CVD News Watch November 28

November 28, 2008 by  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope you are having a relaxing long weekend. Here’s your heart and stroke news round up.

CVD intervention watch

German doctors perform heart surgery sensation
Only 4 or 5 such operations are done each year and only the top heart surgeons do it. Still, the chances of survival are very low. Yet, 4-month old Katy May is alive and doing well. She was born with a heart anomaly wherein “her four-centimetre heart had turned 90 degrees in her body, causing her artery to shut off her windpipe.” If not operated upon, the baby would have died of suffocation. Another event to be thankful for at Thanksgiving.

CVD aging watch

Bittersweet milestones
The elderly are rapidly aging and many are wondering whether this will be their last Thanksgiving. According to the US Bureau of the Census, there are currently more 60,000 in the country who are at least 100 years old and this figure is expected to increase. Unfortunately, people reaching that ripe age tend to be depressed. Better quality of life for centenarians may actually depend on their caregivers, doctors, and family members.

CVD weight loss watch

Proof: high protein diet burns fat
Is this finally the answer to weight loss? Australian researchers report that protein-rich meals burn fat. This is great news because this means we can actually eat anything we want as long as they are high in protein and low in fat and sugar. According to the author, “forget the fad diets that are so fashionable these days. Instead, include lean protein from healthy foods like lean red meat, chicken and fish, legumes, eggs, nuts and reduced-fat dairy foods. People wanting individual advice on how much protein they need should see an Accredited Practising Dietitian.”

CVD health care watch

Poorest Canadians more likely to enter hospital: report
A report based on the Canadian study Reducing Gaps in Health: A Focus on Socio-Economic Status in Urban Canada says that “poorer Canadians are more likely to enter hospital for health problems such as child asthma, mental illness and diabetes, including potentially preventable conditions.” This underlines a great need for prevention measures especially among the low socio-economic groups.

CVD patient watch

Girl Survives Months Without Heart
This 14-year girl from Britain has been without a heart for almost four months now. D’Zhana Simmons is on a “bridging device”, a specially designed blood pumping device which enables her to live while waiting for a heart donor. Watch a video report on SkyNews by clicking here.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

News from the cancer side November 28

November 28, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER


News from the retail side

Pink Friday
The retailer giant Systemax is painting Black Friday Pink for the second year in a row. Systemax owns CompUSA and TigerDirect which sell electronic products. CompUSA alone has 24 retail stores all over the US. Here’s how Systemax plans to turn Black Friday into Pink:

Systemax raised $200,000 on Pink Friday last year. It hopes to reach the $250,000 target this year.

News from the clinical trial side

Studies show novel device may enhance chemotherapy treatment in brain tumors
The company NovoCure is conducting trials to test the Novo-TTF, a medical device that uses low intensity alternating electric fields to kill cancer cells. TTF has been shown to enhance the antitumor effects of standard chemotherapy, thus helping in slowing down disease progression and extending survival. The device is non-invasive and the only side effects observed is skin irritation (contact dermatitis) associated with the electrodes delivering the electric fields.

News from the statistics side

Annual report to the nation finds declines in cancer incidence and death rates
Something to be thankful about at Thanksgiving: the latest figures from the US cancer organizations are in snd the news are a bit cheering – cancer incidence and mortalities are on the decline in both men and women.

News from the outreach program side

Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, Mrs. Laura Bush Welcome Panama to Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness
Last week, outgoing First Lady Laura Bush was an honoured guest in the initiation of Panama into the Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research of the Americas. Other partners are Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

The Partnership is a locally initiated and locally distributed project to increase access to early detection and to reduce breast cancer deaths through improved awareness, increased clinical resources and more funding for scientific research. Komen for the Cure provides the global grassroots network and educational resources to the partnership, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center provides the medical expertise. The Institute of International Education’s San Francisco office (IIE) brings regional training and management experience and serves as the point of contact for the organizations in Panama.

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Food For Thought—The Impact Of Your Diet On Arthritis

November 27, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Everyone knows that a healthy diet is the key to living a healthy life.  However, what many people don’t know is that it can also play a huge role in the risk of developing arthritis.  A person’s diet directly affects their weight and food allergies, both of which are directly related to arthritis.  Eating healthfully is a key way of both preventing and managing arthritis.

Managing Your Weight

One major way that diet is related to arthritis is that it directly affects your body weight.  Body weight is a major risk factor for arthritis.  The risk is quite simple to understand: the more that one weighs, the higher their risk of developing arthritis.  Yet, this phenomenon is not so simple to control in real life.

When someone develops arthritis due to their weight, it puts immense stress on their joints.  This makes it difficult to move and walk, let alone exercise.  Many obese or overweight people who are affected by arthritis often adopt a sedentary lifestyle—and yet, this only makes the problem worse.  The vicious cycle is extremely difficult to deal with.  Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients are commonly affected by this never-ending cycle.

It is more important than ever to monitor your diet if you have arthritis, because having arthritis makes exercise nearly impossible!  You can begin managing your arthritis through a diet by avoiding alcohol, sodium, fat, cholesterol, and sugar.

Allergic Reactions

Another reason to monitor your diet when you have arthritis is because certain foods can trigger arthritis flares.  Certain foods can impact the immune system, and affect the production of anti-inflammatory compounds.  Rashes, hives, and asthma are all allergic reactions that could indicate that you have consumed a food that is also an arthritis flare.

There are several other foods that could possibly cause an arthritis flare or worsen arthritis.  These foods include: red meats, chocolate, additives and preservatives, caffeine, salt, and dairy products.

