Kids and teens: want to grow taller?

Many parents come into Dr. Yik‘s office asking what their child can do or eat to grow taller. What factors influence how tall your child will be?

Scientists estimate that about 80% of your height is determined by the DNA sequence variants you inherited from your parents. For most individuals, height is controlled largely by genes, with some contribution from environmental factors such as those below. If you are a child or teenager, here are some things you should pay attention to if you want to reach your maximum height:

  1. Nutrition and a balanced diet are key to children’s growth. Children and teenagers should eat appropriate amounts of protein (meat, fish, eggs, etc.), vegetables, grains, fruit, beans, milk and nuts/ seeds. Calcium, protein and zinc are important nutrients for height (linear) growth.
  2. Adequate sleep is needed for optimal growth and development. Growth hormones are only released when we are in deep sleep, and studies show that peak growth hormone secretion occurs between 10pm to 2am. Children should go to bed before this golden period to allow themselves enough time to enter into deep sleep. 1- to 2- year-olds are advised to sleep 11 to 14 hours; 10 to 13 hours of sleep for 3- to 5-year-olds; 9 to 11 hours for 6- to 13-year-olds; and 8 to 10 hours for 14- to 17-year-olds.
  3. Exercise, exercise, exercise! By stimulating growth hormone release, regular physical activity also plays a key role in childhood development and helping kids reach their maximum height. In particular, jumping/ skipping rope, basketball, swimming and cycling can help children and teens grow tall.

Dr. Yik can help you determine your nutrient status through various nutrition tests (new patients can request for the complimentary zinc tally test) and diet analysis. She knows which nutrients are key to optimizing growth and development. Click here to read how she can boost your child’s health.

SOURCE: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/height/

https://www.bdmswellness.com/health-guide/77/Sleep-is-the-key-to-good-health-and-wellness.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194019/

The type of fat you eat (not how much) is linked to stroke risk

 

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You may have heard that consuming too much fat can increase your risk for heart disease, but new research suggests that it’s the type of fat, not the amount, that may be the more important factor in determining stroke risk. 

The study found that eating more animal fat was linked to a higher risk of stroke, while consuming more plant-based fat was linked to a lower risk. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

“If everyone could make small modifications, such as reducing red and processed meat intake, the implication for public health will be huge,” said the study leader, Fenglei Wang, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These findings which were presented Monday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021.

Here are some ways to reduce animal fats while increasing fats from vegetable sources:

  1. Try having avocado, nut butter or soaked chia seeds for breakfast instead of bacon, sausages or other processed meats.
  2. Consume more olives, nuts or nut butter (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.), seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds), avocado, tahini/ sesame.
  3. Use olive oil instead of butter.
  4. Eat leaner cuts of beef and pork. Trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
  5. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham and other cold cuts.
  6. Replace fatty meat with deep-water fish, beans, lentils and nuts. It is important to note that in studies looking at plant-based diets, people on plant-based diets ate foods such as leafy greens, colourful vegetables, whole grains, beans/ legumes and nuts. Keep in mind that “meat substitutes/ plant-based meats” are processed and contain additives such as sodium, sugar and preservatives.

The key is to eat the right type of fat. But in addition to our dietary choices, it is important to remember that smoking, diabetes, obesity as well as the level of exercise also play a role in heart health. 

SOURCES:

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=266824

Babies wanted: China’s desperate attempt to save declining birth rate

China announced earlier this year that married couples can have up to three children, after data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country of over 1.4 billion people.

Since then, 14 provinces have either amended local family planning rules or are seeking public opinion to make amendments to laws to confer extra maternity or paternity leave. Even a “child-raising leave” for couples with children aged 3 or below has been created in some provinces, state media reported on Wednesday.

The southern island province of Hainan is offering 1 hour of child-raising leave each day for parents with children under 3. The province of Heilongjiang even allows couples in border cities to have four children, due to the below-average birth rate in China’s remote northeastern region.

Shaanxi, a province in northwest China, is looking to increase the duration of paid maternity leave to nearly one full year, putting it on par with some developed nations in Europe, like Germany or Norway. The province is also considering doubling the length of paternity leave to 30 days for couples looking to have a third child.

