Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Quick update on my sister: she is not doing well. She is still in the hospital and fighting a massive infection that has now given her a 104 to 106-degree fever. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you!

A New York prosecutor is going after a ring of students for cheating on the SAT, according to AP. Also in AP: fathers are less likely to die of heart disease than men without children.

The Dallas Morning News ran a story about how 80 Hispanic families have had to band together to protest the maltreatment of their kids in school. Apparently, teachers were pinching and grabbing the students, and calling their parents “wetbacks.” WTF?

This is an interesting story, especially since my kids go to an international school with a lot of foreign teachers. But due to visa issues, many foreign teachers in the United States are being left in limbo, according to MSNBC. Can we fix our immigration system, please? also had a fun poll asking readers how they like their coffee. As it turns out, I’m part of the minority elite (3%) who likes her “venti, half-caf, soy Frappuccino (or similar).” In my defense, I am Cuban and consider this “cafe con leche.” Oh, and I don’t drive a Volvo. :)

Here is another interesting story on education, this one about the stinginess of University of California alumni. Do you give to your alma mater? I admit, I have given very little to my alma mater, Boston University, as I was indebted to them until last year.

Here is the best, most refreshing and nuanced story I have read in a long time about abortion in the Girl Revolution blog. Considering how much technology and societal norms have changed in the last 30 years, the writer suggests re-framing the conversation — and making the morning after pill available to everyone. What say you?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Q&A With Dr. Cristina Rabadán-Diehl

On Friday I had the opportunity to join a group of Latina bloggers and interview Dr. Cristina Rabadán-Diehl, deputy director of the Office of Global Health for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Dr. Rabadán-Diehl, who has a degree in pharmacy from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain, a Ph.D. from the University of Miami in Florida, and a M.P.H. and Health Communications Certificate from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, is an expert on cardiovascular health with a keen focus on the Hispanic community.  

Yes, our community is plagued by high obesity rates and related illnesses like type II diabetes and heart disease. But this is an American epidemic currently being tackled on by our First Lady Michelle Obama and was even addressed by then First Lady Laura Bush. As it turns out, heart disease is the No. 1 killer for women, and we are more susceptible to the disease than men — a notion Dr. Rabadán-Diehl wants to turn on its head.

Dr. Rabadán-Diehl, who is also a mother to two (now grown) sons, was on hand to discuss this and other issues.

How do you prevent heart disease? Heart disease is something that has been accumlated or brewed over decades. It’s never too early to start preventing that. We need to start sharing information…and showing that we love ourselves. Health and nutrition are very important. If we are overweight, we have to become active and we have to bring our daughters. It’s never too early and never too late to start incorporating these messages….With lifestyle changes, we can prevent this disease.

In the recession, it seems like working families are having a harder time to eat well, exercise and go to the doctor regularly on top of all their other responsibilities. What do you suggest? The key here is to be informed and to understand that there are many ways one can continue to maintain heart health. Nutrition is important. Choosing a balanced diet is important. I know that for the Latino community access to fresh fruit and vegetables is an issue. But there are frozen foods which are healthier than canned foods. Make sure to look at the saturated fat and fat content of foods.

What are some of the misconceptions you have encountered in how to prevent heart disease?: There is a misconception that eating out in places that offer fast food might be actually cheaper than buying food from the supermarket. That is a misconception. What is very important is that (people) decrease their consumption of foods that are already prepared. I would tell people to avoid pre-prepared meals like frozen foods that have a lot of preservatives and a lot of fat. We have a lot of recipes and information on our website.  

Is there a relationship between stress and heart health? There is research on this biological mechanism….We cannot change the things that are around us. But we could try to work on how we perceive those stresses or how we internalize them. Some people might just go and take a walk. Some people relieve stress by watching a movie. I love watching movies from Spain! Some do yoga or meditation.