Tips On What To Eat

If you have arthritis and are trying to manage your diet, there are a few tips that could be of help.  First of all, snack on grapes, pineapples, and other fruits.  Many fruits contain the compound resveratrol, which is known for blocking cell inflammation.  Additionally, eating vegetables, especially broccoli, is known to reduce inflammation.  Fish is also a good choice because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to decrease inflammation.

Under Control

For people who suffer from arthritis, diet might seem like an unnecessary thing to worry about.  Yet, the relationship between diet and arthritis is quite clear.  Your diet is a modifiable risk factor for arthritis—and it could be something you need to change.

Protein makes ovarian cancer cells eat themselves

November 27, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

They say that cures sometimes come from the most unexpected places. In this case, the cancer cure actually works in a very unexpected and unusual way. Meet PEA-15, a protein that make ovarian cancer cells eat themselves

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center discovered a protein that can inhibit the growth of ovarian cancer. This protein, called phospho-enriched protein in astrocytes or PEA-15 can actually force cancer cells to cannibalize themselves. The study was based on data from 395 women with ovarian cancer. Results showed that those women with high PEA-15 levels in their tumors had a median survival time of 50.2 months. Those women with low levels of the protein in their tumors, however, had a median survival time of 33.5 months. According to senior author Dr. Naoto Ueno, associate professor of breast medical oncology, the presence of PEA-15 can help determine the woman’s prospects for surviving ovarian cancer.

These findings provide a foundation for developing a PEA-15 targeted approach for ovarian cancer and for clarifying whether this protein is a novel biomarker that can predict patient outcomes,” according to Ueno.

A series of laboratory experiments led by another researcher Dr. Chandra Bartholomeusz also showed that PEA-15 inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer by making them self-cannibalize. It seems that the cell essentially eats itself until it dies. The experiments showed that if PEA-15 is removed, the cancer cells increase by 115% compared to those cells that still had the protein.

Before the discovery of PEA-15’s self-cannibalization mechanism, Ueno’s research team had also reported that the protein can also inhibit cancer in another way. They discovered that PEA-15 can inhibit a protein called extra-cellular signaling related kinase or ERK. This protein ERK is found in the cell nucleus and enhances cancer growth. What the PEA-15 does is to bind to ERK and take it out from the nucleus and moves it into the cytoplasm preventing it from enhancing cancer growth.

“PEA-15 offers us a new dimension for potentially targeting ERK,” according to Ueno. “We’ve shown with high levels of PEA-15, women with ovarian cancer are surviving longer.” Levels of the protein in tumors also might affect how other drugs work against the disease. Similar research is under way in breast cancer with PEA-15, which is short for phospho-enriched protein in astrocytes.

Cancer of the ovary kills approximately 15,000 women in the United States every year. This type of cancer is very hard to diagnose in its early stages. Most ovarian cancers are discovered at later stages when complete treatment is not possible.

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Cranberry and your cardiovascular health

November 27, 2008 by  

This is probably not the first time that you heard it – cranberry is good for your health. Especially cardiovascular health. And Thanksgiving is the best time to remind us of this. Here are some of the latest good news about cranberries:

This paper reviewed the cardioprotective properties of cranberry.

“Cranberries are one of the most important sources of flavonoids that have a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities. Thus, consumption of cranberries or their related products could be of importance not only in the maintenance of health but also in preventing CVD.”

You know what damage oxidative stress can do to your cardiovascular health. This study by researchers at Texas A&M University showed that cranberry juice increases antioxidant status, thus counteracting oxidative stress. This was demonstrated in the lab using rats.

Cranberry is one of the most commercially important fruit in the US. According to this paper,

“a growing body of evidence suggests that polyphenols, including those found in cranberries, may contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by increasing the resistance of LDL to oxidation, inhibiting platelet aggregation, reducing blood pressure, and via other anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.”

In this study on male humans by Canadian researchers, cranberry juice consumption brought about an increase in the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This is another supporting evidence that flavonoid-rich fruits like cranberries have cardioprotective properties.

Intake of fruits and vegetables, though necessary, can nevertheless cause glycemic control problems among people with type 2 diabetes. Low-calorie unsweetened cranberry juice may be the solution to the problem.

It “provides a favorable metabolic response and should be useful for promoting increased fruit consumption among type 2 diabetics or others wishing to limit carbohydrate intake.”

Want to know more about cranberries? The table below is from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21 (2008). The nutrient values and weights are for unsweetened cranberry juice.



Value per
100 grams













Total lipid (fat)






Carbohydrate, by difference



Fiber, total dietary



Sugars, total



Calcium, Ca



Iron, Fe



Magnesium, Mg



Phosphorus, P



Potassium, K



Sodium, Na



Zinc, Zn



Copper, Cu



Selenium, Se



Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid












Vitamin B-6



Folate, total



Folate, food



Folate, DFE



Choline, total



Vitamin A, RAE



Carotene, beta



Vitamin A, IU



Lutein + zeaxanthin



Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)



Vitamin K (phylloquinone)



Fatty acids, total saturated









Fatty acids, total monounsaturated



16:1 undifferentiated



18:1 undifferentiated



Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated



18:2 undifferentiated



18:3 undifferentiated



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FLORA: from farm to fork to your health

November 26, 2008 by  

Imagine a team of scientists working on diets that will benefit your cardiovascular health. I would like to introduce the FLORA project, European-based and European-funded. FLORA stands for “flavonoids and related phenolics for healthy living using orally recommended antioxidants.”

