Best Arthritis-Friendly Foods

May 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

If you dig into my old posts, I have always mentioned that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and non-fat dairy is good for people suffering from arthritis.

Once more from Reader’s Digest. But this time, a list of nutrient-rich food that is best for people with arthritis:

1. Salmon – one of the riches sources of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. I guess most fish will be good as well?

“…especially because it’s less likely than other cold-water fish to harbor high levels of toxic mercury. In addition to its fatty oils, salmon contains calcium, vitamin D, and folate.”

2. Bananas — though best known as a rich source of potassium, bananas also contain arthritis-fighting vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. The first thing that my doctor “prescribed” to me was eat lots of bananas. One good thing is that, you can prepare bananas in many different ways. You can eat the ripe ones as is, you can preserve it or put them into your salad. More so, you can blend it with other fruits such as berries or peaches to turn into into a nice fruit drink.

3. Sweet peppers – also rich sources of Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate.

4. Shrimp – I love shrimps. Thankfully it is rich in nutrients too! Too bad for people with shrimp allergies.

Taste and convenience make shrimp the most popular shellfish around. But shrimp also deserves acclaim as one of the few major dietary sources of vitamin D, with three ounces providing 30 percent of the recommended daily amount — more than a cup of fortified milk. Shrimp also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, along with other nutrients essential for general health, including iron and vitamin B12.

5. Soy products – for somebody like me who isn’t very much a fan of dairy milk, I find this a good alternative. I need not even drink milk, I can just eat soy foods.

But soybeans also protect bones, thanks to compounds called isoflavones and significant amounts of both vitamin E and calcium. Long a staple of Asian diets, soy can also be found in soy milk — a boon for people who want to avoid lactose or cholesterol in regular milk.

6. Sweet Potatoes – as a child, this was one of my favorite snacks. Even just boiled, sweet potatoes are yummy already. I do not know anybody who never liked sweet potatoes. However, since maybe I feel that I had enough of sweet potatoes as a kid, that’s why I kinda ignored this in my adulthood. Maybe I should start eating sweet potatoes again?

These tropical root vegetables (which, technically, not related to white baking potatoes) are such a nutritional powerhouse, they once topped a list of vegetables ranked according to nutritional value by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.

7. Cheese – my 5-year old son will never eat cheese. Anything with cheese, he will not touch. I often wondered why. Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of cheese? I don’t remember not liking cheese as a child, I often eat cheese still. Because I don’t drink milk, I find this a good substitute for my calcium needs.

Hard or soft, fresh or ripened, cheese in all its variety is an excellent source of calcium for bones, and protein for muscles and other joint-supporting tissues. Depending on type, cheeses (especially hard varieties such as cheddar and Colby) are also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate.

8. Lentils.

These dried legumes, with their rainbow of earthy colors, are prime sources of folate, with a single cup providing about 90 percent of your daily needs. But lentils also provide one of the richest plant-based sources of protein, contain large amounts of soluble dietary fiber, and hold significant stores of vitamin B6. These and other nutrients make lentils protect the body against heart disease and cancer in addition to arthritis.

9. Green tea! Which reminds me, I haven’t had green tea in the last two years. It isn’t my favorite, but it is okay for me to drink it. I guess I just think of its nutritional value. Otherwise, I won’t give green tea a second look.

This mild, slightly astringent tea contains hundreds of powerful antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols and has been cited for helping prevent problems ranging from cancer to heart disease. But studies also suggest green tea may help prevent or ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one study of induced arthritis in mice, green tea cut the disease onset rate almost in half, and follow-up studies by the same researchers, at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio, show promise in humans.

So…do the above foods included in your diet? You might wanna include them already, especially of you have arthritis.

Eli Lilly is Seeking FDA Approval of Cymbalta For Chronic Pain

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

A product of Eli Lilly, Cymbalta® – is a balanced and potent reuptake inhibitor of serotonin and norepinephrine, believed to potentiate the activity of these chemicals in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

While the mechanism of action of Cymbalta is not fully known, scientists believe its effects on depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as its effect on pain perception, may be due to increasing the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.

Though not approved for pediatric patients, Cymbalta® is approved in the United States for the acute and maintenance treatment of major depressive disorder, the acute treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and the management of diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, all in adults aged 18 and above.

Now, Eli Lilly has just submitted a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) to the US FDA seeking approval for a new indication for Cymbalta® (duloxetine HCl) — management of chronic pain.

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage. Chronic pain persists beyond acute pain or beyond the expected time for an injury to heal.

The said submission is based on outcomes of clinical trials in chronic osteoarthritis pain of the knee and chronic low back pain as well as data from previously completed pain studies in diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP) and fibromyalgia.

Some Patient Safety Information on Cymbalta®:

Cymbalta is not for everyone. Patients should not take Cymbalta if they have recently taken a type of antidepressant called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), are taking Mellaril® (thioridazine) or have uncontrolled glaucoma. Patients should speak with their doctor about any medical conditions they may have, including liver or kidney problems, glaucoma, or diabetes.

Patients should tell their doctor about all their medicines, including those for migraine, to avoid a potentially life-threatening condition. Taking Cymbalta with NSAID pain relievers, aspirin, or blood thinners may increase bleeding risk. They also should talk to their doctor about their alcohol consumption. Patients should consult with their doctor before stopping Cymbalta or changing the dose and if they are pregnant or nursing.

Patients taking Cymbalta may experience dizziness or fainting upon standing. The most common side effects of Cymbalta include nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness and constipation.

Visit for more information on Cymbalta®.

Source: Eli Lilly News

Caregiver’s Corner-Join a Support Group

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

I know, you don’t have time to breathe, much less find and join a support group. You are so busy providing care, running errands, taking care of the rest of your family and being an all around Saint to do anything except keep your head barely above water with your current responsibilities as you battle Alzheimer’s disease.

