New Under the Sun:
Volume 1, Issue 11
Greetings!! We are now into the holiday season. This can be a time of great joy. But it can also be a stressful period with more commitments, more pressures, and more temptations. To keep the joy and reduce the stress, get plenty of sleep, eat foods rich in antioxidants, and take a vitamin D supplement.
News Updates: Pregnancy Related Topics: As the saying goes, “Children are our future.” Therefore, it behooves us to make sure that our future receives the best possible start to life. Perhaps the most important factor is that each pregnancy be planned.
Unintended Pregnancies: Of all industrialized nations, the United States has the highest rate of unplanned, unintended pregnancies. The figures for 1994 (the most recent available) indicated approximately 2,900,000 pregnancies in the US were unintended. The US also has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate among industrialized nations (900,000 in 1994) with adolescent pregnancies cross-cutting all socioeconomic groups. The reason for this high rate of unplanned pregnancies in the US among women of all ages is the lower use of contraceptives when compared to other Western countries. Because of this lower contraceptive use, the US also has a higher rate of abortion than is true of other Western countries. As other nations have found, the easiest way to lower the abortion rate is to provide comprehensive sex education to the young and to make effective contraceptives easily available. Quality, comprehensive sex education actually reduces sexual activity. Limiting or banning sex education in our schools is part of the problem of high rates of unplanned pregnancies. And unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be problematic for healthy fetal development. If the US government really cares about our children, our future, it would make sure that quality sex education is required in all schools and that reliable, effective contraceptives are easily available to anyone who wants them. Ursula Snyder, PhD. October 2002: 30 Years After "The Joy of Sex" -- Unintended Pregnancy in the United States. Medscape Ob/Gyn & Women's Health 7(2), 2002. © 2002 Medscape
Pregnancy Hypertension and Aspirin: Research conducted in Spain found that taking aspirin at bedtime could have beneficial effects on pregnancy outcome. Hypertension is a common, worrisome problem of pregnancy. If untreated, high blood pressure can cause pregnancy complications including premature labor and/or fetal loss. The Spanish researchers divided women who were 12 – 16 weeks pregnant into six groups, three groups receiving aspirin and three receiving a placebo. Within the three groups, one group took 100 mg of aspirin (or placebo) upon awakening, one group took aspirin (or placebo) eight hours after they awoke, and the third group took aspirin (or placebo) at bedtime. The results showed that aspirin taken upon awakening was no more effective than a placebo at lowering blood pressure. Aspirin taken eight hours later was effective, but the most effective results were obtained by aspirin taken at bedtime. Pregnancy outcomes were significantly better in women taking 100 mg aspirin at bedtime than in women who took a placebo, with no women having preterm delivery in the aspirin-supplemented group. However, these positive results were not apparent if aspirin treatment was begun after 16 weeks of gestation. Research presented at the 2002 American Heart Association's 56th Annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference. Hermida RC, Ayala DE, Fernandez JR, Mojon A, Alonso I, Silva I, Ucieda R, Codesido J, Iglesias M. Administration time-dependent effects of aspirin in women at differing risk for preeclampsia. Hypertension 1999 Oct;34(4 Pt 2):1016-23.
South Asian Women and Birth Weight: Research on pregnant women of South Asian ancestry living in Britain found that, counter to expectations, the mean birth weight was significantly lower and the rate of low birth weight (LBW) infants was significantly higher among women with South Asian ancestry who were born in the United Kingdom compared to women who were born in the southern hemisphere and later moved to Britain. Both groups had lower average birth weights and higher rates of LBW infants compared to the national averages of the UK and this disparity has remained for at least 40 years. Improvements in diet and healthcare appear to have done little to close the gap which means some unidentified factor is involved. Margetts BM, Mohd Yusof S, Al Dallal Z, Jackson AA. Persistence of lower birth weight in second generation South Asian babies born in the United Kingdom. J Epidemiol Community Health 2002 Sep;56(9):684-7.
Comments: It is important to note that in the research on aspirin, the women did not begin taking aspirin until after the 12th week of gestation. The first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy is critical to the development of the embryo and any drugs, alcohol, or medications taken during this time period may have harmful effects. Since beginning the aspirin regimen seems to have a rather narrow window of opportunity (between the 12th and the 16th weeks of gestation), this is yet another reason for making sure each pregnancy is planned.
