Frankincense Against Knee Osteoarthritis

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

An enriched extract of the frankincense herb may reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Such were the suggested findings of a study recently reported at Arthritis Research & Therapy.

The authors of the said study have reported that patients who took the enriched herb experienced reduction in pain and increase in mobility in as little as seven days.

The herb was enriched with 30 percent AKBA (3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), which exhibits potential anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme. This enzyme transforms essential fatty acids into leukotrienes, which use signals to regulate the body’s response to inflammation.

AKBA is believed to be the most active ingredient of the B. serrata herb.

“AKBA has anti-inflammatory properties, and we have shown that B. serrata enriched with AKBA can be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee,” said study leader Siba Raychaudhuri, a faculty member of the University of California, Davis.

“The high incidence of adverse effects associated with currently available medications has created great interest in the search for an effective and safe alternative treatment,” Raychaudhuri said.

Frankincense is something we knew that is used in incense and in perfumes. From wikipedia:

Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggly but hardy Boswellia tree through slashing the bark and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are numerous species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity in the resin, even within the same species.

In the abovementioned study, the frankincense specie used is Boswellia serrata enriched with 30% 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) — a product called 5-Loxin®.

5-Loxin(R) is a novel Boswellia serrata extract enriched with 30% 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), which exhibits potential anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme. A 90-day, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin(R) in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

5-Loxin(R) reduces pain and improves physical functioning significantly in OA patients; and it is safe for human consumption. 5-Loxin(R) may exert its beneficial effects by controlling inflammatory responses through reducing proinflammatory modulators, and it may improve joint health by reducing the enzymatic degradation of cartilage in OA patients.

5-Loxin® is a new, patent-pending joint health ingredient from P.L. Thomas.

Story sources: FOX News, Arthritis Research & Therapy abstract

5-LOXIN is a new, patent-pending joint health ingredient that is steeped in the historic roots of boswellia serrata extracts. The boswellia plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India, and recent studies have shown its benefits in promoting joint comfort, knee mobility and walking distance.

The application of modern science by the researchers at the renowned Laila Impex Research Center in India has resulted in the identification of the most powerful boswellia compound, acetyl-11-keto-beta boswellic acid, or AKBA.

I’m guessing it won’t take too long before this product makes it to the market for public consumption. Soon enough this will be the new osteoarthritis anti-inflammatory/pain drug, don’t you think?

Story sources: FOX News and Arthritis Research & Therapy abstract

Roche RA Drug Actemra Wins Support of US FDA Panel

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Roche is happy to announce that its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab) has won the recommending approval of the US FDA‘s Arthritis Advisory Committee.

The committee’s vote was made after Roche presented results from five Phase III clinical trials. The clinical development program evaluated the effects of Actemra on signs and symptoms of RA, physical function, progression of structural damage, and health-related quality of life.

Of these five studies, three trials were conducted in patients with inadequate response to disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), one trial was conducted in patients who failed anti tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy and one monotherapy study comparing Actemra to methotrexate, a current standard of care, was also conducted.

Results of these studies demonstrated that treatment with Actemra, alone or combined with methotrexate or other DMARDs, significantly reduced RA symptoms regardless of previous therapy or disease severity, compared with current DMARDs.

Actemra (already approved in Japan, but not yet in the US and Europe) is a novel interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody, for reducing the signs and symptoms in adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Actemra is the result of research collaboration by Chugai and is being co-developed globally with Chugai. Actemra is the first humanized interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody. An extensive clinical development program of five Phase III trials was designed to evaluate clinical findings of Actemra. T

he five studies have reported meeting their primary endpoints. Actemra is awaiting approval in the United States and Europe. In Japan, Actemra was launched by Chugai in June 2005 as a therapy for Castleman’s disease; in April 2008, additional indications for rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular-course juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis were also approved in Japan.

With the FDA panel’s recommending approval, it is almost sure that the FDA will grant approval of Actemra in September.

According to William M. Burns, CEO of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division:

“We are pleased with the FDA advisory committee’s very positive recommendation for Actemra, which helps move this promising new therapy closer to becoming available for patients who suffer from the debilitating symptoms of RA.

Based on the compelling data presented, and this positive recommendation from the committee, we remain hopeful that the FDA will approve Actemra for the treatment of RA and provide a new option to patients who are not achieving adequate symptom relief with current therapies.”

Actemra is generally well tolerated, as reported by Roche. Now reports are saying that if the drug gets FDA approval, Actemra is a potential blockbuster. Well…from a patient’s perspective, let’s cross our fingers that the drug really works well against rheumatoid arthritis.

The overall safety profile of Actemra is consistent across all global clinical studies. Serious adverse events reported in Actemra clinical trials include serious infections, diverticular perforations and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis.