But before you count the idea of joining a support group out completely, consider the following excerpted from AARP’s Caring for the Caregiver (click her for entire article):

“Caregivers stand at particular risk for a host of mental and physical illnesses, many of which have roots in stress, exhaustion, and self-neglect—symptoms some medical professionals have begun calling caregiver syndrome.”

“Caregivers appear more likely than noncaregivers to get infectious diseases, plus they are slower to heal from wounds, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., director of the Division of Health Psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus. Kiecolt-Glaser has conducted several caregiver research studies with her husband, immunologist Ronald Glaser, Ph.D.”

“Caregivers also have greatly elevated blood levels of a chemical that is linked to chronic inflammation. And that puts them at increased risk for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Notably, says Kiecolt-Glaser, those levels are still high three years after caregiving duties end, especially among caregivers over 65. What’s more, the studies found a greatly increased risk for anxiety and depression.”

Exhausted, anxious, and pressed for time, caregivers, she says, “tend to lose their networks and separate from their friends.”

So, you don’t have to take my word for it, Kiecolt-Glaser, is one of many researchers noting that caregivers need support. Not just help with the daily activities of life. Although, that’s a great place to start.

Caregivers need emotional support as well. The good news is that there is help. Here are just a few places you can go for some help.

The Alzheimer’s Association. I can’t say enough good things about this organization. Yes, it’s huge, but its also very personal. They have a 27/7 helpline. They can help with everything from housing options to what to do about wandering. Here’s the number, I encourage you to use it and get connected with a local chapter. 1-800-272-3900. You can also find the Alzheimer’s Association at

I promise you, the support group won’t be comprised of a bunch of people sitting around complaining. Rather, you will find that they are much like you. Tired, struggling and trying to provide the best care possible for their loved ones. You’ll realize that you are not alone and that there are people who understand and can relate to your situation.

Another option is getting on-line support. Blogs like this one are great places to get information, vent and be part of a community. Here are a few other online resources.

WebMD Alzheimer’s support group has a forum/support network for Alzheimer’s disease

So, friend, I encourage you. Get some support as you do this difficult, but important work.

So, what do YOU think? Are you a part of a formal or informal support network?

Friday Cancer News, May 30, 2008

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

news1.jpg Friday. Friday. Friday is my favorite day.

Cancer Events:

Marie Curie Cancer Care is sponsoring the Skimmington Castle Bike Ride. “An exciting fun filled cycle challenge, Saturday, June 7 in the beautiful surroundings of the Surrey countryside.Cyclists will set off from the Skimmington Castle public House in Reigate, either on the 47.5 mile route, for those who fancy a challenge, or the 16.5 mile route for those who feel they’d like the day to take a more leisurely pace.

Once you have completed the bike ride you will end up back at the Skimmington Castle pub for a chance to exchange stories over a well earned drink.”


Father’s Day Ride and Stride. Sunday June 15, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

“This Father’s Day, honor Dad and support the fight against prostate cancer. Bring your family and enjoy a morning of fun at beautiful North Park, while supporting Pittsburgh’s leading organizations in the fight to defeat prostate cancer— the Allegheny General Prostate Center and the Western Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Foundation (WPPCF). This event will include a 25K, 50K and 100K bike ride and a 2 mile fun walk. Choose either as your weapon to fight against prostate cancer and a way to celebrate Father’s Day with loved ones. We’re taking aim against this deadly disease.”

Read more

Arthritis, Stress and Stretching

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

When I found this Reader’s Digest article, I was laughing out loud while reading. I just so can relate, I guess. I’ve always been convinced that the osteoarthritis symptoms are brought about by stress, mostly and of course, on top of not enough mobility these days.

The said article is recommending, from stretching like a cat to letting things go — in order to have a better  quality of life despite arthritis. The tips are general relief for tensed body, but is good for arthritis as well.

Let me enumerate the highlights:

1. Stretch luxuriously like a cat.

Stretching loosens the muscles, helps your blood flow, relieves your bones and joints, and refreshes your spirit. For a person with arthritis, stretching is as healthy a habit as you can develop.

2. Laugh, be happy.

The obvious reason is that humor relieves the tensions of everyday life. But not so obvious are the physiological effects of a good laugh. Feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins are released when you laugh that ease pain and improve attitude. Plus, laughter stimulates the heart, lungs, muscles, and immune system.

3. Cut your to-do-list into something achievable. Yes, even if that means cutting your errands into half. That way you feel better with your little accomplishments.

We know we’re not going to get everything done that we want to in a day. And yet so many of us wake up with a set of expectations for the day that are grand beyond reason. Be fair to yourself: Make your task list reasonable, and achieve it.

4. Use hot water. Need i say more?

Upping water’s temperature soothes and supports the joints. The heat brings blood to your joints, muscles, and skin, flushing you with nutrients and relief. And the calmness of a soak in a tub or Jacuzzi makes life just seem better.

5. Use comfortable pillows and bed mattresses.

A bed that is firm but luxurious, that makes you say “ahhhh” when you lie down, that gives you the comfort you need for a great night’s sleep, is a wonderful investment for your health and your joints.

6. Create you own midday sacred ritual. Like having coffee or tea in peace and quiet?

Whatever it is, take 5 to 15 minutes each afternoon for a personal break. Getting out of the intensity of everyday life for a short while is beneficial, both physically and emotionally. And by making it a constant ritual, you relax yourself merely by the knowledge that it is soon arriving.

7. Massage, massage, and massage. I’ve mentioned several times how massage can bring relief to both the muscles and joints.

A good massage is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The muscle and joint relief will be substantial.

