July 2012 Archives

Why do we put fluoride in our water?

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Recognized as one of the top ten great public health achievements of the 20th century by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's not often explained why water fluoridation is deemed so important for our health.

So why do all Minnesota municipal water supplies mandate fluoridation?

We asked Robert Jones, Ph.D., D.D.S., assistant professor and pediatric dentist in the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry to help us understand:

"Fluoride basically gives you a protective coating on the tooth," said Dr. Jones. "It helps protect the enamel - the outer layer or white part of the tooth - that can dissolve from acid. This helps slow tooth decay and improves overall oral health."

Given that naturally occurring bacteria in the human mouth produce acids when exposed to bread, soda, juice and even baby formula; it's important to do something to prevent the demineralization - or breakdown - of tooth enamel.

What would happen if we stopped?

According to Jones, many people who observe the standard oral hygiene recommendations of brushing twice a day, rinsing with mouthwash, flossing and who eat a healthy, balanced diet might not notice a difference.

But those who don't have ideal oral hygiene and diet habits would likely experience significant dental decay in multiple teeth.

"It's similar to what would happen if we increased the speed limit," said Dr. Jones. "Lots of people can drive fast without a problem, but many others would get into accidents. With fluoride, like with speed limits, we're trying to help as many people as possible."

Because it's expensive to fluoridate your own water, fluoridation of city water helps keep our population's pearly-whites devoid of decay.

Photo: Flickr/Jimme/CC.

What your running shoes and automobile have in common: the search for a proper fit

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BLOG Driving.jpgWhen you're picking a new pair of shoes, a good fit is important, right?

Take running shoes, for example. A great shoe has cushioned insoles for protection and when tied correctly the laces are strong and supportive. A proper fit helps the shoe feel good, but it primarily protects the runner from injury.

Similarly, cars also require a good fit to keep drivers safe. Now, a free program sponsored by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association is underway to ensure drivers are properly fitted in their vehicles.

U of M School of Public Health researchers receive Pioneering Innovation Award

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Mary Story2.jpg

Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health received a 2012 Weight of the Nation Award. Presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the awards recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding efforts to support healthy eating and active living.

Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity was awarded the Pioneering Innovation Award for Applied Obesity Research.

Healthy Eating Research is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation directed by University of Minnesota School of Public Health professor Mary Story, PhD, RD, with Karen Kaphingst, MPH, serving as deputy director.

"It is an honor to be recognized by fellow public health professionals with a Weight of the Nation Award," said Story. "Support from colleagues and other public health organizations helps advance our efforts to curb obesity among children."

The awards were announced at the Weight of the Nation Conference, held in Washington, D.C. Honors were given in the categories of systems change, community mobilization, game changer, applied obesity research, and moving forward with technology.

U of M doc to young athletes: protect yourself from heat exhaustion & heat stroke during MN's USA Cup

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This weekend, thousands of soccer players and fans from across the U.S. and worldwide will descend upon the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN, for the Schwan's USA Cup, one of the largest international youth soccer tournaments in the Western Hemisphere.

The competition and skill level will be high, but so will the temperatures. Minnesota's Twin Cities will continue to see warm weather throughout the weekend and although participants won't experience 100-degree days like last week, temperatures will remain in the upper 80's to low 90's.
Keeping players, event staff, referees and fans safe from heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the tournament will be a big concern.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is exposed to high temperatures and the body is depleted of water or salt. Left unchecked, heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs.

According to Bill Roberts, M.D., a University of Minnesota Physician family and community health specialist and Medical School professor, heat stroke occurs when the body produces more heat than it can remove. Becoming overheated, the heart can't pump as well, leading toxins to leak from the gut into the blood stream where the liver doesn't have the capacity to get rid of them.

With this multi-system failure, the brain doesn't think as clearly, so many people may not realize they are suffering from heat stroke until after they collapse. In some extreme cases, heat stroke can be fatal.

There are several ways that USA Cup participants can protect themselves while still enjoying the tournament.

• Stay well-hydrated before, during and after games
• Take extra water breaks
• Get plenty of rest
• Eat regularly
• Know your body's limits
• Keep cool by using cold cloths, misting or regular fans and ice towels
• Find shade when possible

Enjoy the tournament and stay safe!

(Photo credit: Steven Depolo/Flickr)

What has nine lives and makes you live longer?

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We're talking cats here.

People love their pets. Some people love their pets to an almost excessive amount. But when you consider the fact that owning a pet can add years to your life, a cat can quickly seem like a smart investment.

According to a study that followed more than 4,000 cat owners, led by executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Institute at the University of Minnesota, Adnan Qureshi, M.D., the presence of cats results in a significantly lower risk of death by heart attack or stroke.

Cat owners "appeared to have a lower rate of dying from heart attacks" over 10 years of follow-up compared to feline-free folk, Qureshi said in an interview with U.S. News.

The 30 percent reduction in heart attack risk "was a little bit surprising," he added. "We certainly expected an effect, because we thought that there was a biologically plausible mechanism at work. But the magnitude of the effect was hard to predict."

This may not come as a surprise to cat owners who have experienced the unconditional love a feline companion can offer, but, cats, by nature, can alleviate stress and anxiety, which has the potential to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Although this type of companionship can potentially help you live longer, it does have a serious risk of cute overload.

(Photo credit: Pieter Lanser/WikiMedia)

U of M Psychiatry resident selected for prestigious fellowship

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University of Minnesota graduate and current resident in the department of Psychiatry, Patty Dickmann has recently been named as one of the 12 residents selected to participate in an American Psychiatric Association (APA) fellowship.


The role of a Fellow is an honorary and very prestigious position created by the APA Membership Committee to recognize early career members who have demonstrated excellence and allegiance to their profession.

Can dogs have PTSD, too?

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Down dog.blog.align right.jpgPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn't officially recognized in dogs. The idea that an animal could suffer from PTSD first arose about two years ago when military veterinarians began noticing that dogs who had been exposed to gunfire and explosions were exhibiting worrisome behavior, said the New York Times.

The problem of proving canine PTSD's existence lies mainly in the problem of accurately diagnosing whether an animal is suffering from the effects of stress induced by trauma. Dogs, like humans, can exhibit a spectrum of PTSD symptoms ranging from agitation to troubles sleeping that can be difficult to specifically categorize.

To Margaret Duxbury, D.V.M., a specialist in animal behavior and assistant clinical professor in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Minnesota, a dog suffering from PTSD isn't mentally who he was before a traumatic case of abuse, neglect, car accident, tornado or other weather event.

Duxbury, in fact, has a file filled with past cases of dogs she believes have shown signs of PTSD.