According to the FLORA site

There is a growing body of evidence that bioactive compounds in the diet play an important role in optimizing health. Flavonoids and other phenolics are examples of a class of plant- specific bioactive compounds that confer beneficial effects on a number of important risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other age-related degenerative diseases. Dietary intake of flavonoids and related phenolics has been linked positively to reduced incidence of stroke, allergies, certain forms of cancer, liver disease and inflammation. Thus, a better understanding of the biological effects of different dietary flavonoids and phenolics, will provide important clues to their impact on health… That is why FLORA has decided to explore the dynamics triggered by flavonoids and phenolics in order to promote health through a diet that will appeal to the diversity of tastes of European consumers.”

Unfortunately, the average consumer does not seem to get enough flavonoids and phenolics and in their diet. The main sources of these healthy compounds are certain fruits and vegetables which are too expensive, seasonal, or have short shelf-life, thus making them consumer-friendly. In order to promote health through proper diet, FLORA scientists came up with several innovative products.

FLORA oranges

Oranges are rich in flavonoids and phenolics. FLORA however, went further and “redesigned” these oranges that their antioxidant content is increased several times the normal oranges. Thus, a freshly squeezed glass of FLORA oranges may actually provide you with most of your daily antioxidant requirement.

FLORA tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of a kind. Unlike other fresh produce that lose their nutritional value with processing, tomatoes keep – even increase their nutrients with pressing, cooking, etc. Now, FLORA even made the tomato more nutritious by incorporating a snapdragon pigmentation gene into it – and Voila! – we have the purple tomato. The FLORA purple tomatoes have almost three times the amount of the antioxidant compound anthocyanins compared to red and green tomatoes.  They are not only good for the heart, they have anti-cancer properties as well.

These are just a few of the amazing health products that the FLORA group has produced – products which we consume in large quantities and are easily available the whole year round FLORA’s motto is “from farm to fork” and its mission is “bringing on the table what is produced in the farm” but in better, more nutritious forms.

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Thanksgiving special: cranberries can protect you from cancer and infection

November 26, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

They look good, they taste good but are they healthy? Fresh cranberries, cranberry juice – and not to forget the cranberry sauce that goes with the turkey on the Thanksgiving table.

Well, good news for cranberry lovers because your favorite berries actually give you health benefits that can blow your mind out and kill the cancer cells inside you.

Background info

The American cranberry, whose scientific name is Vaccinium macrocarpon is a fruit native to North America. It is closely related to two other American natives of the same genus, the blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolia) and the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). There are also other types of cranberries found in Europe.

Cranberries and ovarian cancer

A study by researchers at Rutgers University showed that cranberries can help enhance the potency of chemotherapy platinum drugs like cisplatin and paraplatin used in the treatment of ovarian cancer. The researchers demonstrated this effect of cranberry extract in studies on ovarian cell lines in the lab. In addition, the berry extract may also help in reducing the side effects of the said chemotherapeutic drugs.

According a report in the Science Daily

the active compounds in the extract are powerful antioxidants called ‘A-type’ proanthocyanidins that are unique to cranberries and not found in other fruits. .. Based on research by other groups, these compounds appear to bind to and block certain tumor promoter proteins found in the ovarian cancer cells, they say. The result is that the cancer cells become more vulnerable to attack from the platinum drugs…” 

Cranberries and infections

According to a report in the American Academy of Family Physicians, cranberries can be used in the treatment of urinary tract infections.

“Research suggests that its mechanism of action is preventing bacterial adherence to host cell surface membranes… more recent, randomized controlled trials demonstrate evidence of cranberry’s utility in urinary tract infection prophylaxis. Supporting studies in humans are lacking for other clinical uses of cranberry. Cranberry is a safe, well-tolerated herbal supplement that does not have significant drug interactions.”

Another research indicates that cranberries also have a protective effect against the bacteria Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach ulcers.

Other health benefits

Cranberries are rich in polyphenols and oxidants, compounds known for their benefits to cardiovascular health. This study conducted by researchers of the Winona State University demonstrated that low-calorie, unsweetened cranberry juice has a positive effect on the metabolism of people with type 2 diabetes.

So on Thursday, remember to concentrate on the healthy part of the Thanksgiving feast! For the nutritional details of cranberries and cranberry products, click here.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Personalized genetic information and risk assessment for heart disease

November 25, 2008 by  


The traditional method of assessing risk for heart disease has been useful for prediction at population level but loses its predictive power at the individual level.

Recently, the use of genomics in medicine has gained a foothold. I summarize two studies here that demonstrated this.

Genetic variants for sudden cardiac arrest

A recent paper reviewed genetic variants that cause sudden cardiac death (SCD). More than 300,000 people die in the US each year as a consequence of SCD. Most of these deaths are related to underlying heart conditions such as coronary heart disease (CHD). The paper, too, points out the shortcomings of the traditional risk assessment methods.

The conventional coronary risk factors and presence of congestive heart failure are associated with SCD in the general population but have poor ability to predict SCD at the individual level because of their prevalence and comparatively modest effects on risk.”

Some conditions, characterized by structural heart problems are found to be mostly due to genetic mutations. These conditions include:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  • Inherited Arteriopathies

The study concluded:

Developing an understanding of genetic contributions to SCD may prove important in the management of genetic SCD syndromes, the development of novel therapeutics, and risk stratification in the general population, thereby improving our ability to predict and ultimately prevent this tragic outcome.

Genetic variants for coronary heart disease

This new study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston demystifies the genetics of CHD. According to the study

identifying a single, common variation in a person’s genetic information improves prediction of his or her risk of a heart attack or other heart disease events and thus, choice of the best treatment accordingly.”

The DNA variation that the researchers pinpointed at the 9p21 chromosomal region is not a mutation. It is a genetic variant, which means that each of has it, but slightly different in each individual.

