In Pictures: How Some Businesses Are Enforcing Social Distancing

Languedoc Beef Stew with Red Wine, Herbs, and Olives

Ingredients

2-1/4 lb thickly sliced braising or stewing beef
2 tablespoons flour
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1-1/4 cups Faugeres or other full-bodied fruity red wine
1/2 cup homemade or organic beef broth
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 thin strip of unwaxed orange zest
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup black olives
3 heaped tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slow-roasted Carrots

1 lb carrots
a pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. Trim any excess fat from the beef, then cut the meat into large cubes. Put the flour in a shallow dish and season it with salt and pepper. Dip the cubes of beef in the flour to coat.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, add the beef, and saute on all sides until the meat is browned — you will need to do this in batches, adding extra oil as you go. Transfer the beef to a cast-iron casserole.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet, add the onion, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened but not browned.
  4. Add the garlic and tomato puree and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add 1 cup of the wine, the broth, herbes de Provence, orange zest, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then pour the sauce into the casserole.
  6. Heat the casserole over medium heat and bring the sauce back to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer very gently for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until the meat is completely tender. Check the contents of the casserole occasionally to ensure there is enough liquid (add a little extra broth or water if it’s dry).
  7. About two-thirds of the way through the cooking time, prepare the slow-roasted carrots. Cut the carrots into long, thick diagonal slices. Put the carrots, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large, shallow ovenproof dish, pour the oil over, and toss well. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 45 to 60 minutes until the carrots are soft and their edges are caramelized.
  8. About 30 minutes before the stew should be ready, stir in the olives. Just before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the parsley and the remaining wine, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with the slow-roasted carrots.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Cooking with Wine

New Mobile Health Tool Measures Hemoglobin Without Drawing Blood

Researchers have developed a way to use smartphone images of a person’s eyelids to assess blood hemoglobin levels. The ability to perform one of the most common clinical lab tests without a blood draw could help reduce the need for in-person clinic visits, make it easier to monitor patients who are in critical condition, and improve care in low- and middle-income countries where access to testing laboratories is limited.

“Our new mobile health approach paves the way for bedside or remote testing of blood hemoglobin levels for detecting anemia, acute kidney injury and hemorrhages, or for assessing blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia.” said research team leader Young Kim from Purdue University. “The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased awareness of the need for expanded mobile health and telemedicine services.”

Kim and colleagues from the University of Indianapolis, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the US and Moi University School of Medicine in Kenya report the new approach in Optica, The Optical Society’s journal for high impact research.

The researchers used software to transform the built-in camera of a smartphone into a hyperspectral imager that reliably measures hemoglobin levels (a measure of the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood) without the need for any hardware modifications or accessories. A pilot clinical test with volunteers at the Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital showed that prediction errors for the smartphone technique were within 5 to 10 percent of those measured with clinical laboratory blood.

Kim’s lab focuses on developing healthcare technologies that are first designed and tested in the resource-limited settings of low- and middle-income countries. These innovations are then applied to important health challenges in developed countries such as the US.

“This new technology could be very useful for detecting anemia, which is characterized by low levels of blood hemoglobin,” said Kim. “This is a major public health problem in developing countries, but can also be caused by cancer and cancer treatments.”

Spectral information from a smartphone

Spectroscopic analysis is commonly used to measure blood hemoglobin content because it has a distinct light absorption spectrum, or fingerprint, in the visible wavelength range. However, this type of analysis typically requires bulky and costly optical components.

The researchers created a mobile health version of this analysis by using an approach known as spectral super-resolution spectroscopy. This technique uses software to virtually convert photos acquired with low-resolution systems such as a smartphone camera into high-resolution digital spectral signals.

The researchers selected the inner eyelid as a sensing site because microvasculature is easily visible there; it is easy to access and has relatively uniform redness. The inner eyelid is also not affected by skin color, which eliminates the need for any personal calibrations.