The most common adverse events reported in clinical trials were upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis, headache and hypertension. Increases in liver function tests (ALT and AST) were seen in some patients; these increases were generally mild and reversible, without injuries or any observed impact on liver function.

Laboratory changes, including increases in lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) and decreases in neutrophils and platelets, were seen in some patients without association with clinical outcomes.

Read more from the Roche press release or the report from Reuters.

Music Therapy to Combat Stress in Diabetics

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Music has the amazing ability to turn emotions on and off, to transport us to another place and yes, to heal.

Music transcends race, sex, religion and boundaries of time and space.

What’s playing on your iPod, your computer, or in the background of your mind?

Right now I’m listening to Paul Baker’s, Tranquil Harp, because to me the music translates to calming empowerment.

We’ve discussed the Diabetes/Stress Connection before.

Stress releases hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that will increase your blood glucose levels. While this is good on a temporary basis to provide energy to deal with a threatening fight or flight situation, chronic stress keeps your glucose levels elevated which can create insulin resistance and high glucose levels.

Did you know music therapy is a great way to reduce stress levels?

From the American Music Therapy Association, the definition of music therapy:

Music Therapy is an established health care profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • promote wellness
  • manage stress
  • alleviate pain
  • express feelings
  • enhance memory
  • improve communication
  • promote physical rehabilitation

Combining music and science to promote healing and wellness, is the philosophy of The Institute of Music and Neurological Function.

The Institute utilizes psychotherapy trained music therapists to facilitate with the goal of facilitating self-expression and providing emotional support. Music becomes a method of communication, a tool of expression and a coping mechanism.

Goals of a this type of emotional support therapy include reduced pain, relaxation, stimulated communication and learned coping skills.

The Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy located on the campus of NYU and affiliated with a graduate program in music therapy, offers programs for children, adolescents and adults to cope with life stressors and to provide therapeutic self expression.

Stanford University’s Center for Music Research and Acoustics released some preliminary symposium results stating that “music with a strong beat stimulates the brain and ultimately causes brainwaves to resonate in time with the rhythm, research has shown. Slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats may encourage more alert and concentrated thinking.”

Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect Resource Center is all about the “transformational powers of music, health, education and well being.”

Campbell’s book, The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit.

Publisher description: Stimulating, authoritative, and often lyrical, The Mozart Effect has a simple but life-changing message: music is medicine for the body, the mind, and the soul. Campbell shows how modern science has begun to confirm this ancient wisdom, finding evidence that listening to certain types of music can improve the quality of life in almost every respect. Here are dramatic accounts of how music is used to deal with everything from anxiety to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, dyslexia, and even mental illness.

I recently asked a friend what she was listening to on her iPod as we waited for the light rail to arrive. She told me and then added, “I think of it as background music for my life.”

I like that.

Why not deliberately stage the background music for your life?


Press TV, July 30, 2008. Stress Linked to Diabetes in Men.

The Times Online, May 22, 2007. Body and Mind: How the Power of Music Lifts and Heals.

American Diabetes Association–Stress: All About Diabetes

Duke Medical News:Stress Management Can Help Control Glucose in Type 2 Diabetes

Cancer Sites in Cyberspace

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

These cancer sites may not be news to you but they are to me and I like to share when I find something new and different.

Cancer . com, has a great interactive site. Almost eerily interactive as three speakers chat it up with you and follow you around the site.

You can personalize your homepage according to whether you are recently diagnosed, undergoing treatment or are a caregiver. Each of the hosts will give you their personal story as well.

It’s a very cool and VERY informative site. My only complaint is it took me eight tries to create a password and my own homepage.

Read more

Resource article for July: Alcohol and CVD Part II

July 31, 2008 by  

The adverse effects of heavy drinking: too much of a good thing can be bad

As promised, I present here the second part of the series of resource posts on alcohol consumption and its effect on cardiovascular health. In the first part, I’ve tackled the health benefits associated with light to moderate alcohol drinking. In this post, I present a review of the adverse effects of alcohol drinking.

In a review paper [1], Swiss researchers found that the health consequences of drinking can be acute (e.g. traffic accidents) or chronic (e.g. diseases).

We all know that drinking and driving don’t mix and we hope that all of us will keep this in mind. This resource post, however, will dwell more on the chronic adverse health effects, especially on the heart and the vascular system, of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and chronic diseases

Many chronic diseases have been linked to alcohol consumption, namely [1]:

  • Cardiovascular disorders which include hypertensions, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cerebrovascular disease.
  • Different types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast.
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders such as unipolar major depression, epilepsy, and other alcohol use disorders.
  • Digestive disorders such as cirrhosis of the liver
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) disorder (for infants born to chronic and heavy drinking mothers)

Alcohol and cardiovascular disorders

While light to moderate drinking may have some cardiovascular benefits, heavy and binge drinking can easily reverse the protective mechanism of alcohol.