The study looked at 10,000 middle-aged Americans as part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities research. Study participants were classified based on traditional risk factors as follows:

  • Low risk participants are those having a less than 19% chance of having coronary heart disease (CHD) in the next decade.
  • Intermediate risk participants are those with a 10 to 20% likelihood to have CHD in the next ten years.
  • High risk participants are those with the likelihood of 20% or more to have CHD in the next 10 years.

Looking at the genetic information, however, gives a completely different picture. Many of the participants with the genetic variant had risk profiles higher than initial categorization and had to be reevaluated. Those who have intermediate risk profiles are especially affected because they could easily move up the risk ranking.This recategorization improved risk prediction, leading to more optimal preventive measures and treatment.

Recently, personalized genetic information has gone mainstream as more and more companies are offering their services at affordable prices. The start up company 23andme is now offering “retail DNA test” for only $399.00.

But does it really help in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases? It seems that it does, in certain cases, as demonstrated by the review studies above. The 23andme test can supposedly screen for over 90 traits which can reveal a person’s predisposition to certain diseases.

Is personalized medicine up next?

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Nicotine and cancers (yes, that’s a plural)

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

The direct link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is well-established. But what about other types of cancer?

Nicotine is one of the major components of tobacco and can be found in high concentrations in the blood and the urine of cigarette smokers. Although not considered a full-blown carcinogen that promotes tumor development, it is however suspected to have a growth-enhancing effect on existing cancer cells. This post looks at recent research on the link between nicotine and different types of cancer.

Nicotine and breast cancer

This study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research suggests that nicotine can have a potentiating role in tumor development. The researchers demonstrated through a series of lab test

“… that breast epithelial-like MCF10A cells and cancerous MCF7 cells both express several subunits of nAChR (nicotine receptor), that when bound, initiate a signaling process, potentially increasing cell growth and migration.”

As a carcinogen, nicotine does not seem to act alone but rather combines with other carcinogens with disastrous effect. According to the researchers, “…nicotine, possibly through perturbing cell cycle checkpoints, potentiates tumorigenesis in mammary cancer-prone or cancer cells.”

Aside from promoting the development of breast cancer, nicotine as a cocarcinogen is also linked to the spread of cancer through tumor migration from the breast to other organs.

Nicotine and bladder cancer

In another study, Taiwanese researchers observed that nicotine can de detected in significant quantities in the urine of cigarette smokers. The study aimed to investigate “whether there is nicotine-induced bladder epithelial cell proliferation and to identify the signaling transduction pathway regulated by nicotine.” The results suggested that nicotine exposure is a major risk factor for bladder cancer.

Nicotine and apoptosis

Apoptosis is a process wherein our body destroys unwanted cells. It is sometimes called “programmed cell death” and is protective mechanism that can protect us from cells that might potentially turn harmful (e.g. cancerous). Several studies suggest that nicotine may have some adverse effect on apoptosis. This recent study by Stanford University researchers showed that continued smoking during cancer treatment can lead to resistance to chemotherapy among lung cancer patients due to the anti-apoptotic effect of nicotine.

Nicotine in the gastrointestinal tract

This study by Chinese researchers show that nicotine can have some “aggravatory effect on … gastric mucosa injury” induced by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, one of the major causes of gastric ulcers.

Nicotine effect on different human cancer cells

This study by researchers at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute tested the effect of nicotine on different types of human cancer cells. The results show that aside from an inductive effect on lung cancer cell lines, it also induced proliferation of and invasion by breast and pancreatic cancer cells.

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Your iPod and your heart implant

November 24, 2008 by  

The good news is iPods and most MP3 players do not have an effect on your implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association 2008 Scientific Sessions. The bad news is, their head phones or ear phones do. And where would your music player be without the head phones?

All speakers big and small contain magnets. Magnets are necessary to make vibrations and the sound that we can hear. However, anybody with a heart implant knows very well that magnets can cause interference with a pacemaker or defibrillator.

The other good news is that the magnets in the headphones are small, with not-so-strong magnetic field and their effect are only discernible in very short distances when the magnets are placed right above the heart at a distance of 3 cm or less.

Lead author Dr William Maisel told heartwire

Because exposure of a pacemaker or defibrillator to portable headphones can result in interaction between the two, we recommend that pacemaker or defibrillator patients not allow portable headphones to be near their device. Enough headphones have enough magnetic field strength that we believe that our recommendations apply to all portable headphones; they do not apply to one particular brand or one particular model.”

Last year, there were reports of MP3 players interfering with heart implants which lead the researchers to conduct the study. They looked at the effect of two brands of iPod brands, the Shuffle and the Nano. Their results show that

Here are some recommendations and things to pay attention to:

  • Do not place your portable head phones in your shirt’s or jacket’s breast pocket.
  • Do not let the head phones hang around your neck and drape down your chest.
  • The magnets are still working even if the digital music player is off.
  • Avoid falling asleep with your headphones on.
  • Do not let somebody with an ear phone rest his/her head on your chest. (Grannies and Grandpas – make sure your grandchildren know this before they come for that bear hug!)
  • Finally, pay attention to other devices that have speakers such as mobile phones and hands-free headsets. They, too, have magnets and can interfere with you implants.

Gestational hypertension and testicular cancer: where’s the connection?

November 24, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

You would think these two conditions – gestational hypertension and testicular cancer – can’t have anything to do with each other. After all, they are completely separated by the gender divide (bar in transgenders, of course).

Well, it seems that there is a connection between these two and it started rather early – in the uterus in fact. According to this Swedish study, “women who experience severe gestational hypertension may give birth to boys at lower risk for testicular cancer.”

Gestational hypertension is also sometimes known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia. Medical experts, however, usually make a distinction between these three. All three conditions, however, are characterized by a drastic increase in blood pressure during the second half of pregnancy. They affect about 2 to 8% of all pregnancies.

