IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  September 1, 2009

Paninis have come a long way

The panini sandwich has evolved from the simple Italian 'toast' sandwich, filled with meat, usually prosciutto, and cheese.

Like its predecessors, you'll find today's paninis bear the distinctive toast lines of the Italian sandwich press. Similarly, they are concocted with the rich cheeses and meats.

But fillings and flavorings have chnaged. Local custom and favorites sometimes govern what goes into the panini. In central Italy, for example, the panini boasts succulent roasted pork.

Whether you have a panini press, a sandwich grill or just want to make one in a skillet, here's a recipe for the Hot Sicilian that offers the tastes of Italyenhanced by spices.

Hot Sicilian Paninis

1 loaf Italian bread cut in eight half-inch slices (OK to trim crusts)
1 half pound of deli shaved ham
1 package each of hard salami and sandwich pepperoni
8 slices provolone cheese
1 medium tomato in thin slices
1 medium red onion in thin slices.

Dashes of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil.

Optional: slices of pickled or fresh banana peppers.

Lay the eight slices of bread on toweling. To each bread slice, add one slice of provolone cheese. On four of the half sandwiches add two pieces each of salami, a generous amount of shaved ham, and two pieces of the sandwich pepperoni.

To the other four sandwich halves, add two slices of tomato, two slices of onion and a few pepper rings.

Shake parmesan cheese, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper sparingly to all eight sandwich halves. Combine the halves into four sandwiches.

Preheat your press following the manufacturer’s instructions. Or in a large skillet lightly coated with butter or canola oil, place the sandwiches two at a time. Apply pressure with the sandwich maker or a spatula.

Open the sandwich maker every two minutes, or turn skillet sandwiches every two minutes until they are golden brown.

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Diabetics and heart disease

A five-year study of diabetics with heart disease was led by the Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. It shows that, in 49 medical centers in six countries, those treated with medication had an 88 percent survival rate at five years.

The five-year survival rates for diabetics with heart disease are typically in the range of 22 percent to 28 percent even among patients who were surgically treated with angioplasty or bypass.
The study shows that these patients do very well when treated with medication only.

Glaucoma treatments

Eyedrops are the most common treatment for vision-threatening glaucoma, but for 10 percent of patients they are not enough. For them, lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) with laser treatments is the next step in preserving vision. The benefit may last for about five years.

After that, surgery can create a fluid-drainage channel. Excess fluid is then absorbed by blood vessels around the eye. A more serious option is surgery to implant a permanent drainage tube.


Where's the salt?

A study by the University of California at San Francisco shows that if everyone ate one gram less of salt each day, there would be 200,000 fewer deaths from heart disease in the next decade.

Most salt comes from restaurant food and fast food, but staying home for the evening results in high salt intake in the form of salty snacks. Good low-sodium products include fruits, Quaker Oats, vegetables and some peanut butters. Many salt-free seasonings are available.

Chuckles Corner

iPhone app can help the autistic

It happens that an autistic child or adult can be intelligent but be unable to speak or communicate. The same is true of children and adults with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and even stroke patients who have lost the ability to speak.

Now there's help from an unexpected source. Researchers at Penn State have developed the Proloquo2Go app for the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch.

Co-developer Samuel Sennot says the software can be used in place of devices that cost $8,000 to $10,000. He just loves it that people can get the Apple units at Best Buy. He won't tell how many of the apps have been sold, but says that at $149.99 each, business has been "extremely brisk."

The mother of one seven-year-old autistic child, who never spoke, knows the "2Go" program has changed the family's life.
Quoted in USA Today, she says that with the touch-screen mp3 player strapped to his arm, her son can touch icons that voice basic comments, commands and questions.

He uses the "talker" to communicate with everyone including his service dog, who responds to voice commands from the unit.
The app is not difficult to customize so it can reflect the individual's situation and interests.

At last, it's wonderful for the family to know what their "mini genius" is thinking.


Aspirin for prevention

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated recommendations for the use of aspirin to prevent heart disease and stroke in healthy individuals. Their new study, based on the National Institute of Health's Women Health study, shows a significant reduction in stroke, but no reduction in heart attacks among healthy women taking 100 mg aspirin every other day.

The Task Force now recommends the use of aspirin in healthy women ages 55 to 79 to reduce risk of a first stroke. They recommend aspirin use in men ages 45 to 79 to reduce the risk of a first heart attack.

People who should not take aspirin are those with a history of intracranial bleeding, malformation in the brain's blood vessels, those who have high blood pressure and people who are smokers.