Heavy drinking appears to lower the threshold at which the ventricular heart muscle begins a rapid contraction pattern; without prompt intervention, this pattern prevents normal heart function and results in death.” [1].

In an Irish study [2], heavy drinking was observed to lead to hypertension and atherosclerosis in men and ventricular enlargement in women.

In another study [3] on 2609 white Americans aged 35 to 80, drinking alcohol outside mealtimes was shown to adversely affect blood pressure and lead to hypertension, regardless of the amount of alcohol or the type of drink consumed.

So what does heavy drinking to our heart and vascular system? A few observations are listed below [1]:

  • Occasions of heavy drinking can lead to increased low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels in the blood;
  • Irregular occasions of heavy alcohol consumption have been linked to thromobosis or blood clot formation;
  • Irregular but heavy drinking episodes increase the risk for structural changes in the myocardium (heart muscle) which can interfere with the electrical impulses and lead to fibrillation.

In sum, a pattern of irregular heavy drinking occasions is mainly associated with physiological mechanisms that increase the risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular outcomes [1].

Alcohol and cancer

Alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers of the upper digestive tract (e.g. mouth, throat, and esophagus) but there is limited data on this. An earlier study reported increased risk for breast cancer with every glass of alcoholic drink. Women who drink one or two glasses of alcohol a day have a 10% higher risk for breast cancer. With 3 glasses, the risk increases by 30%. The type of alcohol drink consumed doesn’t matter [4].

Alcohol and pregnancy

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is strongly discouraged. A Danish study [5] – and many other studies before it – show that binge drinking, 3 times or more during pregnancy highly increases the risk of stillbirth. Alcohol consumption also causes the so-called fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) disorder. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, the exact prevalence of FAS is unknown but has been estimated to be as high as 43 out of 1000 (4.3%) births among babies born to heavy drinkers.

In another study on Swedish women [6], an estimated 30% of women continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy. However, only about 6% admits to doing so.

Know your limit

Although many of the research studies presented tried to define the difference between light to moderate drinking which is beneficial and heavy drinking which is harmful, the demarcation line is pretty fuzzy. The American Heart Association defines “drinking in moderation” as follows:

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.)

However, individuals vary in terms of their tolerance to alcohol. It’s still up to us to find out what is best for us.

Here are some tips to make sure that we don´t overimbibe:

  • Do not drink alcohol when you are thirsty. This will only lead to you to overconsumption. There is nothing better to quench thirst than water.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. The alcohol is rapidly absorbed into your system. A glass of wine is enjoyed best with a meal.
  • Know your limit and know when you’ve had enough. Listen to your body. Although most research studies try to define the difference between moderate and heavy drinking, alcohol consumption and its effects can actually depend on so many other factors including body weight, genetics, food consumption, and interaction with drugs and medications. I have low tolerance to alcohol and I know it. This is probably due to my size and my Asian genes. What is light drinking to some people is just too much for me. I know my limit – it’s half a glass of wine.
  • If you feel that you are drinking too much, do not hesitate to seek professional help. It’s your health and your life that is at stake.

Remember – too much of a good thing can actually be bad.

Next in this series: Women benefit less from alcohol than men.




  1. Alcohol Res Health. 2003;27(1):39-51. Review.
  2. Heartwire, 15 May 2008.
  3. Hypertension. 2004 Dec;44(6):813-9. Epub 2004 Oct 11
  4. CBCNews Canada, 27 Sept 2007
  5. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111:602-609.
  6. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, April 2008

Photo credits:



July 30, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

What exactly is a retina?

The retina is the area at the back of your eye that receives light. Impulses are then transmitted by the optic nerve to the brain. In order to do its job the retina utilizes a system of small blood vessels.

Diabetic retinopathy is progressive damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Source: Mayo Clinic.

“Your chances of developing retinopathy increases the longer you have diabetes. If you have had diabetes for 10 years, you have a 50 percent chance of having retinopathy; if you have had diabetes for 20 years you are almost certain to have background retinopathy….it may just mean that there are early signs of damage to your retinal blood vessels.”

Source: Diabetes: A Practical Guide to Managing Your Health by Rosemary Walker & Jill Rodgers

The good news is that according to the American Diabetes Association, while diabetics are at greater risk for retinopathy, “most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders. ”

Types of Retinopathy:

Nonproliferative: per Merck Manual: produces increased capillary permeability, microaneurysms, hemorrhages, exudates, and macular edema and causes vision loss if untreated.

Proliferative:per Merck Manual: is characterized by abnormal new vessel formation, which occurs on the vitreous surface of the retina and may extend into the vitreous cavity and cause vitreous hemorrhages. Vision loss with proliferative retinopathy may be severe.