According to MedlinePlus, testicular cancer mainly affects young men between the ages of 20 and 39 years old. The cause is unknown but it is associated with abnormal testicular development, such as an undescended testicle at birth.

The researchers collected data from the Swedish Cancer Register and Swedish Medical Birth Register. They looked at the pregnancy data (e.g., hypertension, proteinuria, anemia and glucoseuria) of the mothers of 293 men with germ-cell testicular cancer and 861 men who are testicular cancer-free. Their data analysis showed that there seems to be an inverse association between a mother’s hypertensive condition and the development of testicular cancer in her son.

Baby boys born to mothers with severe gestational hypertension have 71% lower likelihood of developing the cancer later in life compared to those with non-hypertensive mothers. For those who were born to mothers with mild hypertension, the risk for testicular cancer increase by 62%.

The mechanism behind the protective mechanism of maternal hypertension is not clear. However, the researchers speculate that

One possible reason is that estrogens are lower in pregnancies that develop severe gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, and this lack of estrogens may lower the risk of testicular cancer.”

Another possible explanation is that “severe gestational hypertension and preeclampsia increases the level of human chorionic gonadotropin, another pregnancy-related hormone, which may also have a protective effect against testicular cancer.”

The study results seem to show a “silver lining” to the otherwise very dark cloud of gestational hypertension. This condition is one of the leading causes of pregnancy complications that present serious risks to both mother and child. It can often result in preterm delivery, babies with low weights, and other health problems. Worst-case scenarios result in death of mother and/or child.

The study results are published in the November issue of the journal Cancer Research.

News from the cancer side: Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

This week, cancer experts gathered in National Harbor, Maryland for the Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research of the American Association for Cancer Research (ACCR). The meeting runs from November 16 to 19.

In this news round up post, I’m featuring presentations on cancer prevention and lifestyle risk factors from the conference.

Three esophageal, stomach cancer subtypes linked to smoking; one associated with alcohol use

This large scale study tracked more than 120,000 Dutch residents for over 20 years. Their results show that “smoking is associated with two forms of esophageal cancer as well as a form of stomach cancer, and that drinking alcohol is strongly linked to one form of esophageal cancer.” The results confirm that cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are major risk factors for certain types of cancers.

Exercise and rest reduce cancer risk

Exercise and rest should go hand in hand in cancer prevention. This study indicates that regular exercise lowers a woman’s risk for cancer but only if complemented by the right amount of sleep. Otherwise, sleep deprivation may cancel out exercise’s beneficial effects. According to lead study author Dr. James McClain, “greaterparticipation in physical activity has consistently been associated with reduced risk of cancer incidence at several sites, including breast and colon cancers. Short duration sleep appears to have opposing effects of physical activity on several key hormonal and metabolic parameters…”

Saturated fat linked to cancer of the small intestine

Saturated fats are bad news to your cardiovascular medicine. It seems that they are also bad news to your small intestine. This study identified saturated fat intake as a possible risk factors for cancer of the small intestine. Furthermore, they also observed that diet rich in red and processed meat is a risk factor for cancer of the large intestine.

Why only some former smokers develop lung cancer

Some get it, some not. The question is, why? Apparently it has something to do genetics. This Canadian research studied “how DNA methylation contributes to lung cancer development in former smokers. Methylation is an important event regulating gene expression during normal development. As we age and in cancer, proper patterns of DNA methylation become deregulated throwing off the tight control of gene activity that normally exists.

Behavior/lifestyle factors influence cancer risk among the elderly

80% of all cancers occur in the elderly, according to researchers at Duke University. Most of the risk factors for these diseases are preventable. The study found that lifestyle, behavioural and demographic factors among the elderly have a significant contribution on the risk of cancers of the breast, lung, colon and prostate.

CVD News Watch November 21

November 21, 2008 by  

CVD tribute to heart innovators

Dr Adrian Kantrowitz, inventor, transplant surgeon, dies

He was the first heart surgeon in the US to perform a heart transplant in a human being, the second in the world. Dr Adrian Kantrowitz passed away last week at age 90. The cause of death is complications from heart failure. Aside from being a successful surgeon, he was also an innovator who contributed to the development of heart implant devices.

CVD legislation watch

Decade of broken promises: the 1998 state tobacco settlement ten years later
November 18 marked the 10th anniversary of the Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco companies and the states. And anti-smoking advocacy groups including the American Heart Association (AHA) and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, expressed their disappointment over the progress that has been made regarding tobacco legislation during the last 10 years as reviewed in this report.

Ten years later, this report finds that most states have failed to keep their promise to spend a significant portion of the settlement funds on programs to protect kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit.”

CVD guidelines watch

New 2008 version of the ESC STEMI Guidelines!
European cardiac experts have recently issued a new version of the guidelines for the management of heart attacks. The guidelines were drafted by a Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Some excerpts:
A well-functioning regional system of care… and fast transport to the most appropriate facility is key to the success of the treatment.”
The full text entitled “Management of acute myocardial infarction in patients presenting with persistent ST-segment elevation” has been published in the European Heart Journal.

CVD genetics watch

The retail DNA test
The personalized genetic test by 23andme has been voted Best Invention of 2008 by Time magazine, topping 49 other cool gadgets and breakthroughs. What makes it even more extraordinary is that its costs only $399.00 and is non-invasive. The test is done on a saliva samples taken within the privacy of your own home. And what do you get in return? You get information on more than 90 traits, including those that make you susceptible to certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. You just have to wait for 4 to 6 weeks to get the results.

