Your Friday 5: The week in health

March 10, 2017 Mike Francis

Seasons change, but health care researchers and experts never rest: They’re always generating news with new studies and pronouncements. We’ve herded a few recent developments into the To Your Health corral. Climb on in and take a look.

Good things happen with kids on horseback

Did you know that riding a horse seems to stir up something positive in the wiring of children? A research team from Tokyo gave behavioral tests to kids before and immediately after riding a horse. They found that riders on some horses showed a greatly improved ability to perform well. The researchers think the vibrations and “three-dimensional accelerations” that occur on horseback help activate a child’s sympathetic nervous system. "There are many possible effects of human-animal interactions on child development," said Mitsuaki Ohta, a professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture.

This will only encourage them

Here’s news that is either affirming or appalling, depending on how you feel about seeing photos of other people’s meals: A new study says people may improve their health by taking photographs of their food. That’s because the images can provide useful information to dietitians who are coaching clients about nutrition and diet. Instead of relying on their clients’ memories, dietitians can ask appropriate questions, such as: “Was that low-fat dressing or high-fat?,” said Mary Cluskey, a dietitian and associate professor at Oregon State University.

Boomers aren’t following hepatitis C advice

Because some 3.5 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus and 80 percent of them are baby boomers who were born between 1945 and 1965, health officials at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2013 urged that age group to get a one-time test for the virus. But the boomers, apparently, didn’t pay attention. An article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found testing rates among baby boomers “did not substantially increase and remains low.” This is a problem with an easy fix: Get tested. You can arrange a test with a Providence provider near you.

Your skin is under siege

Sure, you can plant those daffodils and quaff that margarita, but your skin may pay a price, dermatologists warn. In a news release, the American Academy of Dermatology takes aim at a range of potential irritants, from poison ivy to mosquitoes. But it was the references to flowering bulbs and the lime in adult beverages that made headlines. “People may think they’re more likely to develop a rash while hiking in the woods than enjoying a drink by the pool, but if that drink happens to be a margarita or a beer with a lime, they could end up with itchy red skin at the end of the day,” said Julian Trevino, M.D., a dermatologist at Wright State University. The combination of sunlight and certain citrus fruits can contribute to a condition called phytophotodermatitis, which causes a rash, he said. He suggests rinsing the skin after drinking citrus outside in the sun.

Caffeine may help stave off dementia

Indiana University researchers studying a brain enzyme have found a set of chemical compounds – including caffeine – that appear to help protect the brain from dementia. The enzyme, called NMNAT2, helps to guard neurons in the brain while combating brain plaque. The researchers say the compounds can give the enzyme a boost. "This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical 'blockade' against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders," said Hui-Chen Lu, the Indiana U. professor who led the study.

Did a piece of health and wellness news catch your eye? Want to tell us about it? Please leave a comment below.

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