IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  January 1, 2012

A pecan-crusted tilapia and Mexicorn dinner

When thinking about the cuisine of Mexico, you might visualize a cantina in a dusty desert town or mountain village. But when you look at a map of Mexico, you see coast lines that fall on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

Those who have enjoyed cruises to the country South of the Border know that Mexico has a great love affair with ocean delicacies as well as the spicy cooking associated with other regions of the country.

Seafood dishes often contain Gulf shrimp, crab and scallops and many have a hint of Greece, because many Greek fishermen chose to make their homes in Mexico.

So, this combination of pecan-crusted tilapia and a Mexicorn casserole is not such an unlikely one. The fare is tasty, filling and nutritious.

Baked tilapia

4 large tilapia fillets
1 1/3 cups finely crushed pecans
1 cup honey
1/2 of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste.

Pat the fillets dry with paper toweling. Squeeze lemon juice onto each side of the fish and add salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the fillets on each side with the honey, using a pastry brush or spoon. Put the finely crushed pecans into a shallow dish or pie pan. Then, press the sticky fillets into the pecan bits until they are uniformly covered.

Bake at 350 degrees in a casserole or pie plate until the filets are crusty and brown.

Mexicorn casserole

15 ounce can Mexicorn
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the Mexicorn into a medium-size casserole dish. Add the cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, milk and butter. Stir thoroughly. Place in an oven at 350 degrees and bake until the top layer is medium brown and solid.

A side salad or green vegetable will compliment the combo for a complete meal.

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Don't ditch your multivitamins just yet

A highly-publicized story about University of Minnesota research indicates that if older women took a multivitamin every day, their risk of dying increased by about 2 percent over the next 19 years. It increased by 3 percent if they took iron supplements.

The only supplement that was found to increase life was calcium. In addition to multivitamins, they say vitamin B6, folic acid, zinc, and copper were associated with a higher death risk.

The 38,772 study subjects from the Iowa Women's Health Study were between the ages of 55 and 69 at the start of the study and were between 74 and 88 at the end. The conclusions were drawn by studying questionnaires that were filled out in 1986, 1997 and 2004. By 2004, about 85 percent of the subjects were taking multivitamins.

Study authors say their main message is that there is very little benefit from taking multivitamins. While other studies haven't shown the same mortality risk, whether or not you take vitamins, they haven't shown any positive effect either.

Nutritionists at Montefiore Medical Center in New York say people should not stop taking multivitamins at this point. Very few people eat the required amount of fruits and vegetables a day. It's best to get your daily requirement from food, but few people do.

About half of adults in the U.S. take multivitamins. Doctors, researchers and nutrition experts say much more study is needed before they can make recommendations.

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Chuckles Corner

UC Berkeley on tuna

A 3-ounce serving of tuna is an excellent choice at lunchtime. Eating it is a good way to get omega-3 fats, the hard-to-find trace mineral selenium, vitamins D, B and other nutrients.

A serving has between 90 and 180 calories, depending on whether it's packed in water or oil, says the University of California, Berkeley.

Water-packed tuna retains more omega-3s. With the harder-to-find oil-packed, some are lost when the oil is drained. Only salmon has more omega-3s than tuna.

The salt content of a 3-ounce serving can be 300 to 500 milligrams, but it can be reduced by rinsing it. Some varieties are called low sodium or very low sodium, which has no added salt.

All fish contain traces of mercury, but larger fish, such as white albacore, have a little more, though levels vary widely. The FDA recommends that pregnant and nursing women should eat no more than 6 ounces of white tuna per week. A recent Harvard study shows that higher traces of mercury do not increase heart disease risk.

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Lie-on-your-stomach stretch reduces lower back pain

You may never have heard of your psoas muscle. It starts in the front of the lower spine and attaches to the inside of the hip. It helps stabilize the spine, but too much sitting can make it tight, possibly leading to pain in the lower back or affecting how you walk. It can also radiate pain through the front of the hip.

Here's an easy psoas stretcher, according to Weill Cornell Sports Rehabilitation Center: lie flat on your stomach for a time and stretch. Or, stand and hold onto a chair, then bend slightly backward at the waist. Tuck your buttocks under and feel a gentle pull through the front of the hip/groin area. Hold for 20 seconds.

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Painkiller deaths rise dramatically

The number of annual deaths from painkillers now surpasses those from heroin and cocaine combined. The drug toll is more than deaths caused by motorcycle crashes in some states, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

They say prescription-drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem. In 2010, 12 million Americans aged 12 or older reported non-medical use of painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin that are often sold by "pill mills," storefront operations that dispense them without medial examinations. Some drug abusers get multiple prescriptions by going from one doctor to another.

Drug monitoring programs are part of the answer. Most states have approved drug-monitoring programs, but the programs aren't operating yet.

New device helps doctors diagnose skin cancer

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the skin-cancer diagnosis tool, MelaFind. The device helps identify melanoma in a systematic way. A special camera captures an image of a lesion, and a computer then analyzes it using an algorithm developed by the maker, Mela Sciences. It has proven to be 98.3 percent effective in identifying melanoma.

The device looks like a desktop computer and is on a rolling rack. The camera is held against the lesion, which can then be examined at various depths.

Dermatologists say that, right now, lesions are difficult to diagnose and the uncertainty can lead to unnecessary biopsies. There is also the possibility of "false negatives" when the biopsy fails to find cancer that is actually present.

