IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  January 1, 2011

A delicious soup for cold days, anytime

Shrimp is the most popular shellfish in the United States. Luckily, it is available year-round. It is a popular ingredient in appetizers, salads, chowders and as a main dish.

The word shrimp comes from the Middle English shrimpe, or"pygmy" or a reference to the crustacean.

Since the 7th century, shrimp and other seafood composed the majority of the Chinese diet, and it remains popular there today.
Harvesting of shrimp in the United States dates back to the 17th century, when Louisiana bayou inhabitants used seines to bring up the delicacy.

Today, the United States harvests over 650 million pounds a year, more than any other country. The Gulf of Mexico offers some of the finest varieties of the small shelled creature with shrimp fleets occupying harbors all along the West Coast of Florida, across southern Alabama and Mississippi and into the bayous of Louisiana near New Orleans.

Shrimp bisque

20 medium-size shrimp cut into small pieces
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 4-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 dashes nutmeg
Black pepper to taste.

Saute shrimp in butter on low heat. Add milk, corn starch and spices. Do not boil. With a wooden spoon, stir in tomato paste until smooth. Add sour cream and again stir until smooth. Serves eight. Serve hot with soda crackers and sandwich for lunch.

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Big grocers plan urban locations

Walmart and others want to bring groceries to inner city people. Experts say that in these neighborhoods, there is little competition in the sale of healthy foods.

Other types of retailers are recognizing the opportunities in urban areas. CVS Caremark, for example, will remodel its 300 stores in Boston so they can carry fruit, salads, sandwiches and prepared meals. Eventually, one-fifth of its 7,000 stores could be reconfigured.

The U.S. government is offering $400 million a year in loans and tax incentives to lure stores offering better quality food in under served areas by 2017


Cellphone volume too high?

New evidence suggests that cellphones are jeopardizing our hearing. Mobile phone users tested over a year's time showed some damage to the cochlea, the organ deep within the ear that turns sound waves into nerve impulses sent to the brain.

It's not clear whether the damage increases over time, but researchers are suggesting the mobile phone users turn down the volume, especially when they walk and talk at the same time.


Chuckles Corner

Low-tech tests help doctors diagnose

Low-tech tests help doctors diagnose complex diseases, predict risks.

Sometimes common objects can be used by doctors to give preliminary information about a variety of conditions. They cost almost nothing, while CT scans and MRIs are expensive.

  • The tape measure: A waist size over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women indicates a higher risk for diabetes.It is also helpful as a test for sleep apnea, cholesterol, and blood pressure to quickly screen a patient's risks.
  • The bathroom scale: A weight gain of just few pounds is a signal that heart-failure patients are retaining fluid and at risk for hospital admission.
  • Doctors and nurses ask heart-failure patients to weigh themselves every day.
  • The paper clip: A bent paper clip can be used instead of calipers to assess nerve impairment in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. A patient should be able to feel both ends of the paper clip when they are pressed into a finger. It is less expensive than using calipers for the two-point discrimination test.
  • A handshake: At no cost, a firm handshake can help assure that a patient is healthy enough to make it through heart surgery. A weak grip can warn of possible complications. Surgeons also judge frailty by how easy it is for a patient to get out of a chair or get up on a table for an exam.
  • A stop watch: Testing how long it takes an elderly heart-surgery candidate to walk 15 feet helps predict surgical risk.The gait speed test is a validated measure of frailty in elderly people and a predictor of physical and cognitive health. It should take no longer than six seconds to cross the finish line.


    New test can identify mild concussions

    The Army has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage or concussion. The blood test looks for unique proteins that spill into the blood stream from damaged brain cells.

    Doctors can miss these injuries because the damage does not show up on imaging scans, and symptoms, such as headaches or dizziness are ignored or downplayed by the victims.

    If the brain is not allowed time to recover and a second concussion occurs, permanent brain damage may result. Brain injuries affect 1.4 million Americans each year, according to the National Brain Injury Association. If the army receives FDA approval for the test, it will be a milestone in brain injury care.

    Potassium for lower blood pressure

    Increasing potassium intake could reduce the number of people diagnosed with high blood pressure by more than 10 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

    Researchers found that where high levels of potassium-heavy fruits and vegetables are consumed, high blood pressure affects only 1 percent of the population. At the same time, these people reduced their incidence of heart disease and stroke.