CVD statistics watch

Kids, teens chugging 20% of daily calories: StatsCan
Canadian statistics shows a disturbing trend – 20% of the daily calorie intake of children 4 years old and older comes from drinking sweetened beverages. And soda seems to be on top of the list. And what do sweet drinks give in return? Extra pounds and tooth decay.

CVD health care watch

Potent potential medical problem: ID Theft
This report on CBS news discusses how stolen IDs have penetrated health care as well. The report says

Medical ID theft involves someone pretending to be you, getting all kinds of medical treatments, from simple medications to life-saving operations, then leaving you responsible for bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The current incidence estimate is 200,000 cases every year.

CVD lifestyle watch

Baby Salad Greens With Sweet Potato Croutons and Stilton
How about something healthy for the weekend? This recipe from the New York Times series “Recipes for Health” might just be the thing for your heart. Check it out!

Some more bad news for snorers

November 20, 2008 by  

Snoring problems? Maybe it’s time to for a risk assessment for stroke. A recent study published in the journal Sleep reported that “heavy snoring is an independent risk factor for early carotid atherosclerosis, which may progress to be associated with stroke.”

The study was the first to use an objective way of measuring snoring intensity. The conduct of the study was described below:

One-hundred-and-ten participants with ages ranging from 45 to 80 years were examined in a sleep laboratory. Volunteers were categorized as snorers and non-snorers with only mild, nonhypoxic obstructive sleep apnea. Participants underwent polysomnography with quantification of snoring, bilateral carotid and femoral artery ultrasound with quantification of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk assessment. A snoring index (the number of snores per hour) and snoring sleep time (the total number of 30-second sleep periods that contained three or more snore sounds expressed in a percentage) were used to categorize participants.”

Results of the study were summarized as follows in the table below:

Type of snorer % night snoring prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis
mild snorers 0 to 25%


moderate snorers 25to 50%


heavy snorers more than 50%


Loud and regular snoring is a warning symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder which has been linked to chronic conditions, including respiratory problems and cardiovascular disorders. In another study, sleep apnea has also been linked to increased risk of death. It seems more prevalent among adult males (40%) than adult females (24%).

The causes of sleep apnea are complex and many. Preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular conditions described above may contribute to this sleeping disorder. It has also been linked to obesity, unhealthy eating habits (e.g. fat-rich diet), lack of exercise in women, and excessive alcohol intake. Another study has identified some risk factors for snoring as follows:

  • Exposure to pets such as dogs as a baby
  • Being hospitalized respiratory tract infections before the age of 2
  • Recurring ear infections as a child
  • Growing up in a large family

We cannot change some of these risk factors but there are some lifestyle factors that can be changed.

According to the authors of the currents study

“treatments such as weight loss, decreased alcohol intake, oral appliance therapy and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy have all been shown to successfully reduce snoring. There are no studies on whether reducing snoring will reverse damage to the carotid arteries.”

Remember, the less your snore, the better you (and your partner) can sleep. Let’s hope that this can also lower your risk for atherosclerosis and stroke, and death.

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Fruit and veggies and cancer prevention

November 20, 2008 by  
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Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. And tumor cells develop resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. This resistance to chemotherapy is the leading cause of death in cancer patients.

There’s some good news though. Researchers at the University of California at Riverside may just have found the way to beat chemotherapy resistance in a very simple way – by sticking to a healthy diet!

The researchers report that intake of apigenin, a naturally occurring substance found in fruit and vegetables makes cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.

Here is how apigenin works:

Normally, cells have low levels of p53 diffused in their cytoplasm and nucleus. When DNA in the nucleus is damaged, p53 moves to the nucleus where it activates genes that stop cell growth and cause cell death. In this way, p53 ensures that cells with damaged DNA are killed. In many cancers, p53 is rendered inactive by a process called cytoplasmic sequestration. Apigenin is able to activate p53 and transport it into the nucleus, resulting in a stop to cell growth and cell death.

Apigenin occurs naturally in your common fruit and vegetables, such as:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Parsley
  • Artichoke
  • Basil
  • Celery

It is also found in nuts and plant-derived drinks such as fruit juices and wine.

However, you may ask, what can a cancer patient do when the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy unable him/her to take in healthy solid food?

This time it is researchers at the University of California at Davis which give the answer. If can drink your fruit in the form of fruit juices, why not drink your vegetables? The study indicates that “drinking your vegetables may be a solution to bridging the vegetable gap.”

This recommendation is not only for patients but for everybody who wants to stay healthy. According to the American Dietitic Association, 7 out of 10 adults do not meet the daily recommended vegetable intake as recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Does drinking vegetables help?  Well, the study suggests it does. The most common barriers to vegetable intake are:

  • Convenience – buying, peeling, slicing vegetables are not so convenient for people constantly on the move. That’s why people tend to opt for vitamin supplement pills whose health benefits are controversial.
  • Portability – now, who would carry a cucumber or carrot in his/her laptop bag? And what about shelflife?
  • Taste – Not all vegetables are palatable to everybody. Ask any mom with littke kids.

The researchers believe that drinkable vegetables might overcome these barriers. “Changing dietary behavior is much more effective when dietary advice is complemented with tangible, real, easy and convenient solutions.

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Can a cup of green tea a day keep the doctor away?

November 19, 2008 by  

The cold weather is upon us and a cup of something hot is just the thing to drive the chills away. So what is your favorite hot drink?

This report by Greek researchers published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation suggests we should go for green tea.

What’s in a cup of green tea?

Green tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a plant that grows in China and other parts of Asia. Whereas “tea” is the Western world usually refers to black tea, “tea” in countries like Japan and Korea actually refers to green tea. Unlike black tea, green tea is practically unprocessed and has therefore undergone very little oxidation. Green tea contains strong antioxidants in the form of flavonoids, similar to what is found in red wine and dark chocolate. However, it is thought that green tea contains more antioxidant compared to other hot beverages because of the minimal oxidation it undergoes during production. The antioxidant content would vary, though, depending on the tea plant variety and cultivation and processing styles.