What’s your typical day like? How do you balance family life with a career in the medical field?
Yes, I am a mother to two boys. One is 20 and one is 18. But when they were little I made them my priority even though I have always worked outside the house….When they were younger, one of the things I was concerned about, especially coming from Latino culture where food is important and I didn’t have immediate family in the area, on the weekends I always cooked a lot to make sure we had nutritious foods throughout the week. I made sure to have enough time in the afternoons to be there for them during activities and homework. If I brought work home, I worked at night. I always worked around my family, not around my work.

What would you say to someone who knows the risk factors for heart disease but doesn’t follow through? It’s really an issue of empowerment. We (women) tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. We can empower ourselves to realize that our health is very important. By leading a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk of heart disease by 82 percent! But it’s not enough to know that those are the risk factors. It’s important to know that it affects me. If I have high cholesterol and am overweight, that can affect me and my family….We want to be there for our children. We want to be there to drive them to the soccer game, or see their first communion or quinceañera. We do that with good heart health.

How do we recognize the symptoms of heart disease? There are common symptoms like pressure in the chest and pain to the arm. But sometimes women may have other symptoms as well like a pain in the neck….Even if we are not sure, it doesn’t matter. Immediately call emergency or call somebody. It is better to end up in the emergency room even if it’s a false alarm.

What should you do if you have already had heart disease? For those who have already developed heath disease, they should keep in close communication with their physicians. Many recurrences of heart disease are influenced by risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. We tend to take medicines because we don’t feel well, then we feel better and start taking the medication once a day rather than twice a day. That’s behavior we need to stop. Please maintain that communication (with your physician) open.


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

A group of us in the Bay Area and Sacramento plan to meet up for a River Cats game in Raley Field in Sacramento on Friday, July 2. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.. Children and partners are welcome! If you are interested in going, please purchase the $7 “lawn” seats here. The seating isn’t great, but it will allow for all of us to sit together and the kids to run around and have fun. Thanks pat of butter in a sea of salt for the idea!

Once again, Newsweek came out with its top U.S. high schools list, based on advanced placement college-level courses and tests.

I would be mortified if this happened to me. A fourth-grade teacher at a Christian school in Florida was fired for having premarital sex, according to the TODAY Show. But that’s not all. The principal actually told the staff and called up all the families of her classroom to tell them the reason for her firing.

Latinos, both documented and undocumented, are leaving Arizona in anticipation of SB 1070, according to USA Today. This quote by a school superintendent captured my feelings exactly: “They’re leaving to another state where they feel more welcome.”

In a comprehensive health study of the gay community, Boston researchers found that gay men were 50 percent less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be obese, according to Among lesbians, it was the opposite, making them more vulnerable to heart disease.

In belated celebrity gossip break: first Kristin split from her husband, then Al and Tipper announced a separation. Now oldest daughter Karenna is the latest Gore to separate from her hubby. According to the Huffington Post, Karenna Gore and husband Andrew Schiff have agreed to separate for two months while they go through with counseling. The couple has three children.

Actress-model Jenny McCarthy is poised to get her own TV show, according to MSN. Let’s hope she stays away from the vaccine wars.

I loved this quote by Barbara Walters, which I also found in the Hybrid Mom magazine newsletter: “Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

Ha! So true.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Low Levels of Vitamin D Plague U.S. Children

Two new studies have shown that millions of U.S. children — about 9 percent of kids and adolescents in the country — have a vitamin D deficiency that is putting them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, bone malformations and other ailments, according to a story in the Washington Post.

About 9 percent of those ages 1 through 21 — about 7.6 million children, adolescents and young adults — have Vitamin D levels so low they could be considered deficient, while an additional 61 percent — 50.8 million — have higher levels, but still low enough to be insufficient, according to the analysis of federal data being released Monday….

Low Vitamin D levels are especially common among girls, adolescents and people with darker skin, according to the analysis of a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 children. For example, 59 percent of African American teenage girls were Vitamin D deficient, Melamed’s study found.

