Vinyasa Flow 1 — Uniting Movement and Breath (DVD)

October 23, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Seane Corn’s refreshingly “real” and inspirational style of teaching has captivated yoga students of all skill levels in cities around the world – and comes vividly to life in her first-ever session on home video. This program is for anyone who wants more from yoga than its physical rewards. Unscripted live-audio instruction captures the experience of a one-on-one yoga lesson with Seane, and makes it easy for anyone to learn optimal positioning and experience the physically satisfying pace and fluidity of Vinyasa Flow. Deluxe DVD edition includes more advanced bonus section without verbal cues; instruction in Vinyasa breathing technique; and a rare interview with Corn.


Cancer in the headlines, October 23

October 23, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperEnjoy the quiet weekend before Halloween…

Celebrities on cancer

Cindy Crawford’s cancer fears over signature facial mole
Her face is well-known all over the world, including the mole that adorns one corner of her mouth.  Cindy Crawford’s signature facial mark is part of natural beauty and a source of fear for the super model. The mole started as a freckle and has grown since then. 43-year old Crawford tells the Daily News she has her facial mole and many others which are less visible regularly checked by doctors in case they turn malignant. She also says she pays close attention to her health, only drinking occasionally and never smoking.

Ex Drummer Of Rock Band KISS Speaks In Public About His Breast Cancer
Peter Criss is the ex drummer of the rock band KISS talks openly about his breast cancer experience. In support of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, the 63-year old musician revealed that he was diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully treated last year. Breast cancer is very common in women but rare in men (less than 1%).

FDA cancer approvals

FDA Approves New Indication for Gardasil to Prevent Genital Warts in Men and Boys
Gardasil can also now be used for boys. The US FDA has recently approved the vaccine for boys and men ages boys and men, ages 9 through 26.  Vaccination in boys is recommended for the prevention of genital warts (condyloma acuminata) caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 11. Genital warts can later on lead to genital cancer. In addition, HPV is sexually transmitted and male partners may pass on the virus to female partners and thereby increasing their risks cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers. Gardasil is already approved for use in girls staring at age 11 to prevent infection due to HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. It is manufactured by Merck.

FDA Approves New Vaccine for Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Cervarix is another vaccine against HPV. It has recently been approved for the prevention of genital infections cause by HPV types 16 and 18 in girls and women ages 10 through 25 years of age. Cervarix is manufactured by the UK-based GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals. It has already been used in the UK since last year. According to Dr. Karen Midthun, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

“The licensure of Cervarix adds another option in the prevention of cervical cancer. It has the potential to save lives from cervical cancer as well as reduce the need for biopsies and invasive procedures associated with the necessary follow-up from abnormal Pap tests.”

FDA Approves New Treatment for Advanced Form of Kidney Cancer
Another FDA approval this week is for Votrient (pazopanib) for the treatment of advanced kidney cancer. Votrient is taken orally and “is intended for people with advanced renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer in which the cancerous cells are found in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney.” Votrient is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline based in the UK.

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Heart(y) News, October 23

October 23, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

worldnewsWishing you a restful weekend…

Elizabeth Taylor says heart surgery went ‘perfectly’
“It was like having a brand new ticker” according to a tweet from Elizabeth Taylor, CNN reports. This came two days after the 77-year old actress tweeted she had to undergo surgery to fix a leaky heart valve.

Genetic profiling for CHD not yet ready for prime time
The idea of personalized medicine based on a person’s genetic make up is  one of the primary goals of biomedical research. Studies have shown that risks for certain diseases and responses to certain drugs may be due to genetic variants. In breast cancer, genetic screening for mutations in the BRC genes has become standard. Will genetic profiling soon be also standard in cardiovascular medicine? Dutch researchers report that with the current state of evidence, genetic profiling is less accurate than conventional methods is predicting coronary heart disease. Experts advise to be exceptionally wary of genetic tests offered on Internet.
According to Dr Steve Humphries of the University College London, UK:

“…on-the-internet genetic tests… are sort of snake oil, but they are a bit worse than that. They are useless without knowing what your other risk factors are. You must never consider a genetic test in the absence of measuring conventional risk factors.”