The MelaFind should prevent both problems. Mela Sciences hopes to have the device available by midyear. Patients would pay about $50 plus the doctor's fee for the test.

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Adults: Is it a cold hanging on, or is it a touch of asthma?

Your doctor could have an unexpected diagnosis for that pesky cough or bronchitis that won't go away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say one in 12 adults are now diagnosed with asthma. Symptoms can develop at any age.

Diagnosis is important, because you can then get the right treatment. Inhaled corticosteroids are the most common anti-inflammatory medications.

Sometimes a quick-relief inhaler is prescribed for asthma attacks.

Avoid triggers, which commonly include allergens such as pet dander, dust mites and mold (wash your sheets in hot water every week). Tobacco smoke can be a trigger as well.

Your doctor will develop an action plan designed to help you know whether your treatment is working or has to be changed.

Get out of the easy chair

Experts have long known that physical activity decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. New research by the American Institute for Cancer Research indicates that long periods of sitting may be responsible for 90,000 new cancer cases each year in the United States.

Their study indicates that about 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer could have been avoided if people got up and walked around occasionally.

Ideally, brisk 30-minute walks would lower these risks over time. But even among individuals who were regularly active, the risk of dying prematurely was higher among those who spent a great deal of time sitting.

People should avoid prolonged sitting without moving. They need to get out of the easy chair and take breaks.

A cellphone in the car

Using a cellphone inside a metal vehicle increases its radiation due to reflection. And your cellphone signal has to be stronger in order to exit the vehicle, according to electromagnetic field expert Magda Havas.

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The CDC uses zombies to teach disaster preparedness

In May, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted its controversial Zombie Preparedness blog. It was a tremendous success.

In response to its popularity, the health and response team has produced an appropriately gruesome online graphic novel that tells the story of a couple struggling to survive a zombie pandemic.

It has already been a hit at ComicCon, a gathering of fans and creators of comic books, graphic novels, and games. Printed copies went like hot cakes.

Earlier, specialists at CDC were writing their annual preparedness blog urging Americans to get ready for disasters by putting together supplies such as water, food, flashlights, extra medications, and first aid materials.

The blog seemed dull, and they feared it would not be read by many people. Then they discovered that Zombies were a hot topic. So they wrote and posted a "Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" blog, a fake discussion on how to prepare for a zombie attack and what to do if one occurred. It led readers through steps necessary to create an emergency kit for their families. After that, they turned it into a graphic novel.

They tweeted about it and wrote it up on Facebook, and the page got more than 3 million worldwide viewers and 500 comments.

The graphic novel is now entertainment for a worthy cause.

To see it, search for "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" and click on the pdf symbol. http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htm.

After you watch it, start your own emergency supply stash.

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January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

You may have heard glaucoma called "the sneak thief of sight." That's because it has no symptoms until it has progressed beyond the point where it can be successfully treated. It is the second leading cause of preventable blindness in the world.

More than 4 million Americans have glaucoma and 120,000 are already blind because of it. Worldwide, nearly 70 million people have the condition. The best way to protect yourself is to have an eye examination. Today, most optometrists test for it. If they find any indication, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately. Treatment can be effective in the early stages.

Though the most common forms affect middle-aged and older people, glaucoma can affect all age groups. Insist that your children be tested when they are being fitted for eyeglasses.

Those at higher risk include people over 60, people of African, Asian and Hispanic descent, and those who have family members who have glaucoma. Also at higher risk are diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted.

In the most common form of glaucoma, vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision. Be on the lookout for that first noticeable symptom and get treatment immediately.

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Say cheese after dinner

Eating a piece of cheese after dinner is healthier for your mouth than eating a sweet dessert, says the American Society for Dental Aesthetics.

Cheese neutralizes oral acids and helps remove bacteria. It also contains calcium and phosphorus that remineralize tooth enamel.

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Protect your hearing for a lifetime, no matter what your age

Whether a person is 10 years old, 40, 60 or older, it's not too soon, or too late, to protect hearing, one of the vital five senses.

These are some easy ways to do it:

  • Get some quiet, if only for a short time, and give your ears a rest. Whether you're working with loud equipment, listening to music or watching TV, turn off the noise and have a few minutes of quiet time.
  • Check your headset. High volume can cause permanent hearing damage. Turn it down if you can't hear people speaking to you. Never turn volume up to block out noisy surroundings. Seriously limit high-volume listening.
  • Move back from the stage. At a concert, music club or karaoke bar, take a seat that is a safe distance away from amplifiers and speakers.
  • Spend less time in loud environments. Whether it's a construction zone, a party with loud music, or a stock car race track, the longer you stay, the harder it is on your hearing. Any time you have to shout to be heard, it's too loud. Avoid loud music in the car.
  • Wear hearing protection. When you know an event will be loud, wear foam, silicone or premolded earplugs. They are all effective because they must have a noise reduction minimum of 9 decibels. Wear them while using the garden tractor, chain saw, air compressor or any loud equipment.
  • High fidelity protections reduce all frequencies equally. Though there are several brands available, Hearos High Fidelity Long Term Use lets you hear all the highs and lows in an entire jam session while your ears receive up to 20 decibels of noise protection, and they are comfortable to wear. Users say the music is more enjoyable.

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