What are the health benefits of green tea?

“The study found that the consumption of green tea rapidly improves the function of (endothelial) cells lining the circulatory system; endothelial dysfunction is a key event in the progression of atherosclerosis.”

The randomized study of 14 participants involved the measurement of the diameter of the brachial artery 30, 90 and 120 minutes after drinking a cup of green tea, a cup of coffee and a cup of hot water. Results showed that the brachial artery, which a major blood vessel in the upper arm, was significantly more dilated after drinking green tea. The highest measurement was 3.9% increase after 30 minutes of consumption. No significant dilation effect was observed among those who drank coffee or hot water.

According to researcher Dr Nikolaos Alexopoulos

“These findings have important clinical implications. Tea consumption has been associated with reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in several studies. Green tea is consumed less in the Western world than black tea, but it could be more beneficial because of the way it seems to improve endothelial function. In this same context, recent studies have also shown potent anticarcinogenic effects of green tea, attributed to its antioxidant properties.”

However, a study by German researchers indicated that the endothelial function amelioration effect of black tea is comparable to that of green tea.

Besides its cardiovascular benefits, green tea is associated with reduced mortality due to other diseases. Japanese researchers found that regular drinking of green tea can prevent chronic diseases from cardiovascular disorder to cancer and can therefore prolong lifespan.

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New vaccine strategy reduces prostate cancer treatment side effects

November 19, 2008 by  
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Therapeutic cancer vaccines can help cure prostate cancer patients. However, the technique comes with side effects such as fatigue and increased blood sugar levels that are not well tolerated by many patients. These adverse effects usually lead to the discontinuation of the treatment. New research, however, developed a new strategy to minimize these side effects and thus giving new hope to prostate cancer patients.

Cancer vaccines were developed when researchers discovered that some cancer cells produce some unique proteins in excessive amount. These proteins are unique in a way that they can trigger the immune system to attack the cancer cells. The cancer vaccines were developed by targeting these proteins and stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells but not the normal cells.

The vaccine for prostate cancer is designed to trigger the immune system to attack prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and is found in the blood of men with prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions. An immune booster called interleukin-2 (IL-2) is normally administered with the vaccine to further boost the body’s natural defense. IL-2, however, brings about the side effects previously described.

“Developing an alternative method of administering vaccine therapy that is well tolerated by most patients and produces similar immune responses to standard methods may help further the development of vaccine therapies for prostate cancer,” according to James L. Gulley of National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

In earlier studies using the same prostate cancer vaccines, IL-2 was given daily for 5 days to 19 patients in every 28-day vaccine treatment cycle. The majority of the patients, however, experiences severe fatigue so that IL-2 was reduced or discontinued.

In the new study led by National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers, a method called “metronomic dosing” was tested. In this method, 18 patients were treated with vaccine and radiation therapy. The patients were also given the same total amount of IL-2 but were administered daily for 14 days in smaller doses of each 28-treatment cycle. The metronomic dosing showed that less than 25% of the patients experienced side effects that required the reduction of their IL-2 doses. The strategy was found to be safe with fewer side effects but produces similar immune response to the standard dosing method.

“Based on safety and feasibility, metronomic dosing appears to be superior to standard dosing and administration,” said Gulley.

However, more research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of this dosing method in the treatment prostate cancer.”

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Cardiovascular studies are on the decline

November 18, 2008 by  

In the arena of drug development, cardiovascular medicine is no longer the favorite therapeutic area. This is according to a study published in the August issue of Nature, which analyzed the number of clinical trials registered at ClinicalTrials registery during the last two years, as reported by heartwire. Cardiology, which used to occupy the top priority position in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry, only now ranked 3rd. The top two places are occupied by cancer oncolgy and neurodegenerative medicine, respectively. This is despite the fact that lipid regulators which brought in US$ 35.2 billion worth of drug sales in 2006. The complete list of the six highest-ranked therapeutic/disease areas is given below:

  • Oncology
  • CNS disorders
  • Cardiology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Endocrinology
  • Respiratory diseases

The Nature review paper which surveyed Phase II to IV interventional studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and registered with the clinical-trials registry between October 2005 and September 2007 showed the same trend.

Does this mean that the incidence of cardiovascular diseases has decreased significantly that they are no longer a major health threat? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many pharmaceutical companies feel that the profitable days of statins and beta-blockers are coming to an end as one drug after another, including the blockblusters Coreg and Lipitor, lost or will soon be losing its patent. With each drug going off patent, generic versions are already waiting at the sidelines to grab the market.

An as example of the lack of enthusiasm for cardiology, I reported in an earlier post about an internal memo from Pfizer which some how leaked which stated

“…an Integrated Strategic Plan (ISP) that focuses and prioritizes our R&D investments. Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes, Inflammation/Immunology, Oncology, Pain and Psychoses (Schizophrenia) are confirmed as our higher priority areas.

Several clinical phase drugs which showed blockbuster potential fell short of expectations and many are facing safety issues. Results from the ENHANCE trial which tested ezetimbe (Zetia) in combination simvastatin were disappointing as well as controversial. More recently, all clinical development programs of rimonabant (Acomplia), earlier thought to be the next bestseller, were halted when the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) announced that “it had asked the company [sanofi-aventis] to suspend marketing of the drug, on the grounds that its benefits no longer seemed to outweigh its risks.” The APPROACH study failed to show that rosiglitazone (Avandia) prevents atherosclerosis progression in diabetes patients, thus probably putting a stop to the drug’s use in cardiovascular medicine. Late last year, the US FDA added a black box warning to Avandia’s label due to increased heart attack risks.