FDA clears colesevelam for FH in kids
The US FDA has approved the pediatric version of colesevelam HCl (Welchol®), a cholesterol-lowering drug. The drug is indicated for “the reduction of elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in boys and postmenarchal girls, 10 to 17 years of age, with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (heFH) alone or in combination with a statin after failing an adequate trial of diet therapy.” FH is an inherited disorder that leads to abnormally high cholesterol levels even in children. An estimated 10 million people worldwide have FH. Welchol® is manufactured by Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

High Blood Pressure Medicines Show Promise for Treating Heart Disease
Two drugs indicated for the treatment of hypertension may also be sued in treating heart disease. A new report of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) compares the effectiveness of
1. inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme or ACE inhibitors
2. angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs

The researchers report that the two drugs “can lead to a reduction in death, risk of heart attack, risk of stroke and fewer hospitalizations for heart failure for patients suffering from stable ischemic heart disease.” However, the drugs come with some side effects that may, in some cases, be dangerous.

FDA Approves Micardis®)…
Another drug approval for cardiovascular medicine is for Micardis® (telmisartan). The drug is already approved for the treatment of hypertension but has recently been approved for a new indication – to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes in patients 55 years of age or older. It is manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Series 10 Upright Bike

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Small Parcel Ships within 48 to 72 hours Despite the competition from trendy new fitness inventions exercise bikes continue to be popular options for home exercise. They offer the same aerobic benefits of riding a bicycle at any time in any weather without leaving the comfort and safety of home. Exercise bikes don


Diet and Alzheimer’s disease

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

BrainLow-fat, low-calorie diets are not only good for cardiovascular health. It may also delay the onset or progression of dementia. Many epidemiological studies have presented evidence that diet plays a role in the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease. Diet low in fat and calories and rich in fruit, vegetables and fish seem to be best for the brain.

Currently, there is cure or preventive therapy for AD. Many research studied looked into how nutrition can affect brain damage by dementia, hoping a certain type of diet can lower the risk, delay the onset, and slow down the progression of the disease.

Evidence suggests that high intake of saturated and trans fats can increase the risk for AD whereas a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and reduced risk for AD.

In a more recent study using laboratory animals, a team of researchers from Europe and North America reported that a diet rich in protein may lead to shrinkage of the brain. The researchers tested four different diets on mice, namely:

The purpose of the study was to look at plaque development but one of the results came as a surprise: mice fed with a diet of high protein and low carbohydrate had brains which are 5% lighter that mice with other diet regime. Mice on diet with high fat/low carb had higher levels of plaque proteins but no effect on brain mass.

The results of the study highlight the necessity of more studies on the effects of diet on the brain in prospective randomised double blind clinical diet trials.

According to lead researcher Sam Gandy, a professor at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City

“Given the previously reported association of high protein diet with aging-related neurotoxicity, one wonders whether particular diets, if ingested at particular ages, might increase susceptibility to incidence or progression of AD. This would be a challenging undertaking but potentially worthwhile. If there is a real chance that the ravages of AD might be slowed or avoided through healthy eating. Such trials will be required if scientists are ever to make specific recommendations about dietary risks for AD.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Why the US spends more on healthcare than other countries

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

pills dollarsDisparities in health expenditure across OECD countries: Why does the United States spend so much more than other countries? This is the title of Mark Pearson’s before a US Senate Committee on Aging in September this year. Pearson is the head of the health division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In his testimony, he provided information and insights on how the US health care system compares to those of other OECD members. OECD has currently 30 member countries, mostly developed. These countries are committed to “democracy and market economy2 and their governments come together “to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies”. In previous post, I highlighted the fact that the US is in the frontline of cancer treatment but lags behind in other chronic diseases.

According to Pearson (source MarketWatch Blog):

“What you’ve got in the U.S. is a very large range of care. When people say U.S. care is the best in the world, if you’re talking about the really good hospitals, yes it is. But when you’re talking about the average the population faces, it’s middle-of-the-pack on lots of things but very, very good on cancer.”

Pearson presented the following statistics:

  • The US spent the most (15% to its GDP) on health care in 2007. OECD average was 8.9%.

  • US life expectancy (78.1 years) is lower than the OECD average of 79.1.

  • Japan seems to be getting the most out of its money –spending 8% of its GDP on health care to have a life expectancy of 82.6 years.