Some Complications of Retinopathy:

Glaucoma: is a group of conditions resulting in optic nerve damage. High pressure inside your eye is usually what causes this damage.

Cataracts:Is a clouding of the lens. It is a slowly progressive disease.

Retinal Detachment: This is considered a medical emergency and occurs when the retina detaches from the blood vessels that support the retina itself.

Vitreous Hemorrhage: per Mayo Clinic: The new blood vessels may bleed into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. If the amount of bleeding is small, you might see only a few dark spots or floaters. In more severe cases, blood can fill the vitreous cavity and completely block your vision. Vitreous hemorrhage by itself usually doesn’t cause permanent vision loss. The blood often clears from the eye within a few weeks or months.

Macular Edema: Caused when amaged blood vessels leak fluid and lipids onto the macula


Diabetic Eyes . com: The website of Dr. A. Paul Chous; eye doctor, diabetes educator, and author of the highly-acclaimed book Diabetic Eye Disease: Lessons From A Diabetic Eye Doctor.

Take Dr. Chous’ Eye-Q-Test.

And remember to protect your vision with controlled blood sugar levels and yearly eye exams.

Read more

Cancer Periodicals

July 30, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

There are an array of quality periodicals available that deal with cancer support, education and advocacy including:

CURE: cancer updates, research and information.

CURE is a quarterly magazine with an annual Resource Guide and special issue, that combines the science and humanity of cancer for those who have to deal with it on a daily basis. CURE provides scientific information in easy-to-understand language with equally understandable illustrations. CURE is free to cancer patients, their families and caregivers.

Coping With Cancer is America’s consumer magazine for people whose lives have been touched by cancer™. Now in its 22nd year of providing knowledge, hope and inspiration, its readers include cancer patients (survivors) and their families, caregivers, healthcare teams and support group leaders.

Subscription and submission guidelines and the current issue in pdf available here.

MAMM-Women, Cancer, Community. Subscribe here.

The debut of MAMM marked the first consumer publication of its kind: a magazine devoted to meeting the needs of women diagnosed with breast and reproductive cancer. MAMM is for everyone whose lives have been touched by cancer—directly or indirectly. MAMM is for the millions of women and their families living with cancer. It is for those who have just been diagnosed. It is for longtime survivors. It is for all of us who yearn for a broad range of factual and accessible information about cancer.

A publication of the American Cancer Society, and created especially for the American Cancer Society’s most dedicated supporters, Triumph shows readers how their gifts are making an impact in the fight against cancer. In every issue of this award-winning magazine, courageous survivors tell how they have been helped by American Cancer Society programs, pioneering researchers discuss how their lifesaving work is made possible by donor contributions, and committed volunteers and donors share why they believe in the Society’s mission. Readers also get the latest details on cancer resources, patient service programs and opportunities to get involved. Check it out here.

Women & Cancer-Health, Wellness, Prevention, Treatment, Community & Cancer. Women & Cancer is the premier women’s health and wellness magazine, delivering breaking news about topics critical to women making informed decisions about their own and their family’s health and emphasizing cancer prevention, early detection, management, and survivorship.

Complementary issues are available to all cancer patients courtesy of Amgen. Check out the site here.

Know your medications: Red yeast rice extract- good or bad for the heart?

July 30, 2008 by  

Red yeast extract also know as Xuezhikang or XZK for short, has been the subject of great controversy. Is it or is not good for cardiovascular health?

On August 9, 2007, the US FDA issued a warning to consumers against the use of red yeast rice products in the treatment of high blood cholesterol. These products which are sold as nutritional supplements (and therefore bought over-the-counter (OTC)) contain lovastatin, the active ingredient of anti-cholesterol prescription drugs such as Mevacor.

According to the FDA:

These red yeast rice products are a threat to health because the possibility exists that lovastatin can cause severe muscle problems leading to kidney impairment. This risk is greater in patients who take higher doses of lovastatin or who take lovastatin and other medicines that increase the risk of muscle adverse reactions. These medicines include the antidepressant nefazodone, certain antibiotics, drugs used to treat fungal infections and HIV infections, and other cholesterol-lowering medications.

In addition, FDA has disapproved applications by pharmaceutical companies for OTC marketing of lovastatin.

XZK is an extract from the red yeast rice Monascus purpureus and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Monascus purpureus is not a rice plant but actually a species of mold with reddish color commonly found growing on grains like rice and maize, hence the name.

In a recent study known as the Chinese Coronary Secondary Prevention Study, researchers investigated the long-term efficacy of XZK on the reduction of recurrent cardiovascular events. The multicenter study included4870 Chinese patients aged 18 to 70 years old with average LDL-cholesterol levels. The participants were followed up for an average of 4.5 years.

