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How many packets of sugar do you consume in a day?
Health Officials Unveil Explicit Anti-Sugar
But then the PSA abruptly shifts gears, going into shocker mode. An obese man, presumably the same person later in life after he has gotten diabetes, is seen riding down the street in a motorized wheelchair. Images of blackened, gangrene-infested toes and the man being resuscitated after a heart attack flash across the screen.
The jarring ad ends with the warning: "Don't drink yourself sick" and asks, "Are you pouring on the pounds?"
Is this what it takes to get through to people about the dangers of sugar-laden drinks? The New York City Health Department thinks it is.
"Too many sugar-sweetened drinks are fueling the obesity epidemic," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. "Obesity and the serious health consequences that result are making hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers sick or disabled. This new campaign shows how easy it is to drink a staggering amount of sugar in one day without realizing it."
The Health Department says the graphic ad intentionally tries to frighten people into curbing their consumption of over-sweetened drinks and adopting better eating habits.
Nutritionist Megan Fendt of the Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center said such shock ads can have mixed results.
"Scare tactics are going to work for some people," she told AOL Health. "Other people are going to totally ignore it and shut it off."
Fendt believes the Health Department does have the right idea when it comes to raising awareness about the health hazards of overly sweetened drinks.
"It does make sense to target sugary drinks as a behavior modification and encourage people to have something else instead," she said. "It seems to be one of the easiest changes people can make in terms of the overall calories they're taking in."
But the PSA's depiction of blackened, gangrenous toes as a consequence of diabetes is questionable, since the condition is so rare.
"Those [effects] are not that common. They're usually very end-stage," Fendt said. "Those are generally in people with very, very poor control and not a lot of follow-up. It's not like you get diabetes and you wake up a day later and your toes fall off."
Heart attacks like the ones shown in the ad more frequently befall those with the disease, she said.
More than 700,000 New Yorkers currently have diabetes and more than a million suffer from a condition known as pre-diabetes, according to the Health Department. The blood-sugar illness -- which has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers -- leads to about 1,700 deaths, 2,800 amputations and 22,000 hospitalizations just in New York City alone, the news release said.
It isn't the first time the city's health officials caused a stir
with a public service announcement. Last month, an AIDS ad showing
explicit photos of anal cancer sparked controversy.
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Lucky for you, a lot has changed in eye care over the past 82 years. For one thing, iridectomies have fallen out of favor. But even though lasers have replaced leeches, more than 100,000 people still suffer vision loss or go blind every year. So what gives? "I think we tend to view chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease as more important because they can kill us," says Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Alabama school of medicine. "Nobody dies from cataracts or glaucoma--they're something you die with. Yet, if you talk about maintaining quality of life, these are the types of conditions more people should be more concerned about."
In other words, we each have a big blind spot that could beget a real one if we're not careful. So buy some eye insurance, like the easy-to-implement kind that follows, and no matter how gray you get, you'll always look sharp.
Picture a car windshield that's just begun to fog up. Now imagine trying to peer through that windshield while slightly drunk. (We said imagine.) This is what it's like to look at life through cataracts. Simply put, having a cataract means that the lens of your eye has become clouded. And while slight clouding is part of the normal wear and tear that comes with age, in the case of a cataract, the haze is so severe that your vision becomes blurry and you begin to see double. When the condition's left untreated, the windshield completely fogs up, and you go blind.
Drop and give us 10. Pounds, not pushups. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that men with high waist-to-hip ratios and body-mass indexes (BMI) are at a greater risk of developing cataracts than are slimmer guys. "Being overweight and having high visceral fat may cause cataracts because [the weight problems] lead to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance," says Debra Schaumberg, Sc.D., O.D., the lead study author. Specifically, sky-high blood-sugar levels can strain and damage the delicate mitochondria in your lenses, making them more prone to develop cataracts. So check your waist-to-hip ratio and BMI.
Wear a welder's mask. Or a more stylish sunglass equivalent. Leaving your eyes unguarded allows UV radiation from the sun to damage key crystalline proteins that filter and project light onto the retinas. Eventually, these proteins take such a beating that they turn opaque, forming a cataract. "Wearing eye protection slows the rate of cataract development by 10 years or more," says Elliott H. Myrowitz, O.D., an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Refractive Surgery Center. What's adequate eye protection? Glasses that either block "100 percent of all UV light" or offer "UV absorption up to 400 nanometers." (A pair that blocks "99 percent of all UV light" is okay, but why not spring for the extra 1 percent?) Wear sunglasses without this level of UV screening and you'll do more harm than good, since the tinting will cause your pupils to dilate and allow in more damaging UV radiation.
Sip a cabernet. Red wine and beer both contain flavonoids and polyphenols that offer antioxidant protection from the free radicals that can cause cataracts. In a University of Western Ontario study, researchers served people different amounts of red wine, beer, and stout, then measured their antioxidant blood levels. Their finding: Consuming one drink daily may reduce the risk of cataracts by 50 percent, regardless of the libation. "Even though red wine contains a lot more flavonoids, it didn't produce any more antioxidants in the blood than did the stout or beer," says John Trevithick, Ph.D., the study author. But while you can pick your poison, you shouldn't overdo it; the study showed that having three or more drinks daily was related to an increase of up to 40 percent in the risk of cataracts. When your body metabolizes alcohol, it produces free radicals, which is why drinking too much booze undoes the antioxidant benefit.