  • As a point of comparison, the US spent in 2007 $7290 per person for healthcare. France, which has a universal health system, spent $5365 per person in the same year.

So why does the US spend so much but get little in return? Pearson gives the following reasons:


Smooth Fitness 7.1 HR Pro Power Folding Treadmill

October 21, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Treadmill Features: -Exclusive one-touch power fold. -Im-Pression shock absorption technology allows for longer workouts with less fatigue. -Improved LED console monitors speed, distance, calories, time, and pulse simultaneously. -Speed profile window displays intensity of each stage of a workout. -Console features eight programs including: target distance, target time, target calories, interval incline, interval speed, weight loss, 5K self-learning/competition, and heart rate control. -Wireless chest strap heart rate monitor. -Handgrip pulse monitor. -Nine storable user profiles. -Minimal assembly required. Programs: -Target Time:Once the user selects this program they are prompted to enter the amount of time they desire to run/jog/walk. Once you start the treadmill will count down the time specified. The user manually adjusts speed and inclines during the workout. The speed will start from 2.0 MPH and the incline will start from level 0. Distance and calories will count up from 0 and the time will count down from the target time.. -Target Distance: Once the user selects this program they are prompted to enter the total distance the program will run. The user then starts the treadmill and the treadmill will count down the distance from the amount specified. The user manually adjusts speed and inclines during the workout. The speed will start from 2.0 MPH and the incline will start from level 0. Time and calories will count up from 0 and the distance will count down from the target distance.. -Target Calories: Once the user selects the target calories program they are prompted to enter the amount of calories they wish to burn during the workout. Once you start the treadmill will count down the calories specified to burn. The user manually adjusts speed and inclines during the workout. The speed will start from 2.0 MPH and the incline will start from level 0. Distance and times will count up from 0 and the calories will count down from the target.. -Interval Incline: Interval training allows you to alternate between pumping up the heart and catching your breath. Choose a workout level from 1 through 9. The higher the level, the higher the incline levels during the workout. The Time LCD shows a preset workout time of 24 minutes, which can be adjusted higher or lower in four-minute segments. Incline is changed automatically every two minutes during the workout.. -Interval Speed: Just like the interval incline program, only you optimize your treadmill workout through a variation of speed.. -Weight Loss: This program combines variations in both the speed and incline to provide the maximum results in weight loss and calories burned. The user chooses a workout intensity level between 1 and 9. The Time LCD shows a pre-set workout time of 24 minutes; which can be adjusted higher or lower in five-minute increments. Both speed and incline will change during the workout; the minimum speed/incline segments last two minutes, and the maximum speed/incline segments last three minutes. For example, at Level 1, speed varies from 1.6 mph to 2.8 mph while incline ranges from 0 to 3; level 9 speed varies from 3.2 mph to 4.4 mph while incline ranges from 3 to 11.. -5K Self-Learning/Competition: The Distance LCD will show 3.1 miles or 5 km. For new users, there is a preset speed (2 mph) and incline level programmed into the computer. You can change the speed and incline levels during your workout. After the distance has counted down to zero, the program goes into a cool-down phase.. -Heart Rate Control: This program consists of a Warm-up, Main Program, and Cool-Down. The treadmill determines a preset maximum tar


Ribozymes in the Gene Therapy of Cancer

October 21, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

This book is useful for understanding the essential methods for developing therapeutic applications of ribozymes to disease genes. Detailed protocols are used to design, synthesize and apply ribozymes to knock out disease-associated genes. The primary target for ribozymes is on cancer genes, however, the application can be used for any type of gene. These methods will help facilitate the use of ribozymes to define the specific role of any gene in the etiology of disease.


Traditional Mexican Yoga Blanket

October 21, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Our bright, beautiful Mexican style yoga blankets will add a splash of color to your yoga studio or your favorite place to practice yoga. These high-quality traditional blankets feature bright colors and are soft for added comfort. These blankets can easily and safely be washed in a regular washing machine. Use this blanket for warmth, comfort, extra padding, or to lend support for yoga positions.


Soccer for female cardiovascular health

October 21, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

woman sportsIt’s known as soccer in the US and Canada. It’s called football in the rest of the world. And while the excitement for next year’s Football World Cup in South Africa is building up, people take very little notice that football is a sport for everybody regardless of gender. The German national women football team won the World Championship a couple of months back. Nobody pays attention as national men’s team still had to struggle to qualify for next year’s tournament. My kids just finished a one-week football camp during the autumn break. It was a camp of more than 50 boys and no girls.