The study results show the following:

  • XZK treatment showed a 45% risk reduction for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease,
  • cardiovascular events significantly decreased by 39%
  • Total mortality was decreased by 33%
  • The need for coronary revascularization decreased by 1/3
  • Total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides decreased
  • HDL cholesterol levels increased.
  • Cancer risk was also significantly reduced.


The XZK capsules used in the study contained many components, including lovastatin, lovastatin hydroxyl acid, and ergosterol. Although lovastatin is indicated for the treatment of high cholesterol levels, the authors believe that this component alone is not responsible for the all the health benefits of red yeast rice extract. More in-depth analysis of the chemical components is necessary to identify all the beneficial ingredients.

The authors conclude that

…long-term therapy with XZK significantly decreased the recurrence of coronary events and the occurrence of new CV events and deaths, improved lipoprotein regulation, and was safe and well tolerated.


FDA News, 9 August 2007

Am J Cardiol. 2008 Jun 15;101(12):1689-93

Heartwire, 12 June 2008

Photo credit: Mayo Clinic

Free RA Worshop in North Platte

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

What: Workshop On Rheumatoid Arthritis

When: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where: Holiday Inn Express (North Platte, Nebraska)

Sponsored by Great Plains Regional Medical Center (GPRMC) and North Platte Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, this workshop is free and open to the public.

If anybody reading this is near the area, you may want to drop by and listen to Dr. E. Scott Carroll present the seminar:

Dr. E. Scott Carroll, who will present the seminar, began practicing at GPRMC in April 2008. Carroll specializes in hand injuries and pathology. Specifically, he offers wrist arthroscopy, thumb basal joint procedures for arthritis, care of fractures and all hand trauma, including tendon, nerve and arterial repair.

Soft tissue flap coverage of the mutilated hand, as well as replantation of digits is performed here in North Platte. Distal radius fractures, ganglion cysts, fractures of the carpal bones, as well as carpal tunnel release are within the scope of his practice. He will also treat trigger fingers, Dupuytren’ s disease excision and tumors of the hand.

Carroll received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, then attended the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine. Following his schooling, he held a rotating internship and general surgery residency in Des Moines, Iowa.

Carroll then accepted a residency in cardiothoracic surgery in New Jersey for three years. Following the program in New Jersey, Carroll then worked as a heart surgeon in Florida, and practiced in Kearney since March 2001.

It is good to know that such an expert is holding a free seminar. Pretty use he will attract more and more patients.

Which brings me to this other news saying that baby boomers are more like to seek arthritis care for their foot and ankle arthritis.

Foot and ankle surgeons say Baby Boomers are more likely than previous generations to seek care when arthritis develops in their toes, feet and ankles.

“Unlike their parents, Baby Boomers do not accept foot pain as a natural part of aging,” says John Giurini, DPM, a Boston foot and ankle surgeon and president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). “When conservative treatments fail, they want to know what other options exist.”

“This generation has witnessed an explosion of new medical technology during its lifetime,” says Stephen Frania, DPM, a Cleveland foot and ankle surgeon. “They have high expectations, sometimes too high.”

Surgeons say many Boomers who seek treatment for arthritis assume they’ll be able to resume activities such as running or playing sports. Seeking treatment early can improve the odds of preventing irreversible joint damage. While there is no fountain of youth for arthritis, surgeons say there are more medical options available to Baby Boomers than ever before.

There are more  advanced treatment options these days, that is undeniable. Also the younger generation are enjoying the readily available resources that will urge them to seek healthcare when they feel something is wrong in their body.

Well the other extreme of that really is:  each one of us it at risk of the ‘knowing too much’ and the ‘reading too much information’ syndromes in this day and age. Like i have always said, information like the ones in this blog are for educational purposes only…don’t forget to seek the expert practicing doctor.

Let us not forget finding the right balance in all these.

Christmas in July

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

It may be July, but many savvy shoppers are already preparing for the holidays by shopping now.

No groaning.

I do not happen to be one of them. I shop in the middle of December;however there are lots of very organized people who are starting to make their lists and they are already checking them twice.

If that’s you, consider supporting diabetes research as you plan your 2008 gift giving.

Check out these sites and cool gift ideas.

Read more

BMI and Breast Cancer Survival

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

The July 10th issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that survival rates for breast cancer decreased with increased BMI or body mass index. Women with higher BMI showed a 52 percent increase in mortality rates compared to women with the lowest BMI.

Source: Reuters

Read the full article here.

What exactly is BMI?

Per the Centers for Disease Control:

“Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for people. Additionally, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for adults. However, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. For example, a person may have a high BMI. However, to determine if excess weight is a health risk, a healthcare provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history,”

Use the CDC easy Adult BMI Calculator

or the Mayo Clinic BMI Calculator

What’s Next?

Talk to your health care provider about a lifestyle plan which includes healthy eating and exercise.