    In societies where people eat large quantities of processed foods and fewer fruits and vegetables, hypertension affects 33 percent of the population.

    Good sources of potassium include bananas, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, peas, beans and potatoes.

    For exercise, climb the stairs

    Exercise physiologists at Missouri State University say climbing a few flights of stairs can provide needed cardiovascular exercise and relieve stress.

    For those who have the opportunity to climb stairs three or four days a week, it's a great fitness habit.


    Fruit, vegetable consumption

    Americans still aren't eating enough vegetables and fruits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Their Healthy People 2010 targets call for 75 percent of Americans to eat at least two daily fruit servings and 50 percent to eat three or more vegetables per day. But only a third of Americans are eating enough fruit, and about half are eating three vegetables a day.

    A 2009 CDC study shows orange juice to be the most popular fruit item, and potatoes are the most popular vegetable, but many of those potatoes are eaten as french fries.


  • Chronic asthma: New non-drug treatment

    About 22 million Americans suffer from asthma, an inflammation of the airways in the lungs that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

    Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic say chronic asthma often causes thickening and twitching of the smooth muscle lining the airways. Irritants can cause the airways to almost close down.

    A new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty uses radiofrequency waves to shrink the muscle, a new approach to treating asthma symptoms. It's a very promising technology for those who have been taking all available medications and whose symptoms are still not completely controlled.

    In the procedure, a bronchoscope with a thermoplasty device inside is inserted into the patient's mouth or nose as far as possible down each airway.

    Electrodes on the tip are then heated with radiofrequency energy, shrinking the muscle and creating a larger opening in the airway. The effect appears to be permanent, though patients have only been followed for four years.

    National Jewish Health in Denver, which specializes in respiratory diseases, is one of about 30 medical centers in the United States currently offering bronchial thermoplasty.

    Unfortunately, because the operation is so new, most insurers don't cover it yet. The total cost ranges from $12,000 to $18,000. Patients must be at least 18 years old.

    Because there are no nerves inside the airways, the treatment is not painful. Patients can go home a few hours after the procedure.

    The throat can be a little sore from putting the tube down, and there is a lot of mucous to cough up, which is why the procedure is divided into three treatments.

    Those treated with the device had a 32 percent reduction in asthma attacks, an 84 percent reduction in emergency room visits, and a 66 percent reduction in lost work days or school days due to asthma.


    Protect yourself from drug-resistant infections

    Drug-resistant staph infections (including MRSA) are declining in hospitals, but MRSA and other infectious agents are still out there.

    The trick is to keep them from spreading to others and to protect yourself from people and objects that might carry infection.
    A staph infection can show up as an abscess, boil or furuncle (a boil that involves a hair follicle and nearby skin). It may be red, swollen and painful.

    If the infection moves into the bloodstream, doctors at Duke Medicine say it can cause low blood pressure, chills or fever.
    Basic hygiene is still the most important part of protection.

  • Wash hands frequently. Do it before eating, before and after using the bathroom, after contact with animals, after social outings and shopping, and when returning home from work.
  • Because excessive antibiotic use can give an advantage to drug-resistant bacteria, take antibiotics only when necessary. When prescribed, take the correct and whole dose and finish the entire prescription.
  • Don't share personal items, such as towels, clothing, combs or razors.
  • Cover any wound with a dry, sterile bandage.
  • Avoid contact with other people's bandages or wounds.
  • If you have a sore or break in the skin, wash and dry clothes, towels and bed linens on the high-heat settings.


    Personalities, heart disease

    Type-A personalities and Type-Ds may be almost the opposites of each other, but they carry similar heart risks.

    Type-A people are very competitive, impatient, sometimes hostile, and often are perfectionists. They focus on external rewards such as power and status. They are more likely than the laid-back Type- Bs to have heart problems.

    Now comes the Type-D personality (D stands for depressed). They have a negative outlook on life, are stressed, and tend to hide their true feelings. Studies at Harvard and elsewhere show that Type-Ds are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than other types.

    If you recognize yourself, even partially, in either of these categories, an attempt to move away from the super-competitive category, or negative and depressed area, could have big health benefits.