But researchers at the University of Copenhagen report that soccer or football may just be the ideal sport for women in order to keep fit. On top of the list of the sport’s benefits is cardiovascular health.

Women generally find it difficult to find the time for physical exercise, what with many juggling between family and jobs. The most common form of exercise women go for are those that is flexible timewise such as working out in the gym or going for a jogging run.

The study looked at 100 women aged 19 to 47 years with no previous experience in playing football. They were divided into 3 groups: one group took up football (2 times 1 hour per week), another took up running, and a third group did not perform any regular exercise and served as controls. The study participants were followed up for 2 years.

The study results show that women who played football were the fittest of the 3 groups.

According to study leader Peter Krustrup:

While playing soccer, the women have high heart rates and perform many sprints, turns, kicks and tackles, making soccer an effective integration of both cardio and strength training.”

It also showed that it is more difficult for women to stick to their exercise routine given too much flexibility. Recreational football however, which requires a fixed time and place for training is reportedly easier to stick to. 

In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, the researchers report the following additional benefits of recreational football:

  • Improvement in muscle strength and growth
  • Promotion of social interactions, expansion of social networks
  • Improvement in general well-being

Hmmmm…I must say I don’t have a problem sticking to my jogging runs but football sounds tempting.

The research further reports that family responsibilities, especially for women with small children, are the principal barrier that hinders them to engage in regular physical activity.


IOM recommends better school lunches

October 21, 2009 by  
Filed under OBESITY

fruit melonHow’s this for statistics:

  • In 2008 alone, the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provided lunch to more than 30.5 million children in the US.
  • In the same year, the US School Breakfast Program (SBP) provided breakfast to 10.5 million children.
  • 16.3% of these children (ages between 2 and 19 years) are obese

Considering that school children spend a large portion of their waking hours at school and have at least one meal there each school day, it is just right that the standards of NSLP and SBP be placed under scrutiny. The standards were set in1995 for Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements. That’s 14 years ago. Do the standards still meet the dietary requirement of the children based on current state of evidence? Do the standards help promote or prevent obesity?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released the report School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. The committee behind the report feels it is about time to update the standards and recommended a new approach that clearly focuses on providing meals that are consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans set by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The IOM report recommends adopting standards in menu planning in order to:

The report acknowledges that these changes may lead to higher costs but it is an expense worth paying for the health and well-being of the children.

In addition to these recommendations, new implementation and monitoring procedures are also recommended.

Health groups and professional associations commend the new IOM report and recommendations. According to a statement by American Heart Association President Dr. Clyde Yancy:

“The association is pleased that IOM’s recommendations have been provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an effort to improve the nutrition environment in our nation’s schools.  We are advocating strongly for quick implementation of these standards within Child Nutrition Reauthorization along with the passage of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act to strengthen nutritional standards for drinks and snacks foods sold in school vending machines and school stores. There have been recent impressive reductions in access to high sugar beverages but more needs to be done. We continue to work with states to pass and implement effective local wellness policies across the country that include strong provisions for nutrition education and promotion.”

Another group which applauds the report is the United Fresh Produce Association. According to its Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra:

“The IOM’s recommendations are everything that we worked for…This change is long overdue. It has been 14 years since the school meal nutrition standards were last updated.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Study: magnet therapy does not work for arthritis

October 20, 2009 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

bracelet_7Many people wear copper bracelets and magnetic wrist wraps to counteract the pain that comes with arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders. The practice is called magnet therapy. Magnet therapy come in different forms, e.g. magnetic bracelets and other accessories you can wear on your body but can also include drinking magnetized water. Magnetic therapy is used in a wide range of ailments which include (source: Magnetic Therapy Council UK):

  • Arthritis
  • Bowel Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor Circulation
  • Repetitive Strain Injury
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylosis

Researchers from the University of York finally conducted the first randomised placebo-controlled study on the efficacy of these accessories in the management of pain caused by osteoarthritis.