Check out the CDC’s Healthy Weight Plan site.

Get active, get healthy, your life depends on it.

Read more

Secondhand smoke: even a little bit can do big damage

July 29, 2008 by  

You’d think that because you are a nonsmoker, you are safe from the adverse effects of cigarettes. Actually it all depends on your environment.

It’s called secondhand smoking or passive smoking – and it happens when nonsmokers inhale cigarette smoke in the surroundings – in places such as restaurants, bars, and other public places where smoking is still allowed.

But what does actually happen during exposure to secondhand smoke? A study by researchers of the University of California in San Francisco looked into the effect of exposure to secondhand smoke. The study aimed to determine

Ten healthy adults aged 29 to 31 years old participated in the study. The participants were exposed to different environmental settings on 2 different days. One day they were exposed to an environment where passive smoking is simulated – the kind and amount of smoke one gets exposed to when staying inside an average bar for 30 minutes. On another day, the participants were exposed only to smoke-free air.

Blood vessel health and blood flow were measured before exposure, and 1 hour, 2-and-a-half hours, and 24 hours after exposure.

The results of the study showed that even a 30-minute exposure to secondhand smoke was enough to result in injury to blood vessels of young, healthy lifelong nonsmokers. In addition, passive smoking also adversely affects the body’s repair mechanisms by decreasing the efficacy of EPCs, circulating stem cells in the blood that play a key role in the repair mechanism of injured blood vessels.

Furthermore, these adverse effects lasted for 24 hours or even more – much longer than previously imagined.

I remember the days when there were still smoking sections on airplanes. Flying was an ordeal then. I can only imagine the health effects of secondhand smoking to flight attendants.

Until a few years ago, German trains still had smoking sections.

Many western countries have now banned smoking in restaurants, bars, airports, train stations, and other public places. Italy and France were among the first in the EU to become “smoke-free” and health authorities (source: European Society of Cardiology) have already reported a noticeable decrease in incidence of cardiovascular events in these countries, as follows:

But there are many places in the developed world, including some states in the US and some countries in the EU where anti-smoking law is still being debated.

We have to move fast! Creating a smoke-free environment benefits the health of everybody – smokers and non-smokers alike.

Check out this newsbrief videoclip about passive smoking.



UCSF News Office 2 May 2008

J Am Coll Cardiol, 2008; 51:1760-1771.

Muscuskeletal Ultrasound in Rheumatoid Arthritis

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSUS) has been around for quite sometime and has turned into an established imaging technique for the diagnosis and follow up of patients with rheumatic diseases — such as rheumatoid arthritis. MSUS generates pictures/imaging of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and soft tissue throughout the body.

From Radiology Info, MSUS helps diagnose the following:

  • tendon tears, such as tears of the rotator cuff in the shoulder or Achilles tendon in the ankle
  • abnormalities of the muscles, such as tears and soft-tissue masses
  • bleeding or other fluid collections within the muscles, bursae and joints

One limitation however of this imagine procedure is that it has difficulty penetrating to the bones and so can only see the outer surface of bony structures. For imaging of the internals of the bones and joints, MRI comes in.

According to UK’s National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society:

Ultrasound is relatively inexpensive and safe, avoiding the exposure to radiation that is necessary for conventional x-rays, CT and MRI scans.

Traditionally, rheumatologists have referred patients to radiologists for all ultrasound examinations but recent developments have enabled them to conduct some scans themselves. The advent of portable ultrasound machines (figure 2) means that scans can be carried out at the bedside or in the outpatient clinic without the need for a second appointment in the x-ray department.

This speeds up the process of investigation and allows the rheumatologist to plan treatment without delay. Radiologists are expert at conducting detailed scans that often assist with a structural diagnosis. Rheumatologists tend to use ultrasound in a slightly different way. They may use it to guide them in carrying out difficult joint injections.

They also use it to detect subtle inflammation around tendons and small knuckle joints. This is important because clinical examination may not always identify inflammation, particularly in early arthritis. The earlier the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, the better the chance of dampening down inflammation and preventing joint damage.

Well I guess it is always better to see a rheumatologist for this procedure…though the combined ‘reading’ or interpretation of both rheumatologist and radiologist alike would be a lot of help. Has anybody reading this underwent MSUS, let us know about it. Was the procedure helpful in the diagnosis?

World Diabetes Day 2008 is Coming!

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

There are only four months until World Diabetes Day. Here at Battling Diabetes we will keep you updated on the events leading to this November 14, 2008 event, celebrated world wide to encourage awareness of diabetes. It includes the 200 member organizations of the International Diabetes Federation and 160 countries, all members of the United Nations. The date, November 14, was chosen to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.

The logo of World Diabetes Day was adopted in 2007 to mark the passage of the United Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution.