8. Find inspiration in the beauty of nature. Always brings relaxation, right?

In exploring the optimal workouts for athletes, researchers are beginning to believe that the best training method is to exert for a short period and then rest, rather than doing prolonged periods of exertion. It’s a theory that is applicable to all of us, particularly those with arthritis. Walk a few minutes; then relax a while. Clean for 15 minutes; then take a break.

9. Be still and let things be. Especially those that are just beyond your control.

If you are a human being, then certain truths are inevitable: The government is wrong; half your relatives are crazy; there’s never enough money; work is unfair; you’re surrounded by crazy drivers. You have a choice: Let it get to you, or don’t let it get to you.

Great tips right?! My favorites are: stretching like a cat, massage, massage and massage…and of course (even if most of the time hard to do) letting things be.

Does your bank account predict your risk for early stroke?

May 30, 2008 by  

 Who said that life is always fair? The more you have, the less likely you are to die young. This is because those who have more money are less likely to suffer from stroke at an early age, according to a study by Dutch researchers recently published in the journal Stroke.

The study was part of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study and looked at 20,000 adults in the US. Their results show that the risk of early stroke is much lower among wealthy Americans between 54 and 65 years of age. However, as soon as a person reaches the age of 65, money doesn`t make a difference anymore – stroke risk is the same, rich or poor.

So how can socioeconomic status affect your stroke risk?

People in the lower income group tended to have lesser education. This in turn, is associated with smoking, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition as well as lack of physical exercise, which are major risk factors for stroke. These people also have higher incidence of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Those with higher income, on the other hand, tend to be more health-conscious and care about their nutrition and engage in more sports and other physical activities.

But why does the rich’s “edge” over those with lower income disappear at retirement age? The researchers explain:

“We tend to think it is more an effect of what we call selective survival. There is a selection of people who reach age 65. People with low incomes are more likely to die, so when you reach age 65, you have a selected group of very healthy people.”

I personally think that another big factor that puts the poor at a disadvantage is the fact that the rich have access to better primary health care by being able to afford private health insurance and better doctors. This is especially a big problem in the US where over 40 million people have no health insurance.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC)

“…patient visits to physician offices were higher for individuals with private health insurance compared to those with no insurance…In 2006, 14.8 percent of Americans, or 43.6 million, were currently without health insurance.”

And finally, we also shouldn’t forget other risk factors for stroke which have nothing to do with socioeconomic status, and which nobody can really change, regardless of the size of one’s bank account. They are: Age, Gender, Genetics, and Ethnicity


Avendano M, Glymour M. Stroke Disparities in Older Americans: Is Wealth a More Powerful Indicator of Risk Than Income and Education? Stroke. 2008;39:1533.

Doctors, Expertise and Conflicts of Interest

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

I’ve owned my own business for many years. Before I began my work in patient advocacy and empowerment, I was a marketer, and advised dozens of businesses of all sizes (from individual professional services like lawyers and therapists to large corporations like GE and Kodak.) I get business, I understand development of income streams and I fully realize that profitability is always the goal among these businesses.

But I also know that profitability and business models are at the very heart at what is WRONG with healthcare. No matter what the problem with the system, its roots are grounded in the need to make money by someone.

This statement holds true whether we are talking about those large corporations, like pharma manufacturers, large hospitals and treatment centers, insurers, or medical device manufacturers — or individuals like doctors or yes, even patient advocates. We all need to make a buck.

And making a buck is fair! Yes — at my heart I am a capitalist. And for many aspects of life, I believe that the profit motive and fair competition are fair and work well.

But making the buck at the expense of patients, rather than to the advantage of patients, is not fair and it’s not right. Profiting by hurting a patient is wrong. Profiting while providing no benefit is wrong. Profiting by withholding the truth is wrong. Profiting through non-disclosure of a conflict of interest is wrong, too.

Unfortunately, healthcare is not about health or care. It’s about sickness and money. And conflicts of interest go to the very heart of that statement.

One of the early recognitions of this problem came from the New England Journal of Medicine which, in 1993, attempted to define such conflicts and suggested remedies for them. The conflicts cited ranged from self-referral by physicians, to gifts from drug companies to physicians to research being sponsored by those industries that stood to profit by the results.

Hundreds of medical journals followed suit. They joined the legions of organizations that have their own policies about conflicts of interest, including the Canadian Medical Association, and the American Medical Association includes policies about conflicts of interest in its code of ethics.

But it seems that there are plenty of doctors who either don’t care, aren’t paying attention, or are just plain unethical. At the very least they don’t let some little conflict of interest get in the way of making a buck.

This article in the latest edition of Slate Magazine provides too many examples, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It asks the question, and proves the point; Stealth Marketers: Are Doctors Shilling for Drug Companies on Public Radio?

Cases in point:

Mike Taibbi, a former smoker and reporter for NBC Nightly News interviewed Dr. Claudia Henschke, a professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College who reported that regular lung scans could prevent 80 percent of deaths from lung cancer. Other professionals called this claim outrageous. It turns out that Dr. Henschke’s research was being subsidized by tobacco companies which had a major stake in the outcomes of her statements.

Recently, PBS radio stations aired Prozac Nation, an edition of its award-winning program, An Infinite Mind. Four prestigious mental-health experts discussed the link between antidepressants and suicide, and all four concluded that the link was blown out of proportion. (Really? Tell that to Kim Witzcak, whose husband Woody died from taking an antidepressant which had been prescribed off label for his inability to get a good night’s sleep.)

What the program failed to reveal is that all four of the experts have financial ties to Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Prozac.

Examples of these conflicts of interest could go on ad nauseum. The real point here is that we patients need to be aware of them, and know when it’s appropriate to ask questions about them. Here are some examples of times we may be the victims of conflicts of interest:

1. Many doctors who work in clinical trials may be receiving referral fees for finding patients who can participate. A conflict of interest may exist if there is no benefit to you, the patient, for participating. You may still choose to participate! But you need to be asking your doctor what’s in it for him.

