IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  August 1, 2009

Chinese cook shrimp with fruits and nuts

During the Han Dynasty of China (206 to 220 BC), the slave Ah Yi won the trust and admiration of his emperor with his cooking skills. Ah Yi rose to the position of prime minister.

Members of China’s aristocracy promoted cooking and entertained with lavish banquets. During this era, dishes flavored with fruits and nuts were known as "imperial food."

The best cooks used fruits and nuts to perk up their fowl, beef, and seafood.

Chinese dynasties left their telltale marks on many of the dishes the world knows today such as Mandarin and Szechwan flavors.

Modern Chinese also create a numbers of elegant foods that can be prepared in one kitchen at the same time. Chinese know how to keep vegetables at just the right crispness.

This recipe combines the fruit flavor of pineapple and the texture of nuts with fresh vegetables and plump prawns.

Quick Pineapple Cashew Shrimp

1 large bag frozen jumbo shrimp
1 cup fresh cauliflower pieces
1 cup fresh baby carrots
2 cups pineapple
1 half-cup of cashews
2 cups fresh snow peas
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 half-stick of butter
Salt and pepper.

Combine the oil and butter in a wok or deep skillet. Add the cauliflower, carrots, salt and pepper and cook on high for 15 minutes or until vegetables are semi-soft.

Add the shrimp, snow peas, cashews and pineapple. Cook another ten minutes, tossing with two wooden or nylon spoons.

Serve over a bed of cooked long-grain rice as a single-plate meal or with breads. Serves four.

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Vitamin K for your bones

The bone mineral test density (BMD) indicates the hardness of bone developed by the minerals calcium and magnesium. But now researchers have found that flexibility is what helps bones resist fracture. They should be able to bend a little and not break.
Vitamin K-2, say Australian researchers, is what helps the bone develop that slight flexibility. Vitamin K-2 is formed in the body from vitamin K, which is found in vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and brussels sprouts.

Doctors at Harvard Medical School analyzed 10 years of health data and found that those with the highest intake of vitamin K had a 30 percent lower risk for hip fracture, compared with those who had the lowest intake.

Some doctors say a vitamin K supplement would work better to prevent fractures than an osteoporosis drug.

'Polypill' in the future

A once-a-day pill developed at McMaster University in Ontario is being tested. Researchers say it could be inexpensive and widely used to reduce heart attack risk by 61 percent and stroke risk by 48 percent. The pill combines certain amounts of aspirin, blood pressure drugs and cholesterol drugs.

Chuckles Corner

Saving health-care time, dollars at store clinics

Need a flu shot, a cure for swimmer's ear or treatment for your kid's sore throat? Next time you stop by the supermarket or the drug store, look for one of the new in-store clinics. Usually, you'll get fast service and may pay less than you would at your doctor's office. Most are open evenings and weekends.

One clinic, reports The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, waives the cost for people who can prove they are unemployed and uninsured. All clinics bill your health insurance company.

There are about 1,100 of them across the U.S. Many are located at CVS and Walgreens. Supermarkets such as Kroger and Cub Foods have them, as well as chains like Wal-Mart and Target, according to Smart Money magazine.

They are staffed by a nurse-practitioner, sometimes with an assistant who hands out insurance forms and puts you in line for service if others are waiting. Antibiotics are not prescribed unless a patient meets a list of preconditions.

Walgreens received the best rating in the Smart Money survey. It has 342 clinics in 29 states, charges $59 for a basic visit, $74 for strep throat, and $25 for a flu shot. They work with 46 insurance carriers. Doctors monitor some diagnoses, and treatment includes a follow-up call by the nurse. Lines are sometimes long.

CVS has 50 clinics in 25 states and works with 98 insurance carriers. They are accredited by the same commission that certifies hospitals. They charge $62 for a basic visit, $77 for strep throat, and $30 for a flu shot. After treatment, patients can dial an 800 number for more information.

Some supermarkets have The Little Clinic. There are 96 in nine states. They charge $59 for a basic visit, $69 for strep and $15 for a flu shot.


Sunscreen or vitamin D sunshine

Accolades for vitamin D keep pouring in. Luckily, it's summer now, the perfect time to build up your D levels by getting out in the sunshine.

That doesn't mean ignoring advice about using sunscreen when you will be outside for longer than 15 or 20 minutes during the day.

If you are fair-skinned and wearing shorts or a tank top, getting 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure is enough. If your skin is darker than fair, you can stay in the sun a little longer.

After that, slather on the sunscreen and put on your hat.

Get your sunshine at least twice a week. More often is better, say doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The important factor in sunshine is its ultraviolet B. When UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to make vitamin D.

