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Electronic Stethoscope

The time honored tool of the trade, the stethoscope, is gaining a technological advance.  The FDA recently approved the Eko Core, an attachment for the stethoscope designed by Eko Devices.  The medical devices startup founders say the Eko Core is the first next-generation stethoscope.  In an industry that is being influenced by technology more and more every day at such a rapid pace, one of the oldest tools of the trade will now be able to provide a digital foot print throughout a patient’s life.

The Eko Core is essentially a normal stethoscope with the Eko device attached that records the waveform and digital sound of the heart, then transmitting the recording to a HIPAA compliant smart phone app.  From there that waveform can also be attached to the patient’s electronic medical record (EMR).  Over the years a patient will have a digital record of their heart from childhood to geriatrics; providing a history of their heart and an insight into patterns or possible harmful conditions.  The device also allows that waveform and sound to be sent to specialists quickly and efficiently saving both the patient and doctors time and money.

“The stethoscope is an iconic and universal part of the medical practice, a tool which nearly every doctor, nurse and student learns to use,” said John Chorba, MD, cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, in a statement. “The beauty of the Eko Core is that it captures the heart sounds in a streamlined way that has never been done before, interfacing seamlessly into our traditional exam without requiring any extra effort.”  The product can very easily be utilized in existing practice with minimal training and will be useful in tracking the health of a patient’s heart throughout their life.  To learn more, visit Eko’s website.

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FDA to Ban PHOs in Trans Fats

The FDA has released its final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not generally recognized as Safe (GRAS.)  Partially hydrogenated oils or PHOs are the primary dietary source of trans fats in processed foods.  This announcement by the FDA will lead to an even higher reduction in trans fats in processed foods over the compliance period of 3 years.  This will not completely remove trans fats from our foods due to the small amounts that occur naturally in meats and dairy products; but it is a huge step that is expected to reduce coronary heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States.

“We made this determination based on the available scientific evidence and the findings of expert panels,” says Susan Mayne, Ph.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Studies show that diet and nutrition play a key role in preventing chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and today’s action goes hand in hand with other FDA initiatives to improve the health of Americans, including updating the Nutrition Facts label,” she adds.  Consumers should still look at the ingredients label on foods to determine if they contain PHOs.  In order for a food label to list 0 trans fats, the food must contain less than .5 grams per serving.  Therefore, if partially hydrogenated oil is on the ingredients list, the food may still contain a small amount of trans fat.  Even in small doses, this can add up and lead to a negative impact if not managed properly.

From the FDA, here is a list of possible foods that may contain trans fats:

  • Coffee creamer
  • Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods
  • Fast food
  • Frozen pizza
  • Ready-to-use frostings
  • Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
  • Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
  • Vegetable shortenings and stick margarines

Many companies have taken a preemptive approach to reducing trans fats among their food offerings resulting in healthier foods being produced.  Companies such as Campbell’s Soup, Nabisco, Nestle, General Mills, and Tyson Foods; have all taken steps to reduce trans fats and have already made great strides in reducing PHOs.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association stated, “since 2005, food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their food products by over 73 percent, consumers can be confident that their food is safe, and we look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers.”

Over a century ago the German chemist Wilhelm Normann discovered the process of creating PHOs.  During WWII it was thought to be a healthier substitute to saturated fats and allowed for a longer shelf life for many processed foods.  Now 104 years later, the ban by the FDA will remove most trans fats from our diets.  Science has found that PHOs have virtually no nutritional value and for every 2% of energy gained from trans fats, risk of heart disease increases by 23%; according to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine.  This determination by the FDA is a highlight of how science and regulation can improve our health and livelihoods by protecting us from harmful ingredients and or processes.  Although it will be three years before the full effects will be in place, companies have made a great start in keeping their consumers healthier.


FDA Website:

Forbes Website:

CNBC Website:

Healthy Spring Cleaning

Once the winter months wind down and we get into spring, we tend to look to our home, garage, and yard when thinking about spring cleaning.  But similarly, our bodies have also been limited to the indoor environments for the winter months and could also use some maintenance.  The cold and darker months of winter lead us to exercise less, eat heavier sometime less healthy foods, and may have affected our mental health as well.  Spring is a great time to kick things off right and get back to being healthier.

As the weather warms up, our cravings for those heavier soups and meals may begin to wane.  Spring is a great time to stop at the local food stands or farmer’s market and pickup home-grown produce.  They’re generally in abundance and are a great source of healthy ingredients.  Foods such as asparagus, broccoli, chives, fennel, greens, strawberries, and spinach; can be found throughout spring.  Seasonal fruits tend to have the best taste and the most nutrients when they’re freshest.