2. Medical device kickbacks are rampant among doctors. Need a knee replacement? Ask your doctor if he’ll be receiving any payments from the manufacturer, or payments beyond his usual fee for doing the surgery. You may still want to get your knee replaced! But you should know if one type of artificial knee is being recommended or planned for over another based on how much your doctor will make from it, and you should have the option to choose the one that’s better for you.

3. Does your doctor travel a great deal? or speak at conferences frequently? If so, he may be receiving “speakers fees” for convincing his peers that a particular drug or device is better for their patients. The manufacturers love to pay doctors to take advantage of their credibility. But if you take that through to its logical conclusion, who do you think is paying for those kickbacks? We are. And is that drug the best for us just because the doctor is making money by supporting it? Maybe not.

There are no easy answers here — just awareness, and another opportunity to be wise and savvy patients.

One has to wonder how often patients have gotten sicker, or died, because some doctor or organization was involved in a conflict of interest?

Recipe For Life

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Every Thursday I give you a recipe. My self imposed rule is that the recipe must be inexpensive. It must be simple and it must be healthy. I suppose it should go without saying that the recipe must also be delicious.

Summer is coming, albeit v-e-r-y slowly here in Pennsylvania, and fresh fruit and veggies will soon abound. Depending on where you live, peaches, our main ingredient for today, will ripen and be ready to eat between June and August.

Peaches are low in calories and high in vitamins C and A. In addition, peaches can act as a MILD laxative. They are diuretic and tend to aid in detoxification. So, you can eat peaches without worrying about gaining weight. (www.health24.c0m)

This particular recipe has no REFINED sugar, and no ARTIFICIAL sweeteners, so you get wonderful flavors of peaches, apples and a hint of dates. If you make or select a crust that is not made from lard or shortening with trans fats, and throw in a little whole wheat action, this pie can actually qualify as healthy. When I purchase crust, I get it from Whole Foods. They have one that is pretty healthy, but doesn’t taste healthy. Why ruin this wonderful filling with a crust that tastes like cardboard?

Recipe For Life

Peach Pies – Recipe adapted from, The Seventh-day Diet, by Chris Rucker

(This recipe makes 2 – 8 or 9 inch deep dish pies or one 9 x 13 pie)


10 cups thinly sliced peaches, fresh or frozen (don’t use canned)

1 can (12 ounces) frozen apple juice concentrate

1 cup pitted dates (soak in warm water for 10 minutes or till soft)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 pie crusts (ready made will work fine)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit (177 degrees Celsius)

Place sliced peaches in a large bowl

Place in blender the following:

  1. apple juice concentrate
  2. dates (drain soak water)
  3. cornstarch
  4. coriander
  5. almond extract

Blend until smooth. Add this mixture to sliced peaches and mix thoroughly.

From this point you have some options. If you prefer a double crust pie then place pie crust(s) on bottom of your pie pan(s). If you prefer a single crust, then pour peache mixture directly into pan(s) and place crust on top of peaches. Tuck edges of dough just inside baking dish and press to seal. Cut 3-4 small slits in crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45-60 minutes.

Note: This pie is healthy enough to eat for breakfast (which we often do!). Of course, you can enjoy it as a dessert as well.

Agilus: Ankle Arthritis Injection, Under Clinical Trials

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

In clinical trials now around the United States is a slimy clear liquid with a texture of motor oil, potential treatment for ankle arthritis.

A highly purified mixture of hyaluronic acid, if will work as expected will bring relief to millions suffering from ankle arthritis.

At least 2 million Americans suffer from ankle arthritis. And with each new year, more of the nation’s 78 million baby boomers are coming down with the chronic, progressive, irreversible disease that, unlike osteoarthritis in most other joints, is extremely hard to treat.

The company developing the injectable product described above – Carticept Medical, Inc. – calls it Agilus — a molecularly thick formulation of highly purified hyaluronan.

Agilus represents an investigational application of a proven treatment called viscosupplementation, which has been used safely and effectively for many years for osteoarthritis of the knee.

In Europe, Hyaluronan already is used in Europe to soothe arthritic ankles. However, in the U.S. it has only been approved by the FDA for use in larger joints only, such as knees.

According to Dr. Judith Baumhauer, principal investigator of the study and a professor at the University of Rochester:

“Osteoarthritis of the ankle is a significant and debilitating problem for millions of patients worldwide. For many patients with ankle osteoarthritis, there is a significant void in the current treatment [arsenal] that Agilus could potentially address.”

While Barbara D. Boyan, professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Carticept’s chief scientific officer, said:

“It is scientifically known that it works” in the knee and larger joints, but there is no proof that it helps in the ankle.

You want a formulation that can be injected. There are a lot of little joints, very small spaces, in the ankle. Think of it as honey. It acts as a lubricant. And there will be much more of a need for this as we baby boomers, those of us before Nike, grow older.”

Honestly, I haven’t heard about this Agilus before I bumped into the above article. Now, it has picked my interest.

If this has been approved in the U.S. for knee arthritis, I wonder how many arthritis patients have benefited from this treatment? Are there side effects? What are the conditions that would quality a patient for this treatment? There must be exclusions, right?

And then…the most important question of all: Is this expensive? Will major health insurance companies in the U.S. cover both the treatment and solution?

Are doctors commonly recommending this?

Full report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Cancer Myths and Urban Legends

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

urban-legend.jpgHeard any cancer myths or legends lately? How about these?

Cancer Myths: Myths are unproven collective belief.

Did you know that the results of a 2005 an American Cancer Society survey of over 900 people who had not had cancer indicated that 75% of those surveyed believed the following MYTHS were either true or they weren’t sure if they were true or not?