Breakfast makes you stronger all day

It's a fact: If you skip breakfast, you'll pay for it later. Here's why:

  • Breakfast will help you avoid a mid-morning brain-energy slump. Your brain needs glucose from good carbs in order to work well.
  • Regularly skipping breakfast leads to higher bad cholesterol levels, according to studies by the University of Nottingham in England.
  • Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going. You'll eat less during the day and weigh less in the long run.
  • The same English study showed regular breakfast skippers were more resistant to insulin, which increases diabetes risk.

    Emergency breakfasts

    Grab a slice of whole wheat bread and some cheese when you leave home.

    Take a meal replacement drink (like Slim-Fast) along. Drink with a straw.

    Keep some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. Eat an egg and a fruit on the way to work.

    Mix up a bag of cold cereal, almonds and raisins and keep it handy.

    Have some whole-grain crackers (like Triscuits) and a piece of fruit.


    Calcium reduces cancer risk

    A report recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that men who consumed at least 1,500 mg of dietary calcium daily were 26 percent less likely to get colon or other digestive cancers than those who consumed 500 mg or less.
    Women who consumed 1300 mg a day were less likely to get any type of cancer.

    Waters have some benefits

    At about $1.50 a bottle, the new "healthy waters" are expensive and probably don't live up to the hype surrounding them. But the vitamin content may do some good. Though many are sugary, they could be better for you than a bottle of sweet soda with caffeine.

    There are a dozen or more enhanced water products on supermarket shelves. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently filed suit against one maker for exaggerating the benefits of its product.

  • Exercise helps your heart even if you don't lose weight

    Maybe you've been exercising some and pretty regularly, but the bathroom scale hasn't budged and your middle is still about the same size.

    You have probably made an improvement in your cardiovascular health, and that could be even more important than your pants size.

    Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital report that moderate amounts of exercise is associated with as much as a 41 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk. While their study was done entirely on women, men can assume they have a similar benefit.

    In various study subjects, Body Mass Index changes accounted for just 10 percent of the reduction. Blood biomarker improvements accounted for about one-third of the risk reduction, and blood pressure changes were accountable for 27 percent of the improvements. Reduced cholesterol accounts for a 20 percent improvement.

    The benefits of regular moderate exercise outweigh what the scale will tell you. The researchers found that the more study subjects exercised, the greater their cardiovascular health improved.

    The surprise was that cardiovascular risk dropped by 27 percent for those whose activity burned just 200 to 599 calories per week.
    The risk was reduced by 32 percent for those who burned 600 to 1,499 calories per week, and 41 percent for those who worked off 1,500 calories a week.


    Triglycerides: Know your numbers

    Next time your doctor tells you whether your LDL cholesterol is high, ask about your triglycerides.

    Though most people know their LDL and HDL cholesterol numbers, they are unaware that their triglyceride level is important too. Some physicians don't mention it.

    Triglycerides are the body's main energy-storage molecules and are necessary for life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We get them from foods and store them in fat tissue.

    Though triglycerides don't accumulate in the blood as cholesterol does, high levels are associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack for men and particularly for women.

    The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys shows that about one-third of individuals studied had triglyceride levels over the recommended 150 mg/dL. The number for a few participants was in the thousands.

    About 6 percent of people with high levels were taking niacin or fibrates, which could lower triglycerides.

    What you can do

    Lifestyle changes are known to be more effective than medication.

  • Cut calories and lose weight.
  • Limit your consumption of sugar and refined foods.
  • Substitute monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, canola oil and nuts) for saturated fats (such as butter, pastry and fatty meats).
  • Limit or avoid alcohol intake.
  • Get some exercise. Make a point of doing it.

    Some medications prescribed for high triglycerides have side effects. Doctors of cardiology at Duke University say lifestyle changes that result in weight loss are more effective.

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    HRT may lower risk of colorectal cancer

    A study reported at the American Association of Cancer Research's annual meeting in April 2009 suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is associated with a significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer. In 37,285 women aged 55 to 69, the incidence was 28 percent lower in those who took HRT.


    Tattoo your medical alert

    These tattoos save lives when people can't talk. More people who have a serious medical condition, such as diabetes, are turning to wrist tattoos to identify the condition.

    Doctors reporting at the annual meeting of the American Society of Endocrinologists say it's happening, though they aren't promoting the idea.

    The tattoo is normally placed on the wrist or the underside of the wrist.