Consider it the al-Qaeda of eye diseases--hard to detect and even more difficult to defeat. Glaucoma starts when an eye duct can't properly drain fluid. As the fluid builds, so does the pressure placed on the optic nerve, and that pressure can eventually result in permanent vision loss. What's more, glaucoma first affects the peripheral vision closest to your nose, making it easy for the unaffected eye to compensate--and hiding the blind spot until it's too late.
Look in the mirror. Do you see a guy age 40 or older? An African-American man? Maybe a fellow with a family history of glaucoma? If you find two or more of these risk factors staring back at you, then schedule a glaucoma-focused eye exam with your ophthalmologist. Your doctor can perform various tests to determine whether you're a candidate for prescription eyedrops that reduce fluid buildup. The landmark Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study shows that using these drops daily can reduce the risk of glaucoma by 50 percent. "Nobody in the United States, in this day and age, who is discovered to have glaucoma at a relatively early stage should ever go blind," says James D. Brandt, M.D., a glaucoma specialist and one of the study authors. If you don't have an ophthalmologist, go to aao.org to find one in your area, or see glaucoma.org.
Lose the noose. That double Windsor may be doing a number on your eyes, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. When 20 men wore too-tight neckties, they experienced an average jump in intraocular pressure (IOP) of 2.6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) after just 3 minutes. (Normal IOP is between 10 and 21 mm Hg.)
Snug neckties constrict the jugular vein and elevate blood pressure in the vessels flowing to the eye, increasing IOP, says Robert Ritch, M.D., the study author. "Wearing a tight necktie day in and day out, especially for men with thick necks, raises pressure in the eyes, and this increased pressure could lead to glaucoma. It also could increase the amount of damage being done to the eyes of people who already have glaucoma." If you regularly sport a tie, make it loose enough that you can wedge two fingers in the space between your collar and your neck.
Pick up a 5-pound dumbbell and hold it straight ahead of you . . . for 8 hours. Not a chance, right? That's the strain you're subjecting your eyes to every workday. Locking your focus on a computer screen for an entire day fatigues your eye muscles, resulting in pain, blurred vision, focus problems, and sensitivity to light. It could also result in a stalled career. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's school of optometry recently found that visual discomfort can reduce workplace productivity by up to 28 percent.
Schedule downtime. Starting tomorrow morning, make sure every one of your daily to-do lists includes "Look away" at least eight separate times, once for every hour of your workday. When you avert your gaze, focus on something out the window or across the office (uh, not her), then focus on a close-up object, such as one of your fingernails or your watch. "Your goal is to get in the habit of looking away from your primary focus," says Dr.
Myrowitz. Go to workrave.org for a free download that will remind you to take vision breaks.
Let your eyes play tricks on you. Grab those 3-D glasses you saved from the eyesore that was Jaws 3-D. In a Japanese study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, researchers had people either stare at stereoscopic, a.k.a. 3-D, computer images for a few minutes every hour or simply look away from their computers. They found that the eyes that saw things in 3-D were 22 percent more rested. One explanation: In order to view 3-D images properly, you need to relax your eye muscles to the point where they actually go a bit out of focus, thereby giving them more of a rest than usual. See for yourself by adding eyetricks.com/ 3dstereo.htm to your Favorites list and staring into one of the 3-D images during a scheduled eye break.
Back off. You heard us--move away from the monitor. As the space between your eyes and the computer screen increases, the amount of fatigue on your focusing muscles decreases. Of course, if you're squinting, you've gone too far. "Try to keep the monitor 26 to 28 inches away," says Dr. Myrowitz. And while you're focusing on the monitor, consider picking up an antiglare filter, such as the HF 250 from 3M ($85). It's tinted to heighten the contrast of letters and images and will block 99 percent of glare.
An innocuous acronym for a devastating disease, AMD stands for age-related macular degeneration, a condition in which the macula, the part of your retina responsible for central vision, slowly erodes. The result is a tiny black hole in the middle of your line of sight that gradually widens as the condition progresses. The leading cause of blindness in western society, AMD leaves sufferers with only peripheral or dim vision, limiting their ability to read and drive.
Flip an omelet. Make it a three-egger with spinach and you'll load up on lutein, a pig-ment that's also present in your macula and, at high levels, will help protect against AMD. Researchers at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago recently discovered that people who took daily lutein supplements increased their macular pigment by 36 percent. And those who took lutein and antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc had a 43 percent boost. "The average American takes in approximately 2 milligrams [mg] of lutein from food sources. But our data suggest that we need 6 to 10 mg per day," says Stuart P. Richer, O.D., Ph.D., the lead study author. Unless you eat spinach or kale every day, pick up a lutein supplement, one that contains "purified crystalline lutein" and the antioxidant nutrients listed above.
Bust a nut. Specifically, a walnut. Along with cold-water fish
like salmon and tuna, walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, fats
that may shield your eyes from AMD. A recent Harvard medical-school
study of 261 AMD patients showed that those who ate one or more
servings of nuts a week had a 64 percent reduction in the progression
of the disease. In addition, patients who ate one or more servings of
fish a week slowed the progression of AMD by 40 percent. "We don't
yet know how they work, but these fatty acids are abundant in the
retina," says Johanna Seddon, Ph.D., the study author. Keep some
canned salmon handy to add to a salad or your mac and cheese. Or, for
a quick fatty-acid fix, add crushed English walnuts to your cereal or