  • “Pain medications are not effective in reducing the amount of pain people have from cancer.”
  • “All you need to beat cancer is a positive attitude, not treatment.”
  • “Treating cancer with surgery can cause it to spread throughout the body.”
  • “There is currently a cure for cancer but the medical industry won’t tell the public about it because they make too much money treating cancer patients.”
  • “Cancer is something that cannot be effectively treated.”

Then there is the myth that lung cancer tumors spreads when exposed to air. While it is a myth, this does indicate that people’s beliefs can and do influence their treatment choices.

Have you heard that fluoridated water leads to cancer? Per the National Cancer Institute: “a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention summarized extensive research findings and concluded that studies to date have produced “no credible evidence” of an association between fluoridated drinking water and an increased risk for cancer.”

Breast implants do not cause cancer. This myth has no scientific basis. In fact it is suggested that women with implants are more likely to be familiar with their anatomy and pick up on unusual lumps or lesions. There is also no evidence that breast implants lead to breast cancer recurrences.

Articles on Common Cancer Myths:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Dispelling Cancer Myths

Mayo Clinic: Cancer Treatment Myths

The American Cancer Society: Many Buy into Common Cancer Myths

Read more

The artificial heart valve – 38 and going strong

May 29, 2008 by  

Two artificial heart valves get top billing in the New England Journal of Medicine this week. Two video clips of two artificial heart valves can be viewed in the journal’s website. What is so special about these two valves is that they were implanted 38 years ago in a Canadian woman who is now 67 years old. And they are still working well – and going strong.

The Starr-Edwards artificial valve was developed by the surgeon Albert Starr and the retired engineer Miles Lowell Edwards. The first one was implanted in a heart patient in 1960. Since then, over a quarter of a million heart patients got the implants.

“Starr-Edwards valves use differences in pressure inside and outside the heart chambers to push a silicone ball from one side of a small steel cage to the other, either closing or opening the valve.”

The female patient, who was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease 38 years ago, had her mitral and aortic valves replaced by the artificial valves. Recently, the patient suffered from dyspnea (shortness of breath) and was hospitalized at the Montreal Heart Institute in Quebec, Canada. The doctor conducted a heart catheterization, a process which involves

inserting a narrow tube into the heart for investigation or treatment. Agents that enhance the contrast in X-ray images can then be added so that blood vessels in the heart show up.”

Edwards believed the human heart could be mechanized and presented his ideas to Starr. Starr encouraged Edwards towards the development of an artificial heart valve. The first Starr-Edwards mitral valve was designed, developed, tested and successfully implanted in a human patient just two years later. The first patient was Philip Amundson, a 52-year-old farmer who had a scarred and deformed heart valve as a result of childhood rheumatic fever. The surgery was performed on September 21, 1960, at the University of Oregon Medical School. The surgery was hailed a great success – a miracle of science – and paved the way to more corrective heart interventions. The patient fully recovered and had a healthy and productive life for another 10 years before he died of unrelated causes.

Edwards founded the company Edwards Lifesciences, one of the world’s leading manufacturer of medical devices. Last year, the company discontinued the manufacture of their trademark valves to make way for newer models.

Lowell Edwards was awarded the American Medical Association’s Layman’s Citation for Distinguished Service, only the 6th person in history to receive the honor.

The citation describes Edwards as “a man of honor and courage whose inventive genius brought about the development of the artificial heart valve and whose long devotion to human welfare in the science of medicine has given new life and hope to victims of heart disease throughout the world.”

It is very inspiring to know that people like Edwards could make a big difference in the lives of many people. Without his valves, this Canadian woman with the 38-year-old valves – and many others – wouldn’t have lived to see their 67th birthday…

Photo credit

How NOT to Get Alzheimer’s Disease

May 28, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Yesterday, I talked about the connection between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Today, I ran across a very interesting article and the conclusion seems to be that good nutrition and exercise for your mind and body are the best “prevention” for Alzheimer’s disease.

But here is my struggle. There are basically two types of people who read this blog. People who have Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia and their caregivers.

Bottom line is that you, dear reader, are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease in some way. If you are a caregiver, then, in addition to your caregiving responsibilities, you may be worried about getting the disease. Every time you forget where you parked the car, misplace your keys, forget a name or a phone number you get a little concerned that, “it’s happening to you.” So, I post about Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention knowing that, in some way, you are already impacted by the disease. And in some ways, you may be genetically and/or environmentally susceptible to the disease.

An interesting study was released last month: A portion of the article appears below. Click here to read in its entirety.

A Bigger Brain May Help Protect You from Alzheimer’s

From autopsies, researchers have long known that some people die with sharp minds and perfect memories, even though their brains are riddled with the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease. The new research suggests that people who have a larger hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped part of the brain that is critical for memory, may as a result be protected against Alzheimer’s.

“This larger hippocampus may protect these people from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes,” said study author Deniz Erten-Lyons, M.D., with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “Hopefully this will lead us eventually to prevention strategies.”

For the study, presented April 15 at the American Academy of Neurology 60th Annual Meeting in Chicago, researchers evaluated the brains of 12 people who had sharp memories and thinking skills at the time of their death. Autopsies revealed that their brains contained large numbers of Alzheimer’s plaques, even though they remained mentally sharp and alert. Their brains were compared to those of 23 people who had the same amount of plaques in their brains, but had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before death.

While nobody can control the size of their brains, experts advise that mentally stimulating activities like completing puzzles, traveling, learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or doing crossword puzzles can help stimulate new connections between brain cells. These strengthened connections may help to preserve thinking and memory. Maintaining strong social ties and exercising into old age may also help to protect the brain, studies show.

By, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Presented at the American Academy of Neurology 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting in Chicago, April 12 to 19, 2008.

In the final analysis, we see again that mental activity, brain games, physical activity and maintaining strong relationships can make a significant difference when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.