The themes for World Diabetes Day present, past and future include:

2004: Diabetes and Obesity
2005: Diabetes and Foot Care
2006: Diabetes in the Disadvantaged and the Vulnerable
2007-2008: Diabetes in Children and Adolescents
2009-2013: Diabetes Education and Prevention

Global events are already being registered on the World Diabetes site. One in particular is the World Diabetes Day 2008 Monument Challenge.

The World Diabetes Day 2008 Monument Challenge aims to illuminate more than 500 monuments and iconic buildings in blue around the world on November 14. Helping to ‘Bring Diabetes to Light!’

See the map of currently listed monuments, ready to be lit up in blue, including the Empire State Building.

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Finding your feet and gait again after a stroke

July 28, 2008 by  

Every year, over 700,000 people in the US suffer from stroke. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number 3 cause of mortality in the US, after heart diseases and different types of cancer.

Those who are lucky to survive this monster can end up with after effects that would include paralysis, speech or language impairment, vision problems, behavioural changes, and memory loss.

Partial paralysis can result in gait impairment and with it the stigma of disability. Mobility is affected and the patient may not be able to perform activities he or she has done before the stroke. Rehabilitation helps but is not always successful in helping people regain their normal gait. Through rehabilitation, most stroke survivors are able to walk again but with the aid of walkers and canes.

This study conducted at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation (BIR) aimed to help stroke survivors walk normally again using a specially designed treadmill.

The approach, known as locomotor treadmill training with partial body weight support, consists of a treadmill outfitted with a harness. The patient is secured to the harness to support a portion of their body weight while walking on the treadmill. In this reduced weight environment, the patient can relearn how to walk in a safe and controlled manner. Once the patient becomes stronger, more body weight is added until they can comfortably walk on their own without the need for assistance.

Seven patients were recruited to participate in this pilot study. After the study was completed, all participants were able to walk and even gain their normal gait without the aid of a cane. In most cases, it is not evident that they have suffered from stroke from the way they walk.

Early intervention is essential for this method to work. Patients should start the rehabilitation program as early as possible so as to prevent abnormal gait patterns from developing. Currently, there is no clinical “gold standard” for stroke rehabilitation.


About BIR:

Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation is a not-for-profit, 92-bed hospital that offers intense, specialized rehabilitation services for traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes, and other orthopaedic and neurological disorders. Physicians specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, known as physiatrists, lead interdisciplinary clinical teams, which work with patients to design and implement a treatment program to achieve the patient’s goals. In 2007, Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation was named among the top rehabilitation hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” guide, an honor it has received for 10 years.

Shark Cartilage Therapy

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Shark Cartilage Therapy involves the use of shark cartilage as a food supplement. Cartilage is a connective tissue. Found in the head and fins of sharks, it is ground into powder and used in capsule form. Many people prefer the enema form due to the size and taste of the capsules. It can also be injected Bovine cartilage is another type of therapy not to be confused with shark cartilage.

Shark Cartilage Therapy is considered a form of antiangiogenesis.

Antiangiogenesis or anti-angiogenesis is a type of therapy that uses pharmacology or other substances to stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels.

Antiangiogenesis agents don’t target the cancer tumor; their focus is the blood vessels that nourish the cancer tumors, literally starving the tumors.

Dietary supplements are available and marketed as Carticin, Cartilade, and BeneFin. These supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Per NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) “In the United States, herbal and other dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods. This means that they do not have to meet the same standards as drugs and over-the-counter medications for proof of safety, effectiveness, and what the FDA calls Good Manufacturing Practices.”

In 2004 the FDA did order the manufacturers of BeneFin to stop advertising the product as a cancer cure and to refund customers.

Primary side effects of cartilage include alterations in taste.

The National Cancer Institute also reports the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Higher than normal blood sugar
  • General weakness.
  • A higher than normal blood calcium levels

Neovastat (AE-941) is a new drug from highly purified extract of shark cartilage. Neovastat is regulated by the FDA and is not available to the public, as it is still undergoing investigative research. Used as a liquid form it may be more readily utilized by the body than other forms which are thought to be simply excreted.

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ACR New Guidelines For Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

July 27, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Updated guidelines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has been issued by the American College of Rheumatology.

Co-authored by by physicians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the updated guidelines highlighted the fact that proven combinations of medicines and the introduction of new anti-arthritis drugs have significantly improved the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The strategies are updated in such a way that the goal is more focused on the prevention of joint damage and disability.

According to lead author Kenneth Saag, M.D., M.Sc., a professor in the UAB Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology:

The new recommendations do not strive to replace individualized medical decisions. Instead, they are meant to guide rheumatologists and other health care workers toward the most updated recommendations.

The recommendations developed are not intended to be used in a ‘cookbook’ or prescriptive manner, or to limit a physician’s clinical judgment. They provide guidance based on clinical evidence and expert panel input.”