In 2016, Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child limit to counter a rapidly aging population. But that failed to boost births, partly due to the relatively high cost of raising children in urban China, which is a challenge that still persists. China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with aging societies like Japan and Italy.

What is “long COVID”?

Most people who contract COVID-19 (aka SARS-CoV-2 infection) recover within 4 to 5 weeks. However, some individuals experience persistent or new COVID-19 symptoms for weeks and months after this initial phase of the infection. Referred to as “long COVID” or “post-COVID-19”, this post-infection condition affects around 37% of those who contract COVID-19. According to a recent Oxford study, this group of individuals report continued symptoms 3 to 6 months after the initial illness. Fatigue, pain and anxiety are among the most common symptoms, Oxford University said after investigating symptoms in over 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19. For some people, many parts of the body are affected in long COVID, including the heart, brain and the gut. Heart symptoms are commonly reported, such as palpitations or increased heartbeat, as well as pins and needles, numbness and “brain fog”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a clinical case definition of post-COVID-19:

“Post-COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”

“Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others, which generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset, following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode, or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.” Anxiety, depression, pain, and changes in hearing, smell, and taste were among the other symptoms that the definition included.

In children, long COVID symptoms can include:

  • sore throat
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • nausea
  • mood swings
  • dizziness
  • rashes

SOURCES: https://globalnews.ca/news/8230037/long-term-symptom-covid-19-patients-study/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/who-issues-clinical-case-definition-of-long-covid#Limitations

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid

High levels of chemicals found in (children’s and adult’s) clothing by fast-fashion retailers

A recent investigation conducted by Canada’s CBC Marketplace found that out of 38 samples of children’s, adult’s and maternity clothes and accessories, 1 in 5 items had elevated levels of chemicals that experts found concerning. The researchers warn that people buying from certain online retailers may be exposing themselves to potentially toxic chemicals, including lead, PFAS and phthalates. CBC Marketplace found garments containing elevated levels of chemicals from three fast-fashion retailers: Zaful, AliExpress and Shein.

For example, a jacket for toddlers, purchased online from Shein, was found to contain almost 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children. A red purse, also purchased from Shein, had more than five times the threshold. A clear tote bag purchased from Zaful contained phthalates, which are considered endocrine disruptors (i.e. chemicals that can interfere with hormones). A raincoat purchased from AliExpress contained high levels of PFAS, which are also endocrine disruptors and considered “forever chemicals” because they aren’t flushed from the body and don’t break down in the environment. 

In response, Shein sent an emailed statement to CBC Marketplace saying it had removed the purse and jacket from its app, and that it would stop working with relevant suppliers until the issue was resolved. “We are committed to continuous improvement of our supply chain,” the company said.

Lead can cause damaging health effects to the brain, heart, kidneys and reproductive system. Children and pregnant people are more vulnerable, with infants and children being the most at risk.

SOURCE: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-fast-fashion-chemicals-1.6193385

Hong Kong study: over 50% of body lotions for infants may trigger skin allergies or dermatitis

Earlier this week, the Consumer Council (Hong Kong) raised concerns about the safety of body lotions for infants, after discovering that 22 brands out of 40 products tested contained chemicals that could trigger skin allergies or dermatitis in babies.

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Out of the 40 products tested by the council, 8 that claimed to be “hypoallergenic” were found to contain fragrance allergens, while 3 that were labelled “fragrance-free” actually contained fragrances.

In particular, the consumer watchdog found that Aveeno’s Baby lotion contained hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC) and butylphenyl methylpropional (BMHCA), two fragrance and skin sensitizing chemicals that are banned by the European Union. The European Union classifies BMHCA as toxic to the reproductive system, while HKICC is known to commonly trigger skin allergies and dermatitis in children. In response, Aveeno Baby insists that the lotion’s fragrance ingredients follows the International Fragrance Association standards and requirements, but says it would replace the current product with a new item later this year.

When buying lotions for infants and children, always look at the ingredient label. Avoid products that contain fragrances, synthetic compounds or toxic chemicals. Look for flower, fruit or root extracts, minerals and essential oil ingredients instead.