Options in Cancer Care

May 28, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER


New options mean new hope for cancer patients.

While some of the treatment options listed today have been used in cancer regimes for years, others mentioned are new. What they have in common is that they may fall into the category of “what exactly is that all about?”

Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy and Hyperthermic Intraoperative Peritoneal Chemotherapy or Hyperthermic Interperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC): Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is given directly into the abdominal cavity. Intra = into. Peritoneal = abdominal cavity. Hyperthermic = heated above the temperature of the human body.

Intraoperative chemotherapy is chemo that is given at the time of surgery. Patients undergoing surgery to remove or debulk tumors are given chemo directly into the abdominal cavity to kill cancer cells that may have been released from the tumor during surgery. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy then may be given again after surgery utilizing a port directly into the abdomen. This type of surgery may have fewer side effects than regular chemo given using the bloodstream as a transport. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is reported to be advantageous as the chemo drugs are more effective given this route and have a longer half life.

Resources: Greenbaum Cancer Center

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IOERT):In this treatment modality radiation is given directly to the tumor during surgery. The Mayo Clinic has the largest treatment program in the world for this type of therapy. ” The FDA-approved mobile Intraoperative Electron Radiation (IOERT) machine, called the “Mobetron,” can be brought directly to the patient’s operating room at Mayo Clinic Hospital where a team delivers a concentrated beam of electron radiation directly to cancerous tumors while they are exposed during surgery. ” This type of therapy has proven to increase survival rates in many types of cancers.

Resources: The Mayo Clinic

Robotic Surgery: Robot assisted surgical procedures are being used for many types of cancer surgeries including prostate and gynecological cancers. The University of Pennsylvania Health System sites the following reasons for utilizing robotics for gynecological surgeries:

  • Smaller incisions/less scarring
  • Significantly less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Faster return to normal daily activities

Resources: da Vinci Prostatectomy

CyberKnife : a frameless robotic radiosurgery system invented by John R. Adler, a Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiation Oncology at Stanford University. This system allows precision delivery of radiation without invasive surgery and minimizes trauma to surrounding tissue and organs. Many times the procedures are done on an outpatient basis. Per the Florida CyberKnife Centers: “The CyberKnife System received clearance from the FDA in July 1999 for the treatment of head and neck tumors. In October 2001, the FDA extended its clearance to include the treatment of tumors and other conditions anywhere in the body.”

Resources: Stanford Cancer Center


Nutrition 101

May 28, 2008 by  
Filed under OBESITY

In order to optimize your health a good diet is essential. But, with all the fad diets around it can be difficult to know what is ‘good’. Nutrition science to the rescue! Though some things are still controversial, numerous studies reinforce the following basic information.

A healthy diet requires not just items from the four basic food groups, but in the proper proportion. The average person will need about 2000-2500 calories (sometimes more for larger men, less for women and those looking for rapid weight loss). About 50% of those calories should come in the form of carbohydrates, with 30% from fats (yes, fat is good!) and 20% from proteins.

Carbohydrates are the main source of compounds needed for energy. Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, are rapidly broken down in the intestine and absorbed. Some processing starts the minute they hit your tongue. Complex carbohydrates – starches, such as those found in potatoes – take longer, but are also healthy in moderation.

Fats are chemically similar to carbohydrates, and contain fatty acids essential to health. Proteins are lysed (split) to make amino acids, that are then recombined to form proteins used in muscles and other structures.

Meat is a valid and healthy source of proteins for almost everyone. About 3 ounces per meal is about right for the average sized person. A cup of pasta is a good source of carbohydrates. Two cups of leafy green vegetables supply fiber, minerals and vitamins.

A balanced meal can be made up of a serving of meat or other protein source, starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, corn or potatoes, and fruit. Easy on the butter or margarine, go light on cheese, sauces and anything high in sugar or fat.

Though you could get the basics from a variety of sources, when considering weight control in addition to getting the proper balance, it’s important to know which sources are high in what.

Fat contains nine calories per gram, which is double than other energy sources. Thus, you need to keep those foods high in fat down to modest levels. That also helps control cholesterol levels.

All sources of carbohydrates have four calories per gram. But healthy sources also contain needed minerals, vitamins and fiber. Some examples are fruits (apples, pears, peaches), nuts (walnuts are lower in fat than peanuts or cashews, for example) and grains (for fiber and minerals).

Why is candy bad, unless consumed in very modest portions? Because they are designed to be high in fat, high in sugar with much lower amounts of helpful nutrients. Neither fat nor sugar are harmful in moderation. Indeed, they’re essential to good health. But when consumed in a form that contains an excessive proportion, they provide enormous calories and fewer other nutrients.

Making a list of items you consume will show you the relative amounts of helpful nutrients – and how many calories each contains. Putting a little arithmetic into your diet plan will help you reduce the number you obsess over – your weight.

What’s fast food got to do with your heart?

May 28, 2008 by  

“A double cheese burger, fries, and soda to go.” How many times do we repeat this phrase in a week? A month? A year?

But what has fast food got to do with Battling Heart and Stroke? A lot, actually. Because here we also tackle nutrition and diet and how they affect your heart and blood vessels.

We have heard it before. Fast food is not good for your health. But of course you would want proof! Specifics! What exactly happens when I gobble that burger and rinse it down with soda?

According to recent research article

“The highly processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted diet favored in the current American culture frequently leads to exaggerated supraphysiological post-prandial spikes in blood glucose and lipids. This state, called post-prandial dysmetabolism, induces immediate oxidant stress, which increases in direct proportion to the increases in glucose and triglycerides after a meal”

In other words, Big Mac, Whopper or even pizza are high in calorie and low in nutrients. After eating these high popular meals, the sugar and fatty acid levels in our blood dramatically go up resulting in a state known as postprandial dysmetabolism. This state is characterized by our body`s inability to deal with the “sugar and fat rush”. The results are not-so-beneficial physiological changes that include oxidative stress, inflammation, and narrowing of the blood vessels. 


a diet high in minimally processed, high-fiber, plant-based foods …will markedly blunt the post-meal increase in glucose, triglycerides, and inflammation.”