The last guidance issued by ACR is in year 2002. Some of the key recommendations included in the new guidelines are:

  • Methotrexate or leflunomide therapy is recommended for most RA patients.
  • Anti-TNF agents etanercept, infliximab, or adalimumab along with methotrexate can be used in new or early RA cases with worsening and severe symptoms.
  • Doctors should not initiate or resume treatment with methotrexate, leflunomide, or biologics if RA patients have active bacterial infection, shingles (herpes-zoster), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and active or latent tuberculosis.
  • Doctors should not prescribe anti-TNF agents to patients with a history of heart failure, lymphoma or multiple sclerosis.

For the complete guideline, the American College of Rheumatology has a pdf file.

The anti-TNFs popularly available in the market are:

1) Enbrel (entanercept) – product of Amgen and Wyeth

ENBREL is a type of protein called a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker that blocks the action of a substance your body’s immune system makes called TNF. People with an immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, or psoriasis, have too much TNF in their bodies.

ENBREL can reduce the amount of active TNF in the body to normal levels, helping to treat your disease. But, in doing so, ENBREL can also lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections.

2) Remicade (infliximab) – product of Centocor, Inc.

REMICADE is an advanced treatment that has been shown to have substantial benefits in patients with a number of inflammatory disorders involving the immune system. REMICADE targets specific proteins in the body’s immune system to help control the development of inflammation, significantly reducing painful symptoms in diseases such as plaque psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, adult Crohn’s disease, pediatric Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

3) Humira (adalimumab) – product of Abbott

HUMIRA is a TNF Blocker.

TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blockers are a class of medications that fight both the painful symptoms and progressive joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. They just might make a real difference in your fight against RA.

TNF blockers can slow down the rate at which RA causes damage to joints and bones. HUMIRA is one such TNF blocker.

For many patients, HUMIRA can provide relief to painful joints. It can help fight the fatigue. And it can help slow the progressive joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

As we already know, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease causing the chronic inflammation of the joints. We already know too that with the proper treatment, therapy, diet, lifestyle, etc…rheumatoid arthritis need not be a death sentence. Discuss the options with your doctor in order to still have the best quality of life despite your condition.

Read more from Medical News Today or UAB News.

Exercise Benefits Arthritis

July 26, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Countless time here, I have mentioned the importance of exercise in managing arthritis. While exercise (as shown by various studies) can relieve the pain, stiffness and swelling in joints caused by arthritis, we do not want an exercise that will strain the arthritis patient.

If you dig into my archives, the top 2 exercise for arthritis that will come out are:

1. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is most known to relieve stress and improve one’s agility. Recently however, it has been noticed as a beneficial exercise form for people with arthritis. From the Mayo Clinic‘s list of uses of tai chi, one cannot deny the fact that it can indeed help against arthritis:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve muscle strength and definition
  • Increase energy, stamina and agility
  • Increase feelings of well-being

In the case of oseoarthritis, stress is a risk factor. Therefore tai chi in one way to relieve stress and improve one’s quality of life.

2. Water Aerobics or other water exercises

Exercising in water doesn’t strain the joints and so it offers a different way of exercising with too much stress to people suffering from arthritis. Besides, studies have attested to its benefits. It is better though to have a trainor for this or join a class. With the approval of course of your doctor.

From wikipedia:

In addition to the standard benefits of any exercise, the use of water in water aerobics supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint injury. The mitigation of gravity by flotation places less stress on the joints when stretching, and can allow a greater range of motion. The mitigation of gravity makes water aerobics safe for any individual able to keep their head out of water, including the elderly.[2] Exercise in water can also prevent overheating through continuous cooling of the body. Most classes last for 45-55 minutes.

I couldn’t agree more. People with arthritis should exercise but with minimal to none injury to the muscle or joints.

Swimming and walking, am not to sure to add to this list. While it may be beneficial, it should with done with caution as we do not want to be strained, stress nor injured. Simple stretching exercises could be helpful as well. Nothing too fancy, I guess. It would be best to discuss with your doctor, it might be good to consider as well if you work with a professional therapist or trainor experienced in arthritis patients. At least from my reading about managing life with arthritis, that piece of info I has always bumped into.

Would you mind sharing to us here, what kinds of exercises have you found beneficial in living life with arthritis? We’d like to know.

Diabetes News, Friday July 25, 2008

July 25, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Diabetes Events and News for the week:

New Game Plan Targets Pre-Diabetics. Check out this news video at CBC Evening News, from July 23. It includes information on diet, exercise and weight loss meds all targeted at the 57 million pre-diabetics in the United States.

Read more

Cancer News, Friday July 25, 2008

July 25, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Events fighting the Cancer Battle:

Read more

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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.