Women with South Asian ancestry living in the US probably have similar birth outcomes compared to the women with South Asian ancestry living in Britain but this group has been little studied in the US. The birth weight differentials found in Britain are extremely similar to the birth weight differentials found for American women with West/Central African ancestry compared to other groups. American women with South Asian ancestry or with West/Central African ancestry have two major factors in common: skin color in the moderate to dark range; and residence at high latitudes. Maternal vitamin D blood levels play a role in birth outcome. The darker one’s skin color and the further one lives from the Equator, the harder it is to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D. Therefore, it is probable that women in these two groups who give birth to LBW infants have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D. Optimization of vitamin D levels is another reason that each pregnancy should be planned. Fuller, K.E. Low birth-weight infants: the continuing ethnic disparity and the interaction of biology and environment. Ethn Dis. 2000 Autumn;10(3):432-45.
Pregnancy the AnthroHealth way: Provide children and teens with appropriate (age-related), accurate, and comprehensive information on sex, contraception, and the importance of planned pregnancies. Women who plan to become pregnant should, several months prior to actually becoming pregnant,: Optimize their diet. Walk 2 – 3 miles each day. Sleep 8 – 10 hours each night Take 1000 IU/day of vitamin D [See previous issue for sources.] During pregnancy, this healthy lifestyle needs to be maintained while also making prenatal visits and receiving appropriate obstetrical treatment.
Hearing Loss: As we age, our hearing becomes less acute. But is this a natural result of aging, due to environmental factors, or a combination of both? Since 1993, researchers in Wisconsin have been studying hearing loss in a population of adults aged 48 and older. They found that those aged 56 – 65 had poorer hearing on average than those aged 48 – 56, and that men had poorer hearing on average than women. In part, this was due to differences in lifetime exposure to job-related noise and/or hobby-related noise. However, the researchers also found intriguing evidence that poorer hearing may be tied to poorer heart health. Those individuals who did not smoke and were not exposed to second-hand smoke, who regularly walked, and who ate a heart-healthy diet had better hearing than those who had heart-health risk factors. In addition, those who’d had a heart attack had a doubled probability of having negative changes to the cochlea; and those whose hearing deteriorated during the study had a tendency to develop a thickened carotid artery, a sign of heart disease. While more research is needed to show a clear causative effect between heart disease and poor hearing, it cannot hurt to practice a heart-healthy lifestyle. Hearing Study Reveals Surprises. October 6, 2002. The Associated Press. Wiley TL, Torre P 3rd, Cruickshanks KJ, Nondahl DM, Tweed TS. Hearing sensitivity in adults screened for selected risk factors. J Am Acad Audiol 2001 Jul-Aug;12(7):337-47.
Hearing the AnthroHealth way: Wear earplugs or protective ear wear when around high-decibel noise sources. Assume that the researchers are correct about heart health and hearing: Walk 2 – 3 miles each day. Eat the AnthroHealth way, especially fatty fish and tree nuts. Watch your stress levels. Sleep 8 – 10 hours each night.
Book Review: This month I review an extremely well-written, but exceptionally disturbing book: The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by M. Shnayerson and M.J. Plotkin. Back at the beginning of the anti-bacterial age in the mid-20th century, medical researchers and physicians were certain that we had conquered some and would soon conquer all bacteria-caused diseases. For a brief golden period, this appeared to be the case. Unfortunately, many researchers and physicians ignored the fundamental basis of evolution: natural selection. Natural selection is a balance between the fertility and mortality of individuals within a species (those individuals that survive changes in the environment get to reproduce), and requires that there be variability within the species. Because of the way in which bacteria reproduce, variability flourishes within different bacterial species. This means that when something in the bacterial environment changes, such as the introduction of an antibiotic, while most of that particular bacteria species will die, there may well be a few that are just enough different from the others that they can survive. If the antibiotic is not strong enough or is not taken long enough to kill all the bacteria, then the surviving ones have a chance to reproduce. Since they did survive, this means that something in their makeup is resistant to that particular antibiotic. And since bacteria reproduce exponentially faster than humans do, or even than humans can modify the antibiotics, sooner rather than later there are antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria ready to infect and possibly kill human hosts.
Incomplete (ridding the host of most, but not all bacteria) or inappropriate (prescribing antibiotics for viral diseases such as colds or the flu) use of antibiotics by physicians and the general public is part of the problem in the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. But hospitals and agriculture are also parts of the problem: hospitals because of contact with multiple pathogens, and agriculture because of the small doses of antibiotics fed to animals which encourage the development of drug-resistant species of bacteria. This excellent book should be read by anyone concerned with his/her health and the health of loved ones. Understanding our environment and how natural selection functions provide us with the opportunities to ensure our health and make our world a safer place.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: The holiday season can involve an increase in activities. While this is pleasant for the most part, too many extra activities on top of daily requirements may be too much. It is important to also plan “down time” into your schedule. Overdoing the activities can compromise your immune system which, when added to the fact of mingling with more individuals at the various functions, may mean that you are more susceptible to disease. So make sure to take time to relax and recover from holiday fun.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.