Examples of such foodstuffs are vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. In addition,

lean protein, vinegar, fish oil, tea, cinnamon, calorie restriction, weight loss, exercise, and low-dose to moderate-dose alcohol each positively impact post-prandial dysmetabolism.” 

The normal fast food fare is definitely not good for our hearts. And if you think that diet soda minimizes the adverse effect of such a diet, think again.

In contrast, traditional Okinawan and Mediterranean diets are said to be heart-friendly and can prevent inflammation and lower cardiovascular risks. These so-called anti-inflammatory diets are highly recommended for the prevention of coronary artery disease and diabetes. I will go into more detail about heart-healthy diets in future posts. A couple of easy-to-follow healthy recipes are also coming.

But before you go out there today, think seriously about your body and what fast food can do to your and your heart.

Are you ready to order?


O’Keefe JH, Gheewala NM, O’Keefe JO, 2008. Dietary Strategies for Improving Post-Prandial Glucose, Lipids, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Health. J Am Coll Cardiol, 2008; 51:249-255, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2007.10.016

Photo credit

Giraffe Ailing With Arthritis, Put To Sleep

May 27, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Earlier this week, a Maryland Zoo eutanized a giraffe suffering from arthritis. The said giraffe is 22-year old Gretchen – called ‘The Lady Of The House” – whose life was decided by the caretakers to end due to a fast moving arthritis.

Wow. Imagine a giraffe with arthritis?! The poor thing and her poor joints. It must have a very hard decision to make for her caretakers!

Gretchen was born at the Denver Zoo in May 1986, and had problems with her legs all her life. When she was little, she had shown bleeding wounds on three of her legs, which had been considered to be caused by her mother stepping on her, a common accident in the giraffe world.

Latter on, the caretakers had discovered that her hooves had been rotating inwards, instead of growing outwards, the way they were supposed to. Even though this condition made the animal feel uncomfortable, the Zoo staff’s efforts of periodically cutting her hooves had made her life a lot easier.

During the last years, however, Gretchen had begun suffering of arthritis, and had sometimes been in a great amount of pain. People at the Zoo had noticed that she was rarely leaving her barn on rainy days, and that her posture was starting to deteriorate. The caretakers have tried everything to cure the loved animal and ease its pain, but without success.

At least treatments have been tried! I don’t know how long a giraffe’s lifetime is….but 22 years for a giraffe might be pretty old.

Even though the decision was hard to make, the Zoo staff decided that it was better for Gretchen if she was euthanized. On Sunday, she was taken to a chute built for this occasion and was given a high dose of barbiturates. She died in her sleep.

Because of the condition that affected her hooves, ‘The Lady of the House’ had never been allowed to breed, for fear of passing the disorder to her children as well. However, the 4 giraffes that shared the same hill with her at the Maryland Zoo will most probably feel her absence in the days to come.

On Sunday, Gretchen died in her sleep after a high dose of barbiturates. I’m pretty sure she will be missed.

This story is not the first reported of animals suffering from arthritis. Most common are common house pets such as cats and dogs and are often related to the animal’s old age. Maybe was just extreme and worse with the giraffe’s case due to its unusually long extremities that must have taken toll on the giraffe’s joints. That must have been awful for the said giraffe!

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Partners in Crime

May 27, 2008 by  

Initially, it was chalked up to age. It was almost expected that a person with Alzheimer’s disease also suffered from diabetes or some other illness. The thought was that the person was aging and the other disorders were a function of an aging body and not necessarily related per se to Alzheimer’s disease.

Then the researchers started to consider the fact that people with Alzheimer’s disease were often battling other health issues such as: heart disease, stroke and especially diabetes.

Have you ever noticed that “a diet low in fat, and high in fiber, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables” is good for just about every sickness?

The point here is that good nutrition is good for the body AND the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes not detected until the person is in the third or fourth stage of the disease. By that time some damage has been done and changes have started to take place. Also, by that time other diseases have already manifested. Specifically, diabetes.

Research has shown that there is a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. So, as you shield yourself against diabetes by eating a high fiber, low fat diet rich in complex carbs and whole grains you are doing “double duty” moreover, protecting yourself against Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa.

In some cases, Alzheimer’s is even being called type 3 diabetes.

You can get detailed information about the types of diabetes from Battling Diabetes. Click the links for information regarding type 1 diabetes, often diagnosed in children, teens and young adults, where the body ceases insulin production, and type 2 diabetes, where the body produces insulin, but not an adequate supply. In 2007, Time and USA Today ran stories about the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes. even characterized Alzheimer’s disease as a form of diabetes. Suggesting that,

“Insulin disappears early and dramatically in Alzheimer’s disease,” In addition, “Many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer’s, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling. This demonstrates that the disease is most likely a neuroendocrine disorder, or another type of diabetes,” said senior researcher Suzanne M. de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of pathology at Brown University Medical School.

In the end, it is more important to eat a balanced, nutritious diet that is low in fat and cholesterol; get plenty of exercise and address total health needs than to get all stressed about potentially getting Alzheimer’s disease. The research seems to suggest that a healthy body leads to a healthy brain.

What’s your experience? Are you providing care for someone who has Alzheimer’s AND another illness?

Pancreatic Cancer

May 27, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

The pancreas is considered a glandular organ. It is about 7 inches by 1.5 inches in size. It lies under the stomach and at the beginning of the small intestine, and functions as an exocrine organ by producing fluids for digesting food. It functions as an endocrine organ as it releases hormones. When released into the blood stream, these hormones regulate our glucose levels (insulin and glucagon).

