, heart attacks, colorectal cancer, death and then overall chronic diseases are lower among women taking hormone therapy in their 50s compared to placebo, but among women in their 70s, they actually had higher rates of all these conditions if they were taking estrogen alone vs. placebo. Note: In the Women's Health Initiative study the average age of women studied was 63 and most were 10 years post menopause.

So if you are considering hormone replacement therapy, be sure to keep in mind the differences in type, route of administration and age when you begin taking them. Discuss all of your options with a physician knowledgeable in bioidentical hormones to determine the most appropriate treatment given your age, risk factors and state of health.

Lorraine Maita, MD is a recognized and award winning physician and author transforming people's lives through preventive and anti aging medicine. She is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Anti Aging and Regenerative Medicine and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has over 18 years experience in Preventive Health and Wellness, Internal, Occupational and Travel Medicine and Executive Health.