Short exposure times will not increase your risk of getting skin cancer, but they will help to prevent many other diseases. Large studies at Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere show that death from all causes is higher in people who have low levels of vitamin D. Deaths from heart disease lead the list, but low vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk for cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, kidney and ovaries, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

The role of vitamin D in bone health has been proven for some time, making the vitamin an important factor in preventing osteoporosis.

In summer, get your D from the sun. During winter, the best source is a supplement. The government set minimums are 200 IU for people to age 50, 400 IU per day for those age 51 to 70 and 600 IU for those over 70

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Avoid medicine mistakes

  • Sort medicines into a weekly container. If you are taking your night pill and your morning pill is still there, you'll know you forgot to take it. In some cases, you can take them both at the same time. Ask your doctor if it's OK.
  • Know what each prescription medication is and what it should do. Be able to identify it by its size, shape and color.
  • Store medicines in a place that is not hot (like on a shelf over the stove), not too cold, or not too moist, as in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Store them out of the reach of children, of course.

    Some teens today steal their parents' and grandparents' medications. Keep yours in a place that is not too convenient or in a basket you can take to another room when they visit.

  • Don't share medicines. Only a doctor knows if what is prescribed for you will help or harm someone else.
  • Always check directions on a medicine container before you take it so you won't be putting drops for your ears into your eyes, for example, advises the Food and Drug Administration.


  • Getting to the core of strength

    Your core is the area of your trunk that includes muscles in your abdomen, back, hips and pelvis. The trunk houses your muscular center of gravity and balance, and it supports your spine.

    When you have good core stability, these muscles work in harmony. They make it easier to do most physical activities, from swinging a golf club to bending down to tie your shoes.

    A weak core makes you more apt to have poor posture and low back pain.

    You can develop core strength with floor exercises, including any that use the trunk of your body without additional support. Think squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches, say doctors at the Mayo Clinic, but there are other floor exercises, including:

    The bridge. Lie on your back with knees bent and back relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three deep breaths then do it again.

    Segmental rotation. Lie on your back as above. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep your shoulders on the floor and let your knees fall slowly to the left until you feel a stretch but not pain. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position and repeat the exercise to the right.

    Quadruped. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders. Align your head and neck with your back. Tighten abdominal muscles, raise your right arm off the floor and reach ahead. Hold for three deep breaths. Lower your arm and repeat with the left. Next, extend your right leg, hold and repeat with your left leg.


    Teens get screened for depression

    Recommendations by the Preventive Services Task Force have prompted most doctors to do routine depression screenings on teenagers. Depression in teens has been linked to suicide, substance abuse and other problems.

    Don't be surprised if a doctor asks your kids ages 12 to 18 to fill out a questionnaire or a computer form. The screening discovers continuing sadness, irritability and loss of pleasure in life. The information is private and parents don't see it.

    The screening should be scored immediately by the doctor. If any red flags turn up, as they do 10 percent of the time, the doctor speaks with the teen to find out more and to assess any immediate danger. The doctor then discusses the test with parents. Teens are usually relieved to have someone else tell parents how they feel.

    For those deemed to be at risk, conversations with a clinical social worker or psychologist are very helpful, along with a follow-up with their family doctor.

    Two types of sleep apnea

    The most common type of this complaint is obstructive sleep apnea, usually experienced by people who snore. Because their breathing passages are temporarily blocked, they don't breathe for several seconds or more.

    The less common type is central sleep apnea. It occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to the muscles that control breathing, say doctors at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorder Center. One cause, for example, could be a combination of low blood pressure and low thyroid activity.


    What you can do about your snoring

    Snoring can be a temporary problem brought on by a cold, allergy or sinus infection.

    More often, it's an every-night occurrence caused by a vibration of the relaxed muscles and tissues in the throat. Symptoms are worse if you are overweight, or still have your tonsils.

    Doctors at the Snoring and Apnea Center of California, Los Angeles, say snorers should sleep on their sides, not on their backs. It helps to cut back on relaxants like alcohol and some medications before bed.

    Nasal strips are popular, but they are recommended only for people whose snoring is due to sinus blockage. Some over-the-counter sprays help, but only if you don't drink anything afterward. Mouth guards that are custom made by a dentist are expensive but help by moving the jaw forward. They allow more room in the throat.

    Two-thirds of snorers develop obstructive sleep apnea. Between snores, breathing passages get blocked and let no air in for 10 seconds or more. This can cause high blood pressure, fatigue and decreased productivity. It could also cause a heart attack or death.

    Dramatic improvements are seen with the use of nighttime breathing masks, which gently force air past the obstruction.

    The "pillar procedure" is a new, minimally invasive and permanent fix. Three tiny fixed rods are inserted into the soft palate. This stops the soft palate from vibrating, the cause of snoring. It takes about 15 minutes and is painless, but the $1,500 to $3,000 cost is usually not covered by insurance.