The researchers looked at 45 people over the age of 50 or more who were diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Each study participant wore four devices in a random order over a 16-week period – two wrist straps with differing levels of magnetism, a demagnetised wrist strap (placebo) and a copper bracelet. The study found no clinical significant differences between the devices in terms of their effects on pain, stiffness and physical function.

According to study leader Stewart Richmond, a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York,

“It appears that any perceived benefit obtained from wearing a magnetic or copper bracelet can be attributed to psychological placebo effects. People tend to buy them when they are in a lot of pain, then when the pain eases off over time they attribute this to the device. However, our findings suggest that such devices have no real advantage over placebo wrist straps that are not magnetic and do not contain copper.”

Previous studies have indicated that the bracelets give some relief for arthritis patients. The results of this study contradict those previous reports. However, this design of this study is more reliable, this being the first randomised placebo-controlled trial for this therapy. However, one of the limitations of the study is the small sample size.

Magnet therapy is one of the leading alternative therapies for arthritis worldwide. It is a rapidly growing business with an estimated worldwide sales of $4 billion US.

According to Stewart

“Although their use is generally harmless, people with osteoarthritis should be especially cautious about spending large sums of money on magnet therapy. Magnets removed from disused speakers are much cheaper, but you would first have to believe that they could work.”


Harnessing the power of social media to #beatcancer

October 20, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

beatcancerRemember the post I had a couple of months back on how the Internet is spreading health news? Well, this was recently demonstrated by the #beatcancer campaign whose aim was to get into the Guinness Book of World Record as the most number of social media messages in a span of 24 hours. The campaign achieved started on October 16 at 9 am PDT and ended at the same time the following day with a total of 209,771 social messages. But before we continue, let us first try to define social media. Can we? We can only try except that there are too many definitions out there. My favorite definition is from bottlepr which says that social media are:

“…software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content.”

Examples of social media tools are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Twitter, etc. but there are many more.

Now the #beatcancer campaign did not go for all of these but only for the two most popular ones – twitter and facebook. When I logged in to my twitter account on October 17, I got a message that says there are too many tweets coming, thus I’d have to wait for a moment. That was the first time ever that I got such a message.

So who’s behind the campaign?

“#BeatCancer is a social media experiment and movement created by Everywhere, a social media communications and content company based in Atlanta, Georgia. [The purpose is] …to see if they could compete to set a record for the distribution of the largest mass message through social media.”

But it wasn’t just any other social media publicity stunt. It was for the benefit of a social cause, a cancer that everybody knows – battling cancer.

For every tweet, Facebook update, or blog post mentioning “#beatcancer”, corporate sponsors Ebay/Paypal and MillerCoors Brewing Company donated a penny to the cause.

The beneficiaries are four non-profit organizations accredited by The American Cancer Society, and are listed below:

  • Stand Up To Cancer is a new initiative created to accelerate groundbreaking cancer research, getting new therapies to patients quickly and saving lives.
  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s mission is to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes and educate others, especially children, to raise money for childhood cancer by holding their own lemonade stands.
  • Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Spirit Jump is a grassroots non-profit organization with a mission to provide hope and comfort to the many men, women and children battling cancer.

The record has been set but the campaign in not over. Check out the #beatcancer site to see how you can help.


Cell phones with the least and most radiation

October 19, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

mob phoneA few months back, I posted several articles on the link between phone radiation and brain cancer risk. Those reviews presented the results of studies with inconclusive and sometimes contradictory results.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) believes that until we know for sure the health risks that cell phone radiation poses, it is best to stick to the phone models with the lowest radiation. I completely agree with the group.

In fact, this is in line with what the World Health Organization recommends following the policies of precautionary principle. The strategy Prudent Avoidance “prescribes taking low-cost measures to reduce exposure, in the absence of any scientifically justifiable expectation that the measures would reduce risk.”

So Iet’s be prudent and avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation from cell phones. Thus, I present to you the findings of EWG in their survey of more than 1,000 models (gosh, do we have that many models already?) of phones currently available on the market.

Here is the list of ten phones with the least radiation emission (range: 0.15 to 55 W/kg):

In terms of PDA/smart phones, those with least radiation emission (range: 021 to 0.59 W/kg). Some models listed are yet on the market.