Why does Hong Kong have the world’s highest life expectancy?

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Hong Kong’s life expectancy has seen a steady increase over the past half-century. For the 7th year and counting, both women and men in Hong Kong have attained the world’s highest life expectancy. According to World Bank, the life expectancy for men and women in Hong Kong stands at 82.7 years and 88.1 years respectively. 

So, what’s the secret behind Hong Kong’s high life expectancy? Experts agree that access to public healthcare coupled with the promotion of healthy living for all ages contributes to longevity in the region. Here are some interesting points:

  1. Tobacco control has helped Hongkongers live longer, according to a recent Lancet study. Researchers concluded that Hong Kong’s longevity is attributed to the lowest mortality of cardiovascular diseases in both men and women, as well as one of the lowest mortalities of cancer among women. These low mortality rates are, in turn, due to Hong Kong having one of the world’s lowest smoking prevalences. “Successful tobacco control has allowed Hong Kong’s life expectancy to exceed populations around the world. This is an important finding to potentially save the largest number of lives in Hong Kong and worldwide, precisely because the policy solutions are well rehearsed and directly attributable to longevity,” said Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine from The University of Hong Kong.
  2. Some experts point to the healthy diet here, which basically consists of grains (rice) with fish, vegetables and meat chopped up into dishes for sharing, rather than eaten as whole portions. Even Hong Kong desserts are healthy, often made of nuts, tofu or beans, fresh fruit and sesame seeds.
  3. Connectivity in Hong Kong is commendable, with easy access to public transportation and the proximity (often walking distance) of restaurants, parks and public facilities. The city ranks first for “enabling environments,” which facilitates a better quality of life.
  4. In 2017, Stanford University published a study called the Activity Inequality Project. It analyzed mobile phone data from 111 countries and discovered that Hongkongers topped the list in walking. The average Hongkonger takes 6,880 steps per day, which is roughly 2,100 more than the average American.
  5. Hong Kong is a relatively safe city. It is ranked the 8th safest city in the world. Its geographical location with a subtropical climate does not give rise to frequent extreme weather. It also boasts a public healthcare system, where older residents receive priority for hospital care and most care is paid from taxation.
  6. It is estimated that 70% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 70 were born in mainland China and came to Hong Kong in search of better opportunities. Studies show that these residents are physically and psychologically stronger than their counterparts remaining on the mainland. In the early 1960s and ’70s, Hong Kong saw an influx of highly motivated individuals move to the territory. These individuals have contributed to the aging of Hong Kong’s population over the last 20 years. Their healthy active lifestyles have helped them achieve a long life expectancy.
Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

SOURCES: https://www.med.hku.hk/en/news/press/20210906-hk-longevity-tobacco-control

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3146874/hong-kong-eighth-safest-city-world-overall-ranks-badly-when

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2021/hong-kong-longevity.html

CDC: Heart inflammation in young men higher than expected after Pfizer, Moderna COVID vaccines

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday that a higher-than-expected number of young men have experienced heart inflammation (myocarditis) after their second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, according to data from 2 vaccine safety monitoring systems.

The CDC and other health regulators have been investigating myocarditis cases after Israel’s Health Ministry reported that it had found a probable link to the condition in men aged 16 to 30 who received the Pfizer vaccine.

While some patients required hospitalization, most have fully recovered from their symptoms, the CDC said.

Over half of the cases reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) after people had received their second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots were in young adults between the ages of 12 and 24, the CDC said. Those age groups accounted for less than 9% of doses administered.

“We clearly have an imbalance there,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, said to an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meeting yesterday. The overwhelming majority of the cases have occurred within a week of vaccination, Dr. Shimabukuro said. He also said there was a predominance of males in younger age groups among the reported heart inflammation cases.

There were 283 observed cases of heart inflammation after the second vaccine dose in those aged 16 to 24 in the VAERS data. That compares with expectations of 10 to 102 cases for that age range based on U.S. population background incidence rates, the CDC said.

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The median age of patients who experienced the inflammation after a second vaccine dose was 24, according to the VAERS data. Just under 80% of the cases were in men.