To perform a blood hemoglobin measurement with the new technique, the patient pulls down the inner eyelid to expose the small blood vessels underneath. A healthcare professional or trained person then uses the smartphone app developed by the researchers to take pictures of the eyelids. A spectral super-resolution algorithm is applied to extract the detailed spectral information from the camera’s images and then another computational algorithm quantifies the blood hemoglobin content by detecting its unique spectral features.

The mobile app includes several features designed to stabilize smartphone image quality and synchronize the smartphone flashlight to obtain consistent images. It also provides eyelid-shaped guidelines on the screen to ensure that users maintain a consistent distance between the smartphone camera and the patient’s eyelid. Although the spectral information is currently extracted using an algorithm on a separate computer, the researchers expect that the algorithm could be incorporated into the mobile app.

Clinical testing

The researchers tested the new technique with 153 volunteers who were referred for conventional blood tests at the Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital. They used data from a randomly selected group of 138 patients to train the algorithm, then tested the mobile health app with the remaining 15 volunteers. The results showed that the mobile health test could provide measurements comparable to traditional blood tests over a wide range of blood hemoglobin values.

In a separate clinical study, the mobile app is being used to assess oncology patients at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. The researchers are also working with the University of Rwanda to conduct further studies and are planning to partner with the Shrimad Rajchandra Hospital in India to use the mobile health tool to assess nutritional status, anemia, and sickle cell disease in their patients.

“Our work shows that data-driven and data-centric light-based research can provide new ways to minimize hardware complexity and facilitate mobile health,” says Kim. “Combining the built-in sensors available in today’s smartphones with data-centric approaches can quicken the tempo of innovation and research translation in this area.”

Source: The Optical Society

Adding a Blend of Spices to a Meal May Help Lower Inflammation

Katie Bohn wrote . . . . . . . . .

Adding an array of spices to your meal is a surefire way to make it more tasty, but new Penn State research suggests it may increase its health benefits, as well.

In a randomized, controlled feeding study, the researchers found that when participants ate a meal high in fat and carbohydrates with six grams of a spice blend added, the participants had lower inflammation markers compared to when they ate a meal with less or no spices.

“If spices are palatable to you, they might be a way to make a high-fat or high-carb meal more healthful,” said Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences. “We can’t say from this study if it was one spice in particular, but this specific blend seemed to be beneficial.”

The researchers used a blend of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric for the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Nutrition.

According to Rogers, previous research has linked a variety of different spices, like ginger and tumeric, with anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, chronic inflammation has previously been associated with poor health outcomes like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and overweight and obesity, which affects approximately 72 percent of the U.S. population.

In more recent years, researchers have found that inflammation can spike after a person eats a meal high in fat or sugar. While it is not clear whether these short bursts — called acute inflammation — can cause chronic inflammation, Rogers said it’s suspected they play a factor, especially in people with overweight or obesity.

“Ultimately the gold standard would be to get people eating more healthfully and to lose weight and exercise, but those behavioral changes are difficult and take time,” Rogers said. “So in the interim, we wanted to explore whether a combination of spices that people are already familiar with and could fit in a single meal could have a positive effect.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 12 men between the ages of 40 and 65, with overweight or obesity, and at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Rogers said the sample was chosen because people in these demographics tend to be at a higher risk for developing poorer health outcomes.

In random order, each participant ate three versions of a meal high in saturated fat and carbohydrates on three separate days: one with no spices, one with two grams of the spice blend, and one with six grams of the spice blend. The researchers drew blood samples before and then after each meal hourly for four hours to measure inflammatory markers.

“Additionally, we cultured the white blood cells and stimulated them to get the cells to respond to an inflammatory stimulus, similar to what would happen while your body is fighting an infection,” Rogers said. “We think that’s important because it’s representative of what would happen in the body. Cells would encounter a pathogen and produce inflammatory cytokines.”