Those chilly nights with the wind and snow blowing outside the windows are at an end.  Spring is time to dust off those walking or running shoes; or clean off the lighter jackets for an evening stroll or jog.  With more hours of daylight in the day, its best to take advantage of not only the sun, but the fresh air and also some light exercise.  Walking has great cardiovascular benefits, works out those kinks in the legs, and can also help mental clarity.  If going to a gym seems like a chore, try other activities such as a round of miniature golf, a trip to the zoo, or some Frisbee at the park.  The natural light and open air will be beneficial for your body and health.

Even cleaning your environment will be good for your health.  After being cooped up all winter long, our homes collect more dander and dust that can highly affect our respiratory functions.  Even if you clean your home all winter long, the toxins from many cleaners can also build up along with any mold or mildew.  Airing out the home and giving it that good spring clean, will help keep it a healthy environment as well as providing a good boost to your mood.

Finally, the lack of daylight hours during the winter and being stuck inside many days and nights may have affected your mood.  Winter depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can have a debilitating effect.  These effects may linger and make getting motivated harder.  Start with simple things like opening the windows, putting some music on, and cleaning.  Walk around your yard or block.  Running a marathon, planting a garden, or cleaning the entire garage may be lofty expectations at first, so think small and get started spending time up and about first.   SAD is a serious form of depression and if you don’t feel the effects waning as winter comes to an end, it may be a good idea to consult a physician or therapist.  To learn more about SAD, visit WebMD for more articles.

Spring cleaning is an important part of the seasonal changes we see here in Update NY.  No matter what you do to prepare for spring, we at Upstate HomeCare look forward to a healthy kick start into spring.  For more information, take a look at any of the pages below with links to more ways to start your healthy spring cleaning and don’t hesitate to let us know if there is any way we can help make your spring healthier.

Benefits of Vaccines

Vaccination has been around for hundreds of years and today’s vaccines are a very real part of modern medicine.  Efforts taken during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the eradication of Small Pox in 1979.  Since then many more vaccinations have been created and more diseases are close to being wiped out.  Modern flu vaccinations help prevent serious cases of influenza among high risk adults and children, as well and keeping outbreaks under control.  The future may hold vaccines for cancers or HIV.  Although modern medicine holds vaccines to the highest standards, there are many myths and beliefs supporting an anti-vaccination lobby.  Due to recent outbreaks of Measles and Whooping Cough cases in the US, the topic of immunization warrants a discussion and further detail.

Recent outbreaks such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014 bring to light the issue of diseases and their effects on the globe.  Although our standards here in the US are very high, travelers from other countries can bring in potentially harmful viruses and diseases.  Shortly after the New Year, several cases of Measles have been traced back to Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Theme Parks.  Six of those cases were among unvaccinated children.  It is believed that just one infected visitor was the cause of the outbreak according to the Dept. of Public Health.  In 2010 there was also a Whooping Cough outbreak in California with 9000 cases, 10 of which resulted in death.  With international travel so prevalent, we need to keep in mind that the US isn’t separate from the world community.  One visitor from a country where a disease is endemic can threaten our public safety here at home.

Many of our Upstate HomeCare customers are dealing with symptoms that would be much worse if they were exposed to diseases that vaccines try to prevent.  Measles and Whooping Cough greatly task the respiratory system and can result in pneumonia or worse.  Part of the benefit from vaccines has to do with a concept called “Herd Immunity.”  This is defined as “the immunity or resistance to a particular infection that occurs in a group of people or animals when a very high percentage of individuals have been vaccinated or previously exposed to the infection.”  The intent is then to help protect the portion of the population who is more susceptible to the disease by preventing it from gaining any foothold.  This protects those who cannot receive the vaccine due to immune deficiencies or allergies.  The symptoms of the disease are higher risk than having a side-effect from a vaccine injection.  For example, see the following stats for Measles and Rubella versus their vaccine MMR.

Measles Conditions:
Pneumonia:  6 in 100
Encephalitis:  1 in 1,000
Death:  2 in 1,000

Rubella Conditions:
Congenital Rubella Syndrome:  1 in 4 (if woman becomes infected early in pregnancy)

Vaccine MMR Reactions:
Encephalitis or severe allergic reaction:  1 in 1,000,000

Although some health concerns have arisen over the safety of vaccines on our children, the risk of highly contagious diseases is far greater to our young children and elderly than the side-effects of a vaccine.  Good education is the key to choosing the right decision for your child and yourself.  Everyone should research what is in each vaccine and consult their physician in regards to any allergies or other possible reactions; then you can make an educated decision.  For more information on the misconceptions of vaccines and facts, please take a look at the following Q&A from the World Health Organization or any of the other links below regarding the safety of vaccines and possible side-effects.