The researchers and others blamed the low levels on a combination of factors, including children spending more time watching television and playing video games instead of going outside, covering up and using sunscreen when they do go outdoors, and drinking more soda and other beverages instead of consuming milk and other foods fortified with Vitamin D.


Childhood Obesity – A Threat to our Public Health

About 33% of US children and adolescents between the age of 2 and 19 years old are overweight and 17.1% of those are obese

“If we don’t take steps to reverse course, the children of each successive generation seem destined to be fatter and sicker than their parents.“ Dr. David Ludwig made this statement in an editorial he wrote in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, in response to the findings of two published studies of childhood obesity. Both studies looked at the effects that childhood obesity will have on the future health of overweight children. One study followed 277,000 Danish students for decades by evaluating detailed health records. The study found,

…the more overweight a child was between ages 7 and 13, the greater the risk of heart disease in adulthood. The older the children are, the higher the chance for later heart risk. So, for example, a boy who was heavier than his peers at age 7 had a 5 percent increased risk for later heart disease, but a boy who was heavier than his peers at age 13 had a 17 percent greater risk.

If these findings aren’t startling enough, there’s more. The most obese child in the Danish study was at a 33% greater risk for heart disease in adulthood. Yet, the fattest boys in the entire Danish sample are barely considered overweight by US standards. Barely considered overweight by US standards! Think about the implications of that finding. This means that the risk for adult heart disease for Americans is most definitely even greater than 33%.

Now combine this information with the findings out of UCSF which state that:

if the number of overweight children continues to increase at current rates, then by the year 2035, the rate of heart disease will rise to 16 percent or as many as 100,000 extra cases of heart disease attributable to childhood obesity.

Although it may not seem like it now, it won’t be long before we are standing on the threshold of a Public Health crisis. The economic costs of this strain on our health care system will be enormous. A surge in serious illness (and obesity also increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, limb amputation and premature death) translates into lower worker productivity, job loss and in the end a dying economy.

Pretty bleak forecast and in the meantime, not a lot is being done to turn this crisis around. Our kids continue to lead more sedentary lives, snack on junk food, eat fast food for meals, be inundated with ad campaigns for these dangerous foods and then be served them in their school cafeterias.

I don’t mean to say that nothing is being done to attack this epidemic. The State of Arkansas began a health report card for all students in grades K -12. At the end of every year students are sent home with a report their weight, BMI etc. Apparently there have been some positive results. When the fact that their child is overweight is staring them in the face some parents and kids take action; however, the program is purely elective, so it is unclear which families are opting in and which families are not being counted.

School systems have instituted nutrition and exercise programs with some success. For example, a research group, The Healthier Options for Public Schools, followed 3700 students in a Florida county over 2 years. School districts instituted an intervention program in 4 schools and the results were measured against two schools that did not have a program. The intervention program included dietary changes, increased exercise and nutrition awareness. There were dramatic changes in the kids who had intervention, however, when those students returned from summer vacation, most had reverted back to their old habits.

The good news is, that with education, changes in lifestyle and healthful diets, this trend can be reversed. The broader and more daunting question, is how? When the cost of healthy eating is often too high for low-income families and fast food has become the norm because families are too busy to sit down for a meal, and our entire population has become sedentary, it appears that we are doomed to fail our children. The issues are economic, cultural and political. But if we do not create a comprehensive national strategy to attack this problem, it will soon be too late.

We have in our communities a perfect storm that will continue to feed the childhood obesity epidemic until we adopt policies that improve the health of our communities and our kids,” Frank Chaloupka, an economics professor the University of Illinois at Chicago.

So what do we do? There are countless competing issues. On the one hand, we have a culture that is unhealthy and overweight and on the other hand we have a “body image“ obsessed society. There are issues of self esteem, bullying, and stigmatization attached to obese kids yet we also want to teach our kids to like themselves for who they are and not for what they look like. The one thing is clear, however, we cannot stay on this trajectory and if we do we will be doing a terrible disservice to this future generation.