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that inflammatory cytokines were reduced following the meal containing six grams of spices compared to the meal containing two grams of spices or no spices. Rogers said six grams roughly translates to between one teaspoon to one tablespoon, depending on how the spices are dehydrated.

While the researchers can’t be sure which spice or spices are contributing to the effect, or the precise mechanism in which the effect is created, Rogers said the results suggest that the spices have anti-inflammatory properties that help offset inflammation caused by the high-carb and high-fat meal.

Additionally, Rogers said that a second study using the same subjects, conducted by Penn State researchers Penny Kris-Etherton and Kristina Petersen, found that six grams of spices resulted in a smaller post-meal reduction of “flow mediated dilation” in the blood vessels — a measure of blood vessel flexibility and marker of blood vessel health.

Source: The Pennsylvania State University

How to Accurately Measure Blood Pressure at Home

High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for heart attack and stroke. It’s also common among people who develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.

So, with more people at home practicing social distancing and with fewer chances to check blood pressure at public pharmacy machines or doctor visits, it’s more important than ever to know how to do it at home.

How do I select a home blood pressure monitor?

“The readings you get at home are really important, because they reflect the pressure your heart is facing on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Michael Hochman, a doctor of internal medicine at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.

A list of validated home monitors, the first in the United States and commissioned to meet the American Medical Association’s criteria, is available at validateBP.org. The Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society and the European Society of Hypertension also certify devices.

The device should measure blood pressure on the upper arm, which produce a more reliable result than those that measure from the wrist.

Many devices are automated. Simply put on the cuff and press a button. The results are displayed digitally.

Some will store readings, calculate an average blood pressure over time, or even transmit them to your doctor.

“When blood pressure monitors cannot transmit readings to a patient’s doctor, the next best thing is to have a device that stores the blood pressure readings,” said Paul Muntner, professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Your health care provider should check the device about once a year to ensure its accuracy.

How do I get the most accurate measurement?

Do not smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise within 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure. It’s important to use a cuff that fits your arm. Cuffs that are too small can artificially raise your blood pressure reading.

With the cuff on your bare arm, sit in an upright position with back supported, feet flat on the floor and your arm supported at heart level. Make sure the bottom of the cuff is directly above the bend of the elbow. Relax for about five minutes before taking a measurement. Resist the urge to talk or look at a cellphone.

Also, make sure your bladder is empty, as a full one can temporarily raise blood pressure.

Some medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers called NSAIDs and common decongestants, can elevate blood pressure. Alcohol, caffeine, smoking, salt intake and stress can, too.

Muntner recommended people check their blood pressure at the same time each day, such as twice in the morning and twice in the evening for one week, then talk with their doctor about the results.

“Blood pressure fluctuates a lot, so a patient shouldn’t worry about one high reading,” Muntner said. “If the average over a full week is high, there’s reason for people to talk to their doctors. If not, people should continue practicing heart-healthy behaviors and check their BP in the future.”

What is the ideal blood pressure?

The device will give you a systolic number (upper) – the pressure against your artery walls when your heart beats – and a diastolic number (lower) – the pressure between beats.

For normal readings of less than 120/80, Muntner said it’s not necessary to check blood pressure again for at least six months.

If the top number is 130 or greater, or the bottom number is 80 or greater, Muntner recommended talking with your doctor about your overall risk for heart attack and stroke.

“If someone is at higher risk – for example, they smoke or have diabetes – then they should be started on blood pressure-lowering medication,” he said.

“If it’s very high, 180 or higher (over) 110 or higher, you should call your doctor right away. The longer your blood pressure is high, the more you are at risk for heart attack and stroke.”

There are many ways to lower blood pressure, including medication, getting more exercise, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, not smoking, reducing salt and alcohol consumption, lowering stress and losing weight.

“For some people, it may be easier to reduce the amount of salt they eat. For others, it may be easier to do a little physical activity,” Muntner said. “The important thing is to do the things that work for each individual.”

Source: American Heart Association


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