EWG is lamenting the fact that although health authorities have strict guidelines regarding the labelling of food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, such requirements do not exist for cell phones. Wouldn’t it be very useful if phone specs also include the amount of radiation they emit? However, currently, this EWG guide is the only thing that can help us consumers

Anyway, from the EWG report, the models that emit the most radiation (range: 1.1 to 1.55 W/kg) are:

  • Motorola MOTO VU204 [Verizon Wireless]
  • T-Mobile myTouch 3G [T-Mobile]
  • Kyocera Jax S1300 [Virgin Mobile]
  • Blackberry Curve 8330 [Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS]
  • Motorola W385 [U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless]
  • T-Mobile Shadow [T-Mobile]
  • Motorola C290 [Sprint, Kajeet]
  • Motorola i335 [Sprint]
  • Motorola MOTO VE240 [Cricket, MetroPCS]
  • Blackberry Bold 9000 [AT&T

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Less secondhand smoke, fewer heart attacks

October 19, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

smokeA few years after smoking bans were implemented in many parts of the world, more and more evidence is accumulating pointing to the short-term as well as long term benefits of such legislation. A few weeks ago, researchers from Iceland reported the first noticeable benefits in their country at the European Society of Cardiology 2009 Congress.

In the US, a recent report from the Institute of medicine (IOM) indicates that it is not only the smokers themselves who benefit from the smoking bans, but also the nonsmokers in their vicinity. It seems that less secondhand smoke exposure lead to lower risk for heart attacks.

According to the report, a large proportion of the nonsmoking population in the US is exposed to secondhand or environmental smoke and this includes 43% of children and 37% of adults. An estimate from 2000 revealed that about 126 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Smoking cigarette is undeniably linked to very high lung cancer risk among smokers. For smokers, quitting is the only way to be healthy. Smoking bans, however, are more for the benefit of the nonsmoking segment of the population who may be unwillingly exposed to secondhand second smoke in public places. There are skeptics which question the claims that antismoking laws benefit nonsmokers especially in terms of cardiovascular health.

To clarify things, an IOM committee of experts conducted a comprehensive analysis of published and unpublished data on the link between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems. Their analysis revealed that

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke increases risk for heart problems by 25 to 30%.
  • Smoking bands lead to reductions in the incidence of heart attacks range from 6 to 47%

According to Dr. Lynn Goldman, professor of environmental health sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and chair of the committee:

“It’s clear that smoking bans work. Bans reduce the risks of heart attack in nonsmokers as well as smokers.  Further research could explain in greater detail how great the effect is for each of these groups and how secondhand smoke produces its toxic effects.  However, there is no question that smoking bans have a positive health effect.”

The message is clear: clean up the air, boost up health.

As of January 4, 2004, the state of antismoking legislation is the US is as follows (source: IOM report):

“…16,505 municipalities are covered by a 100% smoke-free provision in workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars by state, commonwealth or local law; this represents 70.2% of the US population. 37 states and the District of Columbia have local laws in effect that require 100% smoke-free workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars.


Cancer in the headlines, October 16

October 16, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

breast_cancer_bands_1October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we take this opportunity to bring you breast cancer news updates.

Medications to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) presents in this radiocast the pros and cons of medications to reduce breast cancer risk. According to AHRQ researcher Dr. Shilpa Amin:

Drugs such as tamoxifen, raloxifene and tibolone can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. But each drug actually has distinct potential harms. For example, tamoxifen has an increased risk for endometrial cancer, hysterectomies, blood clots and cataracts compared with the other drugs. Women should discuss these potential harms, as well as the potential benefits, with their clinicians to make a choice about what is right for them.

October Focused on Health: Will I Get Breast Cancer?
It’s only right that the October issue of MD Anderson Cancer Center newsletter Focused on Health is dedicated to breast cancer. Some of the useful resources are:

Ohio couple both fighting breast cancer
Breast cancer does occur in men and this couple from Ohio have to face the almost the impossible: that both husband and wife have to battle the disease. Both have undergone surgery and the wife Barbara Walsh (63) has gone through chemotherapy and is currently having radiation treatment. The he husband Mike underwent a modified radical mastectomy in his right breast and may have to go through chemo and radiation therapy as well.
Breast cancer in men is rare, without about 1,900 cases in the US reported this year.