Pancreatic cancer is a cancerous tumor that occurs in the tissues of this gland/organ.

Estimated new cases and deaths from pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2008 per the National Cancer Institute: New cases, 37,680 and deaths, 34,290.

This type of cancer typically spreads fast and is often not diagnosed in the early stages.

Per the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, which may not occur until the cancer is in the advanced stages:

  • Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to your back
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression

There are two types of pancreatic cancer: exocrine and endocrine. Endocrine cancers are very rare. The American Cancer Society states that exocrine cancers are the most common and 95% of those diagnosed are adenocarcinomas.

Risk Factors for Exocrine (Pancreatic) Cancers:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Gender-men have a slightly increased rate of occurrence
  • Race-occurs more often in blacks than Caucasians
  • Age-most people diagnosed are in their 70’s and 80’s
  • Personal or family history of pancreatic cancer
  • History of chronic pancreatitis
  • Diabetes-occurs more often in diagnosed diabetics

The American Cancer Society site discusses risk factors that are uncertain or under research.


While there is no screening for pancreatic cancer you may undergo a CT, Ultrasound, and/or MRI if your physician suspects this disease.

Other diagnostic tests:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographyERCP-a dye is injected into your bile ducts and they are examined with a scope as air is blown into the ducts.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound-EUSa scope with an ultrasound device is passed through the stomach into the duodenum to take pictures. It may also collect biopsy specimens.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography-PTCa needle is inserted into the liver from outside the body and a tube is threaded into the bile ducts. Dye is injected into the ducts to detect blockages.

If a diagnosis confirms the cancer then further tests may be ordered to stage the disease and determine if it has spread. A CA19-19 blood test may be ordered to monitor your response to treatment.

Basic staging per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Resectable. All the tumor nodules can be removed.
  • Locally advanced. The tumor can no longer be removed with surgery because the cancer has spread to tissues around the pancreas or into the blood vessels.
  • Metastatic. At this stage, the cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs and liver.

For further staging information, including The American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM, numerical staging, see The American Cancer Society site.

Current Treatment for Exocrine (Pancreatic) Cancer:

  • Surgery (resection)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted Gene Therapy

Battling Books:

100 Q & A About Pancreatic Cancer by Eileen O’Reilly M.D.

My Journey with Pancreatic Cancer by Calvin E. Rains Sr. (2006)

Pancreatic Cancer in the News:

ScienceDaily, January 9, 2008. Pancreatic Cancer: The smaller the tumor, the better your chances, study shows. “The odds of surviving cancer of the pancreas increase dramatically for patients whose tumors are smallest, according to a new study by researchers at Saint Louis University and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — the first study to specifically evaluate the link between tumor size and survival rates for one of the most common and deadly cancers.”


The Clinical Trials Database is the largest resource of clinical trials for pancreatic cancer in the world.

PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Working Together for a Cure”

The National Pancreas Foundation. Support, Education and Research.

Know your drugs: Warning against drugs sold over the Internet

May 27, 2008 by  

We all get spam emails about cheap drugs sold over the Internet. However, these drugs and their distributors not only clutter your inbox, they actually present serious health hazards to those who actually buy and use them.

Here are examples of drugs that can harm your heart and badly affect your blood pressure:

Weight-loss drugs

HealthDay News reports that American researchers identified several weight-loss drugs to be dangerous, especially those being sold over the Internet. They examined the ingredients of 12 different brands of drugs that supposedly help you to lose weight without endangering your health. These drugs come with a variety of names, such as diet pills, slimming pills or weight-loss supplements. Some of these drugs contain herbal extracts, vitamins as well as minerals.

Among these drugs, 8 contained at least 1 ingredient which has potentially hazardous cardiac effects. One brand even contained ma huang aka Chinese ephedra, a substance which has been banned by the US FDA since 2004.

Although the researchers did not give any brand names, they listed potentially dangerous substances found in these pills, as follows:

What is also worrying is that these products’ hazardous effects can further be augmented by food and beverages that people consume daily such as coffee, tea, and other caffein-containing drinks.

Sexual enhancement drugs

In March this year, the US FDA warned consumers against buying and using “Blue Steel” and “Hero”, two dietary supplements sold over the Internet that are supposed to treat erectile dysfunction and for sexual enhancement.

They are considered unapproved drugs and have not been proven to be safe or effective. These products contain undeclared ingredients, which may dangerously affect a person’s blood pressure level.” 

Although the products were declared as “all natural,” lab analysis by the US FDA revealed that that they contain a chemical similar to sildenafil (Viagra). However, this chemical and other unlisted ingredients in the above named drugs haven’t been approved by the FDA for human use.

According to the FDA

“Blue Steel is sold in bottles containing 10 blue capsules or blister packs containing two blue capsules. Hero is sold in blister packs containing two blue capsules. Both products are distributed by Active Nutraceuticals or the Marion Group, Carrollton, Ga.”

Buying drugs over the Internet is a risky business because in the end you don’t know what exactly you are buying. The labelling may not but accurate. Some may not give warning about the risks and side effects. Counterfeit drugs are rampant. So the next time you get those emails selling drugs, put them where they belong – in the trash.

Photo credit

Battling Diabetes Has A New Voice

May 26, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Tina Radcliffe

Battling Diabetes and the HART-Empire Network welcomes Tina Radcliffe as the *NEW* Diabetes Blogger!

* Tina Radcliffe is a former R.N with a background in oncology, home health and geriatrics. She spent many years caring for and teaching newly diagnosed diabetics in the home setting. Her other experiences include a stint in the U.S. Army as well as six years as a library cataloger.

Tina officially starts June 1, 2008.

Welcome Tina!

Tina currently writes on the Battling Cancer blog.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.