Interactive World Map Showing Vaccinated Disease Status

Advice from regarding Vaccines for Parents

LA Times Article on Disneyland Outbreak and Vaccinations

LA Times Article on the Vaccine and Autism Link

CDC Article on Vaccine Side-Effects Immunization Overview Article on Vaccine Myths Article on a Brief History of Vaccination

CDC Article on Rotavirus

CDC Article:  What Would Happen if we Stopped Vaccinations

World Health Organization Article on Vaccine Misconceptions

Little Hats, Big Hearts

Upstate HomeCare is very proud to have employees that donate hours of their free time to help out with generous causes.  Recently Christen Bannigan of the Clinton Branch ran across an article on Mended Little Hearts of West Michigan.  The Mended Little Heats organization hopes to have 1000 hats knitted or crocheted by January 21st in time for February, American Heart Month.  The hats will then be used for all babies born at participating hospitals during the month of February.  This effort is in partnership with the American Heart Association and their “Little Hats, Big Hearts” fundraising campaign.  The Mended Little Hearts organization provides resources and support to children with congenital heart defects.  The 1000 hats will be used in the hospital to help keep the infants warm and cozy during their healing process and help to raise awareness of congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in our country.

Christen Bannigan and Ronda Jones spent countless hours working on crocheting the infant hats for “Little Hats, Big Hearts.” They received several donations from the following donors:  Maureen Bannigan, Karen Skaradek, Suzanne Moore, Michele Bowen, Jan Slawson, Carolyn O’Brien,  and photography by Franklin Kielar.  Together they knitted a total of 143 infant hats and Christen mailed them to Michigan on Friday January 16th.  Christen plans to expand on their first time providing the hats and looks to grow the effort into an annual project.  To learn more visit our reference links at the bottom of the page to find out how you can help. (Mending Little Hearts of Michigan) (American Heart Association) (Mending Little Hearts of Michigan)

10 Simple Healthy Choices for 2015

Many of us think about resolutions a lot prior to January. Sometimes whole discussions are held regarding last year’s resolutions compared to ones you and others are making.  Then ultimately the topic comes up whether or not you will stick to a resolution.  Amidst all the ideas being thrown around, the simplest lifestyle or health choices may be overlooked.  Instead of setting a lofty goal that may be difficult to stick to, consider one of these ten simpler changes to improve your lifestyle and make 2015 a healthier year.

1:  Eat Slower. Eating foods fast can lead to consuming more calories.  It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to signal that you feel full.  Taking your time will also aid in digestion due to thoroughly chewing your food and help even out your meals improving energy levels throughout the day.

Fruit for Breakfast2:  Make Time for Breakfast. Hitting the snooze button one too many times can lead to skipping that first important meal of the day.  Even if you have just some yogurt or a piece of fruit, your body will have something for energy to begin the day with.  Eating a healthy breakfast improves cognitive abilities and mood.

3:  10 Minute Power Napping. Energy drinks and alternatives may give a quick boost; but try a ten minute nap to cut back on the sugar in energy drinks, or the crash/side effects that can happen after energy pills.

4:  Enhance Your Mood. Focus on gratitude over complaints.  Take the time to notice the good things that happen to you and thank those who bring you more happiness.  Your mood will improve and will lead to healthier choices.  Being surrounded by other positive people can also improve mood as well as provide positive reinforcement for healthy choices.

5:  Read More. Studies have shown reading reduces stress and increases mental activity.  And reading non-fiction will increase knowledge and exercise your memory.  This can be as simple as reading an article or two in the paper to starting a novel and reading just a chapter a night.

6:  Stick to a Set Bedtime. Setting a routine for getting to sleep greatly improves the effectiveness of falling asleep on time and getting better sleep.  In addition, try turning off all devices 30 minutes prior to allow yourself some mental peace.  Limiting the glow from electronic displays can help along with quieting the room.

7:  Moderation Instead of Deprivation. Being healthy doesn’t have to deprive us of desserts or other things we enjoy.  If you moderate the quantities and treat yourself, you can still have a healthy life style and treat yourself now and then as well.

8:  Drink More Water. This may be greatly overlooked.  The CDC claims 43% of Americans drink less than 4 cups of water per day.  An extra cup of water in the morning will help kick in your metabolism and allows better digestion with meals.  If you’re looking to lose weight, having a full glass or two with meals will help you feel fuller and cut back on extra calories.

9:  Walk More. One of the simplest changes you can make if you don’t have much time for exercise is to increase the amount of walking you do.  This will help increase blood flow and heart rate.  Park farther from buildings, take the stairs, or take a walk around your home or office during breaks.

10:  Think Small. Making large changes to your life style or habits can seem very daunting.  Change a single simple thing, or a few small changes.  Focusing on small changes or adjustments to your lifestyle are both attainable and rewarding.  These smaller decisions are less stressful and will have a positive impact on your health.

Once you’ve made even the slightest change for a healthier lifestyle, more opportunities will be available to continue down that path.  Before you know it, your lifestyle for 2015 will be the healthiest yet.