The Power of Pink: Cause-Related Marketing and the Impact on Breast Cancer
Scientists at the University of Virginia Medical Center look at use and misuse of “pink” marketing. On the one hand, cause-related marketing has increased breast cancer awareness and reduced the “taboo On the other hand, corporate sponsors may abuse the use of the pink ribbon symbol to market inappropriate products in so-called “pink washing” campaigns. More about cause-related marketing in a more detailed post.

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Heart(y) News, October 16

October 16, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

worldnewsSome heart(y) news updates for you this weekend…

Free Spanish-language online video teaches Hands-OnlyTM CPR
From Sept 15 to Oct 15, the Latino community celebrated the Hispanic Heritage Month. In this occasion, the American Heart Association (AHA) encourages people to learn to life-saving skills. And to facilitate learning, a free, Spanish-language online video with instructions on administering Hands-Only CPR is available at handsonlycpr.eisenberginc.com/resources.html.
According to Dr, Ismael Nuno, M.D., cardiac surgeon and AHA spokesperson

“It is critical that Hispanics spread the word in their communities about watching the online video and learning CPR, because a person in cardiac arrest only has a few minutes to receive treatment before they die.”

AHA statement on Calorie Labeling and Food Choices: A First Look at the Effects on Low-Income People in New York City
An AHA statement summarizes the results of studies that evaluate whether calorie information on menus and food labels affect people’s eating habit in terms of food choices. The studies have so far given inconclusive results but more extensive evaluation is ongoing.

Firefighters with AEDs boost cardiac-arrest survival
Swedish researchers report that equipping emergency personnel such as firefighters with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) increase survival chances of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims. Although such a practice called the “dual-dispatch model” is already widely used in many countries, including the US, Sweden is still at the pilot study stage.
According to Dr Comilla Sasson of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (source: heartwire)

“This validates that what we’re doing already works, and its novel that this is being used internationally: people are seeing that this is a model that works and that saves lives. Ultimately decreasing the time that it takes an emergency responder to get to the scene should be of upmost importance to every city, and not every city in the US has first responders who have AEDs. So in that sense, this study does suggest that this really does make a difference to overall survival, and if your community doesn’t have this already, then this really reiterates that you should.”

Scripps starts routine genetic testing for clopidogrel responsiveness
It’s a first step towards individualized or customized health care. Scripps Health is offering patients genetic testing for responsiveness to the antiplatelet therapy drug clopidogrel. Some gene variants make some people in capable of converting the drug into its active metabolite, making the therapy useless.
According to Dr Paul Teirstein, head of interventional cardiology at Scripps Green Hospital and Scripps Clinic,

“Knowing a patient’s individualized risk has a tremendous impact on treatment decisions. The point is to do everything we can to give patients the best possible outcomes. This kind of genomic screening gives us critical information we need to help patients.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng


Palliative care for patients with advanced dementia

October 15, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

wheelchairWhen we hear the words “terminal disease,“ we always think of cancer. “Terminal cancer” is a term that everybody has heard before. But have you ever heart of the term “terminal dementia?”

According to researchers at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife,, the clinical course of advanced dementia is very similar to those experienced by patients with terminal conditions. Dementia is just about being senile and forgetful. It also comes with symptoms such as discomfort, distress, pain, and eventually death. However, patients with advance dementia seem to be underecognized as being terminal or at high risk of mortality and tend to receive suboptimal end-of-life care. This was the result of the “Choices, Attitudes and Strategies for Care of Advanced Dementia at the End-of-Life,” or CASCADE study.

According to scientist and study author Dr. Susan L. Mitchell:

“Dementia is a terminal illness. As the end of life approaches, the pattern in which patients with advanced dementia experience distressing symptoms is similar to patients dying of more commonly recognized terminal conditions, such as cancer.”

Unlike those with terminal cancer, however, patients with dementia are seldom rendered the appropriate palliative care for the terminally ill. Instead, many receive interventions and treatments that are not only futile, but may also add to pain and distress.

The clinical progression of dementia is not as well understood as that of cancer. Most of the patients are elderly who are confined to nursing homes. Many of these have difficulty in communication or recognizing family members. It is not clear, however, whether these nursing homes are equipped to recognize the signs of advanced dementia and whether they are well-equipped to provide end-of-life care.