As previously discussed in a previous post, maybe it’s time to look more towards lifestyle change strategies for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular treatment. And I think it’s worth repeating some practical tips here:

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Know your carcinogens: the latest on BPA

November 18, 2008 by  
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Resource Post for November

Ever since it hit the news late last year, bisphenol A (BPA) is getting more and more notorious. The latest development in the BPA story is this – researchers at the University of Cincinnati reported that exposure to BPA may actually reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments among cancer patients.

Yet, plastic manufacturers all over are still using it in their polymerization process. And food manufacturers are using plastics with BPA in their packaging.

According to a report of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

“BPA is a high production volume chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins… The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet…BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU)

“BPA may cause changes in cells in breasts, the uterus, and the prostate which can increase risk of cancers. In addition, BPA has been associated with increases in developmental disorders of the brain and nervous system in animals. These developmental disorders in animals are like problems such as ADHD (attention deficit hyper-reactivity disorder) in humans.”

Let us back track a bit about what happened since last year.

November 2007
An article in Toxicology Letters (online edition) showed that BPA in polycarbonate bottles are leaching out of the containers into the drinks. The article goes on to say that BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that mimics the hormone estrogen.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has detected BPA in infant formulas. 4 out of the top 5 companies questioned acknowledged using BPA in their packaging.

December 2007
Nalgene polycarbonate bottles were taken off the shelves in Canada.

April 2008
Canada announces its plans to ban BPA-containing bottles.

July 2008
European Food Safety Authority’s AFC Panel declared human BPA exposure is too low to cause any real harm. According to the panel’s report, the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA out of the body.

September 3, 2008
The NTP reported the following concerns about BPA:

  • “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, babies, and children at the current levels of exposure.
  • “minimal concern” for effects on breast development and early onset of puberty in females
  • “negligible concern” that exposure of pregnant women to BPA will result in damage to the unborn child.
  • “minimal concern” BPA exposure will cause reproductive effects in workers exposed to higher BPA levels in their place of work but “negligible concern” that to adults exposed to BPA during normal daily activities

September 17, 2008
Researchers at the University of Exeter (UK) reported detecting BPA in the urine of a large portion of a test group of 1455 people. In addition, high levels of BPA in the urine were associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and kidney problems.

October 8, 2008
The University of Cincinnati reports about BPA’s effect on chemotherapy. In the study, BPA seems to mimic estrogen’s action on cancer cells – which is the induction of proteins that can protect the cancer cells from the effects of chemotherapy agents.

October 10, 2008
The American states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, through their attorney generals officially asked in writing 11 manufacturers to eliminate BPA from milk formula packaging as well from baby bottles.

October 2008
This study demonstrated that when pregnant mice were exposed to low-dose BPA, changes in the neurobehavioral development of the offsprings were observed.

Another study in mice should that BPA exposure during pregnancy altered the cellular structure of the breasts.

October 28, 2008
Based on a review by a subcommittee, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) stated that

“consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.”

In addition, the US FDA thinks the Canadian restrictions on BPA are “out of an abundance of caution.

Although the US FDA tries to reassure the public’s concerns about BPA, concerns about BPA is increasing and this latest findings on chemotherapy resistance “provide considerable support to the accumulating evidence that BPA is hazardous to human health.”

So how do you protect yourself from the potential hazards of BPA?

For your safety, PEHSU gives the following advice:


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Allergies: blessings in disguise for cancer prevention?

November 17, 2008 by  
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Those of us who suffer from them know the symptoms – runny eyes and nose, coughing, and itching. I am talking about allergies. Some of us are allergic to food, some to particles in the air such as dust and pollen, some to certain chemicals.

Well, actually the miseries of allergies may be worthwhile trade offs to cancer prevention. Researchers at Cornell University reported in a recent study that allergic reactions can actually provide protection from certain types of cancer which “involve organs that interface directly with the external environment.” These include skin, colon, bladder, mouth, throat, uterus and cervix, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancers.

According to lead researcher Paul Sherman

The study revealed a strong relationship between allergies and cancer in environmentally exposed tissues…This relationship seldom exists between allergies and cancers of tissues that are not directly exposed to the environment, such as cancers of the breast and prostate, as well as myelocytic leukemia and myeloma.”

The study results are based on an analysis of a database of 646 studies on allergies and cancers which were published during the last 50 years,

Interestingly, certain allergies are more strongly linked to the above listed cancers than others. Environmental allergies such as eczema, hives, hay fever, and animal and food allergies are the ones most strongly associated with lower rates of the said cancers.

The mechanism behind the cancer preventive properties of allergies may be explained by the fact that allergies help block foreign particles from entering the body, particles which may be carcinogenic or may contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.

There are some exceptions to this allergy-cancer inverse association. Asthma, which is a form of respiratory allergy, is associated with higher rates of lung cancer. Glioma and pancreatic cancer are cancers of internal tissues but are still linked to certain allergies. However, asthma is an exception since unlike other allergies, it reduces the ability to get rid of mucus. Glia (a type of brain cells) and pancreatic cells do get in contact with the environmental indirectly through the olfactory and digestive tracts, respectively.

Allergies have been erroneously thought of as disorders of the immune system. In fact, allergies are the front line of defence against certain invaders in the environment, be they parasites or carcinogens. So next time you feel the allergic reaction coming, maybe you should thank your lucky stars instead of complain.

The next question is, how do medications that we take in order to control allergies affect the cancer prevention strategy? I guess this would be the subject of future studies.

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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.