Dr. Shimabukuro said the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD)- another safety monitoring system- showed an increased incidence of myocarditis in 16 to 39 year olds after their second shot when compared to the rate observed after the first dose.

SOURCE: Reuters https://www.reuters.com/world/us/cdc-heart-inflammation-cases-ages-16-24-higher-than-expected-after-mrna-covid-19-2021-06-10/

Chronic hives: what is going on inside the body?

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If you’ve had hives before, you will know how annoying they can be. It’s even more annoying when they keep coming back, or get worse instead of going away.

Hives (also known as urticaria) are red, itchy welts or wheals brought about by the immune system releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and fluid to accumulate under the skin. They can disappear and reappear within minutes or hours. Typically, hives last a few days (or only when you are in contact with an allergen i.e. something that you are allergic to) and they are not contagious. But if you continue to get hives daily or almost every day for a period exceeding 6 weeks, you have chronic hives, also known as chronic spontaneous hives (CSH), chronic idiopathic hives (CIH) or chronic urticaria (CU). While acute hives are often due to culprits like an allergy to food or medication, insect stings, blood transfusions and infections (viral infections are the most common cause of acute hives in children), chronic hives are rarely caused by allergies and are more tricky to treat. Experts believe the underlying abnormality is “intrinsic”, whether it is autoimmune, or some unknown process. Chronic hives can be frustrating as it significantly impacts the quality of life.

If you suffer from chronic hives, the information below may help you better understand your condition.

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  1. Chronic hives stem from immune abnormalities. According to the Allergy Center of Connecticut, the leading theory is that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body and in this case, your own allergy cells (mast cells and basophils) are the target. Studies have found a link between chronic hives and autoimmune diseases (e.g. thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease).
  2. Since chronic hives are a sign of immune dysfunction, Dr. Yik helps her patients correct and resolve the immune response. She uses nutraceuticals, supplements and nutritional therapy to address immune dysfunction and the ongoing state of chronic inflammation. She also spends the time to investigate underlying factors or concurrent conditions such as gut dysbiosis or gut-related disorders (since 70% of our immune cells lie in our gut), nutrient deficiencies (such as vitamin D- read more below) and other inflammatory conditions.
  3. Are you deficient in vitamin D? Vitamin D supports optimal immune function and one of its roles is to increase T regulatory function. T regulatory cells are a component of the immune system that suppresses immune responses of other cells. This is an important “self-check” built into the immune system to prevent excessive reactions. Studies have found that many people with chronic hives have lower vitamin D levels.
  4. Could it be a parasitic infection? There have been cases where patients with chronic hives were found to have a parasitic infection and upon taking anti-parasitic medication, the chronic hives went away. Though not very commonly seen, a parasitological workup may be warranted depending on the patient’s symptoms, dietary habits, country of origin and travel history.
  5. Stress can trigger a bout of hives. On the other hand, the condition itself may be a source of distress and could worsen patients’ quality of life. Care should be taken to reduce and manage stress appropriately. Click here to learn how to cope with stress and anxiety.

SOURCES: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194028/#:~:text=Parasitic%20diseases%20are%20often%20considered,etc%20%5B2%2D6%5D.

https://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0008177

https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13223-019-0372-z

https://allergyct.com/hives/chronic-hives-are-becoming-the-most-common-of-all-auto-immune-disease/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5949545/

Study: one third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders

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A new study published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal has found that 34% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within 6 months, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems. The study analysed health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States and found that one in three COVID-19 survivors in a study were diagnosed with such disorders within six months. A previous study done in 2020 by the same researchers found that 20% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.

These conditions were significantly more common in COVID-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting COVID-19 had a specific impact.

Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common (17% and 14% respectively), and did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s COVID-19 infection had been. Among those who had been admitted to intensive care with severe COVID-19, 7% had a stroke within six months, and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia.

“This is a very important paper. It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure,” said Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London.

We are living in unprecedented times. If you or a loved one is feeling anxious, depressed, excessively irritable/angry or low mood, seek help from your healthcare practitioner.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(21)00084-5/fulltext