Currently, more than 5 million Americans suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to increase by almost three-fold in the next 40 years. A recent study by Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates that the number of people with dementia worldwide will exceed 35 million by 2050. Dementia is a group of symptoms severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, including memory loss, difficulty communicating, personality change, and an inability to reason. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

Prof. Greg Sachs writes in his editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine,

“Since individuals with advanced dementia cannot report their symptoms, these symptoms often are untreated, leaving them vulnerable to pain, difficulty breathing and various other conditions. We shouldn’t allow these people to suffer. We should be providing palliative care to make them more comfortable in the time they have left.”

He recommends that caregivers and medical personnel should learn to look for nonverbal cues of pain and distress. Palliative care should focus relieving symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, eating problems, and sleeping difficulties.


A gentle touch: therapy for MS patients

October 15, 2009 by  
Filed under MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

hand_hang_onHealthy people take for granted simple everyday tasks such as lifting cup or dripping a fork and a knife. For those with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), these simple movements are a challenge. For these patients, lifting and manipulation these ordinary objects lead actually to tight gripping and excessive force, which in turn results in fatigue and even pain.

Physical therapists at the University of Chicago in Illinois report that a simple gentle touch can help MS patients regain control and coordination. The technique entails applying a gentle touch of a finger using the unaffected hand on the affected hand.

The study looked at eight adults with MS and compared them to eight without the disease. The participants were matched in terms of gender-matched and comparable in terms of age.

According to Alexander Aruin, professor of physical therapy.

“We studied how this light touch application changes the way people apply force to an object they want to grip. In each case, the grip force required to lift an object decreased.”

During the test, the participants were asked to grip and lift different objects in different ways and directions. In all the touch, the simple light finger touch helped the participants in the coordination.

The mechanism behind the effectiveness of the touch is poorly understood but the authors speculate that it might be due to “auxiliary sensory information from the contra-lateral arm”.

Aruin explains:

“When we use our second hand and touch the wrist of the target hand, available information to the central nervous system about the hand-object interaction may increase. Without the touch, the information needed to manipulate an object comes only through vision and sensory input from just the target arm and hand.”

These findings have relevant application on developing therapies for rehabilitation and training to counteract fatigue and weak muscles in people with neurological disorders, not only MS, but also Parkinson’s disease, or limb weakness due to stroke. This type of therapy has the potential to significantly improve the patients’ quality of life.


US is best in cancer care but bad in others

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

health medicalGood news for cancer patients in the US, bad news for those with diabetes and asthma.

Mark Pearson is the head of the health division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and he testified before a Senate Committee in September on how US health care compares to other OECD members (a total of 30, mostly developed countries).

He revealed in his testimony that US health care is very strong in cancer treatment but lags far behind in treating two very common chronic conditions: diabetes and asthma.

Taking the example of breast cancer, patients have the highest chances of survival in 5 years in the US (90.5%), followed by Canada, Japan, and France. All these countries have 5-year survival rates for breast cancer above the OECD average of 81%. In colorectal cancer, US ranks third after Japan and Iceland.

However, the US ranks quite low when it comes to diabetes and asthma. Lower limb amputations due to diabetes is very common in the US at 36 amputations per 100,000 people. This is more than twice the OECD average of 15. On top of the rankings are Austria (7), South Korea (8), and the UK (9). Hospitalization due to diabetes complications is 57 per 100,000 in the US, again more than double the OECD average of 21. The Netherlands has an incidence of 8.

According to Pearson (Source: MarketWatch Blog):

“Other countries are managing to pick up diabetes earlier, avoiding lower-limb amputations, preventing obesity even. All these things the [U.S.] health system could do something about if it was structured differently.”

Asthma management is also another field where the US seems to lag behind. US hospitalization due to asthmas is highest at 120 per 100,000 compared to the OECD average of 51.

Management of stroke and heart disease in the US is about average compared to other OECD countries.

Pearson’s testimony summarizes:

The United States stands out as performing very well in the area of cancer care, achieving higher rates of screening and survival from different types of cancer than most other OECD countries. At the same time, many other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, are doing much better than the United States in providing good primary care to their population, thereby reducing the need for costly hospital care for chronic conditions such as asthma or complications from diabetes which should normally be managed outside hospitals.

Coming next in Battling Health Care: More about Pearson’s testimony (Title: Disparities in health expenditure across OECD countries: Why does the United States